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

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

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

Things you may need:

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Yum Goggle Top 80 Cheesecake Recipe Roundup