Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Topfenkuchen (Austrian Cheesecake)

Does anyone notice what's wrong with this picture? Yep I put the number 1 in backwards. Way to go Lisa. Nobody even noticed until the cake was on the table and the candles were blown out. Oh well.

My housemate, Arthur, turned 21 last week and I simply couldn't let this go unrecognized, after all, 21 is a big number. 21 deserves a cake. I needed something that would come together quickly. It was a weeknight and I wasn't about to fuss with a layer cake. Not to mention, I recently had a little mishap with my only frosting bag - as a result, I no longer own one. My inability to trim a frosting bag aside, there would be no cake decorating on a monday night. Not this one anyway. I much prefer to take my time shopping for ingredients and baking with a sense of calm. Not rushing through it while checking the clock. With that in mind I wanted something simple but not boring. I'm tired of quick breads and I fall back on my chocolate pound cake (which I have yet to share with you) far too frequently. No I wanted something different. Something new to my kitchen. 

Simple is the name of the game (currently) and what could be less demanding then a cheesecake? No, not the fussy american kind that must be is supposed to be baked in a water bath. I'm talking about it's Austrian cousin, the one that's light and airy, a bit lemony, and fluffy from the whipped egg whites. The one I prefer most of the time. The one who's texture and taste is closely related to what Arthur is used to; the polish cheesecake.

This particular cheesecake is typically made with quark and is referred to as k√§sekuchen, in Germany. If you are unable to find quark you can easily replace it with pot cheese as I did. Although my original intention was to use quark, it's only available at one local supermarket and is extremely expensive ($4.99 for 2oz). If you are lucky enough to locate it at reasonable price, as I suspect you will be if you live in or near a larger city, then by all means use it. It has a much creamier, richer consistency than the pot cheese.

Just  for the record, if you are thinking of making this without a crust... don't. I maintain that the cheese is always the best part so I doubled the filling recipe and made 8 little crust-free ramekins of cheese in addition to the main cake. Unfortunately they were dry, and crumbly and a bit soupy at the same time. It turns out the crust isn't just for show - it also properly balances the moisture from the cheese. If you are set on making it crust-free, to lower the carbs or something crazy like that, try coating the bottom of your pan with a thin layer of ground nuts. I have yet to try that but I'm curious, so let me know how it turns out. 
Don't worry if you don't have a spring form pan - I don't either. I used a 13-inch pie dish and only put the crust on the bottom. However, if you do have a 10-inch spring form pan, use it.
This is the part where I cite my sources but, honestly, I looked at about five recipes in the depths of cyberspace and then made it up as I went so I think it's safe to call this my own.
Serves about 9.

Graham cracker crust
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used about 24 graham crackers)
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons of honey

1 lb pot cheese or quark
60g melted unsalted butter
125g sugar
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1 tbsp vanilla extract
zest and juice of 1 lemon
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 325°F

Grease a 10-inch spring form or 13-inch pie dish with butter.
Grind the crust ingredients in a food processor until they form a ball. Press intensively into the bottom of the spring form or pie dish.
Bake for about 13 minutes, remove from oven and turn the temperature up to 350°F

In a mixing bowl (I used my stand mixer because I'm lazy), combine pot cheese or quark, sugar, egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. Beat until well blended then mix in the melted butter.
In a clean bowl, using an electric hand or stand mixer beat the egg whites on high until they form stiff peaks, 5-10 minutes. 
Carefully fold the egg foam into the pot cheese/quark mixture 
Pour mixture into the spring form/pie dish 
Bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes (or until done). The top should be lightly browned and the filling should be set. 
Turn off oven, open door and let cool for another 15-20 minutes. 
Remove form from oven, run a knife around the edge and open the spring form. If you used the pie dish just leave it in the dish.
Let cool well before serving, at least 3 hours.


  1. I've made many a cheesecake and there is no easier cake to make. FYI I've gotten kinda lazy with the water bath method and I just place in the oven and let the cracks fall where they may. No one seems to object and it always disappears in minutes from table.

  2. yea i probably wouldn't mess around with the water either the cracks arent a big deal

  3. I noticed that you make your own yogurt. Have you considered using yogurt cheese in your cheesecake? Also, I have found that farmers cheese is great in this type of cheesecake. Oh, and one more thing: golden raisins. I love them in this type of cheesecake, with streusel on top of the cheesecake. I think it is called Munich cheesecake or something . . .

  4. Laura- I have thought about the yogurt cheese but I have yet to try it. Have you made cheesecake with it before? And golden raisins sounds great. I love raisins in everything lately...


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