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How to make Chef Rufaro Chaniwa mini lemon cheesecakes

Cheesecake should is a source of pure bliss. Not distress. Not frustration. Certainly never tears. Just dreamy, decadent, nonstop bliss

By Lutho Pasiya | August 25, 2021 | Recipes

Below, Rufaro Chaniwa shares with us her recipe for her very popular mini lemon cheesecakes.

She was only five years old when her mother started teaching her and her siblings how to cook. Chaniwa says she wanted them to learn to be self-sufficient from a young age, so she started by showing them how to wash the dishes. Then they could move on to how to prepare the vegetables, then the sauces, the starches, and finally the meats.

“I had a passion for dance and I loved every minute of my training and dancing until an accident teaching a class put paid to any further dance opportunities. I took up a job working in the bakery section of a hotel. It was serendipity, because it was there that I truly fell in love with the idea of being a pastry chef, and I have not looked back since,” she says.

The 30-year-old Zimbabwean chef studied at the Cape Town campus of Capsicum Culinary Studio, graduating in 2016 with a diploma in patisserie. After graduation, Chaniwa went back to Zimbabwe and got a job as a pastry chef at a restaurant called Teta in the Chisipite area. A few months later she was promoted to head chef. From there Chaniwa moved to Victoria Falls, where she worked at Ilala Lodge as their pastry sous chef and then, very, fortunately, she managed to get a gig on a Norwegian cruise liner as an assistant pastry chef.

Now Chaniwa is back home and is the head chef and manager at a restaurant called Friends Café in Harare. She also runs a side business – Africake Bar – making bespoke cakes for all occasions, from birthdays and weddings, to corporate and social events.

Picture: Chef Rufaro Chaniwa’s mini lemon cheesecakes, Supplied

Rufaro Chaniwa’s mini lemon cheesecakes


For the cheesecakes

700g cream cheese, room temperature

1¼ cup sugar

3 eggs, room temperature

2 tbsp lemon zest

3 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla essence

⅔ cup butter, melted

For the lemon glaze

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

¼ cup lemon juice

3 tbsp lemon zest

6 tbsp butter, melted


Preheat the oven to 350°C and add cupcake liners to the muffin pan or spray with a non-stick cooking spray.

For the crust: In a medium bowl, mix the Marie biscuit crumbs, sugar, and butter with a fork until combined.

Press the mixture into the liners or the bottom of the muffin pan.

Place muffin pan in the oven for five minutes, remove and set aside.

For the lemon cheesecakes: In a large bowl, beat cream cheese on medium speed until creamy. Then add in sugar and beat until smooth.

Add whisked eggs to cream cheese mixture and beat on low speed until combined.

Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla until blended.

Scoop cheesecake filling evenly into the prepared cupcake liners or muffin pan.

Bake at 350° for 16-18 minutes. Cheesecakes will be done when the centre is still a bit wobbly.

Remove from the oven and let cool for an hour.

Remove cheesecakes from the pan and place them in a container and cover. Place container in the refrigerator and chill for four hours or overnight.

For the lemon glaze: In a small saucepan, whisk eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest until well combined.

Add butter to the pan, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken and will be done when the glaze sticks to the back of a spoon.

Remove from the pan, pour into a small, heat-safe bowl and let cool for 15 minutes.

Cover bowl and place in the refrigerator until cold or overnight.

Add glaze to each mini cheesecake and enjoy.

Keep refrigerated.