Black and White Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Birthdays, a time of year that I love… especially when it’s not mine. I think I may actually be the only person on Earth to prefer other people’s birthdays to my own, but that’s just how it is. There is one specific problem when it comes to my birthdays: I’m the baker, thus I make my own cakes – not the most enjoyable experience (especially when putting the candles on!).Read More »

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The 2-4-1: Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

Need I say more? Even the name of these scrumptious little delights get my mouth watering, metaphorically … and a little literally!

I’ve made these cupcakes before and was more than happy to make them again; my excuse this time being that it had been a while since I’d taken anything to the office and my colleagues were suffering from baked-good-withdrawal-symptoms.  Ahem … any excuse to bake!

These cupcakes followed the pretty basic vanilla cupcake recipe; to be honest the hardest part of the challenge was not to eat all the strawberries before they could be used.  I tend to follow a one-for-you / one-for me strategy when it comes to strawberries and have resorted to buying twice the amount in the recipe just so there’s enough for everyone.

This time there was the challenge of not eating the cupcakes when I was chopping them up, and when I was distributing them among the cupcake cases. I’m a hopeless case!

Despite all these setbacks, I did manage to distribute the chopped up strawberries to all the cupcake cases and quickly filled the cases with batter  (up to 2/3rds full).  I figured this would stop me eating any more strawberries!

The cupcakes took around 25 minutes to bake – as my oven has randomly decided to take much more time to cook anything – and came out a light golden brown. Yum. The first cupcake went straight to my mum, as she didn’t want any cream-cheese frosting (wtf?!). The rest went onto a wire rack to cool down while I made my icing.

It is the icing/decoration that turns these strawberry cupcakes into cheesecake cupcakes.  I whipped up a batch of Hummingbird Bakery cream cheese frosting, and twirled it in the famous Hummingbird Bakery style.  Once this was done I crushed up a few digestive biscuits and sprinkled them on top of the icing.

The cupcakes were packed up and taken to work the next day – all 24 were gone by lunchtime!  Thankfully I did manage to get my hands on a cupcake to ‘taste test‘ before they all disappeared.

What can I say about this recipe? It’s literally a two-for-one situation: the strawberry cupcake on the bottom is tasty enough on it’s own, but add the ‘cheesecake’ part on top – what else could you want in life?

A Not-So-Pretty-But-Very-Tasty Chocolate Cheesecake

I’m not the biggest fan of chocolate-based desserts, as I find them too rich and quite sickening.  That’s not to say I don’t eat chocolate, or wouldn’t try something new and chocolate related – I just tend to prefer the fruity version.

However, The Hummingbird Bakery claims that: ‘there must be a chocolate version of everything’ and apparently everyone – present company excluded – agrees.

I offered a colleague a baked ‘thank-you’ treat for helping me out with a project and you can imagine my surprise (or lack thereof) when he requested a chocolate cheesecake. * Sigh * – well – if you can’t beat them … use the Hummingbird Bakery recipe to join them.

Every aspect of this cheesecake has some sort of chocolate in it; so if you’re like me and are still on the same bar of chocolate that you started 6 months ago you might want to pop to the shops and buy some more.

The base was a simple job of crushing up lots of biscuits, adding in some cocoa powder and mixing it all together with melted butter.  I squished this into my base-lined and pre-greased cake tin and popped it into the fridge to cool while I started on the cheesy bit.

The cheesy part of the recipe used pretty much the same method as the New York Cheesecake but with melted chocolate added into the mix.  To melt the chocolate, you must heat it over a saucepan of simmering water. Naturally, I couldn’t find any ‘heatproof’ bowls so had to make do with a plastic one that I held on top of the pan whilst making sure the bottom didn’t touch the metal as it had a tendency to melt on contact – great.

When combining the cheese to the chocolate, it’s best to stir the cream cheese mixture into the melted chocolate a little at a time.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is to ensure that the temperatures even out nicely.  Thankfully, I managed not to mess this bit up. The chocolate-cheese mix was then spooned onto the biscuit base and put in the oven with a water bath for 40-50 minutes.

BAKING TIP:

DON’T trust your gut instinct – take the cheesecake out EVEN if you think it’s not quite done.

Why? The cake will continue cooking once it’s out the oven; so taking it out when it’s ‘almost’ cooked will ensure it’s perfect by the time it’s cooled.  If you’re like me and you panic and keep it in the oven for longer it will crack – like this cheesecake did!

