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Cheesecake-Swirled Carrot Cake

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Every so often, I get an idea for a recipe which I’m certain is so genius that no home cook or master chef has thought of it yet. 99.9999% of the time, it turns out that someone else has already covered that ground. It’s really challenging to come up with something truly novel and unique in the culinary field…at least for me it is.

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Such is the case with this cheesecake-swirled carrot cake. The idea came to me as I was brainstorming for some interesting twist on carrot cake to share as Easter approaches. The way I figured it, if carrot cake and sweet vanilla cream cheese frosting are delicious together (and they are), and cheesecake is also made with cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla (which it is), then carrot cake and cheesecake would be delicious together. If A and B, then C sort of logic…or something like that anyway.

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I initially contemplated stacking layers of carrot cake with cheesecake, but the idea seemed too similar to a basic carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. That was the point where I decided I’d bake the two cakes together in one pan, intermingled to create one grand cheesecake-swirled carrot cake. It was in my research phase of concocting this delicious confection that I discovered The Cheesecake Factory already beat me to the punch. Having been to The Cheesecake Factory a grand total of one, maybe two times in my life, probably about ten years ago, this was news to me. Perhaps you’ve already had theirs??

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So, turns out my grand idea isn’t nearly as revolutionary as I’d initially thought, but it is spectacularly delicious, nonetheless. Rich, moist carrot cake gets twisted with a creamy classic cheesecake to create a treat which is sure to be the hit of the Easter dessert buffet. Ol’ Peter Rabbit might even forego his basket of candy in favor of a slice of this carroty beauty.

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Cheesecake-Swirled Carrot Cake

Ingredients

For the Carrot Cake

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (plus more for greasing pan)
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups finely grated carrots (approximately 4 medium-sized carrots)
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins (optional, but recommended)

For the Cheesecake

  • 3 8-ounce bars of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10″ springform pan with butter.

For the Carrot Cake: In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Add the water, then beat for another minute. Add the carrots, then beat for another minute. On low speed, gradually beat in the dry mixture until well blended. Stir in the raisins.

For the Cheesecake: Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until well blended. Add the vanilla and the eggs one at a time, beating until well blended.

To Assemble the Cake: Spread about 1/2 of the carrot cake batter over the bottom of the prepared springform pan. Drop large spoonfuls of about 1/2 of the cheesecake mixture on top of the carrot cake. Drop large spoonfuls of the remaining carrot cake mixture on top of and around the cheesecake. Pour the remaining cheesecake mixture over the top. Use a spatula to smooth the cheesecake on the top. Bake for about 55-65 minutes, until set.

Cool at room temperature for about an hour, then refrigerate for a few hours until completely chilled.

** Carrot cake portion of the recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Carrot Cake recipe, found HERE.

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Cannoli Cheesecake

I was undecided – and frankly, feeling a bit resentful over the implication that we undecided folks were either not paying attention or have the intellect of potatoes. I’d paid attention, done my research, weighed the pros and cons, and reflected on my personal tastes. And yet, I was still undecided; twisted by my contrary desires, unable to decipher the antsy feeling in my gut.

I take important decisions such as these quite seriously, you know.

But how in the world is a person supposed to choose between cheesecake and cannoli?? (Oh, did you think I was talking about the presidential election?) I mean, the cheesecake is rich and refined – maybe a little too rich for my tastes – but an intriguing option nonetheless. The familiar cannoli is a bit rougher around the edges and sometimes messy to consume, yet it calls to me. I wanted both; I wanted neither. My stomach churned with restless indecision. What if I wanted something different? Another choice on the menu? A third-party option of sorts?

So I decided not to choose between the cannoli or the cheesecake. I wanted something else. So I voted for the cannoli cheesecake instead.

