Caramel cheesecake is the BEST cheesecake! With caramel sauce in the batter, swirled in the center, and drizzled on top, this cake is full of rich, creamy and velvety goodness in every bite!
what makes this caramel cheesecake so good?
- easy homemade caramel sauce
- triple caramel action!
- perfectly crisp graham cracker crust
- silky and creamy easy cheesecake base
- virtually fail-proof!
cheesecake water bath
If you've made a classic cheesecake before, odds are you already know that cheesecake needs to be baked in a steamy environment! This helps give you a smooth, creamy, and crack-free cheesecake.
Creating the steamy environment is super easy: all you need is a water bath! There are 2 popular methods for setting up the water bath:
- You can place your springform pan into a larger roasting pan, then fill the roasting pan with boiling water going about half way up the side of the cheesecake. It's also a good idea to wrap the bottom outside of your springform pan with a layer of aluminum foil beforehand to prevent water leaking in or cheesecake leaking out. Then you just bake the cheesecake in the roasting pan filled with water.
- My favorite method (which is a lot easier and less fussy than number 1 imo!) Place a large pan on the bottom rack of your oven and fill it with boiling water. Then place your cheesecake onto the rack directly above the water filled pan, and bake! You'll have the same steam level, but it's a lot easier to set up and work with!
how to make caramel cheesecake
make the caramel sauce:
1. Measure and prep ingredients. There isn't much time between each step to pause or take breaks to measure ingredients. Pausing between steps runs the risk of having the caramel burn and / or separate! So it's important to have all of your ingredients measured and in front of you before starting.
2. Cook sugar and water until browned. This will take about 5 minutes. Make sure to stand right next to it while it cooks - it can go from perfectly browned to burnt in the blink of an eye!
3. Add butter and whisk until melted. The mixture will sizzle up and settle down once the butter is fully incorporated.
4. Add heavy cream and salt. The mixture will sizzle up again and settle down once the ingredients are combined. After it settles, continue cooking for another minute.
5. Pour the caramel sauce into a heat safe bowl and cool, uncovered, until room temperature. The caramel sauce has to be FULLY cooled before adding it to the cheesecake batter!
make the graham cracker crust:
1. Mix together crust ingredients in a bowl until combined.
2. Pack the crust into your springform pan and bake. The crust won't change much in appearance after baking - this will just help ensure it stays crispy after the batter is added on top!
3. Set aside to cool slightly while your prep the batter.
make the filling:
1. Cream together cream cheese and sugar.
2. Add caramel sauce and remaining cheesecake ingredients (minus the eggs).
3. Whisk the eggs in, one at a time. Mix until each egg just disappears into the batter before adding the next one. Take care not to overmix, otherwise your cheesecake will be more likely to crack!
layer and bake!
1. Pour about half of your cheesecake filling over your slightly cooled crust. It's fine if the crust is still a little warm.
2. Drizzle over some of the cooled caramel sauce. Use a knife or skewer to lightly swirl the caramel sauce into the batter.
3. Top with the remaining half of your cheesecake batter. It's best to dollop the batter over the caramel sauce so it doesn't disturb it too much. Once all the batter is in the pan, gently even out the top with a spoon or spatula.
4. Bake and cool the cheesecake. The cheesecake needs to cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar, then on the counter until it reaches room temperature, THEN in the fridge until firmed up and set. This gradual cool down helps prevent cracks and ensure an evenly set filling!
5. Unlatch the springform pan and transfer the chilled cheesecake to your serving platter.
6. Top with the remaining caramel sauce. If desired, pipe some whipped cream or cream cheese frosting around the rim!
7. Slice and dig in!
how to tell when cheesecake is done baking
There are a few telltale signs that will indicate your cheesecake is done baking.
The edges will be lightly browned and the top should be evenly puffed. But do note that the center of the cheesecake will sink slightly as it cools - that's totally normal!
If you gently shake the pan, the center of the cheesecake should jiggle while the edges stay in place. If the center doesn't jiggle, it means the cheesecake is overbaked. If the edges jiggle along with the center, it means it needs more time in the oven.
troubleshooting / common problems
- caramel's sugar crystalized: This can happen if you try to stir the water and sugar as they brown. It's important to let them brown undisturbed - it's fine to start mixing after you add your butter and other caramel ingredients.
- cheesecake collapses / sinks in the middle: This most likely means the cheesecake was underbaked. The cheesecake will sink slightly as it cools, but it should be relatively flat on top.
- cheesecake filling not set: Again, most likely a sign the cheesecake was underbaked if it's soft and verging on gooey. Keep in mind that the filling won't seem nearly firm enough when the cheesecake is warm, but it should firm up significantly after it chills in the fridge.
- cheesecake dry and brittle: On the opposite side, this most likely means the cheesecake was overbaked.
