Fromage Blanc Cheesecake Recipe

Cheesecake is among my favorite desserts, and I find it hard to resist, with its fresh, creamy yet cake-y body, and its tasty cookie crumb crust. But when you try to make American-style cheesecake in France, you quickly run into a procurement hurdle: neither cream cheese* nor graham crackers are easily available. You can find them — at least if you’re in Paris — but this requires time and effort and the planning of a trip to one of the few stores that carry those items. I prefer my baking to be a bit more spontaneous.

This allows us to transition, as smoothly as a cheesecake, to the French semi-equivalent: le Gâteau au Fromage Blanc. Fromage blanc (literally “white cheese”, and the “c” is mute) is a type of fresh cheese, most commonly made with cow’s milk, that has the consistency of thick and velvety yogurt but is typically tarter than yogurt. It is a very common and popular product here, there are many kinds (fermier, battu, en faisselle…) and you can find it in different fat percentages, from maigre (0% fat) to entier (40% fat).

Gâteau au fromage blanc
differs from cheesecake in that the crust is usually a thin pastry crust with a rim, and it incorporates beaten egg whites into the batter: this gives the cake a very airy and light texture, almost mousse-like, and makes it higher than most cheesecakes I’ve been served — usually around three inches. My habitual (and, need I say, beloved) cheese store sells their own, a huge and tempting affair beneath a cloche à fromage (a glass cheese cover, literally “cheese bell”) on the counter, to be sliced and sold by the weight like any other cheese.

I love Gâteau au fromage blanc, but have two objections to making it myself in the traditional way. One, nothing, and I mean nothing, beats a cookie crumb crust: the patting or the eating, it’s hard to tell which part I enjoy the most. And two, I don’t love recipes that call for “beating egg whites till stiff” because it often sounds like too much trouble.

In any case, when the desire and occasion for a cheesecake arise — and arise both did last weekend to end a dinner party with a flourish — I go for my own easy version, which enrolls fromage blanc and Northern European cookies (the spice-rich and toasty and delicious Speculoos, or Bastogne) in a sort of mid-Atlantic rendition of the cheesecake. Only this time, as promised a couple of weeks ago, I used the remainder of my gingersnaps for the crust, making this a 100% homemade cheesecake, which we all delighted upon with forceful cries of felicity.

* 2014 Update: I can now find Philadelphia cream cheese in most supermarkets around me.

Fromage Blanc Cheesecake Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Serves 8 to 10.

Fromage Blanc Cheesecake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 260 grams (9 ounces) spice cookies, such as speculoos, gingersnaps, or bastognes
  • 15 grams (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter (optional, see instructions below)
  • 1 kilogram (4 cups) fromage blanc (I use 20% fat; see note)
  • 200 grams (1 cup) unrefined blond cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease a 25-cm (10-inch) cake pan with a removable bottom.
  2. Put the cookies in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to reduce cookies to crumbs. (Alternatively, place cookies in a freezer bag, close it, and run over it with a rolling pin.) Try pressing a handful of crumbs in your hand. If the crumbs clump together and stay roughly clumped, no need to add butter. Otherwise, mix in some butter until it tests positive in the clump test.
  3. Pour the crumbs into the bottom of the pan, and pat with the palms of your hands to form an even crust all over the surface. Reserve in the refrigerator.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the fromage blanc and sugar. Crack in the eggs one by one, stirring until thoroughly combined. Take care not to incorporate air into the mixture.
  5. Pour into the pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until set and slightly golden on the outer rim. Unclasp the sides of the pan and transfer to a rack to cool completely, then chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Notes

The handy Cook's Thesaurus suggests the following substitutions for fromage blanc: "quark (very similar) OR yogurt cheese OR buttermilk cheese OR blend equal parts cottage cheese and yogurt until smooth OR cream cheese whipped with cream".

http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cakes-tarts/mid-atlantic-cheesecake-recipe/

