Watch as I turn Mike’s birthday dessert into a celebration of myself!

When December arrives and I start getting all introspective and, “What did I DO this year, what does it all MEAN?” I will be able to say . . . this year I learned how to bake things. From scratch.

First I made this cake:

And then I made a pie:

And some more cake:

brandicake.jpg

And another pie:

And then, lo, Mike’s birthday approached, and I was perplexed about what to do. I mean, he’s put up with me for nine years, so it needed to be something pretty awesome, right?

What I really wanted to do was to make Deb from Smitten Kitchen’s Mosaic Brownie Cheesecake. (I didn’t want to link it, because, let’s face it, mine is not as pretty as hers. But there you go. That’s what it’s supposed to look like.) I think Mike saw that and thought, “Yes, what I would LOVE for my birthday is for you to be completely stressed out.” But he finally agreed. And so, the great Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake Experiment began.

I have mentioned before that brownies from scratch are just not that appealing to me, because of the Unfortunate Crunchy Brownie Incident That Must Not Be Named. I like the Ghirardelli kind. From the mix. I will not apologize for this. However. When I was making the four-layer chocolate cake for Brandi’s birthday, I bought some things I didn’t need, including Baker’s chocolate. So I figured I could use that to make their supposedly easy one-bowl brownies. And you know what? They WERE easy. I made a thin layer of them, as I was supposed to, refrigerated them overnight, and cut them into cubes. They were super-delicious, especially cold. So, you know, hooray! I made brownies from scratch and they didn’t suck!

In addition to the brownies, on Tuesday night I also started making the crumb crust. Deb claims that chocolate Teddy Grahams make the most superior crust, so I purchased a box. I do not know the last time I had Teddy Grahams. They were actually pretty good. Since I, as she recommended, doubled the crust, I only ate one. I needed all the Teddy Grahams. To go into my food processor. To be murdered. What did you do Tuesday night, Kari? Thanks for asking, I murdered a bunch of Teddy Grahams. And while I was doing it, I laughed. Which Mike found gravely disturbing.

Which brings us to Wednesday night. I finished making the crust and cut up the deliciously cold brownies. I had stalled for as long as I could. It was cheesecake time.

What is there, really, to say about a cheesecake? I had never made one before, so I was not completely sure that I beat the cream cheese for long enough, but it seemed to be fine in the end. I made the cheesecake, I added the brownies, I poured it into the crust, I put it in the oven.

You should know that the night before I attempted the actual cheesecake, I had horrible dreams about baking. I dreamt I was making that four-layer chocolate cake again, and it was not going well. So I was a little nervous about the cheesecake. I worried about it all day. I thought about it during my yoga class instead of relaxing. In the end, though, it was all fine. Fine. No problems. I’m so glad I wasted my yoga class thinking about it. I’m so glad I slept fitfully for two nights in a row (oh, I haven’t yet mentioned that AFTER making it, I also dreamt about baking. Good night nurse).

Look at those chocolate chunks. And it didn’t even crack. I didn’t do a water bath, so I can’t take credit for it not cracking. Though it may have something to do with not being overly beaten. And it’s not such an impressive thing when you remember . . . I still had to make the ganache. Who cared if the top cracked? It was going to be covered up! (Well, actually, I cared.)

One thing I couldn’t find the information for was when, exactly, I was supposed to take the springform off the cheesecake. I ran a knife around the edges and then left it on the cheesecake for easy transport to my mom’s house. This gave me something else to worry about, and you know how I love that.

Thursday night I was off the hook as far as baking/cheesecake duty, because we went to Bianca’s for Mike’s birthday. All I had to do was put the ganache on the top. I have no actual pictures of this, because, at this point, I was sort of over the picture taking. It was just chocolate on top of the cheesecake. I bet you can imagine it for yourself. Let’s just move to Friday, shall we?

Here is the finished product, and my wonderful husband blowing out his candles.

Here is his testimonial, in his actual words: “That was the best cheesecake I have ever eaten.” Enough said. Happy birthday, baby. You are worth all the effort.

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