While I appreciate cheesecakes that are dense and firm, there are times when I crave something lighter and creamier, particularly after a big holiday meal. Because it’s made with a high proportion of sour cream, this cheesecake filling is soft, with swirls of sweet-tart cranberry puree throughout. The crust is made from chocolate graham crackers, but feel free to use plain or honey varieties, or even gingersnaps instead.
Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 12 to 16
Special Equipment: turkey-size oven bag
Chocolate Graham Cracker Crust:
- 1 ½ cups (180 grams) chocolate or plain graham cracker crumbs
- 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 ½ cups (155 grams) fresh cranberries
- ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (59 grams) water
- 3 tablespoons (45 grams) freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 strip orange peel, bitter white pith removed
Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake:
- 2 cups (454 grams) Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 3 large (150 grams) eggs
- 1 ½ tablespoons (11 grams) cornstarch
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (484 grams) sour cream
- 1 cup (232 grams) heavy cream
- ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar, divided
- ¼ cup (60 grams) water
- ½ cup fresh (not frozen) cranberries
- Sweetened Whipped Cream
Make the crust:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Set the pan aside.
- Place the crumbs in a medium bowl, add the sugar and stir until well blended. Add the melted butter and stir until blended. Pat the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes, until fragrant. Set the pan on a wire rack and cool the crust completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 325˚F.
Make the Cranberry Swirl:
- Place the cranberries in a small saucepan with the sugar, water, orange juice and peel. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the cranberries pop and the mixture is syrupy, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
- Remove the orange strip, then put the cranberry mixture in a food processor or blender, and process until smooth, about a minute. Pass the puree through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl and set aside, covered, until ready to use.
Make the filling:
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until very creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until light and creamy, about 2 minutes more. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula once or twice. Add the cornstarch, vanilla, lemon zest and salt and mix until blended. Add the sour cream and heavy cream and mix until blended, scraping down the bowl again to make sure the mixture is evenly blended. Pour the batter into the cooled crust. Spoon about 9 tablespoon-sized dollops of the cranberry mixture onto the batter and then, using a dinner knife, gently swirl the red mixture into the batter (don’t over-swirl, or it will get muddy looking).
Bake and chill the cake:
- Carefully place the cake pan into the turkey-size oven bag, with the opening at the top, then place the whole thing in a roasting pan. Leave the bag open, bunching it up around the top of the pan like a short collar. Fill the roasting pan with hot water so that it comes about a third of the way up the side of the cake pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven and bake the cake for 1 hour – the center will still be quite wobbly. Turn the oven off (don’t open the door), and let the cake stay in the oven for another hour.
- Remove the cake from the water bath and the roasting bag and cool it completely on a wire rack.
- Refrigerate the cake for at least 6 hours before serving.
Make the Sugared Cranberries:
- In a small saucepan, combine ¼ cup (50 grams) of the granulated sugar with the water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring just to dissolve sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cranberries, tossing to coat them in the syrup. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cranberries to a wire rack set over a sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Allow to dry for about 15 minutes.
- Roll the sticky cranberries in the remaining ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar, then allow them to dry for about an hour before using.
- Garnish the top of the cake with piped dollops of whipped cream and the Sugared Cranberries.