Red Velvet Cheesecake w/ Animal Cracker Crust + White Chocolate Ganache

Have you ever wanted to bake something that makes your family despise you? I’m positive that this recipe will make your loved ones give you a death stare as their diets + waistlines go out the window. What could possibly be better than cheesecake… with red velvet cake… WITH white chocolate ganache?!?

Roll up your sleeves + give it a go… but be warned, it takes a full day of baking or can be broken up into multiple days!

Red Velvet Cake Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 oz red food coloring
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 + 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9 inch round cake pan or spring-form pan with parchment paper.

Cream the shortening, egg + sugar in a stand mixer.

Make a paste with the cocoa powder + food coloring in a small bowl.

Add the paste to the creamed shortening mixture + combine. Add your salt + vanilla extract; mix again.

Mix in your flour by alternating with the buttermilk, starting + ending with the flour. In a small bowl, mix your vinegar + baking soda, then fold it into your cake mixture by hand. Pour the batter into your spring-form pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the cake completely, wrap in wax paper + freeze for at least 30 minutes. You can also stop at this point, leave the red velvet cake in the freezer overnight + resume tomorrow.

Picking up the next day, I decided to go with an animal cracker crust.

Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 12oz box of animal crackers
  • 5 + 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted + cooled
  • small pinch of salt

Put all your animal crackers in a food processor + pulse until processed into fine crumbs.

In a medium bowl combine the animal cracker crumbs, melted butter + salt. Mix until it resembles coarse crumbles that stick together when pressed between your fingers.

Butter the inside of a 9-inch spring-form pan. Press the crumbs into a thin layer covering the bottom + up the sides of the pan. Set aside.

Ganache Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 10 oz white chocolate chips

In a small saucepan, bring your cream to a simmer. Place your white chocolate chips in a medium bowl, pour the simmering cream over the top + let sit for 2 minutes. Fold the cream + white chocolate together, gently until combined. Pour half of the mixture over your crust, smooth out to cover the bottom + freeze until the ganache layer is firm {approx 30 minutes}. Cover the remaining ganache + keep at room temperature.

Now we can make the cheesecake!

Cheesecake Ingredients:

  • 3 {8oz} packages of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 + 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees + position the oven rack in the center. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese + sugar together on medium speed until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Mix in the flour, then the vanilla extract. Add the eggs, beating after each addition + scraping down the bowl. Make sure all your ingredients are well-combined.

Pour the filling over the cold ganache in the crust. Place the spring-form pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the top is lightly brown, puffed + cracked at the edges. The center should move only slightly when gently shaken. Baking time should be approximately 1 hour.

Transfer the cheesecake to a wire cooling rack. Cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator + let cool at least 3 hours until completely cooled and set.

Decorative Toppings {optional}:

  • 2 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • white chocolate for drizzling
  • strawberries

To prepare the optional frosting for topping the cake, mix together the cream cheese, butter + confectioners sugar until light + fluffy. Slice strawberries if desired.

Assemble the Cake!

Whip your room temperature ganache to create a fluffy texture. Wrap a warm towel around the outside of the spring-form pan to loosen the crust from the pan edge. Carefully remove the spring-form + transfer to a serving platter. Spread the remaining ganache over the top of the cheesecake to adhere the red velvet cake. Place the red velvet cake on top.

Decorate the top of the cake as you desire. I piped the cream cheese frosting around the center where the cake meets cheese cake + a small dallop on top to cover the holes from inserting the toothpick into the red velvet cake.

Make sure you invite over all you friends + family to share this cake with. You definitely don’t want it hanging around your house long or your are liable to devour the whole thing!


Woodchuck Cider Chocolate Truffles

Being from Vermont, I love Woodchuck Cider. I came across a recipe for these truffles on Pinterest + thought I’d give them a try. I greatly dislike chocolate, but all the better for me to cook with it since I won’t eat it!

Here is the recipe via Elle’s New England Kitchen:

  • 2 (12 oz) bottles of Woodchuck Draft Cider {I used Amber}
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 11 1/2 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped {I used semi-sweet chocolate morsels}
  • 1 tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate, chopped {I used Hershey’s Kisses chocolate morsels ~ like a smaller version of the regular kisses, found in the baking aisle with the other chocolate chips}
  • 1 1/2 tsp shortening

Pour the cider into a small saucepan + bring to a boil. Watch the pot carefully, the cider will foam up as it hits boiling. Stir if it does foam up. Set the pan to simmer + let it go, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes to an hour. The cider will reduce from 24 oz to approximately 6 oz. Set aside to cool.