  • http://www.foodandthoughts.blogspot.com Zarah Maria

    Clotilde, that sounds wonderful! I love fromage blanc, but that’s harder to come by here (Denmark) than cream cheese – ouh! I’ve never thought of using Bastogne in the crust – sounds like a perfect idea! Unless you’re lucky enough to have your own homemade gingersnaps just bouncing around anyways…

  • http://www.tetellita.blogspot.com Estelle

    I love “tarte au fromage blanc” and it’s too bad that “fromage blanc” is one of the rare things that I cannot find in the US. I will, however, try it with cottage cheese once, I may be happily surprised! I think you could definitely invest in a hand mixer, it’s cheap and you will eventually be able to do meringues, iles flottantes, mousse au chocolat… Doesn’t that sound tempting? Have a great day!

  • janenora

    For those of us in North America, surely any of the cream cheeses available would work in this receipe. My favourite is one by Astro which has none of the additives of the Philadelphia cream cheeses and its clones.

  • Molly

    Having grown up around cheesecake, it is on the bottom of my list of dessert choices. I have had too many overly dense cakes with mushy tasteless crusts. I would much rather have couer a la creme which is like eating a sweet comforting cloud. That said, however, I would encourage you on your crust substitutes. We frequently use ground crisp cookies for crusts – vanilla or chocolate wafers, zwbeck (sp?, a teething biscuit ), and gingersnaps (with a pumpkin cheesecake, that I’ll eat!). We also use ground toasted nuts which make good crusts for cheesecake.

  • http://www.aussielass.com Katia

    Would you mind sharing your knowledge about where to find cream cheese in Paris? I’d love to know! :)

  • http://dawnie.com Dawnie

    I keep a small hand mixer around for things like beating egg whites. Works like a charm, and it won’t be a major investment for you. (It also beats the pants off dragging out the stand mixer for small jobs.)

  • http://beeswing.livejournal.com Beeswing

    What a fantastic recipe! Unfortunately, fromage blanc is much harder to find in the UK than cream cheese – and it definitely sounds nicer than quark, which I’ve always found very flavourless – but your biscuit ideas certainly make up for the lack of graham crackers! I’ll try to give this a go…

  • http://www.thefoodsection.com Josh

    Thank you for the great recipe, Clotilde!

    Estelle, there is an American dairy that makes fromage blanc in the US. I’ve seen it in gourmet stores here (Gourmet Garage, for example, in NYC has it):

    http://www.vtbutterandcheeseco.com/html/quark.html

  • Elizabeth

    i read the recipe for Mid-Atlantic cheesecake, but have no idea what fromage blanc is I live in the US, i also don’t know metric
    thank you

  • http://www.himonkey.net monkey

    while i do make many a cheese cakes with a yummy crumb crust, lately, i have been making mine with a thin almond shortbread crust. i think it’s a tad more supportive (structurally and flavorwise) of my glorious cheesy filling.

    of course, i will accept nothing less than a gingersnap crust for key lime pie!

  • tdb

    I’m suddenly hit with a craving for one of my favorite home desserts!

    When that happens, I substitute the cream cheese with “Kiri” squares from the supermarket and get very good results (note: the texture of “Kiri” is thicker than that of cream cheese, taking slightly more time and effort to soften). And I also use speculoos and gingersnaps for the crust, which works out great. But I will definitely have to depart from my usual “Kiri” routine and try your fromage blanc version!

    Katia — I’ve seen Philly cream cheese at Le Grand Epicerie du Bon Marché and at a little grocery store called Thanksgiving (metro St. Paul). Next door to the store they also have a cozy little Creole/Cajun restaurant by the same name.

  • Oli

    For all the Brits (and maybe Americans too), you can fromage blanc in the UK very easily, it is what you call ‘Fromage Frais’ !

  • me2i81

    “i also don’t know metric thank you”
    If you type “260g in oz” into Google’s main search window, it tells you “260 grams = 9.17123011 ounces”.

  • tdb

    Oops, make that LA GrandE Epicerie…!

