We have a slight cheesecake obsession here at The Dirty Dish Club. We have a few cheesecake recipes in the archives and every year we throw a big cheesecake party to celebrate National Cheesecake Day. Every once in awhile, someone new to our invite list will ask how this all got started. The short story is, cheesecake is a tradition in my family of showing love. The long story is a little more complex.
My father is a school teacher. I am one of four children. Providing for that size of family on a teacher’s salary meant our family lived by a budget. When it came to food, my mom was a good cook so even though we used cheaper ingredients baking purists would scoff at (shortening instead of butter, imitation vanilla, 1% milk, etc), we never felt deprived. Once a year on my birthday, my mom would buy bricks of cream cheese and bake a fancy cheesecake for my birthday. The cake was so rich and I felt so special and loved to be honored with such a rare treat.
For almost 30 years, my parents were co-coaches of the town’s girl’s cross-country team. In the late 90s, the trend of athletic camps reached my hometown. For the most part, attending such an expensive camp was not an option for most of the girls on my parents’ team. Instead, they decided to put on their own running camp. A very affordable day camp that was only possible due to their expert budgeting skills and free labor. There was delicious food, expert speakers, t-shirts, as well as fun activities and workshops. At the end of the camp, all the girls would go on a long run – usually the longest they’d ever done ranging from 8-14 miles depending on the girl. Afterward, there would be a brunch buffet of smoothies and cheesecakes galore – all of which had been made by my parents. Most of the girls probably had no idea how many hours my parents spent putting everything together, but as they lounged in our yard eating cheesecake and bonding with their teammates, they felt a sense of belonging and accomplishment.
When Noel and I got married, my parents, true to form, DIYed as much as possible. My photographer/artist mother took the photos and decorated the church. My dad did whatever my mom said and made close to twenty cheesecakes to be served at our reception. I don’t think most people even realized how much time and love were poured into everything.
As an adult, I’ve learned that cheesecakes are not for the novice baker. They take a lot more time than a batch of cookies. They require special pans and depending on how deep you’ve dove into the art of cheesecake making you may be adding extra steps – warming the ingredients to room temperature, cooking in a water bath, etc – in an effort to prevent cracks. For many, cheesecakes are intimidating. For me, cheesecakes were a birthright. When I discovered there was such a thing as a National Cheesecake Day six or seven years ago, I couldn’t resist celebrating. (It’s July 30th in case you want to mark your calendar for next year.) The celebration has ebbed and flowed over the years sometimes being a giant celebration where we rent a pavilion at a park and other times being a smaller affair with just a few close friends, but it is always a celebration of friendship and laughter. This year, Coronavirus made a get together seem really irresponsible and I was so sad about it. We’ve been really trying to social distance as much as possible which I’m not going to lie, has been an emotional struggle at times. For some reason, losing Cheesecake Day was just too much to bear. I kept thinking, now more than ever people need the joy and love that cheesecake represents to me. Instead of getting everyone together, we decided to drop cheesecake off at some of our really good friends’ houses and exchange a few pleasantries from 6 feet away. We were out for three hours delivering cheesecakes and didn’t eat dinner until after 9pm, but our hearts were so full.
Every year, I try to make a new cheesecake or two and this Hazelnut Nutella Cheesecake was this year’s success. I tried my hand at a Nutella cheesecake last year and it was too chocolatey even for someone with Noel’s love of chocolate, so I knew I wanted to tone it done in this year’s attempt. The crust is a blondie hazelnut crust. The batter is hazelnut flavored with dollops of nutella mixed in. Then you top the whole thing off with nutella whipped cream and optional Ferrero Rochers. (Both of which can cover a multitude of sins if any cracking did occur.) I’m going to declare this my new favorite cheesecake. 2020 has been pretty bad, but this is one of the best things to come out of it.
Hazelnut Nutella Cheesecake
- 1/4 C butter
- 1 C brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 egg
- 3/4 C flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 C chopped hazelnuts
- 3 8oz packages cream cheese
- 1 C sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 C cream
- 1/2 C milk
- 1/4 C powdered hazelnut coffee creamer See Note for using liquid creamer.
- 1/2 C chocolate hazelnut spread We used Nutella
Nutella Whipped Cream
- 1 C whipped cream
- 1/4 C chocolate hazelnut spread We used Nutella. Can add more if you want a deeper flavor.
- Ferrero Rochers, chopped Optional
- Heat oven to 350° F. If you are planning on using a water bath and a springform pan, wrap the bottom of your springform pan in a double layer of aluminum foil. (See recipe note for my current thoughts on water baths.)
- Cream butter with sugar in mixer. Add egg and vanilla. Mix in remaining ingredients, then spread in the bottom of the pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until it just starts to turn golden. The crust won’t be cooked all the way through.
- Reduce oven temperature to 325° F. Mix the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt at medium speed until smooth, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl periodically.
- Add the eggs one at a time at medium speed until just mixed in. Scrape down the bowl in before adding each egg. Once the final egg is added, mix until fully incorporated.
- Stir in milk, cream, and coffee creamer. Pour the batter into the springform pan.
- Dollop the 1/4 C nutella onto the batter. Swirl gently with a knife. I kind of do a few figure 8's through the batter and the nutella. Honestly, the technique isn't super important as the nutella will mostly sink towards the bottom of the crust. You just want to distribute it a bit.
- If using a water bath, put your cheesecake pan inside a larger pan and fill the outer pan with water until it goes halfway up the side of your cheesecake pan. Bake for 60-80 minutes. A good visual guide is until the edges of the cake are set and only about 2" in the center jiggle when the cake is gently shaken.
- Turn off the oven, crack the door (I put a thick handles dough whisk in the door), and let the cake cool in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and put in the fridge until thoroughly chilled.
Nutella Whipped Cream
- Beat the cream until it starts to be stiff. Add the nutella and beat until fully incorporated. Taste. Add additional nutella if the flavor is not deep enough. You can pipe the whipped cream onto the cake, dollop it, or spread it like you're frosting a cake. Top with chopped Ferrero Rochers if desired.