Say cheese ... cake

W.Va. woman self-publishes cheesecake recipe book

W.Va. woman self-publishes cheesecake recipe book

July 16, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

INWOOD, W.Va. - Selena M. Draper takes her baking seriously.

After spending the two days before her 2000 wedding baking her own wedding cake, she was up at 5 a.m. on her wedding day putting the top tier and the finishing touches on the four-tier cake. Her wedding was at 11:30 a.m.

When Draper wanted to re-create her grandmother's cheesecake, a recipe her grandmother, the late Lorraine Richardson, could no longer find, Draper went to work experimenting. She made about 20 versions of cheesecake using sour cream and/or cottage cheese as a base. She tried both kinds because she remembered her grandmother had used different kinds of cheese, but she could never quite reproduce her grandmother's cheesecake.

"I still don't think mine's as good as hers," said Draper, 34, of Berkeley County, W.Va.

But others liked her cheesecake, including Darla Lee, who belongs to the same Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group as Draper.


Lee's favorite, Some More Cheesecake, is a cheesecake version of s'mores.

"Her cheesecakes are almost twice as high. They're real thick and rich," said Lee, of the Martinsburg area. When Draper brings one to MOPS, it goes quickly.

More than 50 flavors

Draper said her husband, Lloyd, a self-proclaimed idea man, suggested she write a cookbook about cheesecake.

Selena Draper's "50+ Cheesecakes" was released in May by PublishAmerica. It has 52 cheesecake recipes.

She knew she'd need more than just one recipe so she went to work creating different flavored cheesecakes.

Lloyd Draper suggested about 20 of the flavors, including oatmeal raisin cheesecake and mint chocolate chip cheesecake for his favorite ice cream flavor.

Selena Draper came up with about 30 flavors, including cookies and cream, pistachio, and root beer cheesecakes.

Everything Cheesecake comes from the everything cookie recipe of Lloyd's grandmother, Alva Draper. The filling includes chocolate, toffee and butterscotch chips as well as sweetened coconut.

The flavors most requested by family and friends are turtle, mocha and pia colada.

A family tradition

Cheesecake is Draper's favorite dessert, though probably for sentimental reasons, she said.

Draper was 10 years old when her grandmother asked her if she wanted some cheesecake. Picturing a big block of yellow cheese, Draper said she was apprehensive. Instead she was presented with a plain-looking, unfrosted cake that was crumbly, light and tasted rich.

"My grandmother made the most awesome cheesecake when I was little," Draper said of Mama, which she pronounced Mamaw. Richardson made her cheesecake in an iron skillet.

At the time, Draper lived in Wayne County, in what she refers to as "very rural West Virginia." It was an hour's drive to a Kroger grocery store, so they'd take a cooler packed with ice.

There also was little to do.

Too impatient to quilt - she comes from a long line of quilters - Draper turned to baking. Her mother didn't care what she did in the kitchen as long as she cleaned up her mess, Draper said.

"I like to cook and bake, pretty much every day," said Draper, now the mother of four.

Turning pro

She makes specialty cakes such as wedding and birthday cakes. A photo album of her decorated cakes includes elaborate illustrations of dinosaurs, Mr. Magoo and Star Wars characters.

She uses a projector to display the image on the cake so she can outline it with black food dye. Then she airbrushes food coloring to fill the outlines.

She's also made a cake shaped like a Washington Redskins helmet and, of course, her wedding cake.

"I wouldn't advise (making your own wedding cake)," Draper said. "It was an insane amount of stress."

In 2001, when her husband suggested she write a cookbook, Draper thought it was funny, but went ahead and came up with the idea and recipes for the cheesecake cookbook. She has a basic recipe, with cream cheese (and, if it's chocolate flavored, cocoa powder), that she adapts for different flavorings.

She wrote the cookbook in 2001, but didn't pursue publication at the time because she was fearful of possible rejection. She got over that fear last year.

"50+ Cheesecakes" costs $11.95 plus shipping and handling through and $14.95 plus shipping and handling through

Turtle cheesecake

2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
6 ounces, caramel sauce
6 ounces, chocolate syrup
1 cup, chopped pecans or pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, mix melted butter and graham cracker crumbs. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan and set aside.

Use an electric mixer to smooth together the blocks of cream cheese. Add the eggs, sugar, vanilla and cocoa. Beat until smooth.

Slowly, add the filling into the crust and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the center is nearly set. It's nearly set when the cheesecake jiggles just a little.

Once the cheesecake has cooled, release it from the spring form pan.

Use a spoon to drizzle the caramel sauce over the cheesecake; then drizzle on the chocolate syrup. Sprinkle the nuts on top.

Serves 12.

- Courtesy of Selena M. Draper, "50+ Cheesecakes"

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