By Terry Harris
March is flying by and springtime is so close that it is finally time to think about birds and flowers and sunshine! So, with Easter practically upon us and Mother’s Day just around the corner I thought I would break out something special today – a recipe for my bodacious (and beautiful!) Simplified Neapolitan Cheesecake Cake!
Note I said “a” recipe – not “the” recipe. That’s because my original four-recipe, stay-in-the-kitchen-for-two-days version with the made-from-scratch fresh strawberry layer and the double chocolate layer, well, I freely admit that it is fabulous, but not that many people really want to spend two days on a cake anymore.
Oh, I promise this one is absolutely scrumptious, and you will still make your cheesecake layer from scratch. But don’t let that scare you, because even if this is your first time making cheesecake, remember - this is a simplified recipe. And since that layer will end up covered with frosting – and more cake - the fear of its cracking while baking is eliminated. I mean, underneath all that goodness, who cares (or will even know?) if it cracked! The secret is that for the other two layers you’ll use good, boxed mixes. Trust me, it does work, and it will be delicious!
There are a few tricks to making this gorgeous but deceptively easy to make concoction fool-proof. First, bake your cheesecake layer at least a day in advance and freeze it. Actually, I generally bake and freeze all three layers. That makes them easier to handle, plus – if you assemble and frost it at the last minute – it thaws from the inside and stays cold while you travel to wherever you might be delivering it. I mean, let’s face it – if you’re going to make something this spectacular, you’re going to want to share!
Again, do not let the cheesecake layer intimidate you. Just follow the directions and it is, well, a piece of cake! And it’s amazing how rich and creamy that cheesecake layer in the middle makes the finished dessert. If you do not have a springform pan, simply flip a regular cake pan over, cover the bottom thoroughly (and tightly) with aluminum foil with an extra inch sticking up around the top, and then flip your pan back over and put your formed foil inside. (You will still want to cover the bottom of that with your parchment paper circle.)
If all three pans are not the same size, freeze all three layers and then just carve off the outside of the larger layer as needed with a large, serrated knife. And since cake mixes make two layers, just freeze the extra layers for the next time you are inspired to make one of these - or cut each in half to make one half-size chocolate cake and one half-size strawberry.
For assembly, place the chocolate layer on your favorite cake plate, top that with the cheesecake layer, finish with the strawberry layer and frost – lightly - so that all the flavors stand out. I do not frost between these layers for the same reason, but if you love extra icing, go for it!)
And that’s really all there is to it. To make it extra special, you can just dip a few fresh strawberries in some nice, melted chocolate for garnish, and you will have a delicious – and gorgeous – dessert that is fit for a Queen! As for your using a shortcut, I promise not to tell if you don’t. Enjoy!
Neapolitan Cheesecake Cake
2 package (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 boxed mix for chocolate cake (PLUS ingredients according to package)
1 boxed mix for strawberry cake (PLUS ingredients according to package)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp chocolate syrup
3 Tbsp milk
#1 Prepare chocolate and strawberry layers in 9” pans according to package directions. (You will only use one layer of each for this dessert.)
#2 CHEESECAKE LAYER - Place a large, flat pan filled with two inches of water on lowest oven rack and preheat oven at 325. Line bottom of 9” springform pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Beat together cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat vanilla, salt, and sour cream. Pour mixture into prepared pan and place in preheated oven on rack above the pan of water.
Bake until barely beginning to brown – about 50 minutes – and then turn off oven, leaving cake inside. Do not open door for an hour. Remove from oven, cool completely, then run a dull knife around the inside edges of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze.
#3 FROSTING - Beat butter well, about 4 minutes. Beat 5 more minutes after adding cocoa powder, powdered sugar, milk, and chocolate syrup, scraping sides of bowl as needed.
#4 TO ASSEMBLE - Place chocolate layer on platter first. Turn cheesecake upside down and place over chocolate layer. Top with strawberry layer. Frost with chocolate icing. Garnish with chocolate dipped strawberries.
NOTE: I originally made this with a homemade strawberry layer, a homemade chocolate layer, and I have placed pureed fresh strawberries between the layers. It is delicious, but as referenced in the column, very time-consuming. I promise that made this way, you will only get raves – and a lot of very happy faces. Makes a perfect centerpiece – or gift – for Easter, Mother’s Day, ANY day! Enjoy!