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The Best Birthday Cake Ever!

I've posted before about my unbridled forays into making cheesecake.  If you remember from the post I just linked to, I was really excited about finally succeeding.  And why shouldn't I be?  Well, don't you know Mike's not the only man in my life that loves cheesecake.  My dad does too.  That's why I went ahead and made him one on Thanksgiving.  And don't you know it melted...splooged...whatever you want to call it.  It didn't hold its shape the way it was supposed to, which was very disappointing for me.  I was so proud because I thought I had finally hit upon a great, easy, no-fail recipe.  Not the case apparently; back to the drawing board.

Side Note: Heather made an incredibly successful cheesecake for Christmas Eve, which I think Mike ate half of.  Score one for Heather.

January 16th, 2013: Mike's 30th birthday.  Whoa...the big 3-0...that's a big deal, right?  You're darn right it was a big deal!  I had a night of surprises planned for Mike, and I wasn't about to let a few little past failures keep me from making his favorite dessert successfully.

Pop quiz: What dessert item makes anyone and everyone happy?  I'll give you a hint, they're gotten very trendy over the past few years, so mich so that there are even "war" shows about them on TV.  If you answered cupcakes, you're correct!  If you didn't, you fail at life.  Seriously, have you ever met anyone that said "I really don't like cupcakes"?  Of course not!  Because everyone loves cupcakes.  If they don't, they fail at life and probably got the pop quiz question wrong.  Maybe you people should really think about getting your priorities straight.

Anyhoo!  Back to Mike's birthday dessert.  So cheesecake and cupcakaes...can such an incredible, mind-blowing act of culinary magic happen?  You bet it can!  See, I get a recipe of the day email from Taste of Home everyday.  Imagine my excitement when I got one for jam-topped mini cheesecakes.  Let's do this!

Jam-Topped Mini Cheesecakes
Courtesy of Taste of Home

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
Assorted jams, warmed

In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press gently onto the bottom of 12 paper-lined muffin cups. In another small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add egg; beat on low speed just until combined. Spoon over crusts.

Bake at 350° for 15-16 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Remove paper liners; top each cheesecake with 1 teaspoon jam. Yield: 1 dozen.

First things first, prepare your crusts.  I used GF gingersnaps and pulverized them in my food processor with the butter, which I melted first.  I then used my skinny little highball glass to tamp it down.  Very successful.

Next, the filling.  This really couldn't be easier.  Cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract, and egg.  I bet you could even use a different extract (orange, lemon, almond, etc.) if you wanted a different flavor.  Of you could get really fancy and use some zest from a lime or a grapefruit.  Get creative!

Then it's just a matter of filling them up and popping them into the oven.  Wait, that's it?  Yup, that's it!

Look at how beautiful these turned out.  Let's look at some more pictures of them!

And vogue, vogue, vogue...

I made 24 of these babies (a double batch) and had to keep them a secret until after we came back from dinner, so I put together an ingenious contraption...

I placed my cake stand on a plate and then wrapped plastic around the edge so that none of the cheese-cup-cakes on the bottom would absorb any funky flavors in my fridge.  I'm pretty proud of this.

Then I covered the whole thing in a tea towel so Mike couldn't see it.  I barred him from going in the fridge anyway, but I wanted to make sure I took every precaution.

So how did they go over?  Magnificently!  Everyone at Mike's surprise birthday party liked them - some people ate three - and Mike ate the rest over the course of just a few days.  He also really likes the easy serve-ability and portion sizes of these.  I have since made this recipe again with the same exact success even though I switched it up a bit.  For the second time around, I made a double batch again, but did three times the amount of filling instead of two, which I think creates the perfect crust-to-filling-ratio.  Balance is everything.  I even cooked those for as long as 20 minutes without any issues.  I also created another contraption for the second time, wherein I stacked a ramekin on the center of a plate, topped that with another plate, and repeated until I had four tiers, six cupcakes to a tier.  It just needed to be moved with care.

I am beyond pleased with this new recipe.  Finally!  The most perfect cheesecake recipe ever!  Enjoy!

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