The image speaks for itself, my friend. This Apple Streusel Cheesecake is a creamy, spiced apple cheesecake with an apple pie topping and crunchy streusel covering. Think: caramel apple meets apple streusel and you pretty much have an idea of the greatness that’s in store for you. When I tell you that this will cap your holiday meal in style, I’m not exaggerating.
*This is an update from the original, published in November 2020, that streamlines the article. The recipe is the same.*
What is Apple Streusel?
Apple streusel is a German dessert of spiced apples and a butter and flour topping. Streusel means “to scatter” or “sprinkle”, which is exactly what you do with it. Streusel recipes get sprinkled over fruits or purees and baked to crunchy finish.
What is an Apple Streusel Cheesecake?
An apple streusel cheesecake is an apple-flavored cheesecake baked in a graham cracker crust with a homemade apple pie topping topped with that buttery streusel. It’s a play on apple streusel and caramel apples, which are two of the most popular fall desserts.
Though many steps make up this recipe- four, to be exact- you can always get help from the store. Use store-bought applesauce, apple pie filling (for the topping), and jarred caramel sauce to make your load lighter.
How Do I Make a Cheesecake Crust?
You need melted, unsalted butter, graham cracker crumbs, and granulated sugar to make a cheesecake crust.
To make the cheesecake crust, mix together the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, and sugar in a mixing bowl until the mixture holds its shape when gripped in your hand. If the mixture crumbles when you loosen your grip, add more melted butter. On the other hand, if butter oozes through your fingers as you squeeze, dry the mixture out by adding more graham crumbs. Once you have the right mix, use the bottom of a measuring cup to press it into a cheesecake pan.
Bake the graham cracker crust in a preheated, 350°F (177°C) oven for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool to the touch. Wrap the bottom and sides in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil once it’s cool enough to handle. Be sure not to puncture the foil when doing this as it will cause your foil covering to retain water, which can get into the cheesecake.
Set the foil-wrapped pan aside while you prepare the apple cheesecake batter.
What Are Good Replacements for Graham Crackers When Making a Cheesecake Crust?
Consider switching up the main crust component to one that incorporates warmer fall flavors.
Some alternatives to a graham cracker crust are:
- cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
- gingersnap cookie crumbs
- molasses cookie crumbs
- Biscoff cookie crumbs
What Ingredients Are in the Apple Cheesecake?
To make an apple cheesecake, you need four packs of room temperature cream cheese, Cinnamon Applesauce, lemon zest, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, vanilla, eggs, all-purpose flour, and heavy cream.
The lemon juice doesn’t belong in this stage. My excitement got the better of me.
How Far Ahead Can I Make the Apple Cheesecake Batter?
Leave the cream cheese on the countertop for at least 8 hours before mixing the batter since cold cream cheese results in lumpy cheesecake batter. I often leave my cream cheese out overnight to make it soft enough for mixing the following day but 8 hours is sufficient.
The best way to avoid a lumpy cheesecake batter is to make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature before mixing them together. Just pull everything out of the fridge a few hours before starting.
Blend the room temperature cream cheese, the spices (including the salt and lemon zest), and sugar together on low speed using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. After 1 minutes, stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and the beaters.
Add the eggs, one at a time, to the cheese mixture in the bowl. Blend each egg into the cheese at low speed until it’s fully incorporated. Scrape down the bowl before adding the next egg. Add the vanilla with the last egg, blending the two into the batter until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and beaters once again.
Do I Have to Use Homemade Applesauce?
I always have a batch of homemade applesauce on hand, so, that’s what I use. However, store-bought is probably more accessible to you, so feel free to use a jarred version. Choose applesauce labeled “chunky” or “homestyle.” Avoid using applesauce that’s too runny, or your cheesecake will be very loose.
You can use cinnamon or plain applesauce. If you use plain, add an additional teaspoon of cinnamon with the spices. You can also make this a plain vanilla cheesecake. It won’t taste as apple-y, but will still be amazing.
Add the applesauce and the heavy cream to the bowl with the cheese. Blend them into the cream cheese mixture at low speed, or just until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beaters.
What Does Flour Do to the Apple Streusel Cheesecake batter?
