When I visited New York City, I'd intended to be the stereotypical tourist, you know, naff photos before you get to the top of the Empire State Building, foam spiky hat from the gift shop on Liberty Island and an unexpected drenching on 'The Beast' as it weaves 'twixt more sedate craft and water taxis on the Hudson. All of that changed though, when my travelling companion returned from visiting a friend in Yonkers.
He'd bought a slice of this cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, knowing my penchant for all things (well, ONE thing), Reeses, namely peanut butter cups.
Try as I may, upon my return to the UK and after many visits to many cheesecake suppliers, I had no luck finding anything that came close to the slice I had eaten in my hotel room, begging for privacy as we consummated our brief, but intense relationship, so I went ahead and copied it. It's quite the recipe, but, completely worth it. You'll see.
Step 1: Cheesecake Ingredients
As far as weights and measures go, an American cup does not hold the same as a UK cup . Either use the UK measures OR the US ones, and not a mixture of both or your cheesecake will be a disaster. Trust me, I discovered this the hard way.
This recipe will make enough for two layers, once split horizontally...
- 30 Mini Peanut Butter Cups, coarsely chopped
- 230g (2 sticks) Unsalted butter
- 225g (1 cup) Granulated sugar
- 900g (32oz) Cream cheese (I prefer Philadelphia, if I'm honest)
- 1 Sachet of Pearce McDuff vanilla blancmange (85g sachet Vanilla Pudding)*
- 4 Large Eggs
- 2 tsp Baking powder
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
*If you're in the US, you can't go wrong with a sachet of vanilla flavoured My-T-Fine pudding.
Before you start...
Preheat oven to 160C (325F) and then grease two 9" springform pans. Line with greaseproof paper, grease once more and coat with flour, tapping out the excess.
Step 2: Cream Butter and Sugar
Cream the butter and sugar until pale yellow and fluffy.I'm impatient so I used a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, though electric beaters and wooden spoons do much the same thing.
Step 3: Add Cream Cheese.
Whilst still beating, add the cream cheese a little at a time until it's completely incorporated and smooth. I used Philadelphia because I love how smooth it is compared to supermarket own brands, which are equally as delicious, just not as creamy, which makes for a better finished texture in my opinion.
Step 4: Add the Eggs
Turn off the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl down, just to make sure everything is blended. Then, beating on a medium speed, add eggs one at a time until completely blended, stopping and scraping down as necessary.
Yes there are only three eggs in the picture whilst the recipe calls for four. In my haste, I already added one before I remembered to take the picture...oops!
Step 5: Add Everything Else!
Add the pudding mix, baking powder and lemon juice, and beat until smooth. Turn the mixer off and fold in the peanut butter cups, without eating any, which is far more difficult to do than it sounds (the resisting of the peanut butter cups, not the folding.). Pour this delicious looking batter into one of your prepared tins.
Step 6: Bake, Cool, Slice, Freeze!
Now, everyone's oven is different, so this step is a guideline. You know your oven better than I do and whether its got hot spots, cold spots, etc. I baked mine in the middle of the oven for around an hour and a half. Yours may take longer or not but you'll know it's done when there's just the slightest wobble in the centre.
The cheesecake will puff up majestically during the baking and then deflate quicker than something that deflates really quickly but this is what we want as it'll be supporting some weight and needs to be a little dense...
Turn the oven off when your cake is done and leave the door closed for about half an hour, then remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Turn out and slice in half horizontally. Place both halves on a separate piece of greaseproof paper, stack back in the baking tin and put in freezer for now.
Step 7: Chocolate Brownie Ingredients
- 245g (1+3/4 cup) Plain (All Purpose) flour
- 450g (2 cups) Granulated sugar
- 95g (3/4 cup) Cocoa powder (preferably unsweetened)
- 2 tsp Baking powder
- 1 tsp Salt
- 225ml (1 cup) Buttermilk
- 2 large Eggs
- 115ml (1/2 cup) Vegetable oil (or Canola)
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 225ml (1 cup) Hot instant Coffee
This is where you'll be using the second tin, natch... Heat your oven to 180C (350F)...
Step 8: Dry Ingredients
Sift all of your dry ingredients into the bowl of your mixer, and fit the paddle attachment again.
Step 9: Wet Ingredients
Mix together all of the wet ingredients, except the coffee, in a handy, nearby jug
Step 10: Beat Wet and Dry Together
Set your mixer on a low speed and gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry until well mixed.
Scrape down your bowl again, just to make sure all of that chocolatey goodness gets used.
Step 11: Add the Coffee
Keeping the mixer speed low, pour the hot coffee in gradually until fully incorporated, scraping down if you need to.
The batter will be quite thin at this point, which can be quite frightening if you're used to thicker batters. This is how it should be.
Step 12: Bake!
Pour batter into the second prepared tin (see tip below) and bake in the middle of your oven for around 45 minutes. Mine was done after 35 minutes, but again, ovens vary, so adjust times and temps for your own.
Using a springform tin for a batter this runny would normally be a nightmare, no matter how well-lined, greased and floured the tin is, so I developed a little hack to minimise the risk of ending up with a delicious oven floor.
Firstly, I always turn the bottom of my springform pans over and reinsert them, because I find it makes it easier to not only line the tin, but also to remove whatever you've been baking with the minimum of fuss.
Once lined, put the tin in the oven for 5 minutes to heat up, take it out then drizzle a fine bead of batter around the bottom seam of the tin on the inside. The heat of the pan will bake this thin bead into the seam which will then form a far better seal, allowing you to pour the rest of the batter in before placing in the oven.
