Clever Dessert Gift Recipe: Baked Neopolitan Cheesecake in Mason Jars

26 Jul

A month or two ago, I had the opportunity to meet up with some of my old girlfriends, Rheannon and Melissa, whom I never get to see anymore. We’ve all become mothers in the last few years, so we decided to have a playdate among the little ones and enjoy a chance to catch up with one another over some delicious food.

As per usual, everyone else’s babies played happily while mine threw an enormous tantrum. On the other hand, I still like this photo of Ollie because even his clothes have a sort of Neopolitan look to them that supports the dessert we brought. We Ritters are nothing if not coordinated.

Because both of my friends are also clever kitchen bloggers, I wanted to bring something they hadn’t encountered before. Inspired by all of the Mason jar cheesecakes cropping up everywhere — but looking to avoid the overabundance of “no-bakes” out there in InternetLand — I settled on this design, which takes elements from this blogger’s baked version but incorporates three different flavor tiers, reminiscent of childhood days spent eating Neapolitan-flavored ice cream. (This was, after all, a play date for two generations.)

The baked, finished jars were adorable, each with a crumbled Oreo bottom, layers of chocolate, vanilla bean, and raspberry cheesecake filling, and red raspberry pie filling to top it all off.

I had absolutely no issues baking them right in the jars (using a water bath in the oven), and was able to get a dozen 8-ounce jars from a single batch, so I took some to work as well. They transport SO much more easily than cakes, cupcakes, pies or anything else I’ve driven to work and juggled up the stairs in the past.

I can’t say enough good things about how these came out, so I’ll just cut myself off here and tell you how to make them.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 12 (8-ounce each) half-pint Mason Jars, sanitized and dried, with accompanying lids/rings/hardware.
  • 12-15 Oreo cookies, crumbled into chunks (I used the fudge-filled variety, but it really doesn’t matter.)
  • 5 (8-oz. each) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (10- to 14-ounce) can raspberry pie filling (you will probably not use entire can)
  • enough water to mostly fill a 9×13 metal pan
Additional ingredients for the chocolate filling layer:
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
Additional ingredients for the vanilla bean filling layer:
  • scraped seeds from 1 vanilla bean or equivalent amount of vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Additional ingredient for the raspberry filling layer:
  • 1/3 cup seedless black raspberry jam (can substitute other seedless flavor like strawberry if desired)

Prepare the Jars:

 

The crumbled Oreos don’t have to be *too* crumbled…

Begin by separating 12 half-pint-sized (8-ounce) jars from their lids and rings. If you haven’t already, sanitize them and make sure insides are well-dried.

In a large bowl, crush the Oreo cookies into medium-sized chunks. Place a large spoonful of cookie crumbles in the bottom of each jar, just covering the bottom of the glass.

Have a 9×13 metal pan with 2″ sides or taller at the ready on your countertop. This is what you will bake the jars in, surrounded by water.

Prepare the Filling:

Use an electric mixer to whip the 5 packages of room-temperature cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Slowly beat in 1-1/2 cups of the granulated sugar until evenly mixed.

This recipe makes a LOT of batter, so be ready for it!

Using a separate bowl and wire egg whisk, beat the 6 eggs until yolks and whites run together a little bit. (You can do this by hand; it doesn’t take very long.) Add the milk, flour and vanilla extract to the egg mixture and use the whisk to lightly incorporate everything.

Using the “stir” setting on mixer, gradually pour the egg mixture into the cream cheese mixture; once it is mostly incorporated you can raise the beater speed until the batter is smooth.

Take two large mixing bowls and pour about 1/3 of the mixture into each of them, leaving 1/3 in the original mixing bowl.

 

You should have three separate bowls of flavored filling, each more amazing than the last. Actually, that’s a lie. The raspberry is hands-down the most amazing. Just pretend I didn’t say that, though.

Scrape the sides with a rubber spatula as you do this to make sure no cheese lumps are left in there.

To the first bowl, add 1/4 cup cocoa powder and 1/4 cup additional granulated sugar.

