Earlier this month it was my boyfriend’s 31st birthday. As the recipient of practically all the goodies I bake, it can be hard to come up with something special for his birthday dinner and dessert and/or cake. This is exacerbated by the fact that his idea of special and mine exist on opposite sides of the planet. I like busy and complex multi-layered cakes of ridiculousness with fancy decorations, he likes chessecake. I started quizzing him on things he’d like me to make for him and got nothing except requests to make cakes I’d made for previous birthdays. Unsatisfied with that answer I sent him to rummage through my recipe books for ideas.
He returned with an A4 list of cakes. He’s about as decisive as I am.
They were almost all cheesecakes and tea cakes, save for the bread and butter pudding he’d very subtly circled. I resigned to banishing any idea of spectacular gateaux from my mind and baking him a cheesecake instead (whose birthday is it anyway, right?).
I took a basic baked cheesecake recipe and decided to load it with a few of his favourite things.
The biscuit base was originally going to be made with chocolate biscuits, but I can’t read and opened a packet of plain biscuits instead. To that I added almonds and some cinnamon as well: half because I like to pair orange with cinnamon and half because it is one of his favourite things ever.
Blitzed that all up with some melted butter and started pressing it into the pan. The original recipe just has a bottom base for the cheesecake, but I much prefer bases that wrap around the sides.
I pop about a third of it in the tin and press that down, before scattering the rest around the sides and pushing that into the sides.
While that’s chilling in the fridge, it’s time to get started on the base. The first thing I did was make the choc orange ganache. You need to let it cool to room temperature before adding it into the recipe, otherwise everything goes all melty and weird.
While waiting for that you can cream the cream cheese and sugar. When it’s all good to go you can beat that in until it’s full of chocolatey goodness.
Pour it into the base and bake away!
Now, here’s where you get to be a lot more clever than me. I’ve only baked a baked cheesecake once and forever ago, so I forgot everything I learned apparently and made the two biggest errors: over beating and baking at too high a temperature. I accidentally set my oven to 180°C, realised as I was about to put it in the oven and, rather than being patient and waiting for the oven to come to temperate, I threw the cake in and turned down the heat. There’s two things baked cheesecakes don’t like: getting over 160°C and too much air. Both cause cracks to form in the top. This is purely an aesthetic concern and it still tastes amazing, but it’s something you’ll want to avoid.
I was planning on covering this one up in garnishes so it really didn’t matter too much. Around the edges I piped a cinnamon Chantilly cream and adorned with candied oranges.
I don’t have a photo of the middle for you because it was well and truly demolished by the time we got home to my place, but I can tell you it tasted amazing. I’ve never really been a huge fan of baked cheesecake. In fact the only ones I’ve had were those bought for his birthday when we first started going out. But it was much better than I remember them being. It almost taste like chocolate mousse, so big ticks there.
If you’ve never candied oranges before it’s a really simple process. There’s pedantic ways and there are cheating ways. I was short on time so I simply boiled them in a sugar syrup (2 parts water to 1 part sugar) until they were nice and tender. You’ll want to let them cool for a moment before putting them on the cake because otherwise it will melt the cream. If you’re even shorter on time you can simply add some fresh orange slices shortly before serving. I used the rind of half a large orange for the cake, then finely sliced the other half for the garnish. You can, of course, decorate it with any fruit or other garnish you like.
|Choc Orange Baked Cheesecake
250g (8.8oz) plain sweet biscuits
a handful of whole almonds
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1tbsp brown sugar
180g (6.3oz) butter, melted
125g (4.4oz) dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (125ml/4.2fl oz) thickened cream
1/2 rind of a large naval orange, finely grated
500g (17.6oz) block(s) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (100g/3oz) firmly packed soft brown sugar
2 free range eggs