Last week I was going through our family photos as I prepared for Hockey Guy’s birthday celebration. There he was, cute and cuddly in baby blankets and footed sleepers, his adorable eyes and cheeks drawing me back in again. Those early days feel like yesterday and yet far away. Suddenly he is almost as tall as I am, a kind young man whose smile and infectious laugh make me think of the peek-a-boo games we played when he could just barely crawl.
The first birthday cake was Elmo. All of us had red and black teeth from the frosting, and Hockey Guy was wearing it on every inch of his baby skin and hair. And I think that was pretty much the last birthday cake he ate willingly. He’s my boy with a very small sweet tooth and an intense dislike of frosting, which creates a birthday cake conundrum every year. We have made special cakes that took hours to prepare, and he loved them all but didn’t eat any of them. We have scraped frosting, saved unfrosted cake for him, and last year we compromised on an ice cream cake, which he liked better, so at least the birthday boy got some cake.
I thought that he would want another ice cream cake this year, but he surprised me by asking for a cheesecake—my personal birthday favorite—with Reese’s, so the idea for this cheesecake was born. It has three simple parts: an Oreo cookie crust, a lightly sweetened peanut butter and mini chocolate chip filling, and chopped Reese’s on top. It’s rich, I mean really rich, and I cut very thin pieces, certain that he would take a nibble and then give his slice to someone else.
But he ate his whole piece. And he said it was good. And I almost fainted.
We have another cheesecake lover in our house. And now I know what to make for his birthday, or at least to ask for more detailed input.
P.S. Don’t bother to count the calories or sugar or fat grams; it’s a birthday cheesecake and meant to be enjoyed.
Cheesecake is a great make-ahead dessert, just make it the day before and put it in the refrigerator to chill. I use Oreo cookies for the crumb crust, but I’ve heard that Oreo offers bags of cookie crumbs. I’ve never seen it at any of our stores, but it could be worth looking for to save preparation time. Of course you can try enlisting the kids to help scrape the filling, but be prepared to lose a few (many) cookies along the way. Same with the Reese’s Minis.
I use regular cream cheese in my baked cheesecakes because it produces the rich, creamy texture we like. I have not tested this with light or fat-free cream cheese. Also, I recommend a non-oily peanut butter for the filling, because the oil could separate in the oven and make a mess.
If you want to make it gluten free, make sure that the cookies and the peanut butter cups are both gluten free. And when making it gluten free, I leave the creamy filling in the cookies because it seems to hold the crust together better.
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheesecake with Reese's Minis
- food processor
- 9-inch nonstick springform pan
- stand mixer with paddle attachment (or hand mixer and large mixing bowl)
- baking sheet lined with foil
- 16 ounces gluten-free chocolate sandwich cookies
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
- 24 ounces cream cheese (3 (8-ounce) packages, at room temperature)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- 3 eggs
- ⅓ cup mini chocolate chips
- 1 cup Reese’s Minis (chopped)
- Preheat the oven to 350° F/175° C.
- In the food processor, grind the Oreo cookies until you have fine crumbs. Drizzle in the melted butter while processing, until the mixture clumps together. Press into the bottom and up 1-inch up the sides of the springform pan. Place on the foil-lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
- In the bowl of the stand mixer, beat together the room temperature cream cheese and the sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla and peanut butter, and mix well. Add the eggs and mix on low just until combined. Fold in the mini chocolate chips. Spread the filling evenly in the cookie crust.
- Place on the baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven until the middle is still a little wiggly, about 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with foil and chill overnight in the refrigerator.
- Top with the chopped Reese’s Minis, then serve.