Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

Posted by hsimpsongrossman on September 17, 2014

The first time I sat at a computer I could call “mine”, was when I began my legal career at that lucrative law firm I worked for in NYC.  Until then, any piece of paper which couldn’t be handwritten had been typed for me, either by various assistances or for pay.

In an attempt to prevent me being forever marked as the firm’s technologically challenged associate (in 1999 you see, most snazzy young associates at top notsh New York law firms were equipped with laptops, gadgets such as blackberries, blueberries (bearing no resemblance to their namesakes), and could practically type in their sleep), Better Half got me a typing tutorial and found a computer at his law firm I could use for practice.  Though I had had only three days to complete my self-teaching program and hadn’t managed to cover everything, it did boost my self confidence.

In hindsight, I should have known that being computer savvy entails more than just typing letters.  Minutes after having completed the orientation process, the scariest partner in the firm stormed in to my office and asked that I “blackline” a document “ASAP”.  I had enough sense left in me to smile and say: “sure!” yet, as soon as he was out of sight, I ran to my saviour-George’s office to find out how on earth does one blackline a document.  George, turning a blind eye to my blatant ignorance, helped me out then just as he did so many times down the road.  Oh, and blackline (or redline), to those of you who don’t know, is a means for displaying the changes between documents, as shown below.

Bumbleberry Breeze Ricotta Cheese Cake Blackline

It didn’t take said partner long to figure out how little I knew about computers, and after an all-nighter spent retrieving changes to an important document I forgot to save, he reminded me I was hired (mainly) for my brains and not for my word-processing skills (“that’s what the WP department is for!”) and warned me, that if he sees me typing again he will fire me on the spot.

Considering a number of similar traumatic incidents, I had no inclination whatsoever to touch a computer during my limited free time, which meant I missed on the initial internet buzz.  Better Half though, lured me into the web by telling me about those places where people talk about food and share recipes, known as “forums”.  I took the bait, one forum led to another until I settled in the Forum.

Amazing things happen in the Forum.  The conversation there is never only about food and relationships transcend far beyond the virtual reality.  One of the most incredible things which happened to me thanks to the Forum, was getting to know Judy, mother of Bumbleberry Breeze.

Bumbleberry Breeze Broccoli Mushroom Noodle Kugel
(Broccoli) Mushroom Noodle Kugel

I visited her site following a recommendation in the Forum for a Broccoli Mushroom Noodle Kugel and immediately fell in love with her homey, healthy recipes, and all the more with her witty powerful yet sensitive personality.  We began corresponding by email and Facebook and when Judy and her Novio visited Israel, a meeting was inevitable.

Judy posted the recipe for this amazingly refreshing Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake amid my ricotta madness period, when I was looking for excuses to make ricotta. The post was up on a Monday and by Thursday, a slightly modified version thereof was residing in our fridge waiting for my sister to come for Shabbat.

A couple of weeks ago I made this cake again and took it to the Forum’s semi-annual summer meeting.  That was the closest I could get to having Judy herself in the meeting with us (Judy, I haven’t given up on that fantasy yet).

Bumbleberry Breeze's Judy Almost with the Forum
Judy (Almost) with the Forum

I felt like using shortbread crust rather than a crumb one and opted for my default recipe – the one from Alice Medrich’s Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy.  I substituted the sour cream in Judy’s filling with whole milk yogurt and used light sour cream for the topping.  And for the ricotta, as you must have guessed by now, I used one batch of my Homemade Ricotta Style Cheese.

For those of you who prefer not to wash extra dishes, melt the butter in a medium pot (or microwave safe bowl, if using a microwave) and use said pot to mix the crust ingredients.

Bumbleberry Breeze Ricotta Cheesecake One Pot on the Spot
Pot on the Spot

Oh, please make sure not to go short on the lemon zest – it brings out the tartness of the ricotta cheese.  For a tip on how to stock up on lemon zest, please look here.

I baked the cake in both a round baking tin as well as in a square one.  I believe the round version is dressier while the square cake seems more contemporary.

Bumbleberry Breeze Ricotta Cheesecake Dividing the Pie
Dividing the Pie

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake on the Spot:  Make the crust and press it into your tin.  Make the filling: mix all the ingredients but the egg whites.  Beat egg whites and fold in.  Pour into the unbaked crust.  Bake. Spread topping over baked cake.  Return to the oven. Voilà!