This cannoli cheesecake isn’t going to be making any speeches come inauguration day, but it’s a definite winner in my book. Creamy, sweetened ricotta is blended with cream cheese and hints of chocolate, candied orange, and cinnamon, then baked in the form of a decadent cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. The end result is lighter than a traditional New York style cheesecake, with the subtle texture of ricotta cannoli filling. It’s presidentially delicious.

Author’s Note – By no means is this post intending to compare our presidential candidates to delicious Italian desserts. That would just be silly. I did, in fact, vote for an actual candidate in today’s election; not a cannoli cheesecake. Though if this cannoli cheesecake were on the ballot, it probably would have had my support.

Today’s Focus on Technique – Cooking with a Bain Marie

Cooking in a bain-marie refers to using a water bath. The purpose of using a water bath is to moderate the oven heat so that delicate ingredients cook more slowly and evenly. The water provides a moist, indirect heat that allows for a more gentle cooking process, which is ideal for many egg-based desserts, such as cheesecake, custard, and creme brulee.

No special equipment is required for a bain-marie set-up. You can make use of a regular roasting pan, baking dish or baking pan. Place the pan or ramekin you’re cooking in within the larger baking dish or baking pan. Place the entire set up in the oven, then fill the outer pan with a layer of warm water. (Placing the set-up in the oven before filling it with water is usually the easiest approach.)

*Always wrap the bottom of springform pans to prevent water from seeping into the bottom.

Cannoli Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup graham crackers, finely crushed
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 pound cream cheese (2 8-ounce bars), softened to room temperature
  • 1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup candied orange peel, finely diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust: Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan*. Place the pan in the oven for 5 minutes to set the crust. Remove the pan from the oven and cool while you prepare the filling. (Leave the oven on.)

For the filling: Beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the ricotta cheese, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and orange peel. Beat for another minute until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time and beat just until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Securely wrap the bottom of the cooled springform pan with foil (to prevent water from seeping into the pan).

Pour the filling into the springform pan. Place the pan within a large baking sheet or baking pan. Place the water bath set-up on the middle oven rack, then pour a small layer of warm water into the baking sheet/baking pan, so that it comes about 1/2″ up the side of the springform pan.

Bake for 60-65 minutes. The filling will still be slightly jiggly in the center when done. Cool the cake for 30 minutes at room temperature, then refrigerate until completely chilled.

*You can use a smaller springform pan, but the cooking time will vary.

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

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It takes a lot for a non-chocolate dessert to excite me. It’s got to be something pretty special. Even still, I usually feel chocolate’s absence. I must admit that when I put this recipe together, I tried to rationalize a place for chocolate. I almost threw in a handful of chocolate chips, for good measure.

But I would have been wrong to add the chocolate. This luscious ice cream, with the rich taste of a slice of strawberry cheesecake, does not need a stitch of chocolate. It’s true. It’s perfectly decadent as it is. So deliciously decadent that I’ve been battling with the little angel and devil on my shoulder about whether I should exercise a bit of self-control or simply surrender and finish every last bite for breakfast.

Is there any better way to welcome summer than with some homemade ice cream made with hand-picked berries?? I think not.

Go ahead. Indulge.

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar*
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cup fresh strawberries, halved if large
  • 1 cup graham crackers, broken into small pieces
*Use more or less sugar, as desired, depending on the sweetness of your berries.

Directions

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add the sour cream, cream, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Add the strawberries and beat until the berries mostly break up, leaving a few delicious chunks. Refrigerate for about an hour. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to your machine’s directions. Add the graham crackers during the last 5-10 minutes of freezing.

Inspired by the Cheesecake Ice Cream recipe found here.

Peppermint Patty Cheesecake Bars

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For my grandfather’s 80th birthday, my sisters and I combined our talents in the kitchen to gift him with a membership to our very own Sweet Treats of the Month club. Each month during his 80th year of life, we presented him with various platters and tins of homemade cookies, candies, bars, muffins, and cakes. As my grandmother anxiously watched his waistline and blood pressure, my grandfather eagerly waited by the mailbox for his monthly deliveries. It worked out to be the perfect gift for a man who has just about everything he desires in life.

