Apple crisp cheesecake — buttery shortbread crust, layer of cinnamon apples and salted caramel sauce, creamy cheesecake filling, crunchy pecan apple crisp topping. A fall dessert doesn’t get any better than this!
(Looking to add more cheesecakes to your menu? Try pecan pie cheesecake bars. It’s perfect for stress-free holiday celebrations.)
This caramel apple cheesecake is one my favourite desserts to make in the fall.
It’s so much more than your usual caramel apple cheesecake recipe though; from the delicious shortbread crust to the layer of cinnamon apples and salted caramel, from the creamy cheesecake filling to the crunchy apple crisp topping.
It’s so delicious!
Whether you’re baking just for you on a crisp November day or you have company over, welcome to your new favourite cheesecake.
What is an apple crisp cheesecake?
It took me a while to decide what to name this recipe. It’s essentially everyone’s favourite apple cheesecake recipe but also so much more than that.
Instead of the usual graham cracker crust, I opted for a buttery shortbread crust.
Instead of just making an apple topping for cheesecake and calling it a day, I added a layer of cinnamon apples right in there.
And that topping — something needs to be said about that sweet and tart apple crisp topping studded with bits of pecan for a lovely crunch. Yum!
I’m calling it (for the most part lol) caramel apple crisp cheesecake but however you want to call it, this apple caramel cheesecake is special, my friends. Made for special occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas or birthdays.
I won’t lie – it takes a little of bit of preparation (mise en place if you want to get all fancy). But it’s worth every minute.
Why you’ll love this apple cheesecake recipe
Prep notwithstanding, you will love making this caramel apple cheesecake recipe all the time because:
- It’s actually a stress-free cheesecake recipe. I give lots of tips on how to bake smooth, crack-free cheesecakes in the FAQs below but since we’re putting a delicious apple crisp topping on this cake, you don’t need to worry about cracks at all.
- Apple layer. But this isn’t just a regular cheesecake topped with caramel apples. There’s a delicious apple layer within the cheesecake itself for double the apple fun.
- Salted caramel sauce. And salted caramel sauce is drizzled everywhere. Apples and caramel sauce go so well together.
- Shortbread crust. We don’t need graham cracker crumbs in this recipe because we’re doing a delightfully buttery shortbread crust.
- So delicious. Seriously, this is one of the most delicious cheesecakes ever.
Let’s get to it.
How to make apple crisp cheesecake
Make the shortbread crust
First you’ll want to make your shortbread crust.
Preheat your oven to 400F.
In a medium bowl using a pastry cutter or a handheld electric mixer, combine flour, butter, sugar, salt and egg yolk until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press onto the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and bake until a light golden brown.
While your crust is baking, prepare your cinnamon apple layer.
Work on your cinnamon apple cheesecake layer
In a medium sized skillet, combine apple wedges with butter and ground cinnamon. Cook on medium heat until apples are soft and tender.
Once your crust is baked, remove from oven and lower oven temperature to 325F.
Pour cinnamon apples on your baked crust and drizzle with salted caramel sauce. Set aside while you prepare your cheesecake filling.
How to make your apple cheesecake filling
In a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar on low medium speed until smooth.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and stir to incorporate. Pour your cream cheese mixture over your apple layer and smoothen the top.
Before putting your cheesecake in the oven, prepare a roasting pan (or a 9×13 inch baking pan) and place it on the bottom shelf of your oven. Pour hot water until the pan is 2/3 full.
Place your cheesecake on the middle shelf and bake for 30 minutes or until set.
Remove cheesecake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan. Run a thin, sharp knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cheesecake from pan and prevent it from cracking as it cools.
While your apple cheesecake is baking you can work on your apple crisp topping. You can also make the topping ahead of time and store in the fridge until ready to use.
How to make apple topping for cheesecake
In a medium-sized skillet, combine diced apples, brown sugar, chopped pecans, rolled or old fashioned oats and butter.
Cook on low medium heat until the apples are tender, sugar is absorbed, the mixture reduces a bit and becomes nice and sticky.
