We were invited to a holiday party and of course it was the perfect excuse to bake something exceedingly decadent (that we wouldn’t have to eat on our own). I’ve wanted to make eggnog cheesecake since I first experimented with cardamom creme brûlée cheesecake bars a few months back. There’s something about the combination of sweet creaminess and spice that elevates dessert to another level of complexity. This cheesecake is made with my always reliable and almost-as-good-as-beans bourbon vanilla bean paste. I used actual eggnog, but also added rum extract and freshly grated nutmeg in the mix and as a garnish for an extra pop of flavour. The resulting mini cheesecakes are everything you would expect from eggnog cheesecake and more. Generally, my preferred method for cheesecakes is Chicago style (i.e. soft and creamy center) and that’s exactly how these are made. The soft center makes them taste all the more decadent. The cookie crust is a traditional graham cracker base with sugar and a generous dash of salt to give it some complexity. I grated a bit more nutmeg in and also added just a tiny pinch of fresh grated ginger. I was iffy about the ginger because it can be a really overpowering flavour but just a pinch of it added a spicy note that complemented the other components very nicely.
My initial recipe was just for eggnog cheesecake, but never being one to shy away from experimenting with flavours I decided to split my composition in two and play around with some ingredients. Everyone always loves anything with hazelnut chocolate, or more specifically, everyone loves anything to do with Nutella. I once made three different donuts: salted dulce de leche, maple candied walnut, and buttered apple cider. I decided at the last minute to make a chocolate one frosted with Nutella and garnished with slivered dark chocolate with hazelnuts. It was by far the favourite of the night. My friends still talk about that Nutella donut whenever I mention that I’m baking anything. So, to return to my point, I’ve had good results with Nutella and hazelnut chocolate so I thought, why not put it in a cheesecake for a party? I added a generous amount of Nutella to the cheesecake composition and tasted along the way to make sure it was coming through. When they came out of the oven I slivered some dark hazelnut chocolate on top for some dimension and texture. If you want creamy chocolate cheesecake these are it. If you’d like a more decadent dessert you could also frost them with Nutella and then sliver the hazelnut chocolate, like I did for the Nutella donuts. In any case, these hazelnut chocolate mini cheesecakes are full of richness and flavour. The crust is graham cracker with cocoa, sugar, and again a generous pinch of salt for depth.
I made my mini cheesecake in two batches. For the first batch I pre-baked the crusts for 5 minutes. For the second batch I didn’t pre-bake. I definitely recommend pre-baking. It caramelizes the sugar in the graham cracker composition and makes for crisp sweet candy crust that adds a nice textural element and also tastes really different. It’s just one small extra step that really goes a long way. Overall, although I wouldn’t call them “super easy” these mini cheesecakes looked a lot more difficult to make than they were. Once the basic cheesecake mix is prepared it’s just a matter of adding flavourings and baking. Unlike a traditional full size cheesecake you don’t really have to worry about cracking so they aren’t as finicky as far as temperature is concerned. I took mine right out of the oven and on to the balcony to chill with no adverse effects.
Also, the party was great 🙂
Mini cheesecake two ways
Total time: 45 minutes
Bake time: 15 minutes + 5 minutes for crust optional
Equipment: mini cupcake pan and mini cupcake liners
Makes approximately 30 mini cheesecakes
Graham cracker crust
♦ 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
♦ ½ cup butter
♦ 2 TBSP sugar
♦ 1 tsp salt
Pinch of nutmeg optional
Pinch of ginger optional
1 TBSP cocoa powder optional
Preheat oven to 325.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
If making two flavours, divide your mix equally into two parts after combining the first four ingredients. For eggnog cupcakes add grating of nutmeg and pinch of fresh ginger. For hazelnut chocolate add cocoa powder.
Put approximately 1½ tsp of mix in each cupcake liner and flatten down with your thumb.
Pre-bake at 325 for 5 minutes.
♦ 3 packages of cream cheese (8oz each)
♦ 1 cup of sugar
♦ pinch of salt
♦ 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
♦ 2 eggs
♦ 5 TBSP Nutella
♦ hazelnut dark chocolate (I used Ritter Sport)
♦ ½ cup eggnog
♦ 1 tsp rum extract
♦ grating of nutmeg (approximately 1/4 tsp)
Bring cream cheese to room temperature. This step is very important or the mix could be clumpy. Use a hand mixer or stand mixer to cream together cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
Add pinch of salt and vanilla and mix.
Add one egg at a time, mixing each until just incorporated.
If making two flavours, divide equally into two bowls.
For hazelnut chocolate cheesecake, add nutella and mix until incorporated.
For eggnog cheesecake, add eggnog, rum extract, and nutmeg and mix until incorporated.
Spoon approximately 1 TBSP into each liner (chocolate into chocolate crust and eggnog into nutmeg crust – in case its not obvious :p) It’s alright if the mix reaches the very top of the cupcake liner, it will rise but then will also fall again back into the liner.
⊗ Very important – before baking make sure you gently but firmly hit your pan onto a counter or other hard surface a few times to remove any air bubbles. If you don’t do this – you will be sad and so will your cheesecake.
Bake at 325 for 15 minutes.
Remove cheesecake from oven. Garnish immediately so your garnish sticks. Garnish eggnog cheesecake with a grating of nutmeg. Garish hazelnut chocolate cheesecake with slivers of the hazelnut chocolate bar. I used a knife and just scraped bits off right onto the cheesecake. If you try to put it on a plate first it clumps together and makes a mess.
If you have time, allow cheesecake to cool at room temperature for 1 hour and then cover with aluminum foil and place in the fridge until ready to serve.
If you don’t have time (I never do) cover with aluminum foil and place directly in fridge.