Red Velvet Cheesecake Bars

Red Velvet Cheesecake BarsWhile I was in Texas this past December, I held a pop-up sale in my parents’ dining room. When I set the date and began to plan the thing, I had grand ideas about what I would have available. The list of ideas included grapefruit bars and pie and Texas-shaped ginger cookies, but when it came down to it, I threw all those ideas out the window and took it easy on myself. The preparation was still intense, but making drop cookies and bars was far simpler than what I had originally planned.

There were Peanut Butter Blossoms, Malted Whoppers Cookies, and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, but the first things to go were these Red Velvet Cheesecake Bars. Between their eye-catching color, classic chocolate-meets-vanilla flavor, and the swirls of cheesecake, their quick disappearance is easy to understand.

Red Velvet Cheesecake BarsMaking Red Velvet Cheesecake Bars may sound daunting to some, but they were actually the easiest recipe I made. I mean, there’s no softening of butter, no chilling of dough, no waiting for chocolate to harden. Nope. These bars are ridiculously easy to make, and come together in just a few minutes.

The red velvet base is a play off of my favorite blondie recipe. You’ll notice a few changes from the norm here, most noticeably that they’re bright red, but food coloring isn’t the only thing these bars have in common with their namesake cake: natural unsweetened cocoa is subbed for part of the usual all-purpose flour and a touch of vinegar gives the base that signature red velvet tang.

Red Velvet Cheesecake BarsThe batter comes together with just a whisk and a bowl, but you will need your mixer for the cheesecake. It’s the real star of the show here. I mean, red velvet is great and all, but I am all about that cheesecake layer. There’s nothing new here–cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla are beaten together before being swirled into the red velvet batter. Everything goes into the oven for about half an hour before taking a seemingly endless four hour chill. For all the ease of preparation here, there is a lot of patience required. I promise it’ll all be worth it once you bite into one of these bars.

Red Velvet Cheesecake BarsLook at that! There’s almost as much cheesecake as there is red velvet! Make a batch this weekend, or use a heart cookie cutter and make them part of your Valentine’s Day โคRed Velvet Cheesecake Bars

Red Velvet Cheesecake Bars
makes 24-32 bars

Cheesecake:
16 ounces (2 bricks) full-fat brick-style cream cheese
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Red Velvet Base:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon liquid red food coloring

Place oven racks in the top and bottom positions. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×13-inch pan with foil and grease with butter. Set aside.

Make cheesecake. In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating until combined. Mix in vanilla. Set aside.

Make the red velvet. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, whisking completely after each addition. Whisk in white vinegar, vanilla, and food coloring. Use a silicone spatula to fold in flour mixture. Reserve 2/3 cup of the batter before spreading the rest in the prepared pan.

Pour cheesecake mixture over the red velvet batter. Drop spoonfuls of the reserved red velvet over the top and swirl in with a small, thin knife. Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any air bubbles. Tightly cover the pan with foil. Bake on the top rack of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove top foil and place pan on the bottom rack to bake for 15-20 more minutes. Bars are done when the cheesecake layer barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Allow bars to cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature. Refrigerate for four hours, until cold. Place bars on a cutting board and remove foil. Use a large chef’s knife to slice them into bars (or a cookie cutter for fun shapes). Serve.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Bars will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Friday Favorites

Hello!

How are you? Got any April Fools Day pranks up your sleeves? Any good plans this weekend?

I’ve got a day of work at my day job and then I’m making cake for 300 because I’m insane. Maybe I’ll get a nap next weekend…but probably not since I’m catering a party.

So I’m taking a break from the kitchen today, but that doesn’t mean I’m taking a break from the blog! No way. I spend way too many of my waking hours (and sometimes my sleeping hours…) thinking about making cookies and cupcakes and pie. Also, how to obtain Oreos right now without leaving my apartment.

