Red Velvet Cheesecake with Cream Cheese Icing

Sometimes you can tell just by looking that a cheesecake is channeling its inner James Dean.

Sometimes you can tell just by looking that a cheesecake is channeling its inner James Dean.

My recent red velvet obsession finally impelled me to try this cheesecake, one which I first saw a little over a year ago. I was skeptical that red velvet’s signature nuanced flavour could be translated into cheesecake form, and this cheesecake has proved me right. I know that is the antithesis of a ringing endorsement, but I shall rebut myself with two points: First, I created this blog with the intention of exploring both what I love and what I think doesn’t turn out too well. Second, when Hubbley-Wubbles took this cheesecake into work, it was devoured by coworkers who said that it was fantastic and that I must be crazy. Hubbles seconded their repudiation, and so I must conclude that I am one of those rare creatures who don’t care for red velvet in anything but its classic cake form.

I'm having a flashback to Twins!

I’m having a flashback to Twins! Only these twins are much more attractive than the originals.

‘Tis a shame, too, because the red food colouring makes this cheesecake the breathtaking red hue of a pigeon’s blood ruby. (Side note: Why pigeon’s blood? Why not tiger’s blood or even mountain’s blood?) This flaming red pairs visually quite well with the Oreo crust, which is a deep charcoal colour. Iced thickly in my favourite cream cheese icing, this cheesecake is indeed a feast for the eyes. The red velvet flavouring hits the mark, but the cream cheese within the cheesecake is so overpoweringly tangy in comparison that I feel it blasts the red velvet flavours into oblivion; the end result is a cheesecake that is strangely bland. Again, others enjoyed the pairing of these two tastes, so I am apparently just weird. I tried the cheesecake both cold and at room temperature, and the red velvet taste did intensify a bit at room temperature, but not enough to compensate for the strong taste of cream cheese. The only redeeming feature of this for me was, ironically, the cream cheese icing.

Remember the magic of red!

Remember the magic of red!

I must also take issue with the crust. I’d never made an Oreo crust before, instead using Nilla wafers and flavouring them with cocoa for a chocolate crust. This worked beautifully for a chocolate raspberry tart I made over the summer and for this fantastic triple layer cheesecake. As I suspected, the Oreo crust tasted too much of artificial things. The taste of whatever chemicals and additives are present in Oreos is only magnified after the Oreos have been baked again, as it were. I strongly, strongly recommend making your own chocolate crust with cocoa powder, rather than relying on Oreos for chocolate flavour.

If you’re a confirmed lover of red velvet cheesecake, I urge you to try this recipe, because it does at least get the red velvet taste just right. (Never mind that this taste has to compete with that of cream cheese, which is comparatively much bolder.) If you’ve never tried a red velvet cheesecake, then try this one – for the same reason! You’ll discover if you like the contrast between the delicate red velvet flavouring and the bold cream cheese. I don’t regret making this at all, my grousing notwithstanding, because I’d have otherwise wondered literally for years about red velvet cheesecake. To deliberately misquote Lisa Noble, “Remember the magic of kitchen boldness!”

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Red Velvet Cheesecake with Cream Cheese Icing

Ingredients:

For the crust:
1 1/2 packages Mega-Stuffed Oreos with the stuffing removed (about 2 1/2 cups crushed Oreo cookies)
1 stick butter, melted
1 TBS sugar

For the cheesecake:
3 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 TBS cocoa powder
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 generous tsp distilled white vinegar
2 1/2 oz. red food coloring
4 large eggs, at room temperature

For the icing:
2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
4 – 6 cups powdered sugar
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 – 3 TBS milk or heavy cream, to thin icing as needed

Method:

For the crust:
Preheat oven to 325˚F. Spray a 9″ springform pan with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottom with a parchment paper round (to prevent the crust from sticking to the springform pan). Spray the parchment paper with more nonstick spray. Place the prepared pan on a rimmed baking sheet. (This will make lifting the cheesecake in and out of the oven much easier, in addition to catching any drips.) Set aside.

