Chai Cheesecake

Oh, you read that right. Chai Cheesecake. Dreams do come true, especially tea dreams.

This past week we had “off” from school. I say “off”, because teachers never really get the Family Day week off. There is always Teacher’s Convention to go to, and I was gone four full days at convention.

Luckily, the convention was in Calgary, and I got to stay with my fabulous brother-in-law, and his amazing wife Serena (who is an avid blog reader, and probably one of my biggest fans. I’m so lucky.) P.S. Serena, this shout-out and this post is for you, beautiful lady!

Whenever I visit, Serena and I talk about a few things. Some of the most important things we discuss are: a) tea, b) baking, c) my blog (as I said, Serena is a huge fan!), and d) her beautiful paintings! I feel like we just click, and we are kind of kindred spirits… it’s wonderful!

(Also, if anyone is curious, Serena is a PHENOMENALLY talented artist. She makes beautiful paintings. I will try to get a few pictures of her absolutely stunning artwork, and if anyone wants to support her in her passion, I can put you in touch! Shameless self-plug for my family!!:) Below is a Serena original that we received as a gift. )

I got the idea for this recipe from Serena, but a quick Pinterest search yielded this recipe. I did take a few liberties and change the recipe a bit, so this is technically an original recipe… Hooray! I took out the chocolate, changed the crust, and added a Chai whipped cream to take the warm spice blend to a whole new level.

Also, Serena and I both have a Chai spice blend, which is amazing, however, just in case you lovely readers do not have a Chai spice blend, I will put in measurements for that.

If you are a cheesecake fan, or a Chai fan, make this as soon as you can!!

Ingredients

Yield: 1 10-inch cheesecake

For the crust:

½ c. butter, melted
2 c. crushed gingersnaps (or graham cracker crumbs)
1/3 c. sugar

For the cheesecake:

4 – 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 c. sugar
4 eggs
¼ c. whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. Chai spice
or
½ tsp. ginger
½ tsp. cardamom
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. allspice
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

For the whipped cream:

1 c. whipping cream
¼ c. icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. Chai spice blend

Place a loaf pan full of warm water in the cold oven. (If you use a water bath for your cheesecake, skip this step.) Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a springform pan with parchment paper.

If making your own Chai spice, whisk all spices together in a small bowl and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the melted butter, crushed gingersnaps, and sugar. Press the mixture into the lined springform pan, and pat down into an even layer. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one by one, then add in vanilla. When well combined and smooth, add in the Chai spice and the whipping cream. (If you made your own, only add in 3 tsp. of Chai spice, and save the rest for the whipped cream.) Once batter is smooth and spice is well-incorporated, pour into the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes, (in a water bath if using) then turn the oven off and let cheesecake cool to room temperature in warm oven. After the cheesecake cools to room temperature, take out of the oven, and move to the fridge to cool completely.

While the cheesecake is cooling, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the whipping cream, icing sugar, Chai spice, and vanilla, and whip on high until soft peaks of whipped cream form.

Spread the whipped cream over the cooled cheesecake, then remove from the springform pan, slice with a hot knife, and serve. Store in the refrigerator.

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Funfetti Cake

It’s not my birthday, but is there ever a bad time for Funfetti cake? I thought not!

I’ve been in a cake-baking mood lately, but have had no time, so with the long weekend that I have this week, I decided to just go for it. I surfed around the internet (a.k.a. Pinterest) until I found a cake that caught my eye, and this was it!

I was extremely pleased with the results, because I had been searching for a Funfetti cake from scratch recipe that didn’t need a ton of egg whites (because I always find it hard to find something to do with the yolks). This recipe calls for cake flour, but I used regular all-purpose and it turned out just fine.

There was never a ton of Funfetti cake in my house growing up, unless someone went out and specifically bought the boxed version. If we were making cake though, it was going to be a chocolate boxed version. Now, the boxed versions of cake mix are great when you are in a pinch. But I’ve found that I can taste whether or not the mix came out of a box. It’s a gift?

Either way, I much prefer homemade cakes to boxed versions (who wouldn’t!?), and this one takes the cake… Sorry. I had to.

If you have a Funfetti fan in your life, this is the cake for them! I will also note that the icing recipe was at best, sparse to cover the cake, hence I kind-of went for the “naked cake” decorating look. It’s not perfect by any means, but I’m still growing as a cake artist. If I were to make this again, I would one and a half times the icing recipe, and I think that would yield the perfect amount of frosting to fill, and decorate.

