Passion fruit cheesecake is a fruit-based or fruit-accented dessert. There are many different ways of making a passion fruit cheesecake, just as there are many ways of making a standard cheesecake. The cake can be rich and dense, or it can be light; it can be large, or divided into individual portions. What sets a passion fruit cake apart is the presence of the fruit. Its juices are commonly added to the cake batter, and actual fruit pieces are also usually incorporated or used as a garnish.
As its name suggests, one of the primary ingredients in a passion fruit cheesecake is cheese — usually a softened, sweetened cheese, like cream cheese or mascarpone. Most cheesecakes are rich and creamy confections that are traditionally baked in a cookie or shortbread crust. Adding passion fruit makes this traditionally dense, heavy dessert seem a bit lighter, and adds a refreshing tropical flavor, as well.
Passion fruit is native to South America, particularly the lush rain forests of Brazil and Argentina, but thrives well in most tropical climates. It is characterized by a pulpy, almost liquid-like flesh that must be scooped out of a hard protective shell. The taste is decidedly sweet, but usually carries a certain tartness. This is mostly attributed to the seeds, which are soft and edible but slightly bitter.
Filtering out the seeds is often very time-consuming. While seeds normally cook just fine, many chefs prefer a smoother interior look, and thus save raw pulp for external decorations and garnish. Strained juice usually blends better into cake batter, in any event. Cooks who do not have a food mill or reliable strainer often purchase separated pulp or juice commercially.
The exterior of the passion fruit cheesecake usually requires a slightly different approach. Using the entirety of the pulp, seeds and all, on the outside often adds an aesthetic appeal to a finished cheesecake, as well as promoting taste. The pulp is bright orange, while the seeds are black. Cooks will often spread the pulp across the top of a cooked cheesecake much as they would a frosting or glaze. Other tropical fruits, particularly mangoes and pineapples, are commonly used as garnishes, as well.
Passion fruit cheesecake is often considered one of the most exotic cheesecake varieties. The fruits are only in season during certain months, and their pulp will only stay fresh for a little while once the skin of the fruit is opened. A passion fruit dessert is usually best for large groups who will eat it right away, as leftovers do not often keep well.
The dessert can also be considered a specialty cheesecake, or one of several gourmet cheesecake varieties. Making cheesecake with passion fruit is not normally complicated in and of itself, but the combination is somewhat uncommon. It is usually easy to do at home, and can be a stunning end to a dinner party or gathering. Many commercial bakeries will also make this sort of passion fruit dessert, though often only on a special order basis.