chocolate caramel cheesecake

The last time I made this chocolate caramel cheesecake, a lot of teddy bears had to die, but I swear, I had never set out for blood (crumb?). These things just happen.

Let me explain. The store was out of those Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers typically used to make crumb crusts and my husband coyly suggested I use Chocolate Teddy Grahams instead. (He has a soft spot for those chemistry sets of a baked good; I allow them into our apartment only for malicious purposes.) I had to admit that they’d be a decent substitute. Plus, we could have some fun while we were at it.

And, oh, what fun we had.

Oh! The humanity!ground teddy grahams

In the end, they made a surprisingly tasty crust, but the cheesecake stole the show, as cheesecake is wont to do. And I know, I know, everyone’s got a chocolate cheesecake recipe that they or their cousin-in-law swears by, but I’m going have to, yet again, brashly step forward and pronounce this one better than all of them. I’m that gauche. It’s not the teddy bears, though, or the chocolate: it’s the caramelized sugar. That’s the real brilliance of this recipe, as it gets you wondering why you’ve been adding plain old sugar to cakes when you could have first cooked it into a toastier, richer syrup? The taste difference is noticeable in its depth. There’s something more there, even if people can’t immediately place it, and for me at least, that tucking of superior flavors into typical foods is one of my favorite parts about cooking.

bubbling caramel

Making caramel is a chore, especially this one as it demands you break down the sugar twice. But this small inconvenience is all trouble the cake will bring you. The rest is painfully simple: chocolate, sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Be warned, however: this is not a cake you get away with only making once. In fact, a certain Teddy Graham-loving husband of mine has really not shut up about it since, so for his birthday last week, I went at it again. This time, no teddy bears were harmed but as much as it pains me to admit this, I think they made for a better crust. Must be that day’s supply of calcium.

chocolate caramel cheesecake

Cheesecake, elsewhere: Key Lime Cheesecake, Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake, Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake, Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares, Black-Bottomed Cupcakes (with a cheesecake filling) and Cream Cheese Marbled Brownies.

Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake
Recipe adapted from

Serves 8 to 10

1 crumb crust (recipe below)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make crumb crust as directed in separate recipe, using chocolate wafer cookies instead of graham crackers.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook sugar in a dry heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring slowly with a fork, until melted and pale golden. Cook caramel without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Remove from heat and carefully add heavy cream (mixture will vigorously steam and caramel will harden). Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until caramel is dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until smooth. Stir in sour cream.

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy, then beat in chocolate mixture on low speed. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions.

Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan. Pour filling into crust and bake in baking pan (to catch drips) in middle of oven 55 minutes, or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken.

Run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen and cool completely in springform pan on a rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.) Chill cake, loosely covered, at least 6 hours. Remove side of pan and transfer cake to a plate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Do ahead: Cheesecake keeps, covered and chilled, 1 week.

Crumb Crust
Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine

I actually double crumb crusts; I can never get enough cookie.

Makes enough for a 24 centimeter cheesecake.

1 1/2 cups (5 ounces) finely ground cookies such as chocolate wafers
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Stir together crust ingredients and press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of a buttered 24-centimeter springform pan. Fill right away or chill up to 2 hours.

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143 comments on chocolate caramel cheesecake

  1. I’ve never had a cheesecake that didn’t crack. EVER. What’s the secret? Oven too hot, cooked too long, are my guesses. But nothing ever works for me.

    Has it been a year since the Teddy Graham Crusade? (Ha.) I can’t believe it.

    1. Shannon Miller

      I always set it in a shallow pan of water. Wrap the bottom of springform with foil. No cracks every time. I also use Teflon pans which can’t handle the 550 oven. So I only go up to 475 (max temp for Teflon) and because of that my cakes always crack without the water bath.

  2. deb

    My cheesecakes always look like Buffy stopped in and slashed them. I’ve heard opening the over door an inch at a time to cool the cake reduce likelihood of cracking. (There’s a funny story, actually, about a friend of my mother’s who did this and then the dog opened the door the rest of the way and ate the cake!) Anyway, I tried that trick this time, and although the crack is smaller than last, still there! The cakes where you use a sour cream topping at the end usually cover this nicely.

  3. You, know, I did not even notice yours cracked. I think it looks beautiful! I love the colors. The dots also really pull your eye away from anything else.

    I always make ones that have a topping to hide the million and one imperfections.

    I’ll try the oven door thing. Thanks!

    (Have you ever heard of baking it in water? I saw that on TV once, but I’ve never tried it.)

  4. Oooo, that cheesecake looks sinfully good! And I love that picture with the teddy bear (I ‘haw’-ed so loudly my brother thought I was choking!), so cute :)

    As for the cracking, I’m with Abby, I always use a waterbath to bake my cheesecakes and I’ve never had one crack on me yet :)

  5. oh it seems a bit cruel killing all those innocent little teddies, but I guess when you look at the end result, its worth it!
    The cake looks gorgeous and im sure that it tasted just as good as it looks. You almost wouldn’t want to cut into the cake, but then that would be defeating the whole purpose. i guess what im trying to say that its very very pretty : )

  6. Sophie

    my mum and i have tried baking cheesecakes in water before and it works really well. doesn’t crack at all. if you can stephanie alexanders book ‘the cooks companion’ it has a great description of how to do it.

  7. Sindia

    My caramel never got that bubbly on moderate low heat – was everyone else using the moderately low heat setting? It just sort of slowly turned darkish gold immediately rather than bubbling.

