Black Forest Desserts

While the origins of the black forest cake aren’t all that clear, some historians believe that its origins can be traced back to the Black Forest Region of Germany. This part of Germany is well known for its sour cherries and ‘Kirschwasser‘ … a clear cherry brandy.

This iconic creation is a layered confection of a liqueur ‘soaked’ chocolate cake with rich whipped cream and sour cherries between its layers. The liqueur and cherries give the cake an intense and unique fruity flavor. It’s these sour cherries which gave it its German name: Schwarzwald Kirsch Kuchen or Black Forest Cherry Cake.

There are many origin stories about the cake. Some sources claim that the name of the cake is inspired by the traditional custom of the women of the Black Forest region, with a characteristic hat with big red pom-poms on top called a ‘Bollenhut’. The earliest published written record of black forest cake was in 1934, by a German confectioner. Today, the cake is well known worldwide and probably one of the most popular cakes in Germany.

Since we just happen to have a nice little sour cherry tree growing in our garden, why not put some of them to good use in these cakes?!

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Black Forest Desserts
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Cuisine German
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Course dessert
Cuisine German
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cherry juice in the bottom of each of two 8-ounce ramekins. Microwave ramekins until butter and brown sugar are melted and bubbling, about 1 minute. Arrange cherries in a tightly packed layer in the bottom of each ramekin.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In another small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in egg yolk, then flour mixture and milk. Divide batter between ramekins.
  4. Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, 20 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, beat cream, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and cherry brandy until soft peaks form. Run a paring knife around edge of each cake and invert onto a plate. Serve cakes with brandy whipped cream.
Recipe Notes
  • Kirschwasser is German for 'Cherry Water', and while it may be as clear as water, it packs quite a punch.  This double distilled brandy made from the sour Morello cherries is, more often than not, simply referred to a Kirsch. This 'not too sweet with a subtle cherry/almond flavored' liqueur is a vitally necessary ingredient to make a traditional Black Forest Cake; for that is where both the cake and Kirschwasser hail from...  The Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, in southwestern Germany.  

Amaretto Nectarine Cakes

Summer fruit = no fuss. It doesn’t need any amazing kitchen magic. Summer fruit thrives on simplicity and doing its own thing. Its such a natural beauty.

What’s not to love about nectarines? They have all the sweet juiciness of peaches without the fuzz. Buying stone fruit is an investment in the future. You must have faith that the fruit you have just bought will ripen, even though it currently has all the softness of a billiard ball. Maybe it won’t ripen tomorrow or the next day, but eventually, you hope.

Nectarines are usually picked before they’re fully ripe to make for smooth transportation. It’s important to know how to pick out the perfect, closest-to-ripe-but-not-over-ripe nectarine. Strangely enough, the skin color is not a sign of its ripeness, unlike many other fruits. Nectarines shouldn’t have any dark markings and depending on the variety, they should have a slight give when pressed. But, the best way to tell if a nectarine is ripe and high quality is the smell … the more aromatic, the richer in flavor.

Perfectly ripe stone fruits of any kind are very special if you can find them. The remaining fruits that stubbornly refuse to ripen can be rescued to great effect by roasting them in the oven.

Baked amaretto nectarine cakes are great at anytime, but these summer cakes are an especially good way to use up under ripe fruit. The natural sugars in the fruit add a fragrant sweetness that makes it so delicious.

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Amaretto Nectarine Cakes
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Nectarines
Cake Batter
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Nectarines
Cake Batter
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Instructions
Nectarines
  1. Slice nectarines into thin slices, discard stones & place in a bowl with amaretto & sugar. Toss to combine. Divide nectarines between 6 mini flan pans or custard cups.
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a bowl, combine all cake ingredients & beat until smooth. Divide mixture over nectarines in the baking dishes. Place dishes on baking sheet & bake for 15 minutes or until cake has risen & is firm to the touch in center.
  3. Remove from oven & allow desserts to cool in pans/cups for a few minutes then carefully invert on serving plates.

Berry Custard Tart

Glazed fresh fruit tart looks so elegant and summer-ish. They are the perfect dessert, whether your meal is casual or formal. In some ways, I guess its a version of a fruit pizza.

Apart from the fresh fruit and glaze, pastry cream adds a nice base to the tart. A custard pudding hybrid, pastry cream is used for ‘filling’, in the cold form, not as a pudding. Widely used to fill desserts like napoleons, cakes, cream puffs, tarts, etc.

