Strawberry Shortcake Cheesecake

            Strawberry Shortcake Cheesecake

For the Cheesecake layer:
10 oz. (about 1 cup) fresh unsweetened, or dry-pack frozen whole strawberries (unsweetened, not in syrup), thawed and drained well
1/3 cup plus 1 tsp cornstarch
Three 8-oz packages cream cheese (use only full fat), at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 T. vanilla
2 eggs
2/3 cup heavy or whipping cream
3 to 4 drops red food coloring (optional)

Pineapple Chiffon Cake
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
½ cup oil
5 unbeaten egg yolks
¾ cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1 cup egg whites
½ tsp cream of tartar

Sift dry ingredients into mixing bowl.  Make a well in dry ingredients.  Add oil, egg yolks and pineapple juice in order given.  Beat until smooth.
Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in large mixing bowl.  Beat until they form very stiff peaks.  Fold egg yolk batter gradually into egg whites.  Bake in 3- 9 inch round cake pans lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until done. 

To Assemble and Frost
2 quarts fresh strawberries
1 T unflavored granulated gelatin
3 T cold water
1 quart heavy or whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 T. vanilla

1.    Preheat the oven to 350°.  Generously butter the bottom and sides of one 9-inch springform pan and three 9-inch round layer cake pans.  Wrap the outside of the springform (but not the cake pans) with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending all the way up the sides.  Very important:  Line the bottom of all four pans with parchment or waxed paper (don’t let the paper come up the sides).

2.    Make the cheesecake.  Pulse the thawed or fresh strawberries in your food processor until smooth (you need ¾ cup puree).  Stir in 1 tsp of the cornstarch and set aside.  The puree will thicken slightly as it stands.

3.    Put one package of the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the remaining 1/3 cup cornstarch in a large bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl a few times.  Beat in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, scraping down the bowl after each.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the remaining 1 cup sugar, then the vanilla.  Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after adding each.  Beat in the cream just until it’s completely blended.  Be careful not to over mix.  Fold in the strawberry puree, plus the food coloring, if you wish (use just enough to tint the batter light pink).

4.    Gently spoon the batter into the springform, then place it in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes about 1 inch up the sides of the springform.  Bake the cake until the edges are light golden brown and the top is set, about 1 ¼ hours.  Remove the cake from the water bath, remove the foil, transfer the springform to a wire rack, and let cool in the pan for 2 hours, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely cold, about 4 hours.  Freeze the cheesecake overnight
and/or until ready to assemble the cake.

5.  While the cheesecake is cooling, make the pineapple chiffon cake.   Let the cakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn them out onto the rack and gently peel off the paper liners.  Let cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or until ready to assemble the cake. (You will use only two of the cake layers for the cheesecake)

6.    On the day you plan to assemble the cake, hull 1 quart of the strawberries, then cut them into ½ -inch pieces (you need 2 cups).  Reserve the remaining berries for decorating the cake.

7.    Make the frosting.  Place the gelatin in a heatproof measuring cup, stir in the cold water, and let stand until it swells and thickens.  Cook in the microwave on high for about 30 seconds or over a pan of simmering water for about 1 minute, until clear and completely melted.  In a medium bowl, whip the cream with an electric mixer on high until it thickens and soft peaks just begin to form.  With the mixer still running, add the sugar and beat just until the cream stands up in peaks (don’t overmix or the cream will curdle).  Beat in the vanilla.  Add the melted gelatin all at once and beat until thoroughly incorporated.  Refrigerate the cream for at least 30 minutes (preferably no longer than 1 hour) in two bowls:  2 cups in a small bowl for piping decorations on the top of the cake and the remainder in  second larger bowl for frosting the cake.  Meanwhile, remove the frozen strawberry cheesecake from the freezer and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.

8.    Place one layer of chiffon cake top side down, on a cake plate.  Spread evenly with a thin layer of whipped cream frosting from the large bowl and half of the strawberry pieces.  Release and remove the ring of the springform, then remove the frozen cheesecake from the bottom of the pan.  Peel away the paper liner and place the cheesecake, top side down, on top of the frosted bottom layer.  Press the cheesecake down gently, just enough so the two layers stick together but not enough for the filling to come out the sides.  Top the cheesecake layer with some more whipped cream from the large bowl, and sprinkle evenly with the remaining strawberry pieces.  Top with the second layer of chiffon cake , top side up.  Frost the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the whipped cream in the large bowl.

9.    To decorate, hull the remaining quart of berries and halve them, from top to tip.  Place a ring of berries around the bottom edge of the cake, top ends up.  Using 5 or 6 berry halves, make a star in the center of the cake, pointing the tips of the berries away from the center.  Fit a pastry bag with a medium closed-star tip or medium open-star tip and fill with the cream from the small bowl.  Pipe shells or rosettes around the top edge of the cake and make a large rosette on top of the strawberry pieces.

10.    Refrigerate the cake until serving time (it takes at least 2 hours to allow the cake to thaw enough to slice easily).  Use a sharp straight-edge knife, not a serrated one, to cut it.  Cover any leftover cake and refrigerate.  Don’t freeze this cake.