Vanilla cheesecake is like a blank canvas. The rich, creamy filling is not too sweet and has a very subtle tang to it from all of that cream cheese. While it is tasty plain, it also cries out for something to go with it. Fresh berries, chocolate sauce, fruit coulis and many other things are often added as a topping to vanilla cheesecake to liven it up. You can also liven up a cheesecake by adding something directly into that filling, and that is exactly what I did when putting together this Vanilla Cheesecake with Plum Preserves.
The cheesecake is one of my favorite basic cheesecake recipes. It isn’t the towering, ultra-dense cheesecake you’ll find in the refrigerated case at your local chain restaurant. It has a velvety texture that is dense, but no so heavy you can’t eat a whole slice yourself, and a hint of vanilla flavor that carries through the slightly tangy cream cheese and yogurt filling. I added a generous amount of good quality plum preserves (I used Bonne Maman Plum Preserves) and swirled them into the filling before baking. The large chunks of plum in the preserves sank a bit in the filling, but they still made a lovely contrast with the rest of the cheesecake. You could use other fruit preserves to change up the flavors in this dessert a bit, as well.
My favorite thing about this recipe – apart from eating it once it has cooled, of course – is that this cheesecake is low-fuss and very easy to make. I make a homemade shortbread crust for this recipe, and the filling is poured into the pan while the crust is still hot and put back into the oven for a second baking. I don’t use a water bath and I find that, as a result, I am much more likely to make cheesecake when the craving strikes.
I typically use thick, greek-style yogurt in this cheesecake. It contributes to the richness of the cheesecake and adds a very subtle tang, which keeps the cheesecake from feeling too heavy. Full fat greek-style yogurt (I always use plain) will give you the best results, but low fat and even nonfat will work very well. If you don’t have greek-style yogurt, you can use sour cream, although I would again recommend using full-fat for best results.
Vanilla Cheesecake with Plum Preserve Swirl
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
16-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup plain greek-style yogurt or sour cream (pref. full-fat)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup plum or other fruit preserves
Preheat oven to 350F.
Make the Crust: In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in flour and salt until mixture is sandy very and well-combined. Transfer to a 9-inch round springform pan and press into a firm, even layer
Bake for 15 minutes, until light golden.
While the crust bakes, prepare the filling: In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar. Add in the eggs one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next, and scraping the bowl with a spatula between each addition. Mix in greek yogurt, followed by vanilla extract. This can also be done in the food processor.
When the crust comes out of the oven, pour filling into the still-hot pan. Dollop preserves into the cheesecake layer and swirl gently with a knife. Preserves may sink into the filling, especially if there are large pieces of fruit.
Turn oven down to 300F and put pan with filling back in.
Bake for 50-55 minutes, until just set. The cheesecake should jiggle slightly when done, but it should jiggle evenly when the pan is gently shaken; the center should not be runny.
Cool on a wire rack until cake reaches room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to serve.