Step 13: Cool, Slice, Freeze!
Just like you did with the cheesecake, cool the gooey, heavy brownie and slice in half horizontally. Again, place each half on a piece of greaseproof paper, stack in baking tin and whack it in the freezer...
Step 14: Caramel Ingredients
This was the part I had most difficulty with. Not because it was difficult, no, it's easily the easiest part of this easy cheesecake. It was more the struggle of trying not to eat it when it was done.
- 800ml (2x14oz) Condensed sweetened milk
- 140g (1+1/4 stick) Unsalted butter
- 80 Butter toffees (Caramels)
- 200g (Scant cup) Salted Peanuts
Step 15: Make Caramel
Make this in two batches, far easier to manage and you won't have to mess around reheating it as it cools.
Leaving the peanuts to one side for now, divide the rest of the ingredients in half and place in two microwaveable jugs.
Place one jug in the microwave and heat for a minute at a time, stirring very well in between bursts until all the toffees (caramels) have dissolved and sauce is smooth and unctuous.
Step 16: Add Sauce to Layers
Take the four layers of cake out of the freezer and unstack, leaving a layer of cheesecake in one pan and a layer of brownie in the other. Wrap the other two layers in greaseproof paper and return to the freezer for now.
Pour half of the still hot sauce over each layer in the tins and sprinkle each with quarter of the peanuts and return both to the freezer for half an hour. Try not to allow the caramel sauce to flow down the sides of the layers. Keeping them in the tin helps this.
After half an hour, remove sauced layers from tin, wrap in greaseproof paper and leave in freezer.
Put other two layers back in separate tins and make second batch of caramel sauce the same way as the first and add sauce and peanuts to these layers before returning to freezer for another half hour.
Step 17: Stack!
Remove all layers from freezer. Starting with a chocolate brownie layer on the bottom, stack the layers alternately and place on the dish you'll be serving it on. Put assembled cheesecake back in the freezer.
Step 18: Ganache Ingredients
Delicious dark chocolate and heavy cream come together to robe your cheesecake in pure...unadulterated...delight...ahem.
- 370g dark (semi-sweet) Chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 340ml (1+1/2 cups) Double (heavy) cream
- 1 tbsp butter
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy this bit.
Step 19: Scald the Cream
Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
Scald the cream in a small saucepan. Don't boil it, it's scalded when you see the little bubbles appearing at the edge of the pan.
Step 20: Stir Cream Into Chocolate
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate in the bowl and stir gently and continuously until the chocolate has melted and is fully incorporated.
Remove 2/3 cup of ganache from the bowl, add a tablespoon of butter, mix well and set aside. The butter will help give the ganache a shinier finish but if you prefer, you can substitute a tablespoon of corn syrup, or indeed leave it out all together if you like.
Put the bowl of remaining ganache on the mixer and attach the whisk head. Whisk on high speed for about ten minutes until the ganache has a light and fluffy mousse-like texture. You may need to add more heavy cream if your ganache doesn't seem to be fluffing after 6 or 7 minutes of whisking.
Step 21: Cover Cheesecake!
This is my favourite bit, when it all starts to come together and you can see what you'll shortly be devouring.
Remove cheesecake from freezer and pour the reserved 2/3 cup of ganache over the top, spreading to the edges. This will give you a smooth, glossy finish.
Then, using an offset spatula (or not, whichever you prefer), spread the whipped ganache over the sides of the cake. Also spread a little on the top of the cake, forming a ring, as in the picture above. The frozen cake will help the whipped ganache stick.
Step 22: Peanut Butter Frosting Ingredients
This frosting is delicious, just the right balance of sweet and savoury.
- 150ml (2/3 cup) Smooth (creamy) peanut butter
- 115g (1 stick) Unsalted butter
- 140g (1 cup) Icing sugar (powdered sugar)
- 9 mini peanut butter cups, for garnish
Step 23: Make Frosting
Add peanut butter and butter to the bowl of an electric mixer with the beater attachments and whip together the peanut butter and the butter until light and creamy.
Add the icing (confectioners) sugar VERY gradually and mix in. I usually put a teatowel or cloth over the bowl when I add this, otherwise my kitchen ends up looking like Pablo Escobar's warehouse after a tornado.
Step 24: Fill Your Icing Bag
Take a Wilton 1M tip or any rose tip like the one above and pop it in the bottom of your icing bag. I love these bags I got from Lakeland in the UK as they have a rough silicone coating which makes it easier to hold even when your hands are full of butter and whatnot.
Place the bag over a pint glass (see picture) for stability and spoon your icing into the bag.
Squeeze it all down to the end of the bag, twist closed and prepare to pipe!
Step 25: Final Steps!
Take your frosting and pipe swirls on top of your cheesecake, as above.
Pop a mini peanut butter cup on top of each swirl, pipe a border around the bottom (if you like, it's not compulsory, I just think it presents a better looking finish.) and prepare to make a lot of new friends...
Step 26: Eat
No, really, eat it.
Just a couple of tips. This cheesecake, or more specifically the caramel layers have a tendency to become very soft at room temperature, so make sure the cake stays chilled at all times during the process and afterwards.
Slice with a hot knife whilst the cake is chilled, I usually run mine under the hot tap before drying it off and this makes it easier to cut.
You can add chocolate curls, or sprinkles to the outside of the cake once frosted for a more stunning presentation.
I hope you enjoyed making and eating this cake as much as I did...