  8. Ali

    This was an amazing cheesecake! It was absolutely delicious, and the only desert at tonights huge thanksgiving dinner that got completely eaten up, and many people said it was one of the best deserts that they had ever eaten. I really loved your suggestion of using teddy grahams; the crust was really, really tasty, and it was much more enjoyable to grind up little bears than boring round, flat, wafer cookies. Thanks also for the suggestion to double the crust; this was the first time I’ve ever had a cheesecake crust that was able to come up the sides of the pan, which, admittedly made it harder to cut, but tastier, and prettier.
    I also thought it was interesting, but this was the first cheesecake that I’ve ever baked that did crack at all on top. I didn’t add any water bath like many suggest, either, though it did leak enough oil into the baking dish that I thought someone had put some water into while I was gone…

  9. Jen

    LOVE this cheesecake. I have made it in the past (off epicurious) and it was delish although it would have liked it better with just a touch more caramelly goodness. There are only 2 ways I have had success with a cheesecake not cracking. The first one is the hot water bath as others suggested, with the water reaching about halfway up the pan. The other thing that has worked is to use half mascarpone cheese and half cream cheese (I don’t know that the mascarpone cheese would be a good flavor in this one though). Oh, I almost forgot…I have heard this works but never tried, when the cheesecake is almost set turn the oven off and leave it in there. It will continue cooking to creamy perfection but there won’t be a big temperature change to cause cracking.

  10. This is one cheesecake I have made repeatedly for years. I doctor it up with a Grand Marnier Ganache or a simple chocolate ganache and finish it off with swirls of caramel on top. It is supremely smooth, creamy and incredibly light.

  11. Petra

    I made this over the weekend for my sister’s birthday. There were no leftovers. Even my incredibly rude and unpleasant aunt wrapped up a piece to take home with her, and it probably killed her to do it as she was paying me a compliment, but she did it anyway! Ha! That’s how delicious this is. I used chocolate Teddy Grahams for the crust and Ghirardelli chocolate. We served it with lightly sweetened whipped cream to spoon on the side.

  12. SharonB

    I’ve been banking on this cake to give the finishing touch to our Sukot meal, and it did so with a flourish! People were practically licking the pan.
    I will definitely make this again, chocolate teddy bears and all.
    Thank you so much!

  13. Lisa

    Made this last night, and to my disappointment, it did in fact crack as it cooled, but my husband did test a piece this morning and man, was it fantastic. I think I cooled it too quickly? I’m going to try leaving it in the oven with the door open to cool for an hour. My last resort will be a water bath, or always having a topping for my cheesecakes!

  14. I made this for my birthday, and it was absolutely amazing. We usually like wowing the guests with really good food, but that night they were in awe. Then, I took the last slice to the boss who had hired me just that week, and she said (via email), “This is the best cake I’ve had in as long as I can remember. That definitely made my afternoon.” Recipes like this give people far too much confidence in my cooking abilities.

  15. Yiwen

    I had a real struggle carmelizing the sugar – although I stirred regularly there were patches of clumps stuck to the pan that weren’t burnt but I couldn’t dislodge. Once i introduced the cream it took ages for the caramel and cream to incorporate. If there is a tutorial on this (probably) very basic technique it would be much appreciated! The cheesecake is now in the oven…reading the other posts it sounds like it will be worth all the trouble!!

  16. misswendy

    i couldnt find the nabisco wafers so a got off brand oreos and scraped out the middle. if had bought real oreos the crust wouldve never been made….lol i made this for a charity silent auction. it sold for $100.

  17. misswendy

    i had trouble with the caramel also. i suspect it was the humidity. it worked but took for ever! what i pulled off the spoon and scraped out of the pot was delish…

  18. Abby Cook

    Cheesecakes that have no starch need to be cooked in a water bath to avoid cracking, and slowly cooled, left in a turned off, unopened oven. For cheesecakes that will not be cooked in a water bath (aka any cheesecake in a springform pan) add 3-4 tablespoons flour. You will not notice the flour taste or texture in the final result, but the starch of the flour will keep your cheesecake from cracking. Seriously, it WORKS.

  19. noni

    you put the pan in a larger baking pan to bake, but do NOT add water for a water bath? Is that right? (Looks gorgeous btw!)

  20. Paul

    I made a half-size recipe (normal size crust recipe, of course) of this and baked it in a steep-walled pie tin, because the only place I know for sure I can get a springform pan from is in Manhattan, and I didn’t feel like taking the subway for an hour and a half (at least) excursion. I just adjusted the cooking time down a little bit, and it turned out fine.

    I had quite a bit of difficulty caramelizing the sugar, and actually had to throw out the first attempt because most of it simply would not dissolve in the cream. I believe I burned it. The second try went a lot better, though there were still a couple clumps that simply wouldn’t break down. I ended up fishing them out and trashing them, and then using the batch anyway

  21. liza

    I haven’t had a chance to try this yet (but I most certainly will!), but I wanted to comment on the cracking issue. Many years ago I clipped a cheesecake recipe from the Washington Post which used the technique of cooking the cheesecake at a very low temp for a very long time – 200 degrees for 8+ hrs. I have used this recipe at least once a year since then (10+ yrs) and have never had a crack nor have I ever poisoned anyone with salmonella. It works with any cheesecake recipe.

  22. Made this yesterday and it is AMAZING. I did not have any trouble with the caramel…. and I was totally thinking that I would. It was a snap. Saw some posts about cracking. People… I have to tell you… cracked or no cracks once you taste it, nobody cares about these trivialities. I sprinkled the top with powdered sugar and laid on fresh strawberries and it looked sublime. My boyfriend can not stop raving about how great this cheesecake is! Take it for any dinner party and you win score massive points for sure.

  23. Yael

    So, Shavu’ot is coming up, and I mentally marked this recipe as something I want to make (my sister is usually not a big fan of cheesecakes, but I’m hoping the caramel and chocolate might change her mind)…
    One problem, though, is that we don’t have anything that resembles those chocolate wafers. Not that I can think of, anyway. For a while, I toyed with the idea of making them from scratch with the recipe you gave here a while ago, or maybe using that recipe for a cake base without making wafers out of it, but to be honest, it seems like too much work.
    So I tried to think of what other cookies might work – something crispy and not too sweet – and suddenly thought of the Lotus caramelised biscuits. Are you familiar with them at all? They might not be available in the US… which is a shame. Here’s a little info about them:
    Thought they might work, because of the caramel flavour, but not sure (too much caramel, perhaps – or rather, not enough chocolate), so wanted to get a second opinion from you and/or your readers. Any thoughts?

