BABY LEMON CHEESECAKES RECIPE

Creamy cheesecakes set on a gossamer base of thin sponge cake (biscuit) and topped with lemon curd are a real favorite for a dinner party, an afternoon tea, or any special event. Make all twelve as there will surely be calls for seconds!

Baby Lemon Cheesecakes
Makes: 12
Baking Time: 25 to 35 minutes

Plan Ahead
Chill the composed cakes at least 2 hours before unmolding.
Make the biscuit
Make one biscuit recipe (recipe below)

Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese (65° to 70°F)
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/8 teaspoon salt

Lemon Curd:
Makes: 3/4 cup plus 1-1/2 tablespoons
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter 65° to 75°F
4-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
and strained (about 4 large lemons)
pinch salt

Special Equipment:
Two silicone muffin pans, each with six cups (about 4 ounces capacity), coated lightly with baking spray with flour and set on a wire rack. (You can also use aluminum muffin pans lined with foil muffin liners.)

One 18 by 9-inch baking pan or roasting pan large enough to fit the wire rack and to serve as a water bath. (If you have a roasting pan and wire rack large enough to fit both pans, you can bake them at the same time. Alternatively, while the first pan is baking, fill the second pan and refrigerate it covered until ready to bake.)

Subrecipe: Biscuit

Batter:
1/3 cup (or 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sifted into the
cup and leveled off) cake flour (or bleached all-purpose flour)
2-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large eggs, divided, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 cup superfine sugar plus 1 tablespoon, divided
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cream of tartar

Line the Pans:
Cut out the sponge cake with a biscuit cutter or scissors to conform to the size of the bottoms of the muffin cups. Line each cup with a round of cake.

Make the Filing:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and yolks, beating until smooth and scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add the lemon juice and salt and beat until incorporated. Beat in the sour cream on low speed just until blended, about 20 seconds.

Fill the Pans:
The easiest way to fill the pans is to pour the batter into a disposable pastry bag, or gallon-size resealable plastic bag, with a small part of one of its corners cut off, and pipe the batter into the cups, filling them almost to the tops (2.2 ounces/63 grams each). Alternatively, scrape the batter into a large measuring cup or pitcher with a spout and pour it in. Set the pan on the wire rack in the larger pan and add very hot water to reach about halfway up the sides of the muffin pan.

Bake the cheesecakes:
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F/70°C. When the pan is moved, the batter will jiggle like jelly and the top will be set and bounce back when pressed lightly.

Cool the cheesecakes:
Remove the large pan to a wire rack and add a handful of ice cubes to the water to stop the heating. Allow the cheesecakes to cool for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the water is cool enough that you can remove the muffin pans. Cover the pans with plastic wrap, being careful not to allow it to touch the surface of the cheesecakes. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour to firm up before topping with the lemon curd. Prepare the lemon curd just before you are ready to pour it on top of the cheesecakes.

Make the Lemon Curd:
Have ready a fine-mesh strainer suspended over a medium bowl. In a small heavy saucepan, whisk the yolks, sugar, and butter until well blended. Whisk in the lemon juice and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula and scraping the sides of the pan as needed, until thickened and resembling hollandaise sauce, which thickly coats the spatula but is still liquid enough to pour. The mixture will change from translucent to opaque and begin to turn a yellow color on the spatula. Don’t allow it to come to the boil or it will curdle. Whenever steam appears, remove the pan briefly from the heat, stirring constantly, to keep the mixture from boiling. When the curd has thickened and will pool thickly when a little is dropped on the surface, pour it at once into the strainer and press it through with the back of the spatula.

Apply the Lemon Curd:
Transfer the lemon curd to a pitcher or measuring cup with a spout and pour the hot curd evenly over the top of each cake. Use about 1 tablespoon for each. Smooth the curd or make concentric circles, if desired, with a small metal spatula. Cover the pan carefully with plastic wrap, stretching it so that it doesn’t dip down and mar the top of the curd, or cover the pan with a larger pan, such as a disposable aluminum foil pan. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before unmolding.

Unmold the Cakes:
Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pans and the cakes, pressing firmly against the pans, and with your finger, push up the bottom of the silicone pan. The cheesecake will rise up and out of the pan and can be supported with a small offset metal spatula and then transferred to a serving plate. If using aluminum muffin pans, lift out the cakes by grasping each side of the foil liners. Remove the liners and, if you desire smooth sides, use a small metal spatula run under hot water.

Subrecipe: Biscuit

Batter
1/3 cup (or 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sifted into the
cup and leveled off) cake flour (or bleached all-purpose flour)
2-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large eggs, divided, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 cup superfine sugar plus 1 tablespoon, divided
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cream of tartar

Special Equipment
One 17¼ by 12¼ by 1-inch half-sheet pan, bottom coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray or shortening, lined with a nonstick liner or parchment, and then coated with baking spray with flour.

One 9-inch springform, loose-bottom pan, or a flan ring at least 2½ inches high.

Preheat the Oven
Twenty minutes or more before baking, set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.

Mix the Dry Ingredients
In a small bowl, whisk the flour and cornstarch to combine them well.

Mix the Yolk Mixture
Separate 2 of the eggs, placing the yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater. Place the egg whites in a medium bowl, preferably another mixer bowl. To the yolks, add the 2 remaining whole eggs, the additional yolk, and ½ cup of the sugar. Beat on high speed until thick, fluffy, and tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed and beat in the vanilla. (If you have only one stand mixer bowl, scrape the yolk mixture into a large bowl and whisk very thoroughly. Wash and dry the mixer bowl and whisk beater.)

Make the Batter
Sift half the flour mixture over the egg mixture and, using a large balloon whisk, slotted skimmer, or silicone spatula, fold it in gently but rapidly until the flour has disappeared. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture until all traces of the flour have disappeared.

Beat the Egg Whites into a Stiff Meringue
Attach the clean whisk beater. Beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy. With the mixer off, add the cream of tartar. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised
slowly. Fold the meringue into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and, using a small offset spatula, smooth as evenly as possible.

Bake the Cake
Bake for 7 minutes, or until golden brown and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.

Unmold and Cool the Cake
Unmold the cake at once. (If necessary, loosen the sides with the tip of a sharp knife.) Grasp the long edge of the liner and gently slide the cake onto a flat surface. Allow the cake to cool completely. Remove the liner by flipping the cake over onto a piece of plastic wrap that has been coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray, and reinvert it so that the crust is up. (The top crust needs to be protected as it becomes part of the striped décor, so don’t invert it directly onto the work surface.) If using parchment, you can run a long narrow spatula between it and the bottom of the cake. Leave the cake on the parchment.

Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum from The Baking Bible (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)