Apple Cheesecake is a dessert that can be enjoyed for any occasion. Top it with a crisp topping and you get a creamy and crispy cheesecake your whole family will love.
Cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts. Give me cheesecake or cinnamon rolls and I’m in heaven.
I’ve been working on making cheesecake really great for a few years. Sometimes I would get it right, and sometimes I didn’t. It always ended up tasting good, but it didn’t always look the best.
Cracking was always my biggest problem. It’s not such a big deal if you are planning to top the cheesecake, but if you want to serve it without any topping cracking is a real disappointment. It was something I had to tackle and fix.
After quite a few cheesecakes over the years, I have finally settled on a way that works every time. This isn’t a ground breaking discovery by any means. People have known this for a while, but everyone has their own opinion on what works. For me, the water bath method works the best. I never get cracking anymore and my cheesecakes are always creamy with the perfect texture.
Apple Cheesecake, the Best of Fall Apple Flavors
Last year I came across an apple cheesecake recipe that looked so good I just had to try it. I wasn’t disappointed, it was delicious! But I felt that even through it was really good, I could make it even better.
With that idea in mind, I set out to develop my own apple cheesecake recipe that spoke to me. It took me a while to settle on exactly the way I wanted to make it. The rave reviews from Thanksgiving this year were proof that I definitely got it right!
This recipe has the best of fall apple flavors in one delicious cheesecake. Apples and cinnamon are made for each other.
Equipment That Makes Making Cheesecake A Breeze
You will need a few pieces of equipment for this cheesecake. You will want a 9″ springform pan. It is really hard to make a good cheesecake without a springform pan. There are different sizes available, but for for this recipe I recommend a 9 inch one.
Another piece of equipment that is nice to have is a food processor. To make the graham cracker crust, you need to process the graham crackers into as fine of crumbs as you can. The best way to do this is with a food processor. We just replaced our old one with this Kitchen Aid food processor and love it.
The last piece of equipment that makes cheesecakes easier is a stand mixer. We have this kitchen aid mixer and it’s been a big game changer in the kitchen. You can mix a cheesecake batter without a stand mixer, but this tool makes cheesecake and many other kitchen projects much easier.
Ingredients for Apple Cheesecake with Crisp Topping
The graham cracker crust consists of cinnamon graham crackers, butter, and brown sugar. If you don’t have cinnamon graham crackers, you can use regular graham crackers and add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the mix.
The crisp topping is made to be very similar to an apple crisp topping. Use old fashioned oats, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon, then bake it till it’s crispy. This adds a dimension to the cheesecake that takes it to a whole new level. If you’ve never had a cheesecake that mixes creamy and crunchy, you’re in for a treat.
The topping also consists of apples. You can’t have an apple cheesecake without the apples! The apples for this cheesecake need to be sliced fairly thin in order to make the design work. If you aren’t looking for the aesthetic design of the flower petal, you can chop up the apples any way you’d like.
The last, and most important piece to a perfect cheesecake is the cream cheese. I usually make cheesecakes with store bought cream cheese, but this time I decided to make my own. Oh wow, the difference was incredible! If you can, definitely take the time to make your own cream cheese. It’s not just great for cheesecake, but it will make everything else you use cream cheese for better too.
Along with the cream cheese, the cheesecake batter will need sour cream, brown and granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon extract (or cinnamon), eggs, and flour. Each of these ingredients, except the cinnamon, are pretty standard in cheesecakes.
Making Each Cheesecake Component
Preheat the oven to 350ºF, 176ºC.
The crust is the foundation of a good cheesecake. For this cheesecake I made the graham crackers for the crust using King Arthur’s graham cracker recipe. You can make your own graham crackers the same day as the rest of the cheesecake, but I recommend making it before hand.
If you are using store bought graham crackers no extra prep time is needed. If at all possible, get the cinnamon graham crackers. Regular graham crackers can be used too, but be sure to add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the crust. You’ll be glad you did.
