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Friday, March 28, 2014

Cheesecake Cupcakes

Guys sometimes I make something and it looks amazing but it tastes only "pretty good."  These cheesecake cupcakes?  Are definitely absolutely 100% NOT THAT.  They taste freeking fantastic, at least 1,000 times better than they look.  There were moist, light, creamy, flavorful and not too sweet, JUST like a cheesecake should be and I think that has a LOT to do with making them mini-sized.  In fact I'm going to give you 5 great reasons on why you should never make a full sized cheesecake ever again.  But first, OMG you guys just look at these things, RIGHT?! Nom nom nom. 

Why cheesecake is better as a cupcake
  1.  So freekin' cute.  Adorable even. 
  2. Individual servings. No messy slicing and dicing, no having to "finish the whole thing" (okay I know that's actually a benefit but go with me here).  Plus you can try one before bringing them to a party and NO ONE KNOWS!  Its not like a cake where you could maybe make a mini second "tasting cake" but you never really know if it tastes like the real cake until you serve it and by then its WAY too late!
  3. Easier to bake!  I didn't know this until I started researching to make this recipe but did you know that cheesecake is actually somewhat complicated to make?  You have to avoid surface cracking and over mixing, there is a water bath part, and three stages of baking, its a whole thing.  Here are three reasons cupcake sized cheesecakes are easier to bake:
    1. Cupcake tins lend themselves more easily to water baths (I'll explain this more in the recipe below) 
    2. They are smaller so they cook through more quickly and easily
    3. Since you are going to frost them you don't really have to worry about the surface cracking at all, no one will ever know!
  4. Easier to add a whipped cream topping, since the topping is somewhat unstable you wouldn't want to put it on a cheesecake, it would get lost in the slicing and dicing but it works perfectly on a cupcake
  5. Easier to customize added toppings, you can make ahead an assortment of cupcakes with various toppings, you can't do that on a single cake!

 Okay I think I've sung praises enough here on how awesome these things are, on with the recipe! 

  • 2 1/4 cups sugar

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 tbsp butter

Directions for cakes

  1. Gather ingredients 
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F (if you don't have a separate thermometer in your oven, I suggest you get one. They are pretty cheap and for recipes like this where temperature is VERY important they can be completely necessary.
  3. Set out two muffin tins, and add 18 cupcake liners. 
  4. Mix the graham cracker, butter, and sugar in a small bowl until combined and crumbly.  Evenly distribute among the 18 cupcake cups.
  5. Using a spoon, your fingers, or (my preference) a muddler compact the crust into the bottom of each cup.  I got this muddler for free with a bottle of Bacardi during the holidays when all booze comes with a free gift.  Alternatively you could pick one up on the cheap off of Amazon or at your local kitchen supply store. 

  6. Once your crust is nicely tamped down, throw all those guys in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until they are nice and "crust."  Once the crust is done reduce the oven temp down to 300 F.
  7. While the crust is baking, start whipping air into the cream cheese.  Add all three blocks to a stand mixer with the beater attachment and beat on med-high for about 5 minutes or until the cream cheese is light and fluffy.  This will take a little longer if the cream cheese is not at room temperature. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  8. Once fluffy, you can then add the sour cream, flour and vanilla a little bit at a time until well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again until homogeneous. 

  9. Meanwhile beat the eggs in a separate bowl lightly to break up the yolks.  Do not whisk vigorously or create air bubbles in the eggs, just break up the yolks.  Whisking air  into the eggs will cause your cheesecake to "puff" in the oven like a souffle which is not a huge deal (mine did it as you can see) but will make your tops more likely to crack. 
  10. Meanwhile, set a kettle or pot of water on the stove to boil.
  11. Finally, slowly incorporate the eggs into the rest of your batter with mixer on low speed.  Again, over mixing or mixing to quickly will incorporate too much air into the eggs. Once well combined, separate the batter into the muffin tins.  Be careful NOT to scrape the sides of the bowl here, you do NOT want chunks of cream cheese, sugar, etc in your cheesecakes.  People WILL notice and they will think you are silly.  I've had lumpy cheesecake and it is NO GOOD. 
  12. Next comes the baking, baking cheesecake is apparently an art.  You want to cook the eggs slowly and in two stages, the first stage sets the outside of the cheesecake so you can hold the cupcake in your hands without it being too soft or sticky.  The second stage cooks the cake through, you want to do all of the cooking slowly and at a low temperature to keep from drying out the cake.  A dry crumbly cheesecake is also NO GOOD. 
  13. The best way to cook slowly, evenly, and prevent drying is to bake the cupcakes in a water bath so go grab a brownie pan (or baking sheet or whatever you have), set the cupcake pan INSIDE of it and stick the whole situation inside of the oven.  Add that boiling water you made in step 9 into the BROWNIE PAN, being sure to get none of it on your precious cupcakes.  Bake for 45 min to an hour at 300 F.  Not doing the water bath is not the end of the world, just bake the cakes for a little less time, your cakes might just be a touch drier than they are supposed to be.

  14. When the cakes are set around the outside but still a little jiggly in the middle (after about an hour) turn the oven OFF and let them sit in the warm oven for another hour.  This will set the middle of the cakes. 
  15. Finally, remove the cakes and chill them overnight.  

Directions for Whipped Cream Topping

  1. Beat the cream cheese for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy (this will take longer the colder the cream cheese is)
  2.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla, continue to beat until smooth. 
  3.  Switch to whisk attachment and whisk until smooth.
  4. With mixer running slowly add cream, stopping frequently to scrape the sides of the bowl.  Stop mixing when mixture can hold stiff peaks.
  5. Pipe topping onto cupcakes.

Directions for Chocolate Ganache

    1. Add chocolate and cream to a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Mix while stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and homogeneous. 
    2. Scrape mixture into a small bowl or squirt bottle.
    3. Drizzle on top of frosted cupcakes with a fork or squirt onto cupcakes.

    Directions for Caramel Sauce

    1. Add dulce de leche, butter, cream, and vanilla to a small saucepan over medium low heat.  You can use the same pan you used for the chocolate ganache if you'd like, without washing it or visa versa if you make the caramel sauce first. 
    2. Stir mixture constantly until it smooth with a homogenous texture. 
    3. Scrape into small bowl or squirt bottle and drizzle on top of frosted cupcakes.

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