To define, pastry cream is basically custard thickened with cornstarch and has a higher stability as compared to custard puddings which use just eggs to achieve their creamy texture. Vanilla is the classic flavor because it has to complete other flavors of the dessert. Pure vanilla is always best as the artificial flavorings add bitter taste profiles. In addition, some alcoholic desserts use pastry cream mixed with rum.

This tart has a layer of vanilla pastry cream, topped with raspberries and blueberries then brushed with an apricot glaze.

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Berry Custard Tart
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Cuisine American, French
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
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Instructions
Pastry Cream
  1. In a heavy saucepan, stir together the milk & 1/4 cup sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks & egg. Stir together the remaining sugar & cornstarch; then stir them into the egg until smooth. When the milk comes to a boil, drizzle it into the bowl in a thin stream while mixing so that you don't cook the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan; slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly so the eggs don't curdle or scorch on the bottom.
  3. When the mixture comes to a boil & thickens, remove from the heat. Stir the butter & vanilla, mixing until the butter is completely blended in. Pour into a heat proof container & place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled then beat until smooth with an electric mixer before using.
Other Prep Work
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line an oblong tart pan with thawed puff pastry. The short ends of the pastry should be even with the bottom of the pan but the long sides should come up to the top of pan sides. With a sharp knife, score the long sides where the sides meet the bottom of pan. Do not cut all the way through. Pierce the center of the pastry with a fork. Whisk together the egg and milk. Brush the edges of the pastry shell with the egg wash.
  3. Bake the pastry shell for 15-20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool completely. If needed, press the center down lightly to create an indentation. Cool while preparing filling.
  4. Rinse & carefully dry fruit on paper towels. In a small blender, puree apricot preserves with water or liqueur until smooth.
Assembly
  1. Place smooth pastry cream in a piping bag with a large flat tip. Carefully pipe pastry cream in long strips to cover the bottom ONLY of the puff pastry shell.
  2. Arrange a row of raspberries down both sides of the tart; close to the edge & close to each other. Using a long straight edge helps to place the fruit in an even line.
  3. To 1/3 of the apricot glaze add some red food coloring to help accent the natural color of the raspberries. Apply a couple of light coats of the glaze carefully to the raspberries.
  4. Fill the center of the area with blueberries, being careful to distribute evenly in rows. Using the remainder of the un-colored apricot glaze, give several light coats to blueberries. Chill until ready to serve.

Glazed Blueberry Shortcakes

Shortcake is such a classic dessert that is perfect for spring and summer. True shortcake has history, even pedigree, but there is some confusion as to its name. ‘Short’ is an English word that means crisp. Or, more specifically, something made crisp with the addition of either butter or shortening.

Another issue with shortcake is whether it should be cake-like or biscuit-like. Some culinary researchers claim that’s a regional preference. Even though the name has English origins, most sources agree that shortcake was a North American invention. Being so versatile, this simple, elegant dessert can be made with any number of fruits and served warm or cold.

I am using some of the LorAnn company’s Blueberry Emulsion today, to add a real pop of flavor to the glazed blueberries. These should be so good!

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Glazed Blueberry Shortcakes
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Shortcakes
Lemon Drizzle
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Shortcakes
Lemon Drizzle
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Instructions
Shortcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Spray mini Bundt pans with baking spray. Then, add some all-purpose flour to each cavity, shake it around, and discard the excess.
  3. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Then add the vanilla, softened butter, milk, and egg. With an electric mixer, beat on medium speed for about two minutes. Gently fold in the fresh blueberries.
  4. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cavities in mini Bundt pans. Each cavity should be about 3/4 full.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pan before attempting to remove them. Gently loosen each cake with your fingers then invert the pan to release the cakes onto a wire cooling rack.
Glazed Blueberry Topping
  1. Place 1 cup of the blueberries in a saucepan with 1/4 cup water, sugar & cornstarch. Bring to a boil & simmer until juicy & thick. Place the remaining berries & blueberry emulsion in a bowl; add glaze mixture & toss to coat.
Lemon Drizzle
  1. In a bowl, whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and 2-3 tablespoons milk. Add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time to achieve the desired consistency.
To Serve
  1. Place shortcakes on individual serving plates. Drizzle with lemon glaze & top each cake with some glazed blueberries. Garnish with lemon zest.
Recipe Notes
  • LorAnn's Blueberry Emulsion tastes like fresh ripe berries.
  • Add instead of using blueberries or in addition to the fruit to add a punch of blueberry flavor and color. Use in any recipe as you would an extract - and experience better results. 1 teaspoon baking extract = 1 teaspoon emulsion

Wild Mushroom Quiche w/ Parmesan Crust

I realize mushrooms aren’t for everyone but if you do enjoy them, it seems there are no end to recipes you can use them in. As well as making a great filling for your quiche, its nice to add even more color and flavor with crust variations. Keep in mind that the best time to add extra ingredients to your pastry is after you’ve blended your flour and butter together in the food processor and before pulsing in the cold water.

