My first order of business when I returned home for spring break was to bake a birthday cake for my dad, since I missed his 50th a few weeks earlier. One morning, before heading out to see a Brain Exhibit at the Natural History Museum, we sat down to seriously discuss his birthday dessert.
We started with the basics. First, we had to figure out what type of dessert he wanted: A pie or tart? A traditional cake? A creamy dessert like flan, creme brulee, or cheesecake? My dad said he liked the idea of something creamy, like Vietnamese Coffee Creme Brulee I had made. Unfortunately my ramekins were still at college so I nixed that idea, and we decided on a cheesecake. Next, we brainstormed flavors. We ruled out chocolate. (Apparently, eating chocolate gives him zits, but this is all extremely theoretical since nobody has ever glimpsed said acne). We toyed with citrusy flavors, like lemon curd or coconut lime, but in the end we ended up where we started, with coffee. Because cheesecake is super sweet, we decided to add a tart raspberry syrup to balance the rich coffee flavor.
My mom was laughing at our conversation, but seriously, choosing the perfect birthday dessert is crucial.
My dad was excited to use his brand new iPad to search some of my favorite blogs for cheescake recipes. We found a recipe for a mouthwatering Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake on Smitten Kitchen, and decided to appropriate the recipes for the coffee filling and the sour cream topping. Browsing Not So Humble Pie, we discovered a recipe for Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake, and used that recipe for the crust and tart raspberry sauce.
The cheesecake cooked longer than expected, which was unusual since my oven is relatively hot and there were a lot of cracks in the top, but it firmed up as I let it cool, and I filled in the cracks with the sour cream topping. In Not So Humble Pie’s original Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake, the raspberry is swirled directly into the cheesecake, rather than into a layer of sweetened sour cream (sweet n’ sour cream!). The swirl was a beautiful intense red at first, but over the course of a few days in the fridge the swirl faded to light pink and the sour cream sunk into the cracks in the cake. But, as Deb of Smitten Kitchen says, two days in the refrigerator gave the flavors “time to settle,” and the cake was absolutely delicious. Raspberry sauce was the perfect tangy complement to the creamy coffee cheesecake, and the cinnamon graham crackers we had in the cupboard worked out really well.
In fact, the cheesecake was so good that once the five of us ate half of it, my dad had to give away the rest to the neighbors so we wouldn’t be tempted to finish it off!
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (adapted from Bon Appétit, February 2002) and Not So Humble Pie (adapted from Martha Stewart Living May 2004)