Top any cheesecake with brownie cubes and drizzle with caramel sauce (photo courtesy iGourmet).  Want cake without all the chocolate? Go for blondies instead (photo courtesy Valrhona).  Key lime or lemon bars also do the trick, although more jiggly than brownies and blondies (photo courtesy Baking Obsession).
If you don’t have the time or inclination to bake from scratch, the easiest specialty cheesecake starts with a purchased cheesecake base.
In the case of this Brownie Caramel Cheesecake (photo #1), you can purchase the brownies, too; or make a quick batch from a mix.
RECIPE: BROWNIE CARAMEL CHEESECAKE
Brownies to taste (top the cake with as many or as few cubes as you like)
Blondies (blonde brownies—photo #2) with chocolate sauce
Linzer shortbread bars with raspberry sauce
Pecan pie bars with chocolate sauce
1. CUBE the brownies/bars. Place as desired atop the cheesecake. We made concentric circles and covered the whole top.
2. WARM the sauce as needed to drizzling consistency, and drizzle over the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
OTHER CHEESECAKE TOPPINGS
Spread the top of the cheesecake with fruit curd (photo #3).
Commonly available choices are cranberry, Key lime, lemon, orange or passionfruit.
It’s easy to make fruit curd from scratch; but it takes a bit of time and clean-up.
Cookies: Top with gingersnaps, Oreos or other favorite cookies. Place them flat or standing up around the rim.
Candy: The celebrant’s candy of choice will look great atop the cake. After Eight Mint Chocolate Thins, chocolate bark, M&Ms, mini peanut butter cups, pecan pralines, smashed toffee, etc.
Cookies & Candy
For fruit curd, cookies or candy, no sauce is necessary. Instead, you can serve the cake with an optional dab of whipped cream.
There are many other ways to dress up a store-bought cheesecake, from pie filling to shaved chocolate.
We love a cheesecake iced with chocolate ganache.
Here’s a tip on top of that:
THE GRIMBLETORTE: GRAND MARNIER CHEESECAKE COVERED IN GANACHE
Long before there were “foodies,”* those who a decade later would bear the mantle sought out the famous Grimbletorte.
This spectacular cheesecake from Miss Grimble’s, one of the early gourmet cheesecake bakers in New York City. Its point of differentiation was simple: liqueur in the batter and ganache on the top and sides.
Miss Grimble (Sylvia Balser Hirsch, 2019-2006) sold the business around 1989 and retired. The subsequent owner discontinued the Grimbletorte.
Here’s more about the original Miss Grimble.
To approximate the Grimbletorte:
If baking a New York-style cream cheese cheesecake from scratch (2 pounds cream cheese, 5 jumbo eggs), add 1/4 cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur to the cheesecake batter.
If you have a ready-made cake, you can still get a bit of the flavor. Brush the cake with the liqueur before adding the ganache.
In theory, you can add the liqueur to the ganache, but we’ve always loved the great chocolate flavor against the orange-accented cheesecake.
Mrs. Hirsch’s cake decorators wrote “Grimbletorte” across the top of the iced cheesecake, also in ganache. Proust may keep his madeleines; we want our Grimbletorte.
*What’s the difference between a foodie, connoisseur, gourmet, gourmand, gastronome, epicure and glutton? Check it out.