Dessert/ polish

Sernik – Polish cheesecake recipe

6 June 2021 | Last Updated: 7 June 2021 By Aleksandra

Sernik is a delicious Polish cheesecake. It’s my grandma’s recipe and one of my favorite desserts of all time! It’s made with cocoa crust and rich and creamy cheese filling.

A piece of sernik on a white plate with a spoon. The whole cheesecake in the background.

Polish cheesecake

Sernik is one of the most popular desserts in Poland. The word sernik means cheesecake in the Polish language. There are so many types of cheesecake and every family has their own favorite recipe! This particular cheesecake is called King’s cheesecake (sernik królewski) and it’s made with cocoa crust on the top and the bottom of the cheesecake filling. The cheese part is made from Polish curd cheese (twaróg), which is very similar to farmer’s cheese. Some people add raisins or canned peaches to this cheesecake. My grandma has always added candied orange peel and raisins.

This is an old-school type of cheesecake, it’s more dense and rich (but in a good sense!) than fluffy and creamy. Nowadays, many young Polish people are making their cheesecakes with other types of cheeses, like they mix twarog cheese with ricotta or mascarpone, and I also like these type of cheesecakes, but this old-school type of cheesecake is seriously my favorite one and it just screams comfort food (or dessert) for me.

Polish cheesecake vs New York style cheesecake:

You may ask what’s so special about Polish cheesecake. Aside from the cheese it’s made from, it’s not so creamy, smooth, and heavy as New York-style cheesecake, it’s based more on eggs and butter and no cream or sour cream is added. It’s also, like many Polish desserts, less sweet than its American counterpart. King’s cheesecake is more fluffy thanks to beaten egg whites, not completely smooth, tastes more of cheese, is less dense and rich. It’s really hard to describe it with words so you have to try it!

Ingredients

Here’s what you need to make the cocoa crust for cheesecake:

  • all-purpose flour
  • cocoa – I used Dutch-processed but any kind will work, Dutch-processed cocoa is more chocolatey and flavorful, it’s also what you would use to make this crust in Poland (there is no natural cocoa powder in Poland)
  • butter – use European-style butter for better flavor (European butter has slightly more fat and it’s cultured which means it tastes a little bit more tangy)
  • granulated (white) sugar
  • sour cream
  • egg yolk (reserve the egg white for the cheesecake batter)
  • baking powder – makes the crust softer, it’s optional
  • vanilla extract – in Poland, vanilla sugar is most commonly used for baked goods but I used vanilla extract since it’s easier to get in the US
  • salt
Labeled ingredients for cheesecake crust.

For the cheesecake you’ll need:

  • Twaróg cheese – since this is the main ingredient that distinguishes this cheesecake from other types of cheesecake, it can’t be substituted. I mean, you could use cream cheese, but it just won’t be the same. You can use farmer’s cheese but if it’s very dry, you may need to add a little bit more butter. You can look for twarog cheese in Polish/Russian/Ukrainian delis. This is a curd cheese, which means it’s made from small curds that are sticking to each other, we need to puree it with a food processor until smooth. Polish people usually use a meat grinder for that, but I think it’s easier to use a food processor (it’s being said that you need to put it 3 times through a meat grinder to get it smooth and fluffy). The cheese doesn’t have to be completely smooth and velvety like cream cheese. Polish people often buy already-processed twaróg in a ‘bucket’ that is already smooth and mixed with butter. It’s quicker to make a cheesecake with already processed cheese but it tastes better with pure twaróg. Also, there are many brands that are low-quality and the cheese is very watery. If you can get such cheese in a Polish deli, do not use it for this particular recipe, I’m not sure if it will work.
  • Eggs – there are quite a lot of eggs in this cheesecake but grandma says she sometimes adds 10-12 eggs with this recipe! I tried adding less but it really hasn’t tasted ‘right’. Don’t try to add more eggs than written in the recipe if you’re using 10-inch (26cm) pan – the batter won’t fit in the pan.
  • Vanilla extract – in Poland, vanilla sugar is most commonly used for baked goods but I used vanilla extract since it’s easier to get in the US.
  • Butter – use European-style butter for better flavor (European butter has slightly more fat and it’s cultured which means it tastes a little bit more tangy)
  • granulated (white) sugar
  • Orange peel – for an amazing flavor, you could also add candied orange peel if you have some on hand.
  • You could also add raisins or canned peaches – they are often added to this particular type of cheesecake.
  • Instant vanilla pudding powder – makes the cheesecake set and adds more vanilla flavor. Mine has just corn starch and ground vanilla beans in the ingredients so you can substitute corn starch and 1 ts of vanilla extract.
Labeled ingredients for cheesecake.

