Cheat Day [cheet dey] – noun: The one day of the week where diet minded fitness freaks throw caution to the wind and indulge only on the most tantalizing, ridiculously calorie dense foods known to man. Often associated with the term, “carb hangover,” which occurs the morning after a particularly fruitful cheat day. Synonyms: Free Day, Fun Day, Fat Day

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lemon Cheesecake Cake with Lemon Curd

So it's official- I have a problem.  Many months ago when my friends decided they wanted to have a cheesecake filled wedding cake, I was blissfully unaware of how this idea would haunt me.  They wanted a red velvet cheesecake, which I had to try, described here:

But I couldn't stop here.  The whole concept of putting and entire cheesecake inside of cake was way too good to be put to rest.  So I started brainstorming ideas:  Turtle, Kahlua, Strawberry, German Chocolate, Brownie- pretty much any derivation of what I'm now calling, "The Cheesecake Cake" would be amazing.

I had the perfect opportunity to try out my next cheesecake cake.  My husband's mom, dad and grandma were coming up over the weekend.  This way, when I spend way too much time on making a single cake, I just tell people that it was for guests, and somehow that makes it ok.

So what was going to be my first experiment?  Well, as this was originally conceived for a wedding, I thought back to my own.  We had a simple, delicious lemon cake as constructed by the same baker who made my moms wedding cake when she married my step dad.  Her wedding occurred a couple of months after I started dating my hubbykins, and we both aboslutley loved it, so we had to have it on our day.

I digress- so the Lemon Cheesecake Cake it is!  My whole family has an obsession with lemon cake, and we actually came up with this as we were enjoying the red velvet cheesecake cake I made!

So here I go!

The Lemon Cake
I've never actually made lemon cake before this (I know, right!) so I turned to my trusty almond cake recipe (as originally brought to me by my baking partner in crime, Michelle!)

I started by dumping in the dry ingredients into my mixer:

- a lemon cake mix
- flour
- sugar
- salt

And give em' a quick stir.
I love this recipe- so easy, and it always turns out great.  Then you mix in the egg whites and other wet ingredients (water, oil, vanilla, things of this nature.)

Shame to toss out such delicious looking yolks.  Had I been smart I would have made the lemon curd too and used some of them for that.  But I wasn't smart.  Surprise Surprise.

And that's it!  I greased and floured two nice inch pans, poured the batter in, and then baked it at 325 degrees until it was done.

It ended up being something like 35 minutes- best to read the box for the cake mix you bought.

And this is how they turned out!  Now unless you are going to make everything, cool it, and assemble in one day, it would be best to throw these in the freezer for a few days until you are ready.  This does change the texture of the cake- it's a little denser and in my opinion, more delicious, so don't worry about that!  Just line each layer with parchment paper circles, then saran wrap, and then place inside a gallon freezer bag and suck the air out.  Michelle perfected this practice... and I stole it!
Tip: Tell your husband that you are putting cakes in the freezer, or he may pile things on top of them before they are frozen, causing them to be deformed.  

Tip II: Don't forget that they are in the freezer until just before your guests arrive and you still have to assemble the cake.  Not that I did this or anything....

The Cheesecake

I've made this cheesecake before, but I've never photo-documented it, so I figured I might as well go the whole nine yards and show you the entire process.

First, line a 9 inch spring form pan with parchment paper on the bottom.  This will make assembly a million times easier.  I just cut out a circle that is slightly bigger than the bottom of the pan, and synch it in using the sides of the spring form.  Spray the sucker with pan and it's ready!  See...

With that and a preheated oven, you are ready to get going on the cheesecake filling.  Soften five containers of cream cheese, and beat in your mixer until creamy.

Next, add your flour and sugar and beat until creamy. 

Stir in your lemon zest and vanilla...

Lemon pretty!   Finally, beat in eggs and egg yolks one at at time, until just incorporated.  Add the cream and pour into your prepared pan. 

So the last time I made this I thought it got too brown, so I reduced the time in the oven at 500 from 15 min to 5.  This was clearly NOT enough, as after an hour at 200, I cracked the oven open and turned it off, wandered away and played with my friends 13 month old Kaiden who I was babysitting, came back and found cheesecake soup.  I cranked the oven to 300 and let it bake until set, and guess what, it turned out fine.  Oh well- lesson learned here: you cant really screw up the baking time on this too bad, because it was still creamy and delcious.  Next time?  10 minutes at 500 followed by an hour at 200.  Maybe this will do the trick.

I put this guy in the fridge and moved onto step three...

The Lemon Curd

This part was so definitely my favorite part.  I freaking love lemon curd more than anyone ever should.  And this was my first attempt making it, and it was SO easy!

I did a little research on how to make a lemon curd without ending up with little bits of cooked egg left in it, and this was the method I settled on.  It turned out great, so it's definitely got my seal of approval!

Start with prepping: zest a tablespoon of lemon and soften your butter.  Great bakers always think in advance and have their butter out, softened.  I however... am not a great baker.  What am I?  A big fan of using low heat on my microwave to soften butter.  Tee hee

Mmmmm... butter.   Next, cream the butter and the sugar together just like you were making a cake. Apparently this is the trick to making a non-egg-chunk-filled lemon curd without breaking out the double boiler. Why?  No clue... but it works!

Mmmmm... butter AND sugar.  Next, slowly add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time.

Mmmm... raw eggs.  Ok maybe not.  But this is where it stops looking pretty, and you start wondering if you might have a curd-fail on your hands.  But you won't.   Promise!