To fill a 9 inch springform pan, you’ll need 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs. Use a food processor to turn the graham crackers into crumbs the easy way. If you do not have a food processor, put the graham crackers into a ziploc bag and smash them until there’s nothing left but the crumbs.
Put those crumbs in a bowl and add 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 6 tablespoons of melted butter. Mix well, so the sugar and butter is thoroughly mixed into the graham cracker crumbs.
Line the bottom of the springform pan with a piece of parchment paper. Pour the crust mix into the pan and spread it out evenly. Press the crumbs up the side so there’s a little bit of crust along the sides of the cheesecake. Try not to press the crumbs up too high or tapping the air out of the batter will be harder.
Bake for 8-10 minutes.
The Cheesecake Batter
I made this cheesecake with a stand mixer, but you can make the batter with a bowl and whisk as well.
*Note: all ingredients for the cheesecake batter need to be at room temperature for it to come together properly and have the correct consistency.
Drop the oven heat to 325ºF, 163ºC.
Add 24 oz of cream cheese to a bowl. If you’re using store bought cream cheese beat it until it’s smooth, but if you’re using homemade cream cheese do not do this step. I made the mistake of beating my homemade cream cheese and it turned into butter. That was definitely not what I was looking for!
After the cream cheese is ready, add 1 cup of sour cream, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon extract or cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons of flour. You only want to mix it until everything is combined. Cheesecake does not like to be over mixed.
Lastly, add in the eggs. Again, only mix until the eggs are incorporated and stop.
Pour the batter into the baked crust, smoothing it out.
Tap the cheesecake on the table a few times. The process of mixing adds air to the batter and if you don’t tap it before baking, you will see little bubbles on the top of the cheesecake when it’s done baking.
Baking the Cheesecake
Take a roasting pan or other pan with sides that is large enough for the springform pan to fit inside and fill it with about a half inch of water. Tightly wrap the bottom of the spring form pan with aluminum foil, making sure the very bottom is tight. Place the springform pan into the water.
This is called a water bath and it is very important to making a cheesecake that does not crack on the top. I’ve made cheesecake with several variations of this method, and this way is the only way I’ve found to consistently produce a cheesecake that doesn’t crack along the top.
Put the cheesecake in the oven and bake it for 50-60 minutes. Do not take it out of the oven when the baking time is up.
After 50 minutes, check the cheesecake to see if it’s done. It should jiggle like jello but not be runny like it’s still liquid. If it’s runny, let it bake some more until it starts jiggling.
When the cheesecake is the correct consistency, turn off the oven but leave the cheesecake in. Prop the door open about an inch or so, I like to use a butter knife for this. Leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door propped open for 2 hours. During this time the cheesecake will continue to cook; this is why we do not want it completely done after the 50-60 minute baking period.
Slowly cool the cheesecake
This slow cool down time, along with the water bath, will help keep the top of your cheesecake perfectly intact.
After 2 hours, the cheesecake should have slowly cooled down quite a bit but will not be fully cooled. Place the cheesecake on the counter to finish cooling. Do not put it straight into the fridge or it will finish cooling too fast and may still crack.
Once the cheesecake is fully cooled, place in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours. Give it the full 6 hours to get it completely cold and have it firm up. Do not try to eat it before the 6 hours are up.
Making The Apple Topping for the Apple Cheesecake
Preheat the oven to 350ºF, 176ºC.
Mix 1/2 cup of old fashioned oats, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 cup of melted butter, and 1/2 cup of brown sugar in a small oven safe baking dish.
You’ll want to choose a good baking apple to use as a topping. I chose Fuji apples to use for this apple cheesecake.
It will take 2-3 apples to make the “petals” of the flower design. If you’re choosing a different design or making the topping look more like an apple crisp, you’ll probably need 3 apples.
Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples. Put the slices in water with a little bit of lemon juice to keep them from browning. Lay the slices out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. I used about a tablespoon of sugar and just evenly coated the apples with cinnamon. No measurements needed, just sprinkle to your taste.
Bake the apple slices and crisp topping for about 20 minutes. The apples should be a little softened but still have a little bit of crunch left. The crisp should be browned, it will completely crisp up as it cools.
Cool the apples and crisp down enough you can easily handle them. Now it’s time to decorate.
Making The Petal Design For The Apple Cheesecake
If you are not planning on making the petal design, go ahead and top the cheesecake with whatever design you choose.
To make the petal design, start by adding a layer of apple slices along the outside edge of the cheesecake. Overlap each slice a bit, like you would see with the petals of a flower.
Once the layer of apples are down, layer some of the crisp along the base of the apple slices.
Alternate between layers of apple slices and lines of crisp topping, offsetting the apple slices slightly from the previous layer. Continue layering until the space in the center of the cheesecake is too small to fit another layer of apples. Fill in the center of the cheesecake with more crisp.
If you have more crisp left, go back and fill in any spaces you think need a little more.
Now you have a beautiful cheesecake that will impress everyone, not only with how gorgeous it is, but also how deliciously creamy it will be. The mix of the soft crust, creamy cheesecake, and crisp topping makes this apple cheesecake the perfect fall dessert for all occasions.
Expect it to go fast!
Find more delicious fall desserts here:
- 2 c. cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 6 Tbs melted butter
- 24 oz. cream cheese
- 1 c. sour cream or greek yogurt
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 1/4 c. granulated sugar
- 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon extract or cinnamon spice
- 3 large eggs
- 2-3 baking apples
- 1/2 c. old fashioned oats
- 1 tsp cinnamon + more for apples
- 1/4 c. melted butter
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- Preheat oven to 350℉, 176℃
- Line a 9" springform pan with parchment paper
- Mix graham crackers, butter, and brown sugar in a bowl
- Evenly spread the graham cracker mix in the bottom of the pan, pushing it about 1 inch up the sides of the pan
- Bake for 8-10 minutes
- Reduce oven heat to 325℉, 167℃
- Add cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer or into a mixing bowl
- If using store bought cream cheese, beat until smooth, about a minute (skilp this step if using homemade cream cheese)
- Add all other ingredients except the eggs and mix until incorporated
- Add eggs and beat just until the eggs are completely folded in, do not over mix
- Pour cheesecake batter into the baked graham cracker crust and smooth the top
- Wrap the bottom and sides of the springform pan with several sheets of aluminum foil (do not cover the top)
- Add about a half inch of water into the bottom of a roasting pan or other pan large enough to fit the springform pan
- Place the wrapped cheesecake pan into the water
- Place the roasting pan and cheesecake into the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the cheesecake jiggles like jello
- Turn oven off and prop the oven door open about an inch, leaving the cheesecake inside.
- Let the cheesecake start to slowly cool down for 2 hours in the oven
- After 2 hours, take the cheesecake out, remove it from the pan with water, and cool completely on a countertop
- Once cooled, place cheesecake in the fridge for 6 hours to chill completely and firm up
- When cheesecake is completely chilled and ready to decorate, preheat oven to 350℉, 176℃
- Mix oats, brown sugar, melted butter, and 1 tsp of cinnamon in a glass baking dish
- Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples
- Sprinkle the apples with some cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, mix to evenly coat each slice
- Arrange slices on a baking sheet
- Bake apple slices and crisp for 20 minutes or until the crisp is browned and the apple slices are just starting to turn soft
- Let cool
- Start the flower petal top by laying apple slices along the outer edge of the cheesecake, overlapping each slice slightly
- Put a thin layer of crisp around the bottom of the apple slice layer
- .Add another layer of apples that slightly overlap the crisp layer
- Repeat until the entire top of the cheesecake is covered
- Serve cold