Recreating Old Favorites – Berry Cheesecake Cupcakes

While waiting for the purple ombre cakes to cool and bitten by the baking bug, I decided to whip up some cupcakes. I searched the kitchen and found half a bag of frozen berries left in the freezer as well as my roommates’ leftover raspberries and blueberries sitting in the fridge. So, I decided to make berry cupcakes again (which were a hit on July 4th) But since I don’t really like to make the same thing twice, I added in some cream cheese filling to spice up the cupcakes.

I loosely followed this recipe for berry cheesecake muffins. Once you’ve made cupcakes (or any recipe for that matter) several times, you know the basic steps for making any kind of cupcake. In that sense, I feel that baking is very loose and not as restrictive as some people think. In my opinion, all cakes, cupcakes, and cookies follow the same basic recipe. You just vary what you mix-in to change it up.

For these cupcakes, I decided to change it up by adding in a cream cheese filling. I filled the cupcake liners about 1/3 full of the berry cupcake batter, then added a heaping spoonful of the cream cheese mixture, topped it with a raspberry and blueberry, and filled up the rest with batter. Since I only wanted to use one muffin tin, I filled each liner full to the brim with filling. Seeing how full they were (i.e. on the verge of spilling out of the liners), I was worried that the cupcakes would rise too much while baking. But my worries were for naught. The cupcakes did rise quite a bit while in the oven; however, when I took them out and let them cool, they deflated down to regular sized cupcakes. So bottom line: don’t be afraid to fill up your cupcake liners – the cupcakes will deflate anyway.

I had leftover blackcurrant buttercream frosting from the purple ombre cake, so I used that to frost these cupcakes. However, any frosting would be good with these cupcakes, such as raspberry, strawberry, blackberry or even lemon frosting.

When I got to my last two cupcakes, I ran out of the blackcurrant frosting. Luckily, I had leftover cream cheese frosting in the fridge and used that for the last two. (I don’t usually have frosting just lying around. It just so happened that I was baking and decorating a lot of cakes that weekend. :P) Also, I highly recommend decorating these cupcakes with fresh berries if you have them. The fresh berries make the cupcakes absolutely gorgeous!

These cupcakes ended up being so delicious that my friend’s mom declared them the best cupcakes she had ever had! (However, that may be a bit of a hyperbole since she tends to exaggerate things.) These cupcakes were definitely some of the best I’ve made in both taste and presentation. The cream cheese filling was rich and creamy and tasted very similar to cheesecake. The berries inside were refreshing and their tartness helped cut some of the richness of the cream cheese filling as well as the sweetness of the frosting.

These cupcakes are a nice twist on regular berry cupcakes and beautifully combine the flavors and textures of cheesecake with those of cupcakes. Just by adding a heaping spoonful of cream cheese filling, I created a delicious hybrid of cupcake and cheesecake. Try playing around with some of your favorite traditional recipes – you’ll create a new dish while still enjoying the old one.

Berry Cheesecake Cupcakes
Adapted from chef-in-training

For the cupcakes:
1/3 cup butter (softened)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A bag (or half a bag) of frozen berries (you can always use fresh berries too)

For the cream cheese filling:
6 ounces cream cheese (softened)
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon

For the buttercream frosting:
1 cup butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 jar of blackcurrant, raspberry, blackberry, or strawberry jam

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add one egg a time to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition.
3. Beat in the milk.
4. Combine the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
5. Gradually add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture just until moistened.
6. Fold in berries gently.
7. Fill paper lined muffin cups one-third full with the cupcake batter.
8. For the cream cheese filling, in a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and egg until smooth.
9. Drop a heaping tablespoonful into the center of each cupcake.
10. Place fresh berries in the center of each cupcake.
11. Fill up the rest of the liner with the cupcake batter.
12. Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out clean.
13. Let the cupcakes cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the pan and placing on a wire rack.
14. To make the frosting, beat the butter and 1 cup of sugar. Gradually add in the rest of the sugar, one cup at a time. Beat until light and fluffy. Add in the jam and continue beating.
15. Frost cupcakes with the buttercream frosting and decorate as you wish. Then enjoy!

