A flyaway light souffle cheesecake this cake is an ode to the beauty of white figs. Here splayed in quarters they decorate a fluffy cinnamon scented cheesecake. They are sprinkled with chopped pistachios and a generous drizzle of honey. Choose luscious, heavy figs for a reward of the sweetest, glistening fig jelly inside. Perfect for a mother's day lunch!
The other day we were driving across Sydney to meet our bestest eating friends when something quite strange happened. We had just left our house and well you know how I get "feelings" or premonitions at times? I got one of those feelings as soon as we pulled out of our driveway where the world looked a bit underwater with a ripply effect for a few seconds. I said to Mr NQN (sounding like a total witch coming out of a clearing in the woods I admit), "Be careful honey, something bad is going to happen on the road."
He is used to these declarations, often apropos of nothing. They often end up coming true so he usually listens but everything was fine until we got to the harbour tunnel. Several cars in front of us had their hazard lights on and we slowed down and put ours on too once we saw what was going on.
"Check out the guy swerving," Mr NQN said and pointed out a taxi driver who was swerving and driving so erratically that he was hitting the barricades every 20 metres or so. I thought that he was having a heart attack and I think most other people did too so when he pulled over, they wound down their window and asked him if he was okay. He nodded yes but then the oddest thing happened. He then put down his foot on the accelerator and then sped off, tyres burning! We called the police as it seemed like an accident waiting to happen. Another taxi driver followed him with the hazard lights on and the last we heard was that there was an accident further up in the tunnel. We still have no idea what happened and sometimes I wish my feelings were wrong.
But I'm not always right with feelings because you see I had a feeling about this cake. Actually not such a good feeling but I had bought six of the most luscious white figs I had seen and I wanted to make a cake. I'm that person that fondles figs to check if they are luscious. Usually I buy them by the piece so fondling is entirely permissible but this year, because they haven't been the best figs, they seem to be selling them by the box. I picked up a box of them and it felt heavy - a good sign and I checked them all. Heavy with the bottoms almost splitting which meant laden with sweet syrup and glistening jellied flesh and seeds.
I decided to try my hand at a souffle cheesecake. I've made Japanese style cheesecakes before which are lighter versions of dense, thick baked cheesecakes but I wanted to make a super light souffle version. Souffle cheesecakes are the prima ballerinas of the cheesecake world. They are so light and you could almost pick them up with a feather. It's an entirely different prospect from the baked cheesecake which is also delicious but is thick and rich with cream cheese. This uses half or even a third of the typical amount of cream cheese and eggs provide the lift.
I tried making a base but it is actually better and easier without it. It's also a cake that you really must make ahead of time which is great for entertaining. If you eat it when it first comes out, all you will taste is egg but once it cools overnight the egg flavour disappears and you're left with an ethereally light cheesecake. Leave decorating it until it has cooled too.
This is a cake where nature's beauty really stands out. In a really nice surprise, it turned out to be my most popular picture on my Instagram ever and I dare say it is even better once you try it. It also makes the most of the last of the figs of the season and be sure to fondle those figs when you buy them because you want the most luscious, heavy fruit possible. It's a fabulous dessert for a Mother's Day meal not only because it is pretty but it is ideal for serving after a meal as it is so light.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever get premonitions? Do you believe in intuition and is yours usually right? Have you ever witnessed an accident? And do you prefer baked cheesecakes or lighter cakes? Do you fondle your fruit and vegetables? ;)
Fig, Pistachio & Cinnamon Souffle Cheesecake
- 250g/0.5lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup milk
- 3/4 cup sugar, divided in half
- 4 eggs, separated
- 3 tablespoons plain all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 ripe figs
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios
- 3-4 tablespoons honey
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 150C/300F and line the bottom of a 20cm/8inch pan with parchment. Wrap an 8inch/20cm springform tin in two layers of foil. Brush butter on the sides of the tin brushing vertically as shown-this will ensure that the souffle rises (do not miss this step!).
Just ignore the cookie base, this cake doesn't need it.
Step 2 - Put a kettleful of water onto boil and have a baking tray with high sides ready that can fit the springform tin (to make a water bath). Process the cream cheese and milk together until it makes a smooth mixture. Add half of the sugar and the egg yolks to the mixture. Sift the flour, cornstarch and cinnamon into the mixture and mix to combine.
Step 3 - Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip to soft peaks. Add the remaining half of the sugar and whip to firm peaks. Fold in a couple of tablespoons of the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture to loosen it. Add the remaining egg whites in 3-4 batches folding gently so as not to deflate it too much. Spoon into the prepared tin and place in the water bath tray. Pour the hot water from the kettle around the cake to make a bath and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes or until there is no longer a wobble in the centre. Cool completely in the tin. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Step 4 - Cut a cross into the figs so that they open up and place in a circle in the centre of the cake. Sprinkle with pistachios and drizzle with honey.