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Zapekanka (Farmer's Cheese Cheesecake)

Zapekanka is a traditional Ukrainian cheesecake made with farmer's cheese. It is delightfully dense and creamy—think of a cross between the filling for a cheese Danish and vanilla cheesecake—but not too sweet. Zapekanka can be served for dessert or as a breakfast cake.

This recipe is made in one bowl without a mixer or any special equipment! Zapekanka uses very little flour and can easily be made gluten-free.

Slice of zapekanka topped with berry sauce
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Easy zapekanka recipe

Zapekanka is a Russian cheesecake or a Ukrainian cheesecake made with farmer's cheese. It's pronounced zah-pee-KAN-kah.

I LOVE all things farmer's cheese, like these syrniki (farmer's cheese pancakes). Farmer's cheese makes for such a great base for breakfast and dessert recipes. I love the flavor of farmer's cheese when combined with a little sugar, eggs, and flour. Magic!!

It's hard to describe what zapekanka is like if you've never had it, but if you like cheesecakes and cheese Danishes, I really hope you give it a try at least once! It's a classic dessert / breakfast cake for many families in Ukraine and Russia.

Zapekanka with a slice cut off and topped with berries

This easy zapekanka recipe is mixed together in one bowl with a whisk—no mixer or multiple bowls needed!

I love that this recipe only uses ½ cup flour, which means that the cake is creamy and not doughy.

Some people like to add raisins to their zapekanka, but I usually skip them!

Related recipe: Dulce de Leche Wafer Cake

Package of farmer's cheese

Where to find farmer's cheese

Many Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian stores carry farmer's cheese. I can always find farmer's cheese at the large grocery stores by me near the cottage cheese and sour cream. The brand I see most often is Friendship.

For this recipe, you'll need 2 lb of farmer's cheese, or about 4.5-4.75 cups.

Related recipe: No Bake Key Lime Pie Cheesecake Dip

Substitutes for farmer's cheese

If you can't find farmer's cheese, you can use ricotta and strain it really well in a cheesecloth or a colander lined with paper towels until it's dry and almost crumbly. Farmer's cheese is fairly crumbly, so try to get your ricotta to look like this as much as possible:

Farmer's cheese in a bowl to show texture

You can also use cottage cheese, but you'll need to strain it really well because cottage cheese is watery. You might want to blend the cottage cheese a little after straining it to get rid of the larger curds. If using cottage cheese, you might need to add a little more flour to absorb the extra liquid in the cottage cheese. 

Related recipe: Mango Whipped Cottage Cheese

Ingredients

For the zapekanka:

  • 2 lb farmer's cheese (about 4.5 cups)
  • 5 medium or large eggs (or 4 jumbo eggs)
  • ¾ cup sugar (you can cut this down to ½ cup for a less sweet cake)
  • ½ cup milk (any kind)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour (for gluten-free zapekanka use a 1:1 gluten-free flour substitute)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • Optional: ½ cup raisins
  • Butter and extra flour for coating the pan
  • Powdered sugar, for serving (optional)

For the berry sauce:

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
  • 2-4 tablespoons water (optional, for a thinner sauce)

Equipment needed:

  • Really large bowl
  • Whisk
  • 9-inch cake pan, or 8x8-inch baking pan, or 8x12-inch pan
  • All the usual baking equipment (measuring cups, spoons)

More baked breakfast recipes: Peach French Toast Casserole

Instructions

Make the zapekanka:

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350F. Brush your baking pan with melted/softened butter (or spray with oil) and sprinkle with flour.

Buttered and floured baking pans

Step 2: In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, milk, flour, vanilla extract, and sea salt (all the ingredients except for the farmer's cheese and raisins).  

Step 3: Stir in the farmer's cheese and mix really well to combine and make sure there are no farmer's cheese clumps remaining. If using raisins, stir them in now.

Step 4: Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350F for 40-60 minutes, or until the center is set and forms a thin crust (no batter is stuck to the spoon when gently touched). The cake will puff up and the edges will be golden brown. The baking time will depend on the size and shape of your pan, start checking on the cake after 40 minutes. 

Zapekanka batter in a pan

Step 5: Allow to cool to room temperature before sprinkling with powdered sugar or slicing. The cake will get firmer and not be puffy once it cools. The cake should separate from the pan as it cools and be really easy to remove. Serve at room temperature or chilled with berry sauce, whipped cream, or ice cream.

Baked zapekanka in a pan

Make the berry sauce while the zapekanka bakes:

Combine all the berries and sugar in a saucepan, turn the heat onto medium, and whisk together until the berries release juice and the sugar starts to dissolve into the juices. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5-15 minutes. Stir in a few tablespoons of water for a thinner sauce.

The cooking time depends on how saucy you like the sauce. Sometimes I leave the berries mostly whole (make sure they thaw if using frozen berries), sometimes I cook them until they fall apart and become saucy.