The first thing I thought was ‘how am I going to make this look good enough to take to work?!’ The answer was nothing. Ah well – home-baked cakes can’t always look stunningly beautiful. I gave up and left the cheesecake to cool on the counter while I got on with other stuff (i.e. I had a nap).

My brother sauntered into the kitchen while I was upstairs and helped himself to about a quarter of the cheesecake! What, you may ask, was his reason for eating something that was clearly labelled ‘DO NOT EAT – TAKING TO WORK’ ? Well, as the older brother, apparently he trumps colleagues on baked goods.

However, he somehow managed to cut out the majority of the crack! His chocolate craving ended up being a blessing in disguise – I could admit to him eating it and no one would know that there had been cracks in it. Genius!

The chocolate cheesecake didn’t last very long once it was put out in the department kitchen the next day; apparently the Humingbird Bakery’s statement is pretty spot on.  Everyone really enjoyed it – and although it was the teeniest bit too rich for me – I would actually consider making it again.

Easy Breezy Lemon Squeezy Cheesecake

This is my first Mary Berry Cheesecake, and in true Diary of a Bake-A-Holic style I looked for the easiest one possible. The name of this recipe therefore made the choice ridiculously easy for me.

 I went out specifically to buy some condensed milk and got a tiny bit carried away with all the recipes on the tins. About 20 minutes later I realised what I was doing and grabbed the first tin of condensed milk I saw and dashed home to start baking.

The base of the cheesecake consisted of digestive biscuits, melted butter and a bit of Demerera sugar.  I was determined not to have any big lumpy bits of biscuit so whipped out the pestle and mortar and ground my way through the pack. Naturally one or two had to be eaten along the way – for quality assurance, of course.

I finally managed to get all the biscuits crushed and mixed with the butter and sugar, squished the somewhat dry mixture into the bottom of the cake tin and got it into the fridge to cool while I worked on the next layer. Mary Berry, I hope you know what you’re doing with these crumbly bases!

Then came the hard part – grating lemon zests! Over the course of this blog, I have realised that it is impossible for me to grate anything without injuring myself. I have therefore come up with a fool-proof plan to get it done without any type of injury … bribe someone else to do it. This time, three lemons were grated by a loving father, who received tea and a digestive biscuit for his troubles (thanks dad!).

With the hardest job out of the way, I set about measuring out the cheese, single cream and condensed milk ready to be mixed.  This is where I encountered a slight hitch … my condensed milk was actually ‘caramelised’ condensed milk.  Oops. I had been so engrossed in the recipes on the sides of the tin I didn’t bother to look at what I was buying! I rushed to the shops again while I fogged off a ‘digestive biscuit covered with caramelised condensed milk’ snack onto my family (which, I’d like to point out, is very tasty!).

Once back, I whisked everything together and attempted to spread the mixture evenly on top of the biscuit base.  This went in the fridge overnight and the bowl was taken away by the family to be ‘taste tested’ – a term I wish I didn’t teach them!

After a hectic day the next day I came home to a family sitting expectantly and waiting for me to get the cheesecake out; when I say ‘sitting expectantly’, I actually mean they were glaring at me and pointing at the kitchen as soon as I walked through the door (charming aren’t they?!).

 In my rush to get home I managed to buy double cream instead of whipping cream but I figured it was all relative and started to whisk it anyway. It didn’t help that I didn’t whisk it as much as I probably should have – but I put this down to pressure from the evil glares I was getting for taking so long. A few slice strawberries later and ‘et voila’, we have an Easy Lemon Cheesecake ready to be served.

Once everyone had had their first piece and stopped glaring at me, I could tuck into my own slice of cheesecake. Oh my, Mary Berry, you have done it again! The biscuit base was delectable – the Demerera sugar adds a lovely sweet crunch to it all.  If that wasn’t enough the actual cheesy part – I dribble just thinking about it.  It was very sweet, which may not be to all tastes, but is definitely to mine.  It wasn’t sickly sweet however, but was light and creamy, with the lemon cutting through the sweetness perfectly.

 

Basically this is a delight of a cheesecake.  The only downside was that the double cream made the cake look a little runny, but this is only an aesthetic hitch and thus shouldn’t count in any way. OK, so looks count a bit but it tastes so good that frankly, no one cared.

