Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

20170227_000907Cheesecake is a delightful dessert rich in flavor and smooth on the palate. As much as I enjoy a slice of cheesecake I absolutely despise making it on my own. Cheesecake is up there on my list with Creme Brulee & Souffles when it comes to a severe inclination to avoid said recipes. It is not that I can’t make them it is just more tedious and I don’t enjoy making them like I do cakes and cookies. Baking is an outlet for me to reduce stress. Cheesecakes tend to create stress by wondering if the darn thing is going to crack despite doing everything correctly. There is only so many times you can get scalded by the hot water bath before you throw even cooking out the window. However, after taking a look at what I have prepared lately I was starting to see too much repetition. I decided I needed to venture out of my comfort zone and give myself a challenge like I had when in culinary school. The first item that came to my mind was the dreaded cheesecake.

20170227_001556My favorite flavor of cheesecake is cherry and I have made it a thousand times. My love of cherry cheesecake in particular stems from my childhood when I would make the No-Bake Jello brand Cherry Cheesecake box mix. Although it was a heck of a lot easier cheesecake to make, it wasn’t necessarily a real cheesecake (probably why I enjoyed baking it growing up). Besides the taste the cherries lend cheesecake, I also love the appearance. The red is a great contrast to the light cheesecake base and makes for a stunning dessert every time. I wanted to replicate this stunning look but with something other than cherries. That is where cranberries come into play.

20170226_172628I had some leftover cranberries frozen at their peak and needed to use them up so it seemed like a perfect fit. I made this for Valentine’s Day but it can be made for many other events such as anniversaries, Christmas, Independence Day, or even Go Red for Women parties which bring awareness to heart health. Although this is a skinnier recipe than traditional cheesecakes, I highly doubt the American Heart Association would define it as a heart healthy recipe. On average, cheesecakes similar to this one run about 575 calories and 22 grams of saturated fat while this cheesecake is 321 calories and 6 grams saturated fat (saving over 250 calories and 15 grams saturated fat per slice).

Although I enjoyed this lightened up version of a traditional cheesecake I would make a few changes next time to appeal more to my own taste. I think I would prefer a regular graham cracker crust to the chocolate, despite my love of the stunning color contrasts the chocolate crust provides. If you follow the recipe as is you will witness how much a simple swirl of tart cranberries provides an elegant touch to rich filling encased in a chocolate graham crust. Enjoy!

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. Chocolate Graham Crackers
  • ¼ cup Olive Oil
  • 1 ½ cups Fresh or Frozen Cranberries (thaw if frozen)
  • ½ cup Sugar
  • ¼ cup Raspberry Liqueur (Chambord or Smirnoff Raspberry Vodka)
  • 3 tbsp. Water
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 12 oz.(2 ½ pkg.) Block Style 1/3-less-fat Cream Cheese; softened
  • 1 cup Plain Fat-Free Greek Yogurt
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8 tsp. Salt
  • 3 large Eggs
  • 2 large Egg Whites

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Wrap outside and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan tightly with a double layer of heavy-duty foil (or place in a turkey size oven bag and seal at top). Grease pan lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Place crackers in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Drizzle with oil and pulse until moistened. Press mixture into bottom and ½ inch up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 325°. Place cranberries, sugar, liqueur, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cook 8 minutes or until cranberries have softened and mixture is syrupy. Cool for 20 minutes. Puree mixture until smooth with an immersion blender or pour contents into a food processor and pulse 1 minute.
  4. Combine 1 cup sugar and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl. Beat with stand or hand mixer at medium speed until smooth. Beat in yogurt, vanilla, and salt. Add the whole eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the 2 egg whites at high-speed until soft peaks form. Fold beaten egg whites into cream cheese mixture. Pour filling over crust. Spoon cranberry mixture over filling & swirl together using the tip of a knife. Place springform pan into a metal baking pan larger than the springform pan. Add hot water to the pan to create a depth of about 2 inches. Bake for 55 minutes or until the center of the cheesecake barely jiggles when pan is touched.
  6. Turn off oven. Cool cheesecake in closed oven for 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven and run knife around the outside edge. Cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

RECIPE ADAPTED FROM: ANN TAYLOR PITTMAN
PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS

ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEES PATISSERIE 2017

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Pink Azalea Mini Cakes

dsc04544Although I am a day late…Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!!! What can I say I had an epic time with my amazing boyfriend Peter. It was a relaxing day in the house. I baked, he helped me take these photographs for the blog, we exchanged chocolates, we ate New York style pizza with mushrooms and extra cheesy goodness, played video games together… it was simplistic but fun. We will certainly be going out this weekend for a more formal dinner but to me I was happy nonetheless. I hope all of your Valentine’s day wishes were granted and this quick and easy formula for Pink Azalea Mini Cakes may just make your day that much brighter. Although I made them with Valentine’s Day in mind, they can be made for any occasion…Anniversaries, Wedding Favors, Birthdays, or just when you feel like cake but don’t have the energy or time to spend on a large one.

