Rich, dense, smooth and creamy, cheesecake is truly a dessert staple. Top it with with freshly whipped cream, crushed vanilla bean meringues, fresh berries and a fresh berry sauce and it's the perfect indulgent dessert. My summer berry Eton mess cheesecake is a twist on the classic English dessert, Eton mess. Eton mess traditionally consists of macerated strawberries, whipped cream and crunchy chewy meringue. It's kind of like a deconstructed pavlova where the ingredients are sort of just tossed together, hence, the "mess". It may be a bit messy, but this dessert is anything but. Creamy, crunchy, rich and tangy, this summer berry Eton mess cheesecake is a lofty beauty and makes a show stopping dessert for any event.
Let's talk New York cheesecake
New York style cheesecake is generally the type of cheesecake most of people are familiar with. This cheesecake is dense, creamy and smooth in texture. It's rich, and hard to eat more than just a small piece - even though we try to anyway, because, well, it's so good.
So what makes this cheesecake so different than others? In all reality, not *that* much. The ingredients in NY style cheesecake are similar in cheesecakes that are light and fluffy or soft and creamy - cream cheese, eggs, sugar and usually heavy cream or sour cream. Non NY cheesecakes can also use different types of cheese - mascarpone, quark, ricotta, etc. It's how they're used and the quantities that makes the most difference. In NY cheesecakes, more cream cheese is used, and cream or sour cream is also used, but a small amount is added for richness and creaminess, and extra eggs and/or egg yolks are added to also make it more dense and rich. NY cheesecakes are usually baked at a high temp first, then lowered to get that iconic NY cheesecake brown outer top but still maintain that creamy center. Oftentimes, NY cheesecakes don't call for a water bath either.
About this cheesecake recipe
Now, this cheesecake recipe is similar to that of the NY cheesecake with some exceptions. I wanted the dense, velvety and creamy cheesecake, but wasn't sold on the firmer exterior (that occurs without the water bath) or the traditional browned top, for my Eton mess cheesecake. I wanted many of the characteristics of a NY cheesecake, for the cheesecake to be able to stand on it's own, but also traditional enough to be topped with any sort of topping - fruit, chocolate, curds, etc.
Yes, this cheesecake requires a water bath. I know, it seems daunting, and the worry of leaks is real, but trust me on this. I've made many, many cheesecakes over the years, and the water bath is just so necessary to keep the cheesecake from drying out along the edges and to keep the top from cracking, and allows the cheesecake to bake more evenly. I've got some tips and tricks in the recipe that will keep you from getting a watery, leaky mess.
The base of the cheesecake is a traditional graham cracker crust that is baked to golden brown before adding the cheesecake mixture. The cheesecake consists of cream cheese, eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and a little bit of heavy cream. Sour cream can be used in place of the cream, just reduce the lemon juice by a teaspoon so that it's not too tangy. I prefer to use Philadelphia brand cream cheese for my cheesecakes. It's consistent quality and flavor, and a brand I know I like to bake with. Use a cream cheese you enjoy eating, but also one that doesn't have a lot of odd ingredients and fillers.
Super important, make sure your cheesecake ingredients are room temperature. If they're too cold, the mixture could end up lumpy or curdled. The cheesecake mixture comes together pretty quickly in the bowl of stand mixer. Once the eggs are added, do not over beat. Eggs trap air and this could cause the cheesecake to puff and deflate. It's best to do the heaviest beating when mixing the cream cheese and sugar. This ensures your cream cheese is smooth so you won't feel like you will have to over mix to smooth out lumps when the remaining ingredients are added and mixed.
Prep the springform pan for the water bath by wrapping it with foil. The best foil to wrap your springform pan in, is 18" wide heavy duty aluminum foil. This foil is long enough to wrap the pan without coming up short, which could allow the water to seep in. Double layer the foil for extra protection. The foil pan is then placed in a roasting pan, or a large pan (I've used a 14" cake pan many times), and filled with hot water, halfway up the outside of foiled pan. The cheesecake is baked slowly in the water bath for about an hour/hour and fifteen. When the cheesecake is done baking, turn the oven off, prop the oven door open and let it slowly cool in the oven for 45 minutes. This process is crucial for preventing cracks. Cooling the cheesecake too fast can cause cracking. Finishing cooling at room temperature for 2-3 more hours. Then chill the cheesecake for 3 more hours in the refrigerator.