Strawberries and Cream … and Cheese … and Biscuits!

It was my dad’s birthday recently and I wanted to bake something special.  Everyone has been getting a bit sick of the constant cupcakes, and I still haven’t managed to find the right pie dishes, so I decided on the Strawberries and Cream cheesecake.

I started off by making the base for the cheesecake; I love doing this mainly because I means there’s digestives in the house, but also because I can bash the living daylights out of them! The crushed biscuits got stirred in with the melted butter, squished into the cake tin and put into the oven for 30minutes.

Then came the hardest part of the recipe – chopping and cooking the strawberries without eating them all. I’d definitely suggest buying and extra box of strawberries for you to nibble on while you work, to save enough for the actual cheesecake.

The chopped strawberries were put into a saucepan with sugar and a little water, boiled and reduced by half.  I think I put in a bit too much water but left it as it was.

While this was cooking, I realised I didn’t put the right measurement of strawberries in… damn.  I let the first batch cook and took out the strawberries once it was done.  I then put in the rest of the strawberries into the simmering sugar water, added a tiny bit more sugar and cooked that.

I then prepared the cheesy bit of the cheesecake by beating the cream cheese and sugar and adding the eggs one at a time.  I stirred in the strawberries but left a little of the juice left, so that the consistency wouldn’t be too runny.  This went into the oven with a water-bath on the shelf underneath for about 30 minutes.

Now my biggest problem with cheesecakes to date have been cracks; cheesecakes are meant to have bit of a wobble in the middle once it’s ready but I always overcook it for fear of it being too wobbly and undercooking.  This time I stuck to the recommended time exactly, and it didn’t crack! Well, that’s a lie, there was a tiny crack but a huge improvement to the Lime and chocolate cheesecake!

This was left out to cool and then to chill in the fridge overnight. The next morning I started on the cream part of the cheesecake.  I whisked together the mascarpone and sugar in one bowl and the double cream in another.  I then folded the two together and spread it over the cheesecake.  This went back into the fridge to chill until after the birthday dinner.

After dinner, I chopped up a few fresh strawberries and added a candle to come out – this year my dad was officially one (we only had one candle!). I was a bit worried it would be too sweet and I’m  not the biggest fan of cream. But I had nothing to worry about, all the different ingredients complimented each other really well and everyone really enjoyed it, especially my dad.

 

Be aware that this is quite a sweet treat so some people might not be the biggest fans. But don’t be put off – this is definately a great dessert and will be something i’ll bake for Wimbledon season. If you want a really nice, indulgent cheesecake that’s not too heavy, then I’d definitely suggest you try this!

The Quick and Easy Cheesecake.

 Yes people it is officially here, an easy way to make cheesecake! No cracks, no water baths, just nice and simple.

Well this is what I thought at least when I chose to make the ‘Fridge-Set Banana Cheesecake’ this weekend.  We had guests over for dinner and I was running out of layer cakes to bake.  My solution was to make a cheesecake instead but I didn’t have time to bake it the night before.  Luckily I saw this recipe, it’s quick to make (or at least quicker than other cheesecakes) and can set in a couple hours. Perfect.

The recipe suggested putting the biscuits in a food processor and adding the melted butter while it was mixing.  I am slightly attached to my method of preparing the base however and used a mortar and pestle and mixed the butter by hand.  There’s just something about bashing biscuits to a pulp that’s too satisfying to let the mixer do the job for me.

The mix went into the cake tin, which was lined with greaseproof paper, and pressed and flattened. This went into the fridge before starting the top, cheesy part of the cheesecake.

Now the recipe states here to put the gelatine leaves into water but the instructions on my pack stated it needed only 5 minutes in water, so I left this till just before I needed to use it.

The first part of the topping was made with mashed bananas and orange juice cooked through.  I do have a tip to put in here:  Try to use very ripe bananas, they’ll be much easier to mash – I felt like a complete weakling attempting to mash the barely ripened bananas we had!

I also had no idea what a cooked banana was meant to look like so I guessed (generally not the best of ideas when baking).  Once that was done, I put it aside to cool and started on the next part: whipping the cream cheese, sugar and eggs.  Now this was something I can do! The cream was then whipped in another bowl and folded into the cream cheese mix.

