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Easy Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

If you're planning a sit-down dinner a day ahead, a large cheesecake makes a great presentation. But, if you're in a hurry to have cheesecake or if you're planning more of a buffet situation, small cupcake-sized cheesecakes will be more convenient. It's also easier to freeze individual pieces for later.

These mini-cheesecakes only take 15 minutes to bake, and of course the time to cool and chill them is reduced as well. You could be eating these luscious cakes in only a few hours' time!

The sour cherries add tartness that helps to balance the sweetness of the cakes. Bottles of sour cherries can be found in the supermarket, especially around holiday time. Usually they are used to make Black Forest Cake. You can substitute pie filling if necessary, or try glazing fresh cherries if you have some!

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

If you have time to bake cookies for the base, shortbread cookies work well, either vanilla or chocolate. Otherwise, find a 2" vanilla wafer that fits in the bottom of a large muffin cup. (Kraft makes Mrs. Christie's Nilla wafers.) If necessary, you can use a cookie cutter to trim down a too-large cookie.

This recipe scales well, so if you need two or more dozen cakes for a potluck or bake sale, it's no problem. Increasing the recipe by one half will allow you to bake a dozen giant muffin (or Texas muffin) sized cakes.

1 lb (2 8 oz. packages) cream cheese

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

12 wafers, vanilla or chocolate

12 large muffin cups

10 oz sour cherries in syrup

¼ cup sugar

1 tbls cornstarch

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Preheat oven to 350° F with pan of water on bottom rack and upper rack in centre.  Allow cream cheese and eggs to come to room temperature.

Prepare muffin pan by lining with paper or foil cups and placing a vanilla wafer, shortbread cookie, or gingersnap in each cup. (Foil cups look more festive.)

Beat cream cheese on medium-low speed of electric mixer until smooth.  Add sugar and continue to beat. Add one egg at a time and then vanilla extract.  Continue to beat until mixture is very smooth, but do not over beat.

Using a portion scoop if available, spoon about one and a half ounces of batter into each cup, about three-quarters full.  Rap pan on counter a few times to settle batter.  Place pan in centre of oven and bake about 15 minutes.  Turn heat off and open oven door slightly, allowing cakes to cool slowly.  Cakes should fall slightly in the centre.

If using a 19 oz. jar of sour cherries, remove half into a strainer over a small saucepan.  Set cherries aside and add ¼ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch to whisk together with syrup.  Over medium heat, bring syrup to a boil and continue stirring until thickened and bubbling.  Stir in cherries and set aside to cool.

Cherry Cheesecake Cupcakes Remove muffin pan from oven after half an hour and remove cups from pan to a wire rack to cool.  After roughly an hour the cakes should be cooled and the cherry topping may be spooned into the cups.  Chill in the refrigerator until needed.  For greater flavor, allow to return to room temperature before serving, if convenient.

Cakes may be frozen without topping in a shallow container and used as needed. If they are frozen with the topping, they may not keep as long. If you plan to freeze them for more than a month, it's safer to apply the topping later.

Alternatively, cherry pie filling may be used as topping, or jam that has been warmed slightly.  Apricot jam may be warmed and sieved before pouring over cakes for a translucent glaze, especially over sliced fruit or berries.

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