Process the cookies in a food processor until fine crumbs are formed. (Alternatively, you can crush the cookies in a large bowl with a potato masher.) Stir in the sugar and then the butter. Line the bottom of the springform pan with the crumbs, pressing evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Set aside.

For the cheesecake:
Beat cream cheese on low speed for 1 minute to soften; scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Add sugar and beat on low for 1 minute; scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Add the cocoa powder, sour cream, buttermilk, vanilla, vinegar, and food colouring and beat on low for 1 minute; scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating on low for 45 seconds after each addition and also scraping sides and bottom of bowl after each addition.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 325˚F for 10 minutes. Without opening oven door, reduce heat to 300˚F and bake for 75 minutes or until the edges of the cheesecake are set and the centre is still slightly wet. Turn off oven but do not remove cheesecake. Prop open oven door with a wooden spoon and allow cheesecake to sit in cooling oven for 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake and place on a wire rack; let cool completely. Cover surface directly with a layer of plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

To unmould cheesecake:
Take plastic wrap from top of cheesecake and set aside upside-down, so that the side that was touching the cheesecake is facing up. Release pan sides. Run bottom of cheesecake, still on springform bottom, over hot stovetop for 10 – 15 seconds. Lay the plastic wrap back onto the top of the cheesecake (in such a way so that the side that was originally touching the cheesecake directly is doing so again), and place a large, flat plate over the top of the cheesecake. Carefully flip cheesecake upside down so that the top of the cheesecake is against the plate. Using an extremely sharp knife, loosen cheesecake from springform bottom. (You may have to reheat the bottom of the pan if it is being stubborn.) This is where lining the springform pan with parchment paper pays off – the crust should easily release from the springform pan bottom. Flip cheesecake onto serving platter. Remove plastic wrap from top of cheesecake. Blot away any moisture with a paper towel.

Once the cheesecake is unmoulded, make the icing.

For the icing:
Beat the cream cheese and butter on high speed until thoroughly blended, about 3 minutes. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl and add powdered sugar; blend on low until powdered sugar is thoroughly incorporated. Increase speed and beat on high for 2 – 3 minutes. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl and add vanilla extract; beat on high 2 minutes more. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Add any necessary milk or cream, 1 TBS at a time, to thin icing to desired consistency, beating on high until each addition is thoroughly incorporated.

Ice top and sides of cheesecake, being careful not to scrape away the crust. Pipe a decorative border around the top and bottom edges of the cheesecake and garnish with red sanding sugar, if desired.

To slice cheesecake cleanly, use a sharp knife dipped into very hot water and wiped dry. Between each slice, wipe knife clean, re-dip into hot water, and wipe dry. This sounds like a lot of work for slicing a cheesecake, but you’ll be rewarded with clean, sharp edges on each slice.

Here is a series of photographs of the cheesecake as it is being iced:

Beginning the process of icing the cheesecake.

Beginning the process of icing the cheesecake. It really is this red!

Having iced the top, the sides are now being iced.

Having iced the top, the sides are now being iced.

Having iced top and sides, the bare spots shall now be touched up.

The top and sides have been iced; the bare spots shall now be touched up.

The cheesecake has been iced and smoothed. A few smoothing touches remain to be done.

The cheesecake has been iced and smoothed in a preliminary fashion. A few smoothing touches remain to be done.

Completely iced, smoothed, and etched with a webby decoration. Now all that must be done is to pipe around the top and bottom edges! (I see red sanding sugar in this cheesecake's future...)

Completely iced, smoothed, and etched with a webby decoration. Now all that must be done is to pipe around the top and bottom edges! (I see red sanding sugar in this cheesecake’s future…)

Sources: Crust and cheesecake slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats; cream cheese icing from Cakeman Raven

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