Feb 21 2011
For Easter of 2004, my college roommate Noelle wasn’t going home so she came to my family’s celebration which includes a full-on Easter egg hunt with money in each egg. The family gets fueled by decades of competition but it was a miserable, rainy crappy day and after a few minutes, Noelle decided to wait out the hunt on my Grandparents’ porch. That’s when my lovable but, well, let’s say, blunt Grandfather who becomes less concerned with the repercussions of his comments with each passing year, says to Noelle, “I hope you don’t quit like that on everything you do. You’ll never get a man that way.”
He must have underestimated Noelle’s resolve because she most definitely found a man and she’s going to marry him in September. In celebration, another friend and I planned an engagement party–the purpose and timing lent itself to a Valentine’s Day theme but this is a very laid back, no nonsense couple so we planned a very loose V-day theme, mostly based in a rich dessert buffet. For the next week, I’ll be posting the buffet piece by piece, beginning with a dual-purpose post.
The February What’s Baking Challenge was to bake with love, that is, a Valentine-appropriate dish. And how better to be inspired to bake with love than to prepare for the engagement party of a good friend?
Baked with love had to involve some special flavors and look beautiful on the buffet table–and what better way to embody an engagement than to marry two different but complementary flavors in one perfect bite?
Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites
Makes 50 mini servings
Red velvet layer
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon (or more) red food coloring
- 2 teaspoons vinegar
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour an 10×15-inch jelly roll pan, and set aside. Add melted butter to a large bowl then add the following ingredients, in this order, stirring after each addition: sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring and vinegar. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and then stir into the cocoa mixture. Fold in the flour just until combined. (Don’t overmix!) Set aside at least 1/2 cup of the batter for the top; pour the rest of the batter in the baking pan, spreading evenly across the bottom.
For the cheesecake layer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. Carefully spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter in the pan, then plop spoonfuls of the remaining brownie batter over the cream cheese. Drag the tip of a knife through the red velvet and the cream cheese to create swirls. Bake for 30 minutes or just until the center of the cheesecake part is set. Let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. Use mini cookie cutters to create the bites–I used the heart cutter from this Wilton set. Save the scraps for your husband
I sorted through lots of recipes to find one that respected both the cheesecake and red velvet parts–some just used red food coloring in a brownie mix and called it red velvet which is like cheating. This one actually uses the touch of cocoa and the vinegar to impart that subtle but distinct red velvet flavor.
I couldn’t have asked for a better representation of both “baked with love” and a celebration of engagement. These went fast, part because they have a great balance of flavors, part because they are pop-in-your-mouth sized and part because they are just so cute. Great addition to the buffet and the color and shape I chose were perfect for the theme, although a different shape could make them just as appropriate for Christmas, Fourth of July or any other party.
One thing to be careful of–the bites on the edges of the pan can dry out fast so make sure to take them out as soon as the center is set. Doing this, I had generally uniform bites with some of the edge ones slightly drier and cake-like and some of the middle ones slightly fudgier and brownie-like.
All were delicious and certainly baked with love for two dear friends.