To the second bowl, add the scrapings of one vanilla bean (or equivalent substitute) and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

For the third bowl, microwave 1/3 cup seedless blackberry jam in a measuring cup for about 30 seconds. Stir until smooth and add to the third bowl of cheese filling. If the final stirred product looks a little bit too purple, you can add a couple of drops of pink food coloring. I kind of liked the purplish-pink look, so I left it as-is. 🙂

Layer the Jars:

Preheat the oven to 325 at this point because it will still take you a little while to complete this process. You will also want to begin boiling a kettle full of water at this point. Once boil is reached, remove from heat even if you’re not quite done assembling the jars. It will still be warm enough for what you need in a few minutes.

Chocolate batter goes in first…(I think I added a little too much to this one.)

Add a few spoonfuls of chocolate batter to each jar over the cookie crumbles. Don’t add too much, though, because you’ve still got several layers to go.

 

Make sure to eliminate these batter streaks before adding the next layer so the finished jars won’t look sloppy.

It helps to have a folded, clean dishtowel on the countertop to rap the jar up and down a little bit on to get mixture to settle without breaking the jar on the hard counter.

Chef’s Note: Make sure there are no streaks of chocolate filling on the jar sides above that layer. If there are, you can run a clean napkin around the inside of the jar to take most of it away.

Repeat this process with the vanilla filling layer, being sure you are barely over the halfway mark of the jar with filling.

Add the vanilla layer…you’ll notice that the ground cinnamon helps to mimic the look of vanilla beans, making it look even more vanilla-streaked that it is. (So fancy.)

(The batter is probably going to rise slightly or shift while in the oven, and you will also need to conserve the upper-rim area for the pie filling so that all three actual cheesecake layers are visible even when lids/rings are in place later.)

Again, wipe any higher-than-vanilla-layer filling away from jar sides.

 

Gorgeous. Just gorgeous.

Repeat this process again with the raspberry filling layer. You should now be  almost to the top of the regular jar part; rim area unfilled.

Some air bubbles may rise to the surface as you fill the jars. You can pop them with a toothpick if it’s easy to do, but don’t stress about it too much.

Bake the Jars:

As you complete the raspberry layer for each jar, place the jar into the 9×13″ metal cake pan, making rows. Once all 12 jars have been filled and transferred to the pan, you can slowly begin pouring the hot water from the teakettle into the pan (surrounding the jars). This is easiest to do from one corner of the pan.

Don’t stress too much about the air bubbles. Just pop ’em when you can.

Be patient and careful when adding the heated water; you don’t want any of the jars to overheat too quickly and crack. The entire purpose of using very hot water here is to prepare them for an easy transition into the hot oven, so…slowly, gradually, methodically is how you want to temper the glass.

 

All watered up and ready for the oven…

Once the water is about 2/3 way up the sides (or no higher than you feel comfortable lifting), put on your oven mitts and carefully transfer the water-and-jar-filled pan into the preheated oven and. Position pan on the center rack and close the oven door, and reduce heat to 300 degrees.

Bake jars for 30 minutes, avoiding opening the oven door unless absolutely necessary. At the end of 30 minutes, turn the oven off, but leave jar pan inside oven for another 20 minutes or so. If it’s not hot in your kitchen, you can prop the oven door open after 15 minutes like this.

See how the filling rose upward a little bit? Just mash it back down with the back of a spoon while it’s still hot.

When you remove the pan from the oven, you’ll see that the filling has probably risen up to the surface of the jar mouth on each one. Once out of the oven, you should be able to use a fingertip or the back of a spoon to tap the filling back down to the bottom of the rim area.

Spoon raspberry pie filling into each jar, filling most of the rim area with it while cheesecake is still hot. Add the lids and rims to the jars. As they cool, you might even hear some of them do that fun “plink!” that regular jars* do when you’re canning other items.

*Because you’ll be using these within the next several days regardless of that plinking seal, it doesn’t really matter if they all seal like that. (I just think it’s extra-cool when they do.)

 

Oh, yeah.

Once your jars have finished cooling, decorate lids with ribbons or fabric if desired and transfer to the fridge. It helps if you saved the 12-hole box your jars originally came in. Never throw those away, ever! They are like gold bullion to frequent canners. 🙂

Happiness in a jar.

Deliver your jarred cheesecakes to family and friends, and have your most sincerely modest facial expression at the ready, because you’re about to receive a lot of compliments.

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