cranberry mini cheesecakes

Thanksgiving.

The time of year that makes me think … pumpkin. cinnamon. brown sugar. butter. toasted pecans.

But this post isn’t about any of those things.

Not at all.

This year my Thanksgiving turkey will be accompanied by these.

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cranberry – orange – white chocolate chip cheesecakes.

Mother of pearl that’s a real mouthful.

Oh yeah … I also tossed quinoa into the mix … just cuz. (actually I had some left over and thought it would add a nice little nutty flavour to the cheesecake base).

There’s a couple of reasons why I decided to go this route.

1. I heart cranberries. And they are in season. Add zest and juice of an orange and you’re kinda in cranberry heaven (chinese five spice would be super amazing too!).

2. Mini cheesecakes take all of 20 minutes to bake.

3. These are best baked ahead of time … so if you’re cooking a turkey on Sunday … bake these on Saturday night. Cheesecake is best when it’s rested overnight. A make-ahead dessert is perfect for entertaining!

4. People are going to LOVE the creaminess of these cheesecakes. They aren’t too heavy either.

5. The cookie base that I use is simply MY personal preference … feel free to use graham crackers or even gingersnaps. Both would work.

Now I’ve gone from being the girl who *doesn’t really care for* and *never bakes* cheesecakes to … being really proud of my recipe. It’s actually become one of my *go to* recipes whenever I need to make something nice and quick. Plus … you don’t have to use cranberries. I’ve used the same base recipe and made peanut butter, roasted banana and chocolate cheesecakes. I’ve made mint oreo cheesecakes. Marbled cheesecakes. Lemon cheesecakes. Passionfruit cheesecakes.

It kinda looks like all I do is bake cheesecake!

I think once you try this recipe … you’ll understand why I keep going back. Simple and painless. And oh so delightful!

*bakers note … you should ALWAYS make your cheesecake filling when your ingredients are at room temperature.  So if you’re going to make the cookies – take the cheesecake filling ingredients out when you start on the cookies, and make the filling once you are baking the cookies … 3 hours later (this recipe requires the cookie batter chilling for 3 hours prior to baking).

Here’s my recipe.  Like I said … no worries if you decide not to make the cookies first … but they sure are good cookies.  And you get so many out of the batch that you’ll be able to nibble on one or two while making the cheesecakes :0)

cranberry – orange – white chocolate chip cheesecakes

orange – white chocolate chip cookies

*adapted from Baked Elements

ingredients:

2 1/4 c. flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 c. butter, room temperature

1 c. firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 c. white sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp orange juice

about 2 c. white chocolate chips

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In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.  Set aside.

Grab your stand mixer and paddle attachment.  Beat the butter and sugars together on medium speed – you want to let this go for about 5 minutes: smooth, creamy and pale is the goal.  Scrape down the sides (and the bottom of the bowl!) … this is uber important.  Otherwise you might end up with air pockets of sugar when you bake your cookies.

Add the eggs, one at a time, again scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.  At this point, your batter is looking pretty darn fluffy.  Perfect!  Add the vanilla and orange juice.  Beat until just incorporated.

Add half the flour mixture and beat for 15 seconds.  You’ll see what I mean … the flour will be just mixing in … add the remaining flour and beat until incorporated.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Once you’re ready to bake …

Heat your oven to 350 F.  Line a couple cookies sheets with parchment paper.  You can make these cookies whatever size you like … mine were about 2 tbsp large – and so I baked them for 12 minutes.

You’ll know they’re ready because … well … you’ll smell them.  Mother of pearl!  They smell good!  But as a visual guide – the tops of the cookies should be slightly golden and a little puffed.  Remove from the oven, allow to sit on the cookie sheet for a further 5 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack.

Watch out!  These cookies spread.  So don’t place them too closely together on the cookie sheet.

Once they are all baked … grab a couple to nibble on … and set the rest aside.  It’s time to start making your cheesecake filling.

mini cranberry cheesecakes

ingredients:

cranberry purée:

1 package cranberries, fresh or frozen

1 orange, zest & juice

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the cranberries with the zest and juice of a large orange.  Bring the ingredients to a boil … the cranberries will start to pop.  Decrease the heat and allow everything to simmer.  Once the cranberries start to break apart and thickens … remove from heat and purée in your food processor.  Set aside.

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cheesecake filling:

*bakers note:  you should get 24 cupcake sized cheesecakes out of this recipe.  If you would like to opt for half the recipe – I use 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, halving the rest of the ingredients.  It works like a charm.

two 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 c. sugar

3 eggs, room temperature

1 egg yolk, room temperature

1 1/2 c. sour cream, room temperature

2 tsp vanilla

good pinch of salt

Grab that food processor … that’s the secret to a super airy cheesecake.

In the bowl of your food processor, pulse the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  This shouldn’t take very long.  Then add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time.  Pulse and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the sour cream, vanilla and salt.  Pulse again until completely incorporated.  Set aside.

base:

2 dozen orange white chocolate chip cookies (see recipe above)

1/2 c. cooked quinoa (optional) (I used extra quinoa that had been toasted, then cooked in a vanilla pod, cinnamon stick broth – as per my carob chip almond butter quinoa cookie recipe)

1/2 c. butter, melted

Grab your food processor.  Yes … you need it again!

First – pulse the cookies until they resemble a fine crumb.  Then, add the cooked quinoa and the melted butter and pulse until it all comes together.  Add the butter slowly … you don’t want the cookie base to be too oily … you want the crumbs to stick together, but not leak butter.

Remove the base from the food processor and grab your muffin tins.  Line the bottom of cupcake liners with this mixture (about 1 large tablespoon worth) and set aside.

