February 3, 2012

Kiwi Cheesecake with a Cashew Crust

My cart slowly glides down the grocery isle, I have full concentration on the task at hand. There's a list. It has scribbles and scratches. I notice, in the dairy cooler, cream cheese is on sale. I strongly resist the temptation, because I know my will power to be none in the presence of a cheesecake. But wait, I make them on special occasions. I make them when it's appropriate. I order them most definitely. This week, there was an occasion. Alas. Spending 6 months in South East Asia, I had grown to miss cheese, bread and the like. My fruit and yogurt parfait was wearing thin. To stumble upon a cheesecake, one made with cashews and mango and passion fruit, my taste buds once again flittered and fluttered. For seven days straight, I ate cheesecake for dinner. Not one of my proudest moments, but a moment indeed.

I wanted to recreate the cashew crust and tropical citrus fruit cake I had once enjoyed. For the first time, I made my cheesecake with mascarpone, sour cream, and cream cheese. I am fortunate enough, that the grocer below, sells vanilla beans by the strand. As my knife slid down the bean, I new this cake would be just right. I made my crust with cashews. I baked it with care. There was steam, and tin foil. A water bath. Constant monitoring. Not a task for the impatient. To my surprise,  my cheesecake did not crack. There is a first time for everything. A true bakers success.

Silky, smooth, creamy cheese filling, held together in a nutty, buttery crust, topped with a bright fruit topping, delicately sweet yet slightly tart. Contrasting nicely, breaking up the thickness from the cheese.
I watch as the natural fruit pigments drip off the side of my slice, staining the bright white cake to the bottom of my plate with a gorgeous green hue. Last month it was red. Last year it was purple.

12 - 15 servings slices
recipe adapted from bon appetite

Prep time: 40 minutes + 6 hours - overnight cool in fridge
Cook time: 2 hours

1/2 cup roasted cashews
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large egg yolk

2 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split length wise and scrapped
2 - 8 ounce containers of mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup full fat sour cream
4 large eggs

1/3 cup water
1 tbsp corn starch
8 kiwis, peeled and chopped
1 tsp lime juice
2 tbsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.

In a food processor, pulse the cashews and brown sugar until finely ground. Add the flour, salt, cinnamon, and pulse until combined. Add the chopped butter and pulse until the mixture resembles  coarse meal. Add the egg yolk and pulse until the mixture starts to come together.

Pour the mixture into the springform pan. Using your hands, press the crust into the bottom of the pan and 1 inch up the sides, making sure the crust is compact. Prick the entire surface with a fork. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes and then let cool at room temperature. Keep the oven at set at 325 F.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, salt, and the vanilla bean seeds with a hand mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add the mascarpone cheese and sour cream and beat until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Transfer the filling to the pie crust.

With two sheets of aluminum foil, wrap the bottom of a 9 or 10 inch springform cheesecake pan. You want the foil to reach one inch from the top of the pan. This will prevent water from leaking into the sides of the cake when the pan is laid in water.

Place the springform pan into a roasting pan.  Fill the roasting pan with enough hot water to reach half way up the sides of the springform pan. Place in the oven on the middle rack and cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil, folding around the sides. Bake fore 30 minutes, then lift the foil to allow the steam to escape. Cover the pan back up and bake for 30 minutes, then lift the foil away allowing more steam to escape. Cover and bake for 30 more minutes, lifting the foil every 10 minutes to allow the steam to escape. Bake until the cake is loosely set and jiggles when moved.

Being very careful, remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan. I like to use a turkey baster and remove most of the water before I lift the pan. Remove the tin foil from the cheesecake pan, and let cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Place in the fridge and let cool for 6 hours or overnight.

Once you are ready to serve the cheesecake, gently remove it from the springform pan. Slide a knife around the edges and then lift it onto a serving plate with 2 or more spatulas. You can also turn the cake upside down onto a plate, remove the cheesecake pan, and then flip it back over onto a plate.

In a small saucepan, heat the water and cornstarch on medium until it begins to boil. Add the kiwis, lime juice, and sugar. Boil until most of the water has evaporated and a runny sauce has formed. Serve warm or let it cool in the fridge. Scoop onto cheesecake slices and serve.


  1. Cheesecake is always to heavy or decadent with caramel or chocolate but this kiwi version looks perfectly refreshing!

  2. Heather- your food photography is AMAZING! I need to come back just to study your technique. Literally, your photos speak to me. (Most of them say "Eat this.")

  3. heather, i totally get your cheesecake thing. in europe real (philadelphia) cream cheese is pretty expensive, so it is a cake that is reserved for special occasions. and i don't ever stand up a piece of cheesecake either, if i see it offered anywhere!
    beautiful cake!

    1. Agree. I am totally a cheesecake girl. I had no idea that philadelphia cream cheese was that expensive in Europe. I do know that in Britain, there is no such thing as graham cracker crumbs. sigh.