Merlot Chocolate Cheesecake

I know, it’s another cheesecake post on what’s technically a clean eating blog. 🤷‍♀️🍷🍫But yesterday I teamed up with my sister Lauren and her friend Julia from Lauren and the Foreign to bring to you this rich, decadent cake. The base is an egg-free, chocolate cheesecake on a delicate graham cracker crust. Then I topped it with a sweet, homemade merlot reduction. It’s the perfect combination of cheese, chocolate and wine!

Be sure to click on the link above watch Lauren and the Foreign’s YouTube channel and check out their Instagram here!

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp. sugar

1/4 cup melted coconut oil or butter

Filling

1 cup dark chocolate chips

2 Tbs. melted coconut oil or butter

2 8-oz. packages of 1/3 fat cream cheese (room temperature)

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbs. raw honey

1 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa

2 tsp. pure vanilla

1/4 tsp. sea salt

Topping

1/2 cup merlot

1 cup sugar

Directions

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8 inch spring-form pan with canola spray or melted coconut oil/butter.

Put the graham crackers in a food processor and grind until they are just small crumbs. Add the sugar and pulse a few more times.

In a small bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted coconut oil or butter. Then press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside.

Add approximately an inch of water to the bottom of a double boiler and melt 1 cup of dark chocolate chips on medium heat. Stir every few minutes and be sure not to get any water in the chocolate. When the chocolate chips are melted, remove from heat and stir in 2 Tbs. of melted butter or coconut oil. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large, deep bowl, combine the somewhat-cooled chocolate mixture, cream cheese, sugar, honey, cocoa, vanilla, and salt. Use an electric mixture to mix all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides every so often to ensure that everything is well combined. Be sure not to use the slowest setting and do not over mix.

Put the filling in the spring form pan and using a small offset spatula, smooth out the filling until it is even across the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, making sure to not open the oven! Any rapid change in temperature or humidity can lead to cracking and caving.

Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for another 30 minutes, still not opening the door. When the time is up, let the cheesecake cool for approximately 30 more minutes before letting it chill and set up in the refrigerator for at least three hours and up to overnight.

While the cheesecake is baking, it is time to start the reduction! In a saucepan, add the sugar and merlot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for three minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool and set up.

Pour the merlot reduction on the cheesecake and smooth it out with a small offset spatula. Enjoy!

Tips

Make sure you put together the spring form pan correctly. Otherwise, oil from the crust will leak into the oven causing a huge mess. I’ve learned this the hard way. Three times to be exact.

Line a baking sheet with foil and put the spring form pan on it while baking. This will prevent any major mess in the event that some leakage does occur.

Allow the cream cheese to reach room temperature so that it mixes smoothly.

Again, whatever you do, do not open the oven until it is time to take it out. I know it’s tempting, but this is crucial to cheesecake success! This is also where it becomes imperative that the pan is put together correctly and a baking sheet is below the pan. If you have to open the oven to clean up burned butter as the house fills with haze, the cheesecake will surely cave in the middle. (Yes, I also learned this the hard way.)

If the cake does cave in, the ganache will likely fill the crater, but not the edges. What you can do to remedy the situation is make a little buttercream frosting and pipe a boarder around the cake. No one will know that it’s caved in and you get frosting too!

Don’t cover the cheesecake in the fridge until it is totally cool to prevent condensation from collecting on top. If this does happen, dab it off with a paper towel.

Lemon Cheesecake

Around Easter last year, I shared a recipe for Egg-Free Lemon Cheesecake. Since then, I have improved the recipe and would like to give an updated version. This is a great recipe to have on hand for spring and summer or right now in the middle of January when we sometimes wish it was already spring.

This cake features a soft graham cracker crust, sweet lemon filling, and is topped off with a tangy, curd. It’s a rather involved recipe, so I would recommend reading through it before starting so you know what you’re getting into. Enjoy!

Makes one 8 inch cheesecake or four 4 inch cheesecakes

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

Filling

1 cup white chocolate chips*

2 Tbs. melted butter

2 8-oz. packages of 1/3 fat cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbs. raw honey

2 tsp. lemon extract

1/4 tsp. sea salt

Zest of one lemon

Lemon Curd

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. sugar

1/3 cup melted butter

1/4 cup water

1/8 tsp. sea salt

2 Tbs. corn starch

Directions

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8 inch spring-form pan with canola spray or melted butter.

Grind graham crackers in a food processor and until they are just small crumbs and you have 1 1/2 cups worth. In a small bowl, mix the cracker crumbs with sugar and add melted butter. Then press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside.

