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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

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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

 

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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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Within minutes of cracking my eyes open and my feet hitting the chilly carpet, the morning sunshine was overshadowed by gloomy sadness—it’s the same tinge of grief that creeps in every September 18, the anniversary of my best friend’s unspeakable death.

Since 22 years of heartbreak can’t be mended with a bottle of Patrón and Duct tape, the next best thing for me is baking. So after I got off the phone with Darya’s dad, Darryl, I wiped my tears with a lotion-y Kleenex and cranked the oven to 350°.

6 and a half layer bars

I recalled a story her mom, Carmen, told me recently. One time, Carmen put a pan of 7-layer bars in the oven and had to leave the house so she asked Darya to turn the oven off when the timer was done. Well, Darya did just that. She turned the oven off but she didn’t take the bars out of the oven. The bars continued to bake and caramelize and as Carmen puts it, “…best bars we ever had and we can’t seem to duplicate that.”

In sweet memory of my friend, I tried to recreate what she had done so many years ago. I changed up the recipe a little because I thought adding caramel, milk chocolate toffee bits, and salty pretzel crumbs could only make the bars better. I was right.

Just remember to turn the oven off and let them sit in there for a while.

6 and a half layer bars

What makes these eight-and-a-half layer bars? I swapped (pretzels for nuts) and added a few ingredients (caramel and toffee bits) from traditional 7-layer bars and, because I’m not a raging fan of coconut, I only use half the coconut most recipes call for. A sprinkling really.

Eight-and-a-half layer bars

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

3/4 cup pretzel crumbs

11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) butter, melted

1 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1 cup milk chocolate toffee bits

1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping (such as Mrs. Richardson’s butterscotch caramel)

1/2 cup (or your desired amount) shredded coconut

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9×13 pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
  2. Stir together cracker and pretzel crumbs with melted butter. (I use a blender to make the crumbs and then add the butter.)
  3. Dump and firmly press the crumb mix into pan.
  4. Evenly scatter butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, and toffee bits onto crust.
  5. Drizzle on about 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping.
  6. Sprinkle with coconut, reserving a tablespoon or two.
  7. Pour condensed milk over coconut. Sprinkle with last bit of coconut.
  8. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn off oven. Leave bars in oven for about 15 minutes before transferring pan to a cooling rack.
  9. Cool completely before cutting into bars. Store in airtight container.

With sweet memories of my BFF,

Staci

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If you’ve been a morning guest in our home, chances are your coffee was as black as frozen hockey pucks and you’ve thrown dietary restraint to the wind by pigging out on warm, gooey butterscotch monkey bread.

Butterscotch monkey bread

Once in a while, I surprise my lovely friends and their kids and give them monkey bread at hockey games. And if you look closely on the bench by my purse, I even have a little pan for my favorite #6 after his game.

Tracey and kids

My recipe has evolved over the years to include butterscotch pudding mix and more biscuit dough. I’ve even driven 12 miles one way to buy the pudding in the morning because it’s that much better with it.

butterscotch monkey bread

I don’t only make monkey bread for houseguests. It is best eaten when it’s warm so my kids are experienced at dishing it into plastic containers for road food, like today as she headed off to work. Some houseguests, you know who you are Zach, won’t eat any until they’re in the car.

monkey bread before work

No houseguests? Make Flying Solo Monkey Bread.

monkey bread

Gooey forkful wishes,

Staci

Butterscotch monkey bread

1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 small box (3.5 oz.) cook & serve (not instant) butterscotch pudding and pie filling

1/4 cup sugar

2 generous teaspoons cinnamon

4 tubes (7.5 ounces each) refrigerated biscuit dough

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease Bundt pan.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and brown sugar together. Whisk until bubbly. Turn off heat.
  3. In a separate medium bowl stir together dry pudding filling, sugar and cinnamon.
  4. With kitchen scissors, cut each biscuit into four pieces, letting them drop directly into pudding mixture. Every six biscuits or so, toss pieces around to coat fully and drop into Bundt pan.
  5. When half of the biscuits are in the Bundt pan, drizzle a few tablespoons of the caramel mixture onto the coated biscuit pieces.
  6. Finish cutting all the biscuits. Evenly pour the caramel mixture over the pieces.
  7. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit 10 minutes. Invert pan onto a large baking sheet and lift Bundt pan off.

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Once upon a time…

The tartness grabs her taste buds and effervesces like teensy Pop Rocks on a wet tongue. When the first creamy bite of cheesecake hits her mouth, she’ll wonder if she even likes the combination of Key lime and blackberry.

Key lime blackberry cheesecake

She takes another bite.

Key lime blackberry cheesecake

She likes it enough to pile her fork with chunk after chunk and before she knows it, the tiny slice she “tried” is gone.

Key Lime Blackberry Cheesecake

Later that evening, she’ll be standing in front of the refrigerator with a clean fork.

Key lime blackberry cheesecake

A few months later, she’ll ask her sister when she is going to make Key lime blackberry cheesecake again.

Key lime cheesecake

But her sister will not know because her other sister requested turtle cheesecake a long, long time ago and more recently requested taco cheesecake. She’s just not sure which to make first.

She chooses to make taco cheesecake and everyone lives happily ever after.

Taco cheesecake

The end.

~~~~~

Key lime blackberry swirl cheesecake

This recipe makes one 9″ pan. I made one 6″ springform and four 6″ tart pans with this recipe. 

Crust:

4 cups pretzels

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Filling:

3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened to room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup lime curd, stirred well to loosen it up

5 tablespoons sour cream, room temperature

5 teaspoons flour

1/2 cup Key lime juice

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 eggs, room temperature

1 egg yolk, room temperature

1 jar (10 ounces) seedless blackberry jam or preserves, stirred well to loosen it up

blackberries for serving with each piece

Make the crust:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor combine pretzels, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter.

If you don’t have a food processor, put pretzels in a plastic storage bag and bang with a heavy object like a can of soup to make fine crumbs. Combine everything in a bowl. 

Dump the mixture into a greased 9″ springform pan and press down with bottom of measuring cup. Bake 7 minutes. Remove from oven.

Make the filling:

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until creamy, making sure there are no lumps. Add sugar and beat until smooth. Whip in lime curd. Beat in sour cream and flour. At this point, make sure cheesecake filling is smooth because once you add the eggs, you don’t want to beat it vigorously.

Stir in Key lime juice and vanilla.

With mixer on low speed, beat in eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each one.

Pour half the filling into crust. Drop teaspoons of blackberry jam randomly into filling, using three-fourths of jam. With a butter knife, gently swirl jam into batter without touching crust. Pour second half of filling into pan and drop teaspoons of jam into the batter, swirling gently with butter knife.

  • For 9″ springform bake at 350 degrees.
  • For 6″ springform bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes.
  • For 6″ tart pans bake at 275 degrees for 28-33 minutes.

Remove from oven when center is slightly jiggly. It will continue to bake once removed. Cool to room temperature. Chill in fridge for 24 hours. Serve with blackberries.

Store leftovers in refrigerator up to one week or in freezer up to three months.

Also try Key Lime Cheesecake with Patrón Sauce and Key lime pie.

Sweet fairytale wishes,

Staci

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