The berry sauce is made by simmering fresh or frozen berries, lemon juice, and sugar. Allow the mixture to simmer until thickened. At this point, you can leave the seeds and chunks of berries in as is, or you can blend, then strain the mixture for a smooth sauce. I typically strain mine for a smooth sauce. Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before using.
Fresh whipped cream requires only 3 ingredients - heavy cream, sugar and vanilla, and is super simple to make. Chill the bowl of a stand mixer and a whisk attachment in the fridge before making the whipped cream. Beat the ingredients together until the cream *just* holds stiff peaks. Spread the cheesecake with the whipped cream, reserving a little bit to pipe in between the meringues.
You can use store bought meringues or you can make your own. Find my recipe for small batch meringues here. Make the meringues according to the directions, but instead of piping the meringues, use a spoon to create rounded spoonfuls (these don't have to be perfect, or even all that pretty), and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake the meringues for about an hour/hour and a half, until the meringues are firm to the touch, and no longer sticky. They should be firm and crunchy on the outside, and softer and chewier on the inside. Cool before using.
Place the meringues on the whipped cream, overlapping them to create height. Use the remaining whipped cream to pipe in between the meringues. Top the cheesecake with halved strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. Drizzle the cheesecake with the berry sauce. Add some fresh, edible flowers or mint for garnish if you wish and serve. Enjoy!
Check out these recipes for more fruity desserts:
Summer Berry Eton Mess Cheesecake
Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 ½ cups (150g) graham cracker crumbs, about 10 full graham crackers
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons (84g) unsalted butter, melted
- pinch of salt
- 5 (8oz) blocks (1130g) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 ⅓ cup (266g) granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup (120ml) heavy cream
- 5 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 2 cups (454g) fresh or frozen berries
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup (240ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon granulated or confectioner's sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 batch meringues
Make the crust
- Heat the oven to 325F. Line the bottom of a 9" springform pan with parchment paper.
- Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter and salt and mix with until evenly moistened.
- Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the springform pan.
- Bake the crust for 12-14 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges.
- Cool the crust completely. Cut (2) 18" pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil. Criss-cross the pieces so that they overlap, and tightly wrap the foil around the pan and up to the edges of the pan. This size of foil is critical to make sure that the pieces aren't too small, which could allow leaking. Set aside and make the filling.
Make the cheesecake
- In the bowl of the stand mixer, place the softened cream cheese. Beat on medium speed to combine and break up the cream cheese.
- Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat for another minute.
- Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl again, then add in the sugar and salt. Beat until combined.
- Scape the bowl again, then beat for an additional minute, ensuring everything is well blended.
- Add in the cream, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat on low until combined, about a minute.
- Scrape the bowl. Add both egg yolks and mix until combined, about a minute.
- Scrape the bowl. Add in the eggs, 1-2 at a time, beating until combined, scraping the bowl between additions.
- Lightly brush the sides of the springform pan with melted butter.
- Place the springform into a roasting pan or a large (14") cake pan. Prepare a pitcher of hot water.
- Pour the cheesecake mixture into the pan, and use an offset spatula to smooth out the batter.
- Place the roasting pan into the oven. Fill the roasting pan with the hot water, just enough to come halfway up the sides of the foil of the springform pan.
- Bake the cheesecake until the cheesecake jiggles slightly, no longer appears wet and an instant read thermometer reads 150F, about 60-90 minutes.
- Once done baking, turn off the oven. Prop the oven door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Let the cheesecake slowly cool in the water bath in the oven for 45 minutes.
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven. Remove the foil. Place the cheesecake on a wire rack.
- Run a small knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cheesecake and keep it from splitting in the middle.
- Cool the cheesecake to room temperature, about 2-3 hours.
- Wrap the top of the pan with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Make the berry sauce
- Combine the berries, sugar and lemon juice in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Break up the berries with a potato masher or a wooden spoon.
- Simmer until thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Let the sauce cool completely before using.
- For a seedless sauce, blend the mixture until smooth. Strain the mixture using a fine mesh sieve.
Make the whipped cream
- Place a bowl and mixer whisk attachment into the freezer for 20 minutes.
- Combine the cream, and sugar into the chilled bowl. Beat the mixture until stiff peaks *just* start to form.
- Add the vanilla extract and mix just to combine. Use immediately.