Kasekuchen, or Quarkkuchen, are the classic, not-to-sweet German cheesecakes slow-baked in a pate sucree (sweetened pastry crust) and made with a German ingredient called quark. Although it sounds like something from the Dr. Who series my teenaged son loves (quark does happen to be the name for a subatomic particle), in the dairy sense of the word, quark is a soft, white, unaged cheese made by warming soured milk. It’s extremely popular in Germany but less-well known here.
Struggling to describe quark, some have likened it to fresh farmers cheese packed into tubs in the refrigerated section, but quark is not the same thing. Quark is smoother, with more of a lightly tangy/sweet flavor. Just weeks ago, on a trip to upstate New York to take a son to college, I stopped off for a visit with German-cookbook author Nadia Hassani , who provided me with some background on zwiebelfleisch, another recipe I’m researching. Chatting with Nadia, I learned that quark is the German ingredient she misses most here! In Germany, many varieties of quark—from no-fat to fat-and-fruit-added are inexpensively available. Best source we’ve found in the Midwest is the Clock Shadow Creamery in Milwaukee, where you can purchase it in person for $3.50 a half-pound, or, in cool weather you can have it shipped. You can also buy a version from the Vermont Creamery from Whole Foods Markets but you’ll pay dearly for it: $7 for 8 ounces, and, you will have to hang this version in cheesecloth in the fridge overnight to firm it up some. You can be adventuresome and attempt to make your own quark. Let us know how it goes, if you try this!
But back to the cake: This recipe was requested by reader Linda Steiger, in search of a German cheesecake with a layer of pineapple at the bottom, like her German grandma used to make. To make it, you will whip and fold egg whites into the quark and cream filling resulting in a lofty, delicately-textured cheesecake with a golden top in a beautiful crust (muerbeteig.) If the quark you purchase is at all liquid or runny, line a sieve with cheesecloth and allow the quark to drain for several hours in the fridge so that you will be working with a firmer cheese for the cake. The kasekuchen needs to bake for a very long time at a low temperature. Once released from the pan, be sure to wrap it well and chill it very well—this cheesecake has a very delicate texture best enjoyed very cold.
Sweetened crust (muerbeteig) Ingredients
- 2/3 cup cold butter
- 2/3 cup sifted confectioners sugar
- 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 small egg, lightly beaten
- 1 Tbsp milk
- 1 can crushed pineapple in its own juice, very well drained
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 3/4 cup well-softened butter
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 3 cups quark ( a soft, unaged fresh cheese, see story above for sources)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp sifted flour
- Combine dry ingredients and sift. Cut butter in until it looks like fine meal. Add beaten egg and milk to form a medium-soft dough. Turn out onto lightly-floured board and gather together into a ball. Flatten; wrap with plastic and chill. Roll out and fit into a greased, 9-inch springform pan. Refrigerate.
- Drain pineapple very well and chill.
- Beat egg yolks with sugar and vanilla until pale yellow and creamy. Add softened butter, whisking well; add heavy cream and whisk again. Add quark and stir until smooth.
- Whisk egg whites with pinch of salt until peaks form. In and over/under motion with a spatula, carefully fold egg whites in to the batter, alternating with the addition of the sifted flour a little at a time. Spread chilled pineapple into bottom of crust; pour filling over, tapping sides of pan to make sure filling is smooth and even. Dough should be even at top, trimmed to about 1/2 inch above the level of the cheese filling.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. F. Place cake on center rack and bake 1 1/2 hours until golden brown on top and set. Turn off oven, leaving cake inside for 15 more minutes. Remove from oven; place on rack to cool to room temperature. Remove from springform pan to a platter. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, covered, before serving very cold.