September 19, 2004 1:49 AM | By Adam Roberts | 5 Comments

Look Ma, No Pans: Spontaneous Ricotta Cheesecake Baked in a Coffee Mug

&otTonight I reached a new milestone in my career as an Amateur Gourmet. In fact, I may have to change my site's title to: The Slightly Better Than Amateur Gourmet. (Not as catchy, I'll admit.)

See, here's the truth about many of the things I cook: the leftover ingredients sit in my fridge until they rot, and then I throw them out. I am never quite industrious enough to stretch their use beyond my original intention. Such was to be the case with the ricotta cheese left over from last night's bland potato/squash pie.

But then an idea struck me.

"Ouch!" I said. "What'd you do that for?"

But this idea was a good idea. Why not use the recipe in the Chez Panisse cookbook for Ricotta Cheesecake and whittle it down to coffee mug size, since that's all the ricotta you have to work with. In other words: why don't you improvise a recipe?

Me? The Amateur Gourmet? Improvise a recipe? In italics?

But off I went. And to be honest, it was pretty easy. I dumped the ricotta cheese into a bowl and mixed in a sprinkling of sugar (about 2 Tbs) a sprinkling of flour (about 1 Tbs), some dried currants (left over from the curried couscous), an egg, cinnamon*, vanilla extract, and almond extract. I whisked it all together until it was smooth:


(* Do you know that every time I attempt to spell cinnamon, I have to look it up in the dictionary? EVERY TIME, I TELL YOU!)

Now then, I poured it into a Pam-ed and floured coffee mug:


Put it on a baking sheet in a preheated 375 degree oven and left it for an hour.

You must understand that at this point I had no idea what the results would be. This was my first true innovation in the kitchen and I was a bit nervous. I began pacing furiously. The neighbors downstairs banged on the ceiling and so then I began banging my head against the wall. The person on the other side banged back. So I sat quietly until the cake was done.

And you can hardly imagine how relieved and delighted I was to see this:


It looked like cheesecake!

I let it cool for 10 minutes and then removed it to a plate:


Gorgeous, no? And you must admit for a spontaneous recipe based on leftovers it's mighty impressive. But how did it taste?


Terrific! Lighter and sublter than cheesecake; more sophisticated. Sure, real cream cheese cheesecake is my preferred choice of cheesecake but when it comes to cheesecake made in a coffee mug this is the way to go. And plus you can experiment with it: the currants worked well, but you can add raisins, I'm sure, or chopped apricots or lemon peel or whatever you damn please. This recipe's all about innovation.

To quote The Funk Azz Gourmet: "Don't hate / innovate."


Wow, that's a pretty good feat, considering that baking recipes are difficult to tinker with. I mean, there has to be the exact proportion of flour, leavening, and liquid. When I tried to make up my own cake recipe, it came out horribly! It had no grain at all. It was like a blocky custard.

Wow, thanks, I had left over ricotta from lasagne that was sitting in the fridge just begging to be used...

That's a really cool idea. I'll have to try it sometime.

You have achieved lo-tech dessert brilliance, AG! Congrats on letting go of the recipe and hoping for the best -- though as someone above pointed out, it's harder to do with most baking recipes. I foresee many variations on this "cup o'cheesecake" could become the Amy Sedaris of this new, hip coffeehouse snack trend! Just a thought...heck, I'd buy one.

This looks much ricotta did you use? (BTW I happened on your weblog by accident and find it to be absolutely charming! Keep up the fun!

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