So here's where you add the lemon juice and it starts looking like a curdled mess.   But pour this into a heavyish pan, get it on the stove, and soon enough the butter will melt and it will again be gorgeous and delicious!

See!  Look!  It's pretty again!  And now it's simple: cook until it thickens up- just so it coats the back of the spoon.  Mine started to boil and I wasn't sure if it was thick enough, but I pulled it off the heat anyway (as you are not supposed to boil it!) and it thickened up quite a bit in the bowl- so don't worry about that.

Add your zest and voila!  You're done!  Cover your lemon curd with saran wrap (put it directly on the curd so it doesn't develop a skin) and store in the fridge until you are ready to assemble.

The Assembly/Absolute Cake-tastrophe
Alright- it's time to assemble!  For me, this was hands down and absolute cake-tastrophe.  Here is where you learn from my mistakes!  Yay learning!  Yay Improvisation!  Yay forgiving family members who don't care if the cake they are eating is actually pretty!

Alright, whip up a double batch of cream cheese frosting:

I swear- I don't remember the last time I made one batch of this frosting.  If you are making cream cheese frosting, chances are you want enough of it to make it count.  I almost made a triple batch.  I had to hold myself back.

Next, level off your cheesecake so it's nice and perdy!  Don't be afraid to trim off the sides if they are a bit done.  I felt mine was ok, but when I've made this in the past I have trimmed the sides too.

You'll end up with a plate of cheesecake hunks.  Eat these. If husband is out of the room- eat them quickly so you don't have to share.  I was about half way through the plate at this point.

Alright- you've got your cheesecake leveled, cakes defrosted, frosting made and in a bag, and curd out of the fridge.  It's stacking time.  Here's what I did- but I'll make sure to note exactly what to change if you are doing this!

First, I piped a circle of frosting around the bottom cake tier to hold in the curd.

What a great idea in theory- in reality... not so much.  

When I finished stacking the cake, I found that I had put WAY too much curd in this layer, and after I frosted the whole cake, a fault line of curd started spewing out due to the weight of the cheesecake and other cake layer on top of this.  So, if I were to do this again, I would either do just a layer of frosting, or a much much much thinner layer of curd.  

This is what my layer of curd looked like:  It was maybe a centimeter thick- it should have been just a super thin layer.

Another idea would be to use a butter cream frosting that has a little more heft to it as your frosting dam around the edge.  Or even a white chocolate ganache!

Last idea would be to just do a thin frosting layer here, and save the curd for the top layer only.  Anywhoo- pick which idea you like the best, and whatever you do- do NOT just glob half the curd on this layer like I did.  Bad bad bad idea.  
Well at this point I was blissfully unaware of the inevitable lemon curd disaster that would soon be occurring in my fridge, and I carried on with my stacking.  Next, place you cheesecake on top of your bottom cake tier.  I picked the entire thing up, pealed off the parchment, and placed it gingerly on top of the bottom tier. 

Pipe another circle of frosting and fill it with your lemon curd.  Totally fine to do this now- I had no problems with curd leakage on this tier. 

Oh my, this just looked delicious.  Cover the entire thing in frosting and place it in your fridge to set up.  This is where my lemon curd fault line started to form along the bottom layer.  It was actually kind of hilarious.
So what do you do when lemon is spewing out of your cake and it looks like a giant mess that a toddler could have frosted?  Add coconut!!!

Yay coconut!  I honestly just scraped off the lemony goodness that had oozed out of the cake, ate it, and pressed handfuls of shaved coconut to the edge of the cake in order to hide the disaster.  

Then, I candied some lemon peel and artistically placed that around the edge and top of the cake to try to make it pretty.  I use the word "artistically" loosely.  It wasn't pretty.  I realize this.  But it certainly was delicious!  

Alright- it's recipe time!  Seriously- despite the "learning experience" that occurred during the stacking of this cake, it was freaking amazing.  If you are a fan of lemon and decadence and amazingness and cream cheese- you will be a fan of this cake.

The Cake:
Adapted from

(18 ounce) box lemon cake mixcup flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups water
1/8 cup vegetable oil
teaspoons real vanilla
1 (8 ounce) container of sour cream
large egg whites

Mix dry ingredients in mixer, and then blend in the wet ingredients.  

Pour into greased and floured 9 inch pans, tapping them to get the air bubbles out.
Bake at 325 until done (check time on boxed mix)

Once cooled, put cakes on parchment rounds, cover in saran warp, and place in gallon freezer bags and freeze until ready to use (making sure to defrost them the day before stacking the cake!) 

The Cheesecake
Recipe from:  The Joy of Cooking, page 980

Ingredients (all at room temperature)
2.5 lbs (five 8 ounce packages) Philadelphia Cream Cheese 
1 ¾ cup Sugar
3 tbsp flour
½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp fresh grated lemon zest
5 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
½ cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Beat cream cheese until creamy, about 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go.
Gradually add the sugar and flour and beat until smooth and creamy (another 1-2 min.)
Beat in your vanilla and zest 
Beat in the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, until just incorporated (making sure to scrape the sides and beaters as you go.)
Finally, on low speed beat in the cream.

Pour into a 9 inch spring form pan fitted with a parchment paper round in the bottom.

Bake at 500 for 15 min and then lower the oven temp to 200 for 1 more hour.  Turn off the oven and prop it open with a wooden spoon to ensure it doesn’t crack!

The Curd
I made absolute no changes to this recipe, so you can follow the exact recipe linked here.

The Frosting
A double batch of:

And there you have it!  All done!

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