I can’t get enough of chocolate + peppermint this time of year.
Add in Oreos and I’m absolutely in heaven. I don’t know what it is about the combination. Maybe it’s the way the peppermint cuts the sweetness of the Oreo and complements the chocolate so beautifully.
Working with peppermint used to scare me. I’d always fear my desserts would just taste like mouthwash. But this recipe is everything right about holiday baking and entertaining. This is the perfect dessert to make in advance of your holiday party or to bring to a potluck.
How to Bake a Perfect Chocolate Cheesecake
Cheesecake can be a little tricky to perfect, so I suggest reading this pink box over before you head into the kitchen.
What’s the best springform pan?
Springform pans, which have deep sides and a removable bottom, make easy work of removing the cheesecake from the pan and cutting beautiful slices.
I like this Nordic Ware 10-cup springform pan. Even if your pan claims to be “leak proof,” almost no pan is existence actually is. See my water bath tips below. Be sure to hand wash springform pans to preserve their nonstick surface and spring mechanism.
How to Make Oreo Crust
Step one, don’t remove the Oreo filling!!! A food processor makes quick and easy work of grinding the cookies into fine crumbs. The finer the crust is ground, the more solid it’ll be once you go to cut a slice.
How to Stop Cheesecake Cracks
Perfectly smooth cheesecake with zero cracks requires 3 steps. However, even if a crack forms it’s no big deal in this recipe since the cheesecake will be topped with thick chocolate ganache.
1. Avoid overbeating cheesecake filling!
Be sure to use high quality full-fat bricks of cream cheese. Some ‘generic’ brands are too watery.
The cream cheese should be completely softened to room temperature. If it’s too cold, it won’t mix thoroughly and you’ll end up with little bits and pockets of unblended cream cheese which is extra obvious in a chocolate cheesecake. Make sure your eggs are room temperature too!
One of the tricks to making perfectly smooth and creamy cheesecake is to blend the cream cheese and sugar to oblivion. After the eggs are added only beat until they’re incorporated. If you overbeat the batter once the eggs are added then you run the risk of causing all sorts of problems, like large cracks on the cheesecake surface.
2. No quick temperature changes!
Cheesecake is delicate and finicky. Quick temperature changes cause cracks. You want gentle and slow heat and then slow cooling.
That’s why in this recipe once the cheesecake is done baking we actually turn off the oven heat, crack open the oven door, and allow the cheesecake to slowly and gently cool for an 45 minutes inside the oven. That’s also why we bake the cheesecake in a water bath to ensure gently baking.
To prevent the cheesecake from cracking as it cools to room temperature out of the oven, run a thin knife around the edge of the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. Only after chilling in the fridge should you remove the springform ring.
3. Don’t overcook cheesecake!
Cheesecake is done baking BEFORE it looks done. The residual heat of the oven will continue to cook the cheesecake.
You can the center of the cheesecake to look slightly wobbly or jiggly like Jell-O when the baking time has ended. It should look dry on the surface.
How to Prepare a Cheesecake Water Bath
Make sure you have a baking pan that’s deep enough and wide enough for the springform pan to fit inside. A roasting pan is usually ideal, but I’ve even used an extra large cake pan or a large skillet. Get creative if you need to!
Two, make sure the springform pan is protected from the water. You don’t want any water to seep through the cracks of the pan and make a mushy crust.
To seal off the pan, place a large square of heavy-duty aluminum foil underneath the pan. You want the heavy duty stuff that creates bigger sheets of foil to completely encompass the base of the pan. Gently fold the edges up and around the pan. Repeat twice so there’s three sheets of foil to ensure a waterproof seal. Gently fold the top of the foil around the edge of the pan. I’ve even used duct tape to seal the foil to prevent water from leaking through.
Reader Holly shared a wonderful tip for keeping the water out, “I use a turkey roasting bag, then put a layer of foil around the bottom and sides of the pan to hold it in place. I don’t close the bag over the top. Keeps the water out and the crust dry.”
How to Serve Cheesecake
This part requires the most patience! You must let it chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours before you even think of slicing and serving it! I usually like to let it chill overnight, just to make sure it’s completely set and I’m able to cut clean pretty slices.
Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan. You can leave it on the removable bottom or move it to a serving platter.
If time permits, let the cheesecake sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving for best taste and texture. Use a fairly big sharp knife like this one to cut slices. Run the knife under hot water and wipe off the blade between each slice so they’re clean and pretty. Then slide a metal server underneath the crust to ensure it doesn’t crumble.
How to Store Cheesecake
Store the cheesecake in the fridge for up to 5 days after you top it with the ganache.
You can also freeze the cheesecake (without the ganache and candy canes). You can place the whole cheesecake or individual slices on a baking sheet inside the freezer until firm. Wrap the cheesecake or each individual slice in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. Freeze for up to 2 months.
To serve, defrost a whole cheesecake in the fridge overnight. You can also defrost individual slices in the fridge overnight, or at room temperature for 30 minutes.