Caramel Apple Cheesecake
With a perfectly smooth cheesecake and a caramel apple topping, this caramel apple cheesecake is the perfect make-ahead entertaining dessert! Plus all the tips for a perfectly creamy, crack-free cheesecake every time.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I dislike cheesecake. And yet I keep making them, because I married a cheesecake lover. The running joke in our family is that my husband requests a cheesecake every year for his birthday, because he knows he’ll get to eat the entire thing himself since I won’t touch it.
(Things are changing, however – our 3 year old seems to have inherited the cheesecake-enjoying gene.)
I never mind making cheesecakes, however, because they’re just so easy. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or mixer. Pour into springform pan. Bake. Done.
Of course, the stressful part is often waiting to see if your cheesecake cracks, but don’t worry. Keep on reading for my favorite tips to prevent that.
And even if it does crack, who cares? This caramel apple cheesecake has a whole pile of apples and salted caramel sauce poured on top so if it does crack, no one will ever know.
An easy, delicious, stress free cheesecake. Does it get any easier? No, no it does not.
How Does Cheesecake Set?
First, let’s talk a little about my favorite subject: kitchen chemistry! Last week, I shared a recipe for chocolate cream pie, and my kitchen chemistry for the week focused on custard and the crosslinking of egg proteins.
News alert: a cheesecake is a custard… except we use cream cheese instead of milk!
Of course, unlike a custard, we really want a cheesecake to be solid. We use a thicker dairy ingredient (cream cheese instead of milk) and bake the custard instead of heating it on the stove.
When we (slowly!) heat a cheesecake, the proteins in the eggs begin to lose their shape (in science, we refer to protein structure — this is the three-dimensional shape of the protein), unfolding in a process called denaturation. As the proteins expand, new bonds form with other nearby proteins. These proteins begin to clump together, or coagulate. When we bake a cheesecake, the egg proteins denature, exposing additional surface area. Sugar molecules are able to interact with the denatured egg proteins, and these larger molecules begin to coagulate together to form a solid structure. With enough time and heat, the liquid ingredients combine to form a solid cheesecake.
How do you prevent a cheesecake from cracking?
The number one reasons cheesecakes crack is because they’re overcooked. Applying heat too fast results in a cheesecake that goes right from coagulation to curdling — and the telltale sign is a big crack down the middle with a dry texture along the crack.
Cheesecakes continue to cook and set as they cool, so if you wait until the cheesecake is almost done jiggling, you’ve waited too long! You want to pull it out when it still jiggles a lot — you’re looking for a 3 to 4 inch diameter circle in the center that really wobbles.
Or take all the guesswork out and bake the cheesecake by temperature. Using an instant-read thermometer, turn off the oven when the cheesecake reaches 150 °F. No need to hem and haw over whether that wobbly spot is too big or too small.
Science: it works!
Tips for baking a perfect cheesecake
Want to know all my secrets for a silky-smooth cheesecake? Here we go!
- Use room temperature ingredients. Cold cream cheese and eggs are harder to mix smoothly. To try to get a smooth batter, you’ll probably overbeat the ingredients, adding in excess air. Make sure to set out all your ingredients ahead of time to bring them to room temperature first!
- Avoid excess overmixing. Even if your ingredients are room temperature, you can still mix too much! Do you sometimes turn on your mixer and stop to wash some dishes or do something else and get distracted? (Just me?) Over-beating the batter adds too much air, which causes the cheesecake to puff up while baking and skin while cooling, leading to cracks.
- Grease the sides of the pan. If the crust stops halfway up the sides of the pan, grease the sides above the crust. A cheesecake shrinks a little as it cools; you want it to pull away from the edges and shrink inward, not stick to the sides.
- Cool the cheesecake slowly. One easy way to do this is to turn off the oven, leave the door open partway, and let it cool. Alternatively, take the cheesecake out of the oven and let it cool inside a closed microwave or invert a large bowl overtop the cheesecake.
- Chill overnight before serving. I know, I know. You want that cheesecake and you want it now! But by letting the cheesecake cool to room temperature and then refrigerating overnight, the cheesecake really has a chance to set.
How to make Caramel Apple Cheesecake
Now that we have our generic cheesecake tips out of the way, let’s talk about this specific cheesecake: a caramel apple cheesecake!
Caramel and apple are (obviously) a perfect flavor combination, and work year round, although are especially great in fall and winter when most other fruits are not easily available. I actually made this caramel apple cheesecake as a dessert for Thanksgiving, but it’s just as perfectly at home for other winter holidays.
(And did I mention that it’s really easy? A perfect last minute dessert? And it can be made ahead of time?!)
We have five components for this caramel apple cheesecake: a graham cracker crust, a vanilla-based cheesecake, a homemade apple pie topping, whipped cream, and super easy homemade salted caramel sauce.
We’ll start with the graham cracker crust. Crushed graham crackers, sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Press along the bottom and partway up the sides of a springform pan. Par-bake the crust for a bit, then let it cool. Easy peasy.
Next, the star of the show: the cheesecake layer. I make mine in a food processor, since I already pull it out to crush the graham cracker crumbs, but you can use a stand or a hand mixer as well. As long as your ingredients are room temperature, it will mix together easily. Combine ingredients, mix, pour into the crust, and bake. (See above for cheesecake baking tips!)
While the cheesecake bakes, made the apple pie topping. You can really use any apple you like here; add a little sugar if it’s too tart. Since we’re cooking this on the stovetop, you can stop when the apples get soft without risk of overcooking them. For reference, I used gala apples for this, since it’s what we happened to have on hand. Can you stir a few ingredients for 5 minutes? Because that’s all this apple topping requires.
While the apple pie topping cools, break out your mixer (or my favorite trick: an immersion blender with a whisk) to make some whipped cream. Or you know, cheat and use a can of Reddi-Whip. I’m pretty sure no one will notice with everything else going into this!
Lastly, the homemade salted caramel. Sounds fancy and complicated, right? Wrong! It only requires 4 ingredients and 10 minutes. The only trick is using it while it’s still warm and pourable. Don’t worry if it solidifies or if you want to use the extra to drizzle on a cut slice; just pop it back on the stove and stir while it heats. It will be back to a pourable consistency in no time at all!
When it’s time to assemble the caramel apple cheesecake, remove the sides from the springform pan. Pipe the whipped cream around the outside and pile on the apple topping. Drizzle the salted caramel all across the top. And then… dig in!
How to Make Caramel Apple Cheesecake Ahead of Time
Don’t let the number of steps or layers fool you; this caramel apple cheesecake actually comes together pretty quickly. You can make the cheesecake ahead of time and refrigerate (or freeze!) it. If frozen, thaw the night before you plan to serve it.
Make the apple filling a day or two before, too! The only things I generally make day-of are the whipped cream and the caramel, and this only takes 15 minutes: 5 for the whipped cream, 10 for the salted caramel.
Assemble, serve, and enjoy a big slice.
More Cheesecake Recipes:
- Chocolate Banana Cheesecake
- Tim Tam No Bake Cheesecake
- Macaroon Crust Cheesecake
- Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
- All Cheesecake Recipes »
Cheesecake components can be made ahead of time. A Bunsen Burner Bakery Original Protocol As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
For the Crust:
For the cheesecake filling:
For the apple topping:
For the salted caramel:
Nutrition Information: Yield: 14 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 445 Total Fat: 27.8g Carbohydrates: 46.3g Protein: 4.62g
Cheesecake components can be made ahead of time.
A Bunsen Burner Bakery Original Protocol
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.