Sernik: Classic Polish Cheesecake

Klasyczny Sernik na Kruchym Spodzie

Sernik is a delicious Polish-style cheesecake. There are many varieties and regional recipes, but what makes them all truly special is the cheese.

Polish farmer’s cheese, otherwise known as ‘Twaróg’ or ‘Ser Biały’ (literally: ‘white cheese’) is unlike any other. It’s quite firm, yet creamy. Naturally sweet, yet has a light note of sourness. It’s a star of many Polish dishes, including pierogi, breakfast spreads and a variety of desserts. 

In this recipe, we’re making a classic Sernik on a shortcrust base. No distractions, no extra toppings. Just dreamy, creamy, decadent bliss. 

For the full list of ingredients & detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post. But before you scroll, there’s important stuff to know below.

Traditionally, Sernik has a shortcrust or sour cream pastry base (sometimes there’s no base at all!). It can be topped with another layer of pastry (also as a crumble or lattice), but also fruit, fruit sauce, fruit jello, meringue, chocolate ganache, nuts or other toppings. 

Sometimes, there are raisins – or other dried fruit – hiding in the cheese layer. This is somewhat controversial: some people love it, while others hate it (that’s me!)

If you would like to try another sweet recipe with Farmer’s Cheese, I recommend this one:

Do you need any special ingredients to make this Polish Cheesecake?

Yes. Its’ key ingredient – Polish-style Farmer’s Cheese (what we know as ‘twaróg’ or ‘ser biały’)  might be troublesome to source.

🇵🇱 Are you in Poland? You’re in luck. ‘Twaróg’ is sold literally everywhere, it’s a staple of a Polish diet. If you have a bazaar or a farmer’s market nearby, it’s worth spending a few extra złoty for a better quality product. Avoid low-fat products – select a full-fat (‘tłusty’) or semi-skimmed (‘półtłusty’) cheese.

🌍 Internationally, ask at a Polish Deli or a farmer’s market. Alternatively, you could try making ‘twaróg’ at home, all you need is some unpasteurized milk, sour cream and…time. I’ll post a detailed recipe soon.

Substitutes: I don’t recommend substituting Polish-style farmer’s cheese for another dairy product. I tested them all: mascarpone, curd cheese, cottage cheese, fromage blanc, ricotta, philadelphia-style cream cheese, paneer…the list is endless. You’ll still get a decent cheesecake, but the flavour and texture will be very different from “the real deal”.

Equipment you’ll need: ‘Twaróg’ should be ground two or three times, until smooth and creamy, you can do so using one of the following:

  • Meat grinder: most common tool for this job. It allows you to grind the cheese easily and quickly, even in large volumes. To get the desired effect, choose the smallest holes.
  • Potato ricer: great tool if you’re making a small Sernik. If you’re making a larger portion (like we are in this recipe), using potato ricer can be a bit too laborious. But if you’re up for a workout – go for it.
  • Kitchen blender: I haven’t tried it myself, but many homecooks swear by grinding ‘Twaróg’ in a blender. This technique requires the least effort and guarantees zero lumps.

What should you serve with this Cheesecake?

Sernik is served as a dessert, accompanied by a cup of tea or coffee.

If it hasn’t been covered with icing, fruit or chocolate (like the classic cheesecake we’re baking right here), you can serve chocolate or fruit sauce separately. But that’s totally optional – this cake is delicious as it is. 

Can you bake this Polish-style Cheesecake another way?

No, not really. Some homecooks use crushed digestives with butter as a base, but that’s not a traditional way to do it. 

What diets are this Cheesecake suitable for?

This cheesecake recipe is suitable for vegetarians. 

How long can you keep this Cake in the fridge?

Cheesecake should be stored in a cool place, ideally in a fridge. The cake will stay fresh for up to 4 days, there’s no need to wrap it tightly.

Can I freeze this Polish Cheesecake?

Yes, you can, but freeze it while the cake is still fresh. 

Use an airtight packaging (plastic freezer-friendly containers are best for this), cover with a lid and label with date and description. Alternatively, just use a cling film. Consume within 2 months.

To thaw the cake, just move it into the fridge and leave it there overnight.

Polish Cheesecake (Sernik) on a plate
Polish Cheesecake (Sernik) on a plate

Sernik: Classic Polish Cheesecake with on a Shortcrust Base

Yield: 12
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Additional Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 45 minutes

Say hello to your new favourite cheesecake recipe! This is ‘Sernik’: a classic Polish cheesecake on a crispy shortcrust base, filled with creamy Polish-style farmer’s cheese. Baked in the oven, this cake will add a taste of Poland to your dining table.

Ingredients

For the base:

  • 2 cups (250 g) wholewheat flour (can be swapped for a regular, all-purpose)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 stick (4 oz, 110 g) butter
  • 2 tbsp powdered/icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp sour cream, 18%

For the cheese layer:

  • 2.2 lb (1 kg) Farmer’s Cheese, full fat
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 stick (4 oz, 110 g) butter
  • 2 tbsp potato starch (optional)
  • 2 tbsp candied orange peel, chopped
  • 2 tbsp raisins (optional)
  • 2 tsp powdered/icing sugar, to sprinkle on top

Instructions

    1. Take the ingredients (for the cheese layer only!) out of the fridge 2-3 hours before baking. They should be at a room temperature.
    2. Grab a large bowl. Drop in all the shortcrust ingredients. Chop the butter roughly with a knife. Knead until all the ingredients are combined and you can’t feel any major lumps. Form a dough ball.
    3. Wrap the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
    4. In the meantime, let’s make the cheese layer. Grind the farmer’s cheese with a tool of your choice: meat grinder (smallest holes), potato ricer or a blender. When using a meat grinder, grind the cheese at least 2 times. The mass should be smooth and lump-free. Set the cheese aside, you’ll need it in a minute.
    5. Preheat the oven to 360°F (180°C). Line a round baking tin (I’ve used 10 inch / 25cm in diameter, with a loose base) with parchment paper. Grease the edges. 
    6. Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll it out to fit the baking tin. I just grab small chunks of dough and line the pan by hand, pressing with my fingers as I go, until I have an even layer of pastry.
    7. Bake for 15 minutes until lightly golden, then remove from the oven - but keep the oven on.
    8. Grab a large bowl (sized at 2 quart / 2 litre should be enough). Add 1 cup (200 g) sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and 3 egg yolks and mix with an electric mixer for 3 minutes until combined. 
    9. Add ground cheese to the bowl, add softened butter. (Optional step) If you feel that the cheese mass is loose, add 2 tablespoons of potato starch. Mix again with a mixer for 3-4 minutes.
    10. In a separate container, beat 5 egg whites until stiff. I use a mixer, but you can do it by hand if you’re brave.
    11. Grab a spoon or a spatula and gently blend the egg whites with our cheese mass. The key is not to over-mix it.
    12. Add 2 tablespoons of chopped candied orange peel, together with 2 tablespoons of raisins. Blend them in for a few seconds. 
    13. Pour the cheese mass on top of the pre-baked shortcrust pastry. Bake for 60 minutes at 360°F (180°C), switching off any fan-assisted functions. 
    14. Once the time is up, switch off the heat, but leave the cheesecake inside for another 30 minutes. After that time, open the oven slightly and leave the cake inside until the oven is completely cooled.
    15. Once cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar. 
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 161Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 83mgSodium: 62mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 1gSugar: 5gProtein: 6g

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Polish name:
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Cuisine: Polish
Region / Subregion: all-Polish
Other traditional or regional names:
Also known as (including misspellings):