Allison wanted her birthday cake to be cheesecake. And as always, I had to do something special. Since different folks like different tastes, I decided to make individual cheesecakes with a smorgasbord of sauces. Each cheesecake is about the size of a cupcake, and is complete in itself. And then there are the toppings with which each person can choose and complement their cheesecake. All the recipes are in this article, even if some have appeared earlier in other articles.
For toppings, I made a ganache, a caramel, a praline sauce, lemon curd, strawberries, blueberries, and pumpkin. The latter is because this year we celebrate Alli’s birthday on Halloween, and Halloween goes well with pumpkin cheesecake.
I obviously made way too many, and too much toppings. I was surprised to find that the lemon curd and the strawberries were probably the favorites, with the caramel running third. The ganache was not a favorite; as daughter Mindy told me later- who wants chocolate with cheesecake? Cheesecake is almost the anti-chocolate food.- She also said that she felt pumpkin mousse was not a topping for cheesecake, but if you want a pumpkin cheesecake, you should put the pumpkin in the cheese layer.
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 2 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
- 3 Tbsp Butter
- 3 pkg (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
- 3 Eggs
- 2 cups Sour Cream at room temperature
- 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
The above Ingredient list is broken into 3 parts- bottom crust, middle filling, and topping.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Put cupcake papers into the bottom of 18 muffin cups
- For the crust, mix the graham crumbs, 2 Tablespoons sugar and butter until well blended, and press into the bottoms of the cupcake papers.
- For the filling, beat the cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 3/4 cup sugar until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Spoon over the crusts.
- Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the centers are almost set.
- For the topping, combine the sour cream, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a small bowl. Spread over the surface of the warm cupcakes. Return the cupcakes to the oven and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or over night.
- Remove the cupcake papers and arrange the individual cheesecakes for serving.
Since I made the seven toppings, I will give you recipes for each of them although you should probably only focus on a couple or three for your serving.
Ganache is a mixture of heavy cream and chocolate. I have used several of these in the past and am providing you with a pointer to some of those recipes as well as giving you a recipe herein. Perhaps the best previous recipe was with the home-made Ding Dongs. In that case, We wanted the ganache to set since it was an outside coating, and we wanted it to be shiny. So the amount of chocolate was more than the amount of cream, and we added fat (butter) for the gloss. Likewise, for holding cake pops together, we use a ganache. The recipe in the cake pop article is not strong enough compared to the recipe for white chocolate ganache in the Icings, Frostings and Glazes article; you really need a 4 to 1 ratio of chocolate to cream for cake pops. Here, we want a fairly liquid ganache, and use a 1 to 1 ratio.
- 8 oz. Chocolate Pieces (any flavor or type, including white)
- 1 cup Heavy Cream
- Place the chocolate in a microwave proof bowl
- Heat the cream in a sauce pan until small bubbles start to appear around the edges (just to a boil but not boiling!)
- Remove from the heat, and pour over the chocolate.
- Let the mixture sit undisturbed for 5 minutes
- Stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth
An alternative approach is to place the ingredients in a double boiler over simmering water and cook, stirring until it is smooth and all the chocolate is melted. Since the chocolate is in a heat proof bowl, and the sauce pan is out, this should be an easy change from heating the cream separately and waiting for the chocolate to melt.
Caramel is a mixture of heavy cream and sugar. Most of the caramel I have used I have made from salted caramel chips, and used a ganache recipe; it works. However, if you want a straight caramel without salt, then the recipe I have in the Guinness Gingerbread Cupcakes article does a nice job.
- 4 Tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cool it to room temperature and refrigerate it in a covered container. Reheat over low heat until smooth and spreadable.
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a sauce pan.
- Add the brown sugar and cream. Stir with a whisk until the sauce bubbles and gets sticky, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the vanilla and salt.
If ganache is Chocolate and Cream, and Caramel is Sugar and Cream, then I would say that Praline is Sugar and Sugar; it is a very sweet sauce, and this recipe adds chopped pecans to give it more of that Southern flavor.
- 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 Tablespooons cornstarch
- 1 cup dark corn syrup
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a small heavy sauce pan, stir together the brown sugar and cornstarch
- Stir in the corn syrup and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the nuts and vanilla.
- Cool slightly, and serve.
I tried many recipes for a lemon sauce, and found I didn’t like any of them. Then I found this recipe for Lemon Curd, and the way the people at the party liked it, I think it is a real winner. As one person said, “I can’t wait to have my toast with lemon curd in the morning”.
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 egg yolks in addition
- 2/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating each into the mixture. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look lumpy but will smooth out in the next step as it is cooked.
- In a heavy bottom sauce pan, cook the mixture over low heat until it smooths out. The lumpy appearance disappears as the butter in the mixture melts. Increase the heat to medium and continue to cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. The thickened mixture should leave a path on the back of a spoon, and will read 170 degrees F on a thermometer. Don’t let the mixture go beyond 170 degrees, or boil.
- Remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming. Chill the curd in the refrigerator; it will thicken as it cools.
The curd will keep in the refrigerator for a couple weeks, and can be frozen for a couple months.
For the strawberries, I made the Strawberry Sauce recipe that is macerated strawberries. Again, I had tried several different recipes to get a good strawberry sauce, and finally settle on this one; it is juicy and sweet.
- 16 oz. strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Mix the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Taste the resulting sauce, and if not sweet enough, add more sugar. Some recipes go to 1/2 cup of sugar, while others start with only 2 Tablespoons of sugar.
I started with the idea that I would macerate the blueberries, but then, who would want smashed blueberries. They really would not be very appetizing. So I left the blueberries whole; maceration seems to need the fruit to be cut, or opened such that its juices can flow.
For this “sauce” I added a couple tablespoons of sugar and some lemon zest to the blueberries, but next time, nothing but the berries. I think the zest turned people off; blueberry lovers want the simple pure fruit!
So finally, here is the pumpkin mousse that Mindy said was not proper for a cheesecake; she said the pumpkin should be cooked into the cheese layer of the cheesecake and not painted on top. However, this mousse would make an excellent filling for a simple pie- say graham cracker crust. And it would require no cooking- ready in a jiffy!
- 2 small boxes of instant vanilla pudding (sugar free is okay)
- 1 cup milk
- 1 -15 oz. can pure pumpkin/pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp clove
- In a large bowl, combine the vanilla pudding mix, milk, pumpkin and spices.
- Whisk until smooth
That is all there is too making the mousse. Use it as you like.