Yes, believe it or not, that's where the red colouring comes from, the Cochineal beetle. They are found in Mexico and South America and are farmed for their colour properties. If this all sounds a little freaky, have no fear--plain red food colouring is a fine substitute, and makes these delicious red velvet cheesecakes brilliant. Not only are they delightfully delicious, they make a truly impressive appearance on the table when guests are over. I added these to our St. Valentine's Day menu for dessert, and they were a hit!
MINI RED VELVET CHEESECAKES (Adapted recipe from Betty Crocker)
15 chocolate chip biscuits
2 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp butter, melted
400g cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder, extra
2 tsp. vanilla essence
2 tbsp. red food colouring
1/2 cup cream, beaten
Preheat oven at 180C.
In a small bowl, mix crushed biscuits with melted butter until well combined. Divide mixture among 12 foil regular sized cupcake cups (We used a silicone muffin pan instead) pressing into the base with a spoon.
Beat the cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth. Gradually add the sugar, and then the cocoa powder until fluffy. Add the vanilla and red food colouring. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until well incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly among the cups, ensuring the mixture comes up almost to the rim.
Bake for 20-15 minutes until the centres are firm to touch. Cool for 15 minutes in the tray. (centres may sink a little)
Refrigerate in tray/baking cups for at least two hours before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and cocoa powder if desired.
Makes approximately 12 cheesecakes
NOTES: You can use any preferred biscuits for the base.