Melodie Belcher from LaGrange, GA, won runner-up in our 2011 White Cake Contest with her recipe for Layered Peppermint Cheesecake.
Meet Runner-Up Melodie Belcher
Meet Runner-Up Melodie Belcher
| Credit: Photo courtesy of Melodie Belcher

Melodie's signature peppermint cheesecake has become a requirement at her annual holiday party. "Guests threaten not to attend if I don't make it," she says (jokingly, we think!). So when Melodie heard about the contest, she decided to incorporate her famous cheesecake into a layer cake and whipped up a white chocolate mousse frosting to pair with the peppermint flavor. We loved this cake for its childlike whimsy, candy crunch, and—hello!—hidden layers of cheesecake. Read on to learn about her inspiration for the cake and get the recipe.

Q: Where did you grow up? Have you always lived in Georgia?
My dad was an NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Services) agent, so I grew up all over the world. I was a flight attendant based in Atlanta before becoming an attorney. Later, I settled in LaGrange and have lived here for 26 years.

Q: Tell us about your family.
I've been married to the same man for many wonderful years and have two grown children. My daughter is an attorney in Atlanta, and my son is in law school in Florida. We are a family of lawyers, except for my husband-he's in sales.

Q: What made you decide on peppermint cheesecake for a holiday layer cake?
I've been making my peppermint cheesecake for years. So one day I was playing online and happened upon the Southern Living cake contest, and it just came to me: Why not use my cheesecake as part of a new layer cake? A new take on an old tradition. All it needed was a really good frosting, so I came up with a white chocolate mousse frosting to pair nicely with the peppermint flavor.

Q: How many times did you make the layered version of your cake before entering the contest? Did you have any tasters?
I only made it once! My husband, sister, son, and his best friend tasted it and loved it!

Q: Any other attempts before you submitted this particular cake?

Q: What's the first thing you did when you found out you were a finalist?
I was at a seminar with a bunch of lawyers and judges, and I told everyone. They were excited for me.

Q: How do you plan to spend your prize money?
I've already told my family that I will be buying new stainless pans and cookware with my prize money.

Q: Other than cake, what's your favorite holiday dessert?
Any kind of fruit pie.

Q: What's your favorite childhood memory during the holidays?
As a kid, I loved that the party was always at my house. Even when we lived overseas, my mother would invite lots of marines (who didn't have their spouses with them) over for holiday meals. Now, my house is the one to go to for "nonstop eating" during Christmas. I always have a crowd of family and friends throughout the holidays.

Q: What's your most memorable holiday disaster?
About two days before my holiday guests were to arrive, my husband casually sat on our glass cooktop (like you would sit on a countertop casually in the kitchen)—and it broke! How was I supposed to feed a houseful of people now? Luckily, my resourceful husband found an exact match (in little LaGrange, Georgia, of all places!) and was able to replace it the next day. Talk about a Christmas miracle...

Q: What do you usually leave for Santa on Christmas Eve?
Lots of homemade cookies and always something for the reindeer.

Q: Anything else to share?
I love, love, love to cook, and I like to make dessert more than I like to make dinner. This is my first recipe contest too.