Transport yourself to the bakeries of London with these delightful London Cheesecakes. While not your typical cheesecake, these sweet puff pastry treats carry the essence of tradition and nostalgia. With a flaky pastry base, luscious jam filling, and a heavenly almond frangipane topping, they offer a taste of the classic British bakery experience. Whether enjoyed as an afternoon treat or shared at special occasions, these easy-to-make London Cheesecakes will transport you back to your childhood.
Similar to the tastes of a Bakewell tart, London Cheesecakes are not just a dessert; they are nostalgic treat in traditional British baking. With their golden-brown pastry crusts and the homemade almond Frangipane, these pastries evoke a sense of warmth, nostalgia, and familiarity. Whether enjoyed as a cosy indulgence with a cup of tea or shared with loved ones on special occasions, they are sure to leave an impression.
If you grew up in London, you probably remember these being served by the local baker and enjoying them as a kid. Recipes like this easy-to-make Old Fashioned Coconut Ice or these simple Chocolate-topped Flapjacks have a way of transporting you back time.
If you have never heard of these puff pastry treats, now is the time to introduce yourself and your family to a traditional British recipe.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Nostalgic and Traditional – An old Southern English recipe that will take you back to your youth. The perfect tea-time treat!
- Better than Shop-Bought – They taste so much better when made at home.
- Simple to Make – You can achieve great results as a beginner baker.
- Oven: Standard home oven for preheating and baking the cheesecakes.
- Lightly floured surface: For rolling out the puff pastry.
- Rolling Pin: If you haven’t bought a ready-rolled puff pastry.
- Round cookie cutter: To cut out circles from the puff pastry.
- Non-stick baking sheet or baking tray: To place the puff pastry circles on.
- Parchment Paper: To line the baking tray and prevent the London Cheesecakes from sticking.
- Bowl: For mixing the frangipane ingredients.
- Whisk or stand mixer: To beat the butter, sugar, and almond essence for the frangipane.
- Spoon: For adding the jam and frangipane to the puff pastry circles.
- Cooling rack: To cool the baked pastries.
- Mixing bowl: For preparing the icing sugar glaze.
- Teaspoon: For spooning the icing sugar glaze over the pastries.
- Puff Pastry – For ease, we are using a ready-rolled puff pastry for this recipe, but if you’d prefer to buy a block and roll it out yourself, then you can. Be sure to make the thickness even and similar to that of a ready-rolled puff pastry.
- Unsalted Butter – You can substitute this for margarine if you’d prefer but keep it unsalted.
- Caster Sugar – You can use white caster sugar or unrefined golden caster sugar in this recipe.
- Plain White (All purpose) Flour – Stick with plain white flour for this recipe.
- Egg – Use 1 large egg for this recipe.
- Ground Almonds – This is part of the frangipane which is flavoured with almonds.
- Almond Essence – This intensifies the almond flavour of the frangipane.
- Raspberry Jam – We recommend using a seedless jam. You can substitute it with other flavours of fruity jam such as strawberry but it is best to stick with a smooth jam where possible.
- Icing Sugar – We decorate the cheesecakes with icing sugar once cooled. Mix the water in slowly until you reach a thick but not too runny consistency. Otherwise it will slide off the sides.
- Sweetened Desiccated Coconut – This is the decoration on top. You can use shredded coconut, which look like strings of coconut, if you can find it, which is more traditional to this recipe, but for ease, we use desiccated coconut as it’s more easily available.
What is a London Cheesecake?
A London Cheesecake is a traditional British pastry dessert that you will find in many bakeries such as Greggs and various supermarkets around the United Kingdom. Although their popularity has declined in more recent times and they aren’t as easy to find, most often, they are found in the South of England.
Also known as Hairy Cheesecakes or Hairy Marys, London cheesecakes are made from puff pastry which is topped with raspberry jam, almond frangipane and icing sugar and decorated with a sprinkling of desiccated coconut. They contain no digestive biscuits, cream cheese or sour cream that you find in many regular cheesecake recipes today.