Place the chopped chocolate + butter in a medium sized bowl.

Heat the cream + 4 tbsp of the reduced cider in a small saucepan to just a simmer. Swirl the mixture a few times. As it starts to bubble around the edges + slightly in the middle, remove from the heat + pour over the chocolate and butter. Let it sit for about 2 minutes, then stir gently with a rubber spatula. Don’t stir vigorously, or you’ll add too much air to the ganache. Fold it all in gently until completely combined + you have a bowl of velvety melted chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap, with the plastic touching the chocolate, + place it in the fridge for 90 minutes.



Once chilled, pull out of the fridge. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a cookie scoop to place the truffles on the baking sheet. Use your fingertips to smooth any if they need to be reshaped. Put the truffles back in the fridge to chill.



When you are ready to coat the truffles, melt 1 1/2 cups of chocolate + the 1 1/2 tsp shortening in the microwave. Use a deep bowl for ease of coating. Melt in 30 second increments, stirring in between to ensure you don’t burn the chocolate. Place one truffle on a fork + dip into the chocolate until covered. Tap the fork on the side of the bowl to remove excess chocolate, then set the truffle back on the baking sheet. If you want to top your truffles with sprinkles or other toppings, do so now before the chocolate sets.

Once finished, chill all the truffles completely in the fridge until set. Take out a few at a time to serve if you live in warmer climates.


These truffles are really rich + taste even better after a few days of resting. Make sure you drink some Woodchuck Cider along with them! Enjoy!



Cheddar + Chive Guinness Bread

St. Patty’s Day in Savannah is pretty crazy, so we tend to stay away from downtown to avoid the mayhem. Instead, why not stay at home, bake some bread + drink some beer? Try out my version of The Kitchn’s Guinness Bread:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 (12 oz) bottle Guinness Extra Stout
  • 1 cup shredded Cabot Reserve Aged Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Prepare your bread loaf pan with either parchment paper or a light coating of butter.

In your stand mixer (or medium bowl), whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, + salt.


Then pour in your beer + mix until the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.


Fold in your chives + shredded cheddar, reserving 1/4 cup of the cheese for later. Transfer mixture to your prepared loaf pan + pour the melted butter on top. Place in the oven + bake for 30 minutes. Cover the top of the loaf with the remaining cheese + continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.


Cool bread in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn out on a cooling rack, slice when warm + serve. Don’t forget to crack open a Guinness to drink as well!





Strawberry Bagels

Bagels are one of my favorite foods, but I never really ate them often before being pregnant. Something about eating a piece of bread the size of my fist first thing in the morning… just didn’t really appeal to me. However, now I have half a bagel every morning before the gym + what better than homemade bagels?

After trying a few different bagel recipes, I decided to give it a go on my own.

Strawberry Bagels (makes 6-8)

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water (approx 105 degrees F)
  • 3 1/2 cup bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
  • Oil or Shortening for greasing

In a small bowl mix together the yeast + sugar; then pour the warm water over the top. Let it sit for about 5 minutes until it gets frothy… if not your water may have been too hot or too cold to activate the yeast.

In a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook, combine the bread flour, salt + yeast water. Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes until smooth + elastic.


While you are kneading the dough, slice your strawberries.


Lightly flour your work surface + knead the strawberries into your dough by hand. The juice will make your dough sticky again, so have extra flour on hand to get the elasticity back. Place the dough in an oiled/greased bowl + cover, then let sit to rise for 1 hour.


Turn the dough onto a floured surface + cut into 6-8 pieces. Then roll the dough out into approx 10″ with tapered ends + circle the ends on each other + mash them together to form a bagel shape. That is a technical term, I believe. Place the bagels on parchment paper, cover + let rise another 15 minutes.


Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Fill a large pan or pot with about 2 inches of water, then bring to a boil on your stove. Place in a few bagels at a time (they should float); boil one side for 1 min + then flip with a slotted spoon to boil on the other side for 1 min. Remove from the pan + set aside while you finish the rest.


On a parchment paper-lined baking sheet lay out your bagels + place in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven… slice, butter/jelly/cream cheese/nutella/whatevs… shove in mouth!