It was my Dad’s birthday last week and what’s a birthday without a birthday cake? We’ve been eating lots of cake in our household recently and so I wanted something different to the traditional sponge and decided instead to bake a cheesecake! It still has cake in the title after all.
My Dad, like me, is a huge foodie and after tasting dishes he always like to discuss the good and bad points about it and what could be done to improve upon it next time, so I knew that this cheesecake couldn’t be any old cheesecake, it would have to be an extra special cheesecake.
Cheesecake is one of my favourite desserts, but I usually hate the bases. They are often damp and soft and I dislike the taste of mushy biscuits. I hit upon the idea of baking the base separately to the cheesecake layer and then putting the two together just before serving. I then moved onto thinking about the cheesecake itself. I knew I wanted to incorporate stem ginger somehow, as my Dad is a big fan of this, and decided to combine it with slices of pear and chocolate chunks as these three flavours always work well together.
I wanted the slices of pear to be arranged on top but thought I would have to simply place them on top after baking as I realised they would sink to the bottom of the pan if I’d put them on top of the unbaked cheesecake mix. However, I then had the most brilliant idea of making an upside down cheesecake! Arrange the pear on the base of the pan before pouring over the cheesecake mix. Once baked I would invert the cheesecake right side up, with the fruit now baked into the top of the cheesecake – just like a pineapple upside down cake! I’ve never seen this done before and I was so excited by the idea.
I was a little nervous turning my baked cheesecake out, unsure what I would find underneath. Thankfully the pear slices stayed in their ring formation and a few of the chunks of chocolate and stem ginger strips had gathered in the centre, creating a rather unusual yet quite attractive mosaic effect. All that was left to do was to place it on the pre baked (gluten free) biscuit base, chocolate for a nice contrast, and the cheesecake was complete!
All the family loved the birthday cheesecake and its quirkiness. To me it was almost perfect. The base had stayed wonderfully crisp and slightly nutty from baking, while the cheesecake top was rich, silky smooth and creamy. Each bite revealed something different, bitter chunks of dark chocolate, warming zingy strips of ginger or soft sweet pear.
I’ve never seen an upside-down cheesecake before, so I’m claiming this recipe as my own invention, and I’ll definitely be baking one again!
Upside-Down Pear, Chocolate & Ginger Cheesecake
(My own invention!)
200g digestive biscuits (I used GF ones)
10g cocoa powder
1 tin pear halves
500g cream cheese
2 tsp cornflour
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 balls of stem ginger in syrup (approx 50g)
50g dark chocolate
Line a tray with foil and place an 8inch/20cm ring mould on top. (If you don’t have a ring mould use a round springform tin without the base. Preheat the oven to 175C.
Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until the biscuits are broken down and resemble fine crumbs. Add the cocoa powder and blitz again briefly.
Melt the butter in the microwave, add to the biscuit crumbs and blitz again to incorporate.
Tip the crumbs into the base of the ring mould and press down firmly to form an even layer. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and carefully lift off the ring mould, leaving the base behind on the foil tray. Leave the base to cool before covering with clingfilm and storing until required.
For the Cheesecake
Leave the oven at 175C. Clean the ring mould used for the biscuits base and place on another foil lined tray. This time, gather up the excess foil, wrapping it around the edge of the ring mould to prevent any leaks.
Drain the pear halves and cut them into long slices. Arrange them in the base of the ring mould, in an even layer, fanning them out around the edge.
Beat the cream cheese and sugar together until no lumps remain and the cream cheese is soft and fluffy.
Add the vanilla and the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Scatter over the flour and beat again to incorporate.
Roughly chop the chocolate into small chunks and slice the stem ginger into thick matchstick shaped pieces.
Fold the chocolate and stem ginger into the cheesecake mix.
Pour the cheesecake mixture over the layer of pears in the mould.
Place in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes. The cheesecake should be puffed up and slightly cracked around the edges, but still wobbly in the centre.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and leave to cool for 1½ hours before refrigerating for at least 4 hours, although ideally overnight. (Don’t worry if it cracks as this will be the base later on.)
When ready to serve, run a hot knife in-between the edge of the cheesecake and the tin and carefully lift off the ring mould. Place the cooled chocolate biscuit base on top of the cheesecake.
Carefully place a serving plate, right side down, over the top of the whole cheesecake and invert the whole thing right side up. Use the tray the cheesecake is on to help you.
Remove the baking tray (from the now top) and carefully peel away the foil to reveal the arrangement of pear slices that has now become the top of the cheesecake.
Refrigerate until required and serve in generous slices.