Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake
For yet another Thanksgiving dessert that I made for one of the 2 families we were visiting, I decided to make a decadently delicious cheesecake. But not just any cheesecake. No. I wanted something to knock the socks off of anyone who tried it and that was a cheesecake to be remembered by. After all, if you’re going to be visiting family, you have to make your sweets count, right?
Having come across this little recipe a few months back on epicurious.com where I learned that this wasn’t just an ordinary cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. This was a cheesecake extravaganza with a chocolate wafer crust, a heavenly layer of Kahlua flavored ganache topped with a cream cheese layer that’s enhanced with dark rum. As if this wasn’t enough to capture your attention already, this confection is then topped with a layer of sweetened sour cream and THEN finished off with piped ganache lattice work and chocolate covered espresso beans. Do I have you swooning yet?
This does take a bit of time to come together…not to mention a few mishaps that befell me during it’s construction. After baking the sour cream layer, you are supposed to let it cool in the fridge for about 3 hours till set. 15 minutes into its cooling process, in a tragic mission to remove a container of stew from the fridge set behind the cheesecake, I found myself having to redo the sour cream layer and bake it again. 5 minutes into the cooling phase (take 2), I found myself attempting to place a cooling rack on top of the cheesecake pan so I could place something on top and maximize the space in my crowded fridge. After what seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea at the time, I found myself redoing the sour cream layer yet again. 3rd time’s the charm. Take it from me!
What I did learn out of all of these shenanigans is that surprisingly this cheesecake is pretty forgiving. I employed a psuedo water bath to bake this and I think that minimized the possibility of overcooking or scorching as most other cheesecakes are wont to do. So from first hand experience, if something goes amuck during one of the layers of this cake, fear not! It’ll work out and produce an exquisite cheesecake in the end.
To that end, I must say that this cheesecake was by far the richest cheesecake that I’ve ever made. Hands down. The recipe says it will yield 12 servings but believe me, you can easily feed twice that many. It’s one of those cakes that must be savored not only because you should, but I think because you have to. For all of you chocolate and coffee lovers out there, this cheesecake is for you!
Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake
Adapted from Bon Appétit | February 2002
Recipes says serves 12, I think you can easily serve 20 and be fine
1 9oz box chocolate wafer cookies (I used Nabisco Chocolate Wafers)
6 oz bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used mini chocolate chips to save on time)
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
7 tablespoons hot melted unsalted butter
For Kahlua ganache
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
20 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Kahlúa or other coffee-flavored liqueur
For cheesecake filling
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons dark rum
4 tablespoons instant espresso powder or coffee crystals
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons molasses (I used dark)
4 large eggs
For sweetened sour cream topping
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Chocolate covered espresso coffee beans (optional for garnish)
Prepare a 10″ springform pan with at least 3″ high sides by tightly wrapping the entire outside with 2-4 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil to prevent leakage. Make sure to have the “lip” of the springform bottom facing downwards, you’ll want the smooth, flat surface facing inwards. If you plan on transporting your cheesecake, you can also cut a cardboard round to fit the bottom of the springform and wrap that disc in foil before placing inside the pan as I did.
To prepare crust, finely grind chocolate wafer cookies, chopped chocolate, brown sugar, and nutmeg in processor until incorporated. Add butter and process until crumbs begin to stick together, scraping down bowl occasionally, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to your prepared springform pan and press crumb mixture firmly down onto bottom and up sides of pan within 1/2″ of the top edge. I usually find that using the bottom and sides of one my 2/3 cup measure cup works best to evenly press the crumbs into the pan.
Next prepare the ganache by bring whipping cream to simmer in large saucepan. Remove from heat and add in the mini chocolate chips and Kahlua. Whisk constantly until all the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth. Feel free to get a good whiff of this mixture’s chocolately and Kahlualy goodness. Pour 2 cups (yes 2 cups!) of ganache over bottom of crust and freeze until ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes. Reserve remaining ganache; cover and store in fridge to firm up. You’ll remove it later and bring it to room temperature to use to make your lattice pattern and other accents.
Once ganache layer is firm and ready to go, prepare the cheesecake filling. Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until blended. Beat in flour. Stir rum, espresso powder, vanilla, and molasses in small bowl until instant coffee dissolves; beat into cream cheese mixture. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.
Liz note: One key thing to remember when making cheesecake filling is DO NOT OVERBEAT! Overbeating will create air bubbles in the filling which in turn will give you cracked cheesecake tops which in turn results in sad pandas.
Pour filling over cold ganache in crust. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven. Here, I employed a makeshift water bath to ensure even baking and prevent scorching. Rather than employ a traditional water bath here for the sake of time, I placed a rack directly below where the cheesecake was baking and placed a large, shallow pan directly underneath it, filled about halfway full with hot water. Bake cheesecake until top is brown, puffed and cracked at edges, and center 2 inches moves only slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Transfer cheesecake to rack. Cool 15 minutes while preparing topping (top of cheesecake will fall slightly). Maintain oven temperature.
Whisk sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl to blend. Pour topping over hot cheesecake, spreading to cover filling completely. Bake until topping is set, about 10 minutes. Transfer cheesecake to rack and refrigerate hot cheesecake on rack until cool, about 3 hours.
Run small sharp knife between crust and pan sides to loosen cake; release pan sides. Transfer cheesecake to platter. Spoon reserved ganache into pastry bag fitted with small star tip. Pipe 6 diagonal lines atop cheesecake, spacing 1 inch apart. Repeat in opposite direction, making lattice. Pipe rosettes of ganache around top edge of cake. Garnish with coffee beans, if desired. Chill until lattice is firm, at least 6 hours. (Can be made 4 days ahead. Wrap loosely in foil, forming dome over lattice; keep chilled.)