It’s That Time of Year Again: Dan’s Birthday Cheesecake 2008

Long time readers know that I have been baking cheesecakes for my dear friend and brother, Dan, for his birthday for quite some time. And I have posted the Universal Cheesecake Recipe which I use as a basis for every variant I have made and recorded on this blog. The different flavors I have posted about include Pomegranate Cheesecake, Strawberry Cheesecake, Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake, and Irish Mocha Cheesecake.

This year, I had a couple of ideas for what kind of cheesecake to make for Dan.

One was a Turkish Coffee Cheesecake, which would use chocolate, espresso powder and cardamom in the batter, chocolate wafers and almonds with cardamom in the crust, and would be garnished with chocolate shavings, almond slices and espresso beans. That sounded good, but too similar to the chocolate raspberry cheesecake I made for him last year. I wanted something a little lighter.

I also thought of doing a rhubarb cheesecake, since the tart tourmaline-colored stalks have just come into season, but I wasn’t certain that Dan liked rhubarb.

What I knew he liked was blackberries, and since I had some in the freezer, I thought that would be a good choice.

I chose cinnamon graham cracker crumbs for the crust, and flavored the batter simply with vanilla bean paste, lemon zest and lemon juice. To one third of the batter I added some “Simply Fruit” blackberry jam, beating it in thoroughly until the batter turned pink. This was spooned into the plain batter after it was added to the crust in the pan, and swirled around for a pink and cream-colored marble effect.

For a topping, I thawed out frozen blackberries, added a dash of rosewater, some raw sugar, and a bit of lemon juice. I put this in a saucepan with the remainder of the jar of jam and added a little bit of cornstarch dissolved in cold water. I cooked this mixture until the juice thickened to a syrupy consistency. I cooled it in the fridge, and after the cake was baked and cooled (I cooled it in a nearly empty freezer), I spooned the blackberries and juice over the cake.

How did it turn out?

Well, Dan liked it, because it tasted light and fresh, and he was better able to be gluttonous and eat a ton of it at a sitting than a richer, chocolatey cake.

I loved it because the texture was fluffy and it was tangy and not too sweet. It was amazing. I think I liked it better than just about any of my other cheesecake creations, except perhaps the Pomegranate Cheesecake.

Without further ado, here is the recipe:

Dan’s Blackberry Cheesecake


2 cups cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
8 tablespoons butter, melted
3 pounds cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups raw sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
2 tablespoons lemon zest, finely grated
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 whole large eggs
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons Simply Fruit Blackberry jam
1 pound frozen or fresh blackberries
1 tablespoon rosewater
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup Simply Fruit Blackberry Jam
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in two tablespoons cold water


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place crumbs into the bowl of a food processor. (I also use the processor to make the crumbs, by the way, so they are usually already in the bowl.) Start the processor and as it is running, drizzle the melted butter through the feed tube. Allow machine to mix thoroughly until the texture of damp sand is accomplished.

Dump crust ingredients from processor bowl into the center of a non-stick 10 inch springform pan. Pat the crumbs in an even layer on the bottom of the pan and about a third of the way up the sides of the pan. Don’t worry if the top edge is a little ragged. It won’t matter.

Bake in the preheated oven for fifteen minutes (ten if you have a convection oven), then remove from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly. Turn the oven temperature down to 300 degrees and put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven. This creates a moist, steamy environment for the cheesecake to bake in, without having to bake it -in- a water bath.

Beat together the cream cheese and sugar in a heavy-duty mixer until they are thoroughly combined and are fluffy. Add vanilla bean paste, lemon zest and juice, and beat until the batter is smooth.

Whisk together the eggs and egg yolks until they are thoroughly combined and lighten in color somewhat. Add to cheese batter and beat well to combine. (This also incorporates some air into the batter.)

Take out one third of the batter and stir the smaller amount of jam, until the batter is pale pink.

Scrape the white cheesecake batter into the prepared, cooled pan over the crust, and smooth the top so it is even. Drop spoonsful of the blackberry flavored batter into the pan, and swirl with a table knife until a marble effect is achieved. Smooth the top of the batter again, and place the cake into the center rack of the 300 degree preheated oven and bake for one hour and fifteen minutes. (Bake for fifty minutes to an hour if you have a convection oven.)

Remove from oven when done–the cake will be set around the edges, and will be somewhat jiggly in the middle. Do not worry–as it cools on a wire rack on the counter, the residual heat of the cake will continue to bake the middle. By the time it is at room temperature, it will be completely set.

Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover tightly with foil, and still in the pan, refrigerate for at least ten hours or until completely cold. (Or stick it into the freezer until it is completely cold–a few hours.)

Meanwhile, take the thawed frozen blackberries, or fresh berry, and toss with rosewater and sugar. Put into a saucepan, add the jam, and cook on low heat until the jam melts and the berries soften lightly. Bring to a boil and add the cornstarch and water, and stirring constantly, allow the mixture to thicken slightly. Cool completely and when ready to serve, unmold the springform cake, spoon berries over the top of the cake, allowing some of the juice to drizzle artfully over the edge of the cake. (To remove from the pan and serve, run a thin icing spatula or knife gently around the outside of the springform pan to loosen the cake from the pan. Unlock the spring, and loosen the sides of the pan away from the cake, and lift away.)

It serves at least sixteen people, up to twenty or so, depending on how thinly you slice the cake.

It also serves one Dan, and a few of his friends, if he feels generous enough to share.


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  1. And there’s ACTUALLY a little bit of it left…

    (but not much…Gone by tomorrow morning.)

    Comment by Dan — May 14, 2008 #

  2. The Irish Mocha cheesecake link goes to the Strawberry one 😉

    Comment by Trish — May 15, 2008 #

  3. Sounds delicious, though I assume that you COOLED it in an empty freezer, not cooked. 🙂

    Comment by Jenn — May 15, 2008 #

  4. At the risk of messing too much with your recipe 🙂 how do you think this recipe would be if you left it as is before adding the fruit? Blasphemy I know, but I have never much liked fruit and cheesecake, BUT I have been on the lookout for a light, fluffy vanilla bean cheesecake for some time now. This sounds like it might fit the bill–but I am not a cheesecake expert so I defer to your expertise.

    P.S. Wow I have been reading your blog a while now–I do indeed remember previous Dan cheesecakes! 🙂

    Comment by Laura — May 15, 2008 #

  5. Can I ask where you find ethically produced cream cheese?

    Comment by Johanna — May 16, 2008 #

  6. Since I happen to know Barbara is having trouble posting, since she was kind enough to email me and tell me that yes this would make a fantastic plain vanilla bean cheesecake, Johanna, I thought I would pop in and say that I know Organic Valley makes cream cheese. I get it at Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati; I am not sure how hard it is to find outside of major urban markets, since none of the other grocery stores near me carry it (I live a solid hour outside of Cinci). Organic Valley and Stoneyfield (if they make cream cheese) both get high ratings from the Cornucopia Institute, which has rated organic dairy producers for things like space for the cows to move in, etc.

    Comment by Laura — May 16, 2008 #

  7. I want to be a member of your family and get cheesecake on my birthday. However, I’m not picky; anything that you make would be fine with me. It looks utterly decadent and delicious!

    Comment by Nancy — May 16, 2008 #

  8. Laura has it right–I just found out that I can comment again–I use Organic Valley Cream Cheese. Not only is it from small family farms with pastured cows, the cheese has the best flavor and texture of any cream cheese I have used for cheesecakes.

    Comment by Barbara — May 21, 2008 #

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