Tag Archives: turtle

No one ever got fat from looking at pictures

…but you CAN get very, very fat after eating the turtle cheesecake I made last week:

 

It started as the germ of an idea.  After some mostly-fruitless googling, I had to get all Dr. Frankenstein up in that thing, and set to work creating a monster:

 

THE PERFECT CHEESECAKE.

 

 

You know you want it.

 

So here’s what you do:

 

1)Make a chocolate cheesecake crust and press into your trusty (greased) 9″ springform pan.  (graham crackers or chocolate graham crackers + butter + a bit of sugar + cocoa powder).

 

2)Make caramel sauce (I use 1c butter, 2c sugar, 2t vanilla and 1c heavy cream, but you could half that since I have a LOT left over.  Which I’m using in cinnamon rolls, so you really shouldn’t pity me.).  Be sure not to make it too dark, but not too light either.  (This was actually a bit lighter than I’d have liked, ultimately).

 

3)Pour some caramel sauce over the crust; sprinkle on about 1/2c chopped pecans, stick the whole thing in the fridge.

 

4)Make Nigella’s chocolate cheesecake filling, per the recipe.  Bake it utilizing all of my SUPER SEEKRIT CRACK PREVENTION TRICKS.*

 

5)Make a chocolate ganache (whatever floats your boat. I like to use bittersweet and sometimes a bit of semisweet, cream, and more vanilla).  Let that cool, and drizzle it on top of your cooled cheesecake all willy-nilly.  Finish off with more caramel sauce, too.  And then pecans, because you must.

 

6)Take the whole shebang to work, in honor of a grad student’s birthday.  Be adored forever ‘n’ ever.

 

Kids, never settle for mediocrity.  Always strive to do better.  And you know, it’s no coincidence that “better” is just one letter off from “butter”.

 

 

Now.  Go forth and consume cheesecake.

 

~~~

*OK, since you asked…

Cheesecakes crack for three reasons:  over-mixed filling, abrupt temperature changes, and tension (but then, who DOESN’T crack under tension?).  So, there are three ways to prevent your cheesecake from cracking:

1)Don’t over-mix the filling.  If your ingredients are cold, it will take more time and energy to combine them, thus incorporating more air (air which will then want to escape from your baking cheesecake in the medium of, yes, cracks).  So be sure that your butter, cream cheese, eggs, cream, etc. are all nice and tepid. Room temperature.

 

2)Avoid abrupt temperature changes.  This is why making cheesecake is the awesomest thing ever, and also the bane of my existence:  to do it right, a cheesecake will occupy your oven and your life for at least 6 hours.  See, you can’t just bake a cheesecake and yank it out of the oven and throw it on the counter and call it good.  You have to cool it *very* gradually.  So here’s what I do:  Bake for 1 hour at 350*, in a water bath to add humidity (see below) and to slow the speed at which your cheesecake heats up – if it can’t heat at a uniform rate/distribution, it’ll crack.  When your cheesecake is done, turn the oven off; leave cheesecake set in there for another hour.  At the third hour, open the oven door partway.  At the fourth hour, open the oven door all the way.  At the fifth hour, set the cheesecake on the counter.  At the  seventh (or preferably eighth or even later) hour, stick it in the fridge to keep.  All this means that your oven is tied up and your mission in life for these many hours is to tend a freakin’ baking pan.  Congratulations.  (For what it’s worth, I have been known – in times of great hurry and duress – to speed the cooling increments (second hour onward) by half.  But it makes me twitchy and nervous to do that.  I don’t recommend it, unless you enjoy living life on the edge.

 

3)Tension.  I don’t mean the mental kind (that which leads to cheesecake consumption, not cheesecake creation).  If your cake isn’t free to expand and retract as it needs to, it’ll start sticking to the sides of the pan, and will crack.  So grease the pan.  (That’s a no-brainer). But the water bath is also handy for this:  it will create plenty of wonderful humidity in the oven, as well as helping with the dryness/baking speed thing I talked about above.

 

PS>Next time I’m gonna toast the pecans.

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Redemption

…or at least, an attempt.

Behold, the result of another attempt at “turtle cake”, this one born on Wednesday night:

It still isn’t really pretty, but I’m calling it “good enough.”

I’m also calling it “really fucking delicious”.

I’m also also calling it “not a craft fail or cake wreck.  This time.”

I’m also also also calling it “holy hell homemade caramel!”

If you can look past the yellow, 10:00pm light and the messy kitchen, I think you’ll agree that this is an average-looking (average! woohoo!) cake which – you’ll just have to trust me on this – tastes absolutely exquisite.

I did pretty much everything differently this time, and with great success.

~~~

Last time, I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe, the Johnson family recipe.  It was too soft; it couldn’t stand up, structurally, to the toppings.

This time, I used the Devil’s Food cake recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook.  Usually when I make that cake I substitute 2 1/2c cake flour for the 2 1/4c all-purpose flour called for, but this time I actually wanted the cake to have a bit more density to it so I stuck with the all-purpose flour.  I wasn’t worried about the cake losing moisture because I knew the caramel would more than provide.

~~~

Last time, I made a caramel syrup by melting down store-bought caramels with butter and sweetened condensed milk.  It looked good while the syrup was warm, but hardened as it cooled.

This time, I made my own caramel and added 1c whipping cream to form a syrup.  It was – is – divine.  I want to have this syrup’s babies.

