Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Cherry Mousse

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Cherry Mousse

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Cherry Mousse

Someone asked me recently what my cooking style is. While I can’t claim to be as specific as “Italian cuisine” or “healthy cooking,” I think my style is best described as working with ingredients and ideas that inspire me. Take this recipe for dark chocolate cheesecake with cherry mousse.

The process started after I bought sour cherries on a whim and was having a difficult time deciding how to use them. I’d already made a cherry crumble this summer and I just haven’t been feeling very pie-y. So I decided to think outside the box (sorry, term leftover from my PR days) and came up with cherry mousse.

Cherry Mousse: sour cherries in food processor Cherry Mousse: fold in whipped cream Cherry Mousse

The original idea was to fill white chocolate cupcakes with cherry mousse but I wasn’t thrilled with how the cupcakes turned out. They had great flavor but the texture was a bit off. And they weren’t real chocolate. I guess that’s what I get for breaking my self-imposed no-white-chocolate-because-it’s-not-really-chocolate rule.

Rather than attempt the cupcakes again, I decided to switch gears and go with real chocolate.  The question was should I make cupcakes again or try something different. After spending way too much time thinking about how to use the cherry mousse (we’re talking half a day of indecision here, SO not normal) I finally settled on dark chocolate cheesecake because The Flavor Bible okayed the combination of cherries, dark chocolate and cream cheese. And I do whatever The Flavor Bible says.

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake: chocolate wafer cookies crumbs Chopped bittersweet chocolate bar Cheesecake topped with cherry mousse

The result was incredible. I splurged on high-end chocolate (Scharffen Berger 70% bittersweet cocoa bar) which made for a rich and creamy cheesecake. Its smooth, light texture contrasted perfectly with the crispy chocolate wafer crust and the sweet, bright flavor of the cherry mousse balanced the richness of the cheesecake to create a perfect bite.

Dark chocolate cheesecake with cherry mousse equals optimum summer decadence. That, my friends, is my cooking style.

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Cherry Mousse

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Cherry Mousse

Here’s the recipe:

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Lemon Yogurt Cake Helps Brighten the Day

Lemon Yogurt Cake

For most of us it seems as though April 15th, AKA tax day, is approaching too fast. But for my sister, Marci, and other family members it couldn’t come soon enough. Pretty much all of them are CPAs (yes, I’m the culinary rebel of the family) and have been working crazy hours since February.

With long days that don’t allow them any actual sunlight, I doubt my sister and her coworkers are eating anything homemade right now, and they truly seem to appreciate any gesture in that direction: two weeks ago I sent Marci to work with cake balls and she and her coworkers are still raving about them!

So, to help make this last week of tax season a bit easier to swallow, I made them a lemon yogurt cake. This brightly-flavored treat has a moist crumb but is light in texture so as not to bog them down, plus there’s just enough sugar to help them get through the day.

Of course, I had to try one small piece just to make sure it was edible – and trust me it was! Oh, how I hated to part with the rest of that cake, but certainly this was a worthy cause.

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Cake Balls

Cake balls

I hate wasting food of any sort, but to throw away perfectly good cake? I don’t think so.

After making the devil’s food cake with malt chocolate frosting, I was left with a baggie of cake scraps leftover from trimming the layers, not to mention about a cup of frosting. Inspired by the Pioneer Woman’s recent endeavors in making cake balls (definitely visit her blog for more creative ways to use the cake balls along with other great recipes), I decided to try it myself.

Cake and frosting Combined cake and frosting

Rolled cake balls

Coincidentally, my friend was due to give birth to her second child (a boy – welcome to the world Ethan!) last week so I decorated the cake balls and brought them to the hospital in honor of the occasion.

These cake balls were delicious and super cute to boot! The flavor possibilities are endless – you can use any combination of cake and frosting. Note that the “recipe” below is really more of a technique – just use your judgement for consistency and remember you can always make extra frosting (I’d estimate a 3 to 1 ratio cake to frosting).

Dark cocoa candy melts Melted chocolate

Blue candy melts Decorated cake balls

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Recipe: Devil’s Food Cake with Malt Chocolate Frosting

Devil's Food Cake with Malt Chocolate Frosting

Let’s be clear on this right off the bat: I’m a cook, not a baker. A regular chef, not a pastry chef. With that said, I have to brag a little about this cake I made last weekend to celebrate my dad’s birthday: Devil’s Food Cake with Malt Chocolate Frosting.

Trim the cake Coat cake with simple syrup

It’s certainly not the most beautiful cake in the world. I described it to my friend Cathy, who indeed is a brilliant pastry chef at a Chicago restaurant, as a tasty homemade cake that looked like it was trying to be professional but didn’t quite make it. My sister vehemently disagreed, saying: “it looks so professional, like I could’ve bought it at Jewel.”

And I rest my case.

Frost first layer of cake Add second layer

Ready for third layer Frost top and sides

Despite the haphazard decorating, this cake really was delicious. I don’t often make cakes – usually I stick with cupcakes or pies or things like that. But for some reason I was inspired to make a three-layer cake, and no, two layers would simply not suffice.

Use pastry comb to add texture/design

Back to the cake. It’s a chocolate devil’s food cake similar to the one I used for the homemade Hostess cupcakes. However, this recipe was adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion (only major change was using 1/2 cup strong coffee in place of 1/2 cup milk – you don’t taste the coffee, it is there to enhance the chocolate) and yields the perfect amount of batter for three eight-inch round cakes.

Fill pastry bag with frosting Pipe decorative design

The most exciting part of the cake was the frosting: a malt chocolate frosting adapted from Chocolate Cake: 150 Recipes from Simple to Sublime. I went with malt because it’s a flavor my dad loves – I don’t think he’s ever gone to a Cubs game without ordering a Frosty Malt cup. But it was also rich and chocolately, thus appealing to another family member who tried to talk me out of the malt.

Half the Devil's Food Cake with Malt Chocolate Frosting

I won’t go so far as to say this was a difficult project, just a bit time-consuming. But I made it easier by baking the cakes the night before and then decorating them in the morning. Allow the cakes to cool to room temperature, then wrap well in plastic and refrigerate. It also helps to pop them in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes before using.

Stay tuned for the recipe on cake balls, a great way to use leftover trimmed cake and frosting!

Piece of Devil's Food Cake with Malt Chocolate Frosting

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So-so Results with Vanilla-Peach Chiffon Cake

Vanilla-Peach Chiffon Cake

I’d been yearning to bake a cake. Why, I couldn’t say. So, using mainly what I could find in the house, I made my first attempt at a Vanilla-Peach Chiffon Cake. In short, the cake was tasty but could still use some work.

I had wanted to make a peach-flavored cake because it was seasonal, however, in the end I wound up using canned peaches (15 oz can of sliced peaches in 100% real fruit juice from concentrate) for the intense flavors of the juices. In addition to the juice, I also folded in 2 tablespoons minced peaches and used the rest of the slices to decorate the top of the cake. Unfortunately, the flavors weren’t strong enough and the cake itself only hinted at peach, although the sliced peach garnish did help. The vanilla was subtle but sufficient. Read more of this >>

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