orange mascarpone cheesecake with roasted cherries

Cheesecake and I have slowly made friends over the last five years or so. One of my husband’s favorite desserts, I make it only on rare occasions. Even though I’ve done it before, I have cheesecake-anxiety for a good week before I plan to make it. I worry about whether it will set up properly and bake without drying out. I worry about how my recipe modifications – because I always make modifications – will play out. I worry about whether the cake will come out of the springform pan cleanly, without pulling off any of the crust or sides of the cake. I worry about getting a crack in the top of an otherwise beautiful dessert.

Stupid, right? It is exactly these perfectionistic tendencies and anxieties that kept me out of the kitchen for so many years, worried I would somehow screw up a dish and not get the expected result.

We were invited to a dinner last Saturday night, and I volunteered to bring dessert. About a week prior to the dinner party, I was flipping through recipes and came across this mascarpone cheesecake from Gourmet. Deciding on the dessert well in advance allowed some planning time to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with the recipe, but it also allowed plenty of time to obsess over making it properly. I asked plenty of questions on Twitter, gathering many varied opinions on how to keep the cheesecake from cracking, use of a water bath or no water bath, and how to effectively transfer the cheesecake off the springform pan bottom without breaking the crust.

After collecting opinions and mentally preparing for a few days – even giving myself pep talks at pivotal points in the cheesecake-making process – I crossed my fingers, said some prayers, and got baking.

Somehow, thanks to all of the above, I managed to turn out a beautiful cheesecake, unmarred by cracks. Sure, the top isn’t baby-bottom smooth, but did you see that there are no cracks? That’s right. No cracks.

The crust is made of Biscoff cookies – those little cookies in the red package that Delta hands out if you’ve been a good passenger. I’m hooked on those cookies, and when I spotted an entire package of them in our grocery store, I bought two packages – one for the cheesecake and one for, well, me. Along with a couple of other tweaks, I added some orange zest and orange juice to the cheesecake and I was pretty happy with the end result.

Roasted cherries are an ideal accompaniment to this cheesecake, complementing the subtle orange flavor in the cake. Plus, they are like heaven in a bowl. If you’ve never made them, go do it. Now.

Yield: Serves 10-12.

Orange Mascarpone Cheesecake with Roasted Cherries

Waterbaths can be tricky, but if you wrap the bottom of the springform pan well, no water will seep in during the baking process. The extra-wide aluminum foil - the heavy duty kind - is key. I placed two layers on the counter, set the pan in the center of the foil, and then pulled the edges of the foil up around the springform pan. Baking at a lower temperature for a longer period of time and leaving the cheesecake in the oven for a bit of time after the baking is complete also helps.

The roasted cherries are great served alongside this cheesecake, but they're also a wonderful topping for vanilla ice cream or a good poundcake.


For Crust:
8.8 ounces Biscoff cookies, finely ground in food processor
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For Cheesecake:
24 ounces cream cheese (3 eight-ounce packages), softened
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest from one orange (approximately 1 tablespoon)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For Roasted Cherries:
3 cups pitted and halved fresh cherries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch


Make crust:

    1. Place rack in the middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Place a round of parchment in the bottom of the pan and butter the parchment.

    2. Stir together the finely ground cookies and melted butter in a bowl until well combined. Wrap your fingers in plastic wrap and press the crumbs onto the bottom and approx 1 1/2 inches up the sides of springform pan.

    3. Bake for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a rack. Once cooled, place on a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil and wrap sides of pan in preparation for baking in a water bath. Set aside.

Make filling:

    1. Decrease oven temperature to 325 degrees. Place a kettle or pot of water on to boil.

    2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a large bowl and an electric mixer) beat cream cheese, mascarpone, and sugar at medium high speed, 3 to 5 minutes, until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each egg addition. Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary. Add vanilla, orange zest, orange juice, and salt, and beat at low speed until smooth. Pour into cooled crust.

    3. Place foil-wrapped filled springform pan into a roasting pan. Carefully pour the hot water into the roasting pan and around the wrapped springform pan, taking care not to splash the cheesecake. Place roasting pan in oven and bake for about 1 hour, until the cake is puffy around edges but still trembles slightly in the middle when pan is shaken gently. Turn off oven, crack oven door, and let the cheesecake sit in oven for about 1 hour. Remove pan from oven, carefully lift out of waterbath, and let cool completely on a rack.

    4. Chill, loosely covered, at least 8 hours prior to serving. When ready to serve, run a blunt knife around edge of cheesecake to loosen it from springform pan and remove sides of pan. Serve with roasted cherries.

Make roasted cherries:

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    2. In a 9-inch square baking dish, combine cherries, sugar, balsamic vinegar, and cornstarch. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until juices are thickened and bubbly, stirring every 15 minutes. Let cool completely and then chill until ready to serve.