Here’s a few ideas to elevate savory quiche crusts:

Herbs: Try adding 2 tablespoons each of any of these fresh herbs – chives, thyme, parsley, rosemary & sage. If you only have dried herbs, cut back to about 1/2-1 teaspoon each.

Cheese: As we all know, cheese makes everything better! Adding it to pastry is amazing. Try mixing it up with different combinations of cheese: Gruyere in the filling and parmesan in the crust for example.

Spices: Such as turmeric, fennel seed or even a grind of peppercorn (black, white or pink) can significantly alter any savory crust.

Bacon: Even just a little bacon will add some smokiness to the quiche. Be sure to chop it small enough after frying so it can be well incorporated into the crust.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Although they add tanginess and a nice smoky red color, they are often best as a background flavor. Since they can easily overpower when used in the filling, add them to the crust.

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Wild Mushroom Quiche w/ Parmesan Crust
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Parmesan Crust
Filling
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Parmesan Crust
Filling
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Instructions
Pastry Crust
  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, grated Parmesan & salt. Cut in shortening & butter, using pastry blender or fork, until mixture forms coarse crumbs the size of small peas.
  2. Combine ice water and lemon juice (or vinegar); drizzle 1/2 of the lemon water over cold flour mixture and stir until the dough just starts to come together or turns “shaggy”. Begin adding a few more tablespoons of water at a time, stirring between each addition. Once most of the water has been used (but you have a tablespoon or two remaining) use your hands to gather the shaggy strands into a ball and knead the dough two or three times. If you have dry bits remaining in the bowl, add a little additional water.
  3. Gather the dough in a ball, dust your counter with a tiny amount of flour, and quickly pat dough into a small flat disk. Cut dough in half and then stack one piece on top of the other, flour side down. Use the heel of your hand and press the dough down and divide once more. Cover each piece with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours in the refrigerator, but overnight is best.
Filling
  1. Slice green onion & mushrooms. Sauté in butter, add minced garlic, stirring often. Allow to cook for five minutes uncovered so the moisture evaporates.
  2. Cut broccoli into florets & add to pan along with chopped red pepper. Cook another 6 minutes then remove from heat.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. Grate Havarti cheese. In a container, whisk together eggs, milk & seasonings.
  5. Remove pastry from refrigerator & place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll dough out to fit a 9-10-inch pie pan. Trim away any excess dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang to form the crust.
  6. Sprinkle a small amount of the Havarti over bottom; top with vegetable mixture then remaining Havarti.
  7. Bake until quiche tests done. Since the quiche is made with milk instead cream it will take longer to bake. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing. This quiche tastes great just out of the oven, but even better the next day.
Recipe Notes
  • Don't hesitate to use cream instead of milk if you would like a richer filling.

Blueberry Lemon Poke ‘Bread’

The ‘poke cake‘ is an advertising invention of the late 1970s, when Jell-O created it to increase sluggish sales. The Jell-O salads of the ‘50s and ‘60s were outmoded and on the wane so this was a way to bring it back. These cakes were colorful and easy to make. A fork, chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon is used to poke deep holes all over the top of the baked cake. Next, it is topped with a colorful Jell-O syrup, which trickles into the cake looking like brightly colored streamers.

But, like all successful desserts, even the poke cake has undergone numerous reinterpretations over time. Starting from the base no longer cooked only in vanilla flavor but also made with coconut, lemon, chocolate, with fruit & yogurt, arriving at the holes that are filled in other choices such as chocolate, cream, jams, etc. etc.

Although it would seem like poke cakes are a phenomenon born in corporate American kitchens, drenching cake in flavorful liquids is not new, or an entirely an American creation. England’s sticky toffee pudding, a single layer date cake, is poked all over while still warm from the oven with a fork or skewer and drenched in sticky butterscotch sauce. Genoise, the classic French sponge cake, is almost always soaked in sugar syrups spiked with liqueur, not just for flavor, but to keep the cake fresh and prevent it from drying out. Pastel de tres leches, or ‘three-milks cake’, is a beloved Latin American classic. Made from sponge cake soaked in a milky syrup combining evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. All three called for this hole-poking action long before the 1970’s.

