Posts Tagged ‘vanilla’

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


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,



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My daughter loves traditional Snickers apple salad with vanilla pudding, whipped cream, red and green apples, and Snickers candy bars. I was excited to tailor it to other flavors she likes by pouring coconut milk into the pudding and tossing in Butterfinger candy instead of Snickers.

But you’d have thought I added bright red beets.

Me: “Kalani, I made a special salad for you like the Snickers and apple salad you love but it has Butterfingers in it.”

Kalani: “Oh, I don’t really like Butterfingers that much. I like Snickers so that’s why I like that salad.”

Butterfinger apple coconut salad | Random Sweetness Baking

Me: “Um, well, I was excited to make it for you because when we go to the Zesto, you always order a Butterfinger Avalanche with coconut and chocolate ice cream.”

Kalani: “Ya, well that’s because Snickers freeze when they are in ice cream and they are too hard to eat.”

Me: “OK. It’s in the refrigerator if you decide to try some. It has Honeycrisp and green apples.”

The next day…

Kalani: “That salad was actually really good!”

Me: “I’m glad you liked it! Could you taste coconut?”

Kalani: “No.”

Me: “If I make it again I’ll add more coconut milk. I didn’t use too much because I wasn’t sure if the taste would be too strong. I didn’t actually use coconut because I don’t like coconut.”

Kalani: “Oh.”

Butterfinger Apple Coconut Salad

1 cup cold coconut milk (coconut milk is found in the Chinese/Oriental food section – do NOT use cream of coconut)

1/2 cup cold milk

1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix

1 (8 ounce) carton whipped cream

2 Granny Smith apples, chopped into bite-sized pieces

2 Honeycrisp apples, chopped into bite-sized pieces (or your favorite red apple)

bag of fun-size Butterfinger candy bars, chopped (or 5 regular size Butterfinger candy bars chopped)

1/2 cup flaked coconut, optional

In a large bowl, whisk coconut milk and milk with pudding mix. Let it rest for 3 minutes. Fold in whipped cream. Gently fold in chopped apples, candy bars, and coconut.

Cover and refrigerate until serving. Best if eaten within 24 hours. Makes approximately 12 servings.

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National food days don’t excite me. If it’s National Cashew Day, I’ll celebrate the crunchy carrot.

It means more when people think for themselves. Sorta like Valentine’s Day — if you wait and spend three times as much money on a dozen roses just to give a bouquet to the love of your life on the day society tells you to, you don’t deserve a sweetheart. Instead, on a random day in the summer, pull off the busy highway and pick a handful of those pretty purple wildflowers swaying in the country shade.

Vanilla cheesecake with fresh berries | Random Sweetness Baking

I’ve always been a rebel. (In the American sense of the word.) Hallmark wouldn’t like me. If everyone is doing something the same way, I’ll simply wait until I find a different way before I do it. It’s not such a bad thing now but trust me, it got me into plenty of trouble when I was a teenage girl wearing boxer shorts to school on final exam day.

But National Cheesecake Day? It’s like my personal national holiday! Even a rebel’s gotta respect the one day when people across the nation celebrate the most traditional yet luxurious dessert known to man(and woman)kind.

Today is National Cheesecake Day. If you are in the Minneapolis area, you must go to Muddy Paws CheesecakeOnce you’ve had a mouthful of their luscious cheesecake, you’ll be weaving your way through the residential area of St. Louis Park every chance you get just to grab a slice from [owner] Tami’s freezer. You can also order Muddy Paws cheesecake off the menu at these restaurants in the Twin Cities. (Say hi to them on Facebook and on Twitter @MPCheesecake.)

When you can’t have Muddy Paws, bake your own slices of creamy heaven:

Brownie Bottom Black Cherry Cheesecake

Key Lime Cheesecake with Patrón Sauce

Reese’s Salted Cheesecake

White Chocolate Peppermint Twist Cheesecake

Andes Crème de Menthe Cheesecake

Creamy Dreamsicle Cheesecake with Sugared Cream Sauce

Chocolate Explosion Cheesecake with Caramel Shots

KAHLÚA Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake

And when you want a good old-fashioned vanilla cheesecake with berries from your garden or corner farmer’s market, make this one and share it:

Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Berries


1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted


32 ounces (four 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1-2/3  cups sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (I use Sonoma Syrup Co. Vanilla Bean Crush)

3/4 cup heavy or whipping cream

3 large eggs at room temperature

fresh berries of your choice

Put it all together

For 9-inch springform pan: Preheat oven to 350°. Grease the springform pan with baking or cooking spray.

Combine the crushed graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter in a small bowl. Stir well. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan. Bake 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed until creamy throughout, with no clumps. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times while mixing. This will take approximately 3 minutes. This only works if the cream cheese is at a soft, room temperature consistency.

Add the sugar to the cream cheese mixture and beat on low to medium speed for a few minutes until sugar is well combined and the texture is creamy.

Put the cornstarch in a tiny bowl. While stirring, add just enough ice-cold water to dissolve the cornstarch. It’s probably a teaspoon or two. Stir until dissolved and then add to the cream cheese batter.

Pour the vanilla extract and whipping cream into the batter and then beat on low until all the ingredients are incorporated. Do not overbeat.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on low just until combined. Turn off the mixer and gently scrape down the sides of the bowl after each egg is added.

Gently pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake at 350° for approximately one hour and 15 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown and the center is just set. Turn the oven off and crack the oven door open slightly. Let the cheesecake completely cool in the oven for a couple of hours.

