Layered Spice Cake and Cheesecake

I have great contention with the traditional Easter dinner of ham- meaning that I refuse to eat it.  But there are so many great things that come along with Easter.  First, our school gets a three day weekend with no school on Monday, my longest/worst day of the week.  I will snooze all morning and enjoy not having to be on campus on that Monday. Second, Easter candy.  Cadbury eggs, Peeps, and Reeses eggs fill my dreams during the spring months.  I love candy and in full disclosure, I have already begun stocking up a stash in my closet for when Easter is over.

If you need an Easter dessert rather than wonderful seasonal candy, this cake would be a perfect way to wow everyone.  This decadent cake has alternating layers of spice cake and New York style cheese cake.  Then it is all topped with cream cheese frosting.  Cream cheese on cream cheese is a wonderful thing.

Everything in my kitchen seemed to come into place with this cake: my cheesecakes didn’t crack (I promise even though you can’t see the tops),there were no cream cheese frosting thickness problems like I have had before, and my cakes came out of the pans easily.  I am extremely proud of my successful layering of this cake, and I did a little kitchen dance of celebration when I cut the first piece.  I spent a good amount of time just admiring and gazing lovingly at the cake.  I assume this is exactly like parenthood, right?  But I had to eat my child, and it was delicious.

This cake does take some time investment, but it is not super challenging as far as layer cakes go.  I suggest making the cheesecake layers the night before and chilling to help develop flavor (this recipe is from the best New York cheesecake I’ve ever made).  If you want to make it even more Easter themed, make the spice cake layer a spice carrot cake.

Hope you all have a great Easter weekend!

Spice cake from Taste of Home & Cheesecake from Cook’s Illustrated
Frosting from Our Best Bites

For the Cheesecake:

2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, cut into 1 inch chunks and softened
10 1/2 ounces granulated sugar (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour cream, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 egg yolks, room temperature
6 large eggs, room temperature

For the Sour Cream Spice Cake:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons all spice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

For the Cheesecake:

Preheat oven to 500°F. Grease the sides 2 nine inch springform pans.

Transfer cream cheese to the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until pieces are broken up and cheesecake is slightly softened, 1-2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add granulated sugar and salt. Beat for 1-2 minutes. Scrape down bowl and add sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Beat until combined, about 1-2 minutes. Scrape down bowl and add egg yolks, beating until combined, 1-2 minutes. Scrape down bowl and add eggs two at a time, beating after each addition until thoroughly combine, and scraping down bowl between additions.

Make sure your cheesecake mixture is thoroughly mixed by scraping down the bowl one last time. Place springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Divide cheesecake filling between 2 springform pans.  Bake for 10 minutes. Keeping the oven door closed, reduced temperature to 200°F. Bake for an additional 1 1/2- 1 3/4 hour, until cheesecake is golden brown on top and has an internal temperature of 150°F.

Cool cake on wire wrack for 5 minutes. Run a pairing knife around the border of the cheesecake to loosen cheesecake from pan. Cool at room temperature for 3 hours. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours.*

To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

For the Sour Cream Spice Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add egg yolks one at a time, fully incorporating the yolk before adding another.  Add vanilla extract and combine.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, all spice, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.  Alternating between sour cream and dry ingredients, mix until just combined.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with hand mixer or whisk until stiff peaks just begin to form.  Carefully fold egg whites into batter.  Divide batter between two cake pans.  Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool 10 minutes.  Run knife along edge and invert cake pan on wire rack to remove cake from pan.  Let cool to room temperature.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and butter.  Beat until light and combined.  Gradually add in vanilla and powdered sugar, beating until combined.  Scrape down bowl and beat to ensure ingredients are fully incorporated.
For the Assembly:
Carefully removed cooled cheesecake and spice cake from pans.  Place a cheesecake layer on serving plate, top with spice cake, then second layer of cheesecake, and second layer of spice cake.  Frost cake with cream cheese frosting.  Garnish with pecans if desired.  Cut into slices to serve.  Store in refrigerator.

*Cheesecake will keep in fridge. Cheesecake flavor will keep developing the longer you chill, but after one day the crust will significantly soften.

Green Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Every year I make grand plans for St. Patrick’s Day cooking ideas.  I plan to eat lots of green food or traditional Irish dishes.  Every year I end up ultimately forgetting about it.  Since it’s not as appropiate for adults to pinch each other based solely on current articles of clothing, it seems celebrating St. Patrick’s day mostly involves eating and drinking- which sounds a-okay to me.
Well, this year I finally remembered to pull out the green food dye in time for the big day, and I made a green chocolate brownie.  I can’t lie: green brownies look a little weird.  Every time I ate a brownie, I got a comment that it looked like spinach.  Not the best review for a dessert, but the green brownies are definitely fun for this time of year.  Not many other times of the year can you get away with serving friends and family green brownies.
These are essentially red velvet brownies but subbing in green food coloring instead of red.  The brownie is soft and chocolatey.  The best part of the cream cheese frosting: to die for.  Make this to celebrate St. Patrick’s day, or feel free to substitute any other food coloring for the rest of the year.
Adapted from How Sweet It Is

For the Brownies:
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 tablespoons green food coloring
1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup chocolate chips

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the Brownies:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line an 8 inch by 8 inch baking pan with foil and grease.

In a small bowl,whisk cocoa powder, green food coloring, vinegar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract together until a paste forms.  Set aside.

In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar until light a fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Whisk in vanilla extract and cocoa paste.  Stir in flour and salt until just combined.  Bake for 20-27 minutes.  Cool completely

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

Whip cream cheese until fluffy.  Add butter and beat until combined.  Beat in sugar gradually until incorporated.  Add vanilla extract.

Remove brownies from pan and frost.  Cut into bars.

Candy Butterscotch Tart with Vanilla Buttercream

Honesty time: I have had a bag of Snickers sitting in my fridge since August.  My parents brought them as a road trip snack when I moved into my apartment and left them here.  I have only worked my way a little way half through the bag.  The existence of said snickers is due in part to the fact that I like to bake my own sweets and in part to the fact that they got buried under a bunch of stuff in my fridge for a while.

Now, I am a notorious candy hoarder.  In fact, I have already started buying Easter peeps to stock up in order to be able to enjoy sugar coated marshmallows until the next holiday season.  I’m basically like a bear or squirrel preparing for hibernation but with candy.  Snickers are all well and good, but frankly, they need to make room for important, limited edition holiday candy.  And soda.  I promise I do eat some vegetables too.

Since I also had some butterscotch chips sitting in my cabinets, I combined these two together in a wonderful chewy blondie.  And then for good measure, I topped it with a vanilla buttercream.  Now I am happy to have a bag of Snickers in my fridge as an excuse to make these blondies again.

Blondie Slightly Adapted from Becky Bakes
Buttercream Slightly Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
For the Butterscotch Tart:
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup chopped Snickers (or any candy bar)
For the Vanilla Buttercream:
1 cup & 2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 vanilla beans
For the Butterscotch Tart:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease a 9 inch pie plate or 6-7 4 inch individual tart pans.Place butterscotch chips in a heat-proof bowl.  Bring a pot of water to a gentle simmer.  Place bowl on top and cook until buttersctoch chips have melted, stirring occassionally.  Whisk in granulated sugar, egg, and vanilla extract.  Stir in flour and salt until just combined.  Fold in chopped candy bars.  Pour into prepared pie pans.  Bake for 12-17 minutes, until just cooked through.  Cool completely.

For the Vanilla Buttercream:

In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to mix butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract together.  Scrape the inside of the vanilla beans and fold into buttercream.  Top blondies with a generous dollop of buttercream.