This was when I soaked the gelatine leaves and mixed it into the banana mixture until it had all melted. After spooning a bit of the cheese mixture into the banana to even up the temperature, I added the banana mix into the rest of the cheese mix. This went on top of the cheesecake base and straight back into the fridge to hopefully set in time.

 

Now I’ve never made any type of jelly before, or even used gelatine so I was praying that 1. It had set, 2. I didn’t muck up the temperatures.  Thankfully all was ok when I took out the cheesecake after dinner to serve.  I put a couple banana slices on top to decorate and dished it up for everyone.

 

The cheesecake went down a treat! The texture is firmer than a normal cheesecake, as the recipe says but it was delicious. Furthermore, the banana didn’t overpower in anyway – it was a really nice, light dessert.  One I will definitely make again.

I do have one confession to make though; thankfully it only managed to be in my slice so I got away with it! Apparently not all the gelatine was melted and I got a tiny little piece in my slice.  Oops!

Stand Back Mint, Chocolate Officially Has A Newer, Better Partner!

Yeah it does!

So, I’ve been looking at something to bake for a get together I was having this weekend with some school friends, one of which has FINALLY come back to London after travelling the world for Lord knows how long.

I finally decided on the Chocolate and Lime Cheesecake for two reasons: 1.) it screams ‘make me’ ever time I look through the recipe book; 2.) I wanted to make it when I could have as much as I want without looking like a complete pig; and 3.) for some reason I relate it to chocolate and mint (one of my favourite partnerships ever).

I think its safe to say this baking session would, in my own geeky way, be very exciting for me.  I started by battering some double chocolate cookies, mixing it with some melted butter and squishing the mixture into my prepared tin to go in the fridge for 30mins.  I’ve found an even better way to deal with the cookies: using a pestle and mortar.  A lot more fun than blitzing and less dangerous than banging it in a plastic bag.

While the base was cooling I prepared the cheesy topping.  Now this recipe wanted me to grate and juice six limes… SIX!!! My nails always suffer, so I found a helper (my lovely dad) and begged him to help, which he did because he is amazing. I started mixing the cream cheese with sugar and eggs and finally added the lime juice and zest.  Once mixed properly I poured it into the tin.


The recipe calls for a 20cm diameter tin so I was a bit suprised when my 23cm diameter tin was filled to the top. Even though there was no logical reason for it happening, I said a teeny little prayer that the cheesecake wouldn’t rise and put it in the oven for 35 minutes.

Thankfully the cake didn’t rise and to my delight there were no cracks…for all of 5 minutes! When I came back there was a huge crack down the middle. Ah well; it was magnificent while it lasted.  I left the cake to cool to room temperature and then left it overnight in the fridge, ready to decorate the next day.

Sunday brought with it more grating but this time I did it, as my dad more than deserved a break.  I managed to grate the lime and chocolate over the cake with only one injury, which I assure you is a huge achievement for me.  The cheesecake got wrapped up and shipped over to my friends ready for dessert.

Now in pretty much every post I talk about the smell of the cakes; how they are moorish and lovely. I feel I have to warn you,  nothing compares to the smell of this cheesecake. You can almost taste the tanginess of the lime; the smell is no match for the taste however.

This is officially on the top of the list with the Pecan cheesecake as my absolute favourite recipe.  It tasted amazing! It was a big cake and over half of it was consumed by four women, that just says it all really.

You think mint and chocolate go together well? Then you absolutely have to try this.

A Taste of Heaven

It was my brother’s birthday this week and family has a tradition where I decorate the house to surprise them (not so much of a surprise after 23 years!).  However recently, I’ve added baking a cake of their choice to the tradition.  This year my brother ordered a cheesecake, so I decided on the Butterscotch and Pecan cheesecake.

This cake has to be made in three parts: the base, the cheesy bit, and the butterscotch topping.  This time the base was made from digestives biscuits and butter.  Normal people might blend the biscuits quickly and easily but me? I thought it was much more fun to put the biscuits in a bag and bash them with a rolling pin.  It’s very good anger therapy and actually quite fun! The base got squished into the cake tin and left to cool for 30 minutes.

Then came the cheesy part.  I whisked up the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla essence.  I had two mini problems when doing this bit: I had run out of pecans from the apple cake last week and my brother apparently doesn’t like nuts. Grr. So I made an executive decision and left out the pecans.  The cheese topping went onto the biscuit base and into the oven for 40 minutes.  Once again, I was too scared to actually put the tin in the water bath, so I put it in the level below.