    1. deb

      Hi Yael — I haven’t tried them but I am sure they would work. You’re looking for something simple and not too sweet, and dry… like a graham cracker or digestive biscuit (you can always grind in some cocoa for color/flavor). Good luck!

      1. mdcathell

        I did just what you suggested here. I made up my crust with 1 1/4 graham crackers and 1/4 cup cocoa. I think the fineness and compactness of the cocoa resulted in more dry mass being added than intended, so I ended up putting a smidgen more melted butter to get the right consistency to spread out in the pan.

  24. Goni

    Yael – dealing with the exact same problem (also live in Israel)! I have a feeling that the lotus biscuits might be a bit too sweet? have you tried shops that sell a lot of imported stuff (tiv ta’am etc?). I’ll have a look today and update you if I find anything that might be relevant.

  25. Yael

    Hi Goni, thanks! Definitely waiting to hear your update. :)
    I’m in Jerusalem, and don’t think we have Tiv Ta’am here. Also, there’s a limit to how much trouble I would go to, for a crumb crust to a cake (especially since the cake is the centre of the show, after all). I don’t know if Lotus are too sweet; not sure how sweet the Nabisco wafers/teddies are, so can’t really make a comparison. I will probably look over the supermarket shelves, try and figure out what might work, but unless I find something totally amazing I will probably do Lotus, and perhaps add a bit cocoa powder to make it more chocolaty and less sweet. Wish me luck… and good luck to you too, in your searches!

  26. Yael

    Made the cake today, and we have eaten it not long ago (less than 6 hours chilled, but we couldn’t wait that long!) – it is very very good. Even my sister liked it; said it did not taste like cheesecake, which from her is a compliment. :)

    And two notes on the making, for future readers:
    (a) Used Lotus biscuits for the crust, with some cocoa (did not measure how much) and a little less sugar than the original recipe. It is a very tasty crust.
    (b) I decided to warm the cream before adding it to the caramel, so it will not harden. That worked. It still bubbled quite ferociously – amazingly, it reached the very edge of the pot, but didn’t spill -but I did not have to break the caramel again. So this is definitely recommended.

  27. Goni

    Thanks for the update!
    I didn’t bake the cake in the end (was asked to cook something else for shavuot dinner) and really glad to hear that the lotus biscuits worked, will try when i finally get to bake the cake… (and I didn’t find any other alternatives for the crust in the shops). Was good to swap notes with a fellow Israeli :)

  28. LGrant

    I didn’t read all the comments but I’ll let you know the secret of no cracks. Low and slow baking works great. Better than a water bath in my opinion. Water baths are messy and hard to deal with. Instead I lower the heat in the oven and bake it longer. You get a more creamy cheesecake and the lower temperature and longer baking time sets it more gently so it tends to crack less. Another trick is stopping the baking while there is still a little jiggle in the center, turn off the oven but leave the cheesecake in it as it cools. It allows the cheesecake to finish baking but gently and cool slower to avoid cracks. My last trick is using a food processor instead of a mixer to mix the batter. The cream cheese doesn’t have to be as warm and soft and you don’t get those tiny little beads of cream cheese that stubbornly want to stay in there. You also don’t incorporate as much air so you avoid some of the problems with cracks and density because the batter isn’t whipped so much as cut together smoothly. Just some ideas for fellow-cheesecake lovers. I can’t wait to try this one!

  29. Nadia

    Normally I’m a firm cheesecake snob, but cakes like this make turn me into the world’s biggest liar. Looks just incredible. Also please SK if you get the time and wherewithal please try out the Heath Bar Almond Crunch Cheesecake courtesy of the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. I haven’t tried this recipe myself but I love Heath Bars and absent of a “Suggestions Box” on this site, I thought I’d recommend.

  30. Kayvie

    I made this for my boyfriend’s birthday. I live in England an can’t get a hold of these teddy crackers (nor graham crackers – tear!), so I used digestives with cocoa powder instead – a recipe by Nigella Lawson. I doubled the base recipe and filled the tin super high with crust – it looked brilliant! Difficult to cut without breaking, but it was so tasty that no one cared. Awesome awesome cheesecake! Making caramel for the first time was petrifying (no sense of perspective, here), but it worked and tasted wonderful. Thank you so much!

  31. Cheryl

    Hi, Abby #1 & Deb! This may have already been answered further in the comments but just want to share that Cooks Illustrated has a very informative tip/article on preventing cracked cheesecakes. Their contention is that it means the cake has been overbaked; that anytime temp goes over 160 degrees, it’s going to crack. They recommend an instant read thermometer for testing doneness of cake–take out of oven when center reaches 150 degrees–and cooking in a water bath to prevent overheating. I’d send you a link to the info but don’t know how. Sorry. Hope that helps someone. Love your site, Deb! Thanks again! :-)

  32. F

    I’ve never made caramel before and didn’t know the sugar would take SO long to caramelize. And when it did caramelize I had little lumps in it as well. I mixed this up in a food processor and I could hear the blades grinding down hard lumps of caramel as it mixed! The cake came out perfectly smooth though and was extremely tasty, if a bit rich. The 12 of us who ate it could only manage to finish about half of it!

  33. Careful… this recipe may induce labor!

    Well, I’m only kidding, but I made this last night and it turned out great! I added 4 Tbsp of Flour when I mixed in the Chocolate sauce. I also used 2 Tbsp of water and some drops of lemon juice in the sugar before caramelizing it.

