Cranberry Cheesecake is classic cheesecake with a buttery graham cracker crust that's been dotted with cranberry filling. Then, it's topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream and sugared cranberries.
Cheesecake is a timeless dessert that's great to enjoy anytime of year. I put it right up there with red velvet cake. Classic cheesecake is so versatile and easy to change up with different ingredients, fruits, spices, etc.
It's pretty much a blank slate, which makes it perfect when the holidays roll around. This year we decided to share our cranberry cheesecake recipe.
Like all oven-baked cheesecakes, it takes time to bake, cool (then cool some more), and chill in the fridge. Even though it takes several hours to prepare, itt is worth the effort.
This cheesecake has the perfect amount of sweetness with a touch of tartness from the cranberry filling. Don't forget about the graham cracker crust!
It's sweet, buttery and good all by itself. The whipped cream topping and sugared cranberries are an optional garnish but add a nice touch.
How to Make Cranberry Cheesecake:
Here's a quick rundown of how to make a cranberry cheesecake. It's not difficult at all, but it does take a little time.
You can start with the crust or the cranberry filling and work on the other while the first cooks/bakes.
I started the crust first. To make the graham cracker crust, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar, then add the melted butter.
Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan that's been wrapped in foil on the outside only.
Use a heavy-bottomed glass or ramekin to press the crumbs into an even layer. Bake the crust at 325°F for 8 to 10 minutes.
Allow the crust to cool completely before filling. While the crust bakes, start on the cranberry filling.
Heat the cranberries, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan, and cook over low-medium heat until the cranberries pop and the mixture just begins to thicken. It will thicken more as it cools.
Remove the cranberry filling from heat and allow the mixture to cool, then transfer it to a food processer. Pulse until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.
All that's left is the cheesecake filling. Place the softened cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
Beat the cream cheese on low to medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until it's smooth and creamy. Make sure to scrape the bowl with a spatula as needed.
Add the sour cream, and mix for an additional 2 to 3 minutes on low speed until well incorporated. Next, pour in the sugar, vanilla, and salt.
Continue to mix for 2 to 3 minutes until combined. Add the eggs 1 at a time, mixing between additions.
Now, it's time to layer the cheesecake. Start by taking half the cranberry filling and placing it on the graham cracker crust.
Use a spatula to smooth it into an even layer. The layer may be thin, but as long as it covers most of the crust you're good to go.
Next, pour half the cheesecake filling over the cranberry filling. Use a clean spatula to smooth the cheesecake filling into an even layer.
Grab a spoon to dot teaspoon sized drops of cranberry filling over the cheesecake filling. This should use up all the cranberry filling.
Carefully pour the reaming cheesecake filling over the top and smooth into an even layer. Gently tap the cheesecake against the counter to bring air bubbles to the top.
Use a toothpick to pop the air bubbles, then transfer the cheesecake to a roasting pan. Pour boiling water around the the springform pan, and transfer the cheesecake to the oven.
Bake at 325°F for 60 to 65 minutes, then turn off the oven, and crack the door. Leave the cheesecake in the oven to cool for another hour.
After the cheesecake cools in the oven for an hour, transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely at room temperature.
Once it has completely cooled to room temperature, cover it in plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.
When the cheesecake is removed from the refrigerator, it can be sliced and served immediately or decorated with garnishes liked whipped cream or sugared cranberries.
Do the cold ingredients need to be room temperature?
Yes, the cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs work better at room temperature for this recipe. It's best to get them out of the refrigerator an hour or two ahead of time.
Is a water bath required for cheesecakes?
No, but it is recommended. A water bath keeps the temperature of the cheesecake stable and keeps the top of the cheesecake moist, which helps prevent overbrowning and cracking.
How do I keep the springform pan from leaking?
I used to wrap the springform pan in foil two or three times, but that wasn't doing the trick. A while back, I ran across some information about using oven bags on Live Well Bake Often.
That's been a gamer changer. I still wrap the springform pan in foil, but after that, I place the pan in a large oven bag rolled down to the top of the pan. That has worked wonders for keeping water out of the cheesecake.
Why did the cheesecake crack?
