Willow Bird Baking Challenge was a 5-week series wherein I introduced a new challenge each week. The challenges required you to get innovative in the kitchen. I was beyond impressed with the results. You all came up with creative flavor combinations, constructed gorgeous desserts (or savory treats), and tackled some things you had never tried before! These amazing ladies completed at least four out of the five challenges:

Kelly (all 5 challenges!)
Robyn of Almacucina (all 5 challenges!)
LeAndra of Love & Flour (all 5 challenges!)
Shelley of C Mom Cook (all 5 challenges!)
Ala of Wallflour Girl
Paula of Vintage Kitchen Notes
Shanna of Pineapple and Coconut
Dianna of The Kitchen Prep
Heather of Bake, Run, Live

A special thank you to Kelly, Trudy, and Erin, who joined me for Willow Bird Baking Challenge Google Hangouts to introduce each new challenge!

Challenge #5 was to innovate cheesecake in some way that symbolized your personal culinary journey, because that’s what Willow Bird Baking is all about: celebrating our life lessons and steps toward kitchen confidence. Thank you all so much for joining in the fun!


Paula Made: Raspberry Cheesecake with Chocolate Crumb Crust (see more at her blog, Vintage Kitchen Notes)

Comments:“Just as I said I’m not a cupcake baker or lover, I am a cheesecake baker and absolute lover. It really is one of my favorite things to make. Can´t have enough recipes or need-to-try new flavor combinations. So when Julie of Willow Bird Baking announced the last challenge was to innovate on cheesecake, well, it was the perfect way to say goodbye.”


Dianna Made: Nutella Caramel Swirl Cheescake Bars (see more on her blog, The Kitchen Prep)

Comments: “The best part of these is the Nutella Caramel I adapted from a Bobby Flay recipe for Peanut Butter Caramel. It is amazing drizzled over vanilla bean gelato {or, you know, eaten directly off a spoon.}

Again, Julie, I have really enjoyed taking part in your challenges and getting to know you a little better! Your blog is among my favorites and I wish you continued success and look forward to reading about more of your adventures.”


Shanna Made: Halloween Candy Cheesecake (see more at her blog, Pineapple and Coconut)

Comments: “This challenge really was a challenge for me. I am not really a fan of cheesecake, nor have I ever made one in my entire life. I had a few mishaps and learned from my mistakes in case I ever decide to make a cheesecake ever again, but I am proud of how my first cheesecake came out. And it keeps my kids from eating all their Halloween candy. Win-win!!”


Rhyann Made: Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with White Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Chocolate Ganache (see more at her blog, Cooking College Chick)

Comments: “For the cheesecake challenge, I made mini pumpkin cheesecakes (mainly because I don’t have a spring form pan) with a gingersnap crust, topped white chocolate chip cookie dough and chocolate ganache. I’ll admit, it’s quite a combo but it’s really good. I think these mini cheesecakes are significant to me, because it shows how far I have come as a baker. When I first started my blog, I don’t think I could have come up with something like this. It makes me really excited to see what lies in my baking future!”


Bianca Made: Pumpkin Spice Cake Cheesecake (see her blog Sweet Dreaming)

Comments: “I’m an avid follower of your blog and thought I’d join in on the last segment of your baking challenge. Here is a pumpkin spice cake cheesecake I made last week.”


Heather Made: Pumpkin Gingersnap Mini Cheesecakes (see more at her blog Bake Run Live)

Comments: “For our final challenge, I made pumpkin gingersnap mini cheesecakes. I used store-bought gingersnap cookies as the crust. No need to crush them- a whole cookie goes in the bottom of the cupcake liner! Then a simple pumpkin cheesecake batter gets spooned over each cookie. A quick bake, and you have a fun hand-held dessert that you can take to a Halloween party!”


Robyn Made: Mini Lemon Meringue Cheesecakes (see more at her blog, Almacucina)

Comments: “Whenever I found myself closing the restaurant on a Sunday night, after the last table finally left and the money was counted and the floor was swept and the pots were washed and the trash was taken out, a slice of Lemon Cheesecake was the treat I packed up for myself (and a couple of brownies and a diet coke for Kenny) to take home. I don’t know why, but it just seemed like the right thing to do.”


LeAndra Made: Coffee Turtle Cheesecake (see more at her blog, Love & Flour)

Comments: “For the finale, I used your coffee cheesecake recipe and decorated it turtle-style by adding a few chopped pecans, mini chocolate chips and caramel sauce across the top. A family friend is known for her turtle cheesecakes, and since she once tried to teach me and a few friends how to cook, this seemed an appropriate representation of my culinary journey.”


Kelly Made: Carrot Cheesecake with Pineapple Cake & Mango Mousse

Comments: “When I first started baking, I only baked chocolate cakes and the occasional fruit cake. A carrot cake was the first cake to make it into my regular rotation so I decided to do a carrot cheesecake. It’s paired with a pineapple cake and a mango mousse all wrapped in a joconde imprime. The mousse and joconde were inspired by the several hours of staring at the Daring Bakers’ pictures and daring myself to try something they did.”

