Sunday, April 4, 2010

Get Your Goat! . . . Goat-Cheese Cake with Mango Sauce and Blackberries

Until now, I don't think I've ever needed to pair the words "goat" and "cake" in a sentence. I don't know about you, but if I've got a cake anywhere in the vicinity, I don't particularly want a goat hanging around.

The seeming incongruity of goat-cheese cake is kind of like the juxtaposition of the words "hippo" and "soup," or maybe the marriage of "rat" and "candy." Not charming images, right? So I understand if you're feeling a little wary.

Goat cheese, though, is quite civilized. It's like a happy cross between cream cheese and sour cream--kind of soft, beautifully white, and just a little tangy. It's the perfect base for a simple variation on the traditional creamy cheesecake, but without the heaviness. And I hesitate to even lump this recipe into the cheesecake category because it's kind of a unique hybrid; besides the cheesy factor, it also contains fluffy beaten egg-whites that get folded into the batter, as well as a very small amount of flour.

Essentially crustless, the cake's golden edges are the result of a sugar-dusted pan. Ribboned with fresh mango sauce and garnished with a few perfect blackberries, this makes for a pleasing little dessert. So, is it a cheesy cake . . . or is it a cheesecake? Is it a goat-cheese cake, or a goat cheesecake? We may never know. It's just good and, in the end, that's all we need to know.

As for the recipes . . .

I adapted this cake recipe from Emily Luchetti's book, Classic Stars Desserts, and the mango sauce recipe from Nick Malgieri's book, Perfect Pastry.

What did I change? Well, I tweaked the basic flavor of the cake by prohibiting all lemoniness; the original recipe includes both zest and juice, neither of which I was in the mood for. Also, I decreased the amount of sugar in the cake slightly and compensated for that by adding in one heaping tablespoon of clover honey, just because I love the warm taste that even a small amount of honey can lend. I increased the amount of vanilla by 50 percent, because honey and vanilla love each other. (Seriously, they do.)

As for the mango sauce, Malgieri's recipe called for a tiny bit of white rum, which I didn't include. Had I had some of that on hand, however, I probably would have used it. And, as is my habit, I reworded the instructions considerably for both recipes.

You don't need much time to slap this together, all in all, but I do recommend you chill the cake for a while before serving it. Beware that once it's completely cold it'll look a bit shrunken, like in the picture just below, but don't let that scare you. All is well.

I think the mango sauce tastes best well chilled, too. And the blackberries, of course, aren't what I'd call mandatory, but they do dovetail nicely with the other flavors and, heck, they're just so darned cute. Splurge on a small-package of nice ones, yes?

Goat-cheese Cake with Mango Sauce and Blackberries

(For a printable version of these recipes, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter, or spray with baking spray, a 9" springform pan or a 9" layer-cake pan. Dust the inside of the pan well with granulated sugar and tap out the excess.

11 oz. of fresh goat cheese, room temperature (the Vermont Creamery cheese I used came in a 10.5 oz. package; got that at Trader Joe's)
3/4 granulated sugar, minus 1 Tbsp.
1 heaping Tbsp. honey (I just used Trader Joe's clover honey)
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated (best if the eggs are not too cold, but closer to room temp)
3 Tbsp. All-Purpose flour (I used unbleached)

1 cup or so of fresh, whole blackberries

In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the cheese, sugar, vanilla, and honey. Beat until smooth.

Mix in just the egg yolks, two at a time, on your mixer's lowest setting. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Add the flour and mix until it's incorporated.

In another clean, dry mixer bowl (or you can easily do this using a hand mixer, in any clean, dry, medium-size bowl) beat the egg whites using the whip attachment, and whip on medium speed to form soft peaks.

With a spatula, gently fold the whipped egg whites into the goat cheese mixture, being cautious not to deflate the whites.

Without delay, carefully spread the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, perhaps 25 minutes. Let the cake cool, in its pan, to room temperature on a rack.

Once it's come to room temperature, put it in the fridge to chill further.

After it's cold and you're ready to serve it, remove the side of the springform pan and carefully invert the cake onto a plate to remove the bottom of the pan, if you want to do so. Then flip the cake so it's right-side up. The cake should be pretty solid at this point, so it's not hard to handle. If you made the cake in a regular cake pan, you might need to run a knife around the sides to loosen it, and invert and flip it as above. It should come out of the pan without much trouble.

Fresh Mango Sauce

1/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup water
2 large fully-ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into pieces
2 to 4 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

In a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar and water over low heat. Raise the heat to medium and bring the sugar syrup to a boil. Immediately remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool.

In the bowl of a food processor, puree the mango pieces until they're completely smooth (like the velvety texture of baby food).

With the processor running, add in the sugar syrup in a thin stream and mix for a few more seconds until well combined.

With a fine mesh sieve placed over an empty bowl, pour the mango mixture into the sieve to strain it. It may take a while to drip through even if you're helping it along, so be patient.

Once strained, stir in 2 Tbsp. of the lemon juice to start with, adding more until the taste is to your liking.

With a spoon, drizzle the sauce atop slices of the goat-cheese cake, and serve with a few blackberries. Store any leftover cake and sauce in the fridge.

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