Apple crumble cheesecake sits on a shortbread crust with a layer of salted caramel apples, then a creamy cheesecake filling, and a crunchy pecan apple crumble 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.)
Apple crumble cheesecake is one my favourite desserts to make in the fall.
It’s a secret family recipe from a good friend which, happily, she agreed for me to share with you! And it is delightful.
From the delicious shortbread crust to the layer of cinnamon apples and salted caramel sauce, from the creamy cheesecake filling to the apple crumble topping, it is everything you love in a fall dessert.
Let’s get to it.
Why you’ll love this recipe
I love making this dessert and hopefully you will, too.
- 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 topping on this cake, we 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 is a match made in heaven.
- 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.
What you’ll need
This cheesecake is made of the best fall ingredients. Some things to keep in mind:
- 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.
- Cream cheese — ideally, you’ll want to use full-fat cream cheese available in blocks (I’m partial to Philadelphia). They result to richer, creamier cheesecakes.
- Rolled or old fashioned oats — I prefer rolled or old fashioned oats when baking instead of instant oats because instant oats tend to fall apart and get too mushy.
I use a 9-inch springform pan when making this cheesecake, though you can also use a square or rectangular pan if you’d like to make cheesecake bars or squares.
Just make sure to line the bottom and sides with parchment paper to help take the cake out of the pan easily.
And although we won’t be using a water bath here, we’ll still need a roasting pan or a 9×13 inch baking pan (more on this below).
How to make
Preheat your oven to 400F. Then you’ll want to make your shortbread crust first.
In a medium bowl using a pastry cutter or a handheld electric mixer, combine flour, butter, sugar, salt and egg yolk.
Combine 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 caramel apple layer.
Caramel apple 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 apples on your baked crust.
Then drizzle with salted caramel sauce. Set aside while you prepare your cheesecake filling.
In a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine cream cheese and sugar.
Beat 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 ⅔ 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 topping. You can also make the topping ahead of time and store in the fridge until ready to use.
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.
Once your cheesecake and apple 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!
Expert baking tips
This apple crumb cheesecake has different components but you can certainly prepare one while the other is baking, and even make the crumble 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.
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 several 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.
- Use room temperature ingredients. They incorporate better and helps you avoid over-mixing the batter, which can lead to air bubbles and cracks.
- After the cheesecake is done baking, I keep the cheesecake in the oven — with the oven door open slightly — to allow the cheesecake to cool gradually.
- However, don’t 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. It’s done when the edges are firm but the center is still slightly wobbly.
But like I said, this apple crumble cheesecake is wonderfully low maintenance I don’t even bother keeping it in the oven and just cool it in the counter.
Got cracks? No problem. Just cover with that delicious topping!
How to tell if a 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.
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.
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, crumbles and toppings.
Not to say you can’t use them at all. It really depends on the recipe.
Plain cheesecakes generally freeze well but I don’t recommend freezing this cheesecake because of the apple layer.
If you want to save time and make it ahead, you can cook the topping and prepare the salted caramel sauce 1-2 days before, then bake the cheesecake a day before you plan on serving it.
It needs time to set in the fridge so avoid baking it the day of.
Leftovers kept in a covered container in the fridge will keep for 3-5 days.
Other apple dessert recipes
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!
Apple Crumble Cheesecake Recipe
For the Shortbread Crust:
For the Caramel 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 Cheesecake:
- Preheat your oven to 400F.
- In a medium bowl using a pastry cutter or a handheld electric mixer, combine flour, butter, sugar, 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 caramel apple layer. In a medium sized skillet or non-stick pan, combine apple wedges with butter and 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 apples on your baked crust and drizzle with 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 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, place a roasting pan (or a 9×13 inch baking pan) 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 apple topping (see notes). In a medium-sized skillet or non-stick pan, combine all topping 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 topping have 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. Nutrition information is based on 12 servings.
- 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.