Chili chocolate cheesecake


ight years on from when I left high school and I’m still discovering ways in which the curriculum was utterly nonsensical.

You know how everyone comes out of education and go, Okay, yes, but I don’t have a bloody clue how to file taxes or change a fuse in a plug?

Well, yeah, that’s true for me too. But also, there seems to have been a lot of…half lessons.


Key things you learn at school: solving quadratic equations; how to colour around the outline of countries on a map really accurately; and which parts of your tongue detect certain tastes.

Things that remain a mystery: why on earth the average person needs to be able to solve quadratic equations; where the north/south divide lies really; and how you taste flavours that are more about the tickle at the back of your throat, or the way they linger, seemingly in your nose.

One of these things bothers me more than the others. It isn’t the maths.

We know that the five tastes are sweet, salt, bitter, sour, and umami (savoury!), but it’s more complicated than that because the human body is amazing. The tongue picks up on temperature, pressure, and chemicals that create a range of effects like pain and the tingles, and that’s before you even factor in your nose and influences like memory. When it comes to hot chilis, what we taste and feel is down to capsaicin binding heat-sensing receptors*.

It makes sense, then, that the chili in this cheesecake isn’t a flavour so much as a feeling — at first bite you barely catch it, but by the last mouthful there’s a light tingle on your lips, a sensation created by using both dried chili flakes and Lindt’s dark chili chocolate. I was so excited about developing this recipe, to put a little twist on what’s a fairly straight-up idea. Although chili and chocolate is a pretty classic pairing, this dessert offers a little something different to your standard dinner party fare, and sounds a lot trickier than it actually is.

Chilli chocolate cheesecake // The Dinner Bell

Chili chocolate cheesecake

Adapted from Nigella

Serves 12, at least.

I used a 9 (maybe 10?) inch springform pan, but the original recipe calls for a smaller one. Smaller means deeper.


300g chocolate digestive biscuits, crushed
1tbsp cocoa
150g unsalted butter, melted

500g cream cheese (50% fat works fine!)
150ml soured cream
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
175g chili chocolate, chopped
1/2tbsp cocoa, in 1tbsp hot water
3/8tsp dried crushed chilis, very finely chopped

Cocoa to dust 


  1. First things first, make the base by mixing the crushed biscuits, cocoa, and melted butter, and pressing into the bottom of the springform pan. Even the layer out and pop it into the freezer. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Beat the cream cheese to soften, then add the soured cream, followed by the eggs and yolks.
  3. Melt the chocolate, then set aside to cool while you beat in the sugar. Add the chocolate and the cocoa mixture, followed by the chili, and use a spatula to mix until thoroughly combined and smooth.
  4. Take the pan out of the freezer, and line the outside of it first in clingfilm, then in foil.
  5. Sit the pan in a roast tin, and fill the pan with the cheesecake mixture. Fill the roasting tin with just-boiled water up to about halfway up the springform.
  6. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the top is set but still has a bit of wibble in it. When baked, remove the foil and clingfilm and allow to cool completely, in the pan, on a wire rack.
  7. When cool, cover the top in clingfilm and chill overnight. Remove from the fridge for about 20 minutes before releasing the cheesecake from the pan (I ran a palette knife around it first), dusting with cocoa, and serving.

* Bonus reading! Here’s three articles on how we taste hot food, at Wired, the BBC, and  Forbes.

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