Party Hat Cheese(cup)cakes

I was having brunch with a cheesecake-lover one Saturday morning when I decided that I'd like to spend the rest of the day baking cupcakes for a mutual friend's birthday. It was during the lead-up to my exam and well, baking seemed like a good excuse to take a break from the books for awhile. He tried his luck with a "Well, it's too bad you can't make cheesecake cupcakes - no one makes cheesecake cupcakes, right?" and that was enough to help me decide what cupcakes I wanted to make. The idea continued evolving on the car ride to the grocers and by the time I was home, I'd decided that the cheese(cup)cakes would all wear little meringue hats, just for a splash of whimsy (What's a birthday celebration without some party hats, right?).

My mum has had this recipe ever since I was a little girl - you'd know that a special occasion was coming up when she whipped out the familiar tiny silver booklet and we'd go shopping for blocks of cream cheese, yes, always Philedelphia. It surprised me that I'd never made a cheesecake before this. I think somehow, subconsiously, I'd always considered my mum the expert on cheesecakes and had always left them to her.

For the cheesecake, adapted from the Kraft Philedelphia Bistro Cheesecake Recipe 
 (Serves 8-10)

1 cup sweet biscuit crumbs (I used marie biscuits)
1/3 cup (80g) butter, melted
3x250g blocks Light/Regular Philadephia Cream Cheese
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
Combine biscuit crumbs and butter, press into the base of a lightly greased 22cm springform pan (or cupcake bases), and leave to chill in the refrigerator.
Beat Philly Cream Cheese with and electric mixer for 2 minutes or until smooth. Add sugar, lemon juice and eggs, continue beating until smooth
Pour onto prepared crumb crust, and bake for 60 minutes (about 30 minutes for cupcakes). Allow to cool in oven.

The best thing about recipes that have been handed down from your mum is that they always come with a few extra tips: bake the cheesecake with a bowl of water place underneath it, on the lowest tier of the oven for a softer result. 

For the meringue hats, adapted from BBC Goodfood's Ultimate Meringue Recipe


4 large egg whites, at room temperature
115g castor sugar
115g icing sugar (I reduced the sugar to about a three quarters of this)
Preheat the oven to fan 100 degrees Celsius/ conventional 110 degrees Celsius/. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (meringue can stick on greaseproof paper and foil). 
Tip the egg whites into a large clean mixing bowl (not plastic). Beat them on medium speed with an electric hand whisk until the mixture resembles a fluffy cloud and stands up in stiff peaks when the blades are lifted. 
Turn the speed up and start to add the caster sugar, a dessertspoonful at a time. Continue beating for3-4 seconds between each addition. It's important to add the sugar slowly at this stage as it helps prevent the meringue from weeping later. However, don't over-beat. When ready, the mixture should be thick and glossy. 
Sift a third of the icing sugar over the mixture, then gently fold it in with a big metal spoon or rubber spatula. Continue to sift and fold in the icing sugar a third at a time. Don't over-mix. The mixture should now look smooth and billowy, almost like a snow drifts
Scoop up a heaped dessertspoonful of the mixture. Using another dessertspoon, ease it on to the baking sheet to make meringue circles with the same diameter as the cupcakes. Bake for 1 1⁄2-1 3⁄4 hours in a fan oven, or until the meringues sound crisp when tapped underneath and are a pale coffee colour. Leave to cool on the trays or a cooling rack. 


Once all the components are done - all that's left to do is to top the cheese(cup)cakes off with the meringue hats.

Gotta love a good cheesecake recipe - thank you, mum (and Kraft foods)! 

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