Sernik Polish Cheesecake

Sernik Polish cheesecake in a plate with a napkin

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Prep: 45 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Optional Refrigeration : 60 mins
Total: 2 hrs 45 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
546 Calories
28g Fat
61g Carbs
14g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 546
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 28g 36%
Saturated Fat 16g 79%
Cholesterol 179mg 60%
Sodium 347mg 15%
Total Carbohydrate 61g 22%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 44g
Protein 14g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 109mg 8%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 149mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Sernik (SEHRR-neek) is one of the most common desserts served on Polish tables. Easily found in Polish supermarkets, bakeries, and coffee shops, this sweet treat has hundreds of years of history, and is thought to have arrived in Poland in the 17th century. Although many varieties have come with the passing of time, the traditional recipe is still a favorite: a sweet pastry crust filled with a type of farmer's cheese called twaróg (TVAH-rroog) and then baked to perfection.

Other modern variations use crumbly cake as the base or add fruits, raisins, or chocolate to the filling. One famous sernik is very similar to a strawberry cheesecake, but the base is sponge cake instead of the famous buttery graham cracker crust. Sernik can be baked in a square or round springform pan—both are traditional.

Although it's possible to buy twaróg in Polish gourmet stores, some cooks use quark instead. The difference lies in the amount of fat, as twaróg can contain a lot of it, while quark can be low in fat. Twaróg is also firmer. Using quark can yield a tasty dessert, but it won't be as luscious and creamy as one made with twárog. If twaróg is not an option, make the sernik with homemade farmer's cheese.

Ingredients

For the Crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 6 ounces (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cubed, divided

  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

  • 3 tablespoons sour cream

  • 1 large egg, optional

For the Cheese:

  • 2 pounds dry-curd cheese

For the Filling:

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature

  • 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this sernik dessert is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Make the Crust

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Sernik Polish Cheesecake ingredients

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  2. In a large bowl or food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, and baking powder.

    Flour, sugar, and baking powder mixed together in a food processor

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  3. Add 5 ounces of cold butter and pulse, or cut it in, until you get a sandy texture, similar to a pie crust.

    Cold butter added to the ingredients in the food processor

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks and sour cream.

    Mix together the egg yolks and sour cream

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  5. Add the egg mixture into the flour-butter mixture, mixing or pulsing until just combined. If the dough is too dry, add the optional whole egg. If the dough is too soft to roll, refrigerate for 1 hour so the ingredients dry up and firm.

    Dough for sernik crust in a food processor

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  6. Lightly grease a 13x9-inch springform pan with the remaining ounce of butter.

    A 13 x 9 inch pan greased with butter

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  7. On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry dough big enough to line the pan and come up the sides.

    Dough on a floured work surface

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  8. Fit the rolled dough into the prepared pan, making a crimped or rolled edge.​

    dough in a greased pan

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Process the Cheese

 

  1. Place the cheese in a food processor, or potato ricer. Process the cheese a few times so you have a smooth consistency and there are no big lumps. If using the blender, do not overmix—you want a creamy texture.

    Cheese in a food processor

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  2. Place the processed cheese in a bowl and reserve.

    Place the processed cheese in a bowl

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Make the Filling

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Separate the yolks from the whites of the eggs.

    Bowl of egg yolks and bowl of egg whites on a wooden background

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  2. With the help of a manual or electrical whisk, bring the egg whites to stiff peaks in a large bowl. Reserve.

    Egg whites whipped to stiff peaks in a large bowl

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  3. Add the vanilla extract to the yolks and mix until well incorporated. Reserve.

    Vanilla extract added to the yolks

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  4. In a standing mixer or by hand, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

    Butter and sugar creamed together in a standing mixer

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  5. Add the vanilla-yolk mixture into the sugar and butter mixture. Mix until well combined.

    Vanilla-yolk mixture added into the sugar and butter mixture

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  6. Fold the processed cheese into the sugar-butter-yolk mixture.

    Processed cheese folded into the sugar-butter-yolk mixture

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  7. Fold the egg whites into the main mixture and combine well without overmixing. You want to retain as much air as possible.

    Egg whites folded into the main mixture and combine well

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Assemble the Sernik

  1. Pour the filling into the prepared pastry crust.

    Pour the filling into the prepared pastry crust

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  2. If you have leftover dough, roll it into pencil shapes and lay them diagonally across the top of the cheesecake.

    Pencil shaped dough laid diagonally across the top of the cheesecake

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  3. Bake the sernik for 50 to 60 minutes or until the center is only slightly jiggly. The top shouldn't brown.

    Baked sernik Polish cheesecake

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

  4. Let cool completely before cutting it into squares.

    Sernik Polish Cheesecake cut into a square in a baking pan

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

How to Store and Freeze Sernik Polish Cheesecake

Like all cheesecakes, sernik should be covered and stored in the refrigerator. It will also freeze well, too. Just wrap the slices in plastic and then layer it again with aluminum foil. Defrost in the fridge when you're ready to eat them.