Cheesecake is one of my absolute favorite desserts. In fact, I have yet to meet a cheesecake I did not instantly fall in love with. Since fall (now winter) is finally upon us, I wanted to make something festive using seasonal ingredients. When I think fall desserts, apple is usually one of the first things that comes to mind. What goes great with apples? Caramel sauce of course. Boom – I decided to make a caramel apple cheesecake. About a month ago, one of my crossfit buddies was hosting a wine-tasting party, and I thought this would be the perfect dessert. It was so well-received I made it again a few days ago for Thanksgiving dessert.
I got the inspiration for this recipe based on Paula Deen’s recipe I made back in college one time. However, Paula (bless her heart) used store-bought pie crust and canned apple pie filling to put on top. While her concoction was certainly delicious, I wanted to take it one step further and make everything completely from scratch. However, y’all should know I am all about convenience, but not when it comes to fancy occasions. So with that said, this is definitely one of those show-stopping desserts for special occasions.
Cheesecake used to be very intimidating to me, but the best way to overcome any cheesecake-making-induced anxieties is to get after it and start making them! You are going to be surprised how easy it is to make amazing homemade cheesecake. The important part is giving yourself PLENTY of time and following each step precisely. Unfortunately, this is not one of those throw-together desserts you make last minute. There are basically 4 parts: the crust, the actual cheesecake batter, and then the apples and caramel sauce (which kind of become ONE).
I hope y’all will enjoy!
Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake
1 3/4 cup finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 – 8 oz. packages of full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup sour cream (can substitute plain Greek yogurt)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of heavy cream (or whole milk)
3 eggs, slightly -beaten
optional: dash of freshly grated nutmeg
Sautéed Apples and Salted Caramel Sauce:
4-5 medium apples (you can use any variety you like, such as Granny Smith, Gala, Pink Lady, Fuji, etc.)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (dark or light)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
dash of ground cloves
dash of freshly grated nutmeg
For the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place graham crackers into a food processor and process until very finely ground.
- Add the melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon to the graham crackers and process until everything comes together into a ball that does not fall apart.
- Completely cover the bottom edges of the springform pan with aluminum foil so batter does not leak out later in the process. Cover the inside bottom round part of the springform pan with parchment paper for easy removal after baking (see note). Press the crust into a well-greased 9″ or 10″ springform pan
- Bake for around 8 minutes until the crust is slightly golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.
To make the Salted Caramel Apple Topping:
- Melt the stick of butter in a large pan (non-stick or cast-iron work best).
- Add the sliced apples into the melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
- Cook the apples until soft but not mushy; this should take about 5-7 minutes depending on the thickness of your apple slices.
- In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and heavy cream and pour over the cooking apples.
- After 1 minute, remove the apple slices and set onto a plate to cool to room temperature. Now, finish making the caramel sauce.
- Set the skillet back onto medium heat and cook until the sauce thickens, which should take about 3-5 minutes. Constantly stir your caramel sauce or it will burn on the bottom or become “jelly-like” which means it is overcooked.
- Remove from the heat and cool until you are ready to top your cheesecake.
To make the cheesecake filling:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all three packages of cream cheese into the bowl of your mixer and mix on medium speed until cream cheese is smooth.
- Add the sugar and mix for 15 more seconds on medium speed until full incorporated.
- Add the sour cream, flour, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and heavy cream and mix until everything is combined and smooth.
- Slightly whisk the eggs in a small bowl then add to the cream cheese mixture and mix on low to medium speed until fully mixed in. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Pour the cheesecake batter into the springform pan over the baked crust. Gently tap the springform pan on the counter several time to remove any air bubbles from the batter to reduce cracks in the cheesecake.
- Place the cheese cake batter with the aluminum foil-covered bottom into a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with about 1″ of hot water, so that the the cheesecake is surrounded by water inside the roasting pan. This creates a water bath to prevent cheesecake from cracking or browning too quickly.
- Bake the cheesecake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Halfway through gently open the oven to make sure the springform pan is still surrounded by water. If not, add a small amount of hot water to the roasting pan.
- After 1 hour and 20 minutes, turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake inside for one hour. You can leave the oven door slightly open.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on the counter. After the cheesecake has cooled for about 30 minutes you may remove the sides of the springform pan and aluminum foil and allow the cheesecake to finish cooling while setting on the bottom round section of the pan.
- Refrigerate the cheesecake for at least three hours, preferably overnight. Once the cheesecake has completely cooled, place the caramel apple topping on top and spread evenly (which helps to cover any cracks).
- Keep chilled until you are ready to serve, and leftovers should be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- I find it’s extremely helpful to line the bottom middle part of the springform pan with parchment paper. This helps to easily remove the cheesecake once it’s cooled without everything falling apart (your worst nightmare!). Simply trace a circle around the bottom part of the springform pan and cut out that section of parchment paper. Then, just pop it onto the inside of the springform pan, grease your pan thoroughly, then add your crust then batter. This step is not necessary but it certainly makes it easier.
- All cream cheese, heavy cream, sour cream, etc. is full-fat. You cannot achieve the same level of richness and flavor using low-fat/non-fat dairy products. This isn’t the time to watch calories.
- The freshly grated nutmeg is not necessary, but it adds such a fresh and “Christmas-y” (yes, just made that up) flavor to your apples and batter. You can purchase whole nutmeg at any grocery store. If nothing else, throw in pre-ground nutmeg – better than nothing!