Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I have been trying to bake more this year, cupcakes and cake cakes and cookies galore, expanding my repertoire. The March birthday party was today, and I thought I would try cheesecake. Chocolate cheesecake. For days I looked at recipes, trying to find one that looked easy, that would taste good. I walked up and down the aisles of the grocery store, grabbing the ingredients I thought I would need, cream cheese and eggs and chocolate wafers. For some reason Whole Foods did not carry chocolate wafers, so I bought a bag of Chocolate Teddy Grahams. They would have to do.

Finally I turned to Ina Garten, whose recipes have never failed me. The chocolate espresso cheesecake would be easy, even if I needed to swing by the supermarket for espresso powder and sour cream. I ground the innocent-looking Teddy bears into fine crumbs, added melted butter, spread them in the bottom of a springform pan. It went into the oven while I melted chocolate, beat together eggs and cream cheese and vanilla and almond extracts. Cut back the sugar a little, as always. The crust cooled, I poured in the custard, licked the bowl. It was delicious, a promise of things to come. Slid the cake in, crossed my fingers. It emerged cracked, deep fissures in the smooth brown surface of the cheesecake. Whoops.

In a bowl set over simmering water - a makeshift double boiler, although I actually have one - I melted together more chocolate, heavy cream. Stirred together it became a ganache. The picture that accompanied the recipe showed a smooth mocha-colored cheesecake spattered Pollock-like with dark ganache, but I would do something different. I poured the ganache into the center of the cake, tilted the pan so it formed a neat circle, like a dark pond, hiding the disfiguring cracks below. Perfect. Few things in life cannot be patched over with a smooth coat of ganache.

After lunch the next day, the cake is adorned with lighted candles, sliced and handed around. Murmers of approval rise amongst those who have not given up sweets for Lent. F. gets up from his seat, walks around to put his hands on my shoulders. You are a god, he says. I think I have a new cake for my repertoire.

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