Easter is my favorite holiday for candy. Starburst jelly beans, malted chocolate eggs, and Lindt chocolate bunnies are all in my top 5 favorite treats, and they are all made more special and wonderful because they can only be found once a year. But, the candy that trumps them all, my number one, must-have, greatest candy of all time is Cadbury Dark Chocolate Mini Eggs. If you haven’t had them, run to the store RIGHT NOW; there may be a couple bags left on the picked-over after Easter sale shelf.
This year, I had the brilliant idea to use the dark chocolate eggs to decorate my favorite holiday dessert – cheesecake. It is a family tradition to have a cheesecake at every holiday meal and then to eat it for breakfast every day for the next week (Easter is obviously a time when healthy eating gets thrown out the window in my family). This cheesecake is New York cheesecake at its finest. The recipe was passed down from my very Italian, NYC-raised grandpa, and it was originally written by his Aunt Beanie (or so the story goes).
This recipe should be made the night before so it can set in the fridge. First, you combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter to make a thick crust in the bottom of a greased 10 inch spring-form pan. I use the bottom of the glass to press the crumbly crust along the bottom and far up the edges of the pan. This recipe makes a very sweet, very thick crust, so feel free to cut back on either the sugar or all of it to better suit your tastes.
Next, using a stand mixer or (if you’re willing to work extra hard) a hand mixer, combine the filling ingredients one at a time, until each is thoroughly combined. It is best if the cream cheese, eggs, and sour cream have had time to come to room temperature before you begin. After the filling is well mixed and smooth, poor it into the prepared crust. Sometimes, during baking, the cheesecake will overflow or leak, I put a foil-lined baking sheet either directly under the pan or on the rack below the cake.
Bake the cheesecake in a 325 degree oven for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 40 minutes. You will need to jiggle the cheesecake to test when it’s done. It should jiggle only in the middle. It will continue to get firm as it cools. Depending on your oven, the altitude, humidity levels, and any number of other unknown factors, it may take more time to cook. This last time, I left my cheesecake in for a little over an hour at 300 degrees.
The key to a beautiful, uncracked cheesecake is to let it cool S-L-O-W-L-Y. Once you get the right amount of jiggle, turn off the oven, and leave the cake in it for at least an hour. I wait until I can hold the pan without oven mitts. Then, allow the cake to cool on a cooling rack until it comes to room temperature. Once it is cool, remove the sides of the pan and refrigerate overnight.
Finally, just before serving, I whipped up some cream cheese whipped cream and piped (in my very amateur way) some smallish dollops around the edge and in the middle. I topped each with a dark chocolate egg.
Aunt Beanie’s Cheesecake
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup sugar
4 Tbs melted butter
Grease a 10″ spring form pan. Combine ingredients and pat firmly along the bottom and sides of pan.
3 – 8 oz packages of softened cream cheese (full fat)
1 cup sugar
4 medium eggs
1 pint (16 oz) sour cream
2 Tbs flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using a stand or hand mixer, add cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add each additional ingredient one at a time until mixture is smooth. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 40-60 minutes. Check cheesecake for doneness by gently shaking the pan and looking for a slight jiggle in the center. Turn off heat an allow to cool in oven for at least 1 hour. Cool on rack at room temperature and refrigerate overnight.
Whipped Cream Topping
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup softened cream cheese
1/4 bag of dark chocolate Cadbury Mini Eggs
Using the whist attachment of a stand mixer, combine heavy cream and sugar and whip until soft peaks form. Add cream cheese and continue to whip until it forms stiff peaks. Use topping and mini eggs to decorate.