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Friday, May 23, 2014

The Chocolate and Cream Cheese Cake Tango

I don't like the inventor's name for this recipe.  It's brash.  It's confusing.  It certainly doesn't hint at what's going on here:  the sensual pairing of rich chocolate cake and creamy cheesecake.  This is so decadent it's probably banned by some religions.  So what word better describes this tempting union than... tango?  (Cue seductive Latin music.)

My (chocoholic) co-worker's birthday is this weekend, so I was looking for a cake to bring in today that was easily transportable and didn't require too much time to make during the week.  This recipe was perfect.  I split the work over two evenings by making the cheesecake mixture the night before and storing it in the refrigerator overnight.

The original recipe said it makes 3 9-inch cakes, but commenters said that even with 3-inch-high cake pans, their pans still overflowed.  I checked the quantities and realized that they were about double a normal cake, and that was just for the chocolate part.  Add to that the cheesecake part, and it's no wonder the pans overflowed.  So I cut the recipe in half and used a 9x13-inch pan and it worked just right.  (The original recipe is from a wedding cake challenge, which explains why the recipe is so large and baked in 3 pans.)  I also added espresso powder to enhance the chocolate.  I think almond extract would be a good flavor pairing in this recipe as well.

New York cheesecake swirl:
1/3 cup sugar
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla (or almond) extract 
1 egg, room temperature
8 ounces semisweet chocolate morsels

Chocolate Cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder (optional)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted and cooled

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the sugar, cream cheese, and extract on high speed until well combined. Add the egg and continue to beat on high speed, scraping down the sides. Once combined, stir in the chocolate morsels. Chill the mixture for approximately 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9x13-inch cake pan and dust lightly with a little cocoa powder.  In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the sugar and stir to combine well.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in small increments, gently folding the mixture until well combined.  Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and spread evenly. Randomly place teaspoon-sized dollops of the cream cheese mixture atop the chocolate cake batter.  (If your cheesecake mixture is soft, for a prettier appearance lightly swirl the two together with a knife or chopstick.   See Notes.) Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.  Before serving, dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Spotted.  Not attractive.
  • I expected the cake to rise up and cook around the cheesecake, resulting in pockets of cheesecake throughout.  As you can see, that didn't happen -- the cheesecake spread and formed  a nearly cohesive top  layer.  My cheesecake mixture was room temperature and soft, not chilled as directed, which might have been the cause.  While it didn't affect the flavor at all, the result was not very appealing visually.  Though the original directions didn't call for swirling the two parts together (perhaps because cold cream cheese doesn't blend well), it DOES refer to a cheesecake swirl, and I think the cake would look better that way.  Polka dots don't rank highly in food porn circles.

  • If  I made this again, I would try the more traditional technique of mixing the sugar and cocoa powder in with the wet ingredients.  The cocoa powder is very lightweight, and tends to get kicked up into the air while trying to mix the dry ingredients.  

Conclusion:  This was very tasty and moist, and was well received at work.  But even though it has more cocoa powder than most cake recipes, it didn't seem that chocolaty.  (It might have been the cocoa powder I was using, which isn't my favorite.)  The cake also fell in the middle, though that might have had something to do with the oven door slamming shut mid-way through the baking.  (Oops.)  Of course, that only made the center of the cake that much fudgier.  No one complained.  (I should also mention the cheesecake part is mighty fine baked separately as its own dessert, warm or cool.)

Original recipe:  Rich Chocolate Cake with a New York Attitude via the Food Network

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