Dense, tangy, and creamy New York style cheesecake is topped with a salted apple cider caramel pecan sauce. This Caramel Pecan Cheesecake doesn't require a full water bath, making it the best cheesecake recipe around!
APPLE CIDER CARAMEL. It's truly life changing and it's time you tried it for yourself. The brightness of the apple flavor pairs perfectly with the sugars in the caramel and the tangy flavor of the cheesecake.
The graham cracker crust incorporates pecans, which ties in with the topping. The actual batter is a dense, classic New York style cheesecake, and is made with Philadelphia brand cream cheese. If you live in the U.S. please only use this brand (and be sure it's the blocks of cream cheese). It's far superior to any other types of cream cheese and is the tangiest version.
I want to say up front that you really shouldn't make cheesecake with a hand mixer, as the lowest speed is much higher than a stand mixer's lowest speed. Incorporating air into cheesecake can cause it to crack, which is the Achilles heel of cheesecake! But...if that's all you have, definitely use it, just keep this in mind.
It is absolutely crucial that all dairy ingredients (cream cheese, eggs, sour cream) are at a full room temperature - even slightly warmer. Room temperature ingredients homogenize best, so any ingredients that are too cold can create a lumpy batter.
- Apple cider. This gets reduced down into a sticky syrup and acts as the base of the caramel. Be sure to use an apple cider that has lots of flavor. I have found that locally made apple ciders are best in this department!
- Graham crackers. Nabisco or Honey Maid brand. I have tried with Benton's and they just don't hold up.
- Pecans. For the crust and the caramel topping - I like to use pecan halves.
- Unsalted butter. Melted for the graham cracker crust.
- Cream cheese. Four blocks or 32oz. Full fat and Philadelphia brand!
- Sour cream. Full fat and completely at room temperature.
- Eggs. Room temperature, and whisked.
- Cornstarch. This helps the cheesecake to set appropriately.
- Sugar. For the crust, cheesecake, and caramel!
- Food processor. Used to pulverize the graham cracker crust. You can also use a high speed blender, but I would not suggest doing this by hand.
- Stand mixer. A paddle attachment is used here, and is highly preferred over a hand mixer with beaters. Use the stand mixer if you have one.
- 9" springform pan. You really do need this pan to make cheesecake, so it's a good time to invest in one!
- Parchment paper. Needed to line the sides of the pan for a perfectly clean cheesecake.
- 13x9 inch pan. For the water bath that sits on the rack underneath the cheesecake. There is no need to wrap the pan in foil, as the cheesecake will not actually sit in the water. That's another bonus of this cheesecake recipe!
- Kitchen thermometer. This is needed for the caramel - over cooking the caramel will lead to chewy or hard caramel, and we want nice, soft, pourable caramel!
How to make the Apple Cider Caramel Pecan Cheesecake
As a note before beginning - I like to set out my cream cheese, eggs, and measured sour cream first thing in the morning. I'll then bake the cheesecake in the late afternoon or evening (usually after I've eaten dinner in case I need the oven). Then it goes into the fridge for the full night to set and chill.
I'll also reduce the apple cider during the day (which takes about an hour), then throw it in the fridge so it's ready to make the caramel the next day.
Finally, I want to remind you up front to fight the urge to increase the speed on the mixer. Every part of this recipe will be mixed on the lowest speed, so put your patient pants on!
STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 350℉/177℃. Also cut three strips of parchment paper, grease the sides of a 9" springform pan, and line the paper to fully cover the sides.
Graham Cracker Crust
STEP 2: Add the graham crackers, pecans, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until fine and sandy in texture. Pour in the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are completely moistened.
Add the crumbs to the prepared springform pan and press the crumbs into the bottom and sides. I like to use a ⅓ cup measuring cup for this. I start by creating the sides, pressing them about ¾ of the way up the pan, then finish with the bottom. Be sure it's very compact - this takes a bit of patience.
Bake the prepared crust for 10 minutes and place on a wire rack to cool off a bit while you make the cheesecake batter.
STEP 3: Reduce the oven temperature to 300℉/149℃. Boil a medium sized pot of water, add a 13x9 inch pan to the bottom rack of the oven, and pour the water into the pan. This is the method used to simulate a water bath, which helps to create an even bake with no cracking!
