Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Birthday Cheesecake with Fresh Rhubarb

Yesterday was my Mom's birthday. Like Jack Benny, she turned 39 (again).
In our family, tradition dictates that the birthday girl/boy chooses what cake they want Mom to bake and what meal they would like to have, either at home or at a restaurant of their choosing. When it came time for Mom to choose her cake this year, well, I guess she figured that no one in Washington DC could do a better job than she could. She spent her birthday afternoon making a Key Lime Cheesecake and a fresh Rhubarb Compote.
I should mention that my maternal lineage has a genetic predisposition for baking glorious deserts. My grandmother makes the most incredibly time consuming, perfectly executed wonders. Brandy Alexander, lighter-than-air cheesecake, delicate Haztlnut meringue cookies, sophiscated mousse pies.... the sorts of things you expect to order from Neiman Marcus at Christmas-time. My Mom is more practical (a lifetime in third world countries does that to you), but no less skilled. Tiramisu, butter cookies galore, moist almond cake, and virtually every cake out of the Williams&Sonoma Cake book (how you do you think the birthday kid picked what cake they wanted? That book has great photos...). I'm hoping that this gene is time-activated, and that I'll become an amazing dessert wiz around the age of 30. Still waiting.
You know how cheesecake can be heavy, making it a burden to finish a whole slice? Yeah, that didn't happen. This cheesecake was light, crumbly, beautiful, and tasted strongly of key limes. I could tell that the recipe came from the Gourmet cookbook rather than my Mom's or my Grandmother's collections, because I know that cheesecake can get even lighter and the crust even crisper, but I bet most folks wouldn't be able to tell.
The Rhubarb Compote was also an inspiration. It tasted fresh, and not so sweet that it covered up the pure Rhubarb flavor. Rhubarb is tart but not bitter; it always struck me as too sophisticated for pies and such. Rhubarb is in season now, so jump on the bandwagon!

Rhubarb Compote (according to my Mom)

3/4 Sugar (really, to taste)
2 stalks Rhubarb, chopped

Put both in a small saucepan, turn heat on low and let the ingredients melt together.


Anonymous said...

omg that is sooo gorgeous. As you know I'm a bit of a rhubarb-a-holic at the moment what with it being the only fruit in season at the moment... I don't suppose I could have the whole recipe from you? pleeeease?!

(I'm a cheesecake-a-holic as well :D)

Kate said...

I would never have thought to put rhubarb and key lime together, but the colors alone sound divine!

Melanie said...

Rhubarb paired with cheesecake (key lime, no less) is so unique. I love it! I am an avid cheesecake fan...AND a rhubarb fan and I'll definitely have to try the rhubarb compote. Yum.

Johanna said...

that cheesecake looks wonderful! I love how you are sharing your parents' recipes - my mum is a wonderful cook but the baking gene seems to be hit and miss among my siblings - hope you get it as it sounds like you have some impressive culinary heritage

Johanna said...

oops - got so enthused about your cheesecake that I forgot to say I have tagged you for a six word memoir - if you are interested in doing one (and don't feel you have to be) then head over to

giz said...

I think I'm one of the very few people who don't really like cheesecake - mainly because it's usually so heavy it just drops into your stomach like a rock. said light - caught my attention - you said key lime and rhubarb - I think I love your mother.

Shaun said...

Neen ~ Most cheesecakes in New Zealand are dense. For many years, that is what I thought cheesecakes provided, and I was happy to buy them for that reason alone. And then I moved to the US in 2001 and got re-educated. They are light, flavourful and, well, delicate. The perfect crumb is essential, and while no great baker myself, I make my own cheesecakes in New Zealand (I moved back last year)because I know that the local ones will be too heavy. Good on your mom for letting her alpha baking genes loose...As for the rhubarb compote, the tartness is a perfect compliment to the cheesecake.

Krysta said...

Yup, all the cool people were born in April! Happy birthday to your Mom!

Kevin said...

That cheesecake with rhubarb compote looks so good!