I will never forget how fast my heart was racing the first time I took the plunge and made a cheesecake. As I turned the light on in my oven and peered through the glass, I was reminded of the fact that I had just spent my entire weekly grocery budget on one measly cake and I had no back-up plan. I was 21 and newly dating a great guy. It was his birthday and I wanted to make it one to remember. After tasking a mutual friend to find-out what his favourite type of cake was, I was met with the worst possible answer.
Not vanilla cake or black forest cake or even a more complicated angel food cake. Nope, my boyfriend preferred a chocolate-y, caramel and pecan drenched cheesecake over everything else in the entire world. Turtle Cheesecake. Great…
I was pretty broke at the time and was living in a house with the world’s most unpredictable oven. I was also an inexperienced cook who hadn’t ventured into much past basic peanut butter cookies and sheet cakes. But, I had to do it. I could not mess-up! Messing-up just wasn’t an option.
With the encouragement of my roommate (who clearly was keeping her fingers crossed for leftovers), I committed myself to making the cheesecake. I researched. I shopped. I Googled. I called my mom in tears and I researched a bit more. I was sure my new venture was going to be a failure but I didn’t want to resign myself to the truth of the situation. After painstakingly preparing the perfect water bath, disregarding the cook time indicated in the recipe and yelling at my poor roommate to get out of the fridge, I somehow had the perfect cake. It didn’t crack nor cave, the cake’s colouring was consistent throughout and I managed a light, yet elegant, caramel glaze that was the perfect mix between artistic and haphazard. And well, the rest of the story is history. My boyfriend loved my baking and self-sacrifice so much that he proposed to me. Okay, maybe the proposal was three years later but who’s to say that the birthday Turtle Cheesecake didn’t play a key part?
A proper cheesecake is a commitment to a 10+ hour painstaking process of love and attention. And don’t even get me started on the cost of ingredients! Quite simply, baking a cheesecake is an investment. An investment with no room for error.
To get started on your way to making your own a fool-proof, drool inducing and proposal worthy cheesecake follow these 5 key tips:
- Make sure your ingredients are fresh. I once read that you don’t want to use previously frozen and thawed cream cheese in your cheesecake if you can help it. I tested the theory and can attest to the fact that freezing changes the texture of the cheese and will result in your cheesecake being a bit too dense. Also, old eggs never do your dishes any favours. Always use fresh eggs!
- Have the right tools. Yes, you need a spring form pan. No, you cannot make a successful cheesecake in a casserole or 9×9 cake pan. Don’t even entertain the idea! Borrow a pan from your neighbour if need be.
- Don’t rush. Cheesecake needs your full attention and patience while it bakes, cools and sets. No sneaking peaks in the oven, don’t rush it from one step to another and you must resist the urge to poke it while it sets in your refrigerator. And for the love of all things yummy, make sure you let it set in your refrigerator long enough! Overnight is best.
- Consider a bath. A water bath, that is. Find a large pan that your spring form pan can fit into. Wrap tin foil carefully around the spring form pan and all the way-up the sides to ensure no leakage and place it in the middle of the larger pan (extra wide tin foil is best). Fill the larger pan half-way with water. This will ensure your cake cooks slower and more evenly. The added moisture will do your cake wonders!
- Ignore the recipe. My best tip is if the recipe does not mention letting the cheesecake cool in the oven, then reduce the written cooking time by 15 minutes. Let’s say the recipe lists the cook time as an hour. Well, simply cook it for 45 minutes then shut-off the heat, crack the door and let it sit for an hour in the oven. This method allows the cheesecake to complete its cooking as it cools and escape the horrid fate of cracks from extreme temperature shifts.
And there you have it! Ready to put your new-found skills to the test? Try-out my Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Whipped Cream Topping.
Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Whipped Cream Topping
- 1.5 cups of chocolate cookie baking crumbs
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 3 bricks cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 8 squares (8 oz) unsweetened baking chocolate
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
- Mix cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press firmly into 9 inch springform pan, ensuring cookie crumbs go half-way up the side of the pan. Cook crust mixture in oven for 3 minutes.
- Beat cream cheese and sugar and vanilla with electric beater on high until there are no lumps. Add melted chocolate. Add eggs, one at a time with lowest beater setting. Do not over mix!
- Pour cake batter over prepared crust. Prepare water bath with tin foil sides and place cake in the bath. Cook for 45 minutes. *Do not reduce this cooking time as my recipe calls for letting the cake cool in the overn
- Shut-off oven and open door to provide a 1-2 inch crack and let cake cool in oven for 1 hour.
- Remove cake from oven and set on counter to cool with a place covering the top of the pan for 1 hour.
- Place cake, uncovered, in refrigerator for at least 5 hours. Overnight is preferred! You can remove pan ring after 2 hours in the refrigerator.
- Once cake is fully set, prepare whipped cream topping by combing all remaining ingredients and beat on highest setting until peaks appear.
- Pour whipped cream over cake and sprinkle with chocolate garnish.