I adore cheesecakes but don't bake them too often because of (a) the fat content and (b) fear of The Terrible Cracking (sounds like a Halloween tale, doesn't it?). Let's be really honest with each other...it's mostly (b) that's kept me away. But when my friend Yida (check out his kickass Halloween costume) requested blueberry cheesecake cupcakes for his birthday, it was time to get past (or around) the fear and I thought I'd found a great way to do just that.
Several sources told me mini cheesecakes were less prone to cracking, even without a water bath. You can bet I was excited 'bout that! Still, there was some contradicting advice floating about. The Martha Stewart recipe I adapted called for bathing the cupcakes ^_^, but Annie's Eats got gorgeous results skipping that step. Always wanting to see for myself, I baked some with a water bath and some without.
When the cakes in the water bath turned out slightly undercooked but the others rose high and sunk oh-so-low, I went in search of middle ground. Google led me to this page very helpfully explaining The Cracking/Sinking Phenomenon. The main culprits: over-beating, over-baking, and contraction as the cake cools. Shortening the mixing time and lowering the oven temperature without a water bath produced the results I was hoping for. Firm, delicious cakes without a tendency to cave in. Sure, there's still an occasional crack along the marbling, but people will be too busy wolfing them down to notice =).
Do you guys enjoy cheesecake as much as I do? I'd love to hear about your favorite variations. Plus any tips would be great, as I'm still very new to making them!
Blueberry Swirl Mini Cheesecake Cupcakes [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes via Annie's Eats
Makes 14 cupcakes
XIAOLU'S NOTES: For a lovely almond-y twist, replace half the graham cracker crumbs with amaretti biscuit cookie crumbs and omit the extra sugar in the crust. Or use chocolate wafer crumbs and keep the sugar. You could also easily swap out the blueberries for almost any other berry or even other types of fruit. You'll want to adjust the amount of sugar according to the sweetness of the fruit you use. Have fun with it!
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 Tbsp sugar
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup PLUS 1 Tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cupcake pans with 14 paper liners (or use 1 pan plus 2 standalone wrappers).
To make crusts: in a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar. Stir together with a fork until well blended and all dry ingredients are moistened. Press 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the bottom of each cupcake liner. (A small glass or another standalone baking cup work well.) Bake until just set, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
To make the fruit puree: combine the blueberries and sugar in a regular or food processor or using a stick blender in a measuring cup. Process until smooth, and set aside. If using frozen berries, boil the puree in a small saucepan for about 5 minutes to evaporate some of the water; then cool and set aside.
To make the cheesecake: beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer just until smooth. Blend in the remaining sugar until well incorporated. Mix in the salt and vanilla. Finally, beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
To assemble: spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of the cheesecake batter over the crust in each cupcake liner. Dot a 1/2 teaspoon of the berry puree in a few dots over the cheesecake filling. Use a toothpick or a skewer, chopstick, or thin knife to lightly swirl and create a marbled effect.
Bake until the filling is just set, about 20 to 30 minutes. (They will look puffed initially but will return to normal with time.) Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to the refrigerator and let chill for at least 4 hours before serving.