Add approximately an inch of water to the bottom of a double boiler and melt 1 cup of white chocolate chips* on medium heat. Stir every few minutes and be sure not to get any water in the chocolate. When the chips are melted, remove from heat and stir in 2 Tbs. of melted butter. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large, deep bowl, combine the somewhat-cooled chocolate mixture, cream cheese, sugar, honey, lemon extract, sea salt, and lemon zest. Use an electric mixer to blend all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides every so often to ensure that everything is well combined. Do not over-mix.

Put the filling in the spring form pan and using a small offset spatula, smooth out the filling until it is even across the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, making sure to not open the oven! Any rapid change in temperature or humidity can lead to cracking and caving.

Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for another 30 minutes, still not opening the door. When the time is up, remove the cake let it cool for approximately 30 more minutes before letting it chill and set up in the refrigerator. Wait at least three hours before serving.

While the cheesecake cools, it is time to make the lemon curd! In a small saucepan, heat the cream, lemon juice, sugar, butter, water, and sea salt on medium heat. Whisk frequently. After about 2-3 minutes, add the cornstarch and whisk continuously until it thickens. You will know the curd is thick enough when it has a custard-like consistency and the whisk leaves a mark in it. Allow to cool slightly before spreading over the cheesecake with a small offset spatula. Do not wait for it to set up completely, as it would be hard to spread. Any leftover curd can be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks. Serve with whipped cream and enjoy!

Tips

*Be sure to read the ingredients on the white chocolate chips and avoid artificial flavors. I use Trader Joe’s brand because they contain actual cocoa butter.

Make sure you put together the spring form pan correctly. Otherwise, oil from the crust will leak into the oven causing a huge mess. I’ve learned this the hard way. Three times to be exact.

Line a baking sheet with foil and put the spring form pan on it while baking. This will prevent any major mess in the event that some leakage does occur.

Again, whatever you do, do not open the oven until it is time to take it out. I know it’s tempting, but this is crucial to cheesecake success! This is also where it becomes imperative that the pan is put together correctly and a baking sheet is below the pan. If you have to open the oven to clean up burned butter as the house fills with haze, the cheesecake will surely cave in the middle. (Yes, I also learned this the hard way.)

If the cake does cave in, the curd will fill the space. To make the edges more appealing, you can make a little buttercream frosting and pipe a boarder around the cake. No one will know that it’s caved in and you get frosting too!

Don’t cover the cheesecake in the fridge until it is totally cool to prevent condensation from collecting on top. If this does happen, dab it off with a paper towel.

The lemon curd is naturally an cream color, so if you want it to be yellow, simply add a drop or two of yellow food coloring.

Coffee Infused Cake with Mocha Frosting

Hi everyone! Today’s recipe is the latest rendition of crazy cake (also known as depression cake). Crazy cake is super simple and has no eggs, milk, or butter, making it vegan. However, I made a traditional style buttercream frosting, but the whole cake is still egg-free and it’s also possible to use a vegan frosting if need be.

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What makes this crazy cake different than most, is the coffee infusion and mocha frosting! First, I made a coffee syrup with a recipe from The Spruce Eats . Then I mixed some into the cake batter, giving it a mild essence of coffee. But where the flavor is especially evident is in the frosting! It really takes the cake to the next level and is a pleasant surprise to anyone expecting just plain chocolate!

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Ingredients

Cake

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vinegar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup water

1/4 cup coffee syrup

 

Frosting

Powdered sugar

Unsweetened cocoa

Butter

Coffee syrup

Half and half

 

Directions

Start by making the simple coffee syrup. The recipe is very simple, only requiring coffee and sugar. The recipe is linked above.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease either an 8×8 baking dish or two round 6 inch cake pans. Any regular cooking spray will work as will this cake release recipe from The Barefoot Baker.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Then add the wet ingredients without mixing them separately first. Stir until a smooth batter is achieved.

Pour the batter in the cake pans, ensuring even distribution if using two pans. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool. When they are, a square cake can remain in the pan and be frosted. For a round, layer cake, I highly recommend removing them from the pans, wrapping, and freezing them before attempting to frost and decorate. (I will cover this in more depth in an upcoming cake frosting tutorial.)

While the cake is cooling, making the frosting. There aren’t amounts of each ingredient specified, because just like pie crust, I never use an actual recipe. To give an idea, a layer cake will need roughly four cups of sugar and anywhere from a stick to a stick and half of butter. Then add half and half and coffee syrup, mixing with electric beaters until it just comes together. With a round cake, having a thick frosting is key, but consistency is less crucial with a square cake. A good test is to dip a finger into the frosting. If nothing, sticks it is too dry and if it feels very wet and sticky, it needs more sugar. If the consistency is just right, a little should stick, but it should feel thick.

I apologize for the ambiguity in the frosting recipe. I’m a firm a believer that the best method is to guess and add a little of this and that until it’s right. If you ever have questions though, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! Enjoy!