dsc04567Although the images you see first are the cupcake version, they still taste as decadent as if they were a mini personal cake. I did prepare a traditional version of the mini personal cakes but for some reason I was most proud of the cupcakes. They are so simplistic yet elegant and especially for a holiday, you want something that is easy to travel with and something small to share with your loved one after you have already more than likely consumed a large formal dinner. To begin this formula, whether you elect to make all mini cakes or one mini cake and use the remaining batter for cupcakes (as I did), you must first prepare a white cake batter. Depending on your time or skill level, you can either prepare the white cake batter from scratch or use a boxed caked mix. Once the batter is prepared you must divide it, as one batter will be pink and have added ingredients while the other will remain white without external flavor additions. To prepare a mini cake and cupcakes as I did, first fill your mini cake pan with the plain white cake batter. Then mix in chopped strawberries, chopped pecans, and red food color into the remaining batter and fill another mini cake pan of the same size. With the remaining batter, fill cupcake tin lined with 12 wraps. If you elect to make only mini cakes, then you can fill two mini cake pans with plain white batter and two with the pink batter.

likeAs the cake layers bake, prepare your favorite frosting. My favorite for this particular cake is Chantily Cream as it is light and airy much like the cake is and you don’t want something overly sweet like a traditional buttercream frosting as it is too heavy and will distract from the flavors. Of course if buttercream is your favorite don’t hesitate to prepare it but be sure not to add any external flavors. Keep the only additional flavoring to vanilla, just like I did with the Chantily Cream. Once you prepare your favorite frosting, add a few drops of red food color until it takes on a light pink hue. For added decor, fan some strawberries or slice them and arrange them in the shape of a heart or a simple slice to add height, flavor, and interesting texture. What’s not to love about strawberries on Valentine’s Day!!!

Once the cake layers have had ample time to cool, fill a pastry bag fitted with a mid-sized star tip (#842) with your choice of frosting and set aside. Trim the cake layers and cut each in half. Place one white cake layer on a turntable cover with frosting. Place the pink cake layer on top and layer again with frosting.

dsc04581Place the final white cake layer on top and cover  the top and sides with frosting, making sure the cake layers do not show through and the frosting is smooth. Gently press chopped pecans along the base and pipe shells along the top edge. Pipe a rosette on the top of the cake in the center and place a fanned strawberry on the rosette to complete the mini cake look. For the cupcakes, pipe your frosting in a circular motion, making sure to cover the entire surface of the cupcake. Build up the frosting a bit in the center. Place your choice of adornment, whether a fanned strawberry, single strawberry slice, or strawberry slices shaped into a heart, in the center of the cupcake.

dsc04549-1Whichever method you choose, whether mini cakes are you fancy, cupcakes, or both, you are sure to please your Valentine and have great memories to share for a lifetime. Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours… from Honeybee’s Patisserie!!!

Pink Azalea Mini Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Formula for White Cake Batter (or 1 Box White Cake Mix)
  • Red Food Coloring
  • 1 cup Strawberries, chopped
  • ½ cup Pecans, chopped
  • 1 formula for Chantily Cream (Formula Below)
  • Whole Strawberries, fanned or sliced (Decor)

Formula:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°. Prepare batter for a white cake or follow box directions for a white cake mix (be sure not to bake the batter according to box directions). Grease and flour two mini cake pans and line a 12 slot cupcake pan with paper cups if making 1 mini cake and cupcakes. If preparing only mini cakes, grease and flour 4 mini cake pans. If making only cupcakes, line two 12 slot cupcake pans with paper cups.
  2. Fill one mini cake pan with plain white cake batter if making only one mini cake. If making two mini cakes, be sure to fill two pans with plain white cake batter before proceeding (VERY IMPORTANT). With the remaining white cake batter, mix in a few drops of red food coloring until the batter turns a pink hue. Gently fold in the chopped strawberries and pecans. If making one mini cake, fill one mini cake pan with pink batter. With the remaining pink batter, fill the cupcake pan, making sure each tin is filled ¾ full (12 cupcakes in all). If making only mini cakes (no cupcakes), fill two mini cake pans with the pink batter. If preparing only cupcakes, mix the red food color, pecans, and strawberries into all of the prepared white cake batter. Do not reserve any plain batter. Pour the pink batter into the prepared cupcake pan and bake for about 18 minutes. For the mini cakes, bake for about 20 minutes.
  3. Allow the cake layers and cupcakes to cool in their pans for about 10 minutes. Once slightly cooled, remove the cakes from the pan and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack. As the cakes cool, prepare the frosting. Once cooled completely, fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip with your desired frosting tinted pink with red food color (Chantily Cream was used here). If making only cupcakes, pipe around the surface of the cupcake with your choice of pink frosting and top with a fanned strawberry or strawberry slices. If also preparing a mini cake or only mini cakes, set aside the piping bag. Trim the tops of the mini cakes level and cut each in half. You should have two layers of white and two layers of pink. 
  4. Lay the white layer down first and cover with an even layer of pink frosting. Lay the pink layer next and cover with an even layer of pink frosting. Lastly, top with another white cake layer and cover the entire top of the cake and sides with pink frosting. Be sure to smooth the frosting before proceeding to the next step. Once smoothed, gently press chopped pecans along the bottom of the cake to create a nut border. With the reserved piping bag, pipe shells along the top, outer border of the cake. On the top of the cake in the center, pipe a single rosette and place a fanned strawberry on the center of the rosette. If desired, sprinkle some chopped pecans around the fanned strawberry.

Chantily Cream 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Formula:

  1. Combine cream and sugar in a large bowl. Whip until soft peaks form. Fold in vanilla. 

Special Thanks To:

Peter Mendoros – Photography

All Remaining Content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2012