Cakes

Cherry Sharlotka

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Summer, summer, summer! I love summer! Some of the greatest foods come out of those hot mid-year months. Peaches, plums, apricots, watermelons. And cherries. How I love me some sweet, ruby red cherries.

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I mean seriously. Are you not drooling right now? Those are so delectable. And fresh cherries are the best, straight from the farmer’s market, still warm from the sun. During the summer, my favorite dessert is just a bowl of Bing cherries. They really have a taste all their own: sweet, a little tart, deep and rich. They taste like summer, like June, like the sun. Have you picked up yet that I love cherries?

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So now, this is my take on a Russian sharlotka. Traditionally a sponge-like cake stuffed to the brim with apples (see this Smitten Kitchen recipe for a fantastic take on the original recipe). I was intrigued by the recipe, but thought it was a bit out of season, more of an autumn dessert with the apples. I thought of what else I could use to replace the Granny Smiths and decided…cherries. It must be cherries.

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Do you see that cake jam packed with cherries? So fruity and light, without being too sweet. I cut down the sugar content in the cake batter since we were dealing with sweet cherries instead of tart apples. A dash of cardamom for spice, a little bourbon vanilla for fragrance. Dress it with some creme fraiche mixed with honey for a creamy and sharp topping. Too good!

What’s your favorite summer fruit? THG

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Cherry Sharklotka
1 lb. fresh Bing cherries, cut in half and pitted
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. bourbon vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 1/2 tsp. honey

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease and flour two medium (5 inch) ramekins. Split the cherries halves between each ramekin, filling to the top.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until thick and ribboned. Add vanilla and whisk in. Add flour and cardamom and whisk to combine. Pour batter over cherries in ramekin, filling to the top. Tap ramekins on the counter to break up air bubbles and allow batter to settle throughout the cherries.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool for 15 minutes and turn out of ramekins onto a cooking rack. In the meantime, whisk together creme fraiche and honey and set aside. Serve at room temperature with creme fraiche topping.

Serves 4

Champagne Plum Cake

Champagne Plum Cake

I have missed you all so much!

My world has finally settled down.  Papers signed, boxes moved, walls painted.  We had about six weeks of complete hectic insanity, and we are finally settling into our actual life.  Sigh.  It’s so good to be home.

Fresh Red Plums

We have a great backyard.  Roses, and jasmine, fruit trees.  So, so many fruit trees.  As far as we can tell right now, we have a lemon tree, a Meyer lemon tree, an apple tree, what looks like a loquat tree, and my personal favorite, a red plum tree.  These plums are insanely delicious.  Sweet and juicy and tart and so, so much flavor.  Unlike anything you would find in a grocery store.  These taste like pure summer; warm from the sun, juice bursting out with each bite, the snap when your teeth break through the skin.  God, I love plums.  Especially these plums.

Champagne Plum Cake

I decided the first thing I would make at our new house would be with these plums.  But what?  I thought about a pie or a cobbler, but I don’t like pie or cobbler.  And I definitely wanted to partake in the first baking adventure at our home.  So, cake it was.

Soft, spongy cake, flavored with vanilla and dry champagne, with a thick layer of red plums.  The super sweet cake with a bite of tart plum.  Whipped cream and fresh blueberries.  This IS summer.

Champagne Plum Cake

Look at that incredible color!  They are the most beautiful deep purple-red.  Gorgeous.

Do you have any great fruit trees at your home?  What’s your favorite thing to make with them?  THG

Champagne Plum Cake

Champagne Plum Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar, divided

1/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup dry champagne

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

7 egg whites

pinch of cream of tartar

3 cups fresh red plums, pitted and sliced

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line a 9” springform pan with parchment paper.  Butter and flour parchment paper, knocking out excess flour.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, sift cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1/2 cup sugar together.  Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add canola oil, champagne and vanilla.  Do not mix yet.

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy.  Add remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and whisk egg whites to stiff peaks.  Add 1/4 of egg whites to dry ingredient mixture mix to combine.  Add remaining egg whites and fold until well combined. 

Pour 1/2 cake batter into springform pan.  Arrange 1/2 the plum slices on top of batter.  Add remaining batter on top of plum slices.  Add remaining plum on top of batter.  The plums will sink down quite a bit, but shouldn’t go all the way to the bottom if you do it this way.