How to make it step by step

Make the crust:

Flour and cocoa in a bowl. Cheesecake crust ingredients in a bowl.

1) Stir the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and salt together.

2) Add the egg yolk (reserve the egg white for the cheesecake batter), sour cream, vanilla extract, and cold butter (cut into small cubes).

Crumbled cheesecake crust ingredients in a bowl. Cheesecake crust wrapped in plastic foil.

3) Rub the ingredients between your fingers or mix with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until the dough comes together. It will look crumbly at first but it will soon form a smooth dough.

4) Divide the dough into two parts. One part should be slightly bigger than the other part (about 1-2 Tbsp), flatten each part into a disc, wrap in plastic foil and put in a fridge for 30 minutes.

Bake the crust:

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C), Gas Mark 4, no fan.
Line the bottom of an 10-inch (26cm) springform pan with parchment paper.

A springform pan with cocoa crust.

5) Take the larger part of the crust out of the fridge and tear it into pieces (or cut with a knife if it’s too firm).

6) Flatten the pieces and press them into the pan to cover its bottom. Prick the crust with a fork several times. Bake the crust for 15 minutes.

While the crust is baking make the cheesecake batter.

Make the cheesecake:

Separate the eggs into egg yolks and egg whites. Make sure there is no egg yolk in the egg whites or you won’t be able to beat them properly.

Egg yolks and butter in a bowl. Beaten egg yolks and butter in a bowl.

7+8: Beat the egg yolks with soft butter, 1/2 of the sugar, and orange zest until well-combined and fluffy. Use an electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.

Twarog cheese in a plastic container. Pureed twarog cheese added to beaten egg yolks and butter in a bowl.

9) Process the cheese in a food processor until smooth (it doesn’t have to be completely smooth, a couple of small lumps are fine). Photo 9 shows pureed cheese on the left and twarog cheese in its natural form (curds) on the right.

10+11: Add the cheese and vanilla extract, beat until combined.

Cheesecake batter in a bowl. Beaten egg whites in a bowl.

12) In a separate, very large and clean bowl, beat the egg whites (with a clean whisk attachment) until soft peaks form. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the vanilla pudding powder and beat until combined.

Beaten egg whites are being added to cheesecake batter.

13) Add about 1/4 of the beaten egg whites to the cheese batter, fold in with a spatula until combined.

14) Add the cheese batter to the remaining egg whites. Fold in gently with a spatula until combined and there are no white strikes of egg whites.

Bake the cheesecake:

Baked cocoa crust in a springform pan. Cheesecake filling in a springform pan.

15+16) Pour the cheese batter onto the warm, baked crust. The batter will reach almost to the rim of the pan but don’t worry, it won’t overflow.

Unbaked cheesecake in a springform pan. Baked cheesecake on a plate.

17) Take the second part of the crust out of the fridge and grate it on the large holes of a box grater. Sprinkle the crust onto the cheesecake batter.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. It will be slightly jiggly in the middle (a little bit like jello) but set. The cheesecake will rise and crack in the middle and then it will fall – it’s just the nature of this cheesecake.

Leave the cheesecake on the cooling rack to cool completely, about 3 hours (do not try to cut warm cheesecake).

Enjoy!

Polish cheesecake with a piece missing on a table.

Baking pan

I used a round 10-inch (26cm) springform pan and it was just right. You could also bake this cheesecake in an 9×13-inch (22x33cm) rectangle pan to have more crust to cheese ratio. You would need to make more crust – about 50% more of the recipe.

How to serve it

This cheesecake is really served on its own. Different types of cheesecakes are often served with fresh fruit or fruit compote but this cheesecake is really best just plain.

Storage

This cheesecake will keep for about 4-5 days. You can keep it at room temperature for 2-3 days, in a cool place. If you’ll keep it in the fridge, bring it to room temperature before serving.

Its taste and texture improves with each day. It’s light and fluffy on the day of baking and it becomes more dense the next day, which I actually prefer. The crust is slightly crispy on the day of baking and then it becomes soft.

A piece of sernik on a white plate with a spoon. The whole cheesecake in the background.

More Polish dessert recipes:

Did you make this recipe? RATE THE RECIPE or tell me in the COMMENTS how you liked it! You can also add a photo of your dish. It would make me very happy and will help other readers. Thank you!!

