Vanilla cheesecake with strawberry compote

Photographer: Adam

A few weeks ago the industrial design team in Dunedin had a shared morning tea to celebrate a couple of birthdays.  Annie made this beautiful cheesecake; it was so good we persuaded her to share her secret recipe with everyone!

“I can’t remember ever having cheesecake when I was little… my mum wasn’t that into food; cooking or baking was merely a chore to her.  Her signature dish was a sponge cake, but made from an instant cake packet – add some water and eggs and voila! It most certainly wouldn’t have any icing.  (I have to clarify that even though my mum wasn’t the cooking kind of mum, she was the best mum ever.)  When I flew the nest and started to earn some money, I ventured out to restaurants and discovered my love for “good” food.  I was amazed how delicious simple foods like vegetables could be when not over boiled or with a crunchy charcoal crust!  I still remember having my first ever cheesecake experience.  I was 19 years old and the taste and the texture are etched in my mind as one of my favourite food memories.  I have been comparing every cheesecake with that first one; only a few have measured up – including this one.  The use of brown sugar adds a wonderful caramelly note to the cake, and served with a summery compote made from fresh strawberries, this would be a perfect Kiwi Christmas dessert.

“This cake requires a few hours cooling before serving so is best made the day before.  I decorated this cheesecake by making a snowflake stencil.  To make the stencil, I traced a snowflake design onto a piece of acetate and cut it out with a craft knife.  Dusting icing sugar over the handmade stencil results in a snowy Christmassy theme. Enjoy!”


Cheesecake base
120g unsalted butter
250g digestive biscuits

Cheesecake filling
2 vanilla pods, split and scraped (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
750g full fat soft cream cheese, at room temperature
200g brown sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
150ml sour cream, at room temperature
4 eggs, at room temperature

Strawberry compote
500g fresh strawberries
50g brown sugar
¼ cup water


Take all ingredients out of the fridge an hour before starting.
Preheat oven to 180 °C. Grease the sides and line the bottom of a 23 cm spring form tin with baking paper.

Cheesecake base
1. Melt butter. Break digestive biscuits into the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Add melted butter to the biscuit crumbs and combine until it has a sandy texture.
2. Pour the biscuit mixture into the prepared cake tin and press down firmly with the back of a spoon to coat the base.
3. Put the cake tin on a baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling.

Cheesecake filling
1. Place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla pod scrapings (or vanilla extract), flour and sour cream into a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until creamy and smooth.
2. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, until just smooth. (Don’t overbeat after eggs have been added as this could cause the cake to crack*.) Pour mixture onto biscuit base in prepared tin and smooth the top. Tap the cake tin on the bench to bring any bubbles to the surface.
3. Bake for 10 minutes at 180 °C, then turn oven down to 140 °C and bake for another 50 minutes. The cheesecake should be set but might still be a little glossy in the middle. Turn oven off, open door and leave cheesecake to cool down slowly in the warm oven. This helps to prevent the cheesecake cracking.
4. Once cool, remove cheesecake from oven and chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours (or overnight) before serving.

Strawberry Compote
1. Clean the strawberries, remove stems and roughly chop. Place in a small saucepan with sugar and water.
2. Bring to the boil, the reduce heat and simmer for half an hour. Cool and serve spooned over sliced cheesecake.
*If the cheesecake does crack, simply cover with whipped cream before serving and no one will know!