Blissful Baked Chocolate Cheesecake with Oreo Love

This post was originally published in March 2018.

This baked chocolate cheesecake topped my list of cheesecakes this year. I’ve had a bit of an experiment going recently… I’ve tried a couple of no-bake ones: the first was a no-bake lemon/granadilla one that was easy and delicious, the second was a strawberry-infused one that was OK, but I made the mistake of adding (what I thought was) a little bit of powder colouring to get “just the right” shade of pretty pink I had in mind.  It turned out SUPER pink – I won’t make that mistake again!

So for this month’s post, I’m sharing with you my favourite out of my recent bakes: a deliciously decadent baked chocolate cheesecake with an Oreo biscuit base.

Baked Chocolate Cheesecake with Oreo Crust

YOU WILL NEED

Equipment: An electric mixer/food processor, whisk, 22cm springform pan, small saucepan, small heat-proof bowl

INGREDIENTS

For the crust:

  • 24 (1½ packs) Oreo cookies – finely crushed
  • 57g butter or margarine

For the cheesecake filling:

  • 920g (4 tubs) cream cheese at room temperature
  • 270g caster sugar
  • 45ml cocoa powder
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 280g dark chocolate – finely chopped

For the chocolate topping:

  • 100ml cream*
  • 160g dark chocolate – finely chopped
  • 15ml granulated sugar

For the decoration:

A little extra whipped cream as well as fruit, edible flowers or other decorations of your choice – I’ve used granadilla, kiwi, and figs as well as gold-dusted speckled eggs!

METHOD

Preheat oven to gas mark 4/175ºC/350ºF

Prepare your springform pan by cutting a circle of baking paper for the bottom, as well as cutting strips for the sides.

Instructions for the oreo crust:

  • Finely crush the cookies in a food processor, then add melted butter and blend until well combined.
  • Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of your prepared pan and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool while making the filling.

Instructions for the baked chocolate cheesecake filling:

  • Melt the chocolate and set aside to cool.
  • Using your electric mixer, combine the cream cheese and sugar and mix until smooth.
  • Mix in the cocoa powder.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing on low speed and taking care not to overbeat the mixture.

  • Add the cooled, melted chocolate and mix on low speed until well combined.
  • Pour the filling over the crust and smooth the top.
  • Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 1hr to 1hr 10mins. At this time, the centre of the cheesecake will still be a little bit wobbly, but the surface will feel firm to the touch with a bit of give when pressed lightly.  If your finger sinks into the cake or comes away with batter on it, the cake needs more time in the oven. Bake it for another 5 minutes before rechecking it.

  • Cool on a wire rack until cool enough to place in the refrigerator (uncovered) to set completely – this needs to be at least 8 hours, but ideally overnight.

Instructions for the topping:

  • In a small saucepan, heat the cream until it boils (be careful not to let it boil over!).
  • Place the chopped chocolate in the heat-proof bowl and pour the hot cream over it.
  • Allow to stand for 5 – 10 mins to allow the hot cream to melt the chocolate and to allow the overall temperature to reduce a little.

  • Now for the whisking: start slowly, then increase your speed, whisking the mixture in one direction until smooth and creamy. This may take a little while, the ingredients may initially look like they don’t want to mix, but just carry on whisking until you get that lovely thick, rich texture everyone loves about ganache.
  • Set the ganache aside to cool a little, then pour over the cheesecake and allow to cool completely.
  • When the topping is set and cooled, gently remove the cheesecake from its springform pan and place on your plate of choice.

  • Decorate with whipped cream, fruit or whatever other decorations take your fancy – this can quite easily be tailored to any theme or occasion!

Cook’s notes:

* The chocolate and cream quantities used in this recipe make for a lovely glossy ganache that sets quite firmly, but not so much so that it cracks when you cut it.  Make yours runnier or firmer by adding more or less cream, to suit your preference.