Ingredients

Yield: 1 8-9 inch three layer cake

For the cake:

3 c. flour (cake flour or all-purpose)
2½ c. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1½ c. butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
1¼ c. buttermilk, divided
5 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. confetti sprinkles

For the frosting:

2 c. butter, at room temperature
3¾ c. icing sugar
¼ c. heavy cream or milk, more or less as needed
1-2 tsp. vanilla
Food colouring, as desired

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8 or 9 inch cake pans. (I used my Miracle Cake Release. A 1:1:1 ratio of flour, vegetable oil, and shortening.) Set aside. I also used my homemade “Bake-Even” strips: strips of damp towel that are pinned around the sides of my cake tins. If you use these, the cakes will bake perfectly level, no cutting required!

In the bowl of a mixer, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix to combine. Add the butter and 1 cup of buttermilk. Mix on low until incorporated, then on medium until mixture is light and fluffy.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ¼ c. of buttermilk with the eggs and vanilla. Add to the batter in three additions, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the sprinkles, and divide the batter evenly between pans.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove pans from oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Turn out of pans to decorate.

To make the frosting, in the bowl of a mixer beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add in the icing sugar, a half cup at a time, until fully incorporated. If the mixture is getting too thick, add a tablespoon or so of the milk or cream. Add in the vanilla and the food colouring, if using.

To frost, place the first cake layer on your serving platter. Top with about a half cup of icing, and spread evenly. Repeat with the second and third layer. After that, spread remaining icing around the top and sides of the cake. Decorate as you like. I used a few extra sprinkles, but small round ones instead of more confetti sprinkles.

Slice, and serve!

Simple Meringue Cookies

My apologies lovely readers!

I have been ridiculously busy! January and February in a high school is always a busy time. The first semester is ending, final exams are happening, and teachers need to prepare for the beginning of the second semester, and they usually only have a few days to do it!

I haven’t even been baking that much, and I feel badly that you, and my blog, have been neglected! I decided to set that straight with a simple recipe that doesn’t take long to whip up, and yields deliciously wonderful results!

Paul is a huge fan of meringue cookies, and I had some leftover egg whites sitting in the fridge just waiting for me to use them. I decided meringues was the perfect way to use them up and not waste them.

Now, meringue cookies are usually one of two things: crisp all the way through, or a little soft and gooey in the middle. Paul is a fan of the gooey-in-the-middle ones, and I don’t mind either, so I ended up making some of both sizes, and we got to enjoy both.

I added a little bit of Root Beer Concentrate into my meringue to make them Root Beer flavoured, but you can leave them flavourless, or add any regular extract (and some food colouring) to jazz them up a little.

Meringues are fairly simple to make as well, as long as you have a stand mixer. If you don’t, prepare for an arm workout! I do, and it’s made my life so much easier. Also, these meringues are a great gluten-free cookie if you are on a gluten-free diet. I got the recipe for these meringues here, and the author just left them plain. Also, hers look a little prettier: if you want to make them look super fancy, put a special frosting tip, like a Wilton 1M into your piping bag. If you don’t care how they look (a.k.a. me when I made them!) you can just cut the tip off a piping bag and pipe them that way (which is what I did), or just plop the meringue into little piles on your baking sheet.

One tip for making meringue: you want to make sure your bowl is COMPLETELY grease-free and egg yolk free. If any grease or egg yolk gets into the bowl or the whites, the whites will not whip up properly. One way to avoid yolks is to use a container of just egg whites (which I buy when I have a recipe that calls for a lot of just egg whites). You can also crack the eggs into a bowl, and crack the egg on a flat surface, not the rim of the bowl.

The more you know, right?

Now, on to meringues!

Ingredients

Yield: Approx. 24 cookies

2 egg whites, at room temperature
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
½ c. sugar (superfine is easiest, but it still works with regular granulated sugar)

Preheat oven to 225°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Place the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip until foamy. Add in the cream of tartar and salt, and beat until soft peaks form.

With the mixer running, slowly add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until sugar is dissolved and stiff peaks form.

If you add food colouring and flavouring, add it just as stiff peaks start to form.

Pipe or scoop tablespoons of meringue mixture onto the prepared baking sheets. Make them smaller for crispy meringues throughout, and a little larger for chewy meringues. Again, I made both.

Bake for 45 minutes, then turn the oven off. Do not open the door. Let the meringues sit in the warm oven for 1 hour before removing.