I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

Happy Birthday to......

....pretty much everyone I know!

April is probably my most favorite month....the world seems to take on a fresh, new Springy green look with the flowers and trees in bloom, the weather is still a bit sporadic but the warm days bring people out of hibernation from a long cold winter, and this month is also loaded with birthday celebrations for special people in my life.

On April 11, my office celebrated my boss's birthday and while it would be really unethical and weird to say that he is a special person in my life, he does sign my paycheck so that makes him an honorary special person.

April 13 marks the date that Captain Sturm was born into this world and while he's no longer at the top of my "Special People" list, it would be rude for me not to acknowledge his special day at least nonchalantly.

I have April 21 to thank for bringing the Italian into my life.

April 22 brings about a celebration for my sweet four-legged constant companion Jesse James who loves me unconditionally and forces me to take long walks when I don't really feel like it.

And the most special person of all who celebrates a birthday in April is ME! April 27 marks the day that my mother realized the greatest joy in her life {isn't that right, Mother?} The years may be adding up, but I can honestly say that at this point in time, I feel so unbelievable happy and young at heart - I just remarked to one of my girlfriends the other day that if I were any happier, I'd burst into a million pieces!

How fortunate for me is it that my birthday is the day that the Daring Bakers' April challenge gets posted? I can't help but think that all these lovely cheesecakes were made especially for me on my special day. The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. We were given free reign with this recipe to be as daring and creative as we wanted to be. I wanted to be as creative as my pantry would allow without having to purchase anything other than cream cheese, because it's already somewhat ridiculous that a weekly grocery bill for a single chick hovers around $150 per week. A quick inventory of my shelves showed several boxes of crystallized ginger and a jar of lemon curd. And so a lemon ginger cheesecake was born right here in my kitchen last night.

I was really afraid that the nearly 1 cup of chopped crystallized ginger would be overpowering, but in the end, the flavors melded very well. I used the zest and juice of only 1 lemon and in retrospect could have added a ton more zest and still been happy with the results. I knew the cheesecake would be topped with lemon curd so I erred on the side of caution. I did not use any liqueur because I didn't have anything on hand that complimented my chosen flavors but I was recently intrigued by a ginger flavored vodka that I saw on the shelf in the ABC store this past weekend.

I loved the texture of this cheesecake - so fluffy and creamy. I've had some cheesecakes that tasted like nothing more than eating a brick of cream cheese right out of the foil package. This will definitely be a great basic recipe that I will keep in my files for when creativity in a springform pan strikes me again. There was alot of discussion on the DB forums about how to prevent water from seeping into the layers of foil during the waterbath. I've never solved that mystery myself, so I opted to put the pan of water on the rack below. My cake cracked - which is nothing new for me - but that's what garnish is for, people. No one ever knew that those lemon slices were strategically placed over the San Andreas Cheesecake Fault.

Congratulations on another great Daring Bakers challenge {make sure you head over to Jenny's blog JennyBakes for the awesome recipe that she chose} and happy birthday to you, you, you, and me! I'm so excited to read about all of these fabulous birthday cheesecakes - about as excited as I am about the birthday present that I bought for myself!!!

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Pearlyn said...

Happy birthday! Hope you've had a great day so far! Awesome challenge by the way!

gina said...

Happy Birthday Alison....I hope you had a fabulous day. Love the ride, btw :)

Chantal said...

Happy birthday!!!!

Becky said...

Alison, I hope you've had a most wonderful birthday. Many happy returns!

Lauren said...

Happy Birthday!! Awesome job on this challenge =D.

Becky said...

Hey Alison, I blogged about South of the Border Stuffed Shells and credited you with the recipe.

That filling works great to stuff peppers, too. Thanks again for sharing.

Lis said...

Awww happy belated birthday, sweetie! I hope you had a lovely uhhmm.. "italian" evening! ;)

Your cake looks even better than it did the first time I saw it and I am really thinking I'm going to make my own version of it.. especially since I've been craving those ridiculously expensive Carr ginger lemon cream cookies lately. *slurp*

The car is ALMOST as fabulous as it's new owner! Damn I'm so happy for you and how that tough decision you made not so long ago, truly was for the best.. am so proud of you! :)

Hugs & much love!