If you’re looking for a beautiful winter-themed cheesecake, this Cranberry Cheesecake with sugared cranberries is both beautiful and delicious! The creamiest cheesecake paired with white chocolate and cranberry swirls is perfect for all your fall and winter entertaining.
It’s hard to believe we’re wrapping up an entire year of cheesecakes! My 2022 Cheesecake of the Month project was clearly a success – these cheesecakes have been hugely popular!
I had many ideas for a winter-themed cheesecake to end the year, but in the end, cranberry won out. I love cranberry desserts, especially paired with a little bit of orange (I’ve included some orange zest in this). Plus, sugared cranberries are so easy to make and are always the perfect decoration!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Year of Cheesecakes as much as I’ve enjoyed making them (see the bottom of the post for the full collection!) – while this may be the end of the series, it definitely will not be the end of cheesecake recipes I’ll be sharing. (Or cranberry orange recipes, for that matter!)
Homemade Cranberry Compote
I initially wanted to make this cheesecake with chopped raw cranberries, but they’re just too firm, even after baking in a cheesecake. Pairing a silky-smooth cheesecake with hard little bites is a strange texture contrast.
So instead, we’re going to cook down our cranberries into a cranberry compote, which we’ll swirl into the cheesecake batter.
You could probably even use leftover cranberry sauce (homemade or the gelled kind from a can) in lieu of homemade cranberry compote. I haven’t tried this to verify that it works, but I bet it would – if you give it a try, please let me know in the comments!
To make the cranberry compote, it’s as easy as cooking down the cranberries, some sugar, water, and a little orange zest (optional, but highly recommended!).
Use the back of a spoon to squish the cranberries as they soften, continuing to cook down until the mixture is thickened and not liquidy. (If it’s TOO thick, just add a tablespoon or two of water and stir to mix.)
Set the compote aside and allow it to fully cool to room temperature.
Crispy Graham Cracker Crust
I went with a classic graham cracker crust for this cranberry cheesecake, but a gingersnap crust (like this sweet potato cheesecake) would also be perfect.
I have an entire post dedicated to making the perfect graham cracker crust to answer any questions you may have, or find the simple instructions in the recipe card below.
If you’re going to be making this cheesecake a few days in advance, or you prefer a crispier crust, bake for 15-18 minutes. I’ve started doing this with my cheesecakes and find it really prevents the crust from getting soggy! If you prefer a softer cheesecake or will be serving this the next day, you can shorten the baking time down to 10 minutes.
White Chocolate Cheesecake
This cheesecake base is the same as you’ll find in all my other cheesecakes from this year. It’s such a perfectly creamy, always-turns-out-amazing base that it’s my go to.
In this one, however, we’re going to add melted white chocolate to bring in a little of that sweet, buttery, vanilla-y flavor of white chocolate. This step is totally optional – you can leave it out completely if you don’t like white chocolate, or you don’t have it on hand.
Or if you try to use it but your chocolate seizes and you have to toss it (been there, done that in the past!).
White chocolate is just a combination of sugar, milk, cocoa butter, vanilla, and fat, without any of the cocoa solids that are in light or dark chocolate. This makes it trickier to melt – the lack of cocoa solids lowers the melting point, meaning it’s really easy to overeheat.
Chocolate seizes when it is overheated or exposed to any liquids. The sugars in the chocolate separate from the fat and clump together, rather than melting together smoothly. White chocolate will burn and clump together if exposed to temperatures over 110 °F.
Slow and steady is the way to go when it comes to melting chocolate! I prefer to use the microwave, since a double boiler sometimes runs the risk of adding moisture in the form of steam. Heat on 50% power in 30 second increments, stirring well after each round of microwaving. When there are just a few pieces of unmelted chocolate, stop microwaving and let the white chocolate sit for a minute or two, then stir.
Once white chocolate is smoothly melted and cooled a bit, mix it into the cheesecake batter and beat to combine to add a little bit of extra white chocolate punch to your cheesecake!
