I have to confess. Until recently, I have never made a German cheesecake! Kind of crazy, I know, but I have my reasons. This is my aunt Margarete’s recipe – she makes the absolute best cheesecake and is always happy to bring one to every afternoon “Kaffee und Kuchen” family get-together. So, when I am in Germany, I honestly have no reason to ever make a cheesecake. And here in America it took me all these years to figure out that I can substitute Greek Yogurt for Quark. I do enjoy testing and improving recipes but sometimes I get too busy to feel up to the challenge of baking a cake three or more times to figure out how to make it work with American ingredients. Why not bake something tried and proven instead…? 

German cheesecake is quite a bit different from the American version. It appears light and airy, but believe me, that is a complete deception. Although it is certainly lighter than any American cheesecake. One of our young German family friends was absolutely shocked when he could not manage to eat more than one piece of the delicious raspberry swirled, chocolate cookie crusted, American cheesecake I made last summer, when he was visiting. And an 18 year old can probably put away two pieces of cake. 

Well, I am excited to have learned how to make a German cheesecake with American ingredients that is maybe almost as good as my aunt’s. Almost.  And since today is Three Kings Day, which completes Christmas in Germany, it adds a little piece of home to my day. 

For the Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour (300g)
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter (150g) 
  • a scant 1/2 cup of sugar (80g)
  • a pinch of salt
  • one egg

For the Filling

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups of sugar (250g)
  • 750g Quark or 800g Greek Yogurt (about 3 1/4 cups)
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup of sauer cream (1/8l)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup of cornstarch (50g)
  • 1 stick of butter (100g)
  • 1/2 cup of raisins (80g) (optional)

Margarete’s recipe uses Quark with a fat content of 20%, something that is not available in America. I use whole milk greek yogurt, which has a fat content of about 10%, and cream as a substitute. I place the yogurt into a fine mesh sieve and strain it overnight. This removes about 3/4 cups of liquid and, the added benefit, it also removes some of the sour flavor of the yogurt. Then I whisk 1/3 cup of heavy cream into the strained yogurt and I think this gets it pretty close to a German Quark with 20% fat.

The other somewhat unusual ingredient for this cake is the clarified butter. You can make just the called for amount or why not make more and store it for future use.

To make clarified butter gently melt a stick or two of unsalted butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat. As the butter melts a layer of foam will form. Use a spoon to skim the foam and milk solids from the surface of the melted butter. I like to tip my pot to do this so that the surface to skim off is as small as possible. Keep heating the butter until no new white foam appears. When all the milk solids are skimmed off, the clarified butter is done and can be stored in the refrigerator. It will be a deep yellow color. 

For the dough: Place a mound of the flour on your work surface, add the sugar and salt and create a little well to add the egg into. Cut the cold butter into small cubes or use a box grader to sprinkle the butter all over the mound of flour. Quickly combine all of the ingredients into a smooth dough. Chill for one hour.

For the filling: Separate the eggs. Whip the egg whites until hard peaks form. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until very light and creamy. Add the Quark or strained yogurt, sour cream and salt. Add the juice and zest of the lemon, the clarified butter and the corn starch (plus the raisins if you are using them). Finally, gently fold in the egg whites. 

Preheat the oven to 420ºF. Roll out the short crust pastry and use your rolling pin to transfer it to a greased 11" round cake pan (preferably a Springform style). Pour in the filling, tap the pan on the counter to level the filling and bake for 40 minutes. Then remove the cake from the oven for 10 minutes and then bake for a final 10 minutes. Use a wooden skewer to test to make sure the cake is done.

Let the cake cool for 20 minutes, then remove the rim of the Springform. You can let the cake cool completely just like this, which will make it sink down a little more in the center. Or you can invert it onto a cooling rack and cool it upside down. I bet all German bakers have a round cooling rack which gives this cake the typical concentrical lines at the top - this is something not commonly available in America but it can be found. Otherwise I am sure straight lines will look just as nice.


Tip: this cake can crack horribly and according to Margarete there’s not much to prevent this. But in all of her experience, she feels it is more likely to happen if the filling touches the sides of the cake pan. So make sure the short crust comes all the way up to the top.  


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