Since its inception as an offering to Roma gods, this creamy classic has taken many forms. Here, Sophia Young takes cheesecake one step closer to heaven.
You’ll need a 24cm springform pan.
300g (4 cups) shredded coconut
460g caster sugar
3 imperial mandarins, zested, juiced
2 egg whites
60g butter, melted
500g full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
500g full-fat fresh ricotta
280g (1 cup) Greek-style yoghurt
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
750g strawberries, hulled
1) Preheat oven to 180C. Grease pan with oil or cooking spray, then line base with baking paper. To make coconut shell, place coconut, 110g (1/2 cup) sugar, two-thirds of the zest, egg whites and butter in a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub mixture until coconut is evenly damp. Tip into prepared pan. Using damp hands, press mixture very firmly up sides to rim and evenly over base.
2) Tear off enough foil to cover top of pan, cut a large hole in centre of foil, then place over crust (this protects rim from overbrowning, while allowing base and side to brown). Bake on bottom shelf of oven for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool. Reduce oven to 150C.
3) Meanwhile, to make filling, process cream cheese, ricotta, yoghurt and flour in a food processor, scraping down sides of bowl frequently, for 2 minutes or until smooth. Add vanilla, 275g (1 1/4 cups) sugar and remaining zest, and process just to combine. Add eggs, one at time, processing after each addition until just combined.
4) Place cake pan on an oven tray, pour filling into shell, then bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes or until firm but centre is still wobbly when gently shaken. Turn off oven and cool cake completely in oven with oven door held ajar with a wooden spoon (this prevents cake cracking). Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until chilled.
5) To make strawberry topping, place mandarin juice and remaining 75g (1/3 cup) sugar in a 26cm frying pan over medium heat. Stir until combined, then simmer for 3 minutes or until a pale golden caramel. Add strawberries, turn to coat, then cook, turning, for 3 minutes or until juices are released. Strain liquid into a food processor, add 1 cup strawberries, then process to a puree. Cover and refrigerate puree and whole strawberries separately until needed.
6) Run a knife around inside of pan, release cheesecake, then transfer to a platter. Spoon over a little puree, then top with a few strawberries. Stir remaining puree into strawberries and serve with cheesecake.
TOP TIPS: If you are gluten intolerant or coeliac, you can omit the flour from the filling.
For ease, use a microplane grater; it has blades sharp enough to zest soft-skinned mandarins.
For a perfectly smooth top, reserve 160ml (2/3 cup) of filling. Once cake is cooked, gently pour it over the top, then cool cake as per the recipe. If you’re in a hurry, you can fast-track cooling. Cool cake in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, then place in the freezer for 2 hours or until cold but not frozen. Transfer to the fridge until ready to serve.
To cut cheesecake neatly, dip knife into a jug of boiling water between each cut.
Photography by Steve Brown