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I find the best way to pour this into the muffin tins is either to put it in a measuring cup with a lip … or in a squeeze bottle.  Pour (or squeeze) the filling on-top of the orange – white chocolate chip cookie base … fill them pretty much right up to the top!  Then grab the cranberry purée and spoon about 1 tsp into the middle of each cheesecake.  You can use a toothpick to spread it out … or just leave it as is.

Bake in a 350 F oven for 20 minutes.  You’ll know they are ready when you gently shake the muffin pan and the cheesecakes don’t move in the centre.  Also … they will be nice and puffed in the middle.  Remove from heat and allow to cool in the muffin tin on a wire rack.

The middle might sink a little at this point.  Don’t worry about it!  Top with some fresh berries … or some toasted pecans.  I promise no one will mind.

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triple the ginger… triple the flavour

Carrots.  Ginger.  Oranges.  All things that go together so well.  So very very well.

I have to admit – orange is not my favourite flavour (it certainly isn’t the first citrus flavour I gravitate towards) – however, sometimes it just feels right.

This cake made it feel right.  And boy am I happy I decided to trust my instincts.

The original recipe comes from (big surprise) the hummingbird bakery: cake days.  And it was built with a specific person in mind:  my beautiful and lovely step-mother, Marielle. 

I am very fortunate.  Not only do I have wonderful and loving parents – both of whom are ridiculously awesome people in their own right; but I have also ended up with another incredible person in my life in the form of Marielle.

Last Saturday was her birthday – and so, we gathered to celebrate her.  It was a beautiful evening, filled with excellent company, good food and wine… and a knock your socks off birthday cake. 

Seriously… this cake was THE BOMB (my father claims it’s the best cake I’ve ever made… Marielle loved the flavour, the two Anne’s (my sister and my step-sister) both loved the punch of the ginger and the frosting)… it was an immediate success.

I’ve come to realize that I’m not a timid baker – I like things full of flavour and that pop a real punch.  I want things to taste exactly how I imagine them – if you’re going to add ginger to something – then don’t be afraid – use that ginger!  If you’re going to use orange – then use the zest and juice… don’t wimp out.  This cake is not about wimping out.

According to the hummingbird this cake is “a zingy variation on carrot cake”.  I think it’s my new favourite twist and a new classic for my family.

The recipe will either make a 4 layer 8-inch round or a 3 layer 9-inch round.  Either way… you’re goona get lots of cake.  Which is a good thing… that means you’ll get a second piece – and if you’re too stuffed to enjoy it right away… this cake makes an excellent breakfast!

triple ginger carrot cake with orange cream cheese frosting

ingredients:

triple ginger carrot cake

1 lb carrots, peeled and grated

2 tbsp (a good knob) of fresh ginger, grated

2 tbsp (or more), crystalized ginger, finely chopped

80 mL buttermilk

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla (or orange extract)

350 mL vegetable oil

420 g brown sugar

500 g flour, sifted

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

80 g pecans, toasted and roughly chopped (you could also toast the pecans in maple syrup for an added touch)

Preheat your oven to 325 F.  Spray your round baking pans with non stick spray and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (using your paddle attachment), mix together the carrots, fresh ginger, crystalized ginger, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, vegetable oil and sugar.  Beat all the ingredients at medium speed until everything is combined (it will be VERY loose at this point).

While your wet ingredients are being mixed, combine your flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ground spices together. 

You’ll want to slowly beat the dry ingredients into the batter – decrease the mixer speed to “stir” and, in three batches, add your flour mix.  Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl with each addition  – it’s best to turn the stand mixer off when doing that :0)

Once the batter is nice and thick and well mixed, toss in your roughly chopped pecans.  Incorporate them well into the batter.  Divide the batter evenly between your cake pans (either for 3 layers or 4).  Bake for about 25 – 32 minutes – this always depends on your oven.  You want your toothpick to come out clean and the top of each cake to spring back when you gently press the top.

Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 – 20 minutes.  Then remove from the pans and cool completely on the wire rack.  This cake can be made the day ahead and wrapped tightly in plastic wrap (it’s a super moist cake).

When you are ready to frost the cake – make the buttercream. 

orange cream cheese frosting

ingredients:

1/2 c. butter, room temperature

5 c. powdered sugar, sifted (or a little more if you want a thicker frosting)

zest of 1 orange

juice of 1/2 an orange (or the entire orange, depending on need)

1 package cream cheese, room temperature

In the bowl of your stand mixer, using your paddle attachment, beat together your powdered sugar, butter and orange zest.  You want it to just combine, but it’ll still look more sugary than anything else.  Add your entire cream cheese.  Yep.  All at once.

Increase the speed to medium and keep beating everything together.  This is when you start to slowly add orange juice – a little at a time… it’ll loosen up your frosting and also add more flavour (less of that powdered sugar flavour).  Keep beating until it’s nice and fluffy – it should be super smooth since you sifted the powdered first – about 7 minutes.

Then it’s time to frost your cake.

Since it’s a layer cake – obviously you need to use some frosting between the layers – I don’t recommend using too much frosting… you want the frosting to bind the layers not cause them to slip off one another.  Once the cake is assembled, pile a bunch of your frosting on your top layer and push it flat and down the sides – gently smoothing the icing all around the outside and top of the cake (it’s easiest to spin the cake… this is why I heart the lazy susan from IKEA – it makes cake decorating way easier). 

Now… grab your bag of flaked coconut and put small amounts in your hand and gently press it all over the sides of the cake.  It’s messy.  But so worth it.  The coconut is DELISH (oh heck… next time I’m gonna toast the coconut before frosting my cake!) … and it makes the cake look extra pretty. 

Don’t ya think?