New York Style Cheesecake Batter
Fight the urge to increase the speed of your mixer! Low and slow - this prevents air bubbles and keeps the cheesecake from cracking.
STEP 4: Add the cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on low speed with the paddle attachment until the cream cheese is fully broken down and smooth. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula and any chunky bits on the paddle.
Next, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch then add it to the cream cheese. Mix it on low speed until fully combined, then do a full scrape again.
Crack four large eggs (fully room temperature) into a bowl, add the vanilla, and whisk to combine. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs to the cheesecake in four pours, waiting until the eggs are incorporated before adding another pour. Scrape down the sides and paddle.
Finally, add the sour cream and give one final mix on low speed until it's fully combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and do one final mix by hand. Then, tap the bowl on the counter a few times to loosen any air bubbles, and let it stand for about 5 minutes.
STEP 5: Pour it into the crust and carefully smooth it to the edges. Bake the cheesecake (remember, the oven should now be at 300℉/149℃) for one hour and 45 minutes. Then, turn the oven off and crack it open slightly to cool for one more hour. Transfer it to the fridge, completely uncovered, for at least 8 hours.
Apple Cider Pecan Caramel Recipe Instructions
STEP 6: Begin by reducing the apple cider. I like to do a full half gallon so I have extra reduction leftover, but you can do half of the amount (32 fl oz or 4 cups) if you don't want to have any leftover.
Add the apple cider to a large saucepan, bring it to a boil, and reduce it to keep a high simmer until the cider reduces by more than ¾ of the way and it has turned into a thick, sticky syrup. If not making the caramel right away, transfer to a heatproof container and refrigerate until ready to use.
If making the syrup right away, measure out ½ cup (150g) of the reduction to start the caramel process.
STEP 7: Over medium heat, add the apple cider, butter, white and brown sugars, and heavy cream and stir to combine. Continue stirring every 30 seconds or so until the mixture reaches 235℉/112℃ on a kitchen thermometer. Stir in the salt, cinnamon, and pecans, then transfer to a heatproof bowl to cool off slightly.
Serving the cheesecake
Remove the Caramel Pecan Cheesecake from the springform pan - you may need to use a knife to get in between the pan and cheesecake to release the bottom. Remove the parchment paper strips, then transfer the cheesecake to a serving platter.
Slice the cheesecake with a thin, sharp knife - slicing down to the bottom, then sliding out from the bottom. I like to run the knife under hot water and wipe it off with a paper towel in between each slice. This helps to keep nice, clean slices.
Drizzle the apple cider pecan caramel onto each slice and enjoy! If eating the entire cheesecake in one sitting, feel free to pour the caramel over top, then slice and serve.
I'm telling you, this is the best caramel pecan sauce for a cheesecake. See all those specks in there? That's major apple flavor!
Storing and Freezing
Store the cheesecake in the fridge, uncovered, for up to one week. Only add the caramel to to the cheesecake when you're ready to eat it, if it goes into the fridge on top of the cheesecake, it will turn hard.
The caramel can be stored in the fridge, and reheated in 30-second increments in the microwave, stirring in between, until it's back to a pourable consistency.
You can freeze the full cheesecake or slices of the cheesecake by wrapping fully in plastic wrap and foil, then freezing for 3 months. Remove the cheesecake, uncovered, and thaw in the fridge for about four hours.
FAQs & Tips
New York Style cheesecake is a richer, more dense version of cheesecake. This is due to extra eggs and sour cream, with the sour cream also helping with extra tang.
This can be for a handful reasons: no water bath, mixing on too high of speed, over baking, too high of heat, going from a hot oven to cold area to cool. Be sure to use an oven thermometer to check your oven temperature, which is crucial to an evenly baked cheesecake. Carefully reading this post will help prevent any cracks, as I take all steps necessary to prevent it.
The good news? Even if yours does crack, the caramel sauce will cover it!
A water bath is a large pan filled halfway with water, and the item being baked sits within the water. This is common for cheesecakes, custards, creme brulee, etc. However, it can be a pain with a cheesecake as you have to wrap the entire pan in foil to prevent any water from seeping in, but it is necessary to create a proper bake.
