Plum and Hazelnut Cheesecake

Australia Day has taken on new meaning this year and not because of a conversational lamb ad. It means three little words to me as I limp towards the end of the week. Back. To. School. 

I have few words this post. I am too exhausted from trying to squash work in between bouts of refereeing, listening to the virtues of 345 different Pokemon with another episode of Ninjago in the background, making 485,000 snacks daily, applying sunscreen to squirmy little faces, washing endless baskets of laundry (when will my eldest cease wiping his mouth on his collar? When??) and fending off my youngest from the freshly baked trays of brownies (I just eating this one...).

Here is a celebratory cheesecake. This was not baked for Australia Day but for a recent BBQ with good friends. There were TBones, kids in the pool, beers from the esky, espresso martinis for the drivers !! and this plum number at the end. A very Aussie summer day indeed. 

I used plums as they've just come into season but you could use strawberries or any other stone fruit.  

Plum and hazelnut cheesecake

500g black plums, quartered and seeds removed
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or one teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon caster sugar

200g digestive biscuits
120g hazelnuts, skinned
2 tablespoons caster sugar
80g butter

500g cream cheese at room temperature
400g ricotta
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or one teaspoon vanilla bean paste
165g caster sugar
Zest of 1/2 lemon
4 eggs at room temperature

Extra 1/4 cup caster sugar for candied hazelnut topping


For plums:
Preheat oven to 200C. Line a shallow roasting dish with non stick baking paper. 
Toss quartered plums, vanilla seeds and sugar together in a bowl. Spread in an even layer in roasting dish and bake for 20-25 mins until plums are soft and juices flowing. Set aside to cool, then store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use. Plums can be made up to 3 days ahead.

For cheesecake:
Preheat oven to 180C.
Roast hazelnuts on a baking tray for 8 mins or until light golden. Set aside to cool slightly.
Turn oven down to 155C. Grease a 23cm springform tin and line the base with non-stick baking paper.
Place 60g of the roasted hazelnuts (keep the rest for the topping) in a food processor with the biscuits and 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. Blitz until mixture resembles wet sand. Pour into the prepared tin and press firmly and evenly over the base and up the sides. Bake for 8 mins, then remove from oven and set aside to cool.
With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, ricotta, caster sugar, vanilla seeds, lemon zest until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add eggs, one at a time, until all combined.
Place three layers of foil around the base of the cheesecake tin to prevent water seeping in while baking in a water bath. Pour filling into the cheesecake base then place the tin into the middle of a deep roasting tin. Pour hot water into the roasting tin so that it comes halfway up the sides of the cheesecake tin. Carefully place the roasting tin into the oven. Bake for 55-60 mins or until the edges are firm and the centre has a slight wobble.
Remove the tin from the water bath and cool on a wire rack for at least two hours before placing in the fridge, covered in plastic wrap, until completely chilled - about four hours or overnight.

Meanwhile for candied hazelnuts, place remaining 60g hazelnuts, 1/4 cup caster sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a pan over medium high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5-6 mins until the nuts are caramelised and deep golden brown. Pour onto a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and let cool completely before using. Nuts can be prepared up to a week ahead, stored in an airtight container.

To serve, loosen the cake tin sides, remove cake from tin and place on a cake stand or platter with a lip in case plums drip.
Spoon plums in a generous mound on top, then scatter over candied hazelnuts.

Note: I baked mine on the day with a layer of plums on the bottom, as in the pic below. It wasn't too bad but I found it turned the base a bit soggy and the whole thing was a bit OTT on plums. So I have gone traditional in the recipe and left them on top.


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