Berry sauce for zapekanka

Related recipe: Mulberry Syrup

What kind of pan to use for baking zapekanka

This recipe is perfect for a 9-inch springform pan, an 8x8-inch square baking pan, or an 8x12 inch baking dish. The 9-inch and 8-inch pans will yield a thicker cake that will take longer to bake, I usually end up baking for 55-60 minutes.

The 8x12-inch pan will yield a thinner cake (great for cutting more slices and for smaller portion sizes!), and will cook fully in the center faster, in about 40-50 minutes.

Recipe notes and tips

→Make sure your pan is tall, as the cake doubles in size as it bakes. It does come down as it cools and thickens.

→ The zapekanka is super light and fluffy when it's hot out of the oven. Some people like it that way, but I really prefer the creamier, thicker texture you get from the cake as it cools down, versus the warm and airy texture. 

→ The final zapekanka will have a few visible farmer's cheese curds, and that's OK. You won't really feel them in the finished cake, it's not at all lumpy and not like cottage cheese. If you want to get rid of the lumps completely, you can pulse the batter in a blender. Try not to over-blend so you don't whip the eggs too much. You might have to blend in batches if it doesn't fit in your blender.

Looking for more cheesecake recipes? Kiwi Cheesecake

How to serve zapekanka

Zapekanka can be served warm, room temperature, or right from the fridge. I prefer room temperature or chilled. Room temperature definitely has a "cheesier" and "creamier" flavor compared to right from the fridge.

If you prefer a warmer cake, I recommend letting it cool and then reheating for a few seconds in the microwave, as opposed to eating it right after baking. This allows the zapekanka to set and get a nice creamy texture, which you can then warm up.

We usually have zapekanka as a dessert, with berry sauce on top. A little whipped cream is great if you're craving some more decadence. We usually skip the powdered sugar, unless I'm making zapekanka for guests and want it to look prettier.

Zapekanka also makes a great breakfast cake recipe. You can cut down the sugar a little if you like and serve with fresh berries instead of a berry sauce. It goes GREAT with coffee!

Looking for more traditional Ukrainian and Russian recipes?

If you enjoyed this recipe, let me know with a comment and a star rating below. And don't forget to share it on Facebook and save it on Pinterest for later!

Slice of zapekanka topped with berry sauce
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Zapekanka (Farmer's Cheese Cake)

This traditional Ukrainian cheesecake can be served as dessert or breakfast! Try it with fresh berries or a simple berry sauce on top. This recipe is prepped in one bowl!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: Russian, Ukrainian
Diet: Vegetarian
Servings: 10
Author: Kate

Ingredients

For the zapekanka:
  • 2 lb farmer's cheese (about 4.5 cups tightly packed)
  • 5 medium or large eggs (or 4 jumbo eggs)
  • ¾ cup sugar (you can cut this down to ½ cup for a less sweet cake)
  • ½ cup milk (any kind)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour (for gluten-free zapekanka use a 1:1 gluten-free flour)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • Optional: ½ cup raisins
  • Softened butter and extra flour for coating the pan
  • Powdered sugar for serving (optional)
For the berry sauce:
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
  • 2-4 tablespoons water (optional, for a thinner sauce)

Special equipment

  • Really large bowl
  • 9-inch cake pan or 8x8-inch baking pan, or 8x12-inch pan
  • All the usual baking equipment (measuring cups, spoons)

Instructions

Make the zapekanka:
  • Preheat oven to 350F. Brush your baking pan with melted/softened butter (or spray with oil) and sprinkle with flour.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, milk, flour, vanilla extract, and sea salt (all the ingredients except for the farmer's cheese and raisins).
  • Stir in the farmer's cheese and mix really well to combine and make sure there are no farmer's cheese clumps remaining. If using raisins, stir them in now.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350F for 40-60 minutes, or until the center is set and forms a thin crust (no batter stuck to the spoon when gently touched). The cheesecake will puff up and the edges will be golden brown. The baking time will depend on the size and shape of your pan, start checking on the cake after 40 minutes.
  • Allow to cool to room temperature before sprinkling with powdered sugar or slicing. Serve at room temperature or chilled with berry sauce, whipped cream, or ice cream.
Make the berry sauce while the zapekanka bakes:
  • Combine all the berries and sugar in a saucepan, turn the heat onto medium, and whisk together until the berries release juice and the sugar starts to dissolve into the juices. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5-15 minutes. Stir in a few tablespoons of water for a thinner sauce. The cooking time depends on how saucy you like the sauce.

Notes

The estimated nutrition facts do not include raisins, powdered sugar, or berry sauce and will vary on the actual brand of farmer's cheese and other ingredients used.

Nutrition

Calories: 242kcal (12%) | Carbohydrates: 21g (7%) | Protein: 16g (32%) | Fat: 10g (15%) | Saturated Fat: 5g (25%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 113mg (38%) | Sodium: 457mg (19%) | Potassium: 57mg (2%) | Fiber: 1g (4%) | Sugar: 16g (18%) | Vitamin A: 139IU (3%) | Calcium: 29mg (3%) | Iron: 1mg (6%)

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