Bake in oven until golden on top and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes.  Allow to cool.

Flip springform pan upside-down onto cake plate and remove from cake (so that sunken plums are now on top).  Serve with fresh whipped cream and blueberries.

Makes one 9” cake

Cara Cara and Poppyseed Olive Oil Cake

Cara Caras and Poppyseeds

This past Saturday was my mom’s birthday.

We went into the city for a night of drinks and dinner.  My aunt Kym and her friend (affectionately referred to in my family as “That-Michele-Lady”) came up for the celebration.

We started with drinks at Bar 888, a posh bar in the InterContinental Hotel in SoMa.  They specialize in very fancy cocktails, most made with grappa, an Italian brandy made from grapes.  From there, we walked to Chinatown and went to one of my family’s favorite Chinese restaurants, Cathay House.  Great food, nice ambiance, and a great view of the California Street cable cars, right in the heart of Chinatown.  We usually go at Christmas time to see the lights and window displays in Union Square, and dinner has been at Cathay House the last few years.  Delish.

We finished off the night at Johnny Foley’s Irish House.  Great Irish pub, with really terrific pub-style food, though we stuck to the bar that evening.  Very fun, easygoing city night with the family.

Cara Cara Poppyseed Olive Oil Cake

Although we had a good time, I felt bad that my mom didn’t get a proper birthday dessert.  Aside from fortune cookies.  And, of course, lemon drops.  But those don’t count

Smile

No, she definitely deserved some type of cake.  And I had just the thing: cara cara and poppyseed olive oil cake.

Cara Caras

My darling friend Kat of Mekatsu Mekatsu gave these to me.  Her uncle grows them, and he gave her and her husband a bushel.  She, in turn, gave some to me, knowing that I would love them.  And I did. 

Cara Cara Poppyseed Olive Oil Cake

Cara caras are a red flesh naval orange that taste like a cross between a orange and a grapefruit.  Very citrusy and sweet.  The flesh is a beautiful, coral color, incredibly juicy and fragrant.  Yum yum yum.  Perfect for an olive oil cake.

Cara Cara Poppyseed Olive Oil Cakes

I love citrus fruits in olive oil cakes.  The rich, dense quality of the cake with the bright fresh flavors of the citrus are such a great compliment.  These cakes take on an almost muffin-like quality, but not dry at all.  No, they are incredibly moist; crumbly and nutty from the olive oil, not-too-sweet and zesty from the cara cara.  The poppyseeds add a nice little pop to the texture. 

Cara Caras and Poppyseeds

A little raspberry sauce with a splash of cara cara juice in it, and fresh vanilla whipped cream.  Simple, elegant, perfectly suiting to a birthday.  My mom’s birthday.

Cara Cara Poppyseed Olive Oil Cake

Happy Birthday to my dear mama.  Thank you for giving me life, unconditional love, and a place to bake all my crazy concoctions over the past two years. 

Winking smile

I love you Mama.  THG

Cara Cara Poppyseed Olive Oil Cake

Cara Cara Poppyseed Olive Oil Cakes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cake flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

5 eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup cara cara juice

zest of 1 cara cara

1/4 cup poppyseeds

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Butter and flour a large muffin tin.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar together until smooth and thick.  While whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil and whisk to incorporate.  Add vanilla and whisk.  Add in cara cara juice and zest and whisk until smooth and well combined.  Pour in 1/3 of the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until smooth.  Repeat twice more with the rest of the flour mixture until all is combined and the batter is smooth and without any lumps.  Fold in the poppyseeds until evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins about 2/3 full.  Bake in the middle of the oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the tin for about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.  Serve with raspberry sauce and whipped cream.

Makes 10-12 cakes

Raspberry Sauce

1 small package fresh raspberries

juice of 1 cara cara

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup sugar

In a small saucepan, combine the raspberries, cara cara juice, lemon juice and sugar over medium-high heat.  Cook until bubbling.  Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until raspberries have broken down and mixture begins to thicken slightly, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Strain the raspberry mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl, being sure to not allow any seeds to pass through.  Stir the sauce until smooth and let cool to room temperature.

Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups

Caiti’s Cupcakes

This is Caiti.

Caiti

Quite aerodynamic, isn’t she?

