March 22, 2015

The (cheese)cake is a lie: Cheesecake Stuffed Portal Cake


My brother always complains that I turned him into a cake snob. He can't help but compare any cake he eats to cake that I make, and usually finds it lacking. (Thankfully, that was not the case with his wedding cake) And heaven forbid you give that man box cake. He's so used to eating my cakes that he can immediately spot the too-sweet and artificial taste.

For his birthday I always ask him what kind of cake he wants, and he always answers chocolate. Every year. That boy loves his chocolate cake.

Chocolate cake is a simple enough request, so I kind of had to go and complicate it. See, my entire family loves cheesecake, but I never make it because I don't like it. (I have a complicated relationship with cream cheese. Cream cheese plus savory equals awesome. Cream cheese plus sweet equals gag) I thought I'd do something special this year and make him a cheesecake. I even hunted up a recipe from Junior's in Brooklyn (his fave) for a devil's food cheesecake that had a layer of cheesecake in the middle of layers of devil's food cake and chocolate fudge frosting.
I didn't use Junior's recipe for the cake or frosting, though. I used my favorite devil's food recipe instead (of course, I realized after I took the cake out of the oven that I accidentally used baking powder instead of baking soda, so the layers were pretty thin and dense). I also, umm, I sort of took a shortcut with the frosting, because I'm a terrible person and cheesecake is hard and I didn't want to wash more bowls and don't judge me.

To try and mask the flavor of shortcut frosting (and to cover the fact that I'm not good at frosting cakes), I decided to decorate the cake with crumbs-- I reserved a little batter and baked it separately, then I toasted the crumbs. It was at that moment I realized that with a little whipped cream (which I had), some maraschino cherries (which I had), and a white candle (which I didn't have, but then had to run to the store last minute and so could buy one), I could totally make it into a Portal cake.

For those of you who don't know, Portal is a video game where the main character, Chell, participates in a series of tests (the puzzles the player has to solve) and is promised cake at the conclusion of the experiment. As the game progresses, it gets weirder and darker and you find out that the cake is, of course, a lie.
Okay, so I went a little crazy on the whipped cream. Oops
The "official" version of the cake is decorated with chocolate shards and uses a tall, thin candle. I covered mine with cake crumbs and, since it was kind of a last minute decision, could not find a tall, thin candle, so I just used a taper. You can still totally tell what it's supposed to be. Right?
How did it taste? Well, I'm not the best judge on that. It could be the world's best cheesecake, and I'd still be like, meh. How about we let the birthday boy weigh in?
Thumbs up!

Cheesecake Stuffed Portal Cake
Yield: 12-16 servings

Ingredients
For the cheesecake:
3 (8 oz.) packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1⅓ cups sugar, divided
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 extra large eggs
⅔ cup heavy cream

To assemble:
Toasted cake crumbs or chocolate sprinkles
Whipped cream
8 maraschino cherries
1 tall white candle

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 9 inch springform pan, and wrap the outside with aluminum foil.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large mixing bowl with electric beaters, beat 1 (8 oz.) pacakge of cream cheese with ⅓ cup sugar and cornstarch on low speed until creamy. Add the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, scraping down the bowl after each. Increase the speed to medium and add the remaining sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the cream and beat until just incorporated. Do not over mix.

Gently spread the batter into the spingform pan. Place the pan in a large, rimmed pan (I used a foil roasting pan). Add hot water to the large pan until it comes up the sides of the springform pan about 1 inch. Bake until the edges are golden, the top is lightly tanned, and the middle still jiggles slightly when moved, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove the springform pan from the water bath and cool on a wire rack and cool for about 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until completely chilled, about 4 hours. Freeze until use.

Prepare the devil's food cake according to recipe instructions and bake in two 9 inch round cake pans. Optional-- reserve about 1 cup of batter and bake separately to make cake crumbs cake crumbs. Cool completely.

To assemble the cake: allow the cheesecake to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Place one layer of devil's food cake on a cake plate and spread generously with frosting. Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan and place top side down on the frosted cake layer. Spread more frosting on top. Add the second cake layer, and frost the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting.

Cover the cake with the reserved cake crumbs or chocolate sprinkles, pressing them lightly into the frosting so they stick. On the top of the cake, use the whipped cream to pipe 8 rosettes evenly around the edge. Place one maraschino cherry in the middle of each rosette. Pipe another rosette in the middle of the cake and place the candle.

Recipe adapted slightly from FoodNetwork.com

Things you may need:



*Disclaimer: This post contains affliate links*

March 14, 2015

Mac 'n Cheese Pie with Bacon Lattice for the Ultimate Pi Day


Do you guys know what today is? It's Pi Day! But it's not just any old Pi Day, it's the Ultimate Pi Day! *voice echo**explosion sounds**special effects*

As you may know, Pi Day is March 14th every year because 3/14 = 3.14, the first three digits of pi. This year, however, the date is 3/14/15, and 3.1415 are the first 5 digits of pi. Not only that, but at 9:26:53 AM, we're at 3.141592653, a full 10 digits of pi. This is the only time this will occur in our lifetimes, you guys, and I think that's pretty darn cool.

