Lightly Lemony Mascarpone and Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

I know it’s Pi Day and everyone is making pies but I don’t care. This post is about cheesecake and I’m not just talking about the dessert. What I’m talking about is the illustrated art of Alberto Vargas and Gil Elvgren. The cheeky glamour of Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe. I’m talking about those black and white photos of me in 1940s swimwear and cork heeled wedges that I let my friend take the last summer we were in high school.

I mention this not only because I’ve made a cheesecake and want to share the recipe with you, but because there is such a cheesecake element when it comes to marketing women and food. Whether its Padma Lakshmi eating ribs in her underthings and licking chocolate off her wrists or Nigella Lawson provocatively putting pasta in her mouth, so many female cooks are presented like pin-ups. Gorgeous hair, makeup, and plunging necklines over pushed up breasts supported by flirty peek-a-boo bras.

I’m not judging this cheesecake aspect, but where’s the beefcake counterpart? Where is the Magic Mike of Mediterranean cooking and why isn’t he sexfully telling me how to make mezze? Men’s cookery books and television programs are not promoted this way.

While the story behind the term cheesecake is probably apocryphal, I choose to believe. In 1912, James Kane, a photographer for The New York Journal, was positioning a model when a breeze blew up her skirt. As more leg than usual went on display, he tried to think of the greatest superlative to express his delight. Being a huge fan of cheesecake, his response was “That’s real cheesecake!”

I wouldn’t necessarily call Dita Von Teese cheesecake even though some of the photos she has taken are very much so. But she has mastered the art of vintage pin-up glamour better than anyone else. So before I give you my recipe, I’m going to leave you with a video of Dita doing what she does. You’re welcome and I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Gil Elvgren

Alberto Vargas

Betty Grable


Marilyn Monroe


Padma Lakshmi


Nigella Lawson

Ingredients for the base:

3/4 c ground almonds

10 Hobnobs

40 g meted unsalted butter


Put the Hobnobs and almonds in a food processor and pulse until they are crumbly like meal. Add the butter and pulse the mixture again. Press the biscuit mixture into the bottom of a 9″ Springform tin. You can use your hand or the back of a spoon to do this. I like to use the bottom of a drinking drink. When it’s all smooth, place it in the refrigerator.


Ingredients for the cheesecake mixture:

500 g Mascarpone

100 g cream cheese

100 g caster sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp vanilla bean paste

zest of 1 lemon

4 eggs


Preheat the oven to Gas 4/180°C/350°F

Put the cheeses in a medium sized bowl. Use a hand mixer to beat them until they are smooth.

Add the sugar, eggs, lemon juice, zest, and vanilla bean paste.

Put the kettle to boil.

Remove the tin from the refrigerator. Twice cover the outside of the tin with strong foil.

Place the foil wrapped tin in a large roasting dish.

Pour the cheese mixture into the tin.

Pour boiling water around the outside of the tin. Don’t pour it more than halfway up the cake tin.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the center of the cake is set but not rigid.


Ingredients for the creme fraiche topping:

175 g creme fraiche

1 tbsp caster sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla



Whisk the ingredients together until smooth.

Pour the topping over the cheesecake then put it back in the oven to bake for another 10 minutes.

Remove the roasting tin from the oven.

Carefully remove the Springform. Remove the foil from its outside then stand it on a rack to cool.

When it has cooled completely, put it in the refrigerator to chill.


Raw Chocolate Truffles

We all know chocolate is the food of the gods.  The Mesoamerican ancients taught us this.  And thank Quetzalcoatl they did because it’s delicious.  Especially raw.  That’s why I’ve been working on a raw truffle recipe so I can enjoy that rich, dark, bitter goodness in its unadulterated form.  That and my toddler adores chocolate.  While I’m not anti-candy in anyway (believe me–there are days I wake up and just want a handful of Sour Patch Kids for breakfast), I do like the idea of her eating raw homemade cacao treats with more frequency than anything manufactured by Cadbury.  Below is my recipe.  Please let me know what you think.






200 grams of pitted medjool dates

1/2 cup raw cacao powder (plus a little extra for dusting)

1/4 cup raw cacao nibs

1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds (save a few to top the truffles)

2 teaspoons maca powder

2 tablespoons shredded coconut (raw is fantastic but dessicated also works)

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

4 tablespoons light agave syrup

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/4 teaspoon Maldon sea salt (put a little extra aside for topping the truffles)
Method:  In a food processor, mix all ingredients until they form a thick paste.  Now roll spoonfuls of the paste into balls.  Lightly dust these truffles in a little cacao powder.  Be sure to knock off the excess.  Then gently roll just the tops in a little sea salt and dip them into the toasted almond slivers.  Set the finished truffles on baking paper and chill them in the fridge.  Serve cold or at room temperature.  I prefer the latter.