These easy, luscious Dark Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Parfaits combine layers of sweetened cherries, dark chocolate cheesecake filling, cookie crumbles, and freshly whipped cream for a truly decadent treat. They can easily be prepared ahead and assembled just before serving.
The Mayans believed that the cacao bean held sacred energy. Cacao was used by the Mayans during rituals related to birth, marriage, and death. The beans were ground and mixed with spices and chilies to create frothy drinks. These drinks would be considered very bitter by today’s standards, but during the Classic era they were treasured. In Mayan burial tombs, archaeologists have discovered vases painted with depictions of gods fighting over cacao beans. A cacao tree even plays a central role in the Mayan creation story.
When the Spanish arrived in the New World, they realized that sweetening cacao would result in a tastier drink. Today, we only consume sweetened versions of cacao, known to us as chocolate. It has become perhaps the most beloved sweet flavor in the world. In these irresistible dessert parfaits, dark chocolate is melted into a ricotta cheesecake mixture, then layered with Grand Marnier-infused cherries, cookie crumbles and fresh whipped cream. I can only imagine how the Mayans might have celebrated if presented with such a treat!
Food Photography and Styling by Kelly Jaggers
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- 1 1/2 lbs frozen pitted sweet cherries
- 1/2 cup cup sugar, divided
- 1/4 cup Grand Marnier (you may substitute 1/4 cup water)
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 3/4 cup dark chocolate (pieces or chips)
- 3 tbsp whole or lowfat milk
- Pinch of salt
- 8 oz ricotta cheese (1/2 cup)
- 4 oz Greek yogurt (1/4 cup)
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 cups chocolate cookies, crushed
- 1/2 cup shaved dark chocolate or toasted slivered almonds for topping (optional)
You will also need
- double boiler, stand mixer or hand mixer, mixing bowls, food processor or plastic storage bag and rolling pin, 8 parfait cups
- In a medium saucepan, combine the cherries, 1/4 cup sugar and Grand Marnier over medium heat and mix to combine. Stir and cook until the cherries are hot and bubbly.
- In a separate dish, whisk together the cornstarch and lemon juice. Add cornstarch mixture to the cherries and cook for 2 additional minutes, stirring until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and transfer the cherries to a bowl. Refrigerate until the mixture is chilled and thick.
- In a double-boiler combine dark chocolate, 3 tbsp sugar, milk and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly until the mixture is smooth. Combine ricotta, Greek yogurt and vanilla in a stand mixer or large mixing bowl and whip until thoroughly mixed. While the chocolate mixture is warm, but not hot, slowly pour it into the cheese mixture while whisking. Beat until everything is incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Crush the chocolate cookies in a food processor or place them in a plastic storage bag and crush with a rolling pin.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whip together heavy cream and 1 tbsp sugar until stiff peaks form.
- To assemble: Place 2 tbsp of the cookies in the bottom of 8 parfait cups. Evenly distribute the chocolate cheesecake mixture between the cups. Add an additional 2 tbsp layer of the crushed cookies to each parfait. Evenly distribute the chilled cherry mixture between the cups. Divide the whipped cream evenly between the 8 cups to top the parfaits. Garnish each parfait with chocolate shavings or sliced almonds. Chill for at least 3 hours before serving, up to overnight. Make sure you top with heavy whipping cream rather than bottled whipped cream, which will deflate over time.
- This dessert can be made ahead. Simply make the cherry filling, whipped cream and chocolate cheesecake mixture and crush the cookies. Store these elements separately in the refrigerator. Assemble the parfaits just before serving to keep the cookies from becoming soggy.