This dessert has it all! Buttery melt in your mouth shortbread crust is just the beginning. Next, a layer of tart and spicey apple filling is spread over the crust. Top this with a rich and creamy cheesecake swirled with caramel for a perfect combination of flavors – an explosion of YUM in each and every bite.
I know what you’re thinking…. Sounds incredible but too many ingredients, too many steps, too difficult – fuhgeddaboudit! Yes, there are a several components and it does take some time. The good news is it doesn’t have to be done all in one day. The apple filling and the caramel sauce can be made ahead of time. But I promise, it is not difficult. One of my favorite quotes from Julia Child is, “If you can read, you can cook”. You can make this and you will be so happy you did. WOW your family and friends with this decadent dessert.
It makes a lot, but it keeps well. Although I encourage you to make the recipe as written, I realize not everyone has the time or LOVES to spend several hours in the kitchen baking like I do. Want to cut your preparation time substantially but still make a very tasty dessert? See some ideas for shortcuts in the Notes following the recipe.
Apple Caramel Cheesecake Bars
- 4 cups peeled and chopped tart apples like Granny Smith (about 3 large apples)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- Pinch of allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- Zest of ½ a lemon
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 cup sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 tablespoons water
- ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, in pieces
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 6 ounces butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- ¾ cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Peel and dice the apples fairly small.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the apples, sugar, spices and salt. Cook together for 10-15 minutes stirring frequently.
- Add the lemon zest and cornstarch and cook another 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and set aside. The filling can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
- Whisk sugar, cream of tartar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.
- Cook without stirring until mixture begins to caramelize in spots. Using a heat proof spatula, stir mixture to ensure even caramelization and continue cooking (stirring occasionally) until mixture is the color of honey, 10-12 minutes.
- Reduce heat and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until caramel is a deep amber color.
- Remove from heat and whisk in butter.
- Slowly and carefully add the cream as it can bubble up and burn you. It will have to cool before you use it. You can make this ahead. It will keep refrigerated for quite some time. It is quite thick when cold and might need a little warm-up to thin it a bit before using.
- Butter a 9×13” baking dish.
- Preheat the oven to 325° convection.
- Melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly.
- Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and cornstarch in a bowl and stir together.
- Add the butter and mix until dough comes together.
- Distribute pieces of dough in the pan and press the mixture down with the palms of your hands or the bottom of a measuring cup until it is smooth and even. Dip the measuring cup in sugar if necessary to keep it from sticking to the dough.
- Bake for about 20 minutes until the crust begins to brown around the edges and feels slightly firm in the middle.
- While the crust is cooking, make the cheesecake filling. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth and creamy, scraping the bowl as needed.
- On low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until incorporated before adding another.
- Scrape down the bowl, add the vanilla, and mix just until blended. Set aside ¼ cup of batter.
- Spread the apple filling over the crust.
- Top with the cheesecake filling and spread evenly over the apple filling.
- Add ¼ cup of caramel sauce to the ¼ cup of reserved batter and stir together. Drizzle over the cheesecake filling in a swirl pattern. Reserve remaining caramel sauce for serving.
- Bake for about 25-30 minutes (still at 325° convection), until firm to the touch. Do not overbake or it could crack.
- Chill thoroughly before cutting. Serve with remaining caramel sauce.