My kind of man, my kind of birthday cake – Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

dark chocolate cheesecakeWhat better opportunity is there to bake homemade treats than for a birthday celebration? Naturally, I’ve become the birthday treat baker for all the birthday boys and girls in my department at work. Every birthday is an opportunity to get creative. It’s an adventure to find or invent a recipe that both the birthday person and I will love and be proud of. I’ve made flourless almond brownies, monster cookies, fruit crisp, blueberry lemon bars and an assortment of other cookies.

Dan's birthday cheesecake

Do you see the cheesecake?

But what I love best is baking for my favorite person. My husband Dan requested two ridiculously chocolate-laden desserts for his birthday Saturday – chocolate cheesecake and dark chocolate brownies with earl gray ganache. I just had to smile at his request. Daily I am reminded of why I fell in love with him. Daily I find more reasons to keep falling in love. Deep, dark chocolate is a good reason, right? He loves it. I love it. We love each other. Simple.

My senior year of high school we were all required to write a research paper. Subject options were as broad as you could imagine. And what do you think I decided to write my first research paper on? You guessed it: dark chocolate. I titled it something like “Dark Chocolate is Good For You.” And it is. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants, lowers blood pressure, can improve your mood and contains a number of minerals, including calcium, magnesium and potassium.

I researched deep into the history of the cocoa bean for that paper, learning about how it was originally served as a bitter, frothy liquid, mixed with spices and was believed to have aphrodisiac powers. The Aztecs believed that cacao seeds were the gift of the god of wisdom and even used the seeds as a form of currency.

I get that. Chocolate holds a certain powerful and valuable aura of mystery to me. When I first tasted Violet Sky single-origin chocolate, I was transported to chocolate heaven. I had no idea the bean and the roast could produce such a distinct flavor. Each chocolate he makes using beans from a different country and each has a different magic.

70% Icelandic Chocolate by Nói SíríusI’m not so sure I could bring myself to bake with Violet Sky chocolate. Not just because it would drain my chocolate funds, but more because I’d be afraid to muck up that pure flavor. So for my baking I use 70% Icelandic Chocolate by Nói Síríus available at Whole Foods Market. It is excellent baking chocolate and quite a good price for higher percentage cocoa chocolate.

So I made both dark chocolate cheesecake and brownies for Dan’s birthday party and he loved both. There was quite a debate on which dessert was better, but in the end, I preferred the cheesecake and it had completely vanished by the end of the party. We still have brownies left over. I think that shows a clear winner.

I hope you’ll like this cheesecake as much as I do. Be sure to make this a day ahead.


Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

Recipe adapted from epicurious

Ingredients
Crust
24 chocolate wafer cookies (from one 9-ounce package)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

Filling
10 ounces of 70% dark chocolate, chopped
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ganache
1 cup whipping cream
8 ounces 70% dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract

Preparation

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter 9-inch-diameter spring form pan. Blend cookies in food processor until finely ground. Add melted butter and process until well blended. Press crumbs evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake just until set, about 5 minutes.

cheesecake in the mixerFor filling:
Stir chocolate constantly in saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Cool chocolate until lukewarm but still pourable. Blend cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder in mixer until smooth. Blend in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in lukewarm chocolate and vanilla. Pour filling over crust; smooth top. Bake until center is just set and appears a bit dry, about 1 hour. Cool 5 minutes. Run knife around sides of cake to loosen. Chill overnight.

For topping:
Stir cream, 8 ounces chocolate, honey, vanilla and almond extract in small saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Pour over center of cheesecake, spreading to within 1/2 inch of edge and filling any cracks. Chill until topping is set, about 1 hour.

Release pan sides. Transfer cheesecake to platter. Let stand 2 hours at room temperature before serving.

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