Dessert First ❊ Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake

I promised to write about the dishes I made for the Culinary Enthusiast’s birthday this year, and in the spirit of dessert first (as suggested by Barbara, aka Smidge at Just a Smidgen), I’m starting with the cheesecake.

For as long as I’ve known the CE he’s been raving about a chocolate espresso cheesecake he had in a food emporium downtown long before I met him. So this year I decided to make one as the crowning glory of his birthday dinner. Now mind you, I’d never tasted this particular cake before, so I was winging it from his description.

I looked at some recipes on the internet, all of which called for espresso powder. Instead, I decided to go to a certain Seattle-based coffee shop and purchase a few shots of espresso. (I felt rather pleased about that idea, since I didn’t want a can of espresso powder languishing in the cupboard, taking up precious room.) I didn’t want the chocolate flavour to overpower the espresso, so I used a moderate amount of semi-sweet. You’ll also notice that this is a crustless cheesecake … really, with all that richness, do you honestly need  a crust? If you do, you can easily make one with some crushed chocolate wafers and butter, or some graham cracker crumbs, butter and chocolate — you won’t hurt my feelings.

A final consideration in developing this recipe was that we didn’t need a lot of leftover cheesecake sitting around the house, luring us with its siren song of decadence. So I made only a third of a normal recipe, which yielded exactly the right amount for two four-inch springform pans. It was much easier to serve a whole tiny cheesecake instead of fussing with slices, and made for a special presentation. And while I say “tiny,” half of one would have been more than enough for me. That said, I ate the whole thing anyway. (I wonder if I can find 2-inch springform pans, since I seem to have trouble stopping halfway through a dessert?)

I’m pleased to say that the CE now has a new cheesecake to rave about. It seems I came quite close to replicating the original, and he was so pleased by the result. It had a good depth of chocolate flavour but the espresso shone through. The texture of the cake was quite creamy compared to others I’ve made in the past, due to the amount of melted chocolate and espresso that I added to the batter. With a topping of chocolate ganache flavoured with more espresso, and the added extravagance of some silver dragées for birthday bling, it looked spectacular. Just the ticket for a special celebration!

Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake

This recipe makes two 4-inch cakes. Pre-heat oven to 325º. Butter two four-inch springform pans, line the bottom with parchment paper and then butter the paper. Wrap the bottoms and sides of the pans in foil and place in a baking dish. 

  • 250 g (8 oz) cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp espresso

Ganache Espresso Glaze

  • 2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1-1/2 tbsp cream or more if needed
  • 2 tbsp espresso or more if needed

Cake: Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water, then set aside. Whip the cream cheese until light and creamy, then add the sugar, egg and vanilla and mix well. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times during this process to ensure a smooth and even consistency. Incorporate the chocolate, then add the espresso.

Near the end of the mixing process, put the kettle on to boil.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Set the baking dish on the middle rack of the hot oven, and very carefully (don’t splash!) add the hot water from the kettle to a level about halfway up the baking pans. (This is a water bath, or bain marie – don’t you like using these special baking terms?). Gently slide the rack all the way into the oven, and bake the cheesecakes for about 40 minutes, or until the centres are firm but not cracked.

Carefully remove the pans from the water bath, remove the foil and set on a rack to cool at room temperature. I made mine the night ahead and after they were completely cooled wrapped them and stored in the fridge. Remove and unwrap them about an hour before you’re going to serve them.

Ganache: To make the ganache espresso topping, melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over simmering water, along with the cream and espresso. Stir to incorporate the ingredients well. Adjust the amount of espresso and cream to achieve a creamy, pourable consistency. Let the ganache cool somewhat, but not enough to set.

To assemble, run a knife around the sides of the cakes, then open the spingform pans and place the cheesecakes on serving plates. They can be upside-down or right side up; either way, remove the parchment paper. Pour the ganache in the centre of each cake and use a knife or spatula to encourage it to spill over the sides. If desired, festoon with silver dragées.


  1. Great job, Mar! This is definitely on my ‘must bake’ list. In fact, I have to find 4″ pans. I could bake a couple and freeze them. That’s a far better alternative than making a 9″ cake and eating all by myself — not that there’s anything really wrong with that! 🙂

    • I have it on good authority that if you convert a 9-inch cheesecake to 6 4-inch pans, and eat all of those, it’s less calories than eating the whole 9-inch cheese cake. At least, I think it works that way? 😕

      Love the idea of freezing cheesecake. Never know when you feel like having a sweet pick-me-up without having to bake!

  2. The four-inch version of this is just brilliant! I know that I have one smaller spring form pan — I’ll double-check the size and then look at getting a second one for just this purpose. (Like you I don’t want all the left-over cheese cake calling my name from the fridge.) You did a beautiful job of this cheesecake Marlene!

    • Thank you, Barb! So nice to hear your positive feedback. I think a 3-inch pan would probably be the perfect size for a single serving cheesecake. Of course, that’s a personal preference, but we both found the 4 inch a little too much. (Not that that stopped us from finishing them, but there may have been a little regret involved 😊).

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