Every year I get really excited about making my own birthday cake.  And every year, I spend nearly the entire month before my birthday agonizing over what cake to choose.  There are so many options, and given the ridiculous amount of time I spend thinking about it, this is apparently a life or death decision.  First I think cheesecake – then I think a more classic cake – then I think something extravagant, or something fun that no one else will ever ask me for – and then I go back to the beginning, and the cycle starts again.  This year it got so bad that I finally decided to write all my choices on slips of paper, throw them on the floor and let Andrew pick one randomly.  Incidentally, the very first option I had considered was this cheesecake, and it was the first slip of paper he picked up (…and then he tried to eat it.)

So cheesecake it was.  But not just any cheesecake – cappuccino fudge cheesecake.  Hello, gorgeous.  The base is a chocolate cookie crumb crust with a layer of ganache on the bottom.  The filling is a rich, smooth coffee-flavored cheesecake and the topping is a thin layer of sweetened vanilla sour cream (I know, that sounds gross but it’s not – trust me.)  Garnished with more ganache and chocolate-covered espresso beans – oh yeah.  I think this cake speaks for itself, and it really shouldn’t take much convincing to get you to try it.  My whole family enjoyed it, and I had to leave most of it with them to avoid devouring it by myself.  I had a few issues making this, but I think they were entirely related to my level of exhaustion at the time I was baking it.  My next birthday is now less than 11 months away.  I suppose I should begin deliberating now…

  • Yield about 16 servings


For the crust:
32 chocolate sandwich cookies, finely processed into crumbs
5 1/3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt

For the ganache:
1½ cups heavy cream
20 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup coffee flavored liqueur

For the filling:
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1½ tbsp. all-purpose flour
1½ tbsp. dark rum
2 tbsp. instant espresso powder
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ tsp. mild-flavored (light) molasses
3 large eggs

For the topping:
1½ cups sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract


  • 01

    To make the crust, butter a 9-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet.  Combine the chocolate cookie crumbs, melted butter and salt in a small bowl.  Toss with a fork to moisten all of the crumbs.  Press into a thin layer covering the bottom and sides of the springform pan (at least 3 inches up the sides).

  • 02

    Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  Place the chocolate in a medium bowl.  Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes.  Add the coffee flavored liqueur and whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed.  Pour 2 cups of the ganache over the bottom of the crust.  Freeze until the ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes.  Reserve the remaining ganache; cover and let stand at room temperature for later decorating.

  • 03

    Preheat the oven to 350˚ F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until well blended.  Beat in the flour.  In a small bowl, combine the rum, espresso powder, vanilla and molasses, stirring until the espresso powder dissolves.  Add to the cream cheese mixture and beat until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition.

  • 04

    Pour the filling over the cold ganache in the crust.  Place the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until the top is lightly browned, puffed and cracked at the edges, and the center moves only very slightly when the pan is lightly shaken, about 1 hour.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack.  Cool 15 minutes while preparing the topping (maintaining the oven temperature.)

  • 05

    To make the topping, whisk together the sour cream, sugar and vanilla in a small bowl.  Pour the topping over the hot cheesecake, spreading to cover the filling completely.  Bake until the topping is set, about 10-15 minutes.  Return to the cooling rack and let cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.  Transfer to the refrigerator and let cool at least 3 hours, until completely chilled and set.

  • 06

    To finish, wrap a warm towel around the outside of the springform pan to help loosen the crust from the sides.  Carefully remove the springform.  Transfer the cake to a serving platter.  Place the reserved ganache in a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and use to garnish the top of the cake as desired.  Garnish with chocolate-covered espresso beans as desired.  Chill until the ganache is completely firm, at least 6 hours.