Coffee-and-Espresso Layered Cheesecake


Last week was my sister’s birthday, and she spent it living it up out in Chicago, so this was a somewhat belated celebration. Last year for her birthday she asked me to make a Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Hazelnut filling, so this year while trying to think of a dessert that she would enjoy, something that was different and unique, all I could keep thinking about was making something with coffee in it. (I think my sister would become legally wed to Starbucks if she could!) I, of course, love cheesecake so I started searching around for some type of coffee and/or espresso flavored cheesecake. I found a few recipes floating around out there, but none that I was crazy about, so I went about creating my own.


This is essentially a graham crust, and a classic cheesecake recipe with half of the batter flavored with Starbucks Coffee Liquor and the other half flavored with a serving of espresso, topped with chocolate ganache and garnished with chocolate covered espresso beans (thanks to my Chief Culinary Consultant for suggesting the chocolate covered beans – definitely a great finishing touch!). I think the balance of flavors in this cheesecake is perfect:

A subtle hint of the coffee liquor paired with an espresso flavor that was not too overpowering, and a bittersweet chocolate ganache that ties it all together.


I used the standard graham cracker crust, but I am willing to bet that a chocolate crust would be fabulous with this cheesecake. Really – when is chocolate NOT great?? Exactly. Although I used Starbucks Coffee Liquor you could use any coffee-flavored liquor you  like (Kahlua would be a good choice). Alternatively, if you’d rather not use alcohol, a coffee-flavored creamer would work just as well.

Now I’d like to talk about water baths. I’m admittedly not really sold on this method. I have made a number of cheesecakes using both methods – water bath and a “regular” bake without one, and I honestly don’t know that there is much difference, aside from the fact that the “regular” baking method is easier and less messy and the chances of my crust getting soggy decreases dramatically. I’m a crust girl, so I don’t like bad things to happen to it. I’m curious to know what method you use and why you think it’s better.


Some Favorite Cheesecake Recipes:
Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake
Cheesecake Truffles
Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte
Oreo Cheesecake

Coffee-and-Espresso Layered Cheesecake

Yield: 12 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours


For the crust
1¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter

For the cheesecake
2 pounds (four 8-ounce boxes) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon Kahlua (or other coffee liquor)
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon boiling water

For the chocolate ganache (originally used on the Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake)
1.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¼ stick (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/8 cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ tablespoon powdered sugar

Chocolate-covered espresso beans, for garnish (optional)


1. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil.

2. Stir the graham cracker crumbs and sugar together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are moist. Turn the mixture into the springform pan and pat an even layer of crumbs over the bottom of the pan and halfway up the sides. Put the pan in the freezer while the oven is preheated.

3. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust on a cooling rack.

4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

5. Put a kettle of water (or medium saucepan filled with water) on to boil.

6. Beat the cream cheese at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat for another 4 minutes, until the cream cheese is light. Add the eggs one by one, beating for one minute after each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the sour cream.

7. Put half of the batter into another bowl.

8. To one half of the batter, add the coffee liquor and gently mix with a rubber spatula until thoroughly combined.

9. Dissolve the espresso powder with the boiling water and add to the other half of the batter. Again, use a rubber spatula to gently mix in the espresso until thoroughly combined.

10. Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the pan with some space around it. Pour the coffee liquor-flavored batter into the prepared crust and spread into an even layer. Very slowly, pour the espresso-flavored batter over the coffee batter.

11. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

12. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door propped open for one hour.

13. After 1 hour, carefully pull the roasting pan out of the oven and lift the springform pan out. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (overnight is better).

14. To make the chocolate ganache, place finely chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Microwave the butter and heavy cream on HIGH for 1 minute. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the vanilla and then mix in the powdered sugar until smooth. Spread over cheesecake while ganache is still warm. Chill until ready to serve.

(Base cheesecake recipe adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)


55 Responses to “Coffee-and-Espresso Layered Cheesecake”

  1. michelle on May 5, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    That looks absolutely delicious!


  2. Joelen on May 5, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    This looks fantastic!


  3. Meghan on May 5, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    This cheesecake looks amazing!!! I love the layers and I’ve never had a coffee-flavored cheesecake before but I know I’d love it. I like graham cracker crusts too, but I agree with you, the more chocolate the better! I have only made 2 cheesecakes before and both recipes called for dry bake. I had a few tiny cracks in them, but each recipe had a topping (one cream cheese frosting, the other chocolate ganache), so it didn’t matter. I thought a water bath was supposed to help prevent cracks, but I’ve never used one – it seems intimidating to me!


  4. Mermaid Sweets on May 6, 2009 at 2:12 am

    This looks great, love your creativity.