- cheesecake cracked on top: There are a few possible causes for a cracked cheesecake top (I have a detailed section in my classic cheesecake recipe going over the best strategies for avoiding cracks on cheesecake!) But as a quick summary, the most common causes for cracked cheesecake are: not waiting for the ingredients to reach room temperature, overmixed cheesecake batter, and cooling the baked cheesecake too rapidly.
Cheesecake should be kept stored in the fridge until right before you're ready to serve. Cheesecake will keep for around 3 to 4 days.
check out these other recipes!
Caramel Cheesecake Recipe
for the caramel sauce:
- ½ cup (120mL) water
- 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
- 10 tablespoons (150g) unsalted butter, cut into slices
- 1 cup (240mL) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
for the cheesecake crust:
- 2 cups (210g) graham cracker crumbs
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (1 stick / 115g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
for the cheesecake filling:
- 4 (8 ounce) bricks cream cheese (32oz / 900g total), at room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (120g) sour cream, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (30g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
Make the caramel sauce:
- Measure out your ingredients. Caramel sauce comes together very quickly, so you won't have time to measure out the ingredients between steps! You should also have a medium sized saucepot with high sides, a long handled wooden spoon or whisk, and a heat safe bowl ready.
- In your saucepot, combine water and sugar. Place onto a stove burner set to medium heat. Cook until it boils and turns into a deep amber color. Do NOT stir or it may cause the sugar to crystalize! Gently swirl the pan if needed to allow for even browning. This whole process will take about 5 minutes, but keep watch over it because it can very quickly go from perfectly browned to burnt!½ cup (120mL) water, 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
- Quickly (but carefully!) add the butter and mix with your long handled wooden spoon or whisk until melted and combined. The mixture will sizzle and bubble up to almost triple in volume then settle down once the butter is melted.10 tablespoons (150g) unsalted butter,
- Add your heavy cream and salt, and mix until smooth and combined. Again the mixture will bubble up. It may also clump and seize up, but just keep cooking and mixing and it should melt back into a smooth mixture.1 cup (240mL) heavy cream, 1 teaspoon salt
- Boil the caramel sauce for an additional minute, then remove from the heat and mix in your vanilla. Immediately pour the sauce into your heat safe bowl, and set aside (uncovered) until cooled completely to room temperature before using.2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Make the cheesecake crust:
- Position 2 racks in your oven: one on the bottom shelf and one in the center shelf. Preheat your oven to 325°F.
- In a medium bowl, mix together crust ingredients until combined.2 cups (210g) graham cracker crumbs, ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar, ½ cup (1 stick / 115g) unsalted butter,
- Tightly pack the crust into the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. I find it's easiest to do this with the bottom of a ramekin or measuring cup.
- Bake the crust in the center of your preheated oven for 8 minutes. The crust isn't going to look very different - this just helps make sure it stays crispy!
- Set aside the crust to cool slightly as your prep the cheesecake filling. Keep your oven set to 325°F.
Make the caramel cheesecake filling:
- In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a wooden spoon by hand, cream together until lump free and you no longer see any dry sugar crystals.4 (8 ounce) bricks cream cheese (32oz / 900g total),, 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- Add ½ a cup (120mL) of your cooled caramel sauce, along with your sour cream, flour, salt, and vanilla. Whisk together until combined.½ cup (120g) sour cream,, ¼ cup (30g) all-purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Whisk your eggs in, one at a time, mixing well after each addition before adding the next egg. Take care not to overmix or it can cause cracks in your cheesecake! Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrap the bottom of your bowl if needed. I prefer to do this step by hand because I'm way less likely to overmix!4 large eggs,
- Pour about half of your cheesecake filling over your slightly cooled cheesecake crust (it's fine if it's still slightly warm!) and spread into an even layer in your pan. Drizzle ½ a cup (120mL) of your cooled caramel sauce evenly on top and gently swirl using a knife or skewer. Dollop the remaining cheesecake batter on top, taking care not to agitate the caramel swirl too much. Gently spread the top into an even layer with a spoon or spatula.
- Place a large pan (with at least 2 inch high sides) into the bottom rack of your oven. Fill the pan with 1 inch of boiling water. Place your cheesecake on the center oven rack directly above the water filled pan to create a steamy environment.
- Bake the cheesecake in the center of your preheated 325°F for 60 to 70 minutes or until the surface is puffed up and lost its shine and the edges are very lightly browned. If you gently shake the pan, the center of the cheesecake should jiggle but the edges should be stiff.
- Leave the cheesecake in the oven and cool for 1 hour with the door slightly ajar. After about 30 minutes, carefully run a knife along the edges of the cheesecake to loosen it from the pan (to prevent sticking and cracking).
- Pull the cheesecake out of the oven and set aside to cool completely to room temperature. Transfer the cheesecake to the fridge and cool for 4 to 6 hours or until fully cooled and set. Top with more caramel sauce before slicing and serving!