I had a totally crazy idea the other day.
I wanted to make Juan’s birthday this year particularly special, especially since we were going to be celebrating it in our new apartment for the first time. So I asked my friend Maru for her cheesecake recipe – the one she’d baked for another friend’s birthday and turned out to be a smashing success – and decided that I was going to attempt it for the first time.
That wasn’t the crazy part of the idea – making a cheesecake, and a non-bake one at that, is something completely normal. The tricky part came in when I realized that the recipe called for processed digestive biscuits and whipped cream (which I insisted on whipping myself). The problem lay in the fact that in our new apartment, we own neither a processor, nor a juicer, nor an electric beater. Uh-oh.
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I decided to start making the cake a few days in advance, just in case.
Juan’s birthday was on Thursday, but I didn’t want to take any chances, so by Tuesday, “Project Wild Berry Cheesecake” was already launched.
If you were there with me in our sparse new kitchen on Tuesday evening, you would have seen me breaking into a sweat as I whipped the cream by hand. I wasn’t exactly sure how long it would take me to finish whipping the cream, but after 20 minutes of furious whipping, I felt as if my hand would fall off, literally. (Girls and boys, if you’re lazy to lift weights at the gym, this is a free workout that will get you delicious homemade whipped cream. I promise.)
When the whipped cream was done, and I was already almost drained of all my energy, I then had to “process” the biscuits. Thankfully, because the cookbook the recipe came from gave a solution for processing biscuits the old-fashioned way. It stated “finely crush the biscuits in a food processor, or in a bag with a rolling pin.”
Thank God I had a plastic bag and a rolling pin. PHEW. No processor? No sweat, man.
And so, there I was, smashing the bag full of digestive biscuits with my spanking new rolling pin (which I hadn’t even used to roll anything yet). If you were to see me in action, you might have thought that I had an extremely rough day at work and was venting my anger in the kitchen; the poor digestive biscuits getting the brunt of my anger. Hah! Unfortunately, it was only because I did not own a food processor.
I felt like a housewife in some late 1970s black-and-white TV show, paying her dues in the kitchen, long before electrical domestic appliances were available.
When the biscuits were finally crushed into small enough pieces, I was ready to take a long break. But no, I couldn’t, so plow on I did.
Thankfully the rest of the cake was pretty straightforward compared to the first two steps.
Pressing the biscuit crumb mixture into the tin can was a huge breeze. After some more beating with my hand beater and mixing all the cream cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and dissolved gelatin together, then folding in the whipped cream into the mixture, the filling was finally done. Pouring it over the biscuit crumb mixture was a walk in the park (in the case, maybe a walk in my kitchen – pun intended).
Thursday afternoon, I went to the supermarket to pick out the freshest strawberries and blueberries, headed back to the apartment, and started preparing the fruits. I washed them, and sliced the strawberries and then arranged them as prettily as I could atop the cheesecake.
Because it was the first time I was testing out the recipe, I was a little nervous.
While I’m generally lucky in that recipes usually turn out well the first time I try them, this cake was either going to be a crazy success, or a terrifyingly big disaster. You can bet every penny of yours that I was crossing each finger and toe for the odds to be lying in my favor.
You see, we had invited Juan’s friends and their girlfriends over to celebrate his birthday on Thursday night; and they would be the taste testers of this cake. To be honest, I was scared shit. I was praying very hard that the cake would turn out well.
It was wildly AWESOME!!!
And might I say it’s worth a few more brownie points because it was literally made from scratch. But Juan deserved it anyway, so it was totally worth every single muscle ache I had after making it.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOVE. TE AMO!
WILD BERRY CHEESECAKE (Serves 12)
Barely adapted from: Cooking: A Commonsense Guide
1) 400g of digestive biscuits, processed
2) 150g of butter, melted
3) 5 teaspoons of gelatin
4) 3 tablespoons of water
5) 400g of cream cheese (I used and highly recommend Philadelphia cream cheese)
6) ½ cup of lemon juice (1 very large lemon or 2 small lemons)
7) Zest of 1 lemon
8) ¾ cup sugar
9) 1 cup milk cream, whipped
10) 500g of strawberries
11) 200g of blueberries
1) Start off by whipping the milk cream, or you can just buy whipped cream from the store
2) Once cream is whipped, let it chill in the fridge until ready to be used
3) Process the digestive biscuits in a processor or blender until they resemble fine crumbs
4) Melt butter either in a pan or microwave, then mix the processed digestive biscuits with the butter
5) Grease a spring foam tin with oil or butter, then line the base with baking paper
6) Press the biscuit-butter mixture onto the base of the tin, using the back of a spoon to spread the mixture evenly, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes
7) Hydrate the gelatin in 3 tablespoons of water, then dissolve it by heating it for 30 seconds in the microwave
8) Beat cream cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar until smooth, then add dissolved gelatin into the bowl and beat well
9) Fold the chilled whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until well incorporated
10) Spoon the filling evenly over the biscuit base, smooth out the surface, then refrigerator to set (at least 2 hours)
11) While cheesecake is chilling, cut the fresh strawberries, and then arrange the strawberries and blueberries over the cheesecake once it is set.