Sometimes referred to as an old-fashioned cheesecake, they gained popularity during the 1950s and 1960s and many will remember them as something their Grandmothers or mothers would often bake.
But why are they called cheesecakes when they contain no cheese? That’s a good question and one that isn’t easily answered. Some say that the original recipe contained cheese curds . Others may tell you that the name derives from the shredded coconut that tops the icing sugar as it resembles grated cheese. The actual origin of the recipe is quite a mystery but it is generally agreed upon that they came from the South-East of England and were, perhaps, called London Cheesecakes to differentiate from the more well-known cheesecake recipes found around the world today.
Step-By-Step How To Make London Cheesecakes
Step 1: Preheat the oven
- Preheat the oven to 180C (approximately 350F).
Step 2: Prepare the puff pastry
- Unroll the puff pastry and lay it out on a lightly floured surface so that it is flat.
Step 3: Cut out circles or rectangles
- Using a round cookie cutter, cut out 12 circles or cut the puff pastry sheet into rectangles if preferred. Place them on an unlined, non-stick baking sheet with space in between.
Step 4: Add jam filling
- Spoon half a teaspoon of jam into the middle of each circle.
Step 5: Prepare the frangipane
- In a bowl, combine the butter, sugar, and almond essence. Beat well with a whisk or in a stand mixer until light, fluffy, and creamy.
Step 6: Beat the egg
- Beat the egg separately.
Step 7: Incorporate the beaten egg
- While continuing to mix the frangipane, add the beaten egg slowly, a little at a time, until fully combined.
Step 8: Add flour and ground almonds
- Combine the flour and ground almonds together, then stir into the creamy butter mixture.
Step 9: Fill with frangipane
- Using a spoon, place a heaped teaspoon of the frangipane over the jam in each circle, ensuring the jam is fully covered.
Step 10: Bake the pastries
- Place the pastry circles with the topping into the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown with baked frangipane on top.
Step 11: Cool the pastries
- Once fully baked, carefully transfer each pastry to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely.
Step 12: Prepare the icing
- Place the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually add 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of cool water, mixing until a thick but not runny consistency is achieved.
Step 13: Ice the pastries
- Once the pastries are completely cool, spoon approximately a teaspoon of icing over the top of each one. You can smooth it out evenly using the back of a spoon.
Step 14: Decorate with coconut
- While the icing is still wet, decorate each one with a generous sprinkling of coconut.
Step 15: Allow icing to set
- Allow the icing to set completely before serving.
Note: Take caution when handling hot trays and baked pastries from the oven. Ensure the pastries are cooled adequately before applying icing to prevent it from melting.
- Classic Tea Time: Enjoy London Cheesecakes as a traditional British afternoon tea treat. Serve them alongside a steaming cup of tea, allowing the rich flavours of the pastries to complement the comforting warmth of the beverage.
- Dessert Platter: Create a delightful dessert platter by pairing London Cheesecakes with other sweet treats. Serve alongside scones with clotted cream and jam, mini Victoria sponge cakes, and fruit tarts for a delightful assortment of British desserts.
- Afternoon Snack: London Cheesecakes make for a satisfying afternoon snack. Pack them in lunchboxes or enjoy them on-the-go for a quick and tasty treat. They are perfect for picnics, road trips, or as a pick-me-up during busy days.
- Special Occasions: Present London Cheesecakes as a charming dessert option for special occasions and celebrations. They make a lovely addition to birthday parties, bridal showers, or afternoon tea parties, delighting guests with their nostalgic appeal.
- Brunch Delight: Serve London Cheesecakes as part of a brunch spread. Pair them with a selection of fresh fruits, yogurt, and a variety of pastries to create a delightful and indulgent brunch experience.
- Festive Treats: Customize London Cheesecakes for different festive occasions. For Christmas, sprinkle the icing with edible silver or gold dust for a touch of sparkle. For Easter, decorate with colourful sugar sprinkles or mini chocolate eggs.