    It was perfect after the main cooking cycle, just about 190 degrees and just a bit wobbly in the center. I cooled with the oven cracked and cooled further on the counter. The only strange thing was that the grease (Crisco) I used to line the springform pan (9″) leaked from the pan when I pulled it from the oven. The baking sheet below was a very good idea!

    After I finished it last night (later than I expected because my sugar would not caramelize without water) my wife started having contractions. (It’s not time to go in to the hospital yet…). The cake looks great wrapped in the fridge now and will be served to the guests coming to watch my son. (I was PLANNING on freezing it until it was time).

  34. Pam

    I made this for a party last night everyone loved it. My only issue was you cant really taste the caramel. Anyone else have the same experience? Maybe you are not supposed to taste it?

  35. Ana

    I noticed you did some piping on yours from the pictures, was that sour cream topping like the one you used for the cappuccino fudge cheesecake post?

  36. I made this last night at request of my mother’s boyfriend. I made a couple alterations to the recipe, but it came out beautifully. I had an absolute ball making it. This reminded me why I’m so excited to start culinary school in July.

  37. Just made this, wasn’t truly wowed by it unfortunately. An advise to anyone who decides to make this, please don’t use Oreo graham cracker crumbs. Also, it might need more sugar… it was too sour. :(

  38. Susannah

    This looks delicious and I want to make it, but I don’t have a 24 centimeter springform pan. I do have a 10 inch and a 8 inch. Would either of those work? If so, how do I adjust the baking time. Thanks!

  39. Suzanne

    I’m thinking of making this for my long-distance boyfriend when he comes to visit! I’ve heard that the secret to the cheesecake not cracking is to bake it for the full 55 minutes, turn the oven off, then let it sit in the warm oven for 30-60 minutes. I haven’t tried this, though.

    Will this cheesecake taste just as good three days after it is made?

  40. nicole


    i need your help! i love love love this cheesecake recipe…but my brother-in-law has…demanded a cheesecake for his birthday next week, and has, how do you call it..a small palette for flavors. do you have any recommendations for a more simple/less elaborate cheesecake?
    thanks so much!!!

  41. Suzanne

    Like I said I would, I made this for my boyfriend when he came to visit, and he LOVED IT. It turned out deliciously. I was so nervous about the caramel. It had lots of lumps, but I fished them out and everything went very well. He said it was the best cheesecake he has ever had!

    I have made four or five smittenkitchen recipes over the past few months, and they have always turned out splendidly. Thank you for your blog!

  42. Miriam

    Deb, I tried making the caramel but it simply didn’t work. I’m confused about the fact that it says not to add water. All that happened was that my sugar became a stiff, lumpy, light brown mass. Help?

    1. deb

      Miriam — There’s no reason to add water to caramel. Some recipes call for it — a “wet” versus “dry” caramel — because some beginners find it easier to start with an already-wet sauce. But the water just cooks off, you end up with the same “caramel” in the end. I prefer the dry caramels, because you don’t have to worry as much about crystallization forming. That’s just the background.

      However, if you caramel was lumpy, you wanted to heat it until it melted or melted again. It will get there, promise.

  43. Miriam

    … Ok, so I followed someone’s advice and put in 2 Tbl of water and a little lemon juice and it worked wonderfully. For future baking, is there any reason why trying the dry way is better?
    Your blog is wonderful and the perfect end to a stressful college day. Thank you.

  44. Yael

    To everyone who’s worried about lumpy caramel, try my mantra: It Will Melt, Chemistry Says It Has To.
    One of the first times I made caramel, something went wrong – I stirred too much, or something – and it all seized and got lumpy, and I freaked out and was about to throw it out and try anew. To which my sister, a chemistry student, said no; if I just keep it on the stove, and let it heat up, it has to melt. Because of chemistry. At a certain temperature, the structure breaks down, whether it wants to or not. So, whenever caramel seizes on me, I remember that. I keep it on the stove, and don’t stir it, and just wait, because I know it has no choice.

    1. Rebecca

      Made the cheesecake this morning and used this mantra to get me through my lumpy caramel induced anxiety- it worked!! Because of chemistry! :-)
      Thanks for sharing

  45. Rukshi

    Its hard to get Sour cream where I live ( Sri Lanka) is there any other substitute i can use?? or just increase the amount of cream used?

  46. Hannah

    I just made this – the whole house smells amazing! I was wondering how thick the caramel is supposed to be before incorporating the chocolate. Mine seemed a bit on the thin side, even with the sour cream (though, I guess I won’t know until I taste it tomorrow).

  47. Debbe

    When your cheesecake is finished baking, remove it from the oven and run a knife all the way around the edge … no fuss, no muss , no cracks! I haven’t made this yet but will tonight.

  48. Kelly

    Do you have any tips for how to work with the caramel after it hardens and you add the cream? I tried making caramel earlier this year and ended up with a caramel moonscape fused permanently to the bottom of one of my pots (I had to throw it away). I would love to make this recipe but I am a bit nervous about the caramel.

    1. deb

      Just keep heating it. It absolutely will melt again. It just needs enough heat to. Also, caramel should dissolve in the sink with very hot water? That’s how I get it off pots.

  49. Kelly

    Maybe something fused with the coating on that particular pot, because it was NOT coming off. But okay okay I will believe you and try just heating it mooore!

  50. Kelly

    Okay, so I restored my faith, kept heating and stirring, and the caramel DID melt. It smelled delicious and looked beautiful.

    Unfortunately I can’t really tell much, if any, a difference in the end result. Maybe my palate is off due to pms hormones, but I don’t detect any caramel flavor in the cheesecake at all. So, which it’s a nice tasting chocolate cheesecake, I wouldn’t call it “chocolate caramel” unless you top it off with caramel sauce. Which would be yummy.