Turns out that my grandfather wasn’t the only one who thought a membership in the Sweet Treats of the Month club was a grand gift. As the holidays approached, my father made a not-so-subtle Christmas wish to be enrolled in that homemade goodies club. You can imagine his delight when Christmas brought him his first installment of goodies along with the notification of his enrollment in this very exclusive club.

This weekend, we’ll be traveling to see my parents and other family who we’ve yet to celebrate the holidays with. We’ll also be hand delivering my dad’s January installment of treats. The beautiful thing about this exclusive club is that it’s 100% customizable to the member’s tastes. This means that my dad’s year of treats will be heavily focused on dark chocolates, gingery goodies, oatmeal creations, and maybe even a few chocolate-drizzled macaroons.

So, I set out in search of the perfect recipe for the January installment of goodies. Then, as if in answer to my mission, a fellow food blogger, at Liv Life, recently posted a list of her top ten recipes for the year. Included in the list was a recipe for Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake Bars. They looked absolutely luscious and right up my dad’s alley. Her post led me to the original Food Network recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake Candy Cane Bars. After a few little modifications, aimed at running the minty flavor throughout the bars, and a substitution of peppermint patties for candy canes, I came up with these; Peppermint Patty Cheesecake Bars. Pretty sure my dad will be pleased!


Peppermint Patty Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from Food Network’s Chocolate Cheesecake Candy Cane Bars

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 15 Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (mint-flavored, if available), crushed
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter, melted

For the Filling

  • 1 bar (8 ounces) Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 2/3 cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 8 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon Peppermint Extract

For the Glaze

  • 4 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Light Corn Syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons Sour Cream
  • 4-5 Peppermint Patty candies, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 baking dish with foil. Combine crushed cookies with melted butter. Press the cookie mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Bake for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sour cream and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs and beat for another minute or two. Melt the chocolate slowly in the microwave or in a bowl set over a pot of boiling water, stirring frequently. Add the melted chocolate and the peppermint extract to the cream cheese mixture and mix until combined. Pour the filling over the prepared crust. Bake for 25-30 minutes until slightly puffed around the edges. The center will appear slightly loose. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 30 minutes.

To make the glaze, place bittersweet chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for about 30 seconds at a time, stirring periodically, until completely melted. Stir in the sour cream. Spread the glaze over the cheesecake. Sprinkle with pieces of the peppermint patty candies.  Refrigerate overnight to thoroughly chill. Use the foil to lift the cheesecake from the baking dish and cut into small squares or bars.

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Pie

You may be starting to suspect that I’ve got a little problem with Chocolate and Peanut Butter. First, the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie, then the Funny Bone Cupcakes, and now this; Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Pie. The first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? So, yeah. Maybe I’ve got a little thing for chocolate and peanut butter. But, cancel the intervention. It’s a lost cause. You’ll never get me to stop combining the two.

For today’s version of this fantastic flavor combination, I’ve made a peanut butter cheesecake, sprinkled with chocolate chips and baked in a chocolate cookie crust. It’s super simple to make and incredibly satisfying.

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 Chocolate Cookie Pie Crust, homemade or store-bought
  • 1/2 cup Mini Chocolate Chips
  • 2 (8-ounce) bars Cream Cheese, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup Peanut Butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 tsp Vanilla

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scatter most of the chocolate chips in the bottom of the pie crust, reserving some for the top. Beat together the cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar and vanilla until well combined. Add the eggs and blend for another minute or two until well combined. Spread the batter over the chocolate chips. Sprinkle with the remaining chocolate chips. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the center appears set. Allow to cool on a cooling rack for about an hour. Then, refrigerate until completely cool.

I should warn you, we took the kids apple picking yesterday. I foresee quite a few apple recipes in the near future.

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