Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
May 6, 2021
It should never come as a surprise to see this classic flavor combination here. It’s one of my favorites. In this version, tangy cheesecake ties together the classic rich dark chocolate and salty peanut butter for an extra dimension of flavor. It’s a creamy and decadent dessert sure to please all chocolate and peanut butter lovers.
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Let’s not pretend I’m reinventing anything here. Peanut butter and chocolate, with or without cheesecake, is a pretty classic combination. But it’s one of my weaknesses. My comfort food is Reese’s peanut butter eggs (yes, the egg shape is the best seasonal variety, and I will freeze them to enjoy all year).
This cheesecake is like taking a peanut butter cup and deconstructing it, adding in cream cheese, and putting it back together into a dense, yet fluffy, bite of joy.
What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for this chocolate peanut butter cheesecake at your grocery store:
- Pantry: Oreos, Brown sugar, Dark chocolate, Peanut butter cups
- Fridge: Butter, Cream cheese, Eggs, Ricotta, Heavy cream
- Equipment: 9×13 Baking pan, Mixing bowls, 9-inch Springform pan, Stand mixer
Let’s Make a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
Before getting started, preheat your oven. Although they take a long time to bake, cheesecakes are pretty easy to make. You build them from the bottom up, starting with a crust which is generally made of crushed cookies or crackers. In this case, I used Oreos, because I wanted that dark chocolate flavor.
I didn’t bother removing the cream. I just smashed a bunch of whole cookies with a rolling pin. You can also use a food processor, which will get you smaller pieces more quickly. The crumbs don’t need to be super fine either. Mine were about quarter- to half-inch pieces.
Combine them in a bowl with melted butter, which has had enough time to cool that you are able to handle it, and stir them both together. Then press this mixture into the bottom of a springform pan.
This is a special type of pan that is perfect for cheesecakes. The base is a flat disk, and the sides are made from a separate piece that includes a metal buckle. When your cheesecake is ready, you can easily remove the ring for the sides, and it’s so much easier to serve.
Bake the crust of your cheesecake for ten minutes, and then set it aside to cool while you prepare the filling. In the meantime, lower your oven temperature, and place a large casserole dish or baking pan on a lower rack. This pan will hold boiling water, and help create a moist, steamy environment for cooking your cheesecake. You should start that water boiling now.
The bulk of cheesecake filling is cream cheese. In this case, I used three full bricks. I love the flavor of cream cheese, with it’s slight tang, so naturally I’m a pretty big cheesecake fan.
Place it all in your stand mixer, and beat it on its own to let it soften for a few minutes. Then add in the sugar, and continue mixing until combined.
Add the eggs one at a time, full incorporating each one before adding the next. This will help the eggs mix better into the cream cheese. Eggs generally don’t like mixing into fats, so doing it one at a time will actually lead to less mixing time overall.
You will likely want to pause after each egg to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the inside of the paddle. The cream cheese will get stuck here more at first. As the eggs begin to thin out the filling, less will get caught in your paddle.
Next, you will add in the peanut butter, ricotta, and heavy cream. The peanut butter here is used for flavor, and it provides its own salt as well. I used a standard creamy peanut butter, and I don’t suggest using an unsweetened version in this recipe.
The ricotta and heavy cream both help with texture. While a cheesecake is mostly cream cheese, these softer dairy products help the filling have a better mouthfeel than simply biting into a brick of dense cream cheese.
Continue mixing on medium low until everything is fully combined There should not be any obvious streaks of cream cheese or peanut butter.
Transfer the completed filling on top of the cooled crust. Use a spatula to spread it around, since this cheesecake filling is quite thick. You want it to be fairly even, but don’t worry about getting it completely smooth.
Place the cheesecake in the oven, and then add the boiling water into the pan that is on the bottom rack. Try to add the water quickly so most of the steam gets trapped when you close the oven. But also be careful, because steam can cause some bad burns.
Since the cheesecake needs to chill, you should bake it at least one day in advance. However, you can make it even further in advance if needed. This cheesecake will keep nicely in the fridge for a couple days.
Bake for the cheesecake for what feels like forever. I started checking mine at the hour point, and it still had a ways to go. You will know that it’s done when the edges are pulling away from the pan, the top is golden brown, and the center does not jiggle independently from the rest of the cheesecake.
Once it is done, leave it in the oven, turn it off, and crack it open so it cools. If your oven doesn’t stay cracked on its own, you can use a wooden spoon in the door to hold it just slightly open. This allows the cheesecake to gradually cool down slowly with the oven.
Unfortunately, cracks may still happen. But luckily for this specific recipe it doesn’t matter. You’ll be covering the top of your cake with a gooey chocolate ganache that will fill that baby right in. No one has ever complained about bonus chocolate, right?
Once the cheesecake has cooled to room temperature, cover the entire pan with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to chill completely. This will take at least six hours, but you should leave it overnight to assure the center is fully cool.
How to Finish Your Cheesecake
Remove the chilled cheesecake from the fridge and place it on a large plate, platter, or serving tray. The flatter the better, since it will be easier to remove slices once it’s cut. Unbuckle the ring to remove it. Some small bits might stick, but in most cases, the cheesecake will have already pulled away from the edges.
Next you’ll prepare the ganache topping. Heat the heavy cream in the microwave in intervals to keep it from scalding. You want it to be quite warm so it melts the chocolate, but if you start to see any bubbling or a film on top, it’s done.