* This baked chocolate cheesecake can be prepared 2-3 days in advance – simply store (covered) in the refrigerator until needed, then decorate as required.

* This can be an expensive bake, as the recipe calls for 4 tubs of cream cheese which can be quite pricey, but a baking-loving friend recently suggested freezing cream cheese, so that’s exactly what I’ve done.  I came across some reduced price tubs recently and bought a whole lot.  Defrosting them overnight worked wonderfully!

* For the gold-dusted speckled eggs, dampen the surface of the egg with a little water and a clean, soft paintbrush, then dip the egg in edible gold dust.

Happy Easter!

Festively Tropical Coconut and Lime Cake

To fit in with October’s tropical trend, Germarie asked me to bake something equally tropical.  So I did a little research and, combining ideas from a few recipes, this Tropical Coconut and Lime Cake came to be!  It incidentally doubled as my birthday cake, and I have to admit: it was divine.  Almost as good as a holiday on a tropical island somewhere!

coconut cake with limes

When I do this again (not if, but when!) I’ll go for a simpler, but equally light and creamy buttercream frosting instead, perhaps also flavoured with coconut.  I’ve made Italian Meringue frosting before (and absolutely LOVE the toasty marshmallowness of it) but I don’t think it’s worth going to all the effort of making the deliciously light meringue if you’re going to weigh it down by adding butter.  BUT:  To all the baking experts out there… this is only my opinion!  As one of my favourite teachers at school used to say: “Everyone’s entitled to their own ridiculous opinion.”

YOU WILL NEED

Equipment: An electric mixer/food processor with paddle and whisk attachments, sieve, additional heat-proof bowl, 3 x 20cm cake tins (or as preferred), greaseproof/baking paper, Bake Even strips*, sugar thermometer, piping bag

INGREDIENTS

For the Coconut Cake:

225g butter, softened
400g granulated sugar
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract (substitute: coconut oil)
360g cake flour
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
125ml milk
250ml canned coconut milk

For the Lime-Coconut Ganache:

100ml cream**
160g dark chocolate – finely chopped
15ml granulated sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted

For the Italian Meringue Buttercream:

250g granulated sugar
158ml water
Pinch of cream of tartar
1tsp vanilla extract
5 egg whites
450g butter (soft, but not melted)

To finish:

Fresh coconut (shaved)
Lime-coloured piping icing 

coconut cake with coconut shavings on top

METHOD

For the Coconut Cake:

Pre-heat oven to 175ºC (150ºC Fan / Gas Mark 3) and prepare your cake tins by lining with baking paper and wrapping in Bake Even Strips.

  • Sift dry ingredients and set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter with a paddle attachment until smooth. Add in the sugar and beat on medium-high until fluffy and pale in colour.
  • Turn the mixer down to medium-low and gradually add in the egg yolks and extracts.
  • Starting and ending with the dry ingredients, alternate adding in the flour mixture and the milk. Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions.
  • Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for about 20 minutes or until done.

For the Lime-Coconut Ganache:

  • Toast shredded coconut in a frying pan over medium heat.  Toss to prevent from burning.
  • In a small saucepan, heat the cream and zest until it boils (be careful not to let it boil over!).
  • Place the chopped chocolate in the heat-proof bowl and pour the hot cream over it.
  • Allow to stand for 5 – 10 mins to allow the hot cream to melt the chocolate.
  • Now for the whisking: start slowly, then increase your speed, whisking the mixture in one direction until smooth and creamy. This may take a little while, the ingredients may initially look like they don’t want to mix, but just carry on whisking until you get that lovely thick, rich texture everyone loves about ganache.
  • Finally, stir in the toasted coconut.  Allow the mixture to cool down to room temperature before using.

