The Spiced Life Café de Leche Cheesecake is a combination of classic flavors in a creamy, indulgent cheesecake. My mother begs for this dessert regularly.
“This is the best cheesecake I have ever had.”
I almost keeled over when those words came out of my mother’s mouth. I was pretty sure up until that point that I, with the Daring Bakers’ help, had created something pretty darn special. But when my mom, longtime veteran cheesecake maker, uttered those 9 words, followed by a confession that it was better than anything she had ever made, I felt like I had struck gold.
It might be the best compliment I have ever received.
The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. That’s Jenny Bakes, by the way–I have no idea if I will get credit for the completed challenge if I try to include the link in the magic sentences!
Anyway, this month’s Daring Bakers challenge was fabulous-one of my favorites ever (ok so I have not completed a huge number). But still. I loved it because it took something impressive but not hideously difficult that I wish I did better–cheesecake–and then required that we make a basic cheesecake creative on our own. I fiddle as a cook all the time, but fiddling as a baker is something I don’t always do so comfortably. So this was a great challenge on many levels.
I was not going for stunningly creative or unique with this cheesecake; I am a relatively simple person when it comes to desserts and I have relatively simply tastes. I am always sad at restaurants when desserts have too much going on (raspberries with caramel and dark chocolate with a sponge layer and a mousse layer and… give me the plain mousse over that any time). So since I believe in making desserts that I will want to eat, I knew that I would choose classic flavor combos that I tend to love, rather than some of the more interesting (and I mean that in a complimentary way) ones that I have seen. They look gorgeous, but are not what I would want to eat most.
When I think cheesecake the flavors that come to mind are: vanilla, chocolate, coffee and lemon. The lemon clearly does not work with the others–at least for me–and I had just made that goat cheese lemon cheesecake, so I nixed lemon. I also nixed vanilla because to really hi-light vanilla it needs to be the only flavor (as opposed to using a bit of extract) and I thought that was too boring for this assignment. That left coffee and chocolate. My husband does not like a really strong coffee flavor (my loss and one of his few flaws as my usually appreciative audience), so after thinking about what I could do to tame it and remembering how much I loved Turtle Cheesecake when I was a kid, I decided to try adding some sort of caramel to the mix. I had some imported Argentinean dulce de leche in my pantry (yes I made this challenge entirely from the pantry as well!) and decided to use it. I also found some chocolate graham crackers for the crust, Sharffenberger chocolate and cream for a ganache layer, and I made up my mind to do layers with the dulce de leche and ganache. In retrospect, I think the ganache had a little too much cream as it was a bit soft. Next time I would use less. But this was just a cosmetic criticism–from a flavor perspective this cheesecake was a winner.
- 2 cups (180 g) chocolate graham cracker crumbs
- 1 t unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Scharffenberger natural)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick; 4 oz) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 T sugar
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 1 lb (2 8 oz packages) cream cheese, room temperature
- 8 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup (210 g) sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup (8 oz) heavy cream, of which 1/4 cup is set aside in microwave-proof bowl (more later)
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1 1/2 T vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 t instant espresso
- 1 lb dulce de leche
- 1 cup (8 oz) heavy cream
- 8 oz chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 350 F. Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
Mix together the crust ingredients and press into a 9 inch springform pan (some people reported leaking--I have never had this problem; all I can say is make sure you are using a good quality pan). Press the crust evenly into the bottom and a little up the sides of the pan. Wrap the springform pan in 4 layers of foil--preferably the extra wide foil but I got away with the more standard width. Set crust aside.
Combine the cream cheese and mascarpone in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until completely blended. Add the sugar and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. I beat too hard at this stage to no detriment, but I have been told not to go above speed 2 for cheesecakes with the eggs. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg.
Microwave the 1/4 cup of cream in a small bowl until hot and whisk in the espresso powder. Set aside to cool to tepid.
Add the coffee flavored cream, heavy cream, vanilla and lemon juice to the mixer bowl and blend until smooth and creamy.
Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger roasting pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.
Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. It may still have the slightest jiggle to it, which is ok. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill overnight.
For the Dulce De Leche layer: I am not ashamed to admit mine came out of bottle (pictured below) since this stuff is heavenly and the real deal (if you buy yours, make sure it is made with real milk), but if you want make the dulce de leche the second day (I do not have a tried and true recipe to suggest, alas). If you are purchasing the caramel, heat it up gently in the microwave to make sure it is pourable. Let cool to tepid.
For the Ganache: Bring the cream just to a boil before pouring over the chopped chocolate. Whisk smooth and I cool to tepid before pouring.
The second day, pull the cheesecake out of the fridge. First pour the dulce de leche over the cheesecake, tilting the pan to coat the surface evenly. Return to the fridge for 1 hour.
Before pulling the cheesecake out, make the ganache. Take the cheesecake out of the fridge and pour the ganache over the caramel, once again tilting the pan to coat the top evenly. Return the pan to the fridge and let sit for 3 hours or until the chocolate is set. I did all of this the morning of the second day and served the cheesecake with dinner.
What a compliment to get! :o) It looks awesome!
Hmm, I must say that your cheesecake looks really delicious. Great job on your challenge.
Fearless Kitchen says
This looks really tasty! I love how the layers stack up, too.
Darn it!! I was going to resolve to stop baking sweets and unhealthy stuff…and I was doing so well, but now I think that I might have to break that streak and make a cheesecake! Even Jacob is asking for one after seeing your pictures! 😉
noble pig says
Oh my word this is just decadent looking. Simply amazing Laura.
this one looks absolutely delectable!!
WOW, this look so good! Irresistible!
