Monday, February 10, 2020

Mini Chocolate Cherry Cheesecakes

  Many many years ago, my sisters used to make Cherry Cheese Tarts. They were just simple little cheesecakes that didn't take many ingredients and were a cinch to throw together. It was one of those desserts that showed up at many family events and they were always a bit hit. A vanilla wafer went into the bottom of a cupcake liner, cheesecake batter was poured over the top, and then after they baked and cooled, they were topped with a spoonful of cherry pie filling. Perfect, right? They were SO good! But I thought, well, what if we do a chocolate version? Chocolate and cherry are a match made in heaven! (And frankly, why have I never done this until now?) I'll just do an Oreo cookie crust, a chocolate cheesecake filling, and my same favorite cherry pie filling on top! Awesome.
 I was originally just going to chocolate-ify the recipe that we used to use, but then I thought maybe it would be better to go with a whole new recipe. Since I didn't already have a go-to chocolate cheesecake recipe, I decided to try this recipe from a blog called Baker by Nature. It's a FABULOUS recipe. Not too sweet, VERY rich and chocolatey, and perfect if you want a small but decadent treat. And they look so delicious that you'll get the added bonus of everyone saying "ooooo and aaaaahhhhh" when you bring them to a party. LOL Btw, They're also the perfect thing to make if you want to impress somebody special. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'!

For the crust:
36 Oreo cookies, crushed into fine crumbs
4 tbs melted butter

 Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line two 12-mold muffin tins with paper liners. Spray liners lightly with non-stick spray and set aside until needed. Place the cookies in the body of a small food processor and pulse until the cookies are very fine crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until well combined. Divide the mixture between the cupcake liners and press it firmly into the bottom of each mold. Bake crusts in preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the tins on a wire rack to cool while you make the filling. Reduce oven to 300°F.

For the cheesecake:
7 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
16 ounces full-fat cream cheese
2/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

 Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a small pot of simmering water. Heat until the chocolate is completely melted, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula. Remove the pot from the heat, leaving the bowl of chocolate over the hot water. Set aside.
 In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the cream cheese and sour cream until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add in the sugar and cocoa powder and beat until smooth. Add in the eggs, egg yolks, and heavy cream and mix until combined,. Fold in the chocolate. Finally add in the vanilla and pulse for another 20 seconds. Divide the filling evenly among the cupcake liners. Bake cheesecakes for 15 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave the door closed for another 5 minutes. Remove the cheesecake pans from the oven and place the pans on a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool to the touch, place the pans in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours. Once the cheesecakes are completely cool, you can remove them from the pan.
Top with cherry pie filling or your topping of choice.

Whenever making any kind of cheesecake, be sure that all of your ingredients are room temperature. It makes all the difference in the final product!
This recipe originally called for a ganache topping, which is just chocolate melted with heavy cream. I decided to stick with cherry pie filling, since that was the original inspiration. Strawberry pie filling would be great too, or even just a swirl of whipped cream and a fresh raspberry on top. You do you!
If you don't need to make 24, you can either cut the entire recipe in half and just make 12, OR you can still make all 24 and then freeze the rest for another time!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Filling and Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

  Since I love to bake for my family and friends, it's not uncommon for me to occasionally receive a text from someone with a dessert idea. It's usually a picture of something FABULOUS along with a text that says some version of "you should make this!" (I know, I know..... what they're really saying is "you should make this FOR ME" LOL) I recently received such a text from my #1 Nephew, Dan, aka Daniel Boone.. His text didn't say "you should make this" but just left a link and a subtle message that his birthday is rapidly approaching hahaha. Daniel Boone, you know I will always make you a cake anytime, even when it isn't your birthday!
 So, I took a look at the recipe. TBH, it was almost exactly the same as Hershey's Black Magic Cake, which is always a favorite, but I wanted to try and share something new! So I figured, well, lets use the same idea of 3 layers of cake with 2 different kinds of cream cheese butter cream, and we'll try a different recipe for the cake itself. I happened to find THIS recipe on a website called Browneyed Baker (which I love), and it's called the Best Chocolate Cake. I have to say, it's right up there with some of the best chocolate cake recipes I've ever made! Usually the Black Magic Cake is my usual standard against which all other chocolate cakes are compared, but seriously, this recipe gives the BMC a run for its money. It uses coffee, which is a classic move to give it a deep rich chocolatey depth of flavor, and it also uses oil, which makes the most rich and moist cake you could ever want. That works for me! I gave the cake a test run for a few of my friends who were all too happy to be my taste testers. Thumbs up all around!
 So if you want to bake something for a birthday, or maybe for your sweetheart, give this one a try. You don't have to do all the fillings and butter creams, but if you do, it's perfectly decadent and over the top for your next special occasion!

For the cake: 
2 1/2 cups + 1 tbs all purpose flour 
3 cups granulated sugar 
1 cup + 1 tbs cocoa powder 
1 tbs baking soda 
1 1/2 tsp baking powder 
1 1/2 tsp salt 
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups strong black coffee
3/4 cup vegetable oil 
4 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the Cream Cheese Filling:
8 oz cream cheese
6 tbs softened butter
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
2-3 cups powdered sugar

For the Chocolate Cream Cheese Butter Cream:
3/4 cup butter
12 oz cream cheese
1 3/4 cups Hersheys cocoa powder
5 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons whole Milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

 Make the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Generously spray three 8-inch round cake pans with baking spray. (Be sure it's the kind that has added flour). Otherwise just grease and flour your pans. Set aside.
 In the bowl of an electric mixer, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix for an additional 20 seconds (the batter will be very thin). Divide the batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate the pans in the oven. Continue to bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cakes comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs), about 12 more minutes. Cool the cakes (in the pans) on wire racks for 20 minutes, then carefully turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely. While the cake is baking, make the butter creams.

Cream cheese filling:
Whip the cream cheese and the butter with an electric mixer on high speed for about 30 seconds. Once combined begin adding in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar at time, making sure each half cup is fully incorporated before mixing in another 1/2 cup. Add in the vanilla extract & whip one last time for about 30 more seconds on high and beat one minute more until nice & fluffy. Set aside.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting:
In another large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer and begin adding in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time again. Add in the cocoa and the milk and vanilla. Whip all of the ingredients until they are thoroughly incorporated. Beat at high speed for about one minute or until fluffy.

Now assemble the cake:
Place the bottom layer on a cake plate. Spread 1/2 of the cream cheese buttercream filling over the bottom cake layer. Top with the second cake layer and repeat the process. Lastly, top with the third layer.  Finally, frost the top layer gently with the chocolate cream cheese butter cream & all over the sides of the cake.

Ok, I know it looks like A LOT of steps, but it's really pretty straight forward. Just follow the recipe!
If you'd like MORE of the cream cheese filling (instead of just the two filling layers), double the amounts of the cream cheese filling recipe, and then frost all three layers, making sure to smooth the top layer. Chill it for about an hour, and then cover the whole cake with the chocolate frosting.
To make buttermilk, add a tbs of vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of whole milk. Microwave it for 30 seconds. The milk will curdle, which is exactly what you want. Works perfectly!
Btw, the inspiration and the buttercream recipes are from a blog called My Incredible Recipes!