White Chocolate Cheesecake with Peppermint Ganache

Do you know what I just realized? Two years ago, I made my first pound cake, and this blog had just started days before. It is amazing how far I’ve come since then… I’ve hit my 100th post (and celebrated on the 101st), and my confidence in my own baking ability has improved by leaps and bounds. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

This recipe is quite fitting for the occasion, considering I kind of just made it up (not without inspiration, of course). All I wanted, 2 years ago, was to be able to “wing it” with a recipe – and here I am. Or, rather, here I did. These cheesecake bites were kind of a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. I didn’t even know until last year that white chocolate and peppermint were such a popular holiday combination, so this year I wanted in on the action.

Experience has shown me that mini cupcakes, and other individual desserts, work better for things like pot-luck holiday parties than full-sized cakes. I found a bunch of complimentary recipes from Tollhouse while food shopping this week, and among them was a no-bake chocolate cheesecake. It was kismet. Inspired by that recipe, and  my salted caramel cheesecake cupcakes, I came up with the concoction below.

WHITE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE CUPCAKES – makes 5 dozen minis

For the crust:

  • 4oz graham crackers – crushed into crumbs
  • 4 Tbsp butter (I used salted, that’s up to you – I also accidentally used 4oz, but it worked out well)

for the cheesecake filling:

  • 2 – 8oz packages of cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips, melted and stirred smooth

PEPPERMINT GANACHE

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 crushed candy cane/peppermint candies for garnish

I decided to make these into mini cupcakes rather than regular ones, but this recipe can also be used for one 9″ cheesecake. You’ll find out as you go along if you might need more ganache (I did), so just mix up any extra using the proportions above.

Start off by crushing your graham crackers, unless you were smart enough to buy them pre-pulverized. I find it easiest, and most therapeutic, to use a meat tenderizer to do this. Then, melt your butter in the microwave, or in a saucepan if you like. Pour the butter over the graham crumbs, and mix until it’s all covered evenly.

For mini cupcakes, line as many cupcake tins as you have with liners. I made 5 dozen with this recipe, but you will get about 16 regular-sized cupcakes. Use roughly one teaspoon of graham crumbs for each mini liner, then use something flat to smooth it down. I used the handle of my tenderizer.

You don’t want too much crust in the liner, because you need to leave room for the filling and the ganache on top of that. You can either bake the crust at this point, pssssht, or you can pop the tray into the fridge to set for a bit. I lined and grahamed one tin at a time, popping it into the freezer to set faster before starting on the next. The crust should set before you fill because otherwise it’ll crumble into the cheesecake. It will already be hard enough to spread it evenly, you’ll see.

While your crusts are setting, start mixing up your filling. Melt your white chocolate in a double boiler, or a microwaveable bowl at 20 second intervals (stir in between until melted and smooth). Cream together your cream cheese and sugar. Once it starts smoothing out, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add your heavy cream, and keep mixing until incorporated. Then, add in your melted white chocolate and mix until smooth. Make sure to scrape the side of the bowl to get everything mixed in evenly.

Take one cupcake tin out of the freezer at a time to start filling. Use about a tablespoon-sized dollop for the mini cupcakes. You want to make sure there’s a bit of space in the top of the liner to pour your ganache later. Spread the cheesecake in the liner so it’s smooth. I won’t lie, this was a pain. One of those “this is good enough” kind of deals. Truthfully, the ganache will cover most imperfections, so you don’t have to worry if it’s not smooth.

I used a spoon in one hand and my fingers of the other to spread it out as best I could. Please keep in mind that these will taste great no matter what they look like. Once you finish each tray, pop it back into the fridge or freezer to set while you fill the rest.

Once your cupcakes are filled and setting again, crush your candy cane inside a plastic bag using a tenderizer or your tool of choice. I put them in a sandwich bag which was silly – you should use something more durable. Then it’s time to make the ganache. Using a double boiler, or the microwave, heat up your heavy cream until boiling. Then add your peppermint extract and stir until combined. Add your white chocolate chips, and mix until smooth.

If the ganache doesn’t seem smooth enough, add a few more drops of cream, if it seems too runny add more chips. Not too delicate a science. You can try pouring, but I found it best to ladle the ganache over the tops of the cupcakes and use the spoon to smooth it out. Finish it off by sprinkling some crushed candy cane on top to decorate. (I’d recommend doing this after every couple of cupcakes instead of waiting until the end because the ganache starts setting pretty quickly atop the chilled cheesecake.) Also, if the ganache starts hardening in the bowl, you can pop it back into the microwave to help smooth it back out.

Pop the cupcakes back in the fridge, yet again, to set for a bit before serving. If you made regular cupcakes, or a cake, you’ll need to let it set a bit longer, but for the minis just half an hour should be fine.

Then it’s time to spread the holiday cheer and serve these bad boys up.

If you want a merry holiday season, these will certainly help set the tone. I’ll give them an evil rating of 3, because once you pop one, you really can’t stop.

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