    All the same, thanks for helping me overcome my fear of caramel.

  51. Adi

    I just made this for my friend’s birthday – it was a big hit! But I wanted to share that when I was making the caramel, I stirred constantly with a fork, and instead of melting, the sugar (after a LONG time) just became a bunch of solid chunks. I thought it was ruined, but I turned the heat really low and stopped stirring, and it completely melted!
    After that everything went smoothly. I just wanted to share a recommendation not to over-mix even in the initial stage of melting the sugar.

  52. Shelly

    I made this a few months back and the caramel had a bit of a burnt taste to it. I’m up in Boulder, CO and candy making is different up here than at sea level. According to my research, you have to decrease the temperature to which you take your caramel or fudge by one degree for every 500 feet you are above sea level. Thought I’d share for anyone else who attempts this at high altitude. So, to all those at high altitude, slightly undercook your caramel unless you like the taste of burnt sugar in your cheesecake.

    1. deb

      Caramel is cooked sugar, so yes. I can’t really say about overpowering. I mean, it’s still definitely cheesecake, but a chocolate one. I like that the flavors are in balance, so its not a chocolate cheesecake in name only.

  53. Naomi

    Made this yesterday for the SO’s birthday. It was delicious. Not really caramelly, but complex and chocolatey without being cloyingly sweet.

    Instead of teddy grahams, I massacred numerous Cat’s Cookies from Trader Joes. Violence aside, it made for a wonderful crust. Crisp and lightly sweet.

  54. Katharine

    If I’m looking for it to taste more like caramel than chocolate, could I use only half of the bittersweet chocolate called for?

  55. Joe

    Katharine, I would say that you should make the cheesecake as is, and make a caramel sauce to add on top of it when served. I realize that it says “chocolate caramel cheesecake” but I think what deb intended was a chocolate cheesecake made with caramelized sugar. The way the sugar is processed isn’t going to make an amazing difference in the way the cheesecake tastes, it will be very subtle. If you’re wanting a strong caramel flavor you’ll have to add extra on top, because it just won’t have anything other than a very subtle flavor. Caramelizing the sugar will affect the flavor, but with something so strong as chocolate playing the lead roll, caramel will only ever be a distant second fiddle.

    I find the same thing with browned butter desserts, there is an additional flavor there, but it is very subtle, many people just can’t tell the difference to be honest.

  56. Katharine

    Thanks for the advice! Given what I’m looking for, I may make a traditional cheesecake but first caramelize the sugar, and possibly serve it with a caramel sauce. I’m throwing my birthday party this weekend and cooking my own cakes (I mostly want an excuse to try my hand at decorating, not to mention all the credit! Ha ha), so I’m planning on the cheesecake and your pink lady cake. I’m very excited!

  57. i made this for an engagement party this weekend and it was enormously well received – i thought it was marvelous, ginormous crack across the centre and all. thanks for posting it!

  58. müt

    I made this last night, and something seems to have gone wrong with it. For one, I baked it at 350° for only 50 minutes, and when the timer went off I opened the oven to find a cake that had completely set, instead of still being a little wobbly in the center. As well, pieces of the crust that I’d accidentally pressed up too high on the pan tasted burnt.

    Two, it was worryingly puffed up at first (much like standard Devil’s Food cake, et al), not to mention way more cracked than I expected it to be, but I left it to sit on top of the oven to cool off anyway, and thankfully it started to… deflate, if you will.

    Third, once it was cooled off, I put the entire thing, baking sheet and all into the fridge overnight, but couldn’t cover it because I didn’t have any bags or containers large enough, and checked back on it this morning to find an incredibly dense cake (as in, I can tap it with the back of the spoon and it doesn’t move one bit).

    That being said, I will still serve it later this evening, so hopefully it tastes okay.

    (as for what I may have done wrong, not giving the cream cheese adequate time to soften comes to mind. also, the puffiness of the cake may be explained by following the advice of comment #22 above. will have to try this again in the future, because if nothing else, the crust was amazing!)

  59. Rick

    My son just made this cheesecake. I absolutely loved it. He felt the bittersweet was too overpowering. How would semisweet choclate work in this recipe? Also, he was hoping for a stronger carmel taste. Any suggestions for this? Thanks.

  60. Eileen

    Cheescake lover here. Followed this link from the plum tart recipe of 2011. I have made many, many chocolate cheescakes, but no caramel chocolate cheescake. So this is a must bake. Reading the comments I saw that many people have issues with the cheescake cracking. I have not had much of an issue with this. I have a standard recipe that I always use and a newer one from one of Alice Medrich’s books. For that chocolate cheescake recipe she instructs the baker to cover the cheescake with a large pot or bowl right after the cake comes out of the oven (promptly) to slow the cooling and extreme temperature change. This method works well. I did not notice anyone commenting on this technique although I did not read every comment. Though I would add this idea to the comments. Looking forward to the caramel cheescake!

  61. nida

    I made this cheesecake yesterday and while I havent tasted it yet, I have to say the cheesecake batter was delicious!!! AND who knew I could make caramel at home from… sugar!!! I honestly had never thought about that before. Yes, it was a long process but YUM! This was my first cheesecake ever and it did not crack!!!

    I baked it in a shallow waterbath and then after 55 minutes, I turned the oven off but left the cheesecake in there (according to Google searches I did, the cake cracks because of cooling too fast), so after an hour or so, I took it out, loosely covered it with foil and left it outside for a little while and then moved it to the fridge to chill. It looks gorgeous and I’m so proud of it. Thanks so much Deb for a wonderful recipe. I love your blog and have tried multiple things here and will keep coming back!!! :)

  62. Karen Arkin

    This is likely a dumb question, but is your crust recipe already “doubled”, or do I need to double it as it is to get the correct amount? To clarify, in my world the crust is the best part of any cheesecake (as long as it’s not polluted with cinnamon, which I will never understand), so I want to make darn sure I have enough of it. p.s. I can’t believe I’m contemplating this recipe on Yom Kippur. Shame on me.