For the Italian Meringue Buttercream:

  • Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and place on your stovetop, and stir gently until the sugar is dissolved. Heat on high until the mixture comes to a boil.
  • Using a sugar thermometer (this is a must), heat the sugar syrup until it reaches 114°C or softball stage.
  • Meanwhile, place egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whisk on low until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat on medium-high until stiff but not dry; do not overbeat.
  • With the mixer running, add the sugar syrup to the egg whites in a steady stream, beating on high speed until all combined – about 3 minutes. Add butter bit by bit, beating until spreadable (3 to 5 minutes) then beat in vanilla.
  • If the frosting curdles, just keep beating – it WILL come together!

For the Coconut Shavings:

  • Open the coconut and drain the coconut water. If like me, you’ve never done this before, you’ll find many instruction videos on YouTube.
  • Remove long chunks of the white flesh from the shell and, using a vegetable peeler, shave slices off sideways along the curve – you get the best long shavings that way.
  • Using your frying pan once again, gently toast your shavings until light brown, then set aside to cool.

anélle meiring

To assemble:

  • Place your first layer of cake on your chosen plate.
  • Using the chocolate ganache, sandwich your 1st two layers together, then repeat for the 3rd layer.
  • Take a small amount of frosting and colour it lime green, then fill a small piping bag and set aside.
  • Proceed with covering all sides of the stacked cake in the plain white buttercream frosting.
  • Using the lime green, pipe your desired pattern along the sides of the cake.
  • Finish off by scattering your beautifully toasted coconut shavings on top!

coconut and lime cake with limes

Go ahead – escape to your own imaginary tropical island while creating your coconut cake. Please do let me know how yours turn out. Happy baking!

Cook’s notes:
* Bake Even strips help achieve level cakes with minimal doming.  If you don’t have proper Bake Even strips, you can use dampened tea towels or strips cut from old towels.  Simply fasten them around your tin with paper clips.
**The chocolate and cream quantities used in this recipe make for a lovely glossy ganache that sets quite firmly, but not so much so that it cracks when you cut it.  By adding more or less cream, you can make yours runnier or more firm according to your preference.

 

Bread and Butter Pudding with a Twist

It’s been said many a time: there’s something indescribably comforting about a warm baked pudding during winter.  So that’s exactly what I’m bringing you this month, but not any old pudding…  Below are the instructions for a traditional favourite that’s been upgraded to a whole new level of deliciousness – Bread and Butter Pudding with Hot Cross Buns, Marmalade & Marzipan!  And the best part of it is it’s SO easy to make.  You don’t even need an electric mixer!

bread and butter pudding vintage table cloth

YOU WILL NEED

Equipment: A medium saucepan, large mixing bowl, whisk, large ovenproof dish

INGREDIENTS

250ml thick cream

600ml milk

5 large eggs

100g caster sugar

1½ tsp vanilla essence

8 hot cross buns

40 soft butter

100g marzipan (cubed)

3 – 4 tbsp orange marmalade

Icing sugar for dusting

METHOD

Pre-heat oven to 170ºC (150ºC Fan / Gas Mark 3) and prepare your ovenproof dish by spraying with non-stick spray.

  • Warm the cream and milk in your saucepan over a gentle heat.
  • Using your mixing bowl and whisk, combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla.
  • Stirring continuously, slowly add the warm cream mixture to the cool egg mixture.
  • Halve your Hot Cross Buns, then spread them with butter.

  • Arrange them in your ovenproof dish, then dot with the marzipan and marmalade.
  • Pour over the custard mixture, then set aside to soak for 15 minutes. Press the buns down into the mixture as they soften.

  • Bake for approximately 50 minutes or until set, then remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes.
  • Dust lightly with icing sugar and serve warm for pure comfort and enjoyment.

bread and butter pudding vintage table cloth

Happy baking!

