This little creature was the first to officially make me an Aunt. I’ve loved her since the moment I set eyes on her. She entertained me with her silly games when she was little and my family lived for every second we could spend with her. It’s unbelievable she just celebrated her 18th birthday and graduated Cum Laude!
From an early age Kaitlyn’s food selections were always impressive. When she was 4 years old I took her to a local kids pizza place with games and lots of noise. She headed straight to the salad bar and piled up a plate of cherry tomatoes, carrots and baby corn. She still loves her vegetables but also developed quite a friendly relationship with her mom’s best friend… chocolate.
Cheesecake with chocolate is what she wanted for her graduation party. So I made her one… with cherries on top.
- 8 oz. graham crackers, finely crushed (2 cups of crumbs)
- 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
- 7 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
- 4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- Table salt
- 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- chocolate shards or curls, for garnish
- 3/4 cup whipping cream
- 6 ounces dark chocolate
- 6 ounces semi sweet chocolate
- *I used Valrhona chocolate
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and 3 Tbs. granulated sugar. Mix in the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly moist and clump together slightly. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom and about 2 inches up the sides of the pan (to press, use plastic wrap or a flat-bottom measuring cup). Bake until the crust is fragrant and slightly darkened, 9 to 12 minutes. Let the pan cool on a rack. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, flour, and a pinch of table salt on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle frequently, until very smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Make sure the cheese has no lumps. Add the 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar and continue beating until well blended and smooth.
Add the vanilla and beat until blended, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until blended. (Don’t overbeat once the eggs have been added or the cheesecake will puff too much and crack as it cools.) Pour the filling into the cooled crust and smooth the top.
Bake at 300°F until the center jiggles like Jell-O when nudged, 55 to 65 minutes. The cake will be slightly puffed around the edges, and the center will still look moist. Set on a rack and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. The cake can also be frozen at this point for up to 1 month. (To freeze, put the unmolded, cooled cake on a rimmed baking sheet in the freezer, uncovered, until the top is cold and firm; then wrap it in two layers of plastic and one layer of foil. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.)
For the ganache: Pour 3/4 cup of whipping cream into a saucepan on the stove and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Remove from heat, and stir in the chocolate. Keep stirring, and as it comes together, switch to your whisk, stirring until it is completely combined and smooth. Let this cool slightly. Pour the ganache on the cheesecake and spread evenly.
Garnish with chocolate shards and serve immediately. To cut, run a thin knife under hot water, wipe it dry, and cut the cake into slices, heating and wiping the knife after every slice.