Here’s Dan, with his annual birthday present from me–a cheesecake. For the past several years, I have been making Dan cheesecakes, because he has an inordinate ability to consume entire cheesecakes at a sitting. They are his favorite thing, in fact, though with my cheesecakes, he contents himself with only two pieces at a sitting, because if he were to eat something containing three pounds of cream cheese and five or six eggs at a time, not to mention the cup and a half of sugar and who knows what all else, depending on the flavors, all at once, I believe he would likely kill himself.
He would die happy, of course, but still–death is not necessary on your birthday.
So this year, I made him a White Russian cheesecake.
Because he asked for one. And I always try to honor any request, especially when it comes to birthday presents.
White Russians are not the signature beverage of The Dude, they are also one of Dan’s favorite drinks, and both he and I were pretty certain that the flavors of it–Kahlua–coffee liqueur, cream and vodka, would translate beautifully into the cheesecake format.
Of course, vodka isn’t really a flavor–except in as much that alcohol has a flavor–and I puzzled over how to get it into the cheesecake without the alcohol effect and flavor baking out if it.
Eventually I came to it–I wouldn’t bake the vodka at all. The Kahlua would go into the cheesecake batter and be baked–along with a few other flavoring agents–but the vodka would come into the picture after the cake had been baked and cooled.
I spiked barely sweetened whipped cream with it, and sprinkled about a quarter ounce of the vodka on top of the cheesecake before icing it with the spiked whipped cream. Then, I sifted instant espresso powder over the whipped cream and garnished it with a coffee bean right before serving.
Now, the truth is, you could leave out the vodka, but then I wouldn’t call it a White Russian Cheesecake. I’d call it a Kahlua Coffee Cheesecake instead.
It turned out perfectly. Silky smooth, very light in texture–in large part because I beat the batter at high speed even longer than I usually do–and delectable. It tasted very like a White Russian.
Maybe I should have named this cheesecake in honor of The Dude himself, but I figured no one would want to eat something called “The Dude’s Cheesecake.” If I called it “Himself’s Cheesecake,” folks would assume that it was flavored with Irish Cream. Besides, if you hear White Russian Cheesecake, and you are an aficionado of the drink, you will have a pretty good idea what it is going to taste like. If you hear “The Dude’s Cheescake,” you might worry that it will taste of spleef, a Los Angeles bowling alley or a rug that really tied the room together.
Anyway, here it is, Dan’s White Russian Cheesecake.
And for those who are interested, here are a couple of Dan’s other birthday cheesecakes:
I wonder what kind of cheesecake I will make for Dan next?
White Russian Cheesecake
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon sugar
8 tablespoons butter, melted
3 pounds cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups raw sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1 heaping tablespoon instant espresso powder dissolved in 1/4 cup Kahlua coffee liqueur
3 whole large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream, thoroughly chilled
1/2-1 ounce vodka, from the freezer if possible
1 1/2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder for garnish
1 teaspoon or so
whole coffee beans for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Place crumbs, espresso powder, and sugar into the bowl of a food processor. (I also use the processor to make the crumbs, by the way, so they are usually already in the bowl.) Start the processor and as it is running, drizzle the melted butter through the feed tube. Allow machine to mix thoroughly until the texture of damp sand is accomplished.
Dump crust ingredients from processor bowl into the center of a non-stick 10 inch springform pan. Pat the crumbs in an even layer on the bottom of the pan and about a third of the way up the sides of the pan. Don’t worry if the top edge is a little ragged. It won’t matter.
Bake in the preheated oven for fifteen minutes (ten if you have a convection oven), then remove from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly. Turn the oven temperature down to 300 degrees and put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven. This creates a moist, steamy environment for the cheesecake to bake in, without having to bake it -in- a water bath.
Beat together the cream cheese and sugar in a heavy-duty mixer until they are thoroughly combined and are fluffy. Add vanilla bean paste, and the espresso powder dissolved in the Kahlua, and beat until well mixed.
Whisk together the eggs and egg yolks until they are thoroughly combined and lighten in color somewhat. Add to cheese batter and beat on high speed for four minutes to aerate the batter.
Scrape cheesecake batter into the prepared, cooled pan over the crust, and smooth the top so it is even. Place into the center rack of the 300 degree preheated oven and bake for one hour and fifteen minutes. (Bake for forty minutes to an hour if you have a convection oven.)
Remove from oven when done–the cake will be set around the edges, and will be somewhat jiggly in the middle. Do not worry–as it cools on a wire rack on the counter, the residual heat of the cake will continue to bake the middle. By the time it is at room temperature, it will be completely set.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover tightly with foil, and still in the pan, refrigerate for at least ten hours or until completely cold.
To remove from the pan and serve, run a thin icing spatula or knife gently around the outside of the springform pan to loosen the cake from the pan. Unlock the spring, and loosen the sides of the pan away from the cake, and lift away.
Pour the heavy cream and the first measure of vodka into a chilled mixing bowl. Sprinkle the top with the sugar, and beat well, stopping when the cream will hold stiff peaks.
Sprinkle the garnishing vodka over the surface of the cheesecake, then spread the spiked whipped cream over the top, reserving 1 tablespoon or so of the whipped cream for garnish. Sift the remaining measure of espresso powder over the top, and plop that reserved tablespoon of cream in the center of the espresso-powdered top. Put one or more coffee beans on the central dollop of cream and voila–serve it forth!
It serves at least sixteen people, up to twenty or so, depending on how thinly you slice the cake.
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