Who has two thumbs, sticks candles in a cheesecake and calls it her birthday cake?  This girl.  Yep, I’m another year older, and we marked the occasion with this divine dessert.  Normally I treat my birthday cake selection as a matter of great importance.  There are numerous possibilities that I consider, taking the whole thing far too seriously.  This year for whatever reason, there was no debate.  I realized I hadn’t made a cheesecake in probably close to two years, decided it most certainly had to be chocolate, and that was that.  Case closed.

I can’t say I regret the decision in the slightest.  In fact, I’m going to say that this is the best birthday selection I’ve made since the chocolate overdose cake.  (Are you seeing a pattern here?)  You really can’t go wrong with a chocolate cookie crust, rich and silky cheesecake filling, and glossy ganache topping it all off.  Andrew has been really into birthdays lately – whose birthday is next, etc., and he selected these birthday candles for me.  What can I say?  He’s got great taste!  He was very excited to help me blow them out.  Even though this was a birthday cake in our house, I’m sharing it now because I think it’s ideal for Valentine’s Day.  V-day desserts typically fall into one of three categories:  red/pink, heart-shaped, or super chocolatey.  At least for me, the latter wins my heart every time.

  • Yield at least 16 servings


For the crust:
1½ cups finely ground chocolate cookie crumbs*
3 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake: 
½ cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. espresso powder or instant coffee granules
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
¼ tsp. salt
1¼ cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature

For the glaze: 
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

*Most recipes call for Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers but I can never find them.   I generally use Oreos and scrape off the cream filling.  


  • 01

    To make the crust, preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with a round of parchment paper.  In a medium bowl combine the cookie crumbs, sugar, and melted butter.  Stir with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened.  Add the crumb mixture to the springform pan and gently press about 1 inch up the sides of the pan.  Press the rest of the crumbs into an even layer over the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Reduce the oven temperature to 300˚ F.

  • 02

    To make the filling, combine the sour cream, vanilla, and espresso powder in a small bowl.  Whisk to blend and set aside.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave (in short intervals, stirring frequently) until completely smooth.  Set aside and let cool slightly.

  • 03

    In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, cocoa powder, and salt.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the sugar and continue mixing about 2-3 minutes more, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Add the cooled chocolate to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed.  Beat in the sour cream mixture just until evenly blended.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing each just until incorporated.  (Don’t over-beat once the eggs are added or the cheesecake will puff too much.)

  • 04

    Pour the filling into the cooled crust.  Bake until the center jiggles very slightly when nudged, about 50-60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 1-2 hours.  Then cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 8 hours or overnight.  (In my opinion, the greatest disservice you can do your cheesecake is not chilling it long enough.  Always let it chill completely through.  I promise, it will be worth the wait!)

  • 05

    To make the glaze, place the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan or in the microwave.  Pour over the chocolate and let stand briefly, 1-2 minutes.  Whisk just until a smooth ganache has formed.  Whisk in the butter until completely incorporated.  Pour the glaze in an even layer over the chilled cheesecake.  Chill thoroughly.

  • 06

    To serve, carefully unmold the sides of the springform.  Run a sharp knife under hot water to warm the blade, and wipe dry with a towel.  Slice cleanly, wiping the blade between slices and reheating as necessary.  Serve chilled.