Caiti is my baby sister.  And yesterday was her 23rd birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAITI!  And, in typical Caiti fashion, we started celebrating on Friday and will continue through to the 18th, which is my mom’s birthday.  Yup.  February pretty much revolves around her.  Total baby-of-the-family behavior. 

Winking smile

Cherries and Chocolate

Anyhoo, a couple of weeks ago Caiti asked me if I would make cupcakes for her birthday. 

“I definitely want Funfetti cupcakes.  But from scratch.”

Funfetti cupcakes.  Only the most sophisticated and nuanced of flavors for such a discerning palette. 

Winking smile

Oh, who am I kidding?  Funfetti is DELICIOUS.

Funfetti Cupcakes

I used Martha Stewart’s white cake recipe and folded in some rainbow jimmies.

(Sidenote: I could only get rainbow and chocolate jimmies combined at the grocery store.  So I handpicked all of the chocolate jimmies out of the mix.  Seriously.  Feel free to not adopt my completely OCD level of anal-retentiveness when making these cupcakes and just use whatever sprinkles you have.  Spare yourselves; it’s too late for me.)

So I was definitely making Funfetti cupcakes, that was clear.  But I decided to do a second flavor, just so everyone could have a choice.  But what to do?

Cherry Marshmallows

I was on my way to work one morning and talking with my mom about it.

“I don’t know what second flavor to do for Caiti’s birthday cupcakes.  I could do chocolate or red velvet, but I really want to do something different, something special, something very…Caiti.”

“Why don’t you do a cupcake after her favorite ice cream?”

Oh, Mama.  You’re a genius.

Cherry Garcia Cupcakes

Cherry Garcia cupcakes my friends.

Cherry cake, cherry chunks, chocolate chips and chocolate buttercream frosting.

It tasted like a little baked cake of the ice cream.  Seriously good.

Cherry Marshmallows

I decided the cupcakes needed a little something extra, since they were birthday cupcakes for little sis.  SO, I made cherry marshmallows and coated them in sprinkles: red glitter sugar for the Cherry Garcia cupcakes, rainbow non-pareils and pink glitter sugar for the Funfetti cupcakes.

(Second sidenote: I made sure the pink glitter sugar was in, as Caiti refers to it, “Betsey pink”.  Meaning, Betsey Johnson pink.  Caiti’s favorite designer.  It’s crazy how much of her money has gone into Betsey’s pockets.  But that’s a story for another day

Smile
)

I was hoping to cut the marshmallows into little balls with the melon baller.  But have you ever tried to cut fresh marshmallow with a melon baller?  What you end up with is knotted, shapeless lumps of soft, gooey candy.  Not so pretty.  So I just cut them into squares and tried to make them look as cute as possible.  I think they still worked.

Cherries
Funfetti Cupcakes

I decided to keep the Cherry Garcia cupcakes a secret until Friday, which was when we had her family celebration with everyone over.  And I’ll tell you, the look on her face when I told her what kind of cupcakes they were was totally worth everything.  She’s such a little kid when she gets excited; all giggles and little dance moves.

So, Happy Birthday to my little brat.  You’re a pain, and completely ridiculous, and you drive me totally crazy sometimes.  I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Smile

Love you Caiti-did.  THG

Cherry Garcia Cupcakes

Funfetti Cupcakes

(adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe here)

1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour

2 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. milk

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

3 large egg whites, room temperature

2 jars rainbow jimmies

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Line regular-sized muffin tins with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together.  In a large mixer bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and slowly add in sugar and beat until incorporated.  Whisk milk and vanilla together in a measuring cup.  With the mixer on low, add in a third the flour mixture.  Mix until fully incorporated.  Add in a third of the milk mixture and beat until combined.  Repeat, alternating each mixture, until all is added (being sure to end with the flour mixture).  Set aside.

In the mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold a third of the egg whites into the batter.  Repeat until all egg whites are added.  Fold the sprinkles into the batter until well distributed.

Pour batter 2/3 way up in each cupcake liner.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of cupcake comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.  Let cool on a rack.

Makes approximately 12 cupcakes

***For the cherry cupcakes, reduce milk to 1/4 cup and vanilla to 1tsp.  Mix 1/2 cup maraschino cherry juice into milk mixture.  Fold in 1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips and 1 1/2 cups chopped maraschino cherries.

