Taylor is not cheesecake’s biggest fan. He says that even the best cheesecake is only a C+ dessert (whereas even a bad chocolate cake is more enjoyable in his mind). And I’ll admit that I will always turn to the chocolate desserts on restaurant menus over the cheesecake.
But when I got an inkling to make a purple cheesecake, one bursting with blueberry flavor, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this good.
To say this cheesecake was a labor of love would be an understatement. It took me 3 tries before I finally got it right (and even then I was on the verge of failure). Copious amounts of love, stress, and blueberries went into this recipe.
But, boy, was it worth it in the end, when I finally reached cheesecake nirvana: that moment when your fork slices through the silky smooth cake like butter, each bite stunningly purple, luxuriously creamy, with an underlying rich blueberry flavor; the perfect balance of tartness and sweet.
My first attempt incorporated fresh pureed berries, but they turned the cake itself a sad shade of bluish gray that was less than appetizing. Even with a hearty dose of food coloring, the color (nor the [lack-of] flavor) wasn’t quite what I envisioned.
But as I learned with this roasted blueberry ice cream, the act of roasting the berries greatly intensifies both the color and flavor. It’s the secret to coaxing out the best of this perplexing little berry. So I doubled the amount of berries and roasted them down with a bit of maple syrup until they were bubbling with flavorful juices. The pureed roasted berries are what give this cheesecake its vibrant color: no food coloring necessary.
My second cheesecake was perfect in that respect, the base at least, but I decided it needed a glaze. So I topped my perfectly purple cheesecake with a simple powdered sugar glaze (the kind you’d drizzle on cinnamon rolls or spread on sugar cookies), even going so far as to swirl in a bit of blueberry for color, and waited for it to set.
Except it didn’t set. On the surface, maybe, the glaze deceivingly crusting over, but underneath lay a molten mass that no amount of time or patience or hasty refrigeration could fix.
I finally got impatient and sliced into it, hoping for the best. I barely got the slice to the table before it started oozing. And it continued to ooze like the wicked witch of the west, dropping dollops of viscous glaze onto every surface within reach.
I almost gave up, right then and there, but I could still see the potential this cake had, even under all that gooey glaze.
For my third attempt (the reason we had to go back and pick more berries in the first palce, because I refused to give up on this recipe), I made a simple glaze with crème fraîche, sugar, and almond extract, that gets poured onto the almost-done cheesecake and then baked for a final 5 minutes, allowing the glaze to set up and slice cleanly, just as I had envisioned.
It would have been perfect, except I had baked the cheesecake in a regular cake pan instead of a springform. Which is a technique that, granted, produces perfect, crack-free cheesecakes, but also requires you invert the cake to get it out of the darn thing.
Inversion + glaze = potential mess.
Taylor was bracing himself for a third round of failures and a very cranky wife. Luckily the cake came out surprisingly clean with a bit of coaxing, only minor blemishes on top (easily camouflaged by some plump fresh berries).
Needless to say I’d recommend using a springform pan for this one to keep its pristine layers in tact.