~~~

Last time, I stirred the chopped pecans into the caramel.

This time, I just sprinkled them on top (and between the layers).  A purely aesthetic difference, but I like it.  The pecans are from my grandma, and I picked ’em all myself.

~~~

Last time, I made a horrible, horrible frosting by Paula Deen, which she’d promised would be “fudgy.”  It wasn’t, unless by “fudgy” you mean “sort of gelatinous with an unappealing skin on top”.

This time, I made my tried-and-true chocolate ganache.  As you can see in the photos, I didn’t put the ganache on the cake before serving.  I brought it to work in a Pyrex container and told people to add it themselves (I was still worried about the ganache making the caramel slide off.  It also showed me who in our office is a real chocoholic 😉

~~~

But even though I’m incredibly happy with my success this time, there are still a few things I’m going to change for next time:

  • I really want to make this with three 8″ rounds instead of 2 9″ rounds.  It’ll be more impressive looking.
  • My cakes didn’t come cleanly out of the pans.  This was my own fault; it was late and I was tired and didn’t want to wait for them to cool properly. I know this.  I knew what would happen.  I did it anyway.  But I did learn from my mistakes last time, and didn’t attempt to put any toppings on the cakes until they were fully cool.
  • I added the caramel to the cake at the exact right temperature this time – it was completely tepid, without the slightest bit of warmth or coolness.  Yet as you can see, it drizzled down the sides of the cake most appealingly.  I think I may have put a bit too much on though.
  • I think I’m going to toast the pecans, for that added little bit of crunch.
  • I’m going to try drizzling the ganache on top, after it has cooled adequately.  The only way to find out if it’ll work or not is to give it a shot, right?

Baking is very much a science – you can’t play fast and loose with ingredients or proportions or timing – but it’s also an art.  The Big Mac looked great on paper, but obviously didn’t come together well.  This second cake was a learning experience, and I think it sent me much further down the road toward my goal.  But there’s still work to do before I have a turtle cake I’m completely happy with.

Luckily, my father-in-law’s birthday is Sunday, so I’ve got the opportunity to give it another go.

Would anyone be interested in a recipe and/or PW-esque photo tutorial of my Sunday baking adventure?

They can’t all be winners…

(Please for the love of all that is holy and delicious, do NOT skip the text & scroll directly to the photos.  It’s so much funnier if you understand where I’m coming from)

Y’all know I’m a good baker.  My cheesecakes never crack; my breads always have a lovely brown crust and airy, perfect center; I can bake 96 snickerdoodles in an evening without breaking a sweat.

HOWEVER (there’s always a however), nobody’s perfect.

Boy-oh-boy, am I ever imperfect.

A co-worker has a birthday is this week.  For each co-worker’s birthday, I bake him or her their favorite item – now that everyone’s gotten a pretty fair idea of my repertoire, I’m getting some special requests.  “I love your chocolate chip cookies, Kate.”  “That coffee cake you brought a few weeks ago was great!”  This guy, though, threw me a curveball:  “I want a turtle cake!”

So I thought about what that might entail, I looked around online for some ideas and inspiration, and last night I took to the kitchen to create a delicious turtle cake.

My vision:  chocolate cake (Johnson family recipe), fudgy chocolate frosting, caramel and pecans drizzled atop.  A veritable vision of gooey deliciousness.

It was doomed from the start.  My cakes didn’t come cleanly out of the pans.  The fudgy frosting (Paula Deen‘s recipe) was a total bust; neither fudgy nor frosting-y.  I used the wrong plate (amateur mistake; I should know better!), one that was tapered toward the center rather than flat at the bottom.  Just about the only thing that went *right* was the caramel topping (caramels + butter + sweetened condensed milk) with a cup of finely chopped hand-picked pecans from Grandma’s property stirred in.

But still I pressed onward, to the point of full assembly.  And when it was done I stood back, took a good look at it, and bellowed…

“JEFFFFFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

He ran into the room, came to a full stop, and…laughed hysterically.  It’s just that bad.

Don’t believe me?  See for yourself (Keepin’ it real, yo.):

No, I’m not kidding.  I really wish I was.  I really, REALLY wish I could say “ah-ha! Just kidding!  Here is the real cake!” and unveil a masterpiece of epic proportions.  But I can’t.  That’s it.

Shall we have another angle?

Danger!  Mudslide ahead!  Or, if you squint, Danger! Big Mac ahead!

 

 

Despite Jeff’s insistence (though his tears of laughter) that I should take it to work anyway, I just can’t.  I CAN’T.  No one deserves this for their birthday.  Not my worst enemy, and certainly not a co-worker who I feel neutral-leaning-to-friendly towards.

My in-laws are about to be the proud recipients of the ugliest, delicious-est cake in the history of ugly delicious cakes.  Lucky them.

And me?  I’m going to try again after Thanksgiving.  Think I should tweak things a bit for next time? 😛

I recommend bookmarking this post for the next time you need a good, deep belly laugh.  I know I’m sure going to.

PS>This morning I whipped up a batch of chocolate chip muffins with streusel topping and brought those in instead, then showed my co-workers a picture of what I almost brought them.  We all laughed heartily, and I cried a bit inside.