The benefit of this recipe is that you don't have to add the pan to the water bath, but instead, just place the water bath on the very bottom rack of the oven and it does the job!
The reduction of the apple cider produces about double of what you'll need for the caramel (however, you can half the amount to 32oz/4cups which is exactly the amount you'll need for the caramel recipe). I reduce extra on purpose, because it's a concoction of the gods and can be used in so many ways! The caramel recipe I use is adapted from these Apple Cider Caramels - which is a chewy and solid version that you should absolutely try at some point.
Some other great options that use apple cider reduction:
Other recipes to try
- Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake Bars
- Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake Bars (with gingersnap crust)
- Fruit and Cream Cheese Puff Pastry Danish
Pin for Later
Caramel Pecan Cheesecake
- Food processor or large blender
- 9-inch springform pan
- Stand mixer with paddle attachment, or handheld mixer
- Candy thermometer or digital thermometer
- Large casserole dish
- 2 cups ground graham crackers 280g
- ¼ cup granulated sugar 50g
- ½ cup pecans 50g
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted (113g)
- 32 oz full-fat cream cheese room temperature (4 blocks)
- 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar 267g
- ¼ cup cornstarch 30g
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
- 1 cup full-fat sour cream room temperature (235g)
Apple Cider Pecan Caramel
- 32 fl oz pure apple cider
- 1 cup granulated sugar 200g
- ½ cup light brown sugar 100g
- ½ cup unsalted butter room temperature & cut into tablespoons (113g)
- ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream 80ml
- 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup pecan halves or pieces (a heaping cup) ~115g
- Preheat the oven to 350℉/177℃.
- Prepare a 9-inch springform pan by spraying the sides with nonstick cooking spray and adding strips of parchment paper along the sides. I like to have mine come above the lip of the pan.
- Pulse the graham crackers, sugar, pecans and salt until fine and sandy. Then, add in the melted butter and pulse until all crumbs are completely moistened.
- Add the crumbs to the springform pan and use a ⅓ measuring cup to press the crumbs into the bottom and sides. Start by pushing the crumbs to the sides and pressing it about ¾ way up the pan. Then, fill out the center and press down until it's completely compacted.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool while you make the cheesecake layer.
- Lower the oven temperature to 300℉/149℃ and add an empty casserole dish to the bottom rack of the oven. Set a pot of water to boil and pour into the casserole dish.
- Add the softened cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low until it's broken down and creamy. Scrape down the sides and the paddle.
- Mix together the sugar and cornstarch in a bowl, then add to the cream cheese and mix on low until fully combined. Scrape down the sides again.
- Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and whisk to break down. Add the vanilla into the eggs. With the mixer running on low speed, drizzle in the eggs in 4 additions, waiting until the prior batch is incorporated before adding the next.
- Scrape down the sides one more time, then add the sour cream and mix on low until incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to mix one more time by hand to remove any air bubbles. Tap it on the counter a few times then let it sit for about 5 minutes.
- Pour the cheesecake batter into the crust and use your spatula to smooth it out to meet the edges. Bake in the center rack for 1 hour 45 minutes.
- Turn off the oven and crack it open slightly for 1-1.5 hours. Transfer to the fridge (uncovered) and chill for at least 8 hours.
Apple Cider Pecan Caramel
- *Reduce the apple cider the same day you make the cheesecake, but make the caramel about an hour before you plan to serve the cheesecake.
- Add the apple cider to a large pot and boil for about one hour until the cider is reduced down by more than ¾ of the way into a sticky syrup. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Measure out ½ cup of apple cider reduction (150g) and heat in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it becomes a syrup consistency and starts to bubble.
- Add the white and brown sugars, butter and heavy cream and stir occasionally until the mixture begins to bubble and reaches 235℉/112℃.
- Remove from the heat, then stir in the flaky salt and cinnamon. Stir in the pecans, then transfer to a heat proof bowl. Continue stirring occasionally to release the heat and cool it down a bit.
- When ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the spring form pan and get rid of the parchment paper. Slice the cheesecake, pour the caramel onto slices, and enjoy!