Next, add the sifted flour to the mixture in the bowl. Blend just until the flour is no longer visible. Blending the mixture too much after adding the flour will result in a tough cheesecake
Flour (or cornstarch) gives cheesecake batters more body and a creamy yet dense texture. Rich, dense cheesecakes are typically referred to as a New York-style cheesecake.
Scrape the batter into graham cracker crust. Set the cheesecake pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the outer pan. Make sure not to splash the hot water into the cheesecake batter or it will inhibit it from baking properly. Baking cheesecakes in a water-bath (or bain-marie) prevents it from cracking.
How Long Do I Bake the Cheesecake?
It takes an hour to bake a plain cheesecake in a 350°F (177°C) oven. This apple cheesecake, however, takes 1 hour 15 minutes to bake completely. The applesauce makes the batter runnier, which is why it needs an additional 15 minutes of baking time. The additional 15 minutes of bake time also stiffens the cheesecake in preparation for its chunky apple pie topping.
What Is the Best Apple to Use in Baking?
Grab two Granny Smith apples, the lemon juice that photobombed us earlier, cinnamon, brown sugar, ginger, nutmeg, and cornstarch. I totally forgot to add the unsalted butter to this picture, but you’ll need it, as well, for finishing the topping.
In my most humble (but always right) opinion, the best apple to use in baking is a Granny Smith. Granny Smiths create a juxtaposition of textures and flavors in recipes. In this recipe, you taste a very tart, firm apple that’s bathed in a sweet spiced syrup.
Replace Granny Smiths with Baldwin, Cortland, and Idared apples; all have similar flavors. However, Cortland apples brown slower than the other apples mentioned, so be mindful of that when you’re checking on the final product.
How Do I Make Apple Pie Topping?
To make apple pie topping, peel, core, and cut the apples into 1-inch thick chunks. Melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Toss the apple chunks into the melted butter and pour the lemon juice over the apples, tossing the apples around to coat them.
Combine the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and cornstarch together in a separate bowl, then sprinkle this mixture over the apples. Stir to coat the apples evenly. Once the apples begin to release their juices, lower the heat to medium-low.
Continue to cook the mixture until the apples begin to release their juice and thickens, or for 3-4 minutes. Stir frequently to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pot and scorching. Once the sauce sounds like rustling newspapers when you scrape the bottom of the pot, remove it from the stove.
Stir in the remaining slices of butter to melt and evenly coat the apples. This step, called monter au beurre (or mounting with butter), is a culinary technique that is used to create a glossier, more viscous sauce.
Allow the apples to cool to room temperature while the cheesecake continues to bake.
You can also replace this entire step with canned apple pie filling or topping. You only need one 21-ounce (595 grams) can of apple pie filling for this recipe. There’s no need to cook canned apple pie filling, but you can add more flavor to a canned apple pie filling by stirring in cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to it.
How Do I Fix a Runny Apple Pie Filling?
You can never gauge how much juice an apple contains. Some have more water than others, which can leave you with a runny apple pie filling or topping.
To fix a runny apple pie filling make a cornstarch slurry by whisking together 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cold water until smooth. Pour this mixture into the center of the apple pie topping over low heat in a slow, steady stream while constantly whisking to avoid creating lumps in the sauce.
Heat the apple pie topping once again, stirring frequently, until it thickens. The final sauce should look like a thick gravy.
If your apple pie topping is too thick, thin it by stirring in 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple juice or water.
What is streusel?
Streusel topping contains flour, sugar, spices, and butter that are rubbed together until the mixture is crumbly.
Make the Streusel topping for this dessert while the cheesecake bakes. It’s simple to make, just use the recipe link in the previous sentence and pop back over here.
Do I have to top it with the Streusel?
You can omit the streusel topping in this recipe and just bake an apple pie cheesecake.
You can replace streusel with:
- chopped nuts
- toasted old-fashioned rolled oats
- chopped graham crackers (or any of the cookies you used to make the crust)
Carefully remove the larger pan that containing the cheesecake from the oven once the apple cheesecake has baked for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Gently spoon the apple pie filling onto the surface of the cheesecake. You don’t want to plop the topping on it because its structure hasn’t had a chance to develop yet. After spooning the topping on evenly, sprinkle the streusel topping over it.
