While drops of food coloring will enhance the layers of this patriotic July 4th cheesecake, its stripes are tinted naturally with seasonal flavors: red raspberry, white vanilla bean and blue blueberry. The fresh blueberry topping is held together with just enough gelatin to give it a gorgeous, glossy look and to make it easy to cut. In order to achieve the clean layers you’ll need to have some time to let each one set, so plan in advance. It is super easy and completely worth the extra time to present such a fun dessert at your holiday party.
July 4th Raspberry, Vanilla and Blueberry Cheesecake
Makes: 16 Servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Baking Time: 2 Hours
Set Time: several hours
Level: Easy, but many steps
10 whole graham crackers
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoons lemon juice
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup raspberry preserves
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 cup blueberry preserves
1 drop each blue and red food coloring, if you want to boost the color of your stripes
1/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon gelatin
1/2 cup simple syrup (boil 1/4 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water until sugar dissolves)
1/2 cup blueberry preserves
To Make the Crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch springform pan or cake pan with parchment.
In a food processor combine the graham crackers, butter, sugar and salt, until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan, and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, or just until it starts to turn golden brown. Cool the crust completely, then freeze the crust.
To Make the Cheesecake Batter:
Cream together the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and corn starch, until very smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed. Divide the batter equally into 3 bowls. Add the raspberry preserves and a drop of red dye to one. Add the scraped vanilla bean to the next. Add the blueberry preserves and blue dye to the last bowl.
Pour the red layer over the frozen crust and return to the freezer for about 30 minutes, or until the batter is slightly firm to the touch. While this layer is chilling, place the other bowls of batter in the freezer to allow them to set as well.
Once the red layer feels thick, but not frozen solid, very carefully pour the white batter over the red. Do this very slowly, in small amounts, so that it doesn’t break the surface of the red layer. Freeze the pan again for about 20 minutes. Check to make sure the blue batter isn’t setting too firmly in the freezer; if it is, move it to the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Add the blue layer in the same careful way. Place the pan on a baking sheet. Place in the oven, then pour hot water in the baking sheet, which will help the cake bake evenly. (If you are using the springform pan, you will need to cover the bottom of the springform pan with foil, to prevent any water from seeping in). Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or when it is set in the middle.
When the cake is set in the middle, remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for several hours.
Run a hot knife blade around the edge before removing the cake from the pan. If you are using a regular cake pan, you will need to heat the bottom quickly over the stove, then cover the top with plastic, invert onto a plate and finally transfer to the serving platter. Refrigerate the cake while you make the topping.
In a small bowl add the gelatin to the cold water, stir to combine and allow to bloom for several minutes. Once the water has absorbed all the gelatin, add it to the hot simple syrup. If you made the simple syrup ahead, heat it. Add the blueberry preserves and transfer to a clean bowl to cool.
Once the glaze has come to room temperature, it will thicken, but still be pourable.
Place the blueberries on top of the cake.
Pour the thickened glaze over the berries. It will run down the sides, which I think is quite pretty. Refrigerate until the glaze has set a bit. If you prefer clean sides, use a hot metal spatula to scrape the excess off the sides (this is very easy to do).
Use a hot blade to cut the cake to keep the stripes distinct, and enjoy!
Zoë François, author of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and Artisan Pizza and Flatbreads in 5 Minutes a Day, studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She now calls Minneapolis her home, where she has worked with some of the top talent in the culinary world — Steven Brown, Andrew Zimmern and many chefs at the D’Amico company. In addition to writing, Zoë teaches baking classes and consults at restaurants. You can find her writing and recipe creations on Devour, on her baking blog, zoebakes.com and on the site, www.breadin5.com.