Cheesecake isn't a terribly difficult dessert, it just requires a bit of attention to detail. This recipe is perfect for those who love sweet-tart desserts. It has a classic graham cracker crust and a rich and creamy berry cheesecake, all topped with a sweet-tart blackberry lime curd.

The recipe for the curd makes more than what you need for the cheesecake. That's because it's easier to make it in quantity. Leftovers are delicious on toast or waffles in place of jam, or spooned over vanilla ice cream.


Start to finish: 11�Ñ2 hours (1 hour active), plus cooling

For the crust

2�Ñ3 cup (2 ounces) graham cracker crumbs (about 5 whole crackers)

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon brown sugar

For the cheesecake

16 ounce-package frozen blackberries, thawed 30 minutes at room temperature, divided

3�Ñ4 cup sugar, divided

16 ounces cream cheese (2 packages), room temperature

2 tablespoons flour

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the curd

2 eggs

1�Ñ2 cup sugar

1�Ñ2 cup lime juice

Finely grated zest from 2 limes

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, cut up

Fresh blackberries and mint leaves, to garnish

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 6-inch springform pan with baking spray.

In a small bowl, use a fork to combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and brown sugar. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for eight to 10 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Set aside to cool. Leave the oven on.

Reserve 2�Ñ3 cup of the semi-thawed blackberries. In a blender or food processor, combine the remaining blackberries with 1�Ñ4 cup of the sugar. Process or blend until pureed. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Set aside the puree.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese, remaining 1�Ñ2 cup of sugar and the flour. Mix on low until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix some more. Do not mix any faster than medium-low; you don't want to incorporate air into the mixture.

Add one egg, mix thoroughly and scrape the bowl. Add the second egg, mix and scrape again. Add the vanilla and mix one more time. Fold 1�Ñ2 cup of the blackberry puree and the reserved whole blackberries into the batter.

Transfer the batter to the crust. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature of the oven to 250 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes. The top of the cheesecake should be slightly puffed and spongy-firm to the touch. It should just jiggle slightly in the center when the pan is tapped. Let cool at room temperature for one hour, then refrigerate until completely chilled.

While the cheesecake bakes, make the blackberry-lime curd. In a medium stainless steel bowl, combine the eggs and sugar with a whisk. Add the remaining blackberry puree, the lime juice and lime zest.

Set the bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water. The bowl should rest on the top edge of the pan without touching the water. Whisk the mixture continuously until it reaches 170 degrees. Remove from heat and add the butter, one piece at a time, whisking to combine. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd and refrigerate until cool.

When ready to assemble the dessert, remove the springform pan sides. Run a spatula under the crust to remove the bottom of the pan. Transfer to a plate. Spoon the blackberry lime curd over the top of the cheesecake. Garnish with fresh blackberries and mint leaves and serve.

Makes six servings.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 672 calories; 383 calories from fat; 43 g fat (26 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 208 mg cholesterol; 64 g carbohydrate; 11 g protein; 4 g fiber; 318 mg sodium.

Easy-to-love flourless chocolate cake

A quick pulse in the food processor is all it takes to make this simple, yet decadent flourless chocolate cake. If you don't have a food processor, you can finely chop the almonds with a knife and whisk the ingredients together in a bowl, but the texture of the cake won't be as delicate.

The cake can be baked in a small cake pan, or divided among muffin cups. To dress it up for Valentine's Day, you also could purchase heart-shaped foil baking pans (sold at most grocers). Serve with whipped cream and fresh berries.


Start to finish: 30 minutes

1�Ñ2 cup sliced almonds

2 tablespoons sugar

12 ounces dark chocolate chips

1�Ñ2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

4 eggs

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spritz a 6-inch cake pan or muffin tins with baking spray (a cooking spray containing flour).

In a food processor, pulse the almonds and sugar until finely ground. Set aside.

In a glass bowl or measuring cup, combine the chocolate chips and butter. Microwave on high in 15-second bursts, stirring between, until melted and smooth.

With the processor running, pour the chocolate mixture in and process until combined. One at a time, add the eggs, processing between each to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and process one last time.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes (depending on pan size), or until the cake is puffed and no longer glossy. Let rest in the pan until the top sinks back down, about 10 minutes. Invert onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes six servings.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 510 calories; 330 calories from fat; 37 g fat (22 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 160 mg cholesterol; 44 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 5 g fiber; 53 mg sodium.

Mixing up something sweet together

This restaurant classic is a favorite for special occasions because it packs plenty of wow factor. It's also great to cook together because it involves so many little steps. And what's more romantic than cooking something together, then setting it on fire?

If mocha isn't your thing, feel free to use whatever flavor ice cream or sorbet you prefer. Just skip the instant coffee in the chocolate sauce.


Start to finish: 45 minutes

For the syrup

1�Ñ2 cup sugar

1�Ñ4 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the mocha sauce

1�Ñ2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

4 ounces dark chocolate chips

For the base

1 pint purchased coffee ice cream

4 slices (about 6 ounces) purchased pound cake

For the strawberries

8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon orange liqueur

For the meringue

4 egg whites

3�Ñ4 cup sugar, divided

1�Ñ4 cup water

To make the syrup, in a small sauce pan over medium-high, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil so that the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Add the vanilla, then set aside.

To make the mocha sauce, in a microwave-safe dish, combine the cream and coffee granules. Heat on high in 30-second bursts until bubbly. Add the chocolate chips and stir until smooth, then set aside.

Use a biscuit cutter or overturned large glass to cut each slice of pound cake into rounds. Arrange the cake rounds on a baking sheet. If you wish to prepare only two servings, divide the cakes between two baking sheets. Brush each round with the vanilla sugar syrup.

Scoop the ice cream into four large balls and mound one on top of each slice of cake. Place in the freezer.

In a medium bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar and orange liquor. Set aside.

Place the eggs in a large bowl. Prepare an electric mixer with the whisk attachment. In a small saucepan over medium, combine 1�Ñ2 cup of the sugar and the water. When the temperature of the sugar and water reaches 220 degrees, turn the mixer on medium-high and whip the egg whites.

When the egg whites are very frothy, slowly add to them the remaining 1�Ñ4 cup sugar. Continue beating the egg whites until they reach soft peaks. Continue cooking the sugar syrup until it reaches 240 degrees. This should happen at almost the same time as the egg whites being ready.

With the mixer on, pour the sugar syrup down the inside of the bowl into the egg whites. Continue beating until the outside of the bowl is no longer warm and the meringue is thick and bright white.

Remove the cakes from the freezer. Using a spoon or a piping bag, completely cover the outside of the ice cream and cake with meringue. If you only plan to prepare two servings, the remaining can be frozen until needed.

Heat a broiler. When the broiler is very hot, place the meringue-covered cake and ice cream rounds under it for about one minute, or until just lightly browned.

To serve, coat the bottom of each serving plate with the chocolate sauce. Use a spatula to transfer one baked Alaska to each plate, then spoon strawberries alongside it. Serve immediately.

Makes four servings.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 975 calories; 407 calories from fat; 45 g fat (28 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 255 mg cholesterol; 135 g carbohydrate; 12 g protein; 3 g fiber; 309 mg sodium.

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