Vanilla Bean Lemon Cheesecake

For the first time, in a while I had a relatively slow week. Deadlines were not close, freelance projects were all done from my end, and workouts were not so difficult that body parts were left in pain for days on end. It was one of those weeks where I had down time. Time to repair, refresh, and do some blogging. I did some of that— I watched Netflix, finished 3 seasons of The Office for the millionth time, and got pretty deep into a book about data science and the truth telling powers of the things we search for on Google. The book is called "Everybody Lies" and is one of the most relevant books about behavior, the internet, and our interaction with both. I was convinced that the relaxed time at work would allow me to have a lot more time to work on blogs and while it did, I genuinely became more lethargic, pushing made up deadlines and the fact that "my fans can wait." Things that drive me (deadlines, calendars, and working for my followers) all seemed fake. There was was a certain opaque crust of reality that covered these parameters that seemed to suggest that deadlines are immaterial. There is no rush and most importantly, who are you doing this for? 

Making a cake has a similar connotation in our house. We don’t really binge on sweets, rarely celebrate anything other than the birthdays and anniversaries, and to be honest, we are happier with fruits and Diet Coke. So when I set out to make this cheesecake, I was making it for the sole reason to learn. To learn how to bake and remove some of the fears that I regularly associate with the act of letting something cook with no control of it’s outcome once the ingredients are introduced to heat. I wanted to see how much I can stretch this summer fruits theme. I have a breakfast, dinner, and dessert recipes all inspired by fruits so this was just a humble addition to the dessert rolodex and a way to show off the newest addition to my spice rack— vanilla bean paste. I first used the paste in a whipped cream to top off my mini galettes but I needed to really put the paste in the spotlight. 

Cheesecakes are a little difficult. They’re made with a bunch of ingredients which allows for a lot of customizations, the batter has no flour which means that you’re basically putting a thick custard into a biscuit filled cake tin. For someone who has terrible baking anxiety, this was a leap of faith. It’s also the reason why I usually make no bake cheesecakes. They tend to be a lighter and flavors are fresh because the baking process does subdue some taste that each individual ingredient contributes. However, a baked cheesecake retains structure, the flavor that eventually is infused is consistent, and most importantly— can be transported in the Delhi heat (not that this cake has the opportunity to actually BE moved anywhere other than the fridge and my mother’s mouth). 

This cake has three layers, each with own profile. The base was a mix of Parle Nutricrunch Digestives that were crushed and mixed with melted butter, brown sugar, and ginger powder to give it a whiff of gingersnap cookies. Always choose a fibrous cookie. Something made with oats helps bind the ingredients and give this fairly silky cake some texture.  The cheesecake filling is made with a thick cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and then your flavoring agents. I used two whole lemons, zest, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste from a local spice company called Urban Platter. Unlike vanilla essence that’s purely the ester component (using my 3 years of chemistry haha) which can only mildly color and perfume the cake, the paste is so much more. The liquor that binds the vanilla seeds imparts color, while the seeds do the heavy lifting— imparting rich flavor and this beautiful speckling that just screams decadence. 

The last layer is a frosting of mascarpone cheese (an Italian style cream cheese that has a little tang because it has its origins in yogurt), vanilla bean, and sugar. It’s simple but it helps balance the flavors in the cake and also hide the craters that form when you make bake a cheesecake. 

The cake took some time. 8 hours in total but hey! Who cares about deadlines?

Journey of a Cheesecake

Glimpses from the Week

Cheesecake Vanilla Bean-6.jpg


Biscuit base

185g Parle Nutricrunch Digestives 

25g Brown sugar

55g unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling

300 g cream cheese

400 ml single cream

20 g cornflour

4 eggs, room temp

2 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste {or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract}

100g granulated sugar

Vanilla Mascarpone Cream

150 g mascarpone cheese

25 g icing sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste


Step 1

Blitz the biscuits and brown in a food processor until you get a fine meal. Add butter, whiz again to mix. Press into 7-8" loose bottom tin. Chill in the freezer while you get the filling ready, and the oven preheats.

Step 2 

Preheat oven to 160C. 

Step 3 

Place all ingredients in the bowl of food processor, and blend well to mix, 1-2 minutes on medium speed. 

Step 4 

Pour into crust, and bake for an hour. 

Step 5 

Cool completely in the oven, then chill covered in the fridge, preferably overnight.

Step 6

Once the cake has cooled, make the mascarpone frosting. Place all ingredients in a large bowl an whisk until just mixed and smooth. Don't over mix. Spread over chilled cheesecake.