I made this cake as part of the “cheesecake challenge” suggested by the ever-stylish Heavenly. It is based on a recipe by Yotam Ottolengi for caramel and macadamia cheesecake. H had a slice of this luscious dessert at Ottolengi’s restaurant in London and was apparently so captivated, that she couldn’t wait to try it at home. I do wish that I’d been there for that meal!
Quite a few delightful bloggers participated in this challenge. If you haven’t already, you should check out their great blogs ASAP. Follow the links below:
Tammy from il doce bacio
Liz from tip-top shape
Reenie from cinnamon and spice
Nanzeen from coffee and crumpets
Vanessa from sweet artichoke
Heavenly Housewife from donuts to delirium
Ros from more than the occasional baker
Amanda from glamorous glutton
Ottolengi’s recipe is very specific, which made me hard pressed to come up with a meaningful variation still in the spirit of the thing. But after the chocolate truffle challenge, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that everyone else in the entire world has known forever: chocolate makes things better. Duh!
I don’t especially enjoy macadamia nuts, so gladly traded them for cashews, which I adore. The simple chocolate topping comes from Emeril Lagasse’s 2003 recipe for chocolate covered turtles. It firmed up pleasantly after refrigeration, giving the cake a crisp outer shell.
This dessert is a pain to make. My cake broke a bit when I removed it from the spring form pan. But no worries. The toppings are so thick that all imperfections were hidden away. I thought that it might be excessively sweet, but again, not to worry. The toppings themselves are time consuming and even a bit dangerous to make: sugar burns, anyone?
Nevertheless, this cheesecake was impossibly good. I really would have devoured the entire cake in a day had it stayed at home. (Hegui and I did share a large slice.) Instead, I brought it to work, where it was vacuumed up by my fellow staffers in less than thirty minutes.
dark chocolate covered cashew turtle cheesecake
For the cake:
24 oz cream cheese at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup sour cream
For the base:
6 oz chocolate graham crackers
3 tbsp melted butter
For the nut topping:
1 cup raw cashews
~½ cup sugar
For the caramel sauce:
5 tbsp butter
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
For the chocolate topping:
1 scant cup dark chocolate nibs
1 tbsp vegetable shortening
To prepare the cake:
Preheat oven to 285F.
Lightly grease an 8 inch spring form pan. Cover with wax paper to facilitate removal of cake.
Crush chocolate graham crackers in a food processor. Add melted butter. Press into bottom of pan with a large spoon.
Beat cream cheese and sugar together until mixed. Scrape vanilla seeds from pod and add to cream cheese. Add eggs and sour cream. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Pour over graham cracker base. Bake between 60 and 90 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Carefully remove cake form mold and gently place on a serving platter. This part is tough and my cake crumbled a bit here. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
To prepare the cashew topping:
Place cashews in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast at 285F for about 5 to 8 minutes to lightly toast. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a large saucepan, add sugar for nut topping. Heat on medium to medium high until sugar becomes a caramel. This took me about ten minutes or so. Do not stir or move sugar. Carefully add toasted cashews to caramel. Mix with wooden spoon to cover and pour onto a baking tray covered with wax paper. Let cool.
Break into bite-sized portions.
To prepare caramel sauce:
Place butter and sugar in a sauce pan on medium. Stir with a wooden spoon constantly. Cook until a dark caramel forms. This, too, takes at least ten minutes. The caramel went through fascinating stages, becoming a thick paste, then releasing liquid and all sorts of other changes. I wish now that I had made an iPhone movie to show you! Whatever happens, stir until it is the color that you want. Then add heavy cream while continuing to stir. Remove from heat.
To prepare chocolate topping:
Melt chocolate and vegetable shortening together in a double boiler. Stir constantly. Remove from heat to cool a bit then re-warm to tempter the chocolate.
To assemble cake:
Dust cake with confectioner’s sugar. Sprinkle candied cashews on top. Pour caramel sauce over that. Finally, drizzle chocolate sauce on top of everything. Cover and chill for a few hours. Then enjoy!