One of my favorite nightcaps is an Irish Coffee. This classic cocktail is made by spiking hot, freshly brewed coffee with Irish whiskey, then topping things off with thick whipped cream. It’s a delicious combination and is a perfect way to take off the chill on a cold night when you need a little pick-me-up. And if you don’t want too much pick-me-up, you can make it with decaf.
These Irish Coffee Cheesecake Bars are an easy dessert option inspired by a traditional Irish coffee. The cheesecake filling is flavored with coffee and Irish whisky, creating a creamy bar that will probably remind you of tiramisu, a dessert that also involves alcohol and coffee. I used instant coffee dissolved in a little bit of hot water to flavor the cheesecake without compromising the texture. I actually like Starbucks Via in this recipe, if you happen to have it instead of traditional instant coffee, because it delivers a little more coffee flavor.
I used Jameson as my whisky, though Bushmills or Redbreast are fine choices as well. You’ll only get a hint of the whisky, so these bars are not too boozy to share with those who might be under the drinking age. That said, feel free to save them all for yourself.
The dense, creamy cheesecake sits on top of a buttery layer of shortbread. I used my favorite technique of pouring the cheesecake base on the shortbread while it is still hot, but has gone through a first baking to help it set. This technique really streamlines the process of baking cheesecake and delivers delicious results. The bars should be refrigerated after baking and dusted with cocoa powder before serving. The cocoa powder gives the bars some visual contrast and really helps to highlight the coffee in the cheesecake.
If you like coffee – even if you’re not yet familiar with Irish coffee – you’re sure to enjoy these. The recipe bakes up into a generous batch, but they’ll keep for a few days in the refrigerator so you don’t have to eat them all at once.
Irish Coffee Cheesecake Bars
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 tsp instant coffee
1 tbsp hot water
16-oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup Irish whisky (such as Jameson)
1/3 cup milk (pref. whole)
cocoa powder, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Prepare the crust: In the bowl of a food processor (or a mixer), combine flour, sugar and salt. Add in butter and pulse (or mix) until mixture is very crumbly and resembles wet sand. Pour crust mixture into the prepared pan and firmly press into an even layer.
Bake for 15-19 minutes, until crust begins to brown around the edges
Prepare the filling: In a small bowl, combine instant coffee and hot water and stir to dissolve.
In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese, sugar, egg, coffee, vanilla, Irish whisky and milk until very smooth. Set aside until crust is done baking. While the crust is still hot from the oven, pour cheesecake filling over it, using a spatula to spread the mixture into the corners of the pan.
Bake for 18-22 minutes, until the cheesecake is set. Allow bars to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until well-chilled before slicing
Before serving, dust cheesecake with cocoa powder.
Makes 20 bars.