  63. barbz

    Just made this 20 minutes ago, it all seems to have gone well, including the caramel.
    I haven’t used a spring form pan in years and I’m realizing there’s no way I can get this thing off the bottom with that little lip without screwing up the chocolate crust. Or is there?

  64. Liz

    I made this cheesecake for my boss’ 60th birthday and I have to admit I was disappointed. I’ve made many many cheesecakes and this one was SUPER dense and too rich. We cut little sliver pieces and people could barely finish those. Also the caramel flavor was present in the batter but you couldn’t taste it at all after it cooked. It just tasted like a super chocolate on chocolate cheesecake with no caramel.

    I do love your blog though and this was the first recipe I wasn’t happy with. Can’t win them all I guess!

  65. Elaine

    I like the caramel sauce drizzle idea–see comment 74 above. To me, more cream (whipped or ice cream) would be overgilding the lily, though a dollop of tangy creme fraiche might work.Haagen Daz makes a dulce de leche ice cream if you’d like a little more caramel flavor, but just thinking about it, puts it over the top, for me.

  66. Eileen

    I commented in August 2011 re the cracks but had not yet made this cheesecake. I was reviewing the comments to see if I did anything wrong. The cheesecake looked beautiful and did not crack as I did use alice medrich’s method for cooling. It just did not taste that much like caramel! I was expecting a more intense caramel flavor rather than a background hint. I agree with Liz (comment 84) that the batter has a stronger caramel flavor. Usually the cheesecake batter has the same flavor before and after baking and I as looking forward to that. The cake is also denser than other cheescakes I have made which I initially attributed to my using a half ounce more chocolate due to being lazy and not getting my scale out. But others have commented that it is dense. So while I think it taste good, I am not sure that it is worth the extra time of making the caramel to put in the cake. I think I would prefer to make the caramel and drizzle it warm on top for a more intense caramel flavor. I did enjoy making the caramel. It was only my third time making it ( and the first time was a throw away) so that alone was worth trying this cake. Love all of your posts and enjoy reading the comments of others. Thanks!

  67. pippi

    hey, this looks and sounds mouth-watering! i was thinking to slightly modify the recipe by adding some frozen raspberries to the filling. did you ever try this before? i’m a little afraid the cake then might end up not thoroughly baked because of the additional water coming out of the berries…? thanks for your help!

  68. Betty

    I made this cake for my daughter’s birthday and it turned out beautifully! I went painstakingly slow with the caramel – that part took me almost 45 minutes. Maybe it was not necessary to go that slow but I didn’t want to have to start over. I even copied your melted white chocolate dots for the decoration. Thanks so much! I’m excited for your book to come out soon. I pre-ordered it in May! Thanks again.

  69. Betty

    P.S. I meant to add that I followed one reviewers suggestion and made the cake with my food processor. Then I followed Deb’s suggestion to cut around edge just after it comes out of the oven – resulting in No Cracks!

  70. Sarah

    Oh my gosh, this turned out to surpass my wildest expectations. Let me begin by thanking you for your perfect instructions on the caramel. I have failed miserably at making caramel in every past attempt, and I was pretty terrified about taking on this recipe. But it was just perfect. I used 1 box of Keebler’s Fudge Shoppe cookies for the crust in a 10″ springform pan (omitting the sugar), and it was just a dream. My family was fighting over the bits of leftover crust. Thank you!

  71. luiza

    I can’t stop crying this was an amazing cheesecake. and my caramel didn’t burn – thanks for your instructions on it. also, I bought the smitten kitchen book and it’s absolutely brilliant!!

  72. Natalie

    Hi Deb! I am a first time cheesecake maker and thought this recipe looked like a good one to start with. I have not only never made a cheesecake…. but I actually don’t really care for it. However, my boyfriend loves cheesecake and turns 30 this weekend so I wanted to surprise him with a homemade one. Is this a good recipe to start with? Any other suggestions for a first-timer? If it completely flops I have a back up plan to buy one from one of the dozens of SF bakeries…. but homemade means more. :)

    Thanks much!

  73. Stephany

    Holy Moly!! I made this for Easter dinner tommorrow…oh myyyyy of course I had to cut a sliver and me and my kids try it before we take it over for dinner-Yummmmmmmmmm. It is extremly rich and decadent. But oh so worth it. I would suggest that you cut into very small slices as it is so rich but oh my sinfully delicious.

  74. Alison

    I had a lot of trouble with the caramel– it was super lumpy. I know that it would have eventually melted again, but even with the heat pretty low it was still already quite dark so I decided to just proceed. After I had added the cream and dissolved most of the caramel, I pulled the few remaining lumps out and kept going. I was nervous as I was serving it to guests, but it turned out perfectly. Definitely a keeper.

    I saw many comments that the caramel flavor was not very strong, but in mine it was definitely noticeable. I wonder if people let their caramel get dark enough.

  75. Maggie

    I made this for Easter – my husband gave up sweets and this was his dramatic return to sugardom – and it was fantastic. Very rich. I didn’t pick up much on the caramel in there, but that could just be me. Next time, because obviously there will be one, I’ll probably cook the caramel longer to see if that deepens the flavor, and use better quality chocolate – I just used Baker’s and maybe that overpowered? And I’m totally doubling the crust. I didn’t know if the recipe was already doubled or if we double the ingredients listed; it’s the latter, because I wanted more!

    If anyone doesn’t have a springform pan, I made it successfully in a large, deep pie dish. A little more work to get the slices out, but you certainly shouldn’t let not having one stop you from making it.

  76. Melissa

    I made this cheesecake this weekend for a birthday party and it was a major hit. It got gobbled up.

