Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake: An incredibly delicious fall cheesecake recipe studded with brown sugar brown butter apples and salted caramel sauce.
Why is it that pumpkin tends to get so much more attention in the food world in the fall than apples do?
I mean, I love pumpkin as much as the next fall-obsessed food blogger (see: pumpkin roll with candied pecans and iced pumpkin spice lattes). But let’s be clear, of the two, apples are my favored baking ingredient by leaps and bounds.
And that’s saying a lot because I certainly wouldn’t turn that pumpkin cheesecake down either. I’ve been known to be kind of a cheesecake whore.
The apple cheesecake though, is layered with a cinnamon spiced cheesecake batter and apples that have been cooked in brown sugar and brown butter. OMG those apples are incredible!!
It’s a substantial cheesecake, to say the least!
So why discuss it now, after all these years since I first made it in 2008?
Well, I’ve been wanting to make a salted caramel apple cheesecake for ages and I just decided a few weeks ago that it was time. And I decided to use the base recipe of that brown sugar apple cheesecake for my new version.
It’s not like this was a difficult choice by any means! The recipe was pretty much perfect as it was written but in my opinion, salted caramel sauce is ALWAYS a welcome addition to a recipe.
I’ve made my own salted caramel sauce using only 3 ingredients for the past few years and I knew it would be delicious in and on top of this cheesecake. It literally takes minutes to make and if you can keep your spoon out of it, it will last for weeks in your fridge.
So, I remade this apple cheesecake, added a drizzle of the caramel sauce on top of the apple layer and then swirled it into the cheesecake batter before baking. I absolutely loved the effect the swirled caramel had pre-baking!
And even though it created some cracks during the bake, the awesome salted caramel flavor was still there inside the cheesecake.
Who could possibly turn down a salted caramel flavored apple cheesecake?? Not I!
How to Make Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake
First things first: make your crust. You can use either graham cracker crumbs that you find in the grocery store or make your own crumbs in the food processor. You’ll mix the crumbs with sugar, melted butter, and salt, then press them into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
Then you’ll bake the crust.
While the crust bakes, sauté sliced apples in brown sugar and butter until they are caramelized and incredibly delicious-looking. You’ll want to pop one right in your mouth but be careful because the sugar will make them very hot!
Allow the apples to cool completely while you make the cheesecake batter. To do this, you’ll mix cream cheese, sugar, apple cider, vanilla, cinnamon, eggs, sour cream, and heavy cream together until they are completely combined.
The batter should be completely smooth, with no lumps of cream cheese, and light and airy.
My recipe below contains very detailed instructions for how to do this so be sure to read them carefully.
Once the crust and apples have cooled, you’ll pour some of the cheesecake batter into the crust and then fan out the apples in a single layer, followed by a drizzle of some salted caramel sauce. On top of the caramel, you’ll smooth out the rest of the cheesecake batter.
The fun part comes when drop dollops of the remaining salted caramel into the top of the batter and swirl them in to create a beautiful effect. I mean, seriously!! How beautiful is that?!!
If you’re looking to make a cheesecake that’s different from your plain (but not at all terrible) cheesecake, this apple cheesecake with salted caramel is IT! It’s a showstopper of a dessert and would be gorgeous set atop any Thanksgiving dessert table.
Or you know, your counter on a random fall weekend, too!
For the crust:
- 1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
- 3 tbsp sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
For the apples:
- ½ stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
- 3 large Golden Delicious or Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
- 2 tbsp (packed) light brown sugar
For the filling:
- 1 ½ lbs (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¾ cup (packed) light brown sugar
- 6 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp apple cider
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 large eggs
- ¾ cup sour cream
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
For assembly and topping:
- ⅔ cup salted caramel sauce, divided
- Prepare the crust: Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. You can slip a 9-inch round of parchment paper on the bottom and butter that too if you have one handy - it will help to keep the crust from sticking when serving. Wrap the bottom of the pan with 2 layers of aluminum foil or 1 layer of wide heavy-duty aluminum foil. The foil should reach ¾ up the height of the pan.
- In a medium bowl, stir the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt together. Pour the melted butter over the crumbs and stir with a fork until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. Pour the moistened crumbs into the springform pan and use your fingers or the bottom of a glass or measuring cup to pat an even layer of crumbs over the bottom of the pan and just about ½-inch up over the lip of the bottom of the pan where it meets the side. (At this point, the crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)
- Place the pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow the crust to cool completely on a wire rack while you make the cheesecake. Reduce the oven temperature to 325° F.
- To make the apples: Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, toss in half of the apple slices and cook, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the apples with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and cook them, turning, just until coated, another minute or so. Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining apples. Let the apples cool while you make the filling.
- Getting ready to bake: Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the springform pan at hand. Put a kettle of water on to boil.
- To make the filling: Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the cider, vanilla, and cinnamon. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Finally, beat in the sour cream and heavy cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.
- Pour about one third of the batter into the baked crust. Drain the apples by lifting them off the plate with a slotted spoon or spatula, and spoon them into the pan. Drizzle half of the salted caramel sauce over the apples. Cover with the remaining batter and, if needed, jiggle the pan to even the top.
- Dollop the remaining salted caramel sauce by the teaspoon in a random pattern into the top of the batter and then with a sharp knife, swirl the caramel around from dot to dot and in between.
- Place the springform pan in the roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
- Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, covering the cake loosely with a foil tent at the 45-minute mark. The cake will rise evenly and may crack around the edges, and it should be fully set except, possibly, in the very center. If the center shimmies, that's just fine.
- Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake inside. Stick the handle of a wooden spoon between the door and the oven to vent the oven. This will allow the cheesecake to set up a little as it's starting to cool down.
- Gently transfer the cake, still in the pan, to a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature, then remove the foil (be careful as there may be some residual water inside from the water bath), and refrigerate it for at least 6 hours; overnight would be better.
- Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the crust, open the pan's latch and release and remove the sides. Slice into 12 to 16 slices and serve with extra salted caramel sauce drizzled over the top.
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