Of course, getting back to my German heritage, brings to mind a German butter cake or butter kuchen. This classic yeasted cake (actually more like bread), seems to be very closely aligned with the poke cake idea. After the dough has risen and been rolled out, deep impressions are made for the filling to nestle in. I think some blueberries and lemon curd will work nicely here.

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Blueberry Lemon Poke 'Bread'
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Glaze
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Instructions
Dough
  1. In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 tsp sugar; let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  2. In another bowl, whisk flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture 1 cup at a time, combining after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least one hour, in a draft free place until dough has doubled in volume.
Assembly & Bake
  1. Line a 15" X 10"-inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Place dough on paper & press out evenly in pan. Make about 20 deep impressions in dough with your fingertips. Fill each one with a spoonful of lemon curd & top with a couple of large blueberries. Allow cake to rise 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Bake bread/cake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile, combine glaze ingredients. Remove from oven: cool for just a few minutes then drizzle with glaze. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Cut into 15 serving pieces.

German Marble Cake

The idea of lightly mingling two different batters in one cake seems to have originated in early 19th century Germany. The earliest version of marble cake consisted of a kugelhopf (sweet yeast bread), one half of which was colored with molasses and spices to achieve a dark colored batter. Bakers next began to do the same thing with sponge cake batter.

The marble cake came to North America with German immigrants. It wasn’t until the late 19th century, when chocolate gained a greater hold on the North American public, that ‘marble cake‘ as we know it today really took shape. The first known recipe to appear in an American cookbook went with the spice and molasses variety, though the base was a butter cake rather than a sponge or yeasted cake. Jewish German bakers eventually introduced the idea of using chocolate to create the darker batter in marble cakes.

Of course, there is no right or wrong way to create the marbling effect. The only thing to know is that you should not overmix the batter. The colors are supposed to mingle but stay separate creating the distinct marbling design.

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German Marble Cake
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Either butter or line with parchment paper, (2) 5-inch mini springform pans; set aside.
  2. In a bowl, melt butter, in microwave. In a small bowl, sift flour, baking powder & salt; add to butter & combine.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks, milk & vanilla then add to butter mixture. Whisk until combined.
  4. Beat egg whites until foamy then gradually add sugar; beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter.
  5. In a small cup with a spout, place about 1/2 cup of the batter & add cocoa powder. Fold in to combine.
  6. Divide white batter between 2 prepared pans. Pour chocolate batter onto each cake forming circles with it. Using a wooden skewer, make lines from the center out making a spider web design.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes on bottom rack of the oven or until cake tests done with a wooden pick. Remove from oven, allow to cool for about 5 minutes on cooling rack. Flip over & cool in pans for at least 30 minutes. We enjoyed a small bit of raspberry puree with the cake.

Glazed Peach Coffeecake

Coffeecake as we know it today wasn’t so much a creation as it was an evolution, with many countries given as the potential origin point. It is generally accepted that coffeecake originated from northern or central Europe during the 17th century. At that time, coffee was still fairly new to Europe, having only made it to the continent in the previous century.

While the earliest coffeecakes included coffee as an ingredient, updated popular recipes recommend eating the cake with coffee and instead deriving flavor from nuts, dried fruit, oats, cinnamon and other spices. Another addition to coffeecakes has been to incorporate yogurt, cheese or sour cream in the batter to produce the cake-like texture which further deviates from its bread origins.

The countries laying some sort of claim to the coffeecake such as Germany, Austria and Denmark were already well versed in sweetened breads and cakes and found that their local sweet paired incredibly well with this new beverage. It became very commonplace in these countries to have a small sweet served alongside coffee.

When the coffeecake made its way to North America via German immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, bolstered by the creation of refrigerated sections in grocery stores, the addition of sour cream became more common place, both as a means of adding more moisture into the cake as well as activating the baking soda. Another modification to the coffeecake came with the popularity of the Bundt pan in the 1950s. With its ring-shaped design, the Bundt pan allowed bakers to drastically increase the moisture content in their cakes without having to worry about the center being uncooked.

Sometimes cake, sometimes bread, the only real defining trait of a ‘coffeecake‘ is that it is meant to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee.

