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Random Sweetness Baking has moved to RandomSweetnessBaking.com. If you are an email subscriber, I brought you with me. If you are a WordPress Reader subscriber, please follow me on my new .com site. See what’s new:

I moved and brought you with me

How was I to know the frozen pumpkin pie needed to be baked? 

Is food your language of love, friendship, and hospitality? 

I hope you’ll come visit me at my new home!

Sweet wishes,

Staci

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Almost everyone I know loves cheesecake. But not many people I know bake their own. It seems surreptitious, as if you need a cloak and dark sunglasses instead of an apron and a simple recipe card to bake it.

In some ways, making cheesecake is easier than baking four dozen cookies, it’s just more time consuming because of the two hours you let the cream cheese and eggs come to room temperature, the hour and 20 minutes it bakes, and the couple hours it takes to cool before you stick it in the fridge. (You can plop yourself on the lounge chair and soak up the sun during all that time.)

But the time it takes to whip one up is about the same time it takes to wash the dishes. So your actual time in the kitchen (for this cheesecake) is only about 30 minutes max. And the fresh strawberry sauce is so tasty and easy you’ll never want to buy the frozen stuff again. I hope you give it a try.

For Mother’s Day 2016, the kids, Jason, and I went to Minneapolis for the weekend. We ate at Pittsburgh Blue in Edina and we ordered cheesecake with strawberry sauce and five layer chocolate mousse cake off the dessert menu. Thirteen months later I still think about how luscious that cheesecake was. I wanted to make one just as creamy with a plate-licking-worthy strawberry sauce.

I’ve finally nailed it. No need for a $14.95 family-style slice of cheesecake. I’d rather spend the money on their appetizer of bourbon-maple glazed bacon.

Vanilla cheesecake with fresh strawberry sauce

Crust

1 package (not box) graham crackers (approximately 9 sheets)

10 Golden Oreos (or approximate amount of vanilla wafers or other cookie)

6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Cheesecake filling

5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature*

1-3/4 cups sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (no imitation)

5 large eggs, room temperature*

2 large egg yolks, room temperature*

1/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature**

Fresh strawberry sauce

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

2 cups quartered fresh strawberries (washed and stems removed)

2 cups chopped fresh strawberries (bite sized pieces, washed and stems removed)

*Approximately two hours before you want to bake the cheesecake, set out the cream cheese and eggs.

**Approximately 30 minutes before you want to bake the cheesecake, set out the heavy cream. 

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse graham crackers and cookies into fine crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until wet sand consistency. (Or smash together in a zip top bag.)
  3. Press crust mixture firmly into bottom and slightly up sides of greased springform pan. Bake at 350 degree Fahrenheit for 6 minutes. Remove from oven.
  4. Turn oven temperature up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  5. In large bowl of an electric mixer, beat softened cream cheese on medium-high until smooth, no lumps. Add sugar to cream cheese and mix on medium until well blended. Add flour. Beat until incorporated.
  6. Drop in lemon zest, orange zest, and salt. Pour in vanilla extract. Beat on low until incorporated.
  7. Crack 5 eggs into a bowl or measuring cup. Dump one or two at a time into cheesecake batter; beat on medium low just until incorporated. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl after each addition. DO NOT OVER MIX. Do the same thing with 2 egg yolks.
  8. Pour heavy cream into mixture and beat on low just until stirred in. Overbeating will cause the cheesecake to crack.
  9. Transfer cheesecake batter into prepared springform pan. Tap pan a few times onto the counter to get out air bubbles. Place springform pan in oven. Bake at 500 degrees Fahrenheit 10-12 minutes, just until top of the cheesecake starts to brown.
  10. Turn oven temperature down to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake 60-70 minutes, or just until filling sets but is slightly jiggly. Turn off oven. Open oven door slightly and let cool to room temperature or remove cheesecake from oven and let cool to room temperature. After about 30 minutes, run a thin knife between the pan and the cheesecake to be sure it doesn’t stick to the side.
  11. Once completely cooled, cover cheesecake in springform pan and place in refrigerator 12 hours or overnight.
  12. Remove springform ring from cheesecake. Slice and serve slightly chilled topped with fresh strawberry sauce. Store cheesecake covered in refrigerator up to 10 days or in the freezer up to 3 months.