How Long Do I Bake the Cheesecake After Adding the Topping?
Return the apple and streusel-topped cheesecake to the oven (still in the water bath) and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the streusel topping is golden brown and firm.
Once the topping has browned, turn the oven off. Prop the oven door open slightly with a wooden spoon and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1 hour. This step is essential because it allows the cheesecake to cool gradually, which keeps it from developing a crack in the center.
After an hour of cooling in the oven, remove the larger pan to the counter. Take the cheesecake pan out of the water-bath and remove the aluminum foil wrapper. Allow the cheesecake to cool on the counter for 30-45 minutes before covering in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerating for 6 hours or overnight. Overnight is best because it gives the cheesecake ample time to set up and become firm.
How Do I Finish the Apple Streusel Cheesecake?
Caramel Sauce is the best way to top an apple cheesecake. Hello? Caramel apples?!?! Right? It just goes. This is another component where you can get help from the store. Just buy and use your favorite jarred caramel sauce.
Warm the sauce slightly, just enough to make it runny. You can spoon it into a piping bag and pipe strands of caramel over the surface of the chilled, de-panned cheesecake; or just take a spoon and drizzle it in a less neurotic way.
Sauces that are great substitutions for caramel are:
No sauce also works here. This cheesecake is delicious on its own.
What’s the Best Way to Store My Apple Streusel Cheesecake?
Store your apple streusel cheesecake in the fridge for up to 3 days after it’s completely chilled. So, 4 days after baking. Cover your cheesecake with plastic film or foil to prevent the apple pie topping from drying out in the chilly air of the refrigerator.
After cutting your cheesecake, press a piece of wax or parchment paper against the exposed cake to prevent it from drying out or becoming crusty.
Can You Freeze Cheesecake?
You can freeze apple streusel cheesecake after cooling it but before topping it with the caramel sauce.
Leave the cheesecake in its pan to keep it from being smashed in the freezer. Wrap the cheesecake pan in two layers of plastic wrap and one layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil before freezing it to preserve its flavor.
If you need the pan for another recipe, you’ll have to chill the cheesecake thoroughly (or overnight) to harden the crust. To de-pan it:
- Place a layer of plastic wrap on the surface of the cheesecake and flip it over.
- Pry the bottom of the pan from the graham crust and carefully flip the cheesecake back over.
- Put the cheesecake on a freeze-safe plate or a cardboard cake circle and wrap it in a double layer of plastic wrap, followed by foil.
Freeze the Apple Streusel Cheesecake for 2 months.
A day before you plan to serve the cheesecake, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator. Unwrap it and drizzle it with caramel sauce before serving.
Be sure to pin this Apple Streusel Cheesecake to your desserts board, then share it with your world!
Apple Streusel Cheesecakeat Sense & Edibility
- 9-inch springform (cheesecake) pan
- electric hand or stand mixer
For the Graham Cracker Crust
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter melted
- 2 cups (225 grams) graham cracker crumbs see notes for more options
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated sugar
For the Apple Cinnamon Cheesecake
- 4 8 ounce packages (904 grams) cream cheese at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (170 grams) light brown sugar packed
- 1 teaspoon (2 grams) ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) kosher salt optional
- 1 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) lemon zest juice reserved (from one medium lemon)
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon (6 grams) vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 1 cup (255 grams) cinnamon applesauce at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (65 grams) all-purpose flour sifted
- 1/2 cup (60 milliliters) heavy cream
Apple Pie Topping
- 2 large (390 grams) Granny Smith Apples peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1/4 cup (40 milliliters) lemon juice from the lemon you zested earlier
- 1/2 cup (120 grams) light brown sugar packed
- 4 tablespoons (30 grams) cornstarch
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (3 grams) ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt optional
Prepare and Bake the Graham Cracker Crust
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the melted butter, graham crumbs, and granulated sugar until it holds its shape when gripped in your hand. If the mixture crumbles when you loosen your grip, add more melted butter, a little at a time, until it is