So, I turned 31 yesterday. To be frank, the number doesn't say that much to me anymore, but it does feel a bit weird to see it written down like this. I remember how excited I was to turn 13 - my favourite number - but I don't feel that excitement for my birthdays anymore. In my teens I used to wonder what my life would be like by the time the number of my age turned around. When I turned 21 my life looked more or less like I had imagined: living on my own in a faraway place, attending university, I had just travelled outside of Europe for the first time. But I cannot say that my life at 31 looks anything like the dreams of that 13 year old girl. In many ways it's better than I could have ever imagined. And to that I raise my glass.

And what is a birthday without a cake? This was one of my favourite childhood birthday cakes. I don't remember ever choosing it for my own party, but when I was invited to someone else's, I'd always choose this monchoutaart. If you're not Dutch, you probably have a large question mark over your head by now, so allow me to explain a bit. Monchoutaart is basically a cold set cheesecake. Taart is the Dutch word for cake, and MonChou is a brand of cream cheese. However, I find it quite expensive and don't particularly enjoy the flavour. In my recipe I replaced it with homemade cream cheese. So why keep the name? Because this cake is an homage to my childhood memory. But you're right, I could have called it a no bake cherry cheesecake.

Recipe

THE BASE
- Smash 130g Bastogne into fine crumbs, melt 50 g butter and mix together.
- Spread the crumb mixture evenly in a 16cm spring form (it's easiest to do this with the back of a spoon), and place the spring form in your refrigerator.

THE CENTRE
- Whip 100ml cream with 10g sugar until stiff peaks form.
- In a separate bowl, whisk 200g cream cheese with 10g sugar until soft.
- Add the whipped cream to the whisked cream cheese and whisk together.
- Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the base.
- Place the spring form back in the refrigerator and let set for a couple of hours.

THE TOP
- Now the easiest part: open a can of cherries*, scoop the cherries out of the jelly and place them on top of your mini cheesecake. Make sure the entire cake is covered. If you have some small gaps, just fill them with some jelly.
- Place the spring form back in the refrigerator for the last time, and let the cake set for another couple of hours.

THE EATING
- Trace the side of the spring form carefully with a sharp knife before opening the form and removing the side.**
- Cut the cake into six pieces and serve with a cup of tea.

NOTES
* The can of pie filling I use has the following list of ingredients: cherries, water, sugar, modified maize starch, flavouring. This results in a sort of jelly around the cherries which is quite useful, because it keeps the cherries in place. If you prefer to use fresh fruit, you might want to add a little extra sugar and some vanilla to the cream cheese mixture.
** For a cleaner result, you could line the spring form with parchment paper or cling film before you start making the cake. But to be honest, I only did this for these photos. Every other day, I'm happy to let the layers smudge a bit.

Ingredients

130g bastogne
50g butter

100ml whipping cream
200g cream cheese
20g sugar

1 can cherry pie filling

makes a 16cm cake
serves 6

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