Anyway, I dug through my archives so you could spend all weekend thinking about frosting, just like me. Thank me later ๐Ÿ˜œ 

Why not start the weekend off with some Glazed Cream Cheese Cake Doughnuts? They’re super tender and the homemade glaze is the stuff of dreams. Mmhmm. Oh, and they’re shockingly easy, too. The batch makes a little more than 1 1/2 dozen, so they’re an excellent excuse to have friends over for a little Saturday morning doughnut party! 

But if frying doughnuts first thing on a Saturday morning sounds like a hazard, why not make a Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}? It’s my go-to “special” breakfast. The way it puffs up in the oven is really amazing, and the recipe is easily adjustable, so you can make anywhere from 1-4 servings. 

Weekends and homemade cookies just go together. Check out these M&Ms Potato Chip Cookies! I made these for Christmas, but you could use regular M&Ms, or the pastel Easter variety. These sweet and salty little cookies always hit the spot ๐Ÿ˜Š 

Oh, and the Katharine Hepburn Brownies I made this week. They’re grain- and gluten-free without any unusual ingredients! They’re sure to please all the chewy brownie lovers in your life. 

It’s supposed to get cold here this weekend, so soup has to be on the menu! This Spicy Southwestern Chicken Soup totally fits the bill. It’s full of southwestern flavors–it even has salsa in the broth! The best parts? It takes an hour start-to-finish and makes enough for a few lunches next week! 

Are you always rushing on weekday mornings? If you’re anything like me, you never have time to make breakfast. And I am one of those who absolutely *can’t* go without breakfast. My solution? I make a huge batch of granola over the weekend and then eat it with fruit and yogurt all week long. I’m obsessed with this Peanut Butter Granola

And because I said there would be frosting, here’s my favorite Red Velvet Cake. It’s super simple, ridiculously good, and my light and fluffy cream cheese frosting is just…well, make the cake. You’ll see.

Let me know if you have made (or are planning to make ) these or any of my other recipes! Leave me a comment below or find me on Instagram @e2bakesbrooklyn! I’ll be back next week with new recipes ๐Ÿ˜Š Enjoy your weekend!

Red Velvet Cake

 We are officially two days from the 88th Annual Academy Awards! Everybody else in the country may look forward to Super Bowl Sunday, but this is *my* big Sunday.

My best pal, Tad, and I spend months preparing for Oscar Night. We start making predictions in October, but by the night of the actual awards show, we’ve changed our answers about fourteen times! We have a pretty solid track record of predicting the winners ๐Ÿ˜Š Tad and I met sophomore year of college at a failed screening of Shrek 2. The projector broke mid-movie, and while the techs tried to fix it, we got to talking. We quickly discovered that we love the Oscars equally, meaning that it’s all we ever talked about even though nobody else on campus cared that the ingenue is always poised to win Best Supporting Actress. Over the ensuing months, we met multiple times a week with books of statistics, former winners, and a deep, abiding passion for “Hollywood’s Biggest Night.” Let’s just say that if there’s ever a job opening for Oscar Historian, I know two people who would love the job.

Tad lives in San Francisco now, but still gets up to watch the nominations announcement with me, even though it airs at 5:30am in California. He’s that kind of friend. And as if we couldn’t be more perfect for each other, he also shares my borderline-obsessive love of Martin Scorsese–he didn’t even bat an eyelash when I decorated my half of our senior year duplex in a Scorsese theme. And don’t even get us started on Leonardo DiCaprio–fingers crossed that this is his year! 

Among our Oscar traditions is a meal. Back when we were sharing one kitchen with an entire dorm, I’d go down to the basement before the pre-show to put together pesto-mozzarella grilled cheeses on good country bread, and a spinach salad with mandarin oranges, thinly-sliced red onion, and balsamic vinaigrette. The piรจce de rรฉsistance was always a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. I wasn’t any sort of baker yet, so both were courtesy of Betty Crocker, but it didn’t matter. The memory of that cake has stuck with both of us, and even now, Oscar Night doesn’t feel like Oscar Night without it…and our constant stream of text messages. 

