It occurred to me a couple months ago that not all chocolate covered strawberries are created equal.

I was at a party where I was served the worst chocolate covered strawberries I’ve EVER had. I mean, these were BAD. And I don’t consider myself picky, but I could NOT eat these. I tried. I cringed.

I didn’t even know you could ruin a chocolate covered strawberry THAT much. At that moment I decided I needed to do a blog post on chocolate covered strawberries. Not because I am a chocolate covered strawberry expert, but because well, I don’t know, I just wanted to.

You might as well pile the chocolate covered strawberries on a cheesecake too, right?

This would be a great desert to bring to a Christmas party, or to make for Valentine’s Day, or for a birthday, or for any celebratory occasion really. It serves a bazillion people and looks really impressive. Ok, maybe not a bazillion. A 9 inch cake theoretically serves like 12 ish, but I’ve made cheesecakes plenty of times and every single time it can easily serve 15, EASILY!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake
Serves 12-15
Time: 2 hours

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 crackers)
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

32 ounces (4 blocks) cream cheese, at room temperature (I used low fat)
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Strawberry Swirl
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
1/4 cup water

Chocolate Ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup chocolate chips (milk chocolate or semi sweet)

Chocolate Covered Strawberries (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust, mix the graham crackers and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool while making the filling.

To make the strawberry swirl, combine the strawberry preserves with 1/4 cup water in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 1-1 1/2 minutes on high in your microwave. Stir until smooth. You can strain the seeds out or leave them in, your choice. Let preserves cool, then put the bowl in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust. Spoon the strawberry mixture over the cheesecake. Swirl with a knife if you want.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 300 degrees F and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30-45 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.
*Refrigeration for at least 8 hours is key. It allows the flavors to really develop and lets the cheesecake get nice and dense.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by running a knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.
*I usually line the springform pan with parchment paper or tin foil. This allows me to be able to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan and serve it on a nice platter without the bottom of the springform pan.

To make the ganache, heat the heavy cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat until it is almost boiling. Remove from heat, add in chocolate chips and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Stir the chocolate chips until melted. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature so it starts to thicken and harden. Pour over the cheesecake. Chill the cheesecake for about 1 hour to let the ganache set.

Cheesecake can be made and refrigerated up to 5 days in advance. Just add the chocolate covered strawberries the day you’re serving it. It can also be frozen. Cool, chill, then wrap the cheesecake in plastic wrap then foil, and freeze. When ready to eat, thaw in the fridge for 1-2 days, or at room temperature for about 6 hours.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Fresh Strawberries
Chocolate (I prefer chocolate bark, but chocolate chips work too)
vegetable oil

Steps to successful chocolate covered strawberries:
1. Wash the strawberries and make sure they are 100% DRY. Not s single drop of water on them. If water gets into the melted chocolate it causes it to seize, which means it gets lumpy and gross, and not silky and smooth.

2. Prepare a large tray lined with parchment paper before you start dipping the strawberries.

3. Heat your chocolate in a double boiler on the stove. Once the chocolate has melted turn the heat on very low to keep the chocolate warm. If the heat is too high it will burn the chocolate and make it lumpy, not smooth.

4. Add a little bit of vegetable oil to the chocolate to thin it out. I add about 1/4 oil to every 10 ounces of chocolate I use. Start with less oil and add accordingly to get your chocolate to a desired thinness.

5. Chill the dipped strawberries to help them harder.

6. Drizzle strawberries with extra chocolate. To do this, spoon a little bit of the melted chocolate into a ziplock bag, cut a tiny hole on the end of the bag and drizzle the chocolate onto the chocolate covered strawberries. You can do this with white chocolate or regular chocolate. Either way, it looks pretty and helps hide and imperfections from dipping the berries. Chill the drizzled berries.

7. Chocolate covered strawberries can be at room temperature for a few hours. You can make them ahead of time for a party, and then put them on the counter to make some room in the fridge for other items.