For a birthday a few weeks ago, I received a request for cheesecake. Since I can apparently never resist the urge to tease someone, even when not in my best interest, I of course responded with, “Well, what would you do if I made chocolate cake instead?” He said, only half-kidding, that he would cry. But when I, again teasing, said maybe I’d make a chocolate cake and a cheesecake, his face lit up, and I was promised a very special reward. And so, that is how I decided to make the cheesecake to end all cheesecakes – an Oreo-Brownie Cheesecake Extravaganza.
Recipes for an undertaking like this are surprisingly few and far between. There were a few that came close online, but I wanted to make sure that I not only got the overall technique right (how do you fuse cheesecake and brownie anyway? how do you get the oreos in there?), but also that both components were delicious in their own right. And so, in my first attempt to bake something without following a recipe exactly, I managed to come up with the Incredible Edible Hulk of Desserts. And let me tell you, this dessert is not kidding around.
Building a dessert like this (which ends up weighing in at five pounds, at least) is more a feat of patience than of strength. First, you bake the brownie layer and let it cool. Then you make the cheesecake layer, pour it over the brownie layer, bake the whole thing again (somehow, magically, the brownie doesn’t dry out), and let that cool – first at room temperature, then in the fridge. The whole process takes a couple hours from start to finish, but with ample time to watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey sprinkled throughout.
The end product is a masterpiece, satisfying in every way. It’s a bit of a shame, actually, that I had to put the whole recipe in one post, as the cheesecake and brownie recipes are incredible on their own, as well, and I heartily recommend that they become your defaults for each. If you make both, as I did here, you will have extra cheesecake batter; this is how I discovered that crustless cheesecake is perfectly delicious — just pour the leftover in a springform pan (or save it to bake later) and bake it in a water bath as directed. Or you could make a little crust for it — up to you.
And if you happen to be making this for a very special occasion, as I was, then I’d also suggest you forgo the regular birthday candles for one of these, and also that you light it outside.
Oreo-Brownie Cheesecake Extravaganza
Components adapted from The Perfect Recipe
Makes at least 10 slices, though rich enough you could cut it into considerably less gluttonous ones and feed more people.
For the Brownie Layer:
Fudgy, Chewy, Cakey Brownies
Cookbook says this makes 16 brownies
2/3 c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
4 oz. bittersweet and semisweet chocolate
10 Tbsp (1 stick plus 2 Tbsp) unsalted butter
1 ¼ c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
Optional (if not making the cheesecake): ¾ c. toasted walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, or peanuts
1. Preheat oven to 325ºF
2. Whisk flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl; set aside. Butter an 8 or 9-inch spring-form pan.
3. Melt chocolates and butter in a double-boiler or in a medium bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat; whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each one before adding the next. Continue to whisk until mixture is completely smooth and glossy. Add dry ingredients; whisk until just incorporated. (Stir in nuts, if desired.)
4. Pour batter into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with wet crumbs, about 35 minutes.
5. Cool brownies in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Use foil handles to pull brownies from pan. Completely cool brownies on rack.
For the Cheesecake Layer:
Light and Airy Cheesecake
Cookbook says this serves 12 to 16
2 lb. regular cream cheese
1 ¼ c. sugar
4 eggs, separated
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ c. heavy cream
¼ c. sour cream (full fat!)
15 oreos, crushed up into smallish chunks (you can do this by hand)
Optional: 1 tsp. zest from one small lemon
If you want crust (because you’re making the cheesecake on its own): 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, 3 Tbsp. graham cracker crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.
2. If you want crust (for cheesecake on its own), brush interior of an 8- or 9-inch springform pan with melted butter, sprinkle graham cracker crumbs into pan, and tilt it in all directions to coat evenly with crumbs.
3. Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat on medium speed until it is fully incorporated, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl after each addition. Add vanilla and zest (if you’re using it) and beat until just incorporated. Stir in cream and sour cream by hand.
4. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Fold whites into batter.
5. Pour batter over brownie in spring-form (any extra can go in a second spring-form pan, or saved to bake again). Put spring-form in roasting pan. Boil water in a pot or tea kettle; pour boiled water in roasting pan to surround spring-form (this is called creating a water bath – surrounding the cake with heat helps the inside cook).
6. Bake until perimeter of cake is set but center jiggles slightly, about 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack at room temperature. Once cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least four hours. Cheesecake can be refrigerated up to 4 days.