Polish Cheesecake (Sernik)

Sernik is a delicious Polish cheesecake. It’s my grandma’s recipe and one of my favorite desserts of all time! It’s made with cocoa crust and rich and creamy cheese filling.
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A slice of sernik on a white plate.
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No ratings yet
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Calories 477kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

for the crust:

  • 2 cups (250g) flour spooned and leveled
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder I used Dutch-processed
  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • big pinch of salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks 140g cold butter, 10 tablespoons
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the cheesecake:

  • 2.2 lbs (1 kg) twaróg cheese (farmer's cheese)
  • 7 large eggs divided
  • 1 egg white from the crust
  • 1 1/4 cups (250g) sugar
  • 5 tablespoons (40g) vanilla pudding powder
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 stick 115g soft butter

Instructions

Make the crust:

  • Stir the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and salt together.
  • Add the egg yolk (reserve the egg white for the cheesecake batter), sour cream, vanilla extract, and cold butter (cut into small cubes).
  • Rub the ingredients between your fingers or mix with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until the dough comes together. It will look crumbly at first but it will soon form a smooth dough.
  • Divide the dough into two parts. One part should be slightly bigger than the other part (about 1-2 Tbsp), flatten each part into a disc, wrap in plastic foil and put in a fridge for 30 minutes.

Bake the crust:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C), Gas Mark 4, no fan.
  • Line the bottom of an 10-inch (26cm) springform pan with parchment paper.
  • Take the larger part of the crust out of the fridge and tear it into pieces (or cut with a knife if it’s too firm). Flatten the pieces and press them into the pan to cover its bottom.
  • Prick the crust with a fork several times.
  • Bake the crust for 15 minutes.
  • While the crust is baking make the cheesecake batter.

Make the cheesecake:

  • Process the cheese in a food processor until smooth (it doesn’t have to be completely smooth, a couple of small lumps are fine).
  • Separate the eggs into egg yolks and egg whites. Make sure there is no egg yolk in the egg whites or you won’t be able to beat them properly.
  • Beat the egg yolks with soft butter, 1/2 of the sugar, and orange zest until well-combined and fluffy. Use an electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
  • Add the cheese and vanilla extract, beat until combined.
  • In a separate, very large and clean bowl, beat the egg whites (with a clean whisk attachment) until soft peaks form. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the vanilla pudding powder and beat until combined.
  • Add about 1/4 of the beaten egg whites to the cheese batter, fold in with a spatula until combined.
  • Add the cheese batter to the remaining egg whites. Fold in gently with a spatula until combined and there are no white strikes of egg whites.

Bake the cheesecake:

  • Pour the cheese batter onto the warm, baked crust. The batter will reach almost to the rim of the pan but don’t worry, it won’t overflow.
  • Take the second part of the crust out of the fridge and grate it on the large holes of a box grater. Sprinkle the crust onto the cheesecake batter.
  • Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. It will be slightly jiggly in the middle (a little bit like jello) but set. The cheesecake will rise and crack in the middle and then it will fall – it's just the nature of this cheesecake.
  • Leave the cheesecake on the cooling rack to cool completely, about 3 hours (do not try to cut warm cheesecake).
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • Instant vanilla pudding powder: mine has just corn starch and ground vanilla beans in the ingredients so you can substitute corn starch and 1 ts of vanilla extract.
  • Baking pan: I used a round 10-inch (26cm) springform pan and it was just right. You could also bake this cheesecake in a 9×13-inch (22x33cm) rectangle pan to have more crust-to-cheese ratio. You would need to make more crust – about 50% more of the recipe.
  • How to serve it: This cheesecake is really served on its own. Different types of cheesecakes are often served with fresh fruit or fruit compote but this cheesecake is really best just plain.
  • Storage: This cheesecake will keep for about 4-5 days. You can keep it at room temperature for 2-3 days, in a cool place. If you’ll keep it in the fridge, bring it to room temperature before serving. Its taste and texture improves with each day. It’s light and fluffy on the day of baking and it becomes more dense the next day, which I actually prefer. The crust is slightly crispy on the day of baking and then it becomes soft.
  • How to measure flour: Fluff the flour by stirring it in the bag/flour container with a spoon. Spoon the flour and sprinkle it into your measuring cup. Sweep off the excess flour with the back of a knife. Note: using a scale yields perfect and consistent results.
  • Servings: 1 serving (1/12 of the recipe). This is only an estimate!
Course Dessert
Cuisine polish
Keyword polish cheesecake, sernik

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