- Gift Giving: Package a few London Cheesecakes in a beautifully decorated box or wrap them individually to make charming homemade gifts. They are perfect for sharing the taste of British nostalgia with friends, family, or colleagues.
The exact origin of this traditional English recipe is unknown but it hails from somewhere in the South East of England. It became most popular during the 1950s and 1960s.
You might hear London cheesecakes being referred to as simply cheesecakes. Another more regional name, is sometimes worm cakes. This is thanks to the traditional shredded coconut topping.
We don’t recommend freezing London cheesecakes. However, you can freeze various components of the recipe before constructing them for baking. The puff pastry and almond frangipane can both be frozen before baking.
Pro Tips and Guidance
- Keep Ingredients Cold: For the best results, ensure that the puff pastry, butter, and other chilled ingredients remain cold until ready to use. This helps maintain the flakiness of the pastry and ensures a tender texture.
- Use High-Quality Jam: Choose a high-quality, smooth jam without large fruit pieces or seeds. This will ensure a more even distribution of flavour and a neater appearance.
- Seal the Edges: To prevent the filling from leaking out during baking, ensure the jam is completely sealed inside the Frangipane layer. This will help create a well-contained pastry with a delightful surprise inside.
- Allow Proper Cooling: Allow the baked pastries to cool completely on a cooling rack before adding the icing. This ensures that the icing will set properly and won’t slide off the warm pastries.
- Use shredded coconut if you can find it – For a more classical inclusion to the recipe.
- Get Creative with Decoration: While desiccated coconut is traditional for decorating London Cheesecakes, feel free to experiment with other toppings. You can try adding a sprinkle of toasted almonds, grated chocolate, or colourful sprinkles to add visual appeal and unique flavours.
- Try out different shapes – You can make whatever shape London cheesecake you desire. The important part is that the jam is encased in the frangipane.
- Best enjoyed on the day they are made.
- Can be stored for 3-4 days in an airtight container.
- If the weather is hot, refrigerate to prevent the iced topping from melting.
- We do not recommend freezing the fully assembled London cheesecakes.
- However, you can freeze uncooked puff pastry and almond frangipane if desired.
- Freezing these components allows you to make the recipe in advance and assemble later.
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The Best Easy London Cheesecakes from Scratch
- 375 g Ready-rolled Puff Pastry
- 75 g Unsalted Butter
- 75 g Caster Sugar
- 75 g Plain White All-Purpose Flour
- 1 Egg, Beaten
- 30 g Ground Almonds
- 1 tsp Almond Essence
- 6 tsp Raspberry Jam, Seedless
- 150 g Icing Sugar
- 30 g Sweetened Desiccated Coconut
- Preheat the Oven to 180C (356F).
- Unroll the puff pastry and cut out 12 circles of pastry using a cookie cutter.
- Place the circles with a little space between on a baking sheet.
- In the centre of each circle, place half a tsp of jam. Set to one side.
- In a bowl combine the butter, sugar and almond essence and beat well until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.
- Beat the egg and add to the mixture slowly whilst still beating it.
- Combine the flour with the ground almonds and stir into the mixture.
- Place a heaped teaspoon of this mixture on top of the jam ensuring that the jam is completely covered to stop it from spilling out over the sides.
- Place the puff pastry circles in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and risen.
- Remove the circles from the oven and place them on a cooling rack.
- Combine the icing sugar with approximately 1 to 1 and a 1/2 tbsp of cool water and mix until you get a thick, smooth icing.
- Once the puff pastry has cooled, spoon over about 1 tsp over the top of each one.
- Sprinkle over the desiccated coconut and serve once the icing has set.
- Wait until the cheesecakes have completely cooled before topping them with icing.
- Use shredded coconut for a more traditional and classic ingredient, if you can find it.
- You can cut out different shapes for variation but just ensure the jam is completely covered by the frangipane so that it doesn’t spill out as the cheesecakes bake.