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in the kitchen with: dani fisher’s ricotta cheesecake

by Kristina Gill

We have an unruly bunch of thorny vines all around our yard, which normally would drive me crazy, but because they bear such great blackberries, we can’t bring ourselves to trim them. In fact, my husband just collected enough to make me blackberry jam. The blackberry and sauce topping for this week’s Ricotta Cheesecake by prop stylist Dani Fisher is another perfect way to use those late summer berries. Dani uses various fruits to top this cheesecake, including plums, so if you can’t get your hands on blackberries, don’t worry. Use what you have, and enjoy the cheesecake! — Kristina

About Dani: Dani started her career as a stylist with Cookie Magazine just a few days out of college. She then joined Food and Wine Magazine as a home and style editor, where she was also a staff prop stylist and a market and design editor. After leaving Food and Wine in 2007, she began working as a freelance prop stylist and food writer. She regularly writes reviews for BlackBoardEats LA and has recently worked on Susan Feniger’s STREET cookbook, Nancy Silverton’s The Mozza Cookbook, and Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen, among many other projects.

The full recipe continues after the jump…

Ricotta Cheesecake with Berries and Sauce

For the berries and sauce

  • 2 cartons of blackberries
  • 2 cups of medium- to full-bodied red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar (1 cup for macerating and 1/2 cup to help thicken the caramel)
  • couple sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns


1. To macerate the berries, combine all the ingredients in a bowl (save for 1/2 cup of sugar), toss together with your hands to keep the delicate berries intact, cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Once macerated, carefully remove the blackberries with a spoon or your fingers, taking care to not smash them. Set aside.

3. Strain the wine liquid into a saucepan, making sure to remove all the peppercorns.

4. Add the thyme back into the pot with the 1/2 cup of sugar you set aside. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring in the extra sugar until it dissolves. Then turn down the heat so the mixture is just simmering.

5. Allow to simmer and thicken for 30 minutes or until the mixture is syrupy — it should begin to stick to the back of a metal spoon. Let cool.

For the cake

  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • zest from 2 large lemons (Meyer if you can get them)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, separated, whites beaten until stiff peaks form
  • 1 cup full-fat ricotta cheese (If you can get your hands on fresh ricotta, you will taste the difference.)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • powdered sugar for dusting
  • dash of salt


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and butter an 8-inch springform pan.

2. Using a wooden spoon or a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Then add the ricotta, vanilla, lemon zest and egg yolks.

3. In a separate bowl, combine and mix the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and combine until well integrated. Then fold in the egg whites.

4. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the sides and top of the cake are beginning to turn golden brown. Unmold and let cool.

To assemble the cake

Use a strainer to dust the cake with powdered sugar. (I like to totally cover the top of the cake with a thin layer of sugar.) Then carefully arrange the blackberries on top of the cake. (I like to pile them in the center, leaving a rim of the powdered sugar showing.) Serve with the red wine sauce. (I like to let guests pour their own sauce, so it doesn’t soak into and stain the cake before serving.)

Food photos by Carin Krasner. Portrait by Jennifer Martine. Body of the ricotta cake is adapted from Italian Food Forever.

Why Dani Chose This Recipe

I love the versatility of this recipe — it works as well for brunch as it does after dinner with espresso. The berries and red wine sauce enrich the dish without making it overly sweet — something I am always looking to avoid with desserts. And it is beautiful; as a stylist, this is as important to me as taste!

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  • Dani! This looks delicious, and how exciting to see your pretty face on designsponge! Congrats! Kisses, Becca and Ru

  • this looks SO good! i’m going to print this and make it for my mom. we have meyer lemons and thyme in the garden already. perfect!

  • Each of these photos is so beautiful, I would hang them all on my wall. The one with the blackberries in the green tubs is so refreshing and calming to look at.

  • This looks wonderful. One question though: I’m pregnant. Is this a sufficient amount of cooking time to cook out the alcohol? And do you think the berries have enough wine in them to cause an issue? I’m wondering if I should use unsoaked berries for the garnish and cook the syrup longer?


  • Angie-
    Having gone through 6 pregnancies, and finally learning that a touch of wine is not an issue (took 2 or 3 pregnancies to get though that concern). Even if you drank all of Dani’s sauce and didn’t share a bit, you and your baby would probably be fine. The only real issue would come up if you made Dani’s sauce daily and kept the whole thing for yourself. :)
    Cooking does remove some, but never all, of the alcohol content.
    Stay relaxed, enjoy…and you and your baby will both be better off.

  • first of all this recipe looks DIVINE and i clicked on the read more because i have just been experimenting with goat cheese cheesecake but i love ricotta so much more than goat cheese! second, im wearing almost an identical striped top as the one pictured, and then thirdly i took a picture of gorgeous blackberries at my farmer’s market that i was lusting over and just like pictured here they are in the little turquoise crates, id like to send in my picture for you to see, is there an address i can send it too? let me know!

  • Hi Rach,

    You should try sharing with us on our Facebook page, where we’ve posted a link to this recipe.

    Look forward to seeing it!

  • I made this last night for some friends who came over for dessert and coffee ! Amazing ! So good ! They loved it and were very impressed !

  • Wow, that looks like the ultimate indulgence! (I’m a cheesecake lover, that’s why lol!) . I’ve always love using ricotta cheese in my cheesecake but I’m not thinking twice to try out this recipe of yours. If it’s going to look that great I won’t mind doing that everyday of the week, lol!

  • This was a great recipe! I tried it this past weekend. It was really simple and really REALLY delicious. I would definitely use this for entertaining; it’s sure to impress!

  • It’s ridiculous how much I got stucked starring at the picture of the blueberries in the blue paperbox. Love everything about it.

  • Dani,

    Wonderful!! Great to see your great styling and cooking merge. hope to see more soon!


  • Thank you for this recipe, it is something I feel I can try. Looks delicious. Ricotta is a great cheese to work with, both in savoury dishes and in desserts. I have several bramble bushes that back onto my garden and I get bored of just making apple and blackberry crumbles and pies! so this is a great alternative dish. I really like your photos too, they are fab.

  • This is the best desert … great cheese cake! Fantastic recipe!! Top of the line desert!!

  • Loved this. I didn’t have any blackberries handy but made an apricot-pear sauce instead. It was delicious.

  • This looks delicious and i’m going to make it this weekend! One question: this might sound silly but while I love the taste of blackberries (and raspberries), I have “a thing” about their seeds… I really do not like them. What do you suggest? Can I somehow cook the berries and strain out the seeds? I know you suggested plums, and I know I can do a yummy blueberry sauce, but the red wine sounds intriguing to me.. Thanks a million :)

  • This looks delicious and tastes even better. But my question is can this be made into perhaps individual size cheesecakes or some sort of a cupcake/muffin form. My kids really enjoy things done in that fashion. One of the kids has a birthday coming up and I’d like to make this in child size forms.

  • OMG I can’t believe I found this recipe by accident! Just reading through the ingredients and viewing your pictures is driving me crazy! LOL. I am definitely making this for Christmas Eve. Thank you so very very much.

  • I brought this for dessert to today’s Sunday dinner and it got rave reviews!! I’ll definitely make it again!! Thank you so much for posting this recipe!

  • Hi,

    I just saw this recipe and I would love to make it but for two. Could you help me resize the ingredient amount to fit two people. Also, can I use ramekins? I cannot afford a springform pan right now.