Caramel Apple Cheesecake (No-Bake!)
July 9, 2020
It feels a little weird to eat apples in the early summer. But there are some varieties of apple that you can store through the whole winter and spring, and then enjoy later. But even so, when it’s warm out, it doesn’t feel right to make an apple pie. So when we were clearing out last year’s harvest for some new fruit this summer, I decided to make a dessert that features apples and doesn’t require the oven. You can enjoy this no-bake caramel apple cheesecake all year long!
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What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for this no-bake caramel apple cheesecake at your grocery store. If you want to use curbside pick-up or home delivery, check out Instacart to shop online from your favorite local grocery store.
- Produce: Apples (Granny Smiths are my favorite for this recipe)
- Fridge: Butter, Heavy cream, Cream cheese
- Pantry: Vanilla wafer cookies, Sugar, Powdered sugar, Apple cider vinegar, Brown sugar
- Spice Cabinet: Vanilla extract, Cinnamon, Nutmeg
- Required Equipment: Stand mixer or hand mixer with whisk and paddle/beater attachments, 8×8 pan, Instant-read thermometer
- Recommended Equipment: Zip-top bag, Marble rolling pin, Silicone spatulas, Parchment paper, Saucepans, Mixing bowls, Whisk
How to Make No-Bake Cheesecake
Get ready, because this dessert is delicious. However, there are a lot of steps to get you to that gorgeous final presentation. Nothing is too difficult (except making caramel, which is always a struggle), but it will take some time. Be sure to start this at least one day before you want to serve it, but as many as four or five.
Begin by making the crust. I decided to use vanilla wafer cookies here instead of traditional graham crackers, and I think it’s my new go-to for no-bake cheesecakes. The flavor is sweet and subtle, and perfectly balancing the cream cheese.
Add the cookies to a zip-top bag, and use a heavy rolling pin the crush them. I like using a marble rolling pin, but if you don’t have one, you can use a mallet or even just crush these with your hands.
Place the cookie crumbs into a bowl, and break apart any large pieces that got missed. Then add in the melted butter, and combine. The easiest way to do this is to use your hands, so you can really get that butter mixed with the cookies.
Once combined, pour the cookie mixture into an 8×8 pan that’s lined with parchment paper, with some hanging over the edges. You will thank yourself later for this. It makes serving so much easier! Use your fingers to evenly press the crust into the pan.
Cover the pan with foil, touching the crust, and then place in the freezer to chill while you prepare the filling. Leave it for at least half an hour, which is enough time to harden the butter and hold it together.
Meanwhile, it’s time to make the cheesecake filling. To make a no-bake cheesecake, you whip up the cream cheese and heavy cream separately, and then fold them together to combine into a light and fluffy treat. Begin by making the whipped cream.
In a large bowl, add the heavy cream and use a mixer to whip it. I like using my hand mixer for whipped cream, but you can also use a stand mixer. Either way, you’ll want to use the whisk attachment.
Start the mixer on low, to prevent splashing, and then slowly increase the speed as it thickens until you reach high. Then continue mixing until stiff peaks form, and the whipped cream holds its shape on the whisk when lifted.
Set this aside for now, and use your stand mixer with the paddle attachment (you can also use a hand mixer with a beater) to mix the cream cheese. Mix both types of sugar with the cream cheese on low until fluffy.
Add the vanilla and apple cider vinegar to the cream cheese filling and mix again until combined. I decided to use the vinegar here because it adds that little extra tang to really give these that cheesecake flavor. Plus, I always like using apple cider vinegar when working with apples. It just feels right.
Now, you will split the whipped cream, and use two thirds of it in the filling. Add that to the bowl with the cream cheese. Set aside the rest of the whipped cream in a jar in the fridge, and you’ll use the rest of it to make the caramel whipped cream.
Use a silicone spatula to fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. You are doing this by hand so that you keep the fluffy texture. Over mixing can lead to a denser cheesecake.
Once combined, dump the whole mixture onto the cold crust. Use your spatula to spread it out evenly throughout the pan, and to smooth out the top. I was making some fun designs in the top, but eventually just made it all smooth.
Cover the pan with foil, and place it in the fridge overnight (or for at least 8 hours). When you remove it, it will have firmed up a ton and you’ll be ready to slice and serve! But get some rest, because you’ll also be putting together the toppings.
Let’s Build a Caramel Apple Cheesecake
You can make these toppings either the same day you make the cheesecake, storing them overnight in the fridge, or you can make them the day you are serving. You can serve this with the apples warm or cold. But always warm up the caramel before drizzling!
Before starting the caramel, be sure you have your instant-read thermometer ready, and the butter and cream all ready to go. Caramel can go from done to burnt very quickly, so it’s best to be prepared.
Add the sugar and water to a saucepan and stir to combine. Then turn the heat on medium, and don’t stir again until it’s ready. Stirring can cause the sugar to crystallize more. Allow it to cook until it starts to change to a light golden color.
At that point, begin checking the temperature with your thermometer regularly. As soon as it hits 325F, add in the butter and stir until it’s melted. Then, immediately turn off the heat and add the cream.
Be cautious because adding cream can cause the caramel to seize up or splatter. If you get hot caramel on your hand, rinse it under warm water. Don’t put it in your mouth, or you’ll burn that too! Stir in the cream, and then let the caramel cool in the pan for about ten minutes.