 

Beautiful and Delicious Frangipani Fruit Rose Tart

I have a deep appreciation for something beautiful, and this month’s Frangipani Fruit Rose Tart is just that… something absolutely gorgeous!  Though time-consuming, these hand-rolled fruit roses aren’t that difficult once you get the hang of it and they make for a very impressive dessert.

plum roses

YOU WILL NEED

Equipment: An electric mixer/food processor, tart tin (I recommend one with a loose bottom), a mandolin slicer or very sharp knife, ceramic baking beans (or uncooked rice).

INGREDIENTS

For the tart crust:

400g sweet shortcrust pastry (I used shop-bought!)

Flour, for dusting

For the frangipani:

125g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

125g caster sugar

25g plain flour

125g ground almonds

1 large free-range egg, beaten

For the fruit roses:

6-8 medium-sized plums or other stone fruit of your choice – riper fruits work best

To finish:

3-4 tablespoons apricot jam

METHOD

Pre-heat oven to 200ºC (Gas Mark 6) and prepare your tart tin by spraying with non-stick spray.

Instructions for the crust:

  • Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to the thickness of about 3mm. Use the pastry to line the tin, gently pressing it into the sides and leaving about 1cm overhanging the top edge.

  • Using a fork, prick the base, then line with greaseproof paper and fill with ceramic baking beans or uncooked rice. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

  • When the crust has chilled, blind bake it in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans, then return the pastry to the oven for 5 minutes to cook the base.

  • When cooked, use a sharp knife to trim the excess pastry, so it’s level with the top of the tin and set aside to cool.

  • Turn the oven down to 150ºC (Gas Mark 2).

Instructions for the frangipani:

  • Using your electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar, flour and almonds together.

  • Once combined, slowly add the egg, mixing until fully incorporated.
  • Allow the frangipane to rest for 5 minutes before smoothing it inside the pastry case.

Instructions for the fruit roses:

  • To begin, cut your fruit in half, remove the pit and place one of the fruit halves on the mandolin.  Slice as thin as possible – I used a 2mm setting. Riper fruit, sliced thinly, roll much easier than crispier fruit or thicker slices.
  • Arrange all the slices on top of one another and cut in half along the same line as where the stone used to be.
  • Take a single slice and start rolling it as tightly as possible to form the core of your rose.

fruit rose petals

  • Gradually add petals, making sure the tapered end of each next slice overlaps with a fuller petal section of the previous slice.

fruit tart intructions

  • As you finish each rose, place it on the frangipani filling, gently pushing it into the filling. You can always add more petals at this stage to make the rose look fuller. Continue to roll roses until the tart is filled.

  • Once all the roses are in, bake the tart for approximately 30-35 minutes until the fruit roses are soft and the frangipani filling is golden.

  • Gently heat the apricot jam in a small pan for about 2 minutes until runny and warm. Remove the tart from the oven and brush with the melted jam while still warm.
  • Allow the tart to cool slightly before removing from the tin for serving in slices.

Cook’s notes:

  • I was only able to lay my hands on plums, but you could use any or a combination of stone fruits like peaches, nectarines, apricots etc.
  • The rose making is definitely the most time-consuming part of this dessert. You can, however, make some of the roses in advance if you have egg cups or other little shallow cups to hold them in place. I’m doing the instructions as if you’re using a mandolin as I did, but if you’re confident enough in your fine-slicing-abilities, a very sharp knife will do the trick!

Happy baking, and do let me know how your tart turns out!

 

The Best Chocolate Cake Ever – For Mother’s Day

We all have our favourite recipes – the ones we know will never fail us.  Today’s recipe is one such staple: my Ultimate Go-To Chocolate Cake.  This recipe has been halved, doubled, cupcake-d, tray-baked or a combination of the lot.  The oil in it makes it incredibly moist, staying fresh for up to a week (honestly – try it!!!) and it has the added bonus of being egg and dairy free. This three-tiered naked beauty was made, on this occasion, for my lovely Mom’s 69th birthday.  Why don’t you give it a try for Mother’s Day?  Get as creative as you like with the decorations… please let me know how it turns out!

