I may have got a bit excited when my friend said I could make a cake for her 19th birthday. I possibly got a little over-excited. You could even say I let my excitement get the better of me. When I asked what she felt like and she alluded to light, coconut, fruity, that kind of cake, I think my brain may have been invaded for a brief period.
Instead what we have here is a cheesecake, folded through with chunks of milk chocolate brownie, slathered in dark chocolate ganache and topped with the freshest, reddest strawberries I have bought in quite a while. I was inspired by this amazing cake from Smitten Kitchen but, being nervous about my cups and tablespoon using skills, I used my own brownie recipe (saving the extra for other purposes- my mouth) and a slightly modified cheesecake recipe. The strawberries were an ode to the birthday girls original request for fruit.
The milk chocolate brownies were an attempt to dial down the richness of the cake. As well as this the biscuit base has massively reduced sugar and the filling does as well. Even so, this is not the dessert for the diabetes-ridden amongst us. It is very rich, very chocolatey, It is creamy and fudgy and crunchy all at the same time, and the strawberries are fresh distractions that sit happily on their bed of silky chocolate. I don’t know how Deb from Smitten Kitchen comes up with such great birthday cake ideas, but once you have a look at her sight you’ll agree. There’s just about every perfect birthday cake idea known to man on there.
I recommend you make this cake. It may not win the beauty award, but it will make you, and your family, and your friends, very very happy. Or if you can’t be bothered, just make the brownies and add a swirl of cream cheese through the middle! I won’t tell anyone.
For the Base:
250g (or 2 cups) crushed chocolate biscuits. I used Arnotts chocolate ripple
70g (full 2/3 cup) butter, melted
25g (2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
Mix all ingredients together well. Press into a lined and greased 23cm springform pan and bake for ten minutes, until firm.
650g (23 ounces, scant 1.5 pounds) softened cream cheese
4 eggs at room temperature
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Beat cream cheese until soft and fluffy. Slowly add eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Slowly add sugar and vanilla and stop beating as soon as they are absorbed. Fold through about 2 cups of the chopped brownies, or as many as you feel you want in your ratio. Pour the filling into your prepared pan. Put a tray in the bottom of your oven filled with water, and place the cheesecake on a rack above this. Cook at 170° for 40 minutes until the outside is set but the middle is still wobbly. Leave in the oven with the door open to cool completely. Chill overnight.
Ganache: Heat 55g (1/4 cup) heavy cream with 55g (1/4 cup) butter until almost boiling. Pour over 85g (scant 1/2 cup) dark chocolate pieces and stir until combined. Cool briefly before pouring on the cheesecake and smoothing over the surface. Top with strawberries or whatever berry is available and best. (About 250g or half a pound). Serve with a sprinkling of icing sugar.