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!

Call her pretty, but don't call her easy

Have you ever looked at a recipe and thought that it would be a breeze to put together....easy ingredient list, little to no effort and a great presentation? My momma always told me if it was too good to be true, it probably was. I took one look at this recipe for Ladyfinger Cheesecake that was featured in a 2005 edition of "Taste of Home" magazine and thought my dessert problems were solved.

Each month, the catering kitchen is in charge of preparing a treat for a client who belongs to an investment group. The ladies meet on the first Tuesday, count their money and indulge in dessert. With the economy and stock market such as it is these days, I'd say they're definitely eating more dessert and counting less money! Since Valentine's Day is right around the corner, I needed inspiration to prepare something that was as pretty as it was delicious so when I ran across the photo of this cheesecake I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. After looking over the list of ingredients, I figured it would be a pretty easy task to accomplish. But since when is anything worth having easy to get? Momma's word were echoing in my head.

The ingredient list was pretty standard stuff that we keep on hand: sugar, cream cheese, heavy whipping cream, and it was no problem to run across the street to pick up the fresh strawberries that it called for. Yeah, well, no problem if the I'd-rather-be-beaten-severely-about-the-head-than-go-to-Walmart store had actually had fresh strawberries. Not one to be detered (read: I'm not wasting a trip into this foresaken place for nothin'), I walked the 1/2 mile to Aisle 8 and grabbed a can of cherry pie filling, walked the 1/2 mile back to the checkout line, stood in line for 15 minutes and headed back to the kitchen. Huge time waster #1.

I figure I need to make up for lost time and quickly start assembling my little ladyfinger fort in my cake pan when a thought occurs to me. The recipe says to use 3 packages ladyfingers, split. The word "split" gets me thinking I probably shouldn't use the hard variety that we carry in the gourmet market but instead use the spongey ones that you get in the grocery store. The photo looks like the hard variety, I reason with myself because I don't want to go back to that place again. I also reason that after soaking up the cream cheese mixture, the ladyfingers would probably soften up much like they do when making tiramisu. Bad thinking on my part, I would later realize. And we won't even go into how long it took me to stand those little boogers around that cake pan. I don't even think having 10 hands would have made it any easier. Once I FINALLY got my fort underway, I dared anyone in the kitchen to breathe for fear of blowing my ladyfinger house down. Huge time waster #2.

From that point on, the ingredients came together very quickly and no one was none the wiser that I had substituted Amaretto spiked cherries for the original fresh berries. The presentation was indeed very nice, but as I was plating the finished cheesecake the next day, I realized that the ladyfingers on the bottom and around the edges were still rock hard and that stood to reason that the ones in the middle were probably just as solid. I'm sure it wasn't the easiest thing to cut and eat, but hopefully they were WOW'd by the sheer beauty of the thing and didn't give much thought to their cracked tooth enamel.

Moral of this story....when in doubt, use the spongey lady fingers! Oh, and listen to your mother.

Alison Thought It Was Going To Be Easy Cherry Cheesecake

1 can cherry pie filling
2 tablespoons Amaretto
2 cups sugar
3 packages ladyfingers, split
32 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups heavy whipping cream

In a bowl, combine cherry pie filling and Amaretto. Set aside. Arrange 25 split ladyfingers around the edges of a 10" springform pan. Place 25 more on the bottom; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in sugar. In a large bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold into cream cheese mixture.

Spoon half of the cream cheese mixture into prepared pan. Spread with 3/4 of cherry pie filling within 1" of edges. Arrange remaining ladyfingers over top of pie filling. Spoon remaining cream cheese mixture over ladyfingers. Cover; refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of pan and top with remaining cherry pie filling.

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