High Country Baking: Irish cream cheesecake cups
Looking for a St. Patrick’s Day dessert? You can’t go wrong with individual servings of velvety cheesecake topped by chocolate ganache, both heavily spiked with Bailey’s Irish Cream. You make them ahead, leaving you free to raise a glass to The Emerald Isle with your friends and family on the night they’re served. They’re good enough to end a company dinner any day of the year, so don’t limit them to March 17.
The lush filling is what makes a cheesecake memorable, so this recipe eliminates a crust (I guarantee, nobody will miss it) and bakes a sweetened cream cheese batter, lightened by an egg and flavored by Irish cream liqueur, in ramekins. Once topped with chocolate, the result is so rich that I recommend small, 4-ounce servings. Crisp cookies, like the chocolate-dipped shortbreads in the photo, provide a nice contrast to the creamy filling, though the dessert doesn’t require an accompaniment.
Cheesecakes have a tendency to develop cracks if overbaked or cooled too quickly. A little cornstarch to stabilize the batter, a pan of water in the oven to add humidity and a gradual cool-down should prevent them from cracking. If cracks occur, don’t fret. Just cover them up with the chocolate topping.
The taste of the liqueur is more prominent if the cheesecakes have two days in the fridge, but they’re still good when served only a day after baking.
Irish cream cheesecake cups
Make in four 4-ounce ovenproof ramekins. Works at any elevation.
- 8 ounces whole fat cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 2 ounces semisweet chocolate
- 3 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur
- Raspberries, optional
- Mint or parsley leaves, optional
1. Place a roasting pan filled with at least an inch of boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven, preheat it to 325 degrees, with a second rack in the center position. Generously grease the ramekins with a baking spray that contains flour.
2. Check to make sure the cream cheese and egg are at room temperature; this is critical to the filling’s smooth texture. Cut the cream cheese into half-inch cubes and combine it with the sugar and cornstarch using an electric mixer at low-medium speed (you don’t want air bubbles in the filling) or with quick pulses in a food processor. Stop as soon as the mixture is completely smooth and lump-free — don’t overmix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the Irish cream and vanilla and beat/pulse until blended. Add the egg, mixing only until smooth and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Pour the filling into the prepared ramekins, filling them no more than a half-inch from the top. Tap the ramekins on a counter to release any air bubbles.
3. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake until the edges of the filling are set and puff a little but the centers still jiggle slightly when you gently shake them, about 15-20 minutes. Don’t overbake! Turn off the oven, open the door and leave the ramekins in the open oven for about half an hour. Remove them to a rack to cool completely, and then refrigerate them, lightly covered, for 24-48 hours. Expect them to deflate as they cool.
4. Make the topping: Top the cheesecakes a few hours before you serve them. Finely chop the chocolate, and set it aside. Heat the cream, either in a microwave oven or on the stovetop, until almost boiling. Remove it from the heat and add the chocolate, making sure all of it is submerged in the cream, and set it aside for several minutes while the chocolate melts. Gently stir (avoid making air bubbles) until the chocolate is completely melted, add the Irish cream and stir again until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Let it rest a few minutes until it thickens but is still pourable. Remove the cheesecakes from the fridge, and pour a level tablespoon of the chocolate mixture over the center of each cheesecake. You can either spread a thin layer over the whole top or leave a rim of filling showing. Refrigerate the cheesecakes until serving time. Top each one with a raspberry and two mint or parsley leaves just before serving (optional).
This recipe is a variation of one published on the My Baking Addiction blog.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at email@example.com.
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