These days, I make my Red Velvet Cake from scratch, and it is waaaaay better than Betty Crocker could ever hope to be. It’s the perfect combination of chocolate and vanilla flavors, and kept super tender thanks to the additions of cornstarch, oil, and buttermilk. And of course, it’s red, just like the red carpet! 

 

The frosting is the dreamiest, creamiest cream cheese frosting I’ve ever had. Many cream cheese frosting recipes use twice as much cream cheese as butter, and not enough confectioner’s sugar. In my experience, this results in frosting that tastes divine, but is somewhat soupy, and therefore difficult with which to work. Cream cheese simply does not whip as well as butter. But this recipe uses equal weights of both ingredients, so we get all the tang of cream cheese and the stability of butter. A full pound of confectioner’s sugar is beaten in, along with a pinch of salt and two teaspoons of vanilla extract. Once all the ingredients are combined, the frosting is beaten on high for two additional minutes, so it gets extra light and fluffy. It’s what makes this cake the stuff of dreams! 

 Once the frosting is made, use a serrated knife to even out the cakes so they stack evenly. Crumble the cake scraps into a small bowl–you can use these to decorate the frosted cake! 

  As you can see, I added an Oscar to mine, too! To do this, I used a fork to stir gold and black gel food coloring into sparkling sugar (found near the sprinkles at most well-stocked grocery stores). I added some gold luster dust to the gold-dyed sugar, just for some extra sheen. I used a mummy cookie cutter (like this one) for Oscar’s body, and went freehand for the rest of it. I think it turned out pretty cute!

This Red Velvet Cake is perfect for Oscar Night, but it’s great for birthday parties (or just dessert), too! With a tender red crumb, wonderful chocolate and vanilla flavor, and fluffy cream cheese frosting, it’ll be a winner all around ๐Ÿ˜Š 

 Red Velvet Cake
makes one two-layer 9″ round cake or 28 cupcakes

For Greasing:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

Cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar*
2 cups buttermilk*
1/2-3 tablespoons liquid red food coloring*

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces full-fat brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For Decorating (optional):
reserved cake scraps, from trimming the layers
4 tablespoons sparkling sugar*, divided
gold gel food coloring
gold luster dust
black gel food coloring

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a small bowl, whisk together greasing mixture ingredients. Using a pastry brush, paint the mixture onto the entire insides of two 9-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

Make the cake. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, salt, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil, eggs and yolk, vanilla, white vinegar, buttermilk, and red food coloring. Add dry ingredients in three installments, combining completely after each addition.

Divide batter evenly into prepared pans. Tap full pans lightly on the counter five times. Bake for 23-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for ten minutes. Run a small thin knife around the edges of the pans before inverting the layers onto racks to cool completely. Once layers are cool, use a serrated knife to even the tops. Reserve the cake scraps.

Make the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy. Add confectioner’s sugar and salt in two installments, until completely combined. Beat in vanilla. Once combined, beat on high for two additional minutes, until light and fluffy.

Fill and frost cooled cakes. Crumble reserved cake scraps and use them to decorate the cake as desired.

If you want to decorate with sparkling sugar, place two tablespoons of the sugar into two small bowls. Add a small dab of gold gel food coloring to one bowl, and a small dab of black to the other. Use forks to stir the gel into the sugar until it’s completely dyed. Stir a touch of gold luster dust (less than 1/8 teaspoon) to the gold sugar. Decorate as desired.

Frosted cake will keep covered at room temperature for three days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Notes:

1. For cupcakes, divide prepared batter into 24 standard muffin cups, filling them 2/3 of the way full. Bake at 350F for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
2. Apple cider vinegar may be substituted.
3. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, place 2 teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice in the bottom of a liquid measuring cup. Pour milk up to the 2 cup mark. Stir. Let sit for five minutes before using. Do not use skim or fat free milk.
4. Add as much or as little red food coloring as needed to achieve your desired shade, keeping in mind that the color will darken as the cakes bake.
5. I use Wilton White Sparkling Sugar.