Like The Cheesecake Factory

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Kanye West introduced me to The Cheesecake Factory. Not literally, of course, but through his  2004 album College Dropout. In School Spirit, he raps “This nigga graduated at the top of my class/ I went to Cheesecake, he was a motherfucking waiter there.” Not familiar with the debut album? Don’t worry – I got your back. It’s Kanye’s commentary on society blended with personal tragedy. College courses interfering with your musical forays? Drop out of college! Of all his autobiographical works, I believe this one is the most literal. I’ll be crushed if  his high school valedictorian did not end up working at The Cheesecake Factory.

Mindy Kaling’s 2011 book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, renewed my interest in The Cheesecake Factory. Her exploits at the Atrium Mall and The Cheesecake Factory were both banal and exotic. Only because I had never been to the restaurant.

Earlier this year, one finally opened shop in Albuquerque and I was ecstatic! The food did not disappoint which would’ve been understandable considering I had 12 years’ worth of anticipation and hype. My family’s goal is to eat every cheesecake on the menu.

I have 2 methods for producing cheesecake.Confession: I’ve made Jello’s No Bake Cheesecake for 20 years, but more often than not, I’m buying the sampler tray from Costco.

It was my sister-in-law’s birthday last week and her favorite dessert is cheesecake. I contemplated gifting the pumpkin cheesecake from, you guessed it … (wait, did you guess The Cheesecake Factory or Costco?) but the magic of the Internet intervened. A pin for mini cheesecake cupcakes appeared in my Pinterest feed. The recipe from Chef Savvy looked so easy a caveman could do it.

And it was. cheesecake

I didn’t modify the recipe or directions, but the crust needs tweaking.

Chef Savvy specifically advises not to use foil cupcake liners. I don’t know why but I plan on finding out. The sugary butter saturated the paper, and once cooled, the whole cake stuck to the pan. I was worried I’d destroy the cakes, but with a little finesse I prevailed.

She instructs baking for 5-6 minutes at 325*. The strategy for the next go round is baking at 315*. I might also try 325* for less minutes. My crust was hard. Not unenjoyable, but it didn’t yield like it should have.

The final change stems from user-error, not design flaw. The recipe mixes the cream cheese and other ingredients until combined. My brain said use setting 2 on Kitchen Aid mixer. Once ingredients were combined, I filled each tin.  I was half way done when I became cognizant that my filing was slightly lumpy. Setting 2 is slow mixing. I should’ve used setting 4, mixing/beating (appropriate for semi-heavy batters).  I hoped the cream cheese lumps would melt in the oven, but alas, they did not.

For high altitude baking, the trick is to bake in a water bath. At high altitudes, the outer portions of the cheesecake will cook much faster than the center. Not to get too sciencey, but water absorbcheesecake-baths heat and helps the cheesecake bake uniformly. Skip this tip and there’s a good chance your cheesecake will crack. This helpful hint also applies to other creamy pies, such as pumpkin.

Finding a dish big enough to create a water bath for a cupcake tin is challenging but luckily I had one. My last resort was to bake on a cookie sheet filled with water.

I wanted to hide the cream cheese lumps under strawberry pie filing topping, but since my sister-in-law enjoys both plain and fruit-topped, I left half plain.  The goodness in this venture was that the lumps were small and didn’t throw the taste off. No one even noticed the mini cream cheese in the petite cakes.

What’s your favorite birthday cake? Have you made baked cheesecake before? Do you think I should’ve just stuck with Jello No Bake Cheesecake?

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