cheese cake

Ricotta Tart with Lemon and Coconut


Cheesecake? Wonderful! 

But how about cheese pie? Tart?

For Shavuot.

Or anytime at all!

This recipe started with a nut streusel top but I needed something nut-free, so substituted shredded coconut. You can change that to chopped almonds if you prefer.

You need to start ahead on this one so that the cheese can drain and become dry-ish. This gives the filling a tender texture and also helps assure the crust won't get too soggy too soon.

Ricotta Tart

For the filling:

  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon or orange peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut

For the crust:

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon or orange peel
  • 1/4 pound butter, melted

To make the filling:

Place the ricotta cheese in a strainer set over a bowl and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, to drain as much liquid as possible from the cheese. Pace the drained cheese in a food processor bowl. Add the eggs, honey, citrus peel and cinnamon and process until the ingredients are well blended and smooth. Set aside while you make the crust.

To make the crust:

Place the flour in a bowl. Mix in the sugar, salt and citrus peel. Pour in the melted butter and mix the ingredients to form a soft dough. Press the dough onto the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Prick the dough with the tines of a fork. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the dough with aluminum foil and weight it down with pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and weights, turn the oven heat down to 375 degrees and bake the crust for another 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Spoon the filling in baked crust and sprinkle the coconut over top. Bake for about 25 minutes or until crispy looking and the center is set. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings

Cranberry Cheese Cake


Many years ago I was one of three judges at a cheese cake contest sponsored by a local cookware shop. We were told that 50 people had entered and would be bringing their cakes over.

Fifty cakes!

Fortunately only 32 people showed up. My first thought was about what might have happened to those other people. Did they just decide not to bother or had their cakes not come out right?

My second thought -- how am I going to eat -- even small samples -- of 32 cakes!

But, I was younger and thinner then and so I soldiered on.

There were some incredibly elaborate versions -- one was swirled with gorgeous white chocolate leaves, another was drizzled with thick, viscous drippings of autumn-leaf-colored caramel.

But frankly, we all thought the best cakes were the simplest ones. The ones where you could actually taste the cheese in the cheese cake. Like classic New York Cheese Cake. Or, if adorned, only simply, with some glazed fresh fruit.

And so, in this season of cheese cakes (it's the number one food for Shavuot), I offer a simple cheese cake. You can absolutely taste the lush, creamy cheese. It isn't overloaded with sugar or chocolate. There is a fruit top, made with fresh cranberries, which are tart and acidic and do a fabulous job balancing out the dense, rich cake beneath.

Or, you can serve the cake plain, maybe garnishing with a sprinkle or two of confectioner's sugar.


Cranberry Cheese Cake

  • 1-1/2  teaspoons butter
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1-1/2 pounds cream cheese (3-8 ounce packages)
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup dairy sour cream or unflavored yogurt


  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in one tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the butter on the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle the inside of the pan with the graham cracker crumbs. Shake the pan to coat it evenly. Beat the cream cheese in an electric mixer at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until softened and smooth. Add the orange peel, vanilla, cream and sugar and beat for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the sour cream. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Place the springform pan inside a larger pan. Fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come at least 1-inch up the sides of the baking dish. Bake for 70-75 minutes or until the top of the cake is tanning lightly. Remove the springform pan from the water and let the cake cool. When the cake is at room temperature, refrigerate it at least 4 hours or until thoroughly chilled. Remove the sides of the pan. Spread the topping over the cake.


Place the cranberries, sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, for about 3 minutes or until cranberries start to pop. Stir the cornstarch mixture and add it to the pan. Mix for about one minute or until the topping thickens. Stir in the orange peel. Let cool.

 Makes one cake serving 8-10

Aunt Kate's Cheese Cake

My Mom always talked about what a good cook Aunt Kate was. She'd say "Kate could make franks and beans taste like a gourmet dinner."

Truth is, Aunt Kate (Kate Winter) was actually not my biological or married-in aunt; she was our neighbor when I was a little girl in Bridgeport, CT. In those days it was the custom to call your parents' good friends aunt/uncle, out of respect. My parents and the Winters remained close friends, even after my parents moved away.

Recently, while going through a purge of my recipe files, I came across Aunt Kate's recipe for cream cheese cake. It was on an index card, in her handwriting, complete with instructions, including the reminder to place the finished, cooled cake "in the ice box."

Naturally, I had to try it.

My Mom was right. This was one fabulous recipe. Creamy, rich cheesecake -- but lighter and fluffier than most. It doesn't need anything but itself, although Aunt Kate apparently garnished it with strawberry topping (frozen strawberries mixed with cornstarch and sugar). I preferred to use fresh berries so I changed that part.

Otherwise, in all its delicious glory, here is the recipe for Aunt Kate's wonderful cheese cake.


  • 2 teaspoons butter or margarine
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 pound cream cheese
  • 1 pound cottage cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Topping


  • 2 cups dairy sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 12-15 strawberries
  • 1/4 cup apricot or currant preserves


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the butter on the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle the inside of the pan with the graham cracker crumbs. Shake the pan to coat the bottom and sides of the pan completely. Beat the cream cheese and cottage cheese in an electric mixer at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until they are thoroughly blended. Add the sugar and blend it in. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat the ingredients for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the topping by mixing the sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract together until well blended. When the cake has baked for 20 minutes, remove it from the oven and carefully spoon the topping over the cake. Return the cake to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off but leave the cake in the oven until it has cooled to room temperature.

When the cake has reached room temperature, (“place it in the ice box”) refrigerate it at least 4 hours or until it is thoroughly chilled. Wash and trim the berries and cut the in half. Place the halves attractively on top of the cake. Heat the preserves in a small saucepan and brush the melted preserves over the berries. Remove the sides of the pan to serve the cake.

Makes one cake serving 12-16




Soggy Cheesecake Crust


Hi Leslie - sorry that your cheesecake crust comes out soggy. It may be that water leaks into the seams of the springform pan. You can line the bottom with tin foil (overhang it), then attach the side, then take the overhanging part and crumple it to try to seal all the edges. That may help.

On the other hand — it may be the recipe. It’s important to bake the crust for at least 10 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. Then let it cool. Then fill it.

Another trick you can try — add some ground nuts to the crumbs. Nuts always crisp up nicely and stay crispy better than crumbs do.

Another tip: bake the crust for 10 minutes, brush it with an egg wash (beat an egg with a small amount of water) and bake for another 3-4 minutes.

And another: let the crust cool, then layer on a thin layer of melted chocolate, jam, lemon curd or the like. This adds a flavor dimension of course, but it also helps keep the crust crispy.

After sitting in the fridge, even after all that, eventually cheesecake crust will become soggy just from the moisture in the cheese. But the tips above will help get you a better crust at least at the beginning.