  • ya

    ‘cheescake’ are corny old fashioned pin ups sorts of pictures and not, you know, a picture of jenna jameson doing it so it’s kind of an innocent sort of word. It’s more used as an adjective. ‘That’s so cheesecake’- tarty in a corny old fashion way.

  • charlotte

    Another beautiful cheesecake to try! I still haven’t had the chance to make the Tart au Fromage Frais, Miel et Ecorces d’Orange Confites… I’d better catch up! Both would be good for Easter dinner…now which one??
    Thank you Clotilde!

  • http://drupeau.blogspot.com nardac

    I’ve found that La Brousse Bourdin is an excellent substitute for cream cheese. It’s such an ordinary young cheese that you can even find it at a Franprix.

    And, like a good cream cheese, it’s perfect with smoked salmon and cucumber.

    I’ve never tried it in a cheesecake though.

  • Mark

    I tend to prefer a pastry crust on my cheesecakes – perhaps because that’s how my mother made them. A pastry crust usually holds up better and stays crunchy. I also find most cookie crumb crusts too sweet and rich – all you end up tasting is the crust, instead of the more subtle cheese/vanilla/egg flavour.

    I also remember my mom using the German “Dr.Oetke” cheesecake aid whenever she wanted a “great” cake – I think this boosts the flavour and prevents the cake from cracking and falling.

  • Joan

    indeed..many different cheesecakes..I had thought there was just “the one” until I tasted my German mother-in-law’s ..my oh my..talk about delicious..

    and Clotilde, as for the cheese/beefcakes..they’d both be hotcakes no doubt ~

  • http://sabbathmeals.typepad.com balabusta

    Aha! Finally I can share my arcane knowledge of eggwhites with someone! Since I have a Jewish food weblog I don’t have to be embarassed to admit that I am from an eggwhite-dependent culinary subculture.

    Don’t be afraid to beat your whites by hand. The secret to them coming out fluffy without making your arm fall off is to warm them to room temperature. Gourmet magazine recommends that you take your whole eggs (still in the shells) out of the fridge and immerse them in warm tap water for 15 minutes before you break and separate them. Then you can beat them senseless…er, fluffy with a wire whisk. A pinch of salt and you are in business.

    This will also help you get egg white height if you should invest in a mini electric mixer.

  • http://home.earthlink.net/~sugoodsweets/blog Jessica “Su Good Eats”

    Wow, Gâteau au Fromage Blanc sounds so much fancier than American cheesecake…and it’s probably better! For some reason, the yogurt in Europe is so much better. I think it’s because of the cows.

  • Adele

    Balabusta, with Passover right around the corner (and we know what that means in terms of egg whites!) I view it as an opportunity to get my arms into shape :~). I generally use one of three methods: regular whisk, with either a beating or swishing motion, a hand-held mixer, or my late mother-in-law’s old rotary beater, the kind where you turn the crank.

    One of my favorite variations on cheesecake is Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Squares. Use chocolate chip cookie dough (yes, Virginia, you can take a shortcut and use the slice n’ bake logs from your grocer’s dairy case) as the bottom crust, covered with cheesecake filling and top with more cookie dough. You can use the dough sparingly on top — it will spread and form beautiful marbling.

  • http://stationgourmande.canalblog.com/ anne

    I have a similar recipe but i use the zest of a lemon to perfume and sometimes lime juice.

  • Tom Fiorina

    I also have substituted “la vache kiri” for cream cheese, while preparing a cheese cake. Just don’t tell anyone French, who is going to eat any. “Kiri” cheese squares, evidently, are on the low-end of the gourmet scale–since they are mostly for children, so the dessert will be missing a certain cachet.

  • http://alithinks.typepad.com/alithinks/ Alison

    Well, well. I’m going to have to try this one.

    Don’t make cheesecake here because I’m too lazy to unwrap all those little squares of Kiri…

    Thanks!

  • nabila

    One of my favorite too, Thanks. I think I am making my first cheesecake this weekend.