best chocolate cake

YOU WILL NEED

Equipment: An electric mixer/food processor, sieve, additional heat-proof bowl, cake tins as preferred*, greaseproof/baking paper, Bake Even strips**, plastic straws (if using flowers, to facilitate safe placement of flower stems)

 

INGREDIENTS

For the chocolate cake:

3 (4½) cups cake flour

4 (6) teaspoons baking powder

1 (1½) teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

150 (225) ml cocoa (the darkest you can find)

2 (3) cups sugar

Pinch of salt

2 (3) cups boiled water

1 (1½) cup oil

50 (75) ml vinegar

2 (3) teaspoons vanilla essence

best chocolate cake

Just enough vanilla frosting for the naked look:

200g butter, VERY soft but not melted

400g icing sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

To finish:

Flowers or other decorations of your choice (we used begonia and eucalyptus)

 

METHOD

Pre-heat oven to 180ºC and prepare your baking tins by lining with greaseproof paper (or cupcake wrappers if you’re opting for cupcakes and wrapping in Bake Even strips.

Instructions for the cake:

  • Sift & mix all the dry ingredients in your mixer bowl.
  • Combine all the wet ingredients in your heat-proof bowl.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix on low until well combined.
  • Pour the mixture into your prepared tins/cupcake wrappers, making sure they’re about equal depth.

Note: If you’re using different sized tins as I did, the cakes will obviously bake at different speeds.  I decided it would be less disruptive to the baking process to quickly add the smaller cakes to the oven mid-bake than it would be to test them and have to possibly put them back.  This worked well for me.

Baking times:

  • Put the largest tins in the oven first and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Once 25 minutes has passed, quickly add the smaller tins to the oven and bake for another 25 minutes.
  • After this time, check all by inserting a skewer or sharp knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. If any of the cakes need a little longer, extend the bake by 5 minutes at a time until done.
  • Once done, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Instructions for the frosting:

  • Combine all the ingredients in your electric mixer and mix very well. The more you beat the frosting, the lighter it will become!

To assemble:

  • Start by levelling cakes where necessary, then sandwiching the two large cakes with a little frosting.

  • Place a blob of frosting in the middle of the top tier and spread to cover an area roughly the size of the next cake, then position the mid-size tier.
  • Again, create an area of frosting roughly the size of the smallest tier and position your final cake on top.
  • Once all the tiers are assembled, proceed to apply a very thin coat of frosting all over. You may, like me, find this counter-intuitive… I’m so used to always trying to cover a cake impeccably.

  • Decorate to your liking.

If you choose to add flowers to your cake, here are a few tips!

best chocolate cake

  • Choose flowers that are safe to come into contact with food. Things like roses are perfect, or other edible flowers.
  • Just to be safe, use straws to keep the stems away from the cake. Burn the ends of the straws and pinch it to create a closed tube.
  • To ensure that the flowers stay fresh and pretty, decorate the cake just before serving.

best chocolate cake

best chocolate cake

best chocolate cake

Cook’s notes:

* I made the recipe up 1½ times (see quantities in brackets) and I used two 21cm cake tins, one 15cm cake tin and a 10cm tin. My large tins have loose bottoms, so I didn’t line their sides, but I seriously recommend lining the sides of any tin without a loose bottom.

** Bake Even strips help achieve level cakes with minimal doming.  If you don’t have proper Bake Even strips, you can use dampened tea towels or strips cut from old towels.  Simply fasten them around your tin with paper clips.  I actually did this for my two smaller pans as I only have two strips… it worked a charm!

*** For this “naked finish”, I used a simple vanilla frosting, but I’m including the chocolate frosting recipe for you anyway as that’s what I normally use.  The recipe, made up once, will make one tray-bake or a decent twin layered round cake using 21cm tins, or it yields 48 cupcakes.  To make enough chocolate frosting for a 2-tiered round cake, combine 400g butter (VERY soft but not melted), 800g icing sugar (sifted) and 80ml cocoa.  Mix very well as per vanilla frosting instructions above.

best chocolate cake

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Boozy Meringue-topped Trifle for Non-Trifle-Lovers!