Remove from heat, set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.
How to assemble your apple crisp cheesecake
Once your cheesecake and apple crisp topping has cooled to room temperature, place topping on top of cheesecake. Chill cheesecake (still in the pan) in the fridge for 4-6 hours, preferably overnight so it can continue to set.
To serve, drizzle with more salted caramel sauce and enjoy!
Ingredients for salted caramel apple cheesecake
To make this delicious fall dessert, you’ll need:
- Salted caramel sauce – I make my own the day before (super easy!) but you can certainly buy a jar from the store
- Apples (I like to use granny smith apples for baking, more on this below)
- All purpose flour
- Unsalted butter
- Cream cheese
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
- Ground cinnamon
- Vanilla extract
- Rolled or old fashioned oats
Tools you need to make caramel apple crisp cheesecake
To make this caramel apple cheesecake recipe, I use the following:
- Pastry cutter to make my shortbread crust, but you can also use an electric hand mixer
- 9-inch springform pan
- Non-stick skillet to cook my cinnamon apples and pecan apple crisp topping
- Stand mixer to beat my cheesecake mixture but an electric hand mixer will work too
- Roasting pan or a 9×13 inch baking pan (more on this below)
In addition, I use mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons.
How to make perfect apple cheesecakes every time
This cheesecake recipe has different components but you can certainly prepare one while the other is baking, and even make the crisp topping and salted caramel sauce ahead of time.
Also, this is a more forgiving recipe compared to other cheesecakes because we cover the top with the apple pecan oat topping, so no stressing about the cheesecake cracking!
Here are more tips to make this recipe even easier.
How to make cheesecakes without a water bath
My cheesecakes don’t crack 99% of the time and I don’t bother with a water bath.
My secret? Placing a roasting pan or 9×13 inch baking pan with hot water on the lowest shelf of my oven below my cheesecake, which I place on the middle shelf.
I don’t like using traditional water baths (bain marie) because water almost always seeps into my cheesecake and I end up with one soggy mess.
Putting a roasting pan with hot water does the same job as a water bath, i.e., adds moisture to the oven and provides a more even, slower source of heat, without water ever touching my cheesecakes.
I’ve been baking cheesecakes this way for a few years now and have always had great success. Try it!
How to prevent cheesecakes from cracking
In addition to my no-water-bath trick above, I also do the following to ensure a smooth, crack-free cheesecake.
- After the cheesecake is baked, I usually keep the cheesecake in the oven — with the oven door open slightly — to allow the cheesecake to cool gradually.
- However, one thing I don’t ever do when baking cheesecakes is open the oven door in the middle of baking. It messes up the baking temperature which we don’t want. Cheesecakes need even, consistent heat while baking.
- Running a thin, sharp knife around the edges of the cheesecake while it’s cooling on the counter also ensures a no-crack cheesecake. The cake contracts as it cools and if the edges are still sticking to the pan when this happens, cracks will definitely form.
- Over-baking also leads to cracked cheesecakes. You want to take it out of the oven just when it’s set.
But like I said, this apple cheesecake is low maintenance. Got cracks? No problem. Just cover with that delicious topping!
How to tell if cheesecake is done baking
You can tell if a cheesecake is done baking when it’s firm on the edges (even starting to pull away from the sides) but the middle is still ever so slightly jiggly or wobbly.
This wobble is a subtle, almost imperceptible wobble; the middle must not appear soupy at all.
I check by gently lifting the pan (still inside the oven so be careful and wear oven mitts!) and gently shaking it.
The toothpick test doesn’t work on cheesecakes and it will lead to cracks for sure.
Best apples to use for baking
Granny smith apples are my favourite apples to bake with. While other apple varieties get mushy, granny smith apples retain their shape and hold up well.
I also like that they’re tart. It provides a nice contrast to the sweetness of the dessert.
There are so many apple varieties out there though so see what you like best. You can also mix and match your favourites.
Just remember that for baking, you want apples that are firm, crisp and would keep their structure even after an hour or so in the oven.
Can I use quick cooking oats for the topping?
In general, you want to use rolled oats or old-fashioned oats when baking. Quick cooking or instant oats tend to be too mushy to use for crisps and toppings.
Not to say you can’t use them at all. It really depends on the recipe.
Other delicious apple recipes for fall
Pumpkins tend to overshadow apples in the fall but apples are gorgeous this time of the year too. These recipes are delicious using the season’s best apples!
Want apple pie but not all the work that goes into one? This delightful apple galette puff pastry recipe is quick and easy to pull off and has a no fuss but delicious pie filling.
Apple crumble bars — melt-in-your-mouth buttery shortbread crust, soft caramel apples, crispy crumble topping. These apple bars are delicious, easy to make and will make your home smell like fall.
The mouth-watering flavour trifecta of apple, cinnamon and cardamom bursts in every bite of this apple crumble coffee cake. Crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside, it’s perfect with coffee or tea on a crisp fall day.
Not in the mood to bake? Apple buko salad is a fresh take on a classic Filipino holiday dessert. Made with young coconuts and apples, it’s sweet, tangy, red, green, delicious!
Apple Crisp Cheesecake
For the Shortbread Crust:
For the Cinnamon Apple Layer:
- 2 pcs apples peeled, cored and sliced into thin wedges
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ cup salted caramel sauce plus more for serving, see notes
For the Apple Cheesecake:
- Preheat your oven to 400F.
- In a medium bowl using a pastry cutter or a handheld electric mixer, combine 1½ cups flour, ½ cup butter, ¼ cup sugar, 1 egg yolk and a pinch of salt until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. You should see little bits butter remaining.
- Press onto the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and bake for 12-15 minutes or until a light golden brown.
- In the meantime, prepare your cinnamon apple layer. In a medium sized skillet or non-stick pan, combine apple wedges with 2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Cook on medium heat until apples are soft and tender (7-10 minutes). Set aside.
- Once your crust is baked, remove from oven and lower oven temperature to 325F.
- Pour cinnamon apples on your baked crust. Drizzle with ½ cup salted caramel sauce. Set aside while you prepare your cheesecake filling.
- In a large bowl using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and ½ cup sugar on low medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and stir until incorporated.
- Pour your cream cheese mixture over your apple layer and smoothen the top.
- Before putting your cheesecake in the oven, prepare a roasting pan (or a 9×13 baking pan) and place it on the bottom shelf of your oven. Pour hot water until the pan is ⅔ full. Place your cheesecake on the middle shelf and bake for 30-35 minutes or until set (see notes).
- In the meantime, prepare your pecan apple crisp (see notes). In a medium-sized skillet or non-stick pan, combine all your apple crisp ingredients and cook on low-medium heat until apples are tender, sugar is completely absorbed and the topping is nice and sticky (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Once your cheesecake is done baking, take it out of the oven and allow to cool on the counter. After a few minutes – run a thin, sharp knife around the edges to loosen the cake from the pan.
- When your cheesecake and apple crisp topping has cooled to room temperature, place topping on top of cheesecake. Chill cheesecake (still in the pan) in the fridge for 4-6 hours, preferably overnight so it can continue to set.
- To serve, drizzle with salted caramel sauce. Enjoy!
- The number of servings depends on how big or small you slice the cake.
- I like using granny smith apples in this recipe. You can use whatever apple variety you like. See post for tips on how to choose the best apples for baking.
- For the salted caramel sauce, you can use this recipe and double it, or buy your favourite jar from the store. If making your own, you can make it up to 2 days ahead.
- You’ll know your cheesecake is set when it’s starting to pull away from the sides but the middle is still jiggly/wobbly but not soupy. See post for more tips.
- You can prepare your topping ahead of time and just store in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble your cheesecake.
- See the post for complete step-by-step photos and more cheesecake baking tips.
Nutritional information are estimates only.
Did you make apple crisp cheesecake? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.