  5. Danielle on May 6, 2009 at 9:18 am

    I use a water bath for my cheesecakes I think it helps to not over cook the cake.
    You cheese cake looks super yummy!


  6. stephchows on May 6, 2009 at 10:40 am

    This looks so good!! And I totally need to check out your last year cake too! I go for no water bath… why? Because it’s easier and they come out tasting great! So why bother with the extra step? 🙂


  7. Kayte on May 6, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Wow…that is one really great looking cheesecake. I would say that your interpretation of this recipe is very creative and absolutely elegant! What a hit!


  8. Cookin' Canuck on May 6, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    This is really beautiful! I have never attempted a cheesecake, but I think you may have inspired me to do so.


  9. Jenn's Baking Chamber on May 6, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Anything that is cheesecake and layered, I’m all over it! love the recipe! thanks


  10. Superchef on May 7, 2009 at 2:08 am

    this is absolutely heaven!!!! saw this featured in the top 9 recipes of the day in foodbuzz. Couldnt resist visiting your blog for the recipe! 🙂 great job!!


  11. Brian Bradley on May 7, 2009 at 10:35 am

    A lot of people prefer a less-cakey, more custard-like cheesecake. But For my own eating, I enjoy a well-baked cheesecake — even golden on top. One of my cheesecakes (chocoloate) is rather deep, and its top will crack unless I use a water bath for it. That’s just my experience and preference.


  12. Marta on May 7, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    This looks lovely! You were so creative when creating this recipe: I like the different layers of flavour and colour of the outcome, very elegant! I’m sure your sister enjoyed it 🙂
    As per the cooking method: depends on the cheesecake! I make a couple of cakes to which I add a crack-proof layer, in which case I don’t find the bath necessary. However, when the layer is to be absent, the water bath tends to yield very smooth cakes. My problem with it is that I always (no matter how well I seal the bottom) get water in the crust and that BOTHERS me to no end!


  13. Sock Monkey on May 7, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Interesting twist, layering it like that. I’ve never baked a cheesecake using a bain marie, so I can’t compare the two. Still, I’ve never had one that came out dry.


  14. finsmom on May 7, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    What a tasty sounding recipe! I am loving your blog! 🙂


  15. Courtney on May 8, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    This looks amazing!! I am inspired by how you were “winging it” and created a fabulous dessert in the process–can’t wait to give this a try:)


  16. Jenn on May 11, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    i just stumbled upon your blog and this looks sooooo good. i can’t wait to try it!


  17. Ashley on May 13, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Okay it’s like you created this recipe for me! Looks so incredibly delicious and decadent. Yum.


  18. Camilla on May 14, 2009 at 10:10 am

    I have been visiting your blog for while, but had to post about this cheesecake: gorgeous! I love cheesecake and coffee, and the layered effect here is stunning! Cannot wait to try 🙂

    Camilla 🙂


  19. Julie on May 15, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    That’s amazingly beautiful….love it!


  20. Nicole on May 17, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I have NO word… none… I am floored.


  21. Amanda on July 13, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    YUM! I made this for Mother’s Day, and my mom requested (demanded) that I make it for her birthday and every holiday. 🙂 Thanks so much!


  22. Donna on September 7, 2009 at 1:03 am

    just what I was looking for thanks! as for the water bath… been a chef for too many years to count… started out using the water bath, but like you mentioned, much more fuss. The secret to not having your cheesecake crack through the center when not using a water bath… take it out before its overcooked. 😉 I know sounds easy! As the sides just begin to firm up, and yes you might take it out too early once or twice before getting the hang of it… remove the cake from the oven, or even turn the oven off with the door open. your cake will continue to cook just the right amount and voila! no crack. no mess. no steam burns 😉 Now! Off to whip up this wonderful recipe for some friends, thankyou:)


  23. Pamela on September 10, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    YUM! I made this when my mother-in-law came to visit but somehow I was the one eating SIX pieces.


  24. Amanda on November 26, 2009 at 10:20 am

    I made this for my mom on Mother’s Day, and she wants me to make it for every holiday, birthday, and anniversary. It was sooo good, and it was pretty easy to make, too. Thanks!


  25. Marie Chan on January 20, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Thumbs up to this recipe…I tried this last night and its awesome. Thanks for sharing!


  26. delia on February 22, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Hi..beautiful and creative cheesecake. I would like to enquire when you pour in the second half of the batter onto the first half, wouldn’t they blend together or the second half sink to the bottom? I would very much love to make this for my own birthday coming soon. Tq.


