Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

I’m pretty much a novice when it comes to cheesecake making. The first cheesecake I made was about a month ago for a potluck, and since then, I’ve been wanting to do this again! When the opportunity came up, I definitely knew which recipe to try. This time around I made this cheesecake, because I had heard so many raving reviews about Dorie Greenspan’s cheesecake recipe in Baking From My Home to Yours.

So, I made this cheesecake, simply plain and brought it to the potluck. People LOVED it, as did I. Unfortunately, this was my first water bath experience and somehow water got in there, so the crust was a little soggy. I did, however, make this again Christmas Day, wrapping more layers of foil very carefully, and the crust was perfect!

Tall and Creamy Cheesecake
Source: Baking From My Home to Yours

Ingredients:

For the crust:
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream, or a combination of the two (I used heavy cream)

Directions:

To make the crust:

  1. Butter a 9-inch springform pan—choose one that has sides that are 2 3/4 inches high (if the sides are lower, you will have cheesecake batter leftover)—and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil; put the pan on a baking sheet.
  2. Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist.  Turn the ingredients into the buttered springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides (I like to use a round glass to make it flat.). Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway mark on the sides—this doesn’t have to be a precision job. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
  3. Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

To make the cheesecake:

  1. Put a kettle of water on to boil (or microwave water in a bowl).
  2. Working in a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and lives up to the creamy part of its name, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition—you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.
  3. Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in the roaster pan.
  4. Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter will reach the brim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
  5. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
  6. After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
  7. When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours, although overnight would be better.

A fun cake decorating trick….

This past weekend, I made red velvet cupcakes for a local nestie GTG. I was so excited to make these from scratch for the first time, and so, I enlisted the help from another southern gal, Paula Deen. Sadly, Paula Deen let me down with some dry, flavorless red velvet cupcakes. I was a little embarrassed to bring these, since I hate presenting flop recipes to anyone, but I didn’t have time or ingredients to try again! So, what’s a girl to do? Make them look pretty!

I decided to make a simple cream cheese frosting (block of cream cheese, stick of butter, vanilla extract and powdered sugar until you get the right texture). Then, I colored the batch red and green. You know where this is going…

Yep, I wanted to swirl colors. Let me tell you..the pastry bag and I usually have a good fight over getting icing in the bag without getting it all over the top of the bag, my hands, etc. So, I found this tip on Cake Central’s forums about how to swirl with wayy less mess! Let me tell you…get your saran wrap ready, because you will want to make everything swirl colors after seeing how easy this is!

First, place a good sized sheet of saran wrap on your counter and plop icing in the center.

Roll the saran wrap into a thin log, cutting off excess wrap on the ends.

Slip the two colors (or three if you so dare) in the pastry bag, and squeeze icing out until the colors all appear.

Then, pipe!

Easy peasy swirl colors without the mess! :)

Turkey Cake Pops!

For Thanksgiving, I knew I had a great excuse to try one of Bakerella’s creations again. I thought these were so so cute, and looked easy enough, so I started my adventures across Baton Rouge to find these cute decorations to make my turkeys!

I found everything I needed at Wal-Mart and Michael’s, so thankfully, it was easy to find what was needed. :)

I decided to start with making a basic white cake and add golden yellow and orange food coloring to each 8″ cake for Thanksgiving colors.

Turkey Cake Pops
Source: Bakerella

Ingredients:

  • 9×13 baked and cooled cake (any flavor)
  • chocolate candy melts or bark
  • 2 cups of buttercream (any flavor)
  • espresso beans (makes turkey’s head)
  • rainbow chip sprinkles (makes turkey’s beak)
  • red heart sprinkles (makes turkey’s snood…and yes, I googled to find the correct term for that body part LOL!)
  • stick pretzels (makes turkey’s legs)
  • caramel candy corn (makes turkey’s feathers)
  • black gel decorating icing or black food coloring pen (to draw eyes)
  • lollipop sticks

Directions:

  1. Using your hands, crumble cooled cake into small crumbs in a bowl. Add buttercream, one dollop at a time, mixing thoroughly, until the mixture can form easily into shapes. Be careful, because putting too much icing will make the mixture very sticky and difficult to dip into chocolate.
  2. Form the cake mixture into balls and then stick them in the freezer for about 20 minutes to set.
  3. In the meantime, put your chocolate in a double boiler to melt it. Take the cake balls out a few at a time, and put the lollipop stick in through the bottom. Then, dip in chocolate and set on a cookie sheet to dry.
  4. After all cake balls are dry, using chocolate as a glue, affix the decorations onto the cake ball to turn it into a turkey!