The cheesecake came out of the oven looking amazingly tasty.  There was one small crack on the side but otherwise was perfect.  After cooling on the wire rack and in the fridge for a good few hours I started on the butterscotch top.

I’ve never made butterscotch before and generally love the taste so this was the most exciting part for me.  Once the butter and sugar has melted, the pan was taken off the hob to mix in the rest.  It was quite hard to actually mix in everything and making sure there were no lumps or bumps.  The butterscotch then went on top of the cheesecake and back in the fridge overnight.

The cake got whipped out the next day with a  candle balanced on top to sing happy birthday.  I was a bit disappointed with the butterscotch as it wasn’t as hard or as smooth as it looks in the recipe’s picture, even though it had been in the fridge overnight.


So not my prettiest cake but the taste, oh the taste definitely made up for it.  There are actually no words to describe the taste of this cheesecake.  This is officially my favourite recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery books.  Even without the pecans… oh my! According to my brother this was the best cheesecake he’s ever tasted.

Just goes to show, looks aren’t always everything; as long as it tastes amazing, no one cares what it looked like.  To be honest no one will even remember what it looked like.  They will however, remember the taste.

The Cheesiest Cheesecake Ever Made

I’ve written quite a few blog posts now and I’m sure most of you that read it have by now realised I’m a tiny bit odd and like to make things difficult for myself.  If you’re a new reader, then I’m sure you’ll figure this out really quickly today.  This week, I not only decided to make my first cheesecake; I decided to make it while on crutches.  Yep, like I said, tiny bit odd and difficult.

Baking a cheesecake takes quite a while, so please be advised to make it a day in advance.  The first part of the ‘process’ is making the biscuit bottom.  I was expecting some McVittie type product to get thrown in the mix and was surprised when the recipe only wanted flour, baking powder, butter and sugar.  Regardless I mixed them all together and pressed them into my pre-greased cake tin.

This went in the oven for 25-30mins to cook.  I had a chair in the kitchen to help me manage and decided to sit through the cooking time and while away the minutes.  Unfortunately, with my luck, the base took quite a while longer to cook and I found out that it’s actually really boring to sit in a kitchen with nothing to do!

The base finally came out of the oven and onto the rack to cool.  This consisted of more sitting around for me; except this time I begged a family member to bring my book downstairs so I didn’t die of boredom.

Once the base was cool enough, I whipped up the second part of the cheesecake, the cheesy bit.  I was taken aback by the amount of cream cheese required (still won’t admit the true amount to my mum!) but put my trust in the Hummingbird Bakery and kept going with the recipe. This is where I had an epiphany of some sort.  I kept wondering why the cooking time for the base took so much longer and found the answer when pouring the cheese topping into the tin…

… My cake tin was definitely too small than the recipe suggested.  Well I’m still not 100% sure exactly how big my tin is, but its not the recommended size.  This is why the base took so long (because it was thicker) and therefore, the topping would take longer.  There was also way too much cheese topping for the cake tin so I left quite a bit of cheese filling out and put the tin in the oven; with the water bath on the bottom shelf.

Quick Tip: If your using a cake tin with removable bottom or anything that can leak water; don’t put it in the water bath as suggested in the recipe.  I’ve read on numerous other blogs that the water got into the tin and ruined the cake.  Put the water bath on the shelf below your cake and it’ll do the same job.

Once cooked, the cheesecake was cooled, covered and put into the fridge and left for a good few hours before serving (couldn’t bring myself to wait overnight). As you can see, my cake had a crack right though the middle and two small areas where it was lighter than the rest of the cake.  When asked, I was told that both these things can happen; the water bath helps prevent it but apparently you will never get a perfect cheesecake unless you put something on top.

So, I hid most of the crack with a few strawberries (hiding the flaws are always the best way to go!) and Tadaaa!

The cheesecake turned out very nice.  Very proud of my first attempt; in my opinion there was a bit too much cheese but I put this down to the wrong size cake tin.  Will definitely invest in a bigger tin to make sure I get it perfect next time.  Definitely recommend this recipe to everyone, especially as it says u can mix brownies or fruit to the cheesy part.