Monday, February 8, 2010

Red Velvet Cheesecake

This weekend is Valentine's Day.  I must say that while I'm not vehemently opposed to the holiday, it does make restaurants more crowded and menus somewhat contrived, so it's one I prefer to spend at home with a movie, a bottle of wine, and a damn good home cooked meal.  Fitting with that theme, this red velvet cheesecake practically screams out for a place on your Valentine table.  It's rich, creamy, and red for heaven's sake!  Need I say more?

While I'd like to say that the inspiration for this cheesecake came from staring into my lover's eyes and looking into his soul for the perfect dessert, the truth is that Bethenny Frankel (of the Real Housewives of NY and the super awesome Skinnygirl book series) tweeted about the Cheesecake Factory's red velvet cheesecake, and I couldn't get it out of my head for three days.  Think about it.  Why do people love red velvet cake?  Two reasons:  the color and the cream cheese frosting.  The color is easily replicated, and a cheesecake is essentially a cream cheese frosting on steroids.  Some things just work, and this cake is one of those things.  

What's that?  You'd like me to stop rambling and tell you how to make it?  Ok, here goes.

Start with a bag of chocolate teddy grahams.  Take a moment and reminisce about elementary school, when teddy grahams were all the rage.
Aww...  So cute.  I love their little pot bellies.
Buzz your teddy grahams in a food processor until they're crumbly (if you don't have a processor, you could put them in a ziplock and whack them with a rolling pin or a meat tenderizer.  Or a hammer if you're feeling aggressive).

Mix the grahams with melted butter and a bit of sugar until the mixture is uniformly moistened.  Press your chocolate crumbs into the bottom of a springform pan.
Now for the filling.  Cheesecake batter really couldn't be simpler.  Start by softening cream cheese in a mixer.
Slowly add in some eggs...
And a bit of cocoa...
Along with sugar, sour cream, buttermilk, vanilla extract, vinegar, and red food coloring.  Whenever a recipe calls for sour cream, add it with enthusiasm, and don't ask too many questions.  Sour cream adds a beautiful richness and flavor contrast, so while it may seem counterintuitive, it's really the bee's knees.
Pour your batter right into your crust.  I must admit that at this point, I was more than a little bit concerned about the color of the batter.  I was afraid I would be blogging "mauve velvet cheesecake", and that is just not a sexy dessert.
But after about an hour and a half, something amazing happened!  The color got darker, sexier, and truer to its red velvet self. 

You must listen to me when I tell you to chill your cheesecake overnight.  Then whip up some quick cream cheese frosting, and get down with your bad self.
Oh, and strictly for blog research purposes, Jill and I decided to taste it head to head with the Cheesecake Factory's version.  A little throwdown if you will.

Frankly, these cakes were vastly different, so we decided not to choose a winner.  As you can see, Cheesecake's version was really a red velvet cake with layers of cheesecake in between.  We loved their cake, but we also agreed that the chocolate crust on our cheesecake was delicious, and we gave ourselves points for making an actual red cheesecake batter.  Plus I didn't have to wear white jeans like the Cheesecake staff, so I've got that going for me.

Happy Valentine's Day!  I love you all for reading, and I hope that you find the Lamar Odom to your Khloe Kardashian.  Or that you get drunk at home watching Mad Men, whatever floats your boat.

Red Velvet Cheesecake
From Southern Living December 2004 
Notes:  Next time I'll double the crust, because I'm a chocolate monger and it's tasty.  These measurements are for a double crust, but if you're not as crusty as I am, feel free to modify.  I also cut the amount of food coloring in half because reviewers were complaining that it made the cake taste weird, and I was perfectly happy with my final color.

3  cups chocolate Teddy Grahams
1/2  cup  butter, melted
2  tablespoons  granulated sugar

3  (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
4  large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2  cups  granulated sugar
3  tablespoons  unsweetened cocoa
1  cup  sour cream
1/2  cup  whole buttermilk
2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
1  teaspoon  distilled white vinegar
1  (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring

1  (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4  cup  butter, softened
2  cups  powdered sugar
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar; press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

Beat 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar at medium-low speed with an electric mixer 1 minute. Add eggs and next 6 ingredients, mixing on low speed just until fully combined. Pour batter into prepared crust.

Bake at 325° for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 300°, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until center is firm. Run knife along outer edge of cheesecake. Turn oven off. Let cheesecake stand in oven 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven; cool in pan on a wire rack 30 minutes. Cover and chill 8 hours.

Beat 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese and 1/4 cup butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth; gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth. Spread evenly over top of cheesecake. Remove sides of springform pan.

Serves 8-10 (although in my opinion you could serve about 16 small slices).


  1. Mary! Long time, no talk. I am hooked on your blog. I want to make this for V-day. Would a regular old glass pie baking dish work for this?

  2. Hi Tera! Thanks for reading! You can bake it in a pie dish, but you won't be able to pop the whole cheesecake out of the dish. Also, springform pans are usually bigger than regular pie dishes, so you might end up with some leftover filling. Another idea is to put the crust into the bottom of cupcake papers, and make little mini cheesecakes, then all you have to do is peel the paper off. Let me know how it works out!

  3. I took this cheesecake to our girls night out chillin with wine and jewelry and the gals RAVED over this cheesecake. I did use the chocolate cat cookies from TJ's since it's what I had on hand. This is a winner!


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