They say it’s your birthday. Well, Happy Birthday to You!
Today’s post is part of a birthday surprise for Brandy, a young (oh yes, you are!) blogging friend. I was asked to participate in a Virtual Surprise Party for Brandy’s 30th birthday. You may know her as Nutmeg Nanny (two guesses on that name and one answer is yes, she is a nanny!) but I know her as a sweet, quirky girl who I’ve now seen get engaged, shop for a wedding dress and celebrate an important birthday; all through the magic of Twitter.
This is a communal effort but I love that it’s been kept small and more intimate. Each of us has taken on one course and if given the opportunity I’ll always choose dessert. I love making them. I love eating them. Nuff said?
I’ve been dying to make a cheesecake with some flavors from one of my favorite cakes and now I had the opportunity. To be honest I was CERTAIN that I would include some form of adult libation. I mean how could you NOT include booze in a dessert for a girl who puts on the ‘The 12 Boozy Days of Christmas?’ each year.
As it turns out; this was also Abby Dodge’s subject for February’s #baketogether challenge. Each month Abby gives us inspiration and a recipe and we can run with it. Follow as is or in Abby’s term, ‘Switch It Up’ if we choose. I did choose. I loved the crust with the ground almonds and my guests raved over the salted caramel and chocolate topping.
This was a trial; one of the few times when I struggled to get something to work; to elicit that OMG response upon tasting. I tried, I really did. I started with wanting something that would work with pomegranate arils but also had my heart set on caramel, so I mixed some pomegranate liqueur into a batch of caramel. It was OK. But just OK and that sort of meant I pitched it. I wanted stellar!
I ended up ditching the idea of pomegranate altogether; as gorgeous as they are…they are also so seasonal and I didn’t want to limit this cheesecake to just the middle of winter so moving on..
I decided to make the cake and maybe get an inspiration from the end result.The cheesecake alone is filled with things I love. Almonds in the crust, mascarpone and white chocolate in the base…it seemed easy enough to add just a bit of somethin’ somethin’ to the caramel, right? Wrong! I asked for suggestions on Twitter; I even contemplated making several caramel sauces and doing a taste test but in the end it really was simple. White chocolate in the base. Almonds in the crust? No I did not add a coconut liqueur…but opted to just KISS it (Keep It Simple Stupid) and went with the Scharffenberger Chocolate Liqueur that I had just made for Valentine gifts and a martini. Once that decision was made it was so perfect I was only irritated with myself that I had suffered getting there!
Make this dessert for someone you love. Make it for you. But make it. I made this for Brandy and only wish she could share it with me. Happy Birthday Sweetie!
A rich cheesecake is covered with a lightly salted chocolate and caramel topping.
- 3/4 cup toasted, ground almonds
- 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 6 ounces good quality white chocolate, chopped
- 2 - 8 oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature
- 16 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
- 1 cups granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- Boiling water for baking
- 16 oz sour cream
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 oz butter
- 3-4 Tbsp Chocolate Liqueur (optional)
- Maldon Sea Salt Flakes
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
- Tightly wrap the outside of a 9-inch diameter springform pan with 3 layers of heavy-duty foil
- Mix the almonds, cracker crumbs, and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Add the butter and process until combined and moist crumbs are formed
- Press the almond mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan (not up the sides)
- Bake the crust until it is set and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Cool. Decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
- Melt the white chocolate gently over simmering water or on low heat in the microwave.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese, melted chocolate, sugar and salt in a large bowl until smooth, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Beat in the vanilla.
- Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
- Pour the cheese mixture over the cooled crust in the pan.
- Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
- Carefully put the pan into the oven and bake until the center of the cheesecake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, 55 minutes (the cake will become firm when it is cold).
- Remove the cake from the oven, top with the sour cream topping and return to the oven for 12 more minutes.
- Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and cool for 1 hour.
- In a small, heavy bottomed pot, melt the sugar with water. Cook over high heat until deep amber in color; do not stir. Remove from heat, and carefully whisk in the cream (it will bubble up considerably; make sure you use a larger pot than you think you will need!). Whisk in the butter; returning the pan to low heat if necessary to get the butter to melt.
- Add the Chocolate Liqueur to taste and let cool to room temp. Spread over the top of the cheesecake with a thin layer of the caramel.
- Lightly sprinkle the top with Maldon sea salt.
- Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
I've found the best way to cut this cheesecake is with a warm knife. Put some water into a glass and have a paper towel handy. Before each slice; let the knife rest in the water for a few moments, wipe off the water with the paper towel and slice.
I hope you will enjoy our Virtual Birthday Party…visit some of my cohorts for additional courses:
1. Soup Course- Healthy Green Kitchen
2. Salad Course- Living Mostly Meatless
3. Pasta Course- Cooking With Books
4. Meat Course- Farmgirl Gourmet
5. Cheese Course- Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body