Sharing a birthday with an annual public holiday or festival is of mild annoyance for many birthdayees. For some, it’s a happy coincidence that increases the chance of a large-scale celebration on their day of days.
Baby G was due to arrive on Christmas Eve, of all days. The Italian was not happy about this from the moment we found out (and once I began singing songs about Baby G-sus being born in a manger) and thought it best to just ‘move’ his birthday to 24 June and pretend for the rest of his life that this was the date of his arrival into the world. Apparently his real birthday would have ‘psychologically scarred him for life’. Fortunately, we did not have to negotiate these traumatic waters and Baby G was born just over a month earlier than Christmas Eve; The Italian declaring this was ample time between celebrations and the child could now celebrate his birth date freely.
But some aren’t so lucky. My father has just experienced the great clash that was his birthday and a worldwide annual event I was recently made aware of, World IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease) Day. Each year on 19 May, monuments around the world are lit up in purple to raise awareness for IBD, such is its unfortunate prevalence. In what I think is the cruellest irony, or perhaps to spite those commemorating this day on his birthday, Dad is mad for cheesecake. I am not clever enough to come up with an IBD-friendly cheesecake, but this version is one of my favourites. It’s slightly lighter than your standard cream cheese rendition, thanks to the ricotta, and with the chocolate crust it’s extra special. Even if you’re not keen on the sultanas and don’t wish to add them, the Marsala cutting through the creaminess really makes this cake sing, so be sure to add it or a similarly sweet wine.
Happy birthday, Dad! Promise to make this one for you soon!
100 g unsalted butter
85 g caster sugar
150 g plain flour
30 g Dutch cocoa powder
500 g ricotta cheese
200 ml mascarpone cheese
120 g sultanas
rind of 1 lemon
2/3 cup caster sugar
Icing sugar and cocoa powder, to dust
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Sift in the flour and cocoa and then beat in the egg. Bring the pastry together with your hands and scrape it out onto cling wrap. Flatten it into a disc and wrap well, then refrigerate the pastry for about an hour.
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Lightly flour a spot on your bench and roll out the pastry until large enough to line a 24 cm springform cake tin. Grease the tin and place the pastry in, working it into the corners and up the sides as much as possible. Line the pastry with baking paper and a little uncooked rice and bake for about 15 minutes. Remove the paper and bake for a further 5 minutes, to cook the pastry a little.
Soak the sultanas in enough Marsala to just cover them (or a little less if you’re not too keen on the liqueur), for about 45 minutes. Whisk together the eggs and sugar, until thick and creamy. Add the ricotta and mascarpone and combine until smooth. Add the lemon rind and sultanas, with as much or as little of the liqueur as you wish, and fold through. Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the top has set and the filling has taken on a golden colour. Once cooled dust with icing sugar and cocoa powder if you wish.