Buttercream Frosting

16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Cream butter and 1/2 cup powdered sugar until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes.  Slowly add in powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until well incorporated.  Increase speed to high and beat until light and fluffy.  Add in vanilla extract and beat until just incorporated.

***For chocolate buttercream, reduce vanilla to 2 tsp. and add 3 heaping Tbsp. of cocoa powder to butter before beating.

Cherry Marshmallows

1 1/2 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin

3/4 cup maraschino cherry juice, divided

1/3 water

1 cup sugar

large pinch of salt

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice.  Whisk to coat all gelatin.  Set aside.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk 1/2 cup maraschino cherry juice, water, sugar and salt over medium-high heat.  Once boiling, cover pot for 3 minutes.  Remove cover and wash down sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to prevent crystallization.  Heat syrup without stirring to 240ºF.  Remove from heat.  Quickly whisk in gelatin mixture, making sure not to let it bubble over.

Add syrup mixture to stand mixer and whisk, starting on low to prevent splashing and gradually increasing to high.  Whisk until tripled in volume and fluffy, about 10-12 minutes. 

Spray a 3×9 inch glass meatloaf pan.  Blot to remove any excess grease.  Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan.  Smooth the top with a spatula.  Let set, uncovered, for 4-6 hours.

Dump marshmallow out on a greased cutting board.  Using a hot, sharp knife, cut the marshmallows into 1” squares.  Roll in the coating of your choice.

Makes approximately 30 marshmallows

Molten Chocolate Torte with Rose Whipped Cream

Molten Chocolate Torte

I moved into my new position/office today at work.

Yay!

This calls for a celebration.  Let’s make a torte!

Molten Chocolate Torte with Rose Whipped Cream

An ooey, gooey, rich, indulgent molten chocolate torte.  Drool.

Cracked, thick crusty top.  Soft, spongy sides.  Thick, creamy, almost pudding-y center.  Chocolate perfection.

Let’s make sure to use all bittersweet chocolate, just so it’s that much richer.  Because what’s the point in making a chocolate torte if not to make it as rich as possible?

Molten Chocolate Torte

Grind up some dried rose petals.  Take a deep breath.  So fragrant, so flowery.  Go ahead and mix some of that rose powder in with cocoa powder.  Then go ahead and sprinkle that mixture all over the top of your torte.  Your taste buds will thank you.

Molten Chocolate Torte with Rose Whipped Cream

I am currently OBSESSED with flavored whipped cream.  Whipped cream with rose sugar?  Insane. 

Make this.  Make this frequently.  It’s just too good.

Molten Chocolate Torte with Rose Whipped Cream

Is there any better way to celebrate than with a plate o’ chocolate?  If you can think of a better way, I’d like to know.

Is this dessert healthy?  Absolutely not.  Is it worth the extra calories?  Absolutely yes. 

Make this torte to celebrate your new job.  Make this torte to celebrate your new house.  Make this torte to celebrate your new baby.  Make this torte to celebrate a new episode of Real Housewives.  Just.  Make.  This.  Torte. 

But bring me some while you’re at it

Winking smile
THG

Molten Chocolate Torte with Rose Whipped Cream

Molten Chocolate Torte

12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken into small chunks

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cubed

Large pinch of salt

5 eggs, room temperature

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp. vanilla

3 Tbsp. cocoa powder

3 Tbsp. ground dried rose petals

Preheat oven to 375º.

Cut a parchment paper round to fit into the bottom of a 7” springform pan.  Butter the bottom and sides of pan.  Wrap aluminum foil around the outside bottom and side of the pan, about half way up.  Set aside.

In a double boiler set over medium-high heat, melt chocolate, butter and salt together until smooth and creamy.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer, combine eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Beat on high until thick and doubled in volume, about 8-10 minutes.  Fold chocolate into egg mixture until smooth and well combined.  Pour mixture into prepared springform pan.  Tap pan on the counter to release air bubbles.

Place springform pan into a large roasting pan.  Fill pan with hot water until it reaches 1/2 way up the springform pan.  Bake in the middle of the oven until the top and sides are set but center is still jiggling, about 40-45 minutes.  Remove springform pan from waterbath and let cool to room temperature.  Remove foil from around bottom of pan.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours.  Combine cocoa powder and ground rose petals.  Remove torte from refrigerator and carefully separate the sides of the springform pan to remove torte.  Sprinkle with cocoa powder mixture evenly over the top of the torte.  Serve at room temperature.