  • Éléonore Bélanger

    I like Cheesecake as opposed to Gâteau au Fromage Blanc . I love the rich, dense , creamy texture. I also like to experiment with my crusts. I don’t like overly sweet crusts so graham crackers are perfect. But danish butter cookies work well when the crackers arent’ available. Many years ago an American friend gave me a recipe which calls for eggs, cream (unwhipped), eggs, sugar, and cream cheese. I ‘ve tried making it with fromage blanc but cream its not quite the same as cream cheese but it does the trick.

  • http://www.laraabrams.com Lara

    absolutely great sounding recipe…thank you!

  • http://epicesetcompagnie.blogspot.com aude

    bonjour Clotilde,
    Si ça peut te rassurer, avec Francis, on s’est passé de batteur pour les blancs en neige jusqu’à l’aube de nos 28 ans ! On vit très bien sans… avec aussi d’ailleurs !
    à bientôt.

  • Jill

    The male equivalent is “beefcake.” Just in cases it comes up in conversation one night.

  • Allan

    I’m very fond of the cheesecake recipe in Joan Nathan’s “Jewish Holiday Cooking,” which uses separated eggs and a mixture of cream cheese and sour cream. I really think it’s the best. It’s a bit lighter than the traditional “New York Style” cheesecake, but not as dry as the Italian versions, which I also like actually. When I lived in France, I made it for French friends, and it was very well received. But like you I had to make substitutions. I did use fromage blanc to substitute for the sour cream, and I used St. Moret for the cream cheese. It worked beautifully. The recipe, you ask? Here it is:

    Preheat the oven to 300 degrees (Gas mark 2, 150 C).Take a 9-10 inch (25 cm) spring mold and rub with butter. Then take cookie crumbs and grated rind of one lemon and mix with up to 6 tbs (75 g) melted butter and affix to the sides of the mold. Put this in the fridge.

    Combine 1 cup (.25 l) sugar, six egg yolks, juice of one lemon, 3-4 tbs. (.05 l) corn or potato starch or flour, 1 lb. (500 g) fromage blanc, 1 lb. (500 g) St. Moret, and a dash of vanilla (optional). Mix thoroughly.

    In a separate bowl beat the six egg whites en neige, that is, until you have stiff peaks. Fold into the cheese mixture, then pour into the pan

    Bake one hour, then turn the oven off and let the cake sit in the warm oven another hour. Then open the door but don’t remove the cake for another 1/2 hour. The slow baking is because this cake is essentially a souffle, and it can fall (it still tastes great, though). The starch/flour is anti-falling insurance, incidentally.

    I prefer this room temperature or only very slightly cooled. I’ve also varied it from time to time with liqueurs… you might try eliminating the lemon and adding coffee liqueur, for example.

  • http://www.aussielass.com Katia

    Thankyou tdb & nardac for the cream cheese tips :)

  • http://kevinandpauline.blogspot.com Antipo Déesse

    I use Mascarpone (in all French supermarkets) for cream cheese and Jockey 40% fromage blanc and my cheesecake is quite divine!

  • Barbara

    Clothilde, I love your site, and as an American living in Italy, this recipe is one I would like to try, but I’m wondering if anyone knows what the name of the Italian equivalent of fromage blanc is. If not, I’ll try one of the substitues. Keep up the delicious work!

  • joelle

    Clotilde, j’adore votre site. Et pour vous en remercier, je veux bien vous offrir un batteur électrique pour vos blancs d’oeufs ! En tout cas, bravo et longue vie à C&Z !

  • Roberta

    This past weekend I made the gateau au fromage blanc with much success. Not satisfied with the only fromage blanc I could find (0% fat? – mais non), I made my own yogurt cheese. It was extremely simple and worked out beautifully. Bastognes made a delicious crust and balanced the creamy filling very well. Thank you so much for sharing this delightful recipe.