Pumpkin Cheesecake


I remember how excited I was to finally have a springform pan. I could make cheesecakes galore! However, with being on a diet lately, I had no excuse to make one, until now. Work had a Thanksgiving potluck, and I thought, perfect excuse to make a PUMPKIN cheesecake. I have had my eye on this pumpkin cheesecake recipe that I found on The Way the Cookie Crumbles, and it did not disappoint. I was still getting compliments on the cheesecake a couple of days later!

I topped it with the caramel I made earlier that was a little too soft to be candy, and it ended up being a little too hard to be a topping too. It made a bit of a mess for people trying to slice up cheesecake, but oh well! :)

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake
Source:  The Way the Cookie Crumbles, where (crust from Cooks Illustrated, filling adapted from Gourmet via Epicurious)

Ingredients:

(Crust)

  • 5 ounces graham crackers (9 whole crackers), broken into large pieces
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

(Filling)

  • 1½ cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup (3.5 ounces) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon (optional)
  • ½ cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

Directions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350F. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Pulse crackers, sugar, and spices in food processor until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses. Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix with rubber spatula until evenly moistened. Turn crumbs into prepared springform pan and, using hand, spread crumbs into even layer. Using flat-bottomed ramekin or drinking glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom, then use a soup spoon to press and smooth crumbs into edges of pan. Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.
  2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. In a medium bowl, stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Add granulated sugar mixture to cream cheese and beat for another 2 minutes. In a medium bowl (or the same one), whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and liqueur (if using) until combined. Beat at medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes.
  3. Pour filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks). Bake until center is just set and measures 140 to 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 50 to 60 minutes.
  4. Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 3 hours. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours. Remove sides of pan and bring to room temperature before serving.

Birthday Cake-Palooza

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Last weekend, my husband’s family celebrated his Dad’s birthday! I was honored that my MIL asked me to make the cake for his birthday. Little did she know that I’d be bringing two cakes!

One being carrot cake, which my husband told me is his favorite. Apparently, he loved it so much that he was sad when it got stale, and he had to throw it away! That’s a big baking compliment right there!

I halved the original recipe to make a personal 6 inch cake, since everyone else in the family usually goes for the standard birthday cake.

I also made a different cream cheese frosting than the recipe indicates, which was inspired by this recipe which I used last year.

Carrot Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
Source: Epicurious (Gourmet)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups grated peeled carrots
  • 1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (omitted)
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans. Line bottom of pans with waxed paper. Butter and flour paper; tap out excess flour.
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, walnuts and ginger. Divide batter between prepared pans.
  3. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks. Peel off waxed paper; cool cakes completely. For my cakes, it took about 20-25 minutes in the oven, since they were 6 inch

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For the standard birthday cake, I used Duncan Hines French Vanilla mix with 2 tsp. almond extract added. Shocker, I know, but I was also preparing for a garage sale that weekend. I was pretty swamped! This is covered in Wilton Buttercream using ALL butter! :)

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My first tiered cake

cake

I must be losing my mind! I could have SWORN that I blogged about my first tiered cake. This was the final cake that I made for Wilton Course 3 (Fondant & Tiered Cakes). Our instructor was super awesome, and let our minds run wild for the final cake. Since my family reunion was the next day, I decided to make a funky LSU colored cake.

This cake was made using boxed white cake mix (gasp!), Wilton buttercream and homemade marshmallow fondant. The filling was a homemade pineapple filling. My husband and I absolutely love this filling. It’s so simple to make too!

To explain why this baker used cake mix, I had a pretty busy week, so I wanted the baking day, which was a Thursday night, to be as simple as possible. I know from scratch isn’t much harder, but hey, I did add some extracts to make it a little more flavorful. Give a girl some credit! :)

My family LOVED the cake. They wanted to make it part of the reunion raffle, but I was too embarrassed for them to make it into a prize. (I have a lot of trouble getting compliments on my cakes…I’d just rather people dig in and enjoy!)

So, I made my dad make the first cut into it, because my aunts and uncles refused since they wanted it in the raffle so badly. Thanks Dad!