Serves 8

Rose Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy cream

3 Tbsp. ground dried rose petals

3 Tbsp. powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a stand mixer, beat heavy cream until soft peaks just begin to form.  Add ground rose petals, powdered sugar and vanilla extract.  Whip until at desired thickness, taking care not to over whip (this will happen fast, so be careful).  Refrigerate until ready for use.

Makes approx. 4 cups whipped cream

Chocolate Peppermint Christmas Tree Cupcakes

Chocolate Peppermint Christmas Tree Cupcakes

My best friend Emily has a Christmas party every year.  Cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, desserts.  Very fun, very festive.  We go every year.

Christmas Cupcake Wrappers

Almost every year I’ve brought a dessert to the party.  Cookies one year, a cheesecake another.  This year, I decided cupcakes were the best way to go.

Cupcake Dry Ingredients
Adding Oil to Dry Ingredients

Adding Espresso to Dry Ingredients
Espresso

Cupcakes are great for these type of meet and mingle parties.  I went with small, bite-sized cupcakes instead of the regular size, so that guests who are standing and trying to balance a plate and a glass can down them in one or two bites.  I made the cakes using Paula Deen’s chocolate cake recipe.  Surprisingly, there is no butter in this cake mix; it’s an oil cake.  There is, however, a good amount of sour cream for texture and to add a nice bite to the sweet chocolate.  I also added a little peppermint extract to go with the candy cane marshmallow meringue frosting.

Baked Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes
Baked Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

They were scrumptious.  I topped them off with a few pearl sprinkles for Christmas ornaments and a vanilla meringue star (I used my meringue recipe from here, but removed the candy cane and added about 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract).  The stars began to droop a bit as the night wore on, but they were yummy nonetheless.

Party Dessert Table

Emily’s dessert table.  She made brownie/strawberry Santa hats that were adorable and delicious!  She also did a hot chocolate bar, which I indulged in quite a bit.  So fun.

I’ll be spending my Christmas gorging on crab, fondue, mountains of cookies and apple cider.  I’ve always been a big fan of spending the last week of the year stuffing my face with anything that isn’t nailed down.  Next week I’ll be posting some of our Christmas recipes that will work just as well for any New Year’s dinners or brunches you may be holding as well.

To each and everyone of you, happy happy holidays!  THG

Chocolate Peppermint Christmas Cupcakes

Chocolate Peppermint Christmas Cupcakes

(adapted from Paula Deen’s recipe here)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup instant espresso, cooled

3 large eggs

8 oz. sour cream

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. peppermint extract

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Line small cupcake tins with paper liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients well.  Add oil, espresso and eggs.  Mix well until smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in sour cream, vanilla extract and peppermint extract and mix until well combined and smooth.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake tins, about 3/4 full.  Bake in the center of the oven until toothpick comes out clean in the center, about 12-15 minutes.  Allow to cool in tins about 10 minutes, and transfer out of tins and onto cooling rack to completely cool.

Candy Cane Marshmallow Meringue

3 egg whites

1 cup sugar

large pinch of cream of tartar

green food coloring

1/2 cup crushed candy cane

In a double boiler, heat egg whites and sugar over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved.  Transfer to mixer and add cream of tartar.  Whip egg whites with whisk attachment on high speed until soft peaks form.  Add food coloring to desired shade and whip egg whites to stiff peaks.  Fold in candy cane pieces.

Spoon meringue into pastry bag and pipe in a swirled, Christmas-tree like pattern on top of cooled cupcakes.  Top with sprinkles and meringue stars.

Makes approximately 40 cupcakes

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce

This is Christie.

Christie

Christie recently married this guy, Ryan.

Christie and Ryan

Ryan is the older brother to these girls.

O'Malior Siblings

Yes, that’s me.  And yes, I just took a really long time to explain that Christie is my sister-in-law.  But I promise it was worth it, kay?  (And yes, the other girl is my sister Caiti.  But she’s a story for another day.)

