Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake with Caramelized Sugar

If you're like me, when life gives you lemons, you want to make something more complicated than lemonade. Lately, my normal routine has been pretty hectic. With a new puppy and a new job among other things, some days I barely have time to eat, let alone cook something complex, and forget about having time to bake. Add in an unexpected curve ball from life, and you have a recipe for stress.

This past Saturday was the first day I had a morning with no pressing obligations in... well, I can't even remember. So, what did I want to do with my free morning? I wanted to bake. It needed to be chocolate, it needed to be fabulous, and it needed to have many, many steps involved. There's just something cathartic about whisking and chopping and making precise measurements -- well there is for me, anyway. Maybe it's the scientific certainty that appeals to me in times of stress. When there are so many other variables in life, I like knowing that I can make a caramel by simply heating sugar until it melts. No matter how much trouble it tries to give me along the way, I know if I wait patiently, it will work itself out eventually; science tells me it has to work out. If only life was as reliable as baking. 

I cobbled this cheesecake together from two different recipes since each recipe wasn't complex enough on its own for the kind of baking therapy I needed. I couldn't have been more thrilled with the results though: a chocolate crust smothered with chocolate ganache, piled high with chocolate cheesecake filling, and topped with sweetened sour cream. When chilled properly, it creates a visually stunning and incredibly tasty dessert. You can also drizzle extra ganache over the top or sprinkle it with berries for an even prettier presentation.

Plus, I've found that indulging in a slice of triple chocolate cheesecake with caramelized sugar also seems to have its own stress-relieving charms. Enjoy.


Triple Chocolate Cheesecake with Caramelized Sugar
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake and Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake

Chocolate Crust
8 ounces chocolate wafers (I like chocolate Teddy Grahams)
1/2 brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Chocolate Ganache*
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
20 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup Kahlua
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Note: this makes quite a bit of ganache, so if you do not want extra for decorating/drizzling, half the ingredients.

Chocolate Filling
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make crust:
Finely grind cookies in a food processor. Add brown sugar and salt; pulse to incorporate them into the cookie crumbs. Add melted butter and process until crumbs begin to stick together, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of processor if necessary. Transfer crumbs to 9-inch-diameter spring form pan. Gently press crumb mixture firmly up sides to within 1/2 inch of top edge, then over bottom of pan.

Make ganache:
Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a large saucepan. Remove from heat, and whisk in chocolate until it melts. Add corn syrup, Kahlua, and vanilla extract; stir until smooth. Pour 2 cups of the ganache over bottom of  the crust. Freeze until ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes.

Reserve remaining ganache and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature for later decorating. The room temperature ganache can be piped onto the cheesecake, or it can be gently reheated in order to drizzle over the cheesecake. Any additional leftovers can be stored in the fridge and used with berries or ice cream, etc.

Make filling:
Cook sugar in a large, heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring slowly, until the sugar melts and is a pale gold. Continue to cook the caramel, but do not stir once it has melted. Instead, slowly swirl the pan as needed, until caramel becomes a deep golden color. Don't be alarmed if the mixture initially has clumps of crystals in it. Keep slowly cooking it over low heat, and the lumps will all dissolve.

Once the caramel has reached its desired color and consistency, remove from heat and carefully add the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble up, and the caramel to harden into a ball. Cook over moderately low heat until caramel is dissolved, gently stirring the whole time. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until smooth. Stir in sour cream.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

On a medium speed, beat the softened cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Then beat in the slightly cooled chocolate mixture on low speed. Still using a low setting, beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Do not add the next egg until the last one is fully incorporated. Stop and scrape down the bowl in between each addition as well. Finally, beat in the vanilla extract and salt; ensure that the mixture is uniform.

Take the crust out of the freezer, and pour the chocolate filling over cold ganache; the filling will go nearly all of the way to the top. Place the cheesecake on a baking sheet (in order to catch any spills). Bake until the center two inches moves only slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 55-60 minutes.

Transfer the cheesecake to a cooling rack. Cool for about 15 minutes while preparing topping. The center of the cheesecake might sink a little as it cools; this is fine. Maintain oven temperature.

Make topping:
Whisk sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl to blend. Pour topping over hot cheesecake and spread to cover filling completely. Bake until topping is set, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer cheesecake to a cooling rack. Refrigerate hot cheesecake (while it is still on the cooling rack) until completely chilled, about six hours. If you wish to decorate the cheesecake by piping on the reserved ganache, do so at the three hour mark and then continue to chill.

Once ready to serve, run small sharp knife between crust and pan sides to loosen cake; release pan sides and gently transfer the cheesecake to a plate. Drizzle with warm ganache if desired. You might prefer to let the cheesecake come to room temperature before serving.

Note: Since this cheesecake is a little time-intensive, it's easier to make it the day before you want to serve it. This allows for flavors to meld better too.


  1. so delicious. you should come over to my house with your baking therapy treats more often. hope this week is better!

    1. Thanks Lindsey! I'm glad you liked it. Hopefully you can come over this weekend and sample some more baking therapy! :)