A cool thing that came out of it was that my cousin, who just had a precious baby boy, asked me to make her little boy’s 1 year birthday party cake and smash cake! I’m so flattered, and I cannot WAIT to do this next Spring! :)

Wilton Course 3: Class 2

I’m really enjoying Course 3 so far. I’ve learned a lot of new buttercream techniques ,and while I know a good bit about fondant, I have also learned a few new tips and tricks as well. The thing that was the most fun was making the fondant rose (with Gum-Tex mixed in, essentially making it into gumpaste).

rose

I really enjoy making gumpaste/fondant flowers. In Fondant and Gumpaste, I learned how to make the carnation and fantasy flower, which I really enjoyed. So, I’m happy about making some of these flowers for my future final cake!! Our teacher is giving us the freedom to make whatever for the class, so I’m excited about the design!

We also made a present cake at the end of the class, which was really cool to make. I was a little afraid of bows, but these are easy peasy. Ignore the cracks in my bow though, because my gum-tex fondant was drying very quickly on me. :( The kleenex in the bow is to help it set in a bow shape, rather than falling in.

cake
For this cake, I wanted to do a simple yellow cake. For this, I turned to Joy of Baking. I would say this cake wasn’t that impressive tasting, so I’ll keep on searching for something more promising next time. :)

I covered the cake with homemade marshmallow fondant – recipe here.

Yellow Butter Cake
Source: Joy of Baking

Ingredients

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup (240 ml) milk
  • 2 teaspoons (8 grams) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (300 grams) sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (20 grams) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
  • 12 tablespoons (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C).  Spray two 9-inch x 1 1/2 inch (23 x 3.75 cm) cake pans with Bakers Joy, line bottoms with parchment paper, then spray again with Bakers Joy.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl lightly combine the egg yolks, 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk, and vanilla extract.
  3. In the bowl of your electric mixer combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds or until blended.  Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup (180 ml) milk.  Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  
  4. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Gradually add the egg mixture, in 3 additions, beating about 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the egg.
  5. Divide the batter and pour into the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with an offset spatula.  (Pans will be about half full.)  Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in center.
  6. Place the cakes on a wire rack to cool, in their pans, for about 10 minutes.  Then invert the cakes onto a greased rack.  To prevent splitting, reinvert cakes so that tops are right side up.  Cool completely before frosting.

Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake

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While it may not be the prettiest icing job, (I tried to make it swirly and messy to look like dirt) I have to admit this will be one tasty cake for my sister-in-law. Today is her birthday, and I told her I wanted to make her a cake. I know she likes chocolate, so I got the holy grail of chocolate cake recipes to food bloggers everywhere: Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake.

I will admit, when they say the batter will be thin, it will be thin as a drink! You will think you botched the recipe and did something wrong. However, as weird as this is, the cake comes out completely perfect and from the tops I shaved off, it tastes incredibly rich, moist and amazing!

These are a few royal icing flowers that I made for the cake. I learned these in course 2 of the Wilton Cake Decorating classes. From top to bottom: apple blossoms, primrose, pansies and daffodils.

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My skills are VERY rusty (it’s been a year since I’ve made these) but I think I did an OK job.

Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake
Source: Hershey’s Kitchens

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost cake. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

There are many variations to this recipe if you don’t have 2 – 9″ pans. I ended up doing the 3 – 8″ pans variation below:
Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

For the frosting, I used two batches of Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Frosting. This was the perfect amount with a little leftover to use on the shaved cake tops to eventually make cake balls!

Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
  • 2/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Cherrybrook Cupcakes: Review

I received this mix a long time ago, courtesy of Blake Makes. Between moving, planning the wedding, etc. I totally forgot that I had this mix (plus a coupon for frosting).The company is Cherrybrook Kitchen, and they are known for baking mixes for those of you with certain food allergies.

Last week, DH’s family had a BBQ and invited his cousins/aunts over. One of the kids was allergic to peanuts, so I knew that this was the time to use the mix. (I would rather be better safe than sorry since I didn’t have any labels to my baking staples to ensure they were peanut free.) I went to Target and got the frosting with the coupon I received as well and went to town!

I will say that this makes a very weird batter. Almost smelled like pancakes and when the mini cupcakes baked up, it was VERY light and airy. Tasted good too, but not like the standard yellow cupcake I’m used to.

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The frosting reminded me more of a cinnamon roll icing. It was translucent and you cannot pipe this on. It isn’t stiff at all. It tastes just like a standard powdered sugar glaze/icing. So, it’s not too bad.

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All in all, this is good for those of you with allergies. I wouldn’t buy this again for myself, because it’s very pricey ($4 for a mix and $4 for a frosting). I will say though, the kid who was allergic to peanuts went to town eating these! So, if I ever have to bake again for someone with allergies, I know where to turn!

Cupcake Pops

I made cupcake pops for my shower hostesses this past weekend. They came out awesome! Check out how I did it here!