Triple Berry Danish Cheesecake

Hahaha! Ohh. You know what I think is just hysterical about parenting? All of the clichés are true. Examples: You discover you can love with an intensity you never thought possible. You find that there lives inside you a fierce, irrationally angry Mama Bear that emerges whenever anyone comes remotely close to messing with your cub. Bodily fluids of all sorts simply won't be as off-putting as they once were. And then there's the most sobering realization of them all: Girlfriend, once a small person comes out of you, your body really is never going to be quite the same again. (Foxy bazillionaire celebrity mothers with health and fitness entourages notwithstanding.)

Now. Maybe I could get closer to my pre-baby self if I didn't make a habit out of making things like this mind-blowing Triple Berry Danish Cheesecake, but I still am completely in love with this recipe anyway. Funnily enough, this cheesecake first came to me a few years back when I was indeed in pre-baby shape, working the counter at a Santa Monica fitness studio where I worked out as a hobby (!!) and got to have adult conversations all day long, sometimes even with those aforementioned foxy bazillionaire celebrity mothers. Pssh. What's fun about that? Nothing! Right? Lie to me.

If you are one of the five people who read this blog in the early days of Piece of Cake, then maybe you might remember this jazzy little number of a cheesecake, which I first created with apples instead of berries. The recipe was given to me by a Danish friend of mine when I told her I was a baking fiend (quite an eyebrow-raise-inducing statement at a Santa Monica fitness studio, let me tell you). I'm sure there's some sort of great, Saveur-esque backstory about what makes this cheesecake decidedly Danish, but for me, the thing that immediately comes to mind is that this cake is totally unlike any cheesecake I've ever had in my life, and is instead reminiscent of the best part those lovely Danish pastries served at bakeries all over the place.

You know the center of a really great cheese Danish, where it's at once creamy and sweet and contrasted by that thin layer of buttery cakey-ness underneath? Yeah, it's like a whoooole cake of that. Rather than your typical graham cracker crust, this drool-inducing dessert starts with a parbaked butter cake, which is covered in fruit and then topped with a cheesecake batter. It's lemon-scented, bursting with summer berries and altogether transcendent. Like, take-you-to-another-planet-where-you'll-briefly-forget-about-your-pre-baby-backside-level transcendent.

Triple Berry Danish Cheesecake

For the cake layer:

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/8 teaspoon salt 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature 2/3 cup granulated sugar 1 large egg 7 tablespoons milk 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the berry cream cheese layer:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature 2 teaspoons lemon zest 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar 2 large eggs, at room temperature 2 teaspoons cornstarch 12 ounces mixed berries (I used raspberries, blackberries and blueberries)

Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch springform pan with cooking spray or butter.

Begin by making the cake layer: Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg until well-blended. Reduce the speed the low and stir in the dry ingredients. Stir in the milk and vanilla. Finish folding the batter by hand and spread into the prepared pan. Bake until the edges of the cake are just set, about 15 minutes (the center will still very soft and nowhere near done--we're just parbaking the cake layer here). Cool for about 5 minutes.

While the cake layer is baking, make the cheesecake layer. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese together with the lemon zest and vanilla on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup sugar and beat until lightly and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well-blended. Give the batter a good stirring by hand to ensure that everything is incorporated.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining tablespoon of sugar and the cornstarch. Add the berries and toss gently to combine. Sprinkle the berries evenly over the parbaked cake layer. Pour the cheesecake batter over the top. Bake until the cake is puffed and lightly golden, and the center is set, 45-50 minutes. Let cool completely, at least 2 hours before serving. Serve chilled or at room temperature with a pretty dusting of confectioners' sugar.

CakeShauna Sever