This month, Germarie asked me to make a trifle that went with her theme of playful things that are a little bit out of the box, a little bit different, something definitely fun. Thank goodness for that, because I’m no trifle fan! There’s something about the texture of the cake crumbs together with the other moist ingredients that just don’t do it for me. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it’s served cold, as I have no problem with sticky toffee pudding and custard for example. But trifle? No. I find it more than just a trifle off-putting. So I embarked on a quest for a non-traditional trifle-type dessert that resulted in this deliciously boozy, meringue-topped trifle version of a recipe I found. Omitting the alcohol and sticking to normal jelly would obviously make this an ideal child-friendly dessert. Whichever way you decide to go, rainbow away and enjoy!

Boozy Meringue-topped Trifle for Non-Trifle-Lovers

YOU WILL NEED

Equipment: An electric mixer/food processor, whisk, 1 small and 1 medium saucepan, sugar thermometer, heat-proof bowls, trifle dish

INGREDIENTS

For the boozy peach jelly:
125ml hot water
20ml gelatine granules
375ml peach Schnapps
375ml cold water
Few drops orange gel colour

For each of the other jellies:
Pre-packed jelly mixes in your choice of colours

For the custard:
45ml Custard powder (Moir’s in my case)
45ml sugar
500ml milk

For the meringue:
85ml sugar
63ml water
2 egg whites
30ml caster sugar
¼ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp vanilla essence

METHOD

Instructions for the boozy jelly:
• Pour the hot water into a large bowl, then add the gelatine granules.
• Stir briskly with a fork until dissolved.
• Add the peach schnapps and cold water, then mix thoroughly.
• Refrigerate uncovered until set.

Instructions for the other jellies (according to packet instructions, which are in my case):
• Dissolve contents of packet in 225ml boiling water – stir well until no more granules are visible.
• Add 225ml of cold water and mix thoroughly.
• Refrigerate uncovered until set.

Instructions for the custard*:
• Measure out 500ml milk in a measuring jug, then pour all but about 50ml into a small saucepan.

• Mix 45ml custard powder and 45ml sugar with the 50ml milk in the jug.
• Bring the remaining 450ml to the boil in a saucepan.
• Once it’s boiled, pour the hot milk into the custard mixture, while stirring well.
• Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a slow boil while stirring continuously, until the desired thickness is reached.
• Remove from heat and allow to cool.*

 

To assemble:

• Remove all chilled jellies from the fridge, then stir each with a fork to break up the jelly.
• Choose the first two that will go at the bottom of the trifle, then layer them in the trifle dish in the order of your preference. Start from the sides and work inwards, evening out each layer as much as possible before starting on the next.
• After 2 jelly layers, add a layer of custard.
• Top with the remaining 2 jellies.
• Return trifle dish to the fridge.

Instructions for the meringue:
• Place sugar and water in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
• Bring to a boil while stirring, but stop stirring once the mixture boils. Monitor the temperature, ensuring it reaches 120ºC.
• Whisk egg whites, caster sugar & cream of tartar to soft peaks.
• Very slowly, while beating, pour the hot sugar syrup in a very thin stream over beaten egg whites.
• Continue beating until egg whites are stiff and glossy.
• Remove trifle dish from the fridge, then dollop the Italian meringue over the set trifle and use a blowtorch to brown the edges of the meringue.

Cook’s notes:
* You could, of course, use shop bought custard, but I prefer the taste of homemade. At least the homemade-from-powder variety… if you’re an all-out kitchen goddess, I’m sure your made-from-scratch egg custard will work wonderfully!
* I’ve opted for medium thickness custard so that the custard layer won’t run into the jelly layers below it. But you can tailor your custard to your preference.