If my typing seems a little stiff and awkward, I apologize; it’s probably because 3/4 of my body is covered in cheerful, peeling sunburns. It’s been a stressful few weeks – money is tight, the future is kind of generally uncertain, and it’s been hard not to be a little grumpy here and there. My chronically studious/obsessively productive side told me to find more work to do; my do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do boyfriend* told me to take advantage of his parents’ Baltic cruise and lay out in their backyard. You can probably guess which option I chose.
*Please tell him it’s his turn take a vacation.
Despite my apparently pitiful sunscreen application techniques, my five-day staycation (thanks, Memorial Day) was exactly what I needed. If you’re not a freelance writer with a flexible schedule, however, that may be difficult to pull off – which is why I bring you these strawberry shortcake mini-cheesecakes.
These are summer in a muffin tin. They’re delicious, with a flavorful graham cracker crust, soft pound cake, and tangy cheesecake, but what really does it is that strawberry swirl. I don’t care what mood you’re in or how much money you don’t have; I defy you not to smile at that jaunty little splash of red.
For freshness and aesthetic purposes, I recommend making these the day you’re planning to serve them, but they can be made a day in advance. If you want to really amp up the cuteness factor, try them in mini muffin tins and start checking for doneness a few minutes early.
Strawberry Shortcake Mini-Cheesecakes
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
16 ounces (2 packages) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 package frozen strawberries, thawed and pureed
1 recipe pound cake, below, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch squares
Powdered sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two muffin tins with paper or aluminum liners.
Place graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar, flour, salt, and melted butter into a mixing bowl to combine. Press a few spoonfuls of crumbs into each muffin tin, pressing up the sides about half an inch. Bake 5 minutes, or until just browned. Remove from oven.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until combined and scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally with a spatula.
Place two pound cake squares in each muffin cup, then top with 1/2 teaspoon strawberry puree. Fill each cup with cheesecake batter to about 1/4 inch below the top of the cup. Top with another 1/2 teaspoon puree. Swirl slightly with a knife; repeat.
Bake 25 minutes, or until cheesecake edges are just beginning to brown and centers are almost set. Remove from oven and let cool completely, then refrigerate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.
1 stick butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Scant 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a loaf pan. Stir dry ingredients together; set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add vanilla. Beat in eggs. Slowly stir in flour mixture; pour into prepared pan.
Bake 30 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert onto cooling rack to cool completely.