Recalling a Polka Dot Cheesecake I spotted in a magazine years ago, I hunted for a recipe until I finally landed on this dreamy version! Perfect for when you need a fun, special dessert!

A creation of Maida Heatter, renowned pastry chef and cookbook author, this creative Cheesecake Recipe tastes as good as it looks!

Polka Dot Cheesecake slice on a square plate with a couple chocolate wafer cookies and a red handled fork

Why You Must Make

  • Maida Haetter, pastry chef and cookbook author is renowned for her exquisite desserts and precise instructions. In her cookbook, Book of Great Desserts (affiliate link), she adapted Craig Claiborne’s basic cheesecake into several fabulous showstoppers.
  • It gives both vanilla and chocolate dessert fans their fix!
  • Polka dot desserts will always catch your eye, like this fabulous  Surprise-Inside Dotty Cake from In Katrina’s Kitchen and, of course, this fun cheesecake!
  • When I spotted Ms. Haetter’s polka dot cheesecake, which had been published in Saveur magazine, I was confident it would be outstanding. Starting with a chocolate cookie crust, it was topped with a simple cheesecake flavored with a touch of both vanilla and almond extracts. A third of the batter was mixed with melted chocolate, then piped into “dots” evenly distributed around the surface.

Ingredient Notes

  • Kitchen Staples – Sugar, Butter (salted is fine)
  • Chocolate Cookie Crumbs – Find them in the baking aisle next to the boxes of graham cracker crumbs.
  • Cream Cheese – Have at room temperature for easy blending
  • Eggs – Have them at room temperature for easy incorporation. If needed, place your eggs in a bowl of hot (not boiling) water to help speed up the process. Use large eggs.
  • Vanilla Extract – Always use pure vanilla extract, not artificially flavored.
  • Almond Extract – It’s more potent than vanilla extract so even if you’re a huge fan, don’t add extra.
  • Bittersweet Chocolate – Chopped. I use Ghirardelli bars. Melt and cool to room temperature before mixing it into the batter.
Polka Dot Cheesecake on a white ceramic dessert plate.

Recipe Tips:

  • There were only a couple of issues when putting together this cheesecake. I almost ran out of the chocolate batter, so use it sparingly to start, then add more to each dot with any remaining chocolate batter.
  • Maida also prefers just to pat graham cracker crumbs on the bottom of her cheesecake after it cools. Since much of my crust remained on the bottom plate of the springform pan, you may want to wrap the bottom of the springform pan in non-stick foil to make unmolding easier.
  • This was the creamiest cheesecake I’ve ever tasted. I was a little nervous when, after the hour and a half baking time, the top was quite golden brown and puffy. But Maida does mention this dark top in her recipe, and as it cools, it looks more like your typical cheesecake. I’ll have to agree that Craig Claiborne does indeed have the perfect recipe.
  • I will continue to use his ratio of cream cheese, eggs, and sugar, but vary the flavorings depending on my mood. And this was my first time piping cheesecake dots. The perfectionist in me wasn’t satisfied, but next time will be better!
Polka Dot Cheesecake on a white dessert plate with a fork.

Cheesecake 101

I had my foodie friends over for Cheesecake 101. They sampled some individual Oreo cheesecakes while I went through some basic cheesecake-making pointers:

  • PRO-Tip: Eggs and cream cheese should be at room temperature for easier mixing and a smoother texture in the final product.
  • PRO-Tip: Philadelphia Cream Cheese is the gold standard when it comes to cream cheese. Use it if it is available in your area. Avoid generic and low-fat versions if possible.
  • PRO-Tip: Use the paddle attachment on your mixer to combine ingredients.
  • When adding the eggs, be sure not to over-mix. You do not want to incorporate any extra air into the batter. Add them one at a time, beating until incorporated before adding another.
  • Bake your cheesecake in a bain-marie (water bath). This stabilizes the baking temperature and helps to prevent the top from cracking.
  • If you’re not 100% certain your springform pan is watertight, wrap the bottom and sides with heavy-duty foil before placing it in the water bath to prevent water from seeping into the pan.
  • When your cheesecake is fully baked, run a knife between the pan and cheesecake to minimize cracking as it cools.
  • PRO-Tip: Chill for at least 6 hours or overnight before serving. This also helps make for a creamy texture.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s The Best Temperature to Bake a Cheesecake?

