Cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts and it is also one of my favorite recipes to play with.  I have made cheesecakes with apples, blueberries, chocolate, caramel, peanut butter, white chocolate, butterscotch, toffee…and the list goes on.  However, until today, I had not made a cheesecake with coffee.

As a general rule I’m not particularly fond of coffee – at least as a beverage.  When I do drink coffee it has so much cream, sugar and flavored syrup in it that I’m really not sure you could even call it coffee anymore.  That being said, it probably isn’t that strange that I love coffee ice cream, mocha ice cream, a little bit of coffee in my hot chocolate or even mocha flavored candy.  While I was growing up it wasn’t unusual for me to choose coffee milk even over chocolate milk as my beverage of choice.

So I got to thinking…why not a mocha cheesecake?  I can’t claim it is a completely original idea, but this recipe is my version so follow along and I’ll introduce you to my interpretation of mocha cheesecake…

This cheesecake, like many of my chocolate cheesecakes, has a brownie crust.  Before we roll up our sleeves and dig into the cheesecake recipe we are going to want to prepare a brownie batter to use for the crust.  I recommend the Mocha Chocolate Chunk brownies which I created specifically for this purpose, but any brownie batter you love will work.  We are going to bake the batter in the bottom of our spring form pan.  Remember to under bake them; they will be baking again along with the cheesecake.

This is approximately what your brownie crust should look like after you remove it from the oven.  Let’s set that aside to cool while we work on our cheesecake.  Don’t forget to preheat the oven to 350° for the cheesecake.

Step 1: Prepare the flavors

This is the milk chocolate and coffee that we are going to be melting together to flavor the base cheesecake.

This is the bittersweet chocolate and coffee that we are going to melt together to as additional flavor for a small portion of the cheesecake.

After heating in the microwave for about 30 seconds and stirring this is what our milk chocolate based mocha looks like.

And this is our bittersweet chocolate based mocha after the same proccess.  I could quite happily grab that spoon and eat this just as it is, but let’s set it aside for a little later.

Step 2: We can’t make cheesecake without cheese – cream cheese; the real stuff, not fat free or reduced fat.

We are going to cream together the cream cheese and sugar.  This is an important part of getting the perfect creamy texture for our cheese cake. Put our cream cheese (room temperature please!) and sugar in a large mixing bowl and begin beating.  Start off slow and gradually increase the speed.

This is what we want it to look like when we are done creaming it.  Let’s make sure to scrape down the bowl before we begin adding the eggs – we don’t want to miss any of that sweet creamy cheese.

Next we’ll mix in the eggs.  We are going to do this one at a time mixing completely after each addition (and scraping down the bowl).  This may seem like it takes a little longer than just dumping all of the eggs in, but a single egg incorporates into the batter more quickly and completely than 5 can.  Even if it does take a smidge longer, it is worth it to ensure our evenutal creamy texture.

And our patience is rewarded by this lovely batter.  But we still have a few more items to add before we can bring our flavors to the mix…

Last but not least, let’s get our flour, sour cream and vanilla mixed in (okay, so there isn’t any vanilla in that picture, but I assure you I did get it added in off camera).  If you were to stop right after mixing these ingredients in and bake your batter you would have a basic cheese cake that certainly wouldn’t disappoint – but that wouldn’t be mocha, now would it?

Step 3: It’s flavor time!

We are going to slowly blend in our milk chocolate mocha mixture.  Get it all scraped into the mixing bowl and blend just until we have a uniform color.

Then we are going to pour 3/4 of our batter (gently!) over the top of our cooled brownie layer, reserving the remaining quarter of the batter in our mixing bowl.  Take note of the pastry bag in the bottom of this picture – we are going to need that for the next step.  But first, a little more flavor…

Remember that bittersweet chocolate based mocha we made?  Now’s the time to use it.  Let’s get that mixed into the remaining 1/4 of our cheesecake batter.  This will create a nicely contrasting color to our base batter and a richer flavor.

Step 4: Polka dots?

If you wanted you could easily skip this step. It is not necessary to the flavor or texture of the cake and it would be simpler by far to swirl the darker batter into the lighter batter for a marbled look – but where’s the fun in that?

Grab that pastry bag we had earlier and fill it with our bittersweet mocha batter.  Insert the tip into the light mocha batter that is in the pan and apply enough pressure to the bag to inject the bittersweet mocha batter below the surface of the light mocha batter.  You will want to keep the pressure continuous to avoid causing air pockets.  The lighter batter may bulge up in places as you do this, don’t worry it will even out during baking.  Try to space your injections more or less evenly and not too close together – we don’t want our polka dots to bleed into each other.  I don’t have any action shots of this because I needed two hands to maintain the pressure on the pastry bag, but this should give you a good idea of what we are looking for when we finish our injections.

Step 5: Apply the heat.

Let’s get this cake into the oven, or we’ll never get a chance to try it!  Start off at 350° for 15 minutes.  Then lower the temperature to 250° for another hour or so.  Remember that cheesecake is essentially a custard and custards respond best to longer baking at a lower temperature.  This helps to keep the top from drying and cracking and generally creates a creamier cheesecake.  Good things are always worth waiting for.

When the cake is firm and the center is still slightly wiggly turn the oven off, but leave the cake in the oven for another hour.  Then remove the cake to a rack on the counter to cool completely before covering and refrigerating.

If you like, this is another good stopping point.  You will certainly get the mocha experience from this just as it is, but I have always liked toppings on my cheesecake.

Step 6: Topping things off.

I’m sure you’ve already guessed that we’ll be finishing this all off with just a little more mocha.  Let’s get our bittersweet chocolate, butter, cream and instant coffee all into a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on high for 30 – 40 seconds and then let it stand for about 2 minutes.  This will give the chocolate a chance to soften up.

It is going to start off looking like a mess.  We’re just going to start stirring at the center in small circles.  It will start to come together, trust me.

See?  Silky smooth and perfectly beautiful.  Let’s get that on top of our chilled cheesecake.

We’re just going to spread that out over the top of the cheesecake.  Don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth, you’ll just frustrate yourself and I think those ripples are rather nice – gives it character.  Once our ganache sets up we’ll be ready to dig in.

Step 7: Mmmmm!

I managed to get a piece sliced and take a picture so I could show you those cute little polka dots.  Believe me it was a true exercise in restraint!  Now…where’s my fork?