I recently had a discussion with a coworker about the next type of cupcake I would make. After a few minutes, we stumbled upon the idea of a S'mores cupcake. Sure, why not? But how about a S'mores Cheesecake Cupcake?
Uh-oh. Wait a minute. I had never made cheesecake before. There are all these horror stories out there about making cheesecake, so why did I just stuff my foot in my mouth and mention the dreaded "C" word? Of course, I could have cheated and baked a regular cake cupcake instead, making tweaks to keep it in the spirit of a S'more. But why not embrace the challenge?
The first thing I thought of was the crust. A graham cracker crust would make the perfect base for this cupcake. Kudos to me for that cheesecake idea! Then of course, the chocolate cheesecake would follow. And then for the marshmallow part of the S'more. Hmmm...I do have that amazing Marshmallow Frosting that I used on my Chocolate Fluffernutter Cupcakes. That would be perfect! I finally set about making the cupcakes.
Graham Cracker Crust
(slightly adapted from iChef.com)
- 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (or ~7 graham cracker sheets)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup melted butter
1) Crush the graham crackers into crumbs (the finer the better!).
2) Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter until incorporated.
3) Press into the bottom of 18 cupcake liners.
4) Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
While the crusts are baking, make the filling:
Chocolate Cheesecake Filling
(slightly adapted from Food Network Kitchens)
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used chocolate chips, so I didn't do any chopping)
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
Note: I made this batter in a stand mixer, but you can use a food processor, as directed in the original recipe.
1) Put the chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir, and continue to microwave until completely melted, up to 2 minutes more. (Alternatively put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching, the water, and stir occasionally until melted and smooth.)
2) Blend the cream cheese, sugar, and sour cream together in a mixer until smooth. Scrape down the sides, as needed.
3) Add the eggs and beat until just incorporated.
4) Gently fold the chocolate into the wet ingredients until smooth.
5) Pour the filling over the cooled crusts in the cupcake liners. Bake at 350 degrees until fthe illing puffs slightly around the edges, but is still a bit wobbly in the center, about 30 minutes.
And beautiful cupcakes will emerge from the oven!
Frost with Marshmallow Frosting. Note that I used a little more than 1/4 lb of powdered sugar, instead of the 1/2lb of powdered sugar that is called for in the recipe. This is because the graham cracker crust and chocolate filling are pretty sweet as well.
The first time I tried to make these cupcakes, it was an epic fail. Why the heck did i want to "embrace the challenge" anyway? I'm not exactly sure which of my cheesecake-making blunders caused it. It could have been that I used ingredients which were not at room temperature (which made my cupcakes puff up and then sink into craters) or it could have been that little thing where I kinda sorta undercooked the cupcakes. I vainly tried to save them from undercooking by throwing them back in the oven for a few more minutes, but alas, it was not to be.
So this time, I did my cheesecake homework and revisited this recipe armed with some research tidbits. Here are some important things you can do so that your cheesecakes -- or cheesecake cupcakes -- turn out beautifully:
1) Make sure that all your ingredients are at room temperature. When I typically see the phrase "room temperature" in a recipe, I ignore it. Yes, I'm a rebel baker. Usually, I'm too busy trying to find my camera and make sure I have all my ingredients to figure out if any of the ingredients need to be at room temperature or not. In the case of cheesecake, it's best to let everything sit out of the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before mixing the batter. The reason behind this is that you want to have a really smooth batter and it's difficult to make cold cream cheese smooth. Also, if the cream cheese isn't soft, you could end up overbeating the batter.
2) Eggs hold air, so once the eggs are added to the batter, mix only to incorporate. Otherwise, your batter will contain a lot of air which will try to get out while your cupcakes are baking. This allows for cracks in your cheesecake as the air tries to escape.
3) To help prevent overbeating, fold the melted chocolate into the batter. This step is related to Step #2 above. Doing this will prevent your cheesecake cupcakes from looking like souffles.
4) Use a water bath while baking. I find it's easiest to place your cupcake tins on a cookie sheet with some water in it. This will allow the cheesecake to bake more slowly and evenly.
So what was the verdict? Well, despite my efforts, the cupcakes cracked a little, but since the frosting covered that up pretty well, I didn't worry about it. Thankfully, the cupcakes didn't form craters in their centers once they were done baking. Whew!
Here is some of the feedback from cupcake taste-testing escapades:
- Double the graham cracker crust in the cupcake. It tastes much better when there is more graham in each bite.
I agree with this comment. In my defense, the reason I didn't do this was because I pulled this recipe together from various sources. I didn't know how many cupcakes it would make, or how thick the graham cracker crust would be. I ended up making almost twice as many cheesecake crusts as needed, but if I had made only 18 crusts with the graham cracker mix, they would have been thicker.
- The cupcake was too sweet.
I agree, yet disagree. The cupcakes were pretty sweet, but since I like sweet things, this wasn't a problem for me. The first time I tried to make these cupcakes, I didn't realize how sweet they would have turned out, so I guess having to redo them worked in my favor in the end. On my second attempt, I tried to minimize the sweetness by reducing the sugar in the crust, the chocolate filling, and the frosting. If you think this cupcake will be too sweet for you, then feel free to reduce the sugar even more.
- The frosting looks like crap.
OK, this comment was mine. I've been really lazy about piping frosting lately and I really wanted to pipe these so they would look more appetizing. Unfortunately for my good intentions, I ran out of steam and I reached for the butter knife instead of a piping bag.
Overall, I thought the S'mores cheesecake cupcakes were smooth and creamy. The marshmallow frosting was pretty light, so I didn't feel as if it weighed down the cupcakes at all. I also really liked the flavor mixture of the graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow. Of course I also like S'mores, so that makes this dessert very easy for me to love. I can't wait to make it again. Maybe I'll get around to piping that frosting next time.