Does that make me a huge nerd?

Fun fact: even though I'm actually pretty good at math, I was really bad at geometry. I took it freshman year of high school, at a time when I was flirting with the idea of going into architecture. After taking geometry, I knew architecture was a bad choice for me. If you can't calculate shapes and angles, you shouldn't be building things. Statistics is more my speed. I killed at statistics.
Now, I knew I had to do something epic to celebrate the Ultimate Pi Day. Since Pi Day is traditionally celebrated with pie for obvious reasons, that was the way to go. But me and pie, we're not the best of buds. I don't really make it that often, and I wouldn't really know how to go epic, you know? So I did some interwebz research and found a bacon topped macaroni and cheese pie on Buzzfeed. That sounded pretty epic, and also pretty easy.

Now, since I'm me and I don't follow recipes, I sort of went my own way. But in this case, "going my own way" actually meant using a couple of short cuts. You may recall that I have a block against pastry crusts. I can't make them. It never works. So, I bought some frozen puff pastry to use as a crust. I also, and I'm ashamed to admit it, bought the cheese sauce from the grocery store. That's not a thing I ever thought I would say, but I didn't really feel up to making my favorite mac 'n cheese sauce, even if it would have tasted better.

I also cooked the pasta in my rice cooker, but that's not a thing you have to do. I've just been cooking everything in my rice cooker lately because it's kind of awesome, and it was so much easier to use it than to boil the pasta on the stove. (Side note: I love my rice cooker. It has a steamer tray so I can cook meat and veggies with my rice. Full meal, no added effort, what's not to love?)
I added some spinach to the pasta because... I couldn't bring myself not to add a little green. It in no way balances out the complete unhealthiness of the pie, but at least you get something good with it. You could also add some broccoli or zucchini, or skip the green stuff all together. I won't tell.

Assembling the pie couldn't be easier. Just press the puff pastry into a pie plate. Mix together the pasta, sauce, some shredded cheese, onion, and cooked spinach and put it all in the pie plate. Take 8 strips of bacon and lay it on top, basket weave style. I folded the edges of the pastry over the ends of the bacon to prevent any grease from dripping into the oven, then I baked it up.
How does it taste? It's macaroni and cheese with bacon in puff pastry. You really can't go wrong here. It it the absolute ultimate in comfort food. The cheesy pasta, the buttery pastry, the salty bacon, so many carbs it puts you in a coma, but the good kind.

One thing is that it kind of falls apart when it's warm, so you'll want to let it cool completely before slicing. I thought about putting an egg in as a binder, but I totally forgot to buy eggs when I was at the store, so I don't know if that would make much of a difference. You can warm up the individual slices to serve, or you could just eat it cold. I actually really like it cold. I know, I'm weird.
As a bonus, I remembered that I had a pi silicone ice cube tray, but since I wasn't making a dessert and couldn't really use chocolate, I was stumped as to how I could use it. I thought maybe I could pour some melted butter in the molds, but a random pat of butter on top of the pie seemed weird. Then I thought about using some of the cheese sauce and freezing it, but I wasn't sure how well that would work. Then I thought, why not just melt some cheddar and try that? And it worked perfectly.

All you do is heat the cheese in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, until it's melted. Then you just pinch off a bit and press it into the mold. Chill the refrigerator until set (between 30-60 minutes), then pop it straight out. I greased the mold first, but since the melted cheddar was pretty greasy itself, I don't know how necessary that really is. I'll just have to try it again (buy ALL the ice cube trays!).
And that's all there is to making an epic pie for an epic Pi Day. Nerd food at its finest.

Mac 'n Cheese Pie
Yield: 1 9inch pie (6-8 servings)

Ingredients
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
8 oz. elbow macaroni
2 cups packed fresh spinach
1¼ cups cheese sauce
1 heaping cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup diced red onion*
8 slices of bacon

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Press the puff pastry into a 9 inch pie plate and trim off the excess. Prick the pastry a few times along the bottom with a fork.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, for 1-2 minutes less than recommended. Drain and return to the pot. Stir in the cheese sauce and spinach. Heat on low while stirring, until the spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and stir in the shredded cheese and diced onion.

Spread the pasta evenly into the prepared pastry. Place the bacon on top (4 strips vertically, 4 strips horizontally) and weave in a basket weave pattern (1 over, 1 under). Tuck the ends of the bacon into the pie. Fold up the edges of the pastry over the bacon to prevent grease runoff.

Bake for 15-25 minutes, until the bacon is cooked through and the pastry is golden brown (tent the edges with foil if it starts to brown too quickly). Allow to cool before slicing.

*If using a cheese sauce that already has onion, feel free to skip

Recipe inspired by Buzzfeed

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