Christmas in Australia wouldn't quite be Christmas without cherries featuring on the dessert table, whether it be a large bowl of plump juicy cherries that everyone seems to find room for, even with a belly over full of Christmas lunch, or beautifully scattered atop a showstopping dessert. Like this one. Our cherry cheesecake is creamy and luscious. The base and sides are lavishly dressed with a crunchy pistachio kataifi crumb, which works beautifully with the creamy cheesecake filling, and sweet cherry spread and fresh cherries.
The beauty of this cake is that most of it can be made ahead of time, and frozen until it is ready to eat, which makes it perfect for an occasion like Christmas when you want to plan ahead. It can be enjoyed chilled, where the filling will feel luscious on the palate, or it can be enjoyed frozen for a refreshing cooler treat. Either way, it is a wonderful dessert!
1 375g packet Antoniou Kataifi pastry
1 and 2/3 cup pistachios, chopped finely
1 and 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, melted
500g Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
450ml thickened cream
2 teaspoons concentrated vanilla extract
120g icing sugar, sifted
1 cup pistachio nuts, chopped finely
1 jar St Dalfour black cherry spreadable fruit
500g fresh cherries
Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
While the kataifi is still cold, using scissors, cut the kataifi into approximately 1cm length pieces. Once cut, separate any kataifi pieces that have clumped together with your fingers. Sprinkle the kataifi across three separate baking trays, ensuring that there is an even layer across each tray. It is important that the kataifi is not piled up high on one tray, as it will not cook evenly.
Cook for 30 minutes in total, or until the kataifi is golden in colour, removing the trays every 10 minutes to turn and toss the kataifi around with a fork, to ensure an even toasting. Cooking times may vary depending on your oven, so keep a close eye on it. Remove the kataifi from the oven and allow to cool completely. (Toasted kataifi can be made ahead and stored in air tight container for up to a week)
Place 2 cups of the toasted kataifi into a bowl. Add 2/3 cup chopped pistachio nuts and caster sugar. Mix together. Add the melted butter and mix until well combined.
Line the base of a round spring form tin with cling wrap, and then clip the pan edge in, ensuring the cling wrap is only covering the base of the pan (and not the sides). You can either use an 18cm diameter, 9cm tall tin, or a 20cm dimeter, 7cm tall tin. Pour the kataifi and nut mixture into the base of the tin, spreading it evenly. Using the back of a metal spoon, firmly press the cheesecake base down. Place in the fridge while you prepare the cheesecake filling.
Place the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat the mixture using an electric mixer until it is smooth and creamy. In a separate bowl, beat the thickened cream until it is thick and firm. The cream needs to be beaten until it is quite thick, to ensure the cheesecake sets. Fold the thickened cream into the cheese mixture until it is well combined. Pour the filling over the cheesecake base and smooth the top with a spatula so that it is flat.
Cover the top and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight. Alternatively, the cheesecake can be placed in the freezer until it sets, or if you wish to make it ahead of time. If you opt to freeze it, remove it from the freezer an hour before decorating and serving.
To prepare the kataifi crumb for decorating the sides, mix 1 and ½ cups of toasted kataifi and 1 cup chopped pistachio nuts in a bowl. This can be made ahead and stored in an air tight container for up to a week.
Remove the cheesecake from the tin and its cling wrap base. Hold the cake with one hand underneath the base and using your other hand, grab a handful of the kataifi and pistachio mixture and press it against the sides of the cheesecake, slowly making your way around the cake until it is all covered.
Place on a serving dish. Top with the cherry spread and fresh cherries. Any leftover kataifi and pistachio crumb can be served alongside the cake for anyone who wants some extra crunch.