Apologies for my hiatus – I just returned from a quick food-filled trip in London with my friend Sarah, and have since been in San Francisco continuing my feast with my family for Turkey Day. Despite spending 20% of the last five days exhausted on a plane, I arrived in my hometown ready to assume my role as my family baker and tackle the sweet potato cheesecake recipe I had filed away last year after having a mad love affair with the masterpiece at Sonia’s house. I’m traditionally not a fan of cheesecake. I admit I am a cheese addict, but eating a warm, fluffy chocolate cake always wins outs over struggling through a dense sticky cheese cake after a big meal. But the second I took a bite of Sonia’s mom’s airy, lightly aromatic cake, which was covered with a generous heap of light maple cream, I became determined to make it for the next big family occasion.
cheesecake pre-whipped cream
Post cream topping
Fortunately, my five full hours of sleep on my plane ride back from London prepared me well to take on the task of making my first ever cheesecake with a spring-form pan, also a foreign object. As a self-proclaimed baker, I am ashamed to admit my inexperience with baking cheesecakes, but I’ve always been more inclined to create flour based treats. No longer. After whipping up the cheesecake in minutes and having it disappear within hours of stuffing our faces with turkey, I am making this Sweet Potato Cheesecake each November for the rest of my life. The buttery pecan crust is dense and delicious enough to be served as a cookie on its own. I would never guess that whipped cream would compliment a cake so dairy-laden already, but it actually rounded out the entire dessert as an ice cream would a birthday cake. I can confidently say that this is the best cheesecake I’ve had – I can’t wait to eat another slice this afternoon (after I digest last night’s feast, pictured below).
Traditional Bellsey Holiday Meal
The recipe calls for one cup of roasted sweet potato, but in the future, I’ll use a cup and a half to deepen the sweet potato flavor. And if you don’t have a spring form pan, I suggest buying a cheap one – it makes slicing this thing a breeze. Also – to add the cinnamon leaf design, it’s simple – just draw out a stencil on a piece of paper, and sprinkle the cinnamon in the cut out!
Roasted Sweet Potato Cheesecake (from Sunset Magazine)
- 2 dark orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb. total), such as jewel or red garnet (sometimes sold as yams)
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- Pecan Crust (recipe follows)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, regular or light (neufchâtel), at room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1/4 cup whipping cream
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- Maple Cream (recipe follows)
1. Preheat oven to 375° (convection not recommended). Peel sweet potatoes and cut in half lengthwise. Place in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan and brush with melted butter. Bake until potatoes are soft when pressed, 45 to 55 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, prepare crust. Bake in same oven with potatoes until lightly browned all over, 10 to 12 minutes.
3. Scrape any charred spots off potatoes, then cut potatoes into chunks. Whirl in a food processor or mash in a bowl with lemon juice until smooth. Reserve 1 cup; save any extra for another use.
4. Reduce oven temperature to 325°. In a bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in granulated and brown sugars, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally, until mixture is well blended and smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until blended. Add reserved sweet potato mixture, the whipping cream, sour cream, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Mix on low speed until well blended.
5. Wrap bottom of cheesecake pan with heavy-duty foil, pressing it up the sides. Pour batter over crust. Put cheesecake pan in a 12- by 15-inch roasting pan at least 2 inches deep. Set pans in oven and pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cheesecake pan.
6. Bake until cake barely jiggles in the center when gently shaken, about 55 minutes. Remove pans from oven. Lift cheesecake pan from roasting pan and let cool completely on a rack, about 1 hour, then chill until cold, at least 1 1/2 hours, or up to 3 days (cover once cold).
7. Up to 6 hours before serving, cut around inside of pan rim to release cake; remove rim. With a pastry bag, pipe dollops of maple cream onto cake. Or serve maple cream separately, to spoon onto each wedge.
Pecan Crust: Whirl 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans in a blender until finely ground; you should have 1/4 cup. In a bowl, mix pecans, 1 1/4 cups fine graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 5 tablespoons melted butter. Pour into a 9-inch cheesecake pan with removable rim (2 1/4 in. tall). Press mixture evenly over bottom of pan.
Maple Cream: In a bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat 3/4 cup whipping cream until stiff peaks form. On low speed, beat in 1/4 cup maple syrup just until blended.
You can make this cheesecake up to 3 days ahead; cover and chill. Garnish with cream up to 6 hours before serving; cover and chill until serving.