Make the strawberry sauce:

  1. Place sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Cool completely. (Or store in refrigerator until ready to make the sauce a few days later.)
  3. Place the syrup in the jar of a blender and add 2 cups quartered strawberries. Puree until smooth. Pour through a fine strainer, colander, or sieve into a bowl or jar. Stir remaining two cups of berries into puree. Serve over cheesecake or store sealed in refrigerator up to 3 days.

Sweet strawberry patch wishes,

Staci

We make towering cakes, slather them with frosting and poke long wax sticks in the top.

We sing “Happy Birthday” off pitch.

They blow out the candles…

…making sure not to leave one burning so the aunts and uncles won’t tease them about having a girlfriend.

We slice the cake, revealing mammoth layers of soft chocolate and lip smacking frosting.

Everyone leaves and it’s time to clean up the mess. But why is it so hard for us to throw out the candles? Is it because they were only lit long enough to sing one rendition of “Happy Birthday” before the smoke drifted through the kitchen?

Or does it make us sad to see our babies getting older and we’re overcome with nostalgia? Are we afraid we’ll lose the memories of each party, each balloon, each cake, each smile, each celebration?

Or are we afraid they will forget?

Sweet and burning wishes,

Staci

Bell and Frank Barr are two of the most fun-spirited people I have [virtually] met. The Faerie House artists and owners design, create, and bring to life whimsical clay faerie houses for gardens and indoor spaces, all from their colorful Edina, Minn. workshop. In the middle of winter last year, I had the pleasure of talking with the Barrs and learning about the passion they put into their handmade art and why they have quite a “sparkly” following. This summer, I have the pleasure of enjoying my own brightly colored, playful Faerie House on my deck. (I swear a fairy buzzed by my head as I wrote this post on the deck right after I placed the twig in the fairy door. It didn’t ring the tiny bell inside though.) Read my Edina Magazine article to learn what the symbol on the roof represents, why I stuck a tiny stick from my yard in the faerie house door, and why Frank and Bell stamp NOW on each piece. Better yet, view the article on pages 42-44 of the Edina Magazine April 2017 digital edition so you can read articles about installing an outdoor fireplace, a tree planting cheat sheet, a few tips about growing Cacti, and my favorite—made in Minnesota paleo nuts called Num Nuts.

You can see all the different Faerie Houses and meet Frank and Bell at the 2017 Edina Art Fair booth #431, Excelsior Art on the Lake, and Eagan Art Festival.

If you can’t make it to one of the art shows, you can buy Faerie Houses online at FaerieHouse.com. Even if you don’t wear sparkly shoes, I bet you will get hooked.

Sweet & peaceful wishes,

Staci

It’s nothing really. I just had a few extra pink cake layers. And you know what they say—when life hands you cake, make balls.

I’m not a cake decorator. So when people ask me to make cake for their special occasions, I refer them to Jamiecakes or Hy-Vee. But once in a while Jamiecakes can’t take anymore orders and I say yes to making a reveal cake for a family friend. The ultrasound was in the morning and they wanted the cake that night so I knew I needed to be ready with pink cake layers and blue cake layers because I wouldn’t have time during the day to bake.

It’s a boy! Which is why I had extra pink cake layers in my freezer, taking up valuable space that could be used for mocha cakes from Flandreau Bakery or cheesecakes. I was going to throw them out but I decided to tear them up, stir in a bunch of vanilla frosting, and make cake pops. It wasn’t as irritatingly tedious as I thought it would be. Although, I had intentions of actually making pops that weren’t upside down but I started the dipping process and realized I forgot to bring in a piece of styrofoam to hold them upright to dry. Oh well, I don’t think the gravity changed the flavor.

My daughter and I each ate one and we gave the rest away in random, special deliveries. I don’t have a specific recipe for cake balls. But this is what I did and how you can do it:

Cake Balls or Pops 

pre-made cake

one or two canisters of vanilla frosting

2 or more bags of Wilton pink candy melts

sprinkles

cake pop sticks

piece of styrofoam if you want the pops to be upright

  1. Line a pan that will fit in your freezer with wax paper to set the balls on.
  2. Crumble two 9-inch cake layers into a bowl (mine were homemade cakes but you could simply bake a box cake and use the entire cake – you don’t need layers, just cake to break up).
  3. Stir in at least one can of vanilla frosting (I used one and a half cans but it really depends on how much cake you have). You want this to be creamy, almost more frosting than cake really.
  4. Shape into balls, smaller than a golf ball but larger than a marble. Place on wax paper and set pan in freezer for approximately 15 minutes.
  5. Melt candy melts over low heat.
  6. Dip a stick into the candy melts, covering about one-fourth of the stick, and insert into semi frozen cake pop. Set pops on pan and put back in the freezer until fully frozen, at least 30 minutes. Keep candy melts warm. Add a few drops of vegetable oil to the candy melts to thin it out a little for dipping.
  7. Once cake balls are frozen, gently dip once into candy melts, fully covering the ball and letting excess drip off. Scatter sprinkles onto ball and place back on pan or insert upright into a piece of styrofoam (do a good job of tapping off excess). You’ll want to work this process quickly because once the balls start to defrost, they’ll fall off the stick when you are dipping.
  8. Let cool and set. Best eaten at room temperature. Can be stored in the freezer or refrigerator.

*****

Sweet wishes,

Staci

 

Have you ever driven down the interstate, passed a vehicle and looked over and wondered how in the world a toddler is driving the car next to you?

kids in cozy coupe

Perhaps toddler is an exaggeration. But it’s possible the young driver’s parent is back at home (tracking them at every mile marker on Find My iPhone), frenetically doing laundry and scrubbing floors with a toothbrush to keep their mind off the fact they just let their teenager take the car 53 miles down Interstate-29—alone for the first time.

And in the parent’s mind, they can’t shake the terrifying feeling like they’ve just let their toddler run with scissors across a busy intersection, street covered in glassy ice, in an area with frequent DWI and distracted driving crashes.

Cozy Coupe

I know why we have fear like this. It’s not because we don’t trust our kids or feel like we haven’t prepared them. But we know life happens and in the middle of our routine, daily lives, people die. And it seems like barreling down the interstate at 80 mph opens the door to tragedy, because let’s face it, you and I both know there are idiot drivers out there who aren’t paying attention to anything but Snapchat stories of people they don’t know or the slimy lettuce that just fell out of their taco onto the floor.

Little Tikes

But if we look at it from our kids’ point of views, they just want freedom. The day after I rode with my teenager on the interstate for the first time, author and 12-year-old Minnesota blogger (That is Great!) Oscar Wolfe published Great Survey: Parents Give Us Freedom! and although it didn’t ease my vehicular fears, it reminded me that I’m not the only person in this decision. Especially at the age of 17 and having driven for almost two years, my daughter deserved to have me listen to her reasoning about why she thought it was OK for her to drive on I-29 alone.

We had a good conversation and she has since then driven a few times alone to Sioux Falls on the interstate and she does just fine. As parents, it’s hard to look at our young adult children and see young adults rather than babies. We still see the kid who rode on top of the Cozy Coupe while her brother was driving.

cozy coupe

But if I take another look, she was wearing a bike helmet so even at the age of four she inherently practiced road safety in the garage.

And yes, my floors are spotless and I still track her at every mile marker.

Sweet freedom wishes,

Staci

I also love Oscar’s follow-up article, How Parents Make the Rules. Often times, kids don’t know why we make the decisions we do about their freedoms. It usually has nothing to do with us trusting or not trusting our kids. And what matters most to us in this world is keeping them safe and alive.

What are you doing for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day? If you are hosting or attending a party or nursing a hangover while watching football, impress the pants off your guests with the perfect I’m-mingling-holding-a-craft-beer-appetizer—savory cheesecake in tiny Mason jars.

I concocted this recipe to honor farming in South Dakota. Unlike traditional dessert cheesecake, this smoky cheesecake is full of bacon and Gouda and Gruyere cheese and is served with salty crackers.

smoky bacon cheesecake

For the recipe, read Perfect Appetizer for your Pigskin Party: Smoky Bacon Cheesecake with Gouda and Gruyere on Hungry for Truth’s website.

smoky bacon cheesecake

About Hungry for Truth: “Hungry for Truth” is a new initiative from South Dakota Soybean designed to open discussions about food between South Dakotans and the farmers who grow it. We’re putting it all on the table to have open, honest conversations about how our food is raised and its safety.

The opinion written is my own and I was not compensated for this post. I just happen to like farmers. And bacon. And cheese.

Savory swine wishes,

Staci

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