Add the chopped chocolate to a heat proof bowl, and pour the hot cream on top. You can also just add the chocolate directly into the cup with the cream if it’s large enough. Stir until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is completely combined.
Using dark chocolate will create a quite bitter ganache. The cream mellows it slightly from simply biting into a dark chocolate bar, but it may still be too much if you aren’t a big dark chocolate fan. You can use semi-sweet chocolate instead.
If you are making this cheesecake ahead of time, you can actually make ganache up to a week in advance. Store in a sealed container, like a mason jar, in the fridge, where it will harden somewhat.
Pour the ganache over the top of the cheesecake. It will be quite liquidy while it’s warm, and then as it cools it will begin to solidify somewhat. If you have made it in advance, warm it in the microwave until it’s pourable.
The ganache will nicely fill in any cracks in the top (see, I told you there were no worries!) and create a smooth chocolatey surface for adding any toppings. Allow some to drip down the sides if desired. If you have leftover ganache, you can use the extra for dipping fruit.
Top the ganache with the chopped peanut butter cups. You can arrange these any way you’d like. I did a simple crescent shape with the chopped pieces around a whole cup in the middle. You can also cut them in half and stand them up around the edges.
If you are looking for something a little bit different on top than standard peanut butter cups, there are plenty of options. I love the idea of using mini peanut butter cups, mini chocolate chips, peanut butter M&Ms or Reese’s pieces for a fun alternative. Anything that goes with chocolate and peanut butter will work.
Store the completed cheesecake covered in the fridge for a couple days. You can also store individual slices with the ganache and peanut butter cups the same way. This can be served cold, right out of the fridge, which means it is a perfect make-ahead dessert.
Chocolate and peanut butter lovers – this one is for you! This cheesecake is so rich and decadent, and is the perfect make-ahead dessert.
How to Serve Peanut Butter Cheesecake
This cheesecake is a real crowd pleaser, perfect for dinner parties, potlucks, and picnics. You can also enjoy it on your own with a warm cup of coffee in the evening. If you want to have it for breakfast, I am definitely on board for that too.
For some added decadence, try serving slices with a fun and sweet cocktail. A birthday cake martini or chocolate turtle martini are excellent choices. For something lighter, you can’t go wrong with a chocolate old fashioned.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- Cream cheese makes a tasty filling for the savory everything “bagel” stuffed french toast.
- Highlight peanut butter without all the chocolate in peanut butter lover’s cookie bars.
- I love baking with ricotta, especially in my favorite butternut squash cornbread.
- Extra heavy cream and eggs are a perfect excuse to churn up a batch of coffee ice cream.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
- 24 Oreos (or similar) crushed
- 3 Tbsp Butter melted
- 24 oz Plain Cream Cheese
- 1 Cup Brown sugar
- 4 Eggs
- 1 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
- ¾ Cup Ricotta
- ¾ Cup Heavy Cream
- 3 oz Dark Chocolate roughly chopped
- ⅜ Cup Heavy Cream
- 5-8 Peanut Butter Cups roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center, and another rack towards the bottom. On the bottom rack, place an empty casserole or baking pan. A 9x13 works perfectly.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the crushed Oreos and melted butter and stir. Transfer to a 9-inch springform pan, and press into the bottom of the pan.
- Bake the crust for 10 minutes, and then set aside to cool while you prepare the filling. Meanwhile, bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil in a kettle or pan.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the cream cheese and whip it by itself on low until softened, about 1-2 minutes. Then add in the sugar and continue mixing until combined.
- Add the eggs one at a time, full incorporating each one before adding the next. If needed, pause after each to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the inside of the paddle.
- Add the peanut butter, ricotta, and heavy cream. Continue mixing on medium low until fully combined, and there are no obvious streaks of cream cheese or peanut butter.
- Transfer the filling on top of the cooled crust. Place the cheesecake in the oven, and then add the boiling water into the pan that is on the bottom rack.
- Bake for 75-90 minutes, until the edges are pulling away from the pan, the top is golden brown, and the center does not jiggle independently from the rest of the cheesecake.
- Once done, turn off the oven and crack it open (use a wooden spoon to hold it just slightly open) and allow the cheesecake to cool to room temperature with the oven. Once cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to chill completely, at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.
- Remove it from the fridge and place it on a plate. Remove the ring from the pan.
- Prepare the ganache once the cheesecake has chilled by adding the heavy cream to a microwave safe cup. Heat in 15 second intervals until hot, but not scalding, about 45 seconds total.
- Add the chopped chocolate to a heat-proof bowl, and pour the hot cream on top. Stir until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is completely combined.
- Pour the ganache over the top of the cheesecake (you can use it to fill in any cracks in the top) and allow some to drip down the sides if desired.
- Top the ganance with the chopped peanut butter cups. Slice into 16 pieces and serve immediately, or store for later.
- Make Ahead Tips:
- Since the cheesecake needs to chill, you should bake it at least one day in advance. It will keep, covered, in the fridge for 2-3 days. You can also store individual slices with the ganache and peanut butter cups the same way.
- You can make ganache up to a week in advance and store in a sealed container in the fridge. It will solidify, so warm it in the microwave until it's pourable.
- You can use crushed chocolate graham crackers in place of the oreos. You will need about 12 whole crackers.
- I have not tried this recipe with other nut butters or crunchy peanut butter. If you try it, let me know how it goes.
- You can use semi-sweet chocolate for the ganache if dark chocolate is too bitter for you.
- Top with mini peanut butter cups, mini chocolate chips, peanut butter M&Ms or Reese's pieces for a fun alternative.