Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cherries Jubilee Cheesecake

Hi there! Today, I bring you a cheesecake that I've been meaning to make since Christmas. Today was Steve's boss' birthday, so I finally had a reason. As much as I love dessert, it's always nice on my waistline when we don't keep them in the house. So, before I get into the recipe...Happy Birthday Amy!

I don't know if it's me and my general distaste for hard liquor, but I felt that the whiskey flavor in the cheesecake was strong enough, so I omitted the whiskey from the cherry topping. I've provided the recipe as intended, but since I was not going to be able to flambe in front of the recipients, it added to the decision to leave the topping plain this morning. In the future, I might reduce or omit the whiskey in the cheesecake and just prepare the topping as intended. Mind you that my judgement was based on pre-baked tastings. It's not like I can send the cheesecake with a slice missing. The final reviews were all great. As Steve put it, "he had to keep the wolves at bay until Amy could have her slice."

Cherries Jubilee Cheesecake
Makes 12 servings

25 chocolate wafer cookies (I used Oreos and omitted the sugar)
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp butter, melted

3 (8oz) pkgs cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 Jack Daniel's whiskey

Cherry topping (recipe follows)


~Using a food processor, process cookies to a crumb texture. Add the sugar and butter and mix until combined. Firmly press crust mixture into bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan that has been lightly coated with no-stick cooking spray.* Wrap foil under bottom and around outside of pan; set aside.

~Preheat oven to 325 degree F with a large roasting pan filled with 1 inch of warm water.

~In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar at high speed until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl frequently. Reduce mixer to low speed, and add eggs one at a time, jut until blended. Beat in cream and whiskey on medium speed and scrap down sides one more time. Pour filling into prepared crust. Place pan in water bath and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until edges are set but center has a slight giggle to it. Turn off oven. Using a sharp knife, loosen edges of cake from pan. Leave cheesecake in oven for about 30 minutes. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

~Cover and chill for 8 hours or overnight before removing from pan. Serve with Cherry topping.

Cherry Topping

1 (12oz) bag frozen pitted dark sweet cherries (unsweetened), thawed
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup Jack Daniel's whiskey (I omitted)
1/4 tsp almond extract


~Drain cherries into bowl, reserve the juice. Add enough water to cherry juice to equal 1/4 cup and set aside. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add cherries and sugar and cook until sugar is dissolved. Whisk cornstarch together with reserved cherry juice. Stir mixture into cherries. Cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.**

~To flambe: Place whiskey in 1-cup glass measuring cup. Microwave for 20 seconds. Immediately pour over warm cherries. Do not stir. Ignite sauce with match and swirl pan carefully until flames subside. Stir in extract. Spoon over cheesecake slices.


* I do not like using springform pans. No matter how much foil I use, water from the bath still seeps in and makes the crust soggy. I use a method introduced to me by good old Alton Brown. I use a 8 or 9-inch by 3-inch cake pan that I lightly coat with cooking spray or butter. I add a parchment round for the bottom and a parchment collar for the sides, which I then lightly coat with spray/butter. To depan, I place a cardboard round/large plate over top of cake. I flip the cake out and remove parchment round from the bottom of cake. Then I flip the cake onto the serving plate and remove the parchment collar.

**This is where I deviated and omitted the whiskey to flambe. I just added the almond extract here and allowed to cool before topping the cheesecake.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Chocolate Peppermint Cake

My holiday baking got a late start but then stalled due to a nasty cold I developed. However, I did manage to make this Peppermint Chocolate Cake for a holiday party at work.

This cake is extremely rich, but is definitely a crowd pleaser. The chocolate cake is a plain chocolate cake, and I might try to experiment to add a bit more moisture to it. The three layers are separated by a peppermint buttercream frosting and a chocolate ganache glaze is used to coat the cake. This has been requested for next year already, but I might make it a bit sooner, as my sweetie has indicated he wouldn't mind this in the house again....His waistline disagrees.

Chocolate Peppermint Cake - from Ladies' Home Journal

Makes 12 servings

For the cakes:
4 sticks (1lb) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for pans
3 cups cake flour, plus additional for pans
1 3/4 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
1 bar (4oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature

For the buttercream:
2oz (12 to 13) whole round hard peppermint candies, plus 1/2 cup chopped for garnish
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 pkg (12 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate ganache:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 bars (4oz each) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

~ Make cake: Preheat oven to 350 degree F and arrange racks in upper and lower thirds; butter 3 round 9x2-inch cake pans. Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper and dust pans with flour, tapping out excess.
~ Whisk boiling water into cocoa in a heat proof bowl until smooth. Add chocolate and let stand 1 minute. Whisk until smooth; let cool 5 minutes. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla extract.
~ Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in another bowl. Beat butter and sugars together in a large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down sides of bowl with a spatula after each addition. Reduce speed to low; alternately add flour and chocolate mixtures, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating until just combined. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans (about 4 cups each) and smooth tops.
~ Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of each cake comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pan, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer cakes in pans to a rack and let cool 5 minutes.
~Run a thin knife around edges of pans and place racks over pans; invert cakes onto racks. Peel off paper and invert cakes again so they are right side up on racks; cool completely. (you might have to level cake layers after cooling)

~Make filling: Meanwhile, place whole peppermint candies and confectioners' sugar in a food processor; pulse until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract. (I beat cream cheese, butter & extract with mixer before adding peppermint/sugar)

~Make glaze: Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over moderate heat. Remove from heat; add to chocolate and butter in a large bowl. Stir until smooth, about 5 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes.

~Assembly: Meanwhile, place 1 cake layer on an 8-inch cardboard round. Spread 1/2 of filling on top and cover with second cake layer, right side up. Spread with remaining filling and top with remaining cake layer, bottom side up. (I do this to ensure a smooth and flat top of the assembled cake) (At this point, I also use an icing spatula to remove excess filling that squeeze out sides and use it to fill in any gaps in between layers - this will help give you a smooth covering of glaze) Place cake on a wire rack over a baking pan (to catch any drippings) and pour some glaze over top, smoothing on sides with a small metal spatula. Continue to pour and spread glaze, using drippings in pan if necessary, until cake is evenly coated. Chill cake on rack until glaze is just set, about 15 minutes. Cake can be stored in refrigerator, but do not garnish with chopped candies until ready to serve (refrigerator softens candies).

~Transfer cake on cardboard round to a cake stand or plate. Bring to room temperature before serving and garnish with chopped candies around top edge of cake, if desired.

It seems like a lot of work, but really takes only a few hours to bake and assemble. I especially like how the cake doesn't have to look pristine, but really looks homemade. Enjoy!

Happy New Year!

I hope the holidays treated everyone well. I apologize for the lack of posting...In addition to getting used to this whole needing to post thing, the holiday's were extremely busy with traveling and entertaining.

Home (Wisconsin) was a blast and I was able to get my snow fix...Let's jus say a 5'3" girl running around in 3 feet of snow is exteremly entertaining for said girl's husband. Seeing family was great, but way too short, and I'm determined to develop a transport machine because the 18+ hours of "traveling" (for 2 1/2 hours of flight time), including a switch in airports, delays, and sleeping in O'Hare's ticketing area does not make me want to go home again.

After the complicated traveling, I hosted the in-laws for the week in between Christmas and New Year's. It was very nice to see them, but the additional 4 people and 1 dog in the house made it a bit tight. It did give me time to cook, so I have plenty of posts coming up. Stay tuned!