My appetite is demanding. I think it’s characteristic of the heavily gastronomic culture I grew up in as a Filipino–or maybe just the portion of it that came with my family. When I was young, we went to an Italian restaurant to celebrate my parents’ anniversary, and my dad and brother peppered and poured sauces on every dish that could use the extra kick. My brother described it as “big-time,” and that was when I was introduced to the Filipinos’ soft spot for the extra. Extra rice, this-needs-more-spice, heavy meals.
I think it’s why, as a kid, I never understood my mom’s fondness for black forest cake. We share the same love for other food, like sapin-sapin and sans rival, but not for black forest. Her mouth repeatedly declared its decadence, and it became one of the morsels of stories I’ve collected from the kitchen–a small story that I wanted to know the truth of for myself, a small story I’m writing about now. Unfortunately, the cake didn’t earn the same praises from me when I finally had a slice of it. Black forest cake, you see, is a tower of alternating layers of chocolate cake, whipped cream, and cherries, and the one thing in the equation that just didn’t do it for me was whipped cream. Some types of aerated fat I really just don’t appreciate. (If you’re wondering, I’m not a fan of mousse cakes made with whipped cream, either.)
I’m more for denser, thicker goods. Heavy goods. So for my mother’s birthday cake, the easy solution was cheesecake. I drafted several flavor profiles for cheesecake last year, and I’ve since been waiting for the day I could finally make one of them. Cream cheese is not among the things I can carelessly spend on as a college student; the springform pan I have typically requires two to three pounds of them. So my mother’s birthday was a great excuse, and naturally, she had the choice on which flavor (among those I proposed) the cheesecake would be: it was, of course, black forest.
This cheesecake is not really black forest–it only retained the cherries and the chocolate elements. I initially wanted to make an almond crust for it, but budget constraints pushed me to find another creative alternative to graham crust. One of my pins on Pinterest flashed the answer, and that was how popcorn crust came to be. My mother saved a big piece for herself (and I, smaller slices for my brother and baby sister) before it was devoured by the rest of the party.
Chocolate Cheesecake with Popcorn Crust and Cherries
Yields: 10″ cheesecake
*Needs to be chilled overnight
Popcorn crust (adapted from Chewtown):
5 cups of popcorn, crushed (I did not completely grind mine, so there were slightly big chunks sticking out)
7-8 tablespoons of butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
Chocolate cheesecake filling (recipe courtesy of Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)
280 grams semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 (8-ounce or 227 grams) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
4 large eggs
Chocolate ganache (I winged this one. I had no cream–yeah, budget constraints, too–so I melted around 230 grams of semi-sweet chocolate and 40 grams of butter, and added maybe 2/3 cup of milk and stirred until the mixture was even.)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare popcorn according to instructions on the bag (microwave or stove-top). Crush prepared popcorn in a food processor or, like I did, with a rolling pin and a sturdy plastic bag.
- Toss crushed popcorn in melted butter, salt, and sugar.
- Butter the bottom and sides of the springform pan. Evenly spread popcorn crust, now slightly sticky, onto the bottom of the pan. Chill in the fridge.
- For the cheesecake, melt chopped up chocolate in a double boiler until smooth. Let melted chocolate cool, but only so that it is still pourable.
- In a large bowl, blend cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Pour melted chocolate into the bowl and mix until smooth. Make sure to not over beat: if ribbons start showing in the mixture, stop mixing.
- Take out the pan from the fridge and fill it with the cream cheese mixture. Tap or jiggle the pan to even out the surface. (I did not prepare the cheesecake for a water bath method because I didn’t have a pan where my 10-inch springform pan could fit; I was lucky to get away with it because the cheesecake was going to be covered with ganache and cherries. If you want to bake yours in a water bath, instructions can be found here.) Bake for 1 hour or until cheesecake is set. (It should slightly jiggle when you shake the pan, and the edge of the cake should be a few centimeters apart from the sides of the pan.) Let cheesecake cool before loosening the sides of the pan and chilling in the fridge overnight.
- An hour before serving, make the chocolate ganache. Spread evenly over the cheesecake, and top with cherries.