I’d like to start off a little more serious today.
On Sunday evening, Reuben Mitrani, a junior at my school, passed away. I never met him, but he was very close with some of my good friends, and the loss was devastating. Reuben was only 20 years old when he died, the same age as me.
It makes you think, think hard, about what matters in life. Reuben’s passing was so sudden, so unexpected — no one’s supposed to die at our age, you know? It makes me feel really…mortal. The outpouring of love not only towards the Mitranis but within our community is a beautiful thing to see. In times like these, we must make sure the people we love know we love them. Mom, I know you’re reading this right now in your office at home — I love you. Dad, I know you’re reading this on your iPad at your desk– I love you.
It might sound trivial, but baking is one of my favorite ways to show people I care. The very gestures of taking an afternoon to whip up a batch of someone’s favorite cookies, or delivering a bite-sized treat to a friend studying in the library — this is how I show people I care. Today, I spent four hours making an elaborate dessert for my friend Andrew’s birthday. We’ve been friends for almost four years now, and it’s important — now more than ever, it seems — to show him, to show all my friends, that I love them dearly.
Life is painful, life is beautiful. To survive the pain of loss, we must root ourselves in love. It’s that simple, and that complex.
I’m sure these mini cheesecakes are extra-delicious because I’ve was thinking about these things as I baked. Or it could be because they’re frosted with actual pumpkin pie. That probably didn’t hurt.
Mini Cheesecakes with Pumpkin Pie Frosting
Makes 12 mini cheesecakes
Adapted from gimme some oven
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 1/4 cup (half stick) unsalted butter; melted
- pinch of salt
- 2 bars of cream cheese (8 oz each), room temperature
- 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
I would recommend making the pumpkin pie, then the crust, then the cheesecakes. It allows the pie to cool as the cheesecake is cooking.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients until well blended. Pour into a greased 9-inch pie pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean. Remove and let cool, then refrigerate.
When ready to “frost” the cheesecakes, remove the pumpkin pie and place into a mixing bowl. Mix on low for 30 seconds to make sure the filling is smooth. Spoon the filling into a piping bag and decorate cupcakes.
Prepare 12 baking cups with paper liners. Whisk together the three crust ingredients until well blended. Scoop 1 packed tablespoon of crust into each baking cup, and press down to pack firm. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, then remove and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Begin to boil a large kettle or pot of water for the water bath.
Using an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese and sugar and mix on medium-speed until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla and cinnamon, and mix until smooth. Pour batter into each crust-prepared baking cup until 3/4 full.
Once your kettle or pot of water is boiling, carefully place a large baking dish on the lower rack of your oven and pull the rack out a few inches towards you and then pour the water into it. This will create a water bath that will give off lots of steam while the cheesecake bakes.
Place the cheesecakes in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the edges appear to be set and the center still has a slight jiggle to it. Turn off the oven and open the oven door slightly for 5 minutes. Then remove the pan and place on a cooling rack until completely cooled. Top with pumpkin pie frosting.