ANYHOO, Christie is my sister-in-law.  She became my sister-in-law at the beginning of October, in a beautiful (and cold!) wedding at Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe.  2 weeks later was Christie’s birthday.  So basically, the month of October is Christie month here.  I’m pretty sure she planned it that way

Winking smile

A week before her birthday, my mom was asking her what she wanted for her birthday dinner.  “Sausage, chili, and a pumpkin cheesecake with caramel sauce”.  Well, my hand immediately shot up at the mention of cheesecake like I was in elementary school and playing heads-up Seven-Up.  Because, I love cheesecake.  But more than cheesecake, I love making cheesecake.  There are just so many ways to go about cheesecake, from chocolate marble, to raspberry, to traditional New York cheesecake, the possibilities are endless.  So, I happily volunteered for the job of cheesecake maker.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce

Now, there are two different ways to bake a cheesecake: straight baking in the oven or in a water bath.  In the oven, no water bath, creates a denser, creamier, more torte-like consistency.  I find this is the best method for cheesecakes being made with heavier and heartier ingredients: sweet potato, peanut butter, traditional New York style, and pumpkin.  Baking cheesecake in a water bath results in a much lighter, fluffier cheesecake, with more of a custard or flan-like consistency.  I like to bake fruit and chocolate flavored cakes this way.  Either way though, you’re getting a damn-good dessert.  Seriously.  I have yet to have a bad cheesecake (knock on wood).

But back to Christie’s pumpkin cheesecake.  I knew I wanted to do a no-water bath cake, I knew I wanted to do a gingersnap crust (best pairing for pumpkin), and I knew I wanted it to be real creamcheese-y.  I have a basic cheesecake “base” that I’ve adapted over the years that works really well for most styles.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Close-Up

I will get better at this photo-taking thing, I promise

Smile

I personally like to do a combination of cream cheese to ricotta cheese; it creates the creamiest and silkiest texture.  I also prefer to forgo the pre-packaged “pumpkin pie spice” usually advised for these types of cheesecakes.  My favorite spice ratio is 1 part nutmeg, allspice and ground cloves to 2 parts cinnamon and ground ginger.  It’s a little spicier and richer and very gingery.  But feel free to adapt it to whatever your tastes suit.  I also use less of the pumpkin than most recipes call for; I prefer it more cheesecake and less pumpkin pie.

Caramel Sauce

As for the caramel sauce, I used a great recipe I’ve used many times before; butter, sugar, heavy cream.  You can add vanilla extract to make it more fragrant or sea salt for more of a fleur de sel caramel flavor.  It’s a fantastic sauce for topping any type of dessert, but it went especially well with the pumpkin cheesecake.

And Christie seemed very happy, which was the most important part.  Shawn, who also gets a cheesecake every year on his birthday, tried to hoard the remainder of the cake, but to no avail.  It went pretty quick, but when doesn’t cheesecake with caramel sauce go quick?  But don’t just read about awesome pumpkin cheesecake, make some for yourself.  You won’t be sorry.  THG

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce

Crust:

2 cups gingersnap crumbs

4 Tbsp. melted butter

1/4 cup sugar

Cheesecake filling:

3 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup ricotta cheese, at room temperature

1 cup pumpkin puree

3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a medium size bowl, combine gingersnap crumbs, melted butter and sugar.  Mix until all crumbs are coated with butter.  Press mixture into the bottom of a 9” spring-form pan.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden-brown.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the cream and ricotta cheeses together until fluffy.  Add pumpkin puree, eggs, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla and mix well.  Add spices and mix until just incorporated.

Pour cheesecake filling into prepared spring-form pan with the crust.  Bake in the center of the oven for 45-60 minutes, until set but still slightly jiggly in the center.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap pressed against the surface of the cake and refrigerate at least 2 hours until set.

Caramel Sauce

1 cup sugar

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

In a medium saucepan, heat sugar over medium-high heat.  Whisk continuously while sugar melts.  When sugar begins to boil, stop whisking.  Watch carefully.  When the sugar has reached a light amber color, immediately remove from heat and add butter.  Whisk until all butter is melted.  Add cream and whisk until smooth.  Allow caramel sauce to cool to room temperature in saucepan.  When cooled, pour into a glass jar and refrigerate.  When using the sauce, microwave in jar 20-30 seconds to heat up.

Serves 8-10 slices