325º is the most common oven temperature called for in cheesecake recipes, but always defer to the recommended temperature in the recipe you’re using. This recipe calls for baking at 350º.

How Do You Know When Your Cheesecake is Done?

You can use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature. A cheesecake is done when it reads 145º. Then turn off the oven, crack the door open, and let it cool for another hour. After that, it’s best to run a knife or an offset spatula around the rim of the pan to prevent the cheesecake from cracking as it cools.

How Should You Serve Cheesecake?

Cheesecake will be at its creamiest when it’s not served right from the refrigerator. Set it out at room temperature when you start your meal so it has at least an hour to get the chill off. Then use a hot knife to make clean slices. Run your knife under hot water, dry, make a slice, and repeat.

Cheesecakes generally don’t need much garnishing, but a drizzle of hot fudge, a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, or some fresh berries and mint would look nice on a slice of cheesecake depending on its flavor.

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A group of friends sitting at a table.

Thanks to my dear friends who joined me in the kitchen:

Beth, Jeanne, Sally, Kathy, Suzanne, me, Shelli, and Cathy.

Stay in touch through social media @ InstagramFacebook, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to tag me when you try one of my recipes! And if you love the results, please give it a 5-star rating in the recipe card.

Polka Dot Cheesecake | An ultra-creamy vanilla cheesecake with chocolate polka dots!

Polka Dot Cheesecake

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Yield 8 servings

A fun cheesecake full of beautiful chocolate polka dots! Adapted from Maida Heatter via Saveur



  • 1 ¾ cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • ½ stick butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons sugar


  • 2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 ¾ cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled


  1. Preheat oven to 350º. 
  2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press onto the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool as you make the cheesecake batter. Wrap the outside of the pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil if your pan is not watertight.
  4. Place cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for several minutes until smooth, scraping sides and bottom often.
  5. When the cream cheese has been mixed well, add the vanilla and almond extracts and sugar and beat well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, until just combined. Do not overbeat.
  6. Remove ⅓ of the cheesecake mixture and place it in a separate bowl. Pour the remaining cheesecake mixture into the prepared pan and set aside.
  7. Combine melted chocolate and the reserved cheesecake mixture until mixed well. Place the chocolate mixture in a pastry bag fitted with a plain #6 tip (½ inch) (or you can use a Ziploc bag with the end clipped).
  8. Working at table height (you will have more control than at counter height), place the tip of the tube into the center of the top of the cake, inserting it only slightly into the cake.
  9. Squeeze out some of the chocolate mixture. It will form a ball (about golf ball size) in the cake and will leave a dark polka dot about 2 inches wide on the top of the cake.
  10. Then, using the same procedure, squeeze out six balls around the rim. To space the six balls evenly, place the first one at twelve o’clock (top of the cake). The next at six o’clock (opposite your first ball). Then two on each side.
  11. The balls around the rim should be smaller than the one in the center, and they should not touch each other. If you have some chocolate mixture left over add it to the other balls. 
  12. Place the cake pan into the larger pan (I use a roaster). Place it in the oven and pour hot water into the larger pan about 1 ½ inches deep.
  13. Bake for 1 ½ hours. The top of the cake will still become golden brown and it will feel dry to the touch. The cake will firm up as it cools.
  14. Lift the cake pan out of the water and place it on a cake rack. Remove the foil if used. Cool the cake in the pan for 2 ½ hours.
  15. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  16. To serve, dip a sharp knife in very hot water or hold it under running hot water before making each cut, shake off the water but do not dry the blade.
  17. Make the first cut through the middle of one of the smaller dots and the second cut between two of the smaller dots.


 Adapted from Maida Heatter.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 799Total Fat: 54gSaturated Fat: 31gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 223mgSodium: 510mgCarbohydrates: 70gFiber: 1gSugar: 58gProtein: 12g occasionally offers nutritional information for recipes contained on this site. This information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased can change the nutritional information in any given recipe. Also, many recipes on recommend toppings, which may or may not be listed as optional and nutritional information for these added toppings is not listed. Other factors may change the nutritional information such as when the salt amount is listed “to taste,” it is not calculated into the recipe as the amount will vary. Also, different online calculators can provide different results. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in any given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information obtained is accurate.


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