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Q: How do you Impress a Master Cake Baker? A: With a Purple Ombre Cake

One of the best things about grad school so far has been the camaraderie amongst all of my classmates. We’re a class of 25 students, relatively large for our department. But somehow, nearly all 25 of us have managed to be friends and hang out with each other at least once a month. One of the main reasons why we hang out with such regularity is that we have created a tradition to celebrate each person’s birthday together with a homemade cake baked by my friend Rachel.

For every birthday since mine in October, Rachel has made a birthday cake. Somehow, she became the designated cake baker for our class. She’s made some pretty amazing cakes, including a banana chocolate chip cake (for yours truly), a peanut butter chocolate monkey cake (from smitten kitchen), a red wine chocolate cake, a super red velvet cake, and many more.

My birthday cake (aka the inaugural cake)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Monkey Cake!

So, when it was Rachel’s birthday last weekend, I knew I had to return the favor and bake her an amazing cake. Obviously, it couldn’t be just any old cake. It had to be beautiful, delicious, and most important, memorable. If you’re active on Pinterest, I’m sure you’ve seen this gorgeous purple ombre cake from rasberri cupcakes. The minute I saw it, I knew I wanted to make it. And Rachel’s birthday was the perfect occasion! Especially because she loves the color purple. 😀

4 shades of purple (instead of 50 shades of grey…bad joke i know)

I enlisted the help of my friend Lin because there was no way I could have done all the work myself. Steph’s recipe was actually very simple and straightforward. One of the more difficult steps was coloring the batter. Making darkest and lightest layers were fairly easy, but making the other two colors were a bit trickier since they were harder to distinguish from each other. We started with the darkest batter; however, we should have started with the lightest batter since it’s easier to make the batter darker rather than lighter. 😛 Another minor difficult we encountered was removing the parchment paper from the cakes. I allowed them to cool on cooling racks, but when I peeled off the paper, a substantial amount of cake came off with it. Luckily, the layers were fine and I got to taste test the cake from the bits of cake left on the paper.

      

Since Rachel actually likes currants, we followed Steph’s recipe to a T, using the blackcurrant jam as the filling between the cakes. However, I’m sure this cake would taste delicious with blackberry or raspberry jam. Or to make it a bit more colorful, you could use lemon curd or even mango curd (to make it more exotic). We also decided to make a blackcurrant buttercream from another of Steph’s cake recipes. The buttercream was a beautiful pink color and chockful of currants.

Topping the cake with frosting

The funnest part was decorating the cake. I let my creative self come out, which doesn’t happen very much when you work in a technical field :P. First, I spread on a thin crumb coat first and then covered that layer with more frosting. With lots of frosting leftover and a box of blackberries in the fridge, I decided to place dollops of jam along the outer edge of the cake, pipe dots of frosting on top, and top them with blackberries. The only trouble I ran into was that the frosting melted a bit on top of the jam. I also added a few raspberries to the center to add another pop of color.

The finished product! Looks a bit professional, right?

The most satisfying part about making this cake was seeing everyone’s reaction, especially Rachel’s, when she cut into it. I was worried about how the inside would look, since I had no idea until the cake was cut. Luckily, it was a major success!

The cake layers were gorgeous shades of purple and the cake itself was pretty delicious. However, if I were to be extremely critical, I would say the cake was a bit dry. That was probably because we had made the cake the night before so Rachel wouldn’t see it. I’d suggest if you can schedule it right, make the cake the day you’re planning on serving it. As I assembled the cake, I scraped up the bits that were stuck to the parchment paper for the sake of taste testing and thought the cake was pretty moist.

This cake is quite a bit of work, but it’s so worth it. I received many compliments and Rachel absolutely loved the cake, which was the sweetest reward. I’ve found that the most enjoyable things in life aren’t given to you as gifts or presents. Instead, you receive the most satisfaction and joy in making others happy.