Shelley C.

Shelley Made: S’mores Cheesecake (see more at her blog, C Mom Cook)

Comments: “I am not sure that this represents my full culinary journey, but it’s the flavor combination that has popped into my head first for each of the challenges. So I finally used it for the cheesecake challenge – s’mores.

It didn’t work out exactly as I’d intended. I’d envisioned it more like the ones you make, with the cheesecake layer topped with another full layer. I’d planned on making the top layer be a rich chocolate mousse with marshmallow pieces folded into it. But then my cheesecake layer came all the way to the top of the springform pan (and here I was thinking my pan was big), so I had to switch to plan B – extra ganache and toasted marshmallows!

The result was delicious. Decadently sweet and truly delicious. I’d like to try again, to see if I can make my original vision work. And I can’t wait to try lots more cheesecake varieties, thanks to you (you are truly a cheesecake queen!). Thanks so much for these awesome challenges. I have had a lot of fun with them and am really proud to have been a part of this fun month with you.”

Congratulations to all of the participants of Challenge #5 for their fantastic work!

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9 Comments on The Big Reveal: Willow Bird Baking’s FINAL Challenge #5 Cheesecakes

  1. Robyn
    November 3, 2012 at 6:57 pm (9 years ago)

    Sweet fancy cheesecakes! Love these ambitious creations, I’ll never look at cheesecake the same way again! Hate to say goodbye, these challenges have been so much fun and I learned a ton and met great folks. Thanks Julie, you kick some serious baker butt! And congratulations to everyone, great work and can’t wait to see more of you on the interwebs!!

  2. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen
    November 3, 2012 at 7:29 pm (9 years ago)

    Thanks Julie for putting together these challenges, they were wonderful and so interesting! Nice to have met all the other food bloggers too!

  3. Shelley C
    November 3, 2012 at 7:41 pm (9 years ago)

    WOW. These cheesecakes are AMAZING. I want to try each and every one of them! Julie, you have been such an inspiration this whole month. Thank you!!!

  4. Shanna@ pineapple and coconut
    November 3, 2012 at 8:33 pm (9 years ago)

    Thank you again so much Julie! This was so much fun to have been able to take part of not to mention challenging. I am so bummed I didn’t find out about it until after the first challenge since cinnamon rolls are one of my specialties. But I am glad I joined in regardless. The cheesecake challenge was a lot of fun even with my mishaps. I really learned so much from you and all the other bakers. Can’t wait for another challenge!!

  5. Trudy
    November 3, 2012 at 11:38 pm (9 years ago)

    Those cakes look amazing!! Thanks again for hosting these challenges!!

  6. Ala
    November 4, 2012 at 3:09 am (9 years ago)

    Oh gosh, Julie–love, love, and total love! This was truly one of the funnest challenges I’ve ever participated in; it was all so personable and intimate, and I really loved feeling like a part of the willow bird baking community. I do believe I finished 4 of the challenges as well 🙂 I’m disappointed that I had to miss the final week, but thanks again for a very fun time!

  7. Desi
    November 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm (9 years ago)

    OMG can we please get the recipe or blog for the Carrot Cheesecake with Pineapple Cake & Mango Mousse??! Pretty please?! I am in awe of these!

    • Kelly
      November 5, 2012 at 10:29 pm (9 years ago)

      Hi Desi,

      For the cheesecake, I used Julie’s basic recipe – 3 blocks of 8 oz cream cheese, 3 eggs, plus 1.5 T of flour etc. I added a couple tablespoons of rum because I am a little obsessed with boozy desserts. I grated my carrots really finely in my food processor. I had about a 2/3 cup but I didn’t measure. There was still a bit of a crunch after baking so if you don’t want that (I loved it!), you can cook the grated carrots briefly in a bit of the sugar and a little bit of butter. That was one too many steps for me though.
      You can add whatever spices you like in carrot cake – e.g., ginger and/or cinnamon. I forgot to add some but with that splash of rum, it definitely didn’t need it.
      Pineapple cake – I added pineapple juice to a basic yellow cake. When I get home I can tell you exactly which one I used. If you’re really into shortcuts, use a yellow cake mix and use pineapple juice for water.
      For the mousse: Oh this was a last minute decision at midnight when I wasn’t sure if my mirror (not pictured) would work. Here’s a link to the mousse from the Trang’s Kitchen:
      http://my.opera.com/trangskitchen/blog/orange-mousse-joconde-cake. Julie also has a clementine mousse.
      This isn’t what I did though. As I mentioned, it was midnight and I didn’t have cream, so I did a jello chiffon pie. When I get home I will look for the paper on which I scribbled my notes. It was just mango Jell-O plus eggs and milk.

  8. Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen
    November 7, 2012 at 2:55 am (9 years ago)

    I’m bummed I didn’t have my act together enough to participate in all of the challenges, but I sure have enjoyed seeing how creative everyone is!

    Thanks Julie for hosting this and I hope you do something like this again!


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