When cooled, run a knife between the pan and the cheesecake to loosen it from the sides, then cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

When ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the springform pan. Slice with a warm knife, wiping after each cut to keep the slices smooth and free from crumbs. Serve with your favorite berries.

Keep cheesecake in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. If you want to freeze the cheesecake or slices of cheesecake, (remove the berries first) wrap tightly in foil or seal in freezer bags for up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 2 hours.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

If you want to bake these in 4-inch springform pans as I have pictured, lower the oven temperature to 275° and bake approximately 35-40 minutes. If you have mini cheesecake pans, bake for approximately 26 minutes.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Tomorrow is National Raspberry Cake Day. I’ll be celebrating the bacon cheeseburger.

Happy National Cheesecake Day to all you rebels and cheesecake lovers!

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There’s been a lot of chocolate around the house lately so it was good timing for something different. Lucky for me, I had bananas that were the perfect ripeness for baking moist, cake-like bars.

Even if you don’t have ripe bananas at the moment, you most likely know that you can freeze extra ripe bananas and thaw them when you are ready to bake. My preferred method is to peel them, smash them, and put the banana mush into freezer bags labeled with the number of bananas I used.  Most recipes call for approximately one to one and a half cups of banana, which you can usually get out of 3-4 medium-sized bananas. It works best to freeze them in that portion size.

{Cinnamon Banana Bars with Vanilla Cream Frosting}


2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2-1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

1-1/2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup butter softened (1  1/2 sticks)

1-1/2 tsp vanilla

2 large eggs

1-1/2 cups mashed, ripe bananas

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

 6 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 Tablespoons butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract (I like using Vanilla Bean Crush which adds the tiny flecks of vanilla.)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 15×10-inch jelly roll/bar pan. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In large bowl beat brown sugar, butter and vanilla extract. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in bananas. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes of until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan. 

For Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting: beat cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar in a small mixer until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Spread on completely cooled bars. Store in the refrigerator and serve at room temperature.

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I love chocolate and cheesecake. When I go to a restaurant, the first thing I do is look at the menu and (1) see if there is chocolate on the dessert menu (2) see if there is chocolate in the form of cheesecake. I tell you this because if you are a chocolate addict like I am, you may not think this recipe is for you since there is not one ounce of chocolate in here. But—this has become my favorite non-chocolate cheesecake. The recipe is from Cheesecake Extraordinaire by Mary H. Crownover. It is the very first cheesecake cookbook I purchased—back in the mid 90s. In the cookbook, the recipe is called Creamy Orange Swirl Cheesecake. The author describes it perfectly, “This citrus cheesecake tastes like a cross between orange sherbet and an orange julius beverage.

I brought this to our family reunion on the evening of National Cheesecake Day and it was gone so quickly that I was glad I kept a piece at home for later. It has a wonderful blend of vanilla and orange flavor. And oh, yes— you get to break out the vanilla liqueur while you are stirring up this cheesecake. {What a great way to make dessert!}

While you’ve got the bottle of vanilla liqueur out, you can make cheesecake shots and cocktails by mixing cranberry juice and Dr. McGillicuddy’s. There are two good drink recipes here.

Based on some of the comments from my winning Chocolate Explosion Cheesecake photo on Kraft Foods Facebook page, there are people who cannot eat chocolate or simply don’t like it so this is a perfect dessert for them too!

{Creamy Dreamsicle Cheesecake with Sugared Cream Sauce}

Vanilla Cookie Crust

11 vanilla sandwich cream cookies, crushed

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted (I always use butter)

In a small bowl, stir together crushed cookies and melted butter until well combined. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan. (I place the crust in the freezer while I prepare the cheesecake batter.)

Creamy Dreamsicle Filling

24 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons whipping cream

5 teaspoons cornstarch

4 eggs (at room temperature)

1 egg yolk (at room temperature)

1/3 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel (sometimes I use a tangerine)

1/3 cup vanilla-flavored liqueur

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, whipping cream and cornstarch. **Cornstarch Tip: This stuff is tricky. Don’t just drop the powder into the batter or it will clump up and there is no way to get it smoothed out. Instead, put the 5 teaspoons of cornstarch into a tiny bowl or compote and then add just enough ice-cold water to stir it smooth. Then pour it into your batter.** Beat with electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after each addition. (Don’t overbeat–too much air gets in the batter and will cause the cheesecake to crack.)

Remove half of the mixture and put into a small bowl; stir in orange juice concentrate and orange peel. Set aside. Stir in liqueur and vanilla extract into the remaining cream cheese mixture.

Pour the orange mixture over the crust. Top with the vanilla mixture. Without disturbing the crust, swirl the blade of a knife through the cake to create a marbling effect. (I don’t use food coloring so there isn’t much difference in color between the two mixtures.)

Bake at 350˚ for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 225˚ and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the center no longer looks wet or shiny but still has a “jiggle” to it. The cheesecake continues to bake and set even after you take it out of the oven. Remove the cake from the oven and run a knife around the inside edge of the pan. Chill overnight.

Sugared Cream Sauce

1 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon orange juice (I probably use at least 1 1/2 tablespoons)

1/2 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel

Fresh orange slices to garnish if desired

Stir together all sauce ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

The sugared cream sauce is part of what makes this cheesecake so great so I encourage you to make it. It can be made ahead and served on the cheesecake or you can serve it in a bowl so guests can add their own.

You could change the recipe just by adding a different fruit juice and liqueur. I bet  it would be excellent with maraschino cherry juice in place of the orange juice and zest. What other combinations would you try?

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