There are several reasons why a cranberry cheesecake or any cheesecake may crack.
- Make sure the oven isn't too hot. A hot oven can cause the cheesecake to puff and brown. When the cheesecake cools and deflates, it will likely crack.
- Don't overmix the ingredients or mix on too high of a speed. This will incorporate too much air which can cause cracking.
- Don't move the cheesecake from hot to cold/cold to hot temperatures. Don't open the oven door to check the cheesecake. Make sure your ingredients are room temperature. Drastic temperature changes can cause cracking. Patience is key here!
- Don't overbake! Overbaking will dry out the cheesecake. A cheesecake is cooked through when it reaches 150°F on an instant read thermometer. Check it after an hour of cook time. Don't over bake to "make sure" it's done.
Recipe Card with Ingredient Amounts and Instructions
Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs, *See note
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 3 cups cranberries, fresh
- 1 ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup water
- 32 ounce(s) block-style cream cheese, softened
- 8 ounce(s) sour cream, full fat, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 5 large eggs
For the Crust:
- Preheat the oven to 325°F, and line a 9-inch springform pan with aluminum foil on the outside only. Set aside. Optional: Wrap the springform pan with aluminum foil in an oven bag. Roll the oven bag down, so it’s even with the top of the pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs and ⅓ cup (65 g) of sugar. Add the melted butter, and stir until well combined. Pour the mixture into the springform pan, and use a heavy bottomed glass or measuring cup to press the crust into an even layer. Press the crumbs firmly along the bottom and sides of the pan.1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs⅓ cup granulated sugar½ cup unsalted butter
- Bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Allow the crust to cool completely before filling.
For the Cranberry Filling:
- While the crust bakes, pour the cranberries, granulated sugar, and water into a medium saucepan. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes until the cranberries pop and the mixture begins to thicken into a syrup.3 cups cranberries1 ⅓ cup granulated sugar½ cup water
- Remove the mixture from heat, and allow it to cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer it to a food processor, and pulse until a smooth sauce forms. Set aside.
For the Cheesecake Filling:
- Before you make the filling, place a large pot of water on the stove to boil. This will be used for the water bath. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on low speed until smooth. This takes about 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides, then add the sour cream. Continue to mix on low speed until the sour cream is fully incorporated, about 2 to 3 additional minutes.32 ounce(s) block-style cream cheese8 ounce(s) sour cream
- Add granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt. Mix on low speed until smooth, and well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between additions. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.1 cup granulated sugar1 tsp. pure vanilla extract½ tsp. kosher salt5 large eggs
- After all the ingredients are mixed, remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use the spatula to scrape the sides and bottom again, just to make sure everything is mixed. Set aside.
Layer the Cheesecake:
- Pour half of the cranberry mixture into the springform pan on top of the cooled crust. Use a spatula to smooth it into an even layer. Set the remainder aside.
- Pour the cheesecake filling into an even layer over the cranberry filling, and tap it gently against the counter a couple of times to remove air bubbles.
- Use a spoon to dot the remaining cranberry filling over the cheesecake filling. Then, pour the second half of the cheesecake filling into the pan. Use a spatula to smooth out the top. The layers should be like this: graham cracker crust --> cranberry filling --> cheesecake filling --> dotted cranberry filling --> cheesecake filling.
- Lightly tap the cheesecake against the counter a couple of times, and use a toothpick to pop any air bubbles that surface.
- Place the cheesecake into the center of a roasting pan, then carefully pour the boiling water around the cheesecake pan about ¾ the way up the springform pan. Make sure to pour slowly and away from the springform pan so the water doesn’t splash on the cheesecake. (I like to use a metal ladle for this.)
- Transfer the roasting pan to the oven, and bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the edges are set and the center is still a little jiggly. An instant read thermometer should read 150°F to indicate the cheesecake is cooked through.
- Turn the oven off, crack the oven door slightly, and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1 hour.
After the cheesecake cools in the oven for an hour, move it to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Once it’s cool, cover it with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator to chill for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.
- If desired, top with sugared cranberries, whipped cream, or cranberry jam. When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the pan, carefully release the springform, and slice. The cheesecake is good in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.