Well, I have been looking at this Nanaimo cheesecake for a while now. It was originally brought to my attention by a dear friend, who requested I make her this recipe without coconut. I decided instead of making one large cheesecake, I would make four small ones. Three years ago, I bought eight small 6 inch cheesecake pans, and throughout heavy experimentation, I have figured out that one regular cheesecake recipe makes four small cheesecakes, and double the recipe makes the full eight mini cheesecakes.
Either way, if you like Nanaimo bars, then you should probably give this cheesecake (and this recipe!) a try. If you have never had a Nanaimo bar, and are wondering what the heck a Nanaimo bar is, then I will tell you. First, the bottom layer is a mixture of cocoa, coconut, and walnuts. This is covered in a custard cream layer. Finally, a layer of chocolate covers the whole thing.
Above is a picture of a classic Nanaimo bar (the picture is not mine!), and here in Canada, they are extremely popular. While Nanaimo bars are not my favourite dessert, I am a fan of cheesecake, so this recipe called to me. A layer of cocoa, coconut, walnuts and graham crumbs, topped with a smooth, creamy cheesecake base enhanced with with vanilla custard powder, and a silky, velvety chocolate ganache.
Cheesecake is always a finicky thing to make, and I have found that smaller cheesecakes tend to crack slightly more than larger ones. However, here are a couple tricks to help minimize the cracking.
Firstly, place a pan of warm water in the oven as you are preheating the oven. If you have to bake the crust before the whole cheesecake, place the pan of water in the oven as soon as you take out the crust. Make sure the water is warm or hot when you put it in the pan.
Secondly, cheesecakes like to cook at a lower temperature for longer. Usually recipes say to cook cheesecakes for 45-60 minutes. One way to help stop cracking is to cook the cheesecake at the recommended temperature for no longer than 45 minutes. After that, turn off the oven, and crack it for a second to lose some of the heat. Then, close the oven, and let the residual heat finish baking the cheesecake for the last 15 minutes. After that, crack the oven open again, and let cool to complete room temperature.
Finally, after cooling the cheesecake in the oven completely, transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator and chill completely.
After your cheesecake has chilled completely, if there are any cracks, soak an offset spatula in hot water and gently push the chilled filling together to seal the crack. When the cracks are repaired, chill again.
However, back to the cheesecake! Take a chance on this recipe, and let it wow you!
Yield: 1 9 or 10 inch cheesecake, or 4 6 inch cheesecakes
For the crust:
4 tbsp. melted butter
5 tbsp. cocoa powder
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1½ c. graham cracker crumbs
½ c. chopped walnuts
¾ c. sweetened coconut flakes
For the filling:
4 8oz. bricks softened cream cheese
1½ c. sugar
1/3 c. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
3 tbsp. vanilla custard powder (which I found at Wal-Mart and Save-On-Foods in the baking aisle)
For the ganache:
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom and sides of a springform pan with parchment paper. Finely chop or grind the walnuts into a powder. Combine all crust ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until evenly combined. Press crust into the springform pan bottom and up the sides about an inch. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, and cool on a cooling rack while you make the filling.
Place a pan filled with warm water in the lower rack of the oven.
For the filling, in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add in the sour cream, sugar, vanilla and custard powder and mix until smooth and combined.
Pour onto the crust, and bake 60 minutes, on higher oven rack above the pan of water. Crack the oven, and let cool to room temperature in the oven, about 2-3 hours. After cool, chill completely in the refrigerator. Fix any cracks if necessary.
Once the cheesecake is completely chilled, place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Warm the cream in the microwave for 1½ minutes. Pour the cream over the chocolate, and let sit for 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Let cool until thick and smooth, then pour over the cheesecake, and refrigerate until set.
Slice, serve, and enjoy!