This is the perfect holiday cheesecake! It’s made with caramelized apples layered with buttery, cookie crust and rich and creamy, autumn-spiced cheesecake filling. It tastes amazing and is simple to make!
Apples are one of my favorite ingredients to bake with this time of year. Whether I’m making caramel apple pie, caramelized apple blondies, or baked apple cider donuts, I simply love the comforting flavors of baked apples and warm spices like cinnamon and ginger.
This apple cheesecake is definitely one of my new favorite apple dessert recipes. It’s made with a buttery cookie crust, caramelized apples, and the creamiest cheesecake filling you’ll ever try. Ground cinnamon and ginger are added to the filling to amplify the apple flavors and make the entire cake more delicious.
How to make caramel apple cheesecake
This apple cheesecake has three layers:
- Cookie crust
- Caramelized apples
- Cheesecake filling
Start by making the cookie crust
Homemade crust just tastes so much better than store bought, so I highly recommend making your own. You can use graham crackers, vanilla wafers, or biscuits.
- Combine the melted butter with the crushed cookie crumbs and sugar–the texture should feel like wet sand.
- Press the crumbs firmly into a 9-inch springform pan and bake in a 350°F degree oven for about 8 minutes until the crust is crisp and golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Caramelize the apples
- Peel the apples and cut them into chunks. I like to cut mine into 1/2-inch pieces.
- Toss together apples and lemon juice. Evenly coat the apples with the lemon juice.
- Cook the apples. In a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add the apples and and sauté for two minutes. Sprinkle the sugar over the apples and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the apples appear golden brown, stirring frequently. Add the cream and continue to cook until the apples are tender, about 7 minutes. Set the apples aside to cool.
Make the cheesecake filling
- Beat the cream cheese. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and lump-free, about 1-2 minutes. Add sugar and beat until blended.
- Combine with heavy cream, vanilla extract, and eggs. Add heavy cream or sour cream and vanilla extract and beat just until combined and smooth. Then, beat in the eggs, one at a time, until fully combined.
- Combine cornstarch and spices. Mix the cornstarch and spices together and then add to cheesecake filling and combine.
Baking the caramel cheesecake
Now that you’ve made each layer of your cheesecake, it’s time to assemble it in a 9-inch springform pan and bake in a water bath.
- Layer the apples on the crust. Remove the cooled apples from the pan, leaving any extra juices behind. Layer them evenly on top of the cooled crust. I recommend leaving a bit of space free of apples around the edge of the cake so you don’t see the apples in the final cheesecake.
- Fill the pan with cheesecake filling. Slowly pour the cheesecake filling on top of the apples. Do this slowly so the apples don’t move too much or combine with the filling.
- Prepare your water bath. Wrap the bottom and sides of your springform pan in aluminum foil to prevent water leaking in. The foil should come more than halfway up the sides. Then, place the springform pan in a large roasting pan and pour hot water in the roasting pan, filling it up halfway, making sure not to fill it above the aluminum foil on your pan.
- Bake. Bake at 325°F/160°C for about an hour until the sides are set but the center is still wobbly.
- Cool. The cheesecake needs to chill for at least 12 hours in the fridge before eating. Once it’s cool enough to handle, remove from the water bath and allow to cool completely at room temperature. Then, place in the fridge to set covered with plastic wrap.
Optional serving tip: Make a batch of caramel sauce to garnish each cheesecake slice. While I find the cake is already sweet enough, a bit of caramel sauce pairs nicely with the apples and autumn spices and looks beautiful when drizzled on top of a slice of cheesecake.
Commonly asked questions
What kind of apples should I use?
Because this cheesecake is already pretty sweet, I like using tart apples, like Granny Smith. But you can use any type of apples you like.
Do I need to cook the apples first?
Yes, because not only does this caramelize the apples which adds amazing flavor, but the apples won’t cook enough if baked raw underneath the cheesecake filling. Cooking them first helps soften them.
Can I freeze this cheesecake?
Yes! This cheesecake can stay frozen for up to two months.
What happens if I don’t use a water bath?