  • CA Charlotte

    I would like to recommed the Fromage Blanc made by our local Sonoma County, California creamery, Bellwether Farms. It’s beautiful Jersey cows’ milk, and comes in 7 1/2 oz tubs.
    It can be ordered through their website http://www.bellwethercheese.com

  • Lias

    I am joining the conversation late, but thought I would share my recipe for my favorite New York style cheesecake that I adapted to local ingredients and measurements while living in France. I am normally told that it is the best cheesecake that anyone has had, and often get requests for the recipe and baked cakes.

    This cake is easier then it seems, and is adaptable. You can add any flavorings or toppings you prefer, and can play with ingredients and cooking time to make it firmer or creamier as you like.

    The pan
    A pan with removeable sides or bottom is best, but you will need to wrap the bottom in aluminum-foil if you use a bain-marie, but you can really use any pan that is deep enough to hold cake. The smaller the pan, the higher the cake.

    The crust
    Make with finely ground almonds, melted butter and sugar pressed into a bottom of pan (measurements depend on size of pan, so I just cover bottom with desired thickness of almond meal, sprinkle some sugar and enough melted butter on top to moisten without being too wet)

    The filling
    5 (200gr) packages cream cheese (“fromage nature” for tartiner from “Ed” works well, it is a little wetter than US style cream cheese)
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    3 soup spoons flour (this is optional depending on how dry you want the cake, you could also substitute coconut for a unique texture)
    Finely grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon ( or 2-3 limes)
    6 large eggs or 5 eggs + 2 egg yolks (if you are not using US style cream cheese which is drier, you might want to omit an egg so that the cake isn”t as wet)
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
    Optional topping (useful to cover any cracks on the top of the cake):
    1 cup crème fraîche
    1 soup spoon sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

    Make crumb crust and press into bottom of pan. Preheat oven to 250° celcius.
    (prebake the crust for 10 minutes if it is too moist)

    Beat together cream cheese, sugar, flour, and zests until smooth (I hand beat my cheesecakes, and I am certain that it tastes better that way). Add eggs and yolks, 1 at a time, then vanilla, until each ingredient is incorporated.
    Put baking pan with crust in a shallow baking pan (add water to the shallow baking pan to prevent cracking of the top of the cake if you like). Pour filling into crust (pan may be completely full) and bake in the shallow baking pan in middle of oven 12 minutes, or until puffed. Reduce temperature to 95° and continue baking until cake is mostly firm (center should still be slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken), about 1 hour.
    If making topping: remove cake from oven and let stand on a rack 5 minutes while mixing topping ingredients together. Drop spoonfuls of topping around edge of cake and spread gently over center, smoothing evenly. Bake cake with topping 10 minutes.
    Run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen and cool completely in pan on a rack. Chill cake, loosely covered, at least 6 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving. Cheesecake keeps, covered and chilled, up to 2 weeks, but of course it won”t last that long!

  • http://holland Lita

    In Holland we can get anything, which is great.
    Would I be able to make a nice strawberry or rasberry topping for this cheesecake? Or my favourite passionfruit?

  • Gabriel

    If anyone is looking for a good cheese shop in America, http://www.pastoralartisan.com/ has pretty much everything I’ve ever needed. Simple cheeses are not their specialty, so don’t expect to find 12 Mozzarellas… but they sell everything you can imagine otherwise. They deliver now, all over the US! Expect to pay a bit for refrigerated stuff, but it’s standard rates!

  • Sharon Cunningham

    Hi Clotilde:
    I just found your wonderful site and have just started to explore it. I absolutely love Paris and France and in fact Europe altogether, so this is such a treat!! I look forward to exploring your site often!! I have been cooking and baking for several years but your site has really fired up my enthusiasm again. Thank you so much from Canada!!!

    Sharon

  • Ruth

    Merci beaucoup! We are living in France, and my husband just told me that he wishes he could have cheesecake for his birthday. He doesn’t think it’s possible to make here, but now I can surprise him. :)

Get the newsletter

Receive a free monthly email with a digest of recent entries, plus exclusive inspiration and special announcements. You can also choose to be notified of every new post.