My Brownie Berry Cheesecake is easy to make, but impressive enough to gather a few “oohs” and “ahs” whenever i serve it. It’s cool, creamy, and tastes pretty decadent for being lower in fat and calories than most cheesecakes. And if it cracks on top, no problem. Just camouflage it with berries.
There’s not a lot of prep work, but you have to allow a couple of hours for baking, and several more hours (or overnight) chilling time in the refrigerator.
When I developed the recipe about 15 years ago, my goal was to make it lower in fat, without sacrificing flavor or texture. Make no mistake, there are still lots of calories in this dessert, but probably half to 1/3 less than most cheesecakes.
My brownie layer uses cocoa powder instead of unsweetened chocolate, and less oil than usual. If you’re in a hurry, you can use a box of brownie mix — but add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to give it a stronger chocolate flavor.
For the filling, I used reduced-fat cream cheese and reduced-fat sour cream. You could also substitute two egg whites for each whole egg. I don’t do this because I feel guilty about wasting all those egg yolks. And although yolks contain some fat, they have a lot of good nutrients. (OK, I realize that nutrients aren’t exactly the first priority when you’re eating a rich dessert. But I’m just sayin’.)
A warning: This recipe doesn’t work with fat-free sour cream and fat-free cream cheese. They don’t mix and melt properly, and they have a weird off-flavor, in my opinion.
If you don’t have a spring-form pan, you can use a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. But the spring-form pan gives an elegant presentation.
BROWNIE BERRY CHEESECAKE
3/4 cup cocoa powder (more if you want a stronger chocolate flavor)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water (add a little more if batter seems too thick)
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
(Option: Substitute your favorite brownie mix according to package directions, plus 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder.)
2 8-ounce packages of reduced-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 pint (2 cups) light sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-inch spring-form pan with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, blend cocoa with oil and water. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla until well-mixed. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
Spread mixture in spring-form pan. Bake 25-30 minutes on the middle rack in oven, or until brownie edges are barely done and start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Don’t over-bake. Take the brownie layer out of the oven and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, turn the oven down to 300 degrees and prepare the cheesecake filling. Make sure the cream cheese is very soft, otherwise it will form little lumps during baking. If it’s not softened, warm it up in the microwave for a few seconds. Blend together the cream cheese with the sugar until very smooth. Add sour cream, eggs and vanilla, beating until smooth.
Pour the cheesecake layer over the brownie layer in spring-form pan. Place the pan on the middle rack of oven (any lower and you risk burning the brownie crust). Bake at 300 degrees for one hour.
Turn off the oven, leaving the cheesecake in it for an additional hour, with the oven door closed.
Refrigerate the cheesecake at least four hours or overnight before serving. Unfasten the spring-form pan and garnish the top with fresh or frozen raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or pitted cherries. If you are using frozen berries, add them less than a half-hour before serving so they don’t have time to thaw completely and bleed into the cake.
— Valerie Phillips