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

Adapted slightly from Bumbleberry Breeze, who in turn slightly adapted from Faye Levy’s The Low-Fat Jewish Cookbook.

Ingredients, for a 9 inch springform baking tin or a 9*9 square tin, which makes about 12 servings:

For the Shortbread Crust:

1 3/4 sticks (7 oz., 200 grams) unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup (3.5 oz., 100 grams) sugar

3/8 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups (9 oz., 255 grams) all-purpose flour

For the Cheese Filling:

A 15-oz. container (425 grams) ricotta cheese

3/4 cup (6 oz., 180 grams) whole milk yogurt

3/4 cup (10.5 oz., 300 grams) sugar

2 large eggs, separated

2 tablespoons cornstarch (or potato-starch or all purpose flour)

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the Topping:

1 cup (7 oz., 200 grams) sour cream (low fat is fine)

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius) and position a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Line a 9 inch springform baking tin or a 9*9 square one with parchment paper.

The Shortbread Crust:

In a medium bowl (or the pot used for melting the butter), combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla and salt.

Ricotta Cheesecake Liquid Gold
Liquid Gold

Stir in the flour until just incorporated.  The mixture will be soft and a bit oily but that’s fine.

Bumbleberry Breeze Ricotta Cheesecake Not Kosher for Pessach
NOT Kosher for Pessach

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking tin and press into an even layer on the bottom of the tin and about 2 inches up its sides.

No need to poke the unbaked crust with a fork, as we aren’t blind baking it (we are baking it with its filling, which serves as a weight and prevents the dough from rising).  I remembered that only after I had done the poking.

The Filling:

Whisk ricotta with the yogurt until smooth.  Gradually mix in the sugar.

Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, and add the cornstarch, then the lemon zest, and juice.

Whip egg whites in the bowl of a mixer with the balloon attachment until stiff.

Bumbleberry Breeze Ricotta Cheesecake Snowy Peaks
Snowy Peaks

Gently fold egg whites unto the cheese mixture. Carefully pour filling into the crust.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius) for the first 10 minutes.  Then lower the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius) and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top center is just firm and the edges are puffed up and jiggley when you nudge the pan.  Cracks will form in the top of the cake.

Bumbleberry Breeze Ricotta Cheeseבake Naked

While the cake is baking, prepare the Topping:

In a small bowl, mix the sour cream with the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla and set aside until the cake is ready.

Bumbleberry Breeze Ricotta Cheesecake Topping

As soon as you take the cake out of the oven, gently run a thin bladed knife around the edge to loosen the crust from the sides of the pan.  The center of the cake will sink a bit.

Carefully spread the topping in an even layer over the cake.

Return the cake to the oven and bake for 10 more minutes.  Turn the oven off after 10 minutes, even if the topping seems undone as the topping will continue crusting while cooling down.

Let the cake cool down gradually: open the oven door and leave the cake in it until it cools down.  Transfer the cake to the refrigerator only once it reached room temperature.

Bumbleberry Breeze Ricotta Cheesecake Between the Lines
Between the Lines

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferable overnight, before serving.

Bumbleberry Breeze Ricotta Cheesecake No Cutting Corners
No Cutting Corners

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4 thoughts on “Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

  1. Ahhhhh, life. More than one month later, I should be doing 5 other things, including going to sleep, but I was thinking of you and missing you, so I skipped over to your lovely site. and to my great surprise read THIS. You are one of the most humble people I know -and I support Your Better Half. He knows all that lives inside you. I am so jazzed at this awesome shout-out to bb. A Giant Todah Rabah to you.Your version of the LR Cheesecake looks absolutely mouth-watering – I must make this version (Note to self: Add to the always -growing to-do list).Keep posting, Hanni- You are an amazing cook, baker, writer, mother, friend, MENSH and so much more. Too bad, this, unlike mandelbrot, won’t ship well….

    • Birthday girl!
      I saw this just now – spam attack preventing me from get real notices on time.

      Thank you for encouraging me and while it doesn’t ship well, I believe it should survive a trip to Haifa/Ramat Hasharon, next time you come over.

      Love you too!

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