Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lemon Swirl Cheesecake

On Mother's Day Sunday, my daughter Sarah treated my mum, the family and I to a lovely brunch - it was all delicious!  I've been baking again and decided I wanted to make on Saturday night something sweet to end the meal.  Since I already had cream cheese at home, I decided to try a Martha Stewart recipe from the "Cakes" cookbook I bought and had Martha sign at the Delicious Food Show last October.

The last cheesecake I've made a few times with great success is Chocolate Peanut Butter, which uses two packages of cream cheese.  Silly me, I thought the Martha recipe would need the same amount - wrong!  Despite reading through the recipe for Lemon Swirl Cheesecake, I completely skimmed over the TWO pounds of cream cheese required - that's four packages! - until I was ready to add the two packages I had at room temp to the mixing bowl.  I decided to go ahead with the recipe, but adapt the amount of sugar used and hoped it would still work.  Of course, with only half the cream cheese, it was a lot lower in the pan, but very tasty.  The family loved it and said they'd like to have it again.

Ingredients for the Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp sugar

Revised Ingredients for the Filling:
2 8-ounce bars cream cheese (I always use the "light" version)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, at room temp
1 cup Lemon Curd - I had a jar of Yorkshire curd at home, so I didn't make it from scratch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  I neglected to line the bottom of my 9" springform pan with parchment paper, as noted in the recipe, and I regretted it later.  It does help the crumb stay together when you're cutting slices, so I wouldn't skip this the next time.

Stir the crumbs, melted butter and sugar together and press mixture firmly into the bottom of your pan.  Bake until set, about 10 minutes.  Allow to cool *completely* before adding the filling.

Reduce oven temp to 325 degrees.  In your mixer bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes.  Reduce to low speed and add sugar in a slow, steady stream.  Add the salt and vanilla, beat until well combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each until just combined - do not overmix.  Make sure that you keep scraping the bowl throughout, so that all the ingredients are fully incorporated.  Pour filling over cooled crust.

Drop lemon curd in small dollops over top of filling.  To make this easier, I warmed my lemon curd in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds, since it can harden up quite a bit in the fridge and make this step a mess!  With a wooden skewer or toothpick, swirl the filling together over the top of the cake.

Now, since I don't use the Bain Marie bath method, I had my baking pan filled with water already set on the lower oven rack, to create the humidity required in the oven.  For this quantity, I baked the cheesecake for 65 minutes and allowed it to cool completely in the oven for at least another hour with the door opened.  I refrigerated it overnight and took it out before brunch to allow it to reach room temp.  It was garnished with fresh raspberries, which made a lovely sweet/tart combo.  Definitely a recipe I'll make again, even though I didn't use two pounds of cream cheese!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Ombre Pink Lemonade Birthday Cake

This year my sweet daughter Sarah celebrated a milestone birthday, her 25th!  Sarah is not one for change, which means that when I ask what flavour of cake she'd like for her birthday, in the past it's always been one of two types - triple chocolate almond or boxed rainbow sprinkle vanilla.  You can't beat the classics, can you?  However, this year the answer was different - "surprise me!"  I said that I wanted to try a pink lemonade for a while and she thought it sounded good, so I gave it a try.

The first recipe variation I'd read about was from Better Homes and Gardens, but the bakers' feedback online was not good at all.  I've been cautious lately about new recipes, after my most recent failure, so I appreciate the feedback from other bakers.  I dislike recipes that are overly sweet and the BHG recipe called for marshmallow Fluff as the icing base - that is WAY too sweet for me!  Searching online I found a recipe from good old Betty Crocker, which had great feedback.  Although the recipe was for cupcakes, it was easily adapted into a layer cake.  Here's Betty's version of Pink Lemonade Cupcakes.

What you need (as noted in the recipe) is a white/vanilla cake mix and prepared vanilla icing.  The flavour comes from the frozen pink lemonade concentrate.  Once the batter was prepared, I tinted all of it pale pink and used half the batter for the first layer.  I added more pink colour to the remaining batter to get the darker colour for the second layer.  It was my first time using gel pink colour, which is so easy to use.  A little goes a very long way, so using a toothpick to add the colour was the best technique.  Once the layers were baked and completely cooled, I placed a line of toothpicks around the layers as the guide to slice them into two halves, to get the ombre effect.

The next time I make it, will add less of the concentrate to the icing, because it became too runny.  After icing the cake, I put it back into the fridge right away to set a bit.  Once it hardened, I added the pink pearl beads (actually crispy rice bits) to decorate the top.  The flavour and the decoration got rave reviews with requests to make it again.