04 October 2008

Sweet Potato Cheesecake and Cider Drinks

We wanted to test this recipe for super-secret professional reasons, and also because it sounds delicious.

Baking lore attests that cheesecakes are too difficult a dessert to make, so most people don’t attempt them. We scoff at baking lore. Continuing with our festive shake & bake endeavors, we tackled this autumnal cheesecake without reservations. It’s surprisingly simple and the crust is made with ginger snaps, which is the biggest draw with this cheesecake. In fact, when we told people what we were baking a Sweet Potato Cheesecake we were met with approving nods, as soon as we explained the crust the response turned to envious moans.

In the interest of time we opted for store-bought ginger snaps, which work perfectly, though if we were making this for a party we would probably make our own cookies. Then again, we could say we made our own and no one would really know; they’re all smashed and smothered in butter anyway.

Sweet Potato Cheesecake


  • 1 ½ cups crushed gingersnaps
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 8-oz. packages cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed (approx. one large potato)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups regular sour cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine crumbled cookies, sugar, and butter and press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Press onto the bottom and 1 inch up the sides. Bake at 350 degrees for 7. (Be sure to put the springform pan into a larger baking dish, because if it leaks you’ll set off the smoke alarm.)

2. Filling: combine the cream cheese and the sugars in a large bowl, then whisk in the sweet potato, eggs, and milk. Then add cornstarch and nutmeg. (We used an electric handmixer to make this all consistently mixed.) Pour the filling into the crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until the edge is set.

3. Topping: Combine the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Spread over the warm cheesecake. The topping will begin to melt once you put it on the hot cake, so you’ll want to be speedy about this. Return to the oven, still at 350 degrees, for 5 minutes.

On chilling and impatience:
Cool on a rack, then refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Cake will continue to cook and set while chilling.

If you’re like us, you want to eat cheesecake right now, and you regret that you began making this after 7:30 pm. You will do each step simultaneously and with lightning speed, at no cost to the texture or flavor of the dessert. This makes for a food coma-inducing midnight snack, and so we chilled for about 2 ½ hours.

Remove sides of pan and serve.

As for the drinks, we decided to stick with the Fall theme. It’s not cold enough for hot toddies or mulled wine yet, though, so we thought about trying a beer-cocktail. “Do those exist?” You ask. “No,” we answer, after a fruitless search. The full spectrum of beer cocktails involves dumping a shot of some liquor into a glass of beer. The outliers are the Black Velvet (Guinness and champagne) and the Shandy (beer and lemon soda) but those aren’t exactly challenging.So instead, we decided to try some cider cocktails. This time our investigation bore fruit (ba-dum-dum). So we selected a few ciders from the local gourmet beer store Bierkraft to test out these drinks.

We bought five brands of cider:

Aspall Organic English Draft Cider: It didn’t take long to realize this award-winning cider shouldn’t be wasted in a mix, so it went straight back in the fridge.
Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider: “The Great American Drink" Not the internationally-renowned
cider of Aspall, but the one is large enough that we realized we’d be “bobbing for apples” if we tried to drink this one as well as the others.
Harpoon Cider: Very sweet, with a strong apple flavor.
Original Sin Cider: Drier and more tart, like beer.
Magners Irish Cider: Tastes like a milder, perhaps watered-down version of the previous two. That may be why Magner’s never gets us drunk.

On to the drinks!


This recipe comes from The Ultimate Book of Cocktails, a large-format book that came as a Christmas gift. (Less info here on Amazon). Though it doesn’t exactly possess the authority of the New York Bartender’s Guide, it is written by Stuart Walton author of Out of It, a Cultural History of Intoxication and, less promisingly, A Natural History of Human Emotions.

The measurements are unusual in this, because the recipe calls for measuring spoons instead of jiggers. We haven’t measured gin in a teaspoon since we babysat.

In rocks glass:
  • 3 parts 4 ½ tbsp sweet cider (we used Harpoon)
  • ¾ part 3 tsp gin
  • ¼ part 1 tsp Cointreau

With ice in glass, stir in cider and gin. Float Cointreau atop.

This recipe ends up being much smaller than expected, so we doubled it to make a reasonable cocktail. No matter how sweet the Harpoon is, this is really just a gin drink with a bit of fruity carbonation. Bake has never really liked gin (whereas Shake likes the promise than gin will remind you that you drank it the next morning) and this drink didn’t exactly convert her.

But don’t worry, there are plenty of variations. There is actually a drink on the online Cocktail Database called the Devonia Cocktail, served without ice, with more gin and substituting orange bitters for Cointreau. This may not qualify as a variation -- neither source references the other -- but it’s awfully similar in name and ingredients.

If you have orange bitters on hand it’s probably worth experimenting. To make orange bitters, see here. This is actually a very simple recipe compared to others online. We’ve made it and the bitters are delicious. Bitter is a misnomer, really. Add a few cloves to this recipe if you have them.

Another similar mix to the Devon and Devonia, also from the online Cocktail Database, is the Palisades Cocktail. It's the same as the Devonia but replaces Orange bitters with aromatic – Angostura, usually – bitters. If you have Angostura, then go ahead and try it. But if you make orange bitters you will never want to bother with plain old Angostura again. Why eat chicken when you can have steak?

No matter what you add, whether Cointreau, orange bitters, or Angostura, gin owns this drink. We ended up adding a bit more cider to the Devon to cut the gin taste and keep us sober enough to enough on to embark on our next cocktail:


  • ½ oz brandy
  • ¼ oz lemon juice (1/2 oz is approx. ½ a lemon)
  • ¼ tsp sugar (superfine a.k.a. "bar")

Stir into a glass of ice (put ice in after you dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice –ice will prevent dissolving). Fill rest with cider. Original Sin is a good choice for this, because with the sugar and lemon it doesn’t need any more sweetness (when we drank a second round with Magner's you almost couldn't taste the rest of the drink).

Our attempt at a Fall cocktail become more of a refreshing Summer drink, just like a rickey or a julep.

And now, in honor of “cider drinks”, a song that reminds us of the good times:


  1. when i've forgiven you for posting a chumbawumba song i'm going to demand a picture of the finished cheesecake.

  2. i think i might need to try making this cheesecake. ive only ever attempted a vegan cheesecake and it was an epic fail.

  3. We've never tried vegan cheesecake, but we succeeded with a vegan lasagna (post TK).
    For some reason Blogger won't let us upload the final picture! It looks good and on Day Two is tasting even better.

  4. what is TK?

    if you email me the final pic i'll try and put it up, although i've already spent more of my lif formatting this post than i'd like to :)

  5. i thought tubthumping was a fun reminder of high school - had totally forgotten about that song. it definitely made me want to drink hearing it again.



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