Thursday, July 4, 2013

Red, White & Blue Cheesecake Cake

I'm feeling patriotic today, guys. I am an African-American woman living in the United States with the freedom to learn, work, achieve, and accomplish virtually whatever I want. I am free to vote, to travel, to speak freely, to love whomever I want, and to worship as I wish with no fear... What an incredible blessing. That was not always the case for women like me-- and for the sacrifices of those before me, who made my life possible, I owe a great debt of thanks.
Okay. Now. When I first saw this cake, I gasped. Seriously. The depth and richness of the colors amazed me--but knowing that the middle layer was cheesecake...that sealed the deal for me. The colored layers are vanilla cakes! It's like a vanilla  cheesecake sandwich! Gah!

I will say--making the cakes was easy; it was frosting them that presented the biggest challenge. To begin with, my cakes were reluctant to come out of their pans, which made the layers slightly uneven. I had the "Leaning Tower of Cheesecake", which was annoying.  Next: I have only fully frosted a cake once or twice before, but have never been terribly concerned with a smooth and beautiful finish until now. Being a perfectionist makes tasks like this a nightmare!

However, I gave myself a very stern talking to multiple times during the process: "Esther. It does not have to be perfect! CHILL. OUT." Anyway, it tastes great and it looks beautiful, so I'm very happy. Cake recipe adapted from Recipe Girl; amazing frosting how-to from Whisk Kid!

  • Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated white sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Gel paste- red and royal blue (I bought mine at Walmart in the cake decorating section!)
Cream Cheese Frosting: 
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted lightly to remove any lumps
  • Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

To prepare the cheesecake layer:
Preheat oven to 325. Place a 9x13-inch pan on the bottom rack of the oven and fill it halfway with water. (This creates humidity in the oven so your cheesecake won't crack!) Place the other rack in the center of the oven. Spray a 9-inch Springform pan with nonstick spray. (Using parchment is fine; if you use it, make sure to spray it as well). Set aside.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend the cream cheese until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Mix in the sugar and salt and blend for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is well-mixed. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition. Finally, mix in the sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla. Mix until smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Set the pan on the center rack and bake  45 minutes. It should be set to the touch and not jiggly. Allow cheesecake to cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. When fully cool, freeze cheesecake completely (4 to 5 hours or overnight).
Prepare the cake: 
Preheat oven to 350.  Spray or grease two 9-inch round cake pans; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, beat together butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium speed until combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs and beat well, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, beating until combined. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until just combined.

Scoop half of the batter into another bowl and use gel paste (red and blue) to color the each half a deep hue. Scrape the batter into each of the prepared pans. Bake until firm to touch and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks to cool completely.
To make my cake layers flat and even, I used these Bake-Even Strips from Wilton for the first time! I've heard about them and was so curious about how they worked--they were actually fantastic! I bought mine from Walmart--found them in the cake decorating section.
Prepare the frosting: 
 In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla until it is smooth and creamy (do not overbeat). 

To assemble the cake: 
Place the red cake layer on a cake plate and spread a small amount of frosting on top. Remove the (frozen) cheesecake from the pan and place the cheesecake layer on top of the red layer (be sure to measure it and make sure that it fits on top... you may need to place it on a cutting board and shave off some of the edge with a sharp knife to match the size of the cake layer). 

Spread a small amount of the frosting on top of the cheesecake layer. Add the blue layer on top. Scoop some frosting on top of the blue layer and cover the entire cake in a VERY THIN LAYER of frosting (you're just doing a "crumb coat.") Place the cake in the freezer for a few minutes, just until the cake and frosting are a little bit firm. 
(If you're a more visual learner, for a VERY comprehensive "how to frost" lesson, check out Whisk Kid and these videos from Zoe Bakes: How to Crumb Coat and How to Smoothly Frost Cake!)
Add the remaining frosting to the top of the cake, spread across the top evenly and down the sides. Sprinkle festive sprinkles on top, if desired. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve.

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