Cranberry Compote Swirls
You can either fold the cranberry compote into the white chocolate cheesecake batter for an all-over cranberry flavored cheesecake, or drop dollops of the compote and swirl.
I like the latter option as I like the visual contrast between the white cheesecake and the dark red cranberry!
To ensure we get cranberry flavor in every bite, however, we’re going to do two layers of swirls. Add half the cheesecake batter and dollop half of the thick compote over top. Use a knife to gently swirl this around. Follow with the rest of the cheesecake batter and dollop the remaining compote, swirling again. Use the knife to scoop a little of the cheesecake batter over top so no big blobs of cranberry compote is on the very top.
Tips and Tricks for the Best Cranberry Cheesecake
- Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature before adding. Bring the cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs up to room temperature, and make sure cranberry compote and white chocolate cool back down to room temperature.
- Melt the white chocolate slowly! White chocolate seizes very easily if any moisture is added and burns at a lower temperature than milk or dark chocolate.
- After swirling the cranberry compote with the cheesecake batter, bang the cheesecake pan on the counter a few times. This will help bring any air bubbles to the surface.
- The water bath used to bake the cheesecake is meant to cook the cheesecake more gently and evenly. The humidity from the steam prevents the cracks.
- For an extra festive look, decorate with sugared cranberries and sprigs of fresh rosemary.
More Cranberry Desserts:
- Cranberry Brownies
- Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake
- Cranberry Orange Babka
- Cranberry Curd Pie
- Cranberry Orange Streusel Muffins
- Cranberry Cider Quick Bread
2022 Cheesecake of the Month
For the Cranberry Compote
- 8 ounces fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
For the Crust
- 1 1/2 cups (213 grams) graham cracker crumbs (approximately 14 full size sheets, finely crushed)
- 1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted
For the Cheesecake:
- 32 ounces (908 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup (198 grams) granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup (151 grams) sour cream, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 8 ounces white chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
- sugared cranberries, for decorating
- Make the cranberry compote. Add the cranberries, water, sugar, and orange zest to a medium, heavy-bottomed pot. Cover over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, until the cranberries have softened. Use a spoon to squish the cranberries open to form a thick gel-like texture. Set aside to cool completely.
- Make the graham cracker crust. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Add graham crackers to a food processor and chop or crush into fine crumbs by hand. Pour in melted butter and mix using the food processor. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Press the crumbs along the bottom and extend up the sides of the springform pan, compacting the crumbs as much as possible. Bake for 12-15 minutes, then remove from the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 325 °F.
- Make the cheesecake batter. Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until creamy and well combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla extract, and salt, stirring until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, just mixing enough to combine, followed by the melted chocolate. Do not over-mix the cheesecake - this makes it more likely to crack. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and along the bottom of the bowl.
- Prepare the springform pan. Wrap the springform pan in 3 layers of aluminum foil, or create a pan-in-pan water bath by placing the 9-inch springform pan inside a 10-inch cake pan (both pans together will be placed inside the water bath). Pour half the cheesecake batter into the graham cracker cookie crust. Dollop with half the cranberry compote and use a knife to gently swirl the mixture. Add the rest of the cheesecake batter followed by the rest of the cranberry compote and swirl again. Use the knife to scoop up a little cheesecake batter and cover any large patches of cranberry compote on the surface of the cheesecake.
- Bake the cheesecake. Place the springform pan inside a larger pan and add hot water until the water level comes approximately halfway up the sides of the springform pan (or the outer cake pan). Bake at 325 °F for 75 - 85 minutes, or until the edges have set but a 3 to 4-inch diameter circle in the center of the cheesecake still jiggles. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly; cool in the warm oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the cheesecake from the oven and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour before placing it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
- Decorate the cheesecake. Run a knife around the inside edge of the springform pan and unmold. Decorate the top with sugared cranberries and sprigs of rosemary, if desired.