The Difference A Year Makes
Last year, when our daughter turned six, she wanted to celebrate with pink donuts. Easy peasy! We ordered custom pink donuts from our favorite shop in town and that was that. This year, I could tell her tastes had gotten a bit more sophisticated, so I expected a more involved request. But I didn’t quite expect one for chocolate-covered strawberry cheesecake! She threw down quite the gauntlet, but I think I managed to deliver:
Let me warn you. This is not a quick or simple recipe. Also, this dessert will spoil you. It will ruin you for other desserts. You will have dreams about it. You will find yourself distracted in mid-sentence when you start thinking … what was I saying? Oh yeah, this dessert is nothing short of amazing. But plan to devote several hours over the course of at least a couple of days to make it. Then curse yourself for making it because you’ll want it again and then have to devote that time to it all over again!
Now, I did save myself some time and headaches by making the crust and filling and assembling everything but the topping in advance. In fact, the weekend before her birthday, I did the baking and cooling and refrigerating. Then I wrapped the springform pan with precious cheesecake nestled within in a couple of layers of aluminum foil and then wrapped that in plastic and gave it a safe resting place in my freezer. Two days before the big day, I began thawing the cheesecake in the refrigerator.
Then, the morning of her birthday after she was at school, I made the chocolate ganache topping and did the final decorating, including making seven chocolate-covered strawberries for setting on top of the cake. I suppose I could have just sliced some fresh strawberries over the ganache and served it that way, but I’d already invested so much in it, I figured I might as well go all out. I’ll let you in on a not-so-big secret: it was entirely worth it when I saw her squeal with joy upon seeing it later that day!
- 2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (I used Oreo crumbs, but you could also use wafers or even chocolate graham crackers)
- 1/4 c. butter, melted
- 3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups strawberry puree (I combined thawed frozen strawberries and a little homemade strawberry jam to make this)
- 2 T. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 T. vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 c. butter
- 1 T. maple syrup
- Chocolate-covered strawberries
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375° F.
To make the crust, stir together the chocolate cookie crumbs and melted butter in a medium-sized bowl until the crumbs are evenly moist and clump together slightly. Transfer the mixture to a 10-inch springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan. Bake until the crust is flagrant and slightly darkened, 9 to 12 minutes. Let the pan cool on a rack. Lower the oven temperature to 300° F.
To make the filling, beat the cream cheese, strawberry puree, and flour on medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle frequently, until it is very smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and continue beating until well blended and smooth.
Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and smooth the top before placing it in the oven.
Bake at 300° F until the center jiggles when nudged, 55 to 65 minutes. The cake will be slightly puffed around the edges, and the center will look slightly moist, like a just-set pancake. Carefully set the cake on a rack and cool completely. Cover the pan and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
At least an hour before serving, make the topping. In a small bowl, melt the chocolate chips and the butter in the microwave. I will do so by microwaving it 30 seconds at a time and stirring between each time. Add the maple syrup and whisk until smooth. Unclasp and remove the side of the springform pan and carefully slide the cake onto a flat serving plate. Pour the chocolate topping on the cheesecake and spread evenly. Arrange the chocolate-covered strawberries and any other decorations on the top of the cake.
To cut, run a thin knife under hot water, wipe it dry, and cut the cake into slices, heating and wiping the knife after every slice.
- Yields: 12-16 servings
- Preparation Time: 12 hours (can and should be made days in advance and preparation steps can and should be separated)