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Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake
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In my neurotic holiday menu planning mind, no holiday celebration would be complete without a killer cheesecake.  Now, for the past 4 years, I have lived and breathed for the tall and creamy cheesecake.  For a “plain” cheesecake, there is no comparison whatsoever.  But I think I’ve scared Kyle this year.  I’ve taken away his security of the tall and creamy and replaced it with two other cheesecakes this holiday season.  There has been no inkling of disappointment though.

This cappuccino fudge cheesecake is completely over the top.  Its chocolate cookie crust is covered with a layer of fudgy ganache followed by a smooth cappuccino cheesecake filling and a sour cream topping, then finally some extra ganache and chocolate-covered espresso beans to pretty the whole thing up.  Rich, decadent, breathtaking.  Even with the thinnest of slices – I cut 1-inch slices – you’ll need plenty of extra room in your belly to handle this cheesecake.  If you’re a coffee- or cappuccino-anything lover like my entire family is, you cannot possibly go wrong with this dessert.

Red Velvet and Strawberry Trifles with Cheesecake Filling
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Red Velvet and Strawberry Trifles with Cheesecake Filling

For the most part, Kyle and I agree on pretty much everything that comes out of our kitchen.  It makes for pretty easy living in this house and loads of fun when I menu plan and decide on what kind of sweets to bake.  The only recent exception to this lovely mutually agreeable relationship is cream cheese frosting.  While I can eat the tangy frosting with a spoon, Kyle can take it or leave it.  And yet I keep making it not because I forget how he feels about it, but because I think I can change his mind with different recipes.  It never works.

Red Velvet and Strawberry Trifles with Cheesecake Filling

So when I made red velvet cupcakes last weekend, I ended up with a few extra frosted cupcakes and a moment of panic about what to do with them since I knew Kyle wasn’t about to bring Valentine’s cupcakes to his construction site at work.  It took me all of about .2 seconds to decide what needed to be done: repurpose them!  I scraped off the frosting (did you really just question what happened to it?), cubed up the cupcakes, sliced some fresh strawberries, and pulled together a no-bake cheesecake filling for some Valentine’s Day trifles.  And when I tell you that we both swooned with the first bite, I’m not kidding.  The silky filling has a touch of lemon that blends perfectly with the strawberries and soaks into the cake layers after a day-long refrigeration, resulting in a decadent and brightly-flavored dessert that would make the perfect ending to any sort of Valentine’s Day celebration.  We were hoping to celebrate this year in our new home but after another delay (?!*$), these trifles will be the perfect way to be celebrate how happy we are together, regardless of the situation.

Peach Cream Cheese Tart
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When it came to my turn to choose a recipe for Project Pastry Queen, the task wasn’t an easy one.  Though, I felt drawn to this recipe.  See, when I was a little kid, I used to tan beautifully in the summer.  Golden brown skin and never a sunburn, thanks to my Italian heritage.  Things are different these days since my Irish heritage seems to have taken my skin hostage, leaving me lily white each summer due to the massive amounts of sunscreen I need to use.  Nonetheless, my mom used to call me “peaches ‘n cream,” a nickname I hold close to my heart.  So naturally, the Fredericksburg Peach Cream Cheese Tart was the perfect recipe for me to choose.

Goodness how happy I am that I chose this recipe.  Peaches are finally in full swing here in CT and I took a special trip up to a farm stand today just to pick up a few.  I couldn’t, in good conscience, use grocery store peaches that are shipped in from either Georgia or California for this dessert.  Not when I could get local ones.  Plus, my farm stand trip gave me a good excuse to day a drive on this A+ summer day on some beautiful back country roads.

In short, we l.o.v.e.d this tart!!  The cream evokes a feeling that you’re eating peachy cheesecake and while I thought cinnamon-sugar coated peaches would be too sweet of a complement to the cream filling, I was wrong.  They are the perfect topping to these pretty tarts.  I think what I’m most excited about (aside from eating them, of course) is that even though I halved the recipe (full recipe below), I was able to freeze enough leftover dough to make another four little tarts come apple season.  Score!

Tall and Creamy Cheesecake
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So to kick off this holiday season, I was in search of the perfect cheesecake recipe. I’ve made a couple different varieties in the past but until now I’ve yet to come across a plain cheesecake with the “wow factor” that makes me want to make it my go-to cheesecake recipe.

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The issue for my finding an awesome cheesecake recipe has always been where to look.  There are hundreds and hundreds of different cheesecake recipes out there – which one would I choose?  I decided to not waste any time sifting through tons of recipes on the internet and I went straight for Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours.  Many of the recipes I’ve made from Dorie’s most recent book have turned out wonderful, including the aforementioned Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake so I figured I’d give her plain cheesecake a shot too.

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This was hand’s down the best plain cheesecake I’ve ever made.  It was creamy, light, and just so flavorful that I probably could have eaten half of the cheesecake in one sitting.  This was the type of cheesecake that just melts away in your mouth.  The type of cheesecake that you want to linger on your taste buds forever.  The type of cheesecake that is the perfect for a kick-ass strawberry topping (see recipe below).  I followed the recipe and instructions exactly as Dorie wrote them and had no issues at all.  And after this being the 2nd Dorie cheesecake I’ve made using a waterbath, I’m totally sold on the technique, even if it is a little time consuming to set up.