The ghost of birthdays passed*

I’m not sleeping well at night. I used to have trouble sleeping when I changed beds too frequently. Now I can’t sleep in the bed I’ve slept in since I was 7. I may be frugal, but it’s not the Ghost of Christmas Past that’s causing me to toss and turn.

It’s the Ghost of Birthdays Passed.

During my (ahem) extended absence, I’ll admit that some birthdays came and went without so much as a present, a phone call, a card, an email or — I’m ashamed to admit — even a Facebook message.

To everyone I missed, my sincerest apologies. The next time I’m in your particular neck of the woods or you’re in mine, I’ll bake you up one of these. You’ll forget all about my oversight before the fork leaves your lips. Bygones?

So whose birthday did I remember? R.’s of course. Those milestone years are hard to miss, especially when it’s a champagne birthday to boot.

We sipped some bubbly (the real stuff, in honour of our newly developed francophilia) and consumed copious amounts of cream cheese (which I missed terribly while we were gone). We talked about the first 30 and made plans for the next.

It wasn’t even my birthday and I had a good time.

Don’t be daunted by the lengthy recipe. It’s a time-consuming, but not difficult, process well worth every second. You could skip the ganache and topping if you’re short on time, but it makes me sad just thinking about it. Don’t do it.

* Before the grammar police break out their batons, I went back and forth between past and passed before settling on what I consider to be the cleverer of the two. And yes, Virginia, cleverer is a word.

Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake

2 cups Oreo cookie crumbs
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
7 tablespoons butter, melted and still hot


1 1/2 cups whipping cream

20 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup Kahlúa


4 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature

1 1/3 cups sugar

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons dark rum

2 tablespoons instant espresso powder or instant coffee crystals

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons fancy molasses

4 large eggs


1 1/2 cups sour cream

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To prepare the crust, pulse the cookie crumbs, chopped chocolate, brown sugar, and nutmeg in a food processor just until combined. Add the hot butter and continue processing until the crumbs begin to stick together (about 1 minute).

Transfer the crumbs to a 10-inch springform pan with 3-inch sides. Press the crumbs firmly up the sides of the pan to within ½-inch of the top edge, then over the bottom of the pan.

To prepare the ganache, bring the whipping cream to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add the chocolate and Kahlúa. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth.

Pour 2 cups of ganache over the bottom of the crust. Freeze until the ganache is firm (about 30 minutes). Cover the remaining ganache and let stand at room temperature. You’ll use it to decorate later on.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

To prepare the filling, beat the cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl until blended. Mix in flour. In a small bowl, stir together the rum, espresso powder or instant coffee, vanilla and molasses until the espresso/coffee dissolves. Add this to the cream cheese mixture and beat. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition and occasionally scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Pour the filling over the cold ganache in the crust. Place the cake on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven. Bake until the top is brown, puffed and cracked at the edges. The middle 2 inches should move only slightly when the pan is gently shaken. This will take about 1 hour 5 minutes.

Transfer the cake to a rack. Cool for 15 minutes while preparing the topping, but maintain the oven temperature. The top of the cheesecake may fall slightly.

To prepare the topping, whisk together the sour cream, sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl. Pour the topping over the hot cheesecake, spreading carefully to ensure even coverage. Bake until the topping is set (about 10 minutes).

Transfer the cheesecake to a rack and immediately refrigerate the ensemble until cool (about 3 hours).

Run a small sharp knife between the crust and the side of the pan to loosen the cake. Release the pan sides. Transfer the cake to a platter.

At this point, the original recipe calls for some fancy dancy lattice and rosettes. I smeared the ganache on top of the cake instead, creating a free-form 30 in swirls.

Chill at least 6 hours or until the ganache is firm. The cake is best served the next day, but will keep for up to a week covered in the fridge.

Serves 12 according to Bon Appétit and many more according to me.

Source: Based on a recipe for Cappuccino-Fudge Cheesecake from Epicurious, which was originally published in Bon Appétit in February 2002.

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