This chilled (no-bake) cheesecake is a great way to use up the last of the season’s blackberries. It could be just as easily made with frozen ones, or indeed with strawberries or raspberries, but I felt like giving the humble blackberry centre stage for a change. And also, I just love the sumptuous, velvety purple colour that the blackberries lend the cheesecake. The biscuit base is a real winner. If my family is anything to go by, the cake should be half base, half cheesecake topping! As recipes go, this one has more steps than I would normally like in a recipe, but the result is definitely worth the extra effort.
Going blackberry-picking is one of those things that takes me right back to my childhood. Summer after summer, we’d wait impatiently for the berries to ripen. We’d check the bramble bushes daily – crossing fields, scrambling over walls, getting scratched by the briars. And then, finally, our waiting would be rewarded and the berries would change from red to black. It wasn’t unusual for us to arrive late to school at this time of year; mouths and fingers dyed an inky blue from the juice of the berries. And then, after school, we’d spend hours on the way home picking every ripe berry we could reach with our grubby little fingers. We’d fill our lunchboxes and eat as many while picking. And when the lunchboxes were full, our jackets or jumpers would double as containers – much to the despair of our mothers, I’m sure!
Incidentally, this cheesecake recipe is based on one of my mom’s. Over the years, I’ve changed a few things. For this blackberry one, I like to use a real favourite of mine – ricotta. The original recipe called for cottage cheese. Both cheeses are fairly low in fat, so no major difference on that front. But what I like about ricotta is the texture – I find it smoother than cottage cheese (and yes, I do sieve both!). And finally, the ricotta flavour goes really nicely with the blackberries.
My vegetarian readers will have to forgive me here – I used gelatine. A very long time ago, I made the cheesecake with agar agar for a vegetarian friend. I think I may have used a tad too much – it was like more a rubber frisbee than a cheesecake! I haven’t dared use it since! But I suppose I really should give it another go for the blog’s sake. But I imagine all vegetarians are dab hands at replacing one ingredient for another to ‘vegetarianise’ a recipe. And gelatine vs agar agar is a common one.
Since gelatine sheets vary from country to country and come in all shapes and sizes, it’s best to follow the instructions on the package, which is mostly by the actual volume of the cake mix. I generally go for a little bit less than recommended. After my frisbee experience, I prefer to err on the side of softness, rather than end up with another rubbery offering. This cheesecake has a little over 1 litre of mix. So using the local Dr Oetker variety available here in Switzerland, I use 12 sheets, or 20 g. That’s 1 sheet less than called for and it gave me just the right consistency.
No-bake blackberry ricotta cheesecake with rose syrup
Serves: 12 slices
Preparation time: 1 hour
Setting time: 3+ hours
Baking tin: 24 cm (9 inch) with removable base (or individual moulds)
- 250 g digestive biscuits, crushed (see note below)
- 75 g butter, melted
- 460 g ricotta cheese
- 1 small-to-medium lemon, zested
- 20 g gelatine (12 sheets of Dr Oetker; or enough for 1 to 1.1 litres of filling)
- 350 g blackberries (for 300 ml strained blackberry puree)
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) rose syrup (or blackcurrant/elderflower cordial)
- 2 eggs, separated
- 115 g sugar (or up to 130 g if blackberries are sour)
- 280 ml full-fat cream (for whipping)
- 75-100 g blackberries
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) rose syrup or alternative (optional)
– Start by greasing and lining the tin.
– For the biscuit base, melt the butter and blitz the digestives in a kitchen machine until you have fine crumbs (or do it the old-fashioned way of putting them in a bag and bashing them with a rolling pin). Then combine the two and press firmly into the bottom of the prepared tin. Refrigerate.
– Now blitz the washed blackberries until you have a puree. Push through a sieve. Discard the seeds.
– Measure 100 ml of this strained puree and place it in a small saucepan with the rose syrup and lemon zest. Warm slowly. Do not boil.
– Meanwhile soak the gelatine sheets in cold water for 5 minutes (or according to instructions on the packet), squeeze well and add to the warm blackberry mix. Take off the heat and whisk well. Cool slightly.
– Mix the sugar and egg yolks until the mixture is pale yellow. Then slowly pour in the blackberry/gelatine mix in a thin stream, whisking as you pour.
– Put this mixture back into the saucepan and warm very slowly. Whisk continuously, so it doesn’t thicken at the bottom. Remove from the heat when the mixture has the consistency of thin cream and leave to cool.
– Now push the ricotta through a fine sieve. Twice! Add the remaining 200 ml of blackberry puree and mix until combined (an electric hand mixer does this in no time).
– In separate bowls, whip the cream until it just thickens, and whisk the egg whites until stiff (make sure the bowl and whippers are very clean and dry).
– Sieve the gelatine mixture into the ricotta (just in case there are any lumps) and fold in until combined.
– Now fold in the whipped cream.
– Finally, gently fold in the egg whites bit by bit.
– Pour onto the chilled base (it’s okay if it’s not chilled) and smooth the top. Chill for 3 hours or more.
– Just before serving, pile some extra berries on top of the cheesecake and, if you fancy, pour some syrup over the lot.
– Serve with whipped cream.
– With digestives (McVitie’s) I mean the standard biscuit used for cake bases. It’s the one commonly used in the UK and Ireland. In North America, this would more likely be graham crackers. Digestives are available in many European countries, so I generally don’t have to look for an alternative. If you can’t get them though, you could use some form of plain buttery biscuit, like shortbread/sablé.