I want to know why I never got a piece…
That Girl says
I am very much feeling the layers lately!
ice tea: sugar high says
It’s always a great feeling to have an expert actually compliment your creation. Great flavour combination. Caramel, coffee and chocolate = match made in heaven
Your cheesecake looks incredible! I love the flavors and how it’s layered from crust to topping. Awesome, mouth watering job!
high praise, indeed, and it certainly looks like you deserve it! of course, i couldn’t be completely sure unless i tasted it… 🙂
dulce de leche is a gift from god. 🙂
Wow, Laura, your cheesecake looks great! I love the flavors you used, and may have to try that at home.
Junie Moon says
It looks awesome and I’m in imminent threat of drowning as my mouth is watering so much. What a great end result for your cheesecake challenge effort. Just looking at the picture tells my your mother is right.
Laura, nice work! Your ganache looks just perfect and I’m loving the thick crust. And that thick dulce de leche layer…seriously, yum.
Wow, those pictures have me wanting a piece of this amazing cheesecake. Nice job!
I am going to try and make this but I am pretty sure it won’t look as good as yours!! Amazing photos!! Amazing Cheesecake!! I like your profile picture because it reminds me of the Smokey mountains!!
lk- Health yDelicious says
omg all of these cheesecake posts today are killing me! They all look so great, and I don’t know which i want to make first! 😉
These pictures made me drool though. For serious.
Mmm, your cheesecake looks amazing!! The flavours sound wonderful as well =D
The last time I sighed over a food photo was your triple-chocolate scones. Wish I lived next door to you! 🙂
Laura, this cheesecake looks incredible. And what a compliment from your Mom!! Now, I know I’ve got to try this. If a veteran cheesecake maker things this is the best cheesecake ever, then what am I waiting for? I’ve got to get to it!! Great job!
That looks divinely sinful! Great job!
We BBQ'd in the yard last night, and so did our next-door neighbors. I commented to Jeremy that it was a shame you & John don't live next door instead – and here's why! Mmmmm.
What a gorgeous cheesecake!! The flavors are mouth-watering, as are the photos!
What a gorgeous cheesecake! I think your “simple” flavor combination is perfection (coffee + chocolate + caramel = EPIC WIN), and I’d eat it in a heartbeat. The photos look lovely, and I’m so glad you had fun with this DB challenge.
I’m actually the “infamous” Abbey behind the recipe, believe it or not. I’ve been making my way through the (neverending!) blogroll slowly but surely, determined to see every post. Yours just looks so luscious, I had to comment! Well done, and I’m so glad you and your mom enjoyed the recipe. 🙂
Your cheesecake looks wonderful!
That cheesecake looks amazing.
This cheesecake looks amazing. I’m speechless. Do you think you’ll ever make it again?
alice: yes. And further, I may use the same basic cheesecake and experiment again. It was easy and just so good. BUT I’ll probably never make int he middle of a regular ho hum week again! 😉 Talk about a lot of work and a lot of calories for just a regular ole weeknight! (Actually it was not that much work, but you know what I mean).
YUM, great job! Your cheesecake look wonderful.
I love cheesecakes. And I’ve seen a lot of awesome ones in my life. But this has to be the most tempting cheesecake I have ever seen! The caramel oozing out from under the chocolate is just teasing me!
The cheesecake was a huge hit for my Mother’s Day Brunch — I did figure that it cost about $35 to make! Although it may be obvious to everyone here, I would add that cutting the cheesecake with a very wet knife really helps.
I know I'm a month late in commenting, sorry about that. But this looks so amazingly delicious, I could dive right in. I'm glad your Mom loved it too. 🙂
Jenny of JennyBakes
Hi! I was wondering if you let the ganache cool a bit before you put it on the cold cheesecake? Also, T is tablespoon and t is teaspoon, correct? Haha just checking. Can’t wait to make this!
t is teaspoon and T is tablespoon–if you have any more questions like that I address a lot of those kinds of things on my FAQ page. 🙂 And yes, you’ll see in the recipe the ganache and dulce de leche both cool to tepid before layering onto the cheesecake. Hope you like it!
I am so glad I do not have to look for another cheesecake recipe. It was perfect and creamy. It was so perfect on top that I don’t need to put a topping on it to hide cracks. I did put dulce de leche and ganache. I did not use espresso powder because the recipient does not enjoy coffee, but that was the only thing I changed. Thank you so much!
Thank you SO much for coming by the say so! My mom loves this cheesecake and I confess I have not made it in a while. Now I feel a little guilty. 😉
Hi I was wondering if I could make this in one day? Starting pretty much as soon as the cream cheese is room temperature and then continuing on…was hoping for it to be ready around 7…
You think its okay?
I apologize because I am only just seeing this now, probably too late to help much. Starting at 7:30 am it would be possible (I would never have the brain cells at that hour to start!!) but maybe a little stressful waiting for the cheesecake to chill. When it comes to the caramel and chocolate steps you might also use the freezer. Let me know how it goes.
It worked out fine. Unfortunately I forgot to add the lemon juice, but more importantly, I did not give it a water bath. I discovered I don’t have a pan both big and deep enough (my first baked cheesecake). It did crack at the top which I wouldn’t have cared since the toppings, but it was more dry/cake like..I wouldn’t describe it as creamy but I wouldn’t put that on you but I really really enjoyed the taste.
Yes the water bath would make a big difference there. Thanks for reporting back and I am glad you enjoyed the flavor! 🙂
would love a print friendly version of this recipe! it’s so delicious!!
ps, cutting the lemon juice makes it richer!
Oh my gosh I made/shared this so long ago! Which explains why it is not in a great format. Since you requested I got it converted into the plug-in I use now. Regarding the lemon juice that is good to know–I don’t know if I could handle the cake any richer but my motto is to always cook to your tastes. I am so glad you liked it!