As the constant rebel he is, my husband's birthday dessert of choice was not birthday cake, but crème de la coeur (or as the Barefoot Contessa calls it: coeur a la crème). Even though I think she may call it by the wrong name, I still used her killer recipe.
Crème de la coeur (which literally translates to cream of the heart) is a smooth cream cheese-based dessert that is luscious and decadent. It's a fairly easy dessert to make that requires some sort of a mold to hold it in overnight. You can use a wire mesh strainer as a mold (and this will work just fine), but I make it so often that I purchased an official crème de la coeur mold from Amazon for somewhere around $10.
It's a white porcelain mold with holes on the bottom. The holes allow liquid to seep through while it rests overnight for a more solid, creamy dessert. You have to wrap the mold in cheesecloth, so I also bought the food-use cheesecloth that Amazon so kindly paired for me when I was perusing the mold online -- I'm such a sucker for those pairings, but more often than not they do make sense.
So back to the illustrious and oh so fancy, but oh so easy crème de la coeur. To begin, mix the softened cream cheese and confectioner's sugar in an upright mixer until creamy.
When it's cream-a-fied, add the heavy cream, vanilla and lemon zest (if you prefer, I don't usually use the zest) and change from the paddle attachment to the whisk attachment.
Whisk until it is light and resembles whipped cream. Don't go too far though, you don't want to end up with butter. That's not fancy! (But I guess it is kind of fancy to say that you made your own butter.)
Anyhow, once that's complete you simply line the base of the mold with cheesecloth.
Add the whipped creation and smooth the top with an offset spatula.
Next, cover the top with cheesecloth and then suspend it over a bowl, to drain overnight.
The recipe I use always makes way more that what could fit into the mold. So repeat the same process with a wire mesh strainer and suspend it over the bowl.
That's really it. Put it into the refrigerator to drain overnight and then unmold it the next day and discard the liquid. I always unmold it before guests arrive because doing it with people around would be way too stressful for me. I just store it in the refrigerator with toothpicks and plastic wrap. I simply smooth the holes from the toothpicks with a spoon or spatula before serving.
Instead of the raspberry sauce Barefoot recommends, I make a strawberry sauce to pour over the top. The seeds in raspberries just aren't something we like to chew on around here and some inevitably always manage to make it through the strainer. There's nothing worse than chomping down on something hard, when something hard is not supposed to be in what you're eating. Yuck.
I'm not even sure where I got this recipe, but here's how I make my strawberry sauce:
Gina C's Super Simple Strawberry Sauce
Makes about 1 cup.
1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients.
Cook over low heat until sugar dissolves, then turn up to medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally until strawberries are soft and macerated, about 10 minutes.
Pour the mixture into a strainer placed over a clean container and mash down with a spoon to get all of the liquid out.
Discard the solids, allow the sauce to cool and refrigerate until use!
This yummy dessert is quick and easy and a nice change of pace when the doldrums of cakes set in. It also happens to be gluten-free and egg-free (in case you have to be cognoscente of food allergies), but it is definitely NOT dairy-free! But it sure is delicious.
I hope you try it!