Devil's food cheesecake

Fudge and chocolate icing makes a truly sinful three layer cake.
  • For the cheesecake layer
  • 3 (225g) packages cream cheese (use only full fat), at room temperature
  • 265g granulated sugar
  • 25g cornflour
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla essence
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 160ml double cream
  • For the devil's food cake (3 layers)
  • 225g sifted flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 100g firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs, separated
  • 115g dark or milk chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla essence
  • 350ml whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • For the dark fudge icing
  • 680g sifted icing sugar
  • 45g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 340g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 170g dark or milk chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 45g dark corn syrup
  • 2 tbsp pure vanilla essence
  • 120ml double cream
  • For the chocolate curls
  • 340g dark or milk chocolate, shaved into large chocolate curls (see below)

Serves: 1 3-layer (23cm) cheesecake

For the cheesecake layer:
1) Early in the day, preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 and generously butter the bottom and sides of one 23cm springform pan (preferably a nonstick one). Wrap the outside with aluminium foil, covering the bottom and extending all the way up the sides.

2) Put one package of the cream cheese, 65g of the sugar, and the cornflour in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 mins, scraping down the bowl a couple of times. Blend in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, scraping down the bowl after each. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the remaining 200g sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after adding each. Beat in the cream just until it's completely blended. Be careful not to overmix!

3) Gently spoon the batter into the foil-wrapped springform and place it in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes about 2 1/2cm up the sides of the springform. Bake the cake at 180C/Gas 4 until the edges are light golden brown and the top is slightly golden tan, about 1 1/4 hrs. Remove the cake from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack, and cool in the pan for 2 hrs, cover with cling film, and refrigerate (while still in the pan) until it's completely cold, about 4 hrs. Place in the freezer until ready to assemble the cake.

For the devil's food cake layers:
1) Check that the oven is preheated to 180C/Gas 4 and that the water bath has been removed. Generously butter the bottom and sides of three 23cm round layer cake pans. Very important: Line the bottom of all three pans with parchment or waxed paper (don't let the paper come up the sides).

2) Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl. Cream the butter and both sugars together in a large bowl with the mixer on medium until light yellow and creamy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in the melted chocolate and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture, alternately with the milk, mixing well after each until blended.

3) Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean medium-size bowl and beat with clean, dry beaters on high until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Fold about one-third of the whites into the chocolate batter until they disappear, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Don't worry if you still see a few white specks--they'll disappear during baking. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centres comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, about 30 mins. Cool the cakes in the pans on a rack for 15 mins, then remove the cakes from the pans and gently peel off the paper liners. Let cool completely, about 2 hrs, then cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight or until ready to assemble the cake.

For the icing:
1) In a large bowl, sift the icing sugar, cocoa, and salt together. In another large bowl, cream the butter with a mixer on high until light yellow and slightly thickened, about 3 mins. With the mixer still running, beat in the chocolate, dark corn syrup, and vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the sugar-cocoa mixture in two additions, beating well after each. Blend in the cream until the icing is a spreading consistency, adding a little more cream if needed. Whip the icing on high until light and creamy, about 2 mins more.

For assembling the cake:
1) Remove the cheesecake from the freezer and let stand at room temperature about 10 mins. Place one layer of devil's food cake, top side down, on a cake plate and spread with some of the icing. Release and remove the ring of the springform, then remove the frozen cheesecake from the bottom of the pan. Place top side down on the iced cake layer and spread with some icing. Top with the second devil's food layer, top side down. Spread with more icing and cover with the third devil's food layer, top side up. Brush away any crumbs from the sides and top of the fudge cake layers. Ice the sides and top of the cake with the remaining icing, spreading the top with frosting about 1cm deep. Use a long metal spatula that has been warmed under hot running water to smooth out the frosting on the sides and top of the cake. Coat the sides with the chocolate curls, placing them where you want. With a small spatula or table knife, swirl the frosting on top into a decorative design. Or, if you wish, decorate with a crosshatch design: Make about 6 vertical lines, 2 1/2cm apart, then crisscross 6 more horizontal lines the same distance, swirling the icing a little as you go.

2) Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hrs to allow the cheesecake to thaw enough to easily slice. Use a sharp straight-edge knife, not a serrated one, to cut it. Cover any leftover cake with cling film and refrigerate, or wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.

For the chocolate curls:
1) Early on the day you plan to serve the cake, make the chocolate curls and lay them out on the marble or baking sheet to dry. At Junior's, the bakers often use dark chocolate curls to decorate cheesecakes for a delicious and very professional looking finish.

2) If you have a marble slab, use it. If not, use a baking sheet (place the sheet in the refrigerator to chill first).

3) For larger chocolate curls: Melt the chocolate over low heat. Spread it out in a thin sheet on the flat marble surface--but not so thin that you can see the surface through the chocolate. Let the chocolate cool.

4) Using a baker's bench scraper or a wide, flat metal spatula, scrape up the chocolate into wide curls, lifting them up as you work. The curls will be different widths and lengths, but that's fine. If the chocolate curls up into one long sheet, let it cool more before scraping again. Carefully place the curls where you want them on the cake. If you are decorating the side of the cake with them, press the curls gently into the icing with your fingers so they stay, without falling off.

5) For smaller chocolate curls: Buy a thick bar of chocolate and use at room temperature (not straight from the refrigerator). Stand up the chocolate bar vertically, slightly on an angle, against a flat surface, such as a chopping board. Slowly scrape down the bar with a vegetable peeler, allowing the chocolate to fall away into a pile of soft curls. Using a wide, flat metal spatula, carefully place them on the cake.

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