Hey folks, it’s time for a classic American favorite, made a new way, perfect for Memorial Day and all summer long! This is an easy-to-make cheesecake packed with flavor and because it should chill overnight, you can make is a day or two ahead and have dessert ready. You can focus on manning the barbecue knowing that a cool and refreshing dessert is ready for your party.
I have always loved coconut and chocolate, especially when combined with nuts and nothing says happy childhood memories more than Almond Joy candy bars. Even before I started liking dark chocolate, the contrast of the bittersweet coating and the sweet coconut filling thrilled me – and biting into the crunchy almonds was pure heaven.
I adore cheesecake, but I really hate baking in a water bath because it is hard to get the springform pan to stay waterproof and my cheesecake crusts always became soggy. I would rather either use a regular solid round cake pan or a springform without the water bath. And if you’re careful, you don’t need to worry. Just don’t try to rush the baking, be sure that your cream cheese is very soft, and all your ingredients are at room temperature. That way it will be creamy and smooth!
I found the original recipe on the delightful Little Dairy on the Prairie, a blog by a mom who has fun chasing her three rambunctious boys around their large dairy farm outside of Idaho Falls, not too far from the border with Montana. By sharing a recipe made with cream cheese and sour cream, I am helping support her family – see how I justified this dessert LOL. This is my way of helping the small businesses of America!
I did make a few changes of course, swapping the traditional graham cracker crust with one made with almond flour so it is gluten-free, and then I added a sweetened sour cream layer on top. The contrast of the sour cream with the coconut filling was perfect and just the way my father-in-law loves his cheesecake! And just in case the top of your cheesecake may crack as it cools, the sour cream topping covers up any irregularities – no one needs to know it isn’t perfect!
There is cocoa powder in the crust for a pop of chocolate flavor. But to add more chocolate – you know you can never get enough – and make it taste more like an Almond Joy candy bar, pour a generous amount of hot fudge sauce over the top of each piece. You can buy a jar at the grocery store, but if you want to make a sauce from scratch, I recommend you head over to Pastry Chef Online and make The Best Hot Fudge Sauce in the World (this is no exaggeration). One of my amazing friends is Jenni Field, pastry chef extraordinaire and the author of Pastry Chef Online. If you haven’t met Jenni yet, you need to. She is the most adorable, funny, and sweetest people on the planet! And oh my goodness, this sauce is simply the best!
Jenni teaches people how to make desserts they only dreamed of making, and she does it in a way that is totally approachable and so easy that you wondered why we so long! She has a great FREE e-book available on her site that will help you become fearless in the kitchen. Run, don’t walk, to her website and get it. It will change your life!! And while you’re there be sure to check out her vast array of recipes. It will become your go-to site for any new recipe you want to try for the first time – there is no one better and walking you through a new technique!!
OK, enough talking – now get in the kitchen and make this heavenly cheesecake!! Happy Chocolate Monday and Memorial Day my friends!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
For the creamiest cheesecakes, always use room temperature ingredients, don’t over-mix the filling, and be sure to let the cake bake until the center is still a little jiggly – then leave it in the oven with the door propped ajar for a few minutes before letting it cool completely. And the final step, letting it chill thoroughly is critical for the best flavor and texture … overnight is the best, but you can get away with 4 to 6 hours. I know, this is incredibly difficult to wait to dive into this beautiful dessert, but it is worth every moment!!
If you love the look of the tiny vanilla seeds all through this cheesecake, you can use whole vanilla beans or take a quicker shortcut with vanilla paste.
Using almond flour in place of graham crackers for the crust gives us the most delicious gluten-free crust that is lower in sugar and much higher in protein. Tastier and perfect for many applications, this is one crust you will use for all recipes that call for graham cracker crumbs.
- 140g (1-1/4 cups) almond meal / flour
- 22g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- Pinch of kosher or fine sea salt
- 5 tbsp butter, melted
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, pulsed in a food processor until finely ground
- 2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
- 1 (8 oz) package Neufchatel cheese (lower fat cream cheese), or another regular cream cheese package
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
- 1 tsp coconut extract, optional
- Pinch kosher or fine sea salt
- 3 large eggs
- Sour Cream Topping
- 1-1/2 cups sour cream (low fat is fine, but do not use non-fat)
- 3 to 5 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1-1/2 tsp vanilla paste or pure extract
- Best Hot Fudge Sauce in the World from Jenni Field or a store-bough thick chocolate sauce, such as Fran's brand, lightly warmed
- Crushed candied almonds, plus some whole candied almonds for garnish, optional
- Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish, optional
- Set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°F.
- Prepare the Crust: In a bowl, stir together the almond meal with the brown sugar and salt. Slowly drizzle the melted butter over the almond meal mixture and stir until evenly incorporated and has a sandy texture.
- Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan, flattening and compacting it with the bottom of a drinking glass or your fingers. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside while you make the filling.
- Make the Filling: In a food processor, process the coconut until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- To the bowl of your standing mixer, add the cream cheese, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, coconut extract if using, and salt. Beat on Low just until combined, trying not to add too much air to the mixture. With the mixer running on Low, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each one until it is fully incorporated, stopping the mixer and scraping the bowl and beater, before adding the next one. With the mixer running, slowly add the finely minced coconut and mix until evenly distributed in the filling.
- Pour the filling slowly into the prepared crust to avoid creating excess air bubbles. Bake at 325°F for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the center is almost set - it will be slightly jiggly in the center.
- In a bowl, whisk together the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Carefully pour over the top of the baked cheesecake and return to the oven. Bake an additional 10 minutes. Turn the oven off and prop the door open with the handle of a wooden spoon - this allows some of the heat escape and gives the cheesecake time to gently finish baking all the way to the center. Remove from the oven, turn it off, run a knife around the rim of the pan to loosen the cake, and return to the oven. Leave the cake in the oven (with the door propped open) for 1 hour and then set on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
- When cooled, cover the pan with plastic wrap or foil (not letting it touch the top of the cheesecake) and refrigerate for at least 4 to 6 hours to fully set and chill the cake before serving. Chilling overnight is preferable if you have the time. If there is any liquid on the top when you uncover the cake (like I had), just use a little paper towel or paper napkins to absorb it.
- Cut the cheesecake into wedges, drizzle the top liberally with the lightly warmed fudge sauce, sprinkle with some of the ground candied almonds, decorate with a few whole candied almonds if desired, and tuck in a sprig of mint. Serve immediately.
- Yield: 14 to 16 servings
- Cheesecake will hold in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2 weeks (if it lasts that long).
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