Meanwhile, start working on the apples. I like using Granny Smiths here for two reasons. First, they winter really well, so they can still be good, even into mid-summer. Also, they are one of the best apples for cooking since they hold their shape well and are a little tart.
Small-dice the apples and add to a pan with the brown sugar, spices, and half of the water. Then, let it cook slowly, for about 10 minutes covered until the apples start to get soft.
Cook for another 5 minutes uncovered, adding the additional water if needed (only if the apples are sticking to the pan), until they are super tender and the syrup is thick. Set these aside to cool a little bit as well.
We’re almost there! Take the cheesecake out of the fridge, and use the edges of the parchment paper to lift it out of the pan onto a flat surface. Use a sharp knife to slice it into 16 pieces.
Take the extra whipped cream out as well, and whisk in two tablespoons of the caramel sauce, to make a caramel whipped cream. You can serve these immediately, or chill everything for a half hour (or up to 5 days) and serve it with cold apples.
Place each square on a small plate. Top with a big scoop of the cooked apples (warm or cold), a dollop of the caramel whipped cream, and a drizzle of the caramel sauce. Eat with a fork, and be sure to lick the plate!
Since these are easy to make ahead, you can save yourself a lot of time day-of by prepping it all in advance. Also, because everything lasts in the fridge for a few days, you can spread out the work. But trust me, it’s all worth it.
This no-bake cheesecake is like having caramel apple pie, but in the summer! You don’t even need to turn on the oven.
How to Serve
This cheesecake makes an amazing summer dessert or afternoon snack. It has a perfect balance of sweetness with the caramel to the tang of cream cheese, so it doesn’t really need much else.
If you are the cheesecake-for-breakfast type (I know I am!), you can expand this into a full meal by serving a side of vegan lentil-pecan breakfast sausage, and a slice of cinnamon praline stuffed challah bread.
One of my favorite things to serve with this cheesecake is a delicious cocktail! Try a cinnamon and pear rum cocktail for similar flavors. Or balance it out with something completely different by trying an amaretto old fashioned.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- Apples are the star in a weeknight apple crisp for two. Or if you have a lot leftover, try the easiest no-peel applesauce.
- Leftover caramel sauce is exactly what you need to line the rim of these chocolate turtle martinis.
- Use some heavy cream in a rich and creamy chai white hot chocolate.
- If you have extra cream cheese, go savory with a caramelized onion cheese cake.
Caramel Apple Cheesecake (No-Bake!)
- 2 Cups Vanilla Wafer Cookies crushed
- ¼ Cup Butter melted
- 2 Cups Heavy Cream
- 16 oz Cream Cheese
- ½ Cup Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Powdered Sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Cup Sugar
- ¼ Cup Water
- ¼ Cup Butter
- ½ Cup Heavy Cream
- 4 Granny Smith Apples peeled, cored, and small diced
- ¼ Cup Brown Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Cinnamon
- ¼ tsp Nutmeg
- ½ Cup Water
- Place the vanilla wafer cookies into a zip top bag, and use a heavy rolling pin to crush them. If you don't have a rolling pin, you can crush with a mallet or use your hands. Transfer to a bowl, and stir in the melted butter.
- Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper, and press the cookie mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan. Cover with foil, and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours.
- Meanwhile, add the heavy cream to a large mixing bowl. Use a mixer with the whisk attachment the whip the cream. Start on low to reduce splashing, and then slowly increase the speed as it thicken. Continue whipping until stiff peaks form.
- In another large mixing bowl, add the cream cheese and sugars. Mix using a paddle attachment (or beaters if using a hand mixer) for about 4-5 minutes until fluffy. Add in the vanilla and vinegar, and continue mixing until combined.
- Add two thirds of the whipped cream into the bowl with the cream cheese. Use a silicone spatula to gently fold it into the cream cheese mixture, until combined. Set aside the remaining whipped cream in a sealed container and place in the fridge overnight.
- Add the cream cheese mixture on top of the crust, and use a spatula to smooth out until it's spread evenly over the top. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge overnight (at least 8 hours)
- In a small-medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water, and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, without stirring, allowing the water to cook off and the sugar to caramelize.
- When the color starts to turn a light golden, begin checking the temperature, and add in the butter as soon at it hits 325°F. Stir until the butter is melted and then turn off the heat. Add in the cream (it may splatter or seize, so be cautious) and stir until smooth and combined.
- Let cool for about 10 minutes, and then transfer to a glass jar or bowl. Add two tablespoons into the leftover whipped cream, and whisk to combine, to make caramel whipped cream.
Apple Topping & Putting it Together
- In a large saucepan or flat-bottomed saute pan, add the apples, sugar, spices, and half the water. Cook over medium-high heat, covered, stirring occasionally until the apples soften, about 10-12 minutes. If they start to stick, add the remaining water as needed. Cook for an additional 5 minutes uncovered until tender and syrupy.
- Remove the cheesecake from the fridge, and use the parchment edges to carefully lift it out of the pan. Slice into 16 squares. Serve each square topped with a big scoop of the apples, a dollop of caramel whipped cream, and a drizzle of caramel.
- This can be eaten immediately, when the apples are warm, but I think it tastes best when everything is chilled.
- Make ahead tip: To store in the fridge, place the cheesecake squares, apple topping, whipped cream, and caramel sauce each in their own sealed container. Reheat the caramel sauce in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds, and stir, until it's thin enough to drizzle. Top the cheesecakes just before serving.
- Make it gluten-free: Use gluten-free vanilla wafer cookies in the crust.