Blueberry cheesecake brownies

Along with the peanut butter cup rocky road, which went down a storm, I also made these blueberry cheesecake brownies for my American-themed party last weekend.

The original idea was something red, white and blue, so I thought that red velvet cheesecake brownies with a few blueberries thrown in would do the job perfectly.

Unfortunately, I seem to be incapable of making a red velvet anything that actually turns out red.

This time I used Dr Oetker gel colouring, in the past I’ve tried liquid food colouring and even beetroot for a natural version, but nothing seems to produce the vibrant red I’m after. If anyone has any top tips of the best colouring to use, please let me know, I am determined to crack it one day!

Anyway, despite being more mahogany than red, I was actually quite happy with these – the brownie layer was fudgy, the cheesecake layer was distinct, and the flavours all worked well together.

An added bonus of making these is that they reminded me just how amazing blueberries are to bake with, so you can expect to see a few more blueberry treats coming soon!

Blueberry cheesecake brownies (adapted from Foodtastic Mom)

For the brownie layer:

  • 115g butter
  • 55g dark chocolate
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tbsp red food colouring
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1/2tsp salt

For the cheesecake layer:

  • 225g cream cheese
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 100g blueberries

Start by melting the butter and chocolate together in a small bowl. Beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and food colouring together until light and fluffy, then add the chocolate butter mixture and beat until combined. Sift in the flour and salt, fold into the mix, and then spread into an 8×8″ square tin, greased and lined.

For the cheesecake layer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla together until smooth, then pour over the brownie mix. Sprinkle the blueberries evenly on top, then bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for about 35-40 minutes, or until the cheesecake has just set but still has a slight wobble. Leave to cool completely, then slice into bars and keep in the fridge until serving.

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Naturally red velvet cake

Red velvet cake is definitely a dessert with the wow factor – who can fail to be impressed when the first slice is cut, revealing vivid red layers of sponge, sandwiched with sweet, smooth cream cheese frosting?

The only problem is the entire bottle of food colouring that’s used to achieve such a striking effect – I know I’m not the only baker out there who is more than a little hesitant to put that much artificial colouring into a dessert.

Food colouring was never used in the original red velvet cakes, so I decided to attempt a version using only natural ingredients.

In theory, the reaction between the cocoa powder and the buttermilk and vinegar should be enough to turn it red, but I didn’t want to leave it to chance.

As luck would have it, this week the lovely people at Riverford Home Delivery Cornwall┬ásent me a fabulous box of veg specifically for baking, including two huge bags of beetroot – and so the idea of a beet-red velvet cake was born.

I’m obviously not the first person to come up with this idea, and I found what looked like the perfect recipe at Korena in the Kitchen for a 6 inch layer cake.

Instead of a cream cheese swiss meringue buttercream I went for a basic cream cheese frosting, and I kept the cake in two layers rather than slicing into four, but otherwise I followed the recipe pretty much exactly.

I wasn’t totally happy with how it turned out, as the sponge was a bit too dense and the colour was a bit on the purple side, but I think with a bit of tweaking it could work well. I still feel much happier eating this version than one with a whole bottle of food colouring!

Thanks to Riverford for sending me the beetroot – I also received some lovely looking courgettes and avocados, which I have some interesting experimental plans for over the next week or so…

Naturally red velvet cake (adapted from Korena in the Kitchen)

  • 115g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 185g cooked beetroot, pureed*
  • 160g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 125ml buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1.5 tsp rice vinegar

For the icing:

  • 100g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g cream cheese (I used light)

*To prepare the beetroot, I washed and peeled about 10 mini beets, and roasted in a pan filled with water and covered with foil for 2 hours. They were still not soft enough after that long, so I gave them 10 minutes in the microwave and then pureed them in a food processor, before measuring out the amount I needed.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the beetroot and vanilla extract and beat again – it should turn an amazing shade of purple!

Combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl (flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa) and add the buttermilk, lemon juice and vinegar to another bowl. Fold in one third of the dry mix, then half of the liquid; another third of the dry mix, the remaining liquid, and finally the remaining dry ingredients.

Divide the cake batter between two 6″ cake tins and bake at 170 degrees for about 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

To make the icing, beat the butter to soften, then add the icing sugar and beat until no lumps remain. Add the vanilla and cream cheese, then beat with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes, or until very light and fluffy. Chill in the fridge for an hour or so, until the icing has firmed up a bit.

Spread a layer of icing over one of the sponges, then place the other on top. Spread a thin layer of icing all over to crumb coat, then leave the cake in the fridge for half an hour to set. Finish by spreading the rest of the icing all over the top and sides of the cake, then cut into slices and serve.

tea time treats

I’ve just realised that this cake is suitable for the June Tea Time Treats Challenge, hosted by Kate at What Kate Baked and Karen at Lavender and Lovage – Kate chose layer cakes as the theme, and I didn’t think I’d make something in time but I’m pretty sure this counts!

Red velvet cupcakes

Red velvet cake has been on my to-bake list for quite a long time, and when better to try it than Valentine’s Day?

I’m not much of a romantic, but who could resist a deep red cake, topped with swirls of cream cheese icing – in red cases, dotted with white hearts, of course…

The red velvet cupcakes I’ve had in the past have actually always been a disappointment – dry sponge and heaps of too-sweet icing – but I still wanted to give them a go to see what the fuss was about.

I used a recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery, which seems to be widely regarded as the best recipe around.

The cakes didn’t disappoint – they were actually surprisingly light, and the cream cheese icing was just the right side of sweet, unlike so many of the shop bought cupcakes I’ve had.

The only slight negative was, as the pony put it, “they’re a bit more like orange velvet” – not quite as deep red as I would have liked…

Oh, and I still have a way to go to mastering the Hummingbird Bakery icing technique…

I followed the recipe exactly so no point re-posting it, but it can be found on Good To Know’s website if you want to give it a go.