    I doubled the crust recipe, and used a silicon spatula for the caramel and let it heat long enough so til it had no lumps. I turned off the oven after baking for 55ish minutes and let the cheesecake cool in the turned off oven for an hour and it didn’t crack (I didn’t do the water bath as others have suggested).

    Due to some of the comments that the baked version doesn’t taste much like caramel, I made the salted butter caramel Deb suggests in comment 74 and drizzled it on top and it was amazing (that caramel would be amazing on many things!). In the Salted Butter Caramel recipe, Deb links to some of David Lebovitz’s caramel making tips which were extremely helpful to me as a first-time caramel maker.

  77. Michael

    For people having problems with cracking:

    Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Turn down the heat to between 200-215 and cook for another 1 hour to 1:15 (keep an eye on how wet the top near the center looks and use that as a guide). Remove cake from oven and run a thin sharp knife around the edge (dip the knife cold water every few inches to keep it from ‘catching’ the cake and making the edge a mess). Turn the oven off and return the cake for another 30 minutes to an hour (again, keep an eye on it).

    Doesn’t work every time, but about 80% of the cheesecakes I’ve made have come out crack-free this way.

  78. rinnyluvs

    i made this just now and the batter tasted bitter, but we did everything instructed on the directions, is it supposed to taste bitter before making?

    1. deb

      rinnyluvs — It should not. Sometimes, reactive bakeware (uncoated aluminum or the like) can make things taste bitter but there isn’t much acidic here that should have been bothered by it. Might the caramel have been cooked to the point of bitterness?

  79. Lindsay

    Deb, I love me some Smitten Kitchen and have had only a few wastes of time over my years following you, but I am frankly irritated at the caramel step! It literally took 2 hours. For the caramel. About an hour for the first step to melt (which gave me time to read about 6 caramel how-to articles), then I added the cream (which strangely didn’t bubble at all), and then a full hour to stir, scrape a huge wad off the bottom, melt, melt, scrape, melt, wait, etc. By then I had long abandoned this ever melting (and it was after 9 pm and the True Blood finale was taunting me from the DVR), and I was not going to waste Guittard on a possibly hopeless caramel, so I took an equal amount of ingredients and mixed them up with the cheesecake in the regular order.

    On the plus side, the cheesecake looks divine (I used a 10.25″ pan of all things, so used x1.25 of every ingredient, and double crumb crust. And a water bath and some of this closed-door cooling technique). And at about 10:30 at night, I had a pan of amazing delicious dark caramel (melting in my mouth right now!). It is good and firm enough that I should have made it into actual caramels. But I feel like the simple instructions of “cook, swirl, whisk, stir” belie a very very very long process. I either would have started during dinner or skipped the fancy step entirely (which I ended up doing, basically). I politely request a recipe amendment to help any future cheesecakers.

    1. deb

      Lindsay — I am sorry that you had trouble with this but I’m totally perplexed as to how it could taken an hour to make caramel. I’ve never had it take more than, like, 10 minutes for sugar to melt. Were you at a lower temperature (medium-low can be different on different stoves, I’d guess) or maybe using a nonstick pan (which might slow it down)?

  80. Susanna

    @ 106 Lindsay: I had a similar though not as discouraging caramel experience. I was using a nonstick pan (and definitely will use cast iron next time). I started my heat at 3 on my electric stove, and over half an hour it got pushed up to the halfway-mark, and only then did I start to see any melting. I then got some sugar chunks that never melted, but as the color started to darken, I added the cream anyway because I didn’t want it to burn. The second caramelizing step took a long time, too, though I think I left the heat at 5 and went into it knowing I’d be standing a while longer. The sugar-crystal-chunks never went away, but are undetectable in the cheesecake itself. *Shrug* My husband was delighted, so it was a win.

  81. Evan

    Thoughts on doing two layers? I’m thinking a chocolate ganache layer (similar to the peanut butter cheesecake recipe you just did) on the bottom and then doing a layer of the recipe above (sans chocolate, so it’s just caramel). Can you think of any modifications I might need to make to the caramel layer, other than just leaving the chocolate out?

    1. deb

      Evan — Hmm…. you might have too much volume if you add the ganache layer without reducing it, but it’s hard to say. I’m usually hesitant to just remove a whole ingredient (8 ounces chocolate) without adjusting otherwise, but you might be okay here. Good luck.

  82. Nichole

    Hi, I’ve never made a cheesecake before, and I’m wanting to make this one for a few friends. Do you have any suggestions for making this in a few smaller pans? Thank you!

  83. Emily

    Hi Debs, Any chance you could post this recipe in grams? It looks delicious but for us Europeans (actually, Canadian in the UK who is fully converted to the scales for baking!) it would be great to use the correct quantities. It has been selected as my husband’s birthday cake for next week! Thank you ever so much.

  84. Haley

    This is my first time on your website and I am already in love with this cheesecake even though I have just seen it. I have never made cheesecake because it intimidates me (I do not have much baking experience). This is a recipe I will have to add to my Christmas goodies list though. Thanks for putting two of my favorite foods, chocolate and caramel, in one cheesecake!

  85. I see a lot of people mention a water bath, but has anyone made this by setting a loaf pan containing water in the bottom of the oven to keep the air moist? I do this for all my cheesecakes to prevent them from drying too quickly. Wanted to know if anyone has done this with this recipe and if it works or not. Thanks!

    1. deb

      Danie — Have never tried it for a cheesecake, only bread! Does it prevent cracking? If so, that’s wonderful because it sounds like a lot less work.

