memories of cheesecakes

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When I grew up in the 50s, Mum & Dad both cooked – I suspect this was rather unusual for the times. Dad was always involved in cooking dinner, & he was a dab hand at shortbread, lovely light sponges, and apple shortcake. He always did the breakfast porridge too. Mum was into biscuits & cakes as well, and I have very fond memories of her cheesecakes. Although, even back then, I used to wonder why they were called ‘cheesecakes’ when there was absolutely no cheese in them 🙂 Instead, little flaky pastry cases contained jam & a topping of sponge – some of you might recognise these as bakewell tarts (although the ‘proper’ recipe for them uses shortcrust pastry & has an almond-y topping).

Back in the day Mum used to make the flaky pastry by hand, so these were time-consuming little cakes to make and as a result used to be kept for those special times when ‘ladies a plate’ was required. She used to tell the story of a recent immigrant (well, one more recent than herself; she came out from the UK in 1953), unfamiliar with the Kiwi idiom, who duly turned up at one such function with a plate – and was surprised and, one suspects, more than a touch embarrassed to discover that the plate was supposed to come with food on top.

I also remember that Mum baked her cheesecakes in metal patty tins that had nice little patterns – grapes, & maple leaves – embossed on the base. Alas! they are long gone. But I have my own (plain-bottomed) tins from the local pantry shop. The daughter & I did try making the cakes in silicon pans, but the pastry just doesn’t come out the same.

Mum was probably using the tried-&-true recipe from her copy of the Edmonds Cookbook; I started out with that but these days vary the recipe as it suits my fancy (& the contents of cupboard & fridge). Spices & blueberries go very well in them.

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.
  • Thaw 3 sheets of frozen flaky-puff pastry (yes I am a lazy cook) & cut out 24 discs to line your patty tins (grease/spray these with oil first)**
  • Cream 250g butter with 1c sugar & then beat in 4 eggs.
  • Sift together 2c flour & 2tsp baking powder – at this point I often add spices: ground coriander or cardamom are good. If using them, a bit of orange zest in the creamed mixture is also rather nice 🙂 Desiccated coconut – 1-2 tbsp – is a nice alternative.
  • Fold the dry ingredients into the egg-y mix.
  • Put a little jam into each pastry case OR – and I rather like this variation – a few nice plump ripe blueberries. I haven’t tried it with raspberries but they should work well too, & given the size of our pending raspberry crop I should have ample opportunity to find out!
  • Divide the sponge mix evenly between the pastry-lined patty tins & bake for 15-20 minutes until risen & golden.

They don’t last long round our place!

** Mum always used to use the paper from a block of butter for this – she’d save the buttery papers until she needed them. As they were stored in the cupboard where she also kept the cake tins, I guess they must sometimes have got a touch rancid. Can’t say I ever noticed though.

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About alison

Uni lecturer (& ex-school teacher); involvement in NCEA standards & NZ curriculum development; keen blogger & general science communicator. In 2010 I won a national (NZ) Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award & through this became a member of the Ako Aotearoa Academy.

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