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Glazed Peach Coffeecake
Since the recipe calls for canned peaches you can enjoy the taste of summer early.
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Cuisine American
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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Instructions
Peach Glaze
  1. Drain peach halves; set peaches aside. In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice & peach syrup. Bring to a boil then stir in butter & almond extract. Set aside.
Coffeecake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 8-inch pie pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. With a pastry blender, cut in cream cheese & shortening until mixture resembles coarse peas. Stir in milk & lemon zest. On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough gently & form into a log shape. Do not overwork dough. Divide into 12 slices.
  3. You will need 12 peach halves (or pieces). Alternating with dough rounds & peach halves or pieces, form a ring around the sides of the pie pan. Fit the last 3 pieces of dough & peach in the center.
  4. Bake cake for about 10-15 minutes then pour WARM peach glaze over the PARTIALLY BAKED cake & continue baking for another 45-50 minutes or until cake tests done. Serve warm as is or with ice cream or whipped cream.

Avocado Cheesecakes

CELEBRATING ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

The term ‘green food’ can mean several things. More and more households are ‘going green’ with their menus, buying food from sustainable local sources. People who are ‘eating greener’ include those who grow their own food and compost all their waste to those who simply take a re-useable bag to the supermarket. Most of us are interested in making decisions that are better for the environment.

Others make immediately think ‘green vegetables’. Then of course there are those who , especially at this time of year, may think of the color green and foods with which to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. There is so much you could do with this holiday in terms of food such as rainbows, leprechauns, shamrocks, pot of gold ………

In North America, St. Patrick’s Day is pretty much just a fun day here. We wear green and we eat green. For the most part, its an excuse to party and drink some green beer. Brion & I aren’t into green beer exactly, so here’s our salute to this Irish day … Avocado Cheesecakes.

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Avocado Cheesecakes
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a mini cheesecake pan with paper liners or just use without if the cup bottoms are removable.
  2. In a bowl, combine wafer crumbs & butter until completely moistened. Press crumb mixture into the bottom of each mini cup & set aside.
  3. Beat cream cheese & brown sugar until blended. In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Add remainder of ingredients to the eggs & mix until combined.
  4. Beat egg mixture into cream cheese mixture until well blended. Spoon over crusts, filling to the top of each mini cup.
  5. Bake 15 minutes or until edges are golden & centers are set. Cool completely, then refrigerate for several hours.

No Bake Mango Cheesecake

No matter how you slice it, cheesecake is truly a dessert that has stood the test of time. From its earliest recorded beginnings to its current iconic status around the world, this creamy cake remains a favorite for dessert lovers of all ages.

The no-bake cheesecake, turned the process of making cheesecake into one that consisted mostly of stirring and chilling. Simply combine cream cheese, milk and Jell-O instant pudding mix, pour into a crust, and chill for an hour or two. The pudding mix sweetens and stabilizes the filling. Essentially foolproof, its a recipe that works every time and tastes custardy and rich with a lighter texture than the traditional cheesecake.

The original recipe for no-bake cheesecake has spawned numerous iterations, many of which were popularized by ‘Jell-O’ itself. The best part about the original formula was that it created harmony between industrialized shortcuts and the real thing. Jell-O eventually launched an entire ‘N0-Bake’ dessert line in 1966.

The simplicity of the recipe makes it endlessly adaptable. Of course, you can use different flavored pudding mixes or add spices or extracts to the filling for extra flavor and variation such as cinnamon, cardamom, lemon zest or almond extract. In addition you can serve the cheesecake with fruit or glaze as I’ve done here .

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No Bake Mango Cheesecake
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Crust
Glaze
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
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Crust
Glaze
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Instructions
Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine crust ingredients, mixing well. Divide between mini cheesecake pan cups & press down firmly. Bake 5-7 minutes; allow to cool completely.
Cheesecake
  1. In a bowl, beat cream cheese 1/2 cup milk until smooth. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk, cardamom & instant pudding mix; beat until smooth. Divide between mini cheesecake pan cups, filling almost to the tops. Allow to chill for at least 2-3 hours.
Glaze
  1. Place all glaze ingredients in saucepan & heat. As it comes to a boil, lower the heat & simmer 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat & allow the glaze to cool slightly. Divide glaze between mini cheesecakes & allow it to set for 3-4 hours. Ensure that the cheesecake is properly set before topping with the glaze.
Recipe Notes
  • For a bit of a different look, I filled my cheesecake cups right to the top. Then I poured my mango glaze into a cake pop pan to set a bit. When the glaze was firm enough I topped each cheesecake with one forming a dome instead of a flat layer.