  86. Danie

    Deb, I don’t know if it helps prevent cracking, but it definitely helps keep the cake moist. I also set my cheesecakes on a cooling rack with a large upside-down bowl over top of the cake, creating a kind of dome. They stay this way till room temp, then they go in the fridge. This prevents them from cooling too quickly ;) and may help reduce the cracking…

  87. Anastazia

    Deb! It feels like the caramel is taking FOREVER to come together… Is there any estimated time for the caramel process that’s not in the recipe?? Thanks! Also, the trick to not cracking a cheesecake is a waterbath bake! Or so Ive heard… I can never be bothered with it. lol

    1. deb

      Anastazia — Don’t worry, it will, sugar will always melt. You can bump up the heat slightly to hasten it along, but once it starts melting, return to low because it picks up color quickly from there. Yes yes about the water bath. I’m too lazy as well. :)

  88. Katie

    Just made this last night for Valentine’s Day and it was a huge hit!!! I did a lot of cheesecake research because mine always cracked and may have found some helpful tips for folks who thought that this was super dense. Key things that have helped me in keeping a cheesecake light (even with dense ingredients): room temperature cream cheese, cheesecake cooled at least 6 hours, and serving the cheesecake at room temperature. The last one in particular has been key for having what could be dense cheesecakes taste lighter, creamier, and less dense.

    Also, this was the first cheesecake I have ever made that didn’t crack. After it was done cooking, turned off the oven and opened it a few inches. Left it like that for an hour. Then, I pulled it out and left it on the counter for another hour or so. Then, I put it in the fridge. At least worked for me!

  89. Kate

    Thank you for this! Made this for a birthday party on the weekend and it was a huge hit.It was my first time making a cheesecake and I was on edge right up until people started eating it and raving. I loved the flavour the caramel added to the cake.
    I took the advice of many posters here and let the cake sit in the oven for about 45 mins after cooking with the door open a little. I then pulled it out, ran a knife around the edge and then put a bowl over the top for an additional hour or so to cool. No cracking!
    Served with fresh raspberries.

  90. stacey

    Well, I won’t know how the finished product tastes until tomorrow evening, but the raw batter was a.mazing. I regularly make simple ganache truffles, and I feeI like I’ve been cheating friends and family by NOT making them with this caramel cream combo. Wowzas.
    Really adds a gorgeous, subtle zing. And I felt compelled to post photos of the poor teddy grahams about to meet their fate in the coffee grinder (worked just fine). Surprising how sophisticated the crust tastes. Thanks for (begrudgingly) saying you preferred then to fancier cookies. ;-) Caramel was a slow, careful process, just as you said, but I didn’t have any actual problems with it.

  91. Erica

    I’ve loved so many of your recipes that it never occurred to me to test one out before trying it on company. But this one really tripped me up with the baking time instructions. At 55 minutes, the whole cake jiggled, edge to edge. So I baked 5 more minutes, then 5 more, then more and more–and it never did look set 3″ from the edge. Finally, I was afraid it was burning, so I took it out. It was still tasty but overly dense. The crust was too dark and too hard. For those of us who follow directions literally, you might want to adjust your description of what to watch for!

  92. Wendy

    When you say you usually double the crust, is the recipe you include for crust for a doubled crust or should we double that recipe? Thank you! Looking forward to making this for our upcoming holiday weekend here in Canada…your recipes never disappoint!

  93. Teresa

    I have a question regarding the crust; I used it with a different cheesecake filling, and it worked well, but when I unwrapped the foil from the pan, there was a TON of butter remaining and I felt like the butter taste was a bit overpowering on the crust bites. Did I over butter the pan? How generous do you need to be, given there is butter in it as well? Also, others specifically said the crust was amazing, so it could be a preference thing, but the slick foil was alarming.

  94. Lindsey

    This is a truly delicious, decadent, chocolate lovers dessert. I doubled the cookie crust, and my top cracked so I used that as an excuse to add a coffee-infused chocolate ganache on top. Decorated with rasberries. Definitely not a caramel taste so pick a different recipe if you are craving a blast of caramel. But I love this cake – Deb, thanks for helping me through all the big holidays. Xox

  95. Rebecca

    Planning to make this for my daughter’s 14th birthday tomorrow- she’s a salted caramel and chocolate fan. Do you think 1/2 tsp of sea salt in the caramel will give it that “salted caramel” flavor?

  96. Tally

    This cheesecake was a total hit, a joyful celebration for the taste buds. I applied the Deb factor to the sugar amount in her recipes: cut by half! :-))) and the caramel flavor was still standing out next to the chocolate and it was simply glorious. My cake also cracked although I had released the cake rim from the pan and I also poured a (milk chocolate) ganache on top to hide it.
    The recipe is definitely a keeper.

  97. Mallory Mortillaro

    Deb has done it again! A truly perfect recipe! A few weeks ago I made your chocoflan cake and it came out perfectly, this week I made this cake and once again- flawless! This might be the best thing I have ever baked! Thank you, Deb for always providing great recipes! I love having someone I can trust. My mom and I always say we trust Martha, Dorie, and Maida the most. But I think we need to add Deb to that list!

    1. deb

      I haven’t adapted this one to bars before, but I think you could. Here are my directions for turning the Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake into bars:

      Line the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch cake pan with one large piece of foil with no tears in it. (I find that flipping your cake pan over and molding the foil over top and sides first, before flipping it back over and lining the pan with this foil, causes less tearing.) Coat it lightly with butter or nonstick spray. Either 1.5x or 2x the crust recipe so you have a substantial enough base for a bar. Press it across the bottom and then 1/2-inch up the sides, then chill it as you do above. Make the cheesecake layer as written above and pour it on top. This bakes at 350°F for 30 to 40 minutes (check it at 30, then 35 to be safe), i.e. it’s much faster. To serve it once it’s totally chilled, carefully lift the whole pan out using the foil sling and transfer it to your counter. Use a knife dipped in hot water to make clean slices, and wipe the knife between cuts. I cut mine into 24 squares.

  98. Radha Maharana

    I can imagine how heavenly it must be tasting. can you tell me which brand of chocolate did you use, and which cookie did you use?