  27. Michelle on February 24, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Hi Delia,

    They actually do not blend together, but you may find some waviness in the middle – there won’t be an even line but as you can see from my picture, they stay pretty separate. If you pour slowly and in circles (don’t dump all of the batter in the middle) the second layer will settle easily on top of the first. Enjoy the cheesecake and happy early birthday! 🙂


  28. Kaitlin on February 10, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    When you add the espresso powder/boiling water to the cheesecake, how much d’you add? I have a hard time telling if it’s one tablespoon, two or the whole kettle. xD


    • Michelle on February 10th, 2011 at 11:21 pm

      Oops, sorry about the vagueness in that part of the recipe! One tablespoon of the boiling water; I will go back and edit it so it’s more clear!


  29. Kaitlin on February 14, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Lol I think I still messed up the espresso proportions. The batter wasn’t dark at all. xD It came out delicious tho. :] Idk much about coffee so that’s probably part of the confusion. I gave up on coffee creamer and used Cinnabon-flavored. I used the espresso beans and mixed instant espresso powder into my oreo crumb crust, too. it was tasty but maybe one day down the road I’ll get a chance to revisit it. :]


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  31. Nathan on May 12, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Can I make the cheesecake without the coffee liquor?


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  33. Bryant Soto on August 19, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    That looks absolutely delicious!Thanks for sharing!


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  35. Rachel on November 22, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Hi, this cheesecake looks Devine!
    Definitely going to try make it,
    However I was just wondering is it a heavy/dense cake?


    • Michelle on November 22nd, 2011 at 8:32 pm

      Hi Rachel, That’s a tough question because cheesecakes are by nature rather dense and not light and airy, but I wouldn’t say it’s overly dense, or moreso than any other “regular” cheesecake.


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  37. Angela on April 13, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Can I make this cheesecake two days ahead of time?


    • Michelle on April 16th, 2012 at 5:44 pm

      Yes, absolutely! Just keep it refrigerated.


  38. Karen on July 15, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Thanks for this recipe. I made this for my family, and they absolutely loved it!


  39. Eleanor on September 27, 2012 at 10:12 am

    My dad has made a cheesecake very similar to this, but he has lost the recipe…so I’m going to give this one a try! If I don’t want to fuss with the water method, does the cooking time or temp change?
    Thanks so much!


    • Michelle on September 30th, 2012 at 10:21 pm

      Hi Eleanor, I would check it for doneness a little sooner, but it should take about the same amount of time.


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  42. Mikel Ibarra on April 10, 2013 at 10:31 am

    I am IN LOVE with your recipes! Thank you for baking and sharing! I was reading comments on another site just now and I had to run here and share this with you “Suzy
    Jul. 22, 2009 2:36 pm
    Water bath tip-Try using a Turkey size clear plastic baking bag insted of lining the spring form pan with foil. Chedk for leaks first, but should prevent any soggy crusts. Mine came out perfect-no cracks!”

    I’ve been having trouble with the leaking water bath, so this is what I am going to try next!


  43. Ala'a on August 19, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Can’t thank you enough for the super amazing recipes <3
    I have a question; if I make the crust without the 3 tablespoons of sugar (Only the crumbs and butter), would it still be ok or the crumbs won't stand together?
    I also want to ask you, do you recommend any other kind of crackers, as I live in Taiwan and Graham crackers are impossible to find:( They have Digestive though, would that work?


    • Michelle on August 22nd, 2013 at 6:32 pm

      Hi Ala’a, I think you could omit the sugar without any problems. You could use Digestives, also animal crackers, Oreos or anything similar.


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  46. Sasha on April 14, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Delicious!!! I did a hazelnut/espresso version: Chocolate wafer cookies + ground up roasted hazelnuts in the crust, & Frangelico liquor (1T). The combinations with this recipe are endless, and this is definitely my new “go to” base cheesecake. I used ricotta instead of sour cream (because I had some to finish up), it was fantastic. The ganache & chocolate covered espresso beans were much commented & scraped up off the plate. Love love your blog. Keep up the excellent work.


  47. Cheldena on September 23, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    Emma Crumbie’s in Bell Plaine, MN makes this fantastic! It’s at least 4 or 5″ high and has chocolate covered coffee beans on it and it is the most fantastic cheese cake I have ever eaten. I could live on this cake.
    My question is, how do I make the coffee and Kahula strong enough as I like it strong.
    Thank you!


    • Michelle on September 25th, 2015 at 7:43 pm

      Hi Cheldena, I would just try making it as stated first, and if you feel like the coffee and Kahlua aren’t strong enough, you could try upping the amounts a little at a time. Using a bold roast coffee will help for sure.


      • Cheldena on September 25th, 2015 at 8:09 pm

        Thank you so much, I really appreciate your reply!
        When you say increasing it a little bit; how much would you say for each as I usually don’t bake but I will be making this! 🙂
        Thank you!
        Have a wonderful weekend!


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