I love cheesecakes; baked cheesecakes in particular. They are at the decadent end of the cake making spectrum; if they're made properly with good quality real ingredients that is. A basic lemon cheesecake is easy, easy, easy and yet some I've tasted have just been horrible, horrible, horrible. Ok, so we don't all have time to zest and juice lemons in which case use Lemon oil/extract but definitely NOT Lemon essence. Lemon essence... well apart from being truly disgusting... tastes like throat lozenges. There is no excuse for using it really when lemon oil extract is so easy to find and it is that lovely scented oil extracted from lemon skin, you know that stuff you get all over your fingers when you start grating a lemon. 

Anyway, after lemon cheesecake, which if made properly is a thing of exquisite beauty and taste, my next favourite is White chocolate and passionfruit cheesecake. Passionfruit always reminds me of New Zealand where they practically grow wild. And wrinkled is ripe, wrinkled is good. Wrinkled is not old and past it! It was great for a while because supermarkets tried to sell them off at half price when the skins got all wrinkly. Not any more sadly, they've wised up. 

Here is a recipe for the simplest and tastiest baked ...

White chocolate and passionfruit cheesecake

Grease and line the sides (make sure you take the baking paper quite a way above the side of the tin as this cheesecake will rise quite a lot before settling down and you don't want it all over the bottom of your oven) and base of a 23cm springform cake tin. Preheat the oven to 160 deg C or 140 deg C fan oven.

250g digestive biscuits, crushed finely
100g melted butter

400g white chocolate
400ml double cream
200g cream cheese
4 tablespoons sugar
200g mascarpone
1/2 cup passionfruit pulp
4 eggs

Mix the crushed biscuits and butter together and press into the bottom and up the side of the cake tin. 

Heat 200ml of the cream but don't let it boil. Break up the white chocolate and put it into the warm cream to melt. Stir after a few minutes to make sure the chocolate has melted into the cream, and leave to cool. 

Beat the cream cheese, mascarpone and sugar together until smooth. Slowly add the remaining 200ml of double cream and beat until thick. 

Add the eggs one at a time. 

Gently fold the melted white chocolate and cream into the cheese mixture along with the passionfruit pulp. 

Bake for approximately 1/2 - 3/4 hour or until the mixture wobbles a bit like jelly. Turn the oven off and leave to sit for another hour or until the oven is cool. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. 


I love quince: the look, the fragrance and taste. And here is a bit of history, which as a historian in a past life, I always like to dwell on. 

Along with the fig, the quince is one of the oldest fruits in the world. Known as the “golden apple”, quince was mentioned as far back as 600 BC in Greek writings.  It was originally cultivated in Mesopotamia, the area now in Northern Iraq between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Indeed in ancient references that which was translated as "apple" may have actually been a quince. 
 It was revered as a symbol of love and abundance. In ancient Greece, a quince was a ritual offering at weddings as it was believed that it was sacred to Aphrodite as it was given to her by Paris. The bride would also nibble a quince to sweeten her breath before entering the bridal chamber. 
In Rome, quinces were commonly eaten stewed and sweetened with honey.
There is even a debate among Biblical scholars that Adam’s downfall in the Garden of Eden was not Eve’s apple but a quince!

Ok, I don't know much about the actual growing of quinces but I do know there are a number of varieties and they seem to ripen at varying time: from late summer to late autumn.The season is short lived particularly in the UK and as a result can be very expensive. I am lucky enough however, to have an uncle and aunt in Ely who have a couple of trees in their garden. At the end of every summer, they phone me to let me know they have picked a couple of bags for me. The following are just a couple of recipes that I make for the cafe. 

For poaching the quince 
1 large quince to give approximately 300g poached fruit
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (the pure vanilla extract with the vanilla seeds preferably but any 
good quality vanilla extract is fine)
½ cup caster sugar for poaching the fruit
1. Peel the quince and slice the flesh from the core with a sharp knife then cut into small 
slivers. Heat caster sugar with about a cup of water and the vanilla extract in a pan. Boil 
until the sugar has dissolved and then add the quince. Make sure the liquid covers the 
quince and if it does not then add more water. Make sure the pan is covered and simmer for 
approximately 8 or so minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. 
For the cake 
150ml good fruity olive oil
200g caster sugar 
3 eggs
350g plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
100g ground almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin with nonstick baking paper. 
2. Whilst the quince is poaching, beat the sugar with the olive oil. Add the eggs, one at a time 
and beat until the mixture has increased in volume.
3. Sieve the flour and baking soda together and fold gradually into the oil and sugar mixture, 
using a metal spoon. At this point, the mixture will be very stiff.4. Strain the quince from the poaching liquid and add to the mixture along with the ground 
almonds and some of the poaching liquid - you only need enough to loosen the mixture so 
that it is not stiff but it does not need to be as soft as cake mixture usually is. 
5. Bake for approximately one hour but check after 45 minutes. A skewer should come out 
clean. Pour the vanilla sugar syrup over the hot cake and leave to cool. 
For the vanilla sugar syrup
1. Pour approximately a cup of the remaining poaching liquid over a ½ cup of caster sugar. Do 
not dissolve the sugar but make sure the sugar and liquid are thoroughly combine. 
2. Pour evenly over the cake. The liquid will seep through the cake while the sugar crystallises 
on the top. 

For the pdf version

For the poached quince 
¾ cup caster sugar 
½ cup orange 
1 cup water 
2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
3 medium quinces 
1. Peel and quarter the quinces. Remove the core and slice into even segment. 
2. Combine sugar, juice, the water and cinnamon sticks in medium saucepan; stir over a low
heat, without boiling, until sugar has dissolved.
3. Add quince and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour or until quince is soft and liquid is 
almost absorbed. 
4. Leave to cool. Remove the cinnamon sticks.

For the cake
90g butter
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
½ cup self-raising flour
1 cup plain flour 
¼ teaspoon baking
½ cup sour cream 
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup toasted pistachios, chopped
1. Preheat an oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Grease a deep 23cm round cake tin and cover the
base with non-stick baking paper.
2. Beat butter, rind and sugar until pale and creamy. Beat the eggs together and slowly add to 
the mixture beating thoroughly after each addition. Gently fold in the sifted flour, soda along 
with the cream and juice. Fold in the pistachios. 
3. Arrange the quince slices over the base of the tin and cover with the cake mixture. 
4. Bake for approximately about 1 1/4 hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake 
comes out clean. 
5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes before turning onto wire rack

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Always a popular one this but a bit fiddly. When I make it for the cafe, I have to prepare the salted caramel the evening before so that it is cool and thick enough to spread over the base. 

Biscuit base:
300g plain chocolate digestive biscuits
2 tablespoons dark cocoa
¼ cup sugar
125g butter, melted
Salted caramel:
450g granulated sugar
½ cup hot water
125g salted butter
150ml double cream
1 tsp good quality sea salt
Chocolate Ganache Toppin:
200ml double cream
200g dark chocolate
To make the Salted Caramel:
1.  In a heavy based saucepan mix the sugar and water together.
2. Stir until the sugar has dissolved completely.
3.  Cook until it becomes a golden caramel colour – this can take up to 15 minutes but keep watching it and stirring occasionally to stop the bottom burning.
4. Working quickly to prevent it burning, add the salt and butter.
5.  Then carefully pour in the cream. Stand back while doing this as the resulting steam is VERY hot. Whisk until the butter has melted and cream incorporated. Leave to cool and thicken.
1. Melt the butter.
2. Crush the biscuits as finely as possible.
3. Put the crushed biscuits in a bowl and stir in the cocoa and sugar.
4. Add the melted butter and mix together.
5. Press into the base and up the sides of a tart tin (I prefer the smooth edged ones rather than fluted but I guess you can use either)
6. Leave in the fridge or freezer until the base is firm.
7. Pour in the cooled salted caramel and put back in the fridge or freezer until cold.
8.  Cover with chocolate topping
Chocolate Ganache Topping:
1. Heat the cream until just below boiling point (it is ok if it boils but it does affect the smoothness a little.
2. Break the chocolate into the hot cream and leave for several minutes to melt. Stir until smooth.
When cutting the tart, it helps to use a hot knife!

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