Your cheesecake will certainly bake if you don’t use a water bath, but using a water bath helps ensure an ultra creamy cheesecake that’s evenly baked and free of cracks.
Tips for making caramel apple cheesecake
- Don’t overcook the apples. You want to cook the apples just until they are softened and caramelized, but don’t let them get too soft so they still have texture and slight crunch when baked in the cheesecake.
- Use room temperature ingredients for the cheesecake filling. Allow the refrigerated ingredients sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before starting to prepare the filling so they warm up a bit. This makes them easier to incorporate and prevents lumps from forming in your filling as you make it.
- Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl. Because cream cheese is thick, it tends to stick to the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl. Be sure keep a rubber spatula on hand to scrape the cream cheese down into the mixture throughout the process to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
- I highly recommend baking your cheesecake in a water bath. A water bath helps the cheesecake cook more evenly and creates a silky smooth texture in the filling. While the cake will still taste good if baked without one, the filling will have a more grainy-like texture.
- When wrapping aluminum foil around the springform pan for your water bath, make sure the aluminum foil comes up high enough to block any cracks in the pan so water doesn’t leak in.
More of my favorite cheesecake recipes:
- Pumpkin Cheesecake: Another perfect holiday cheesecake, pumpkin puree and autumn spices are mixed in the creamy filling for a decadent slice of heaven.
- Oreo Cheesecake Bars: Simple to make and incredibly delicious, these Oreo cheesecake bars are the perfect treat anytime of day.
- Individual No-Bake Cheesecake: These adorable individually-portioned cheesecake cups are not only gorgeous and elegant, but are so easy to make!
- No-Bake Nutella Cheesecake: Rich and creamy Nutella is combined with velvety-smooth cheesecake filling and topped with a layer of chocolate ganache.
- Chocolate Cheesecake: For true chocoholics only! This dessert is truly sinful (and amazing).
Rich and creamy fall-spiced cheesecake layered with caramelized apples and a buttery cookie crust.
- 1 1/2 cups (150g) graham crackers, digestive biscuits, or vanilla wafer crumbs (pulse in a food processor until finely ground)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 4 1/2 tablespoons (65g) unsalted butter, melted
- 3 medium apples
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons (42g) unsalted butter
- 4 1/2 tablespoons (55g) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) heavy cream
- 3 cups (680g) full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) sour cream or heavy cream
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Caramel Sauce for garnish (optional)
Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan (bottom and sides) with a large piece of foil, then repeat with another piece. This will ensure that water from the bath doesn’t seep into the cake.
- In a medium bowl, mix together crumbs and sugar until combined. Add melted butter and mix until combined and moistened. Press mixture into the bottom of prepared pan to form an even layer of crumbs. Bake for 8-9 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Meanwhile, prepare the caramelized apples and reduce oven temperature to 325°F/160°C.
Make the caramelized apples: Peel the apples and cut them into chunks, about 1/2-inch in size. In a bowl, evenly coat the apples with the lemon juice.
In a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add the apples and and sauté for two minutes. Sprinkle the sugar over the apples and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the apples appear golden brown, stirring frequently. Add the heavy cream and continue to cook until the apples are tender, about 7 minutes. Set the apples aside to cool.
Make the cheesecake filling: In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium-low speed until smooth and lump-free, 1-2 minutes. Add granulated sugar and beat until blended. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Add vanilla extract and sour cream or heavy cream and combine. Then, add the eggs one at a time and beat until fully combined. In a small bowl, whisk together the spices and cornstarch. Add to the filling and combine.
Evenly layer the cooled caramelized apples over the cooled crust, leaving any extra juices behind. Leave about 1/2-inch rim of empty space around the edges of the crust so the apples do not show around the edges of the cheesecake. Then, slowly pour batter over apples and spread evenly. Place the pan inside a large roasting pan, then pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides. Make sure the water does not go above the top of aluminum foil so water doesn't leak in. Place gently in the oven and bake for 60-70 minutes until the sides are set but the center is still slightly wobbly.
- Remove the cake pan carefully from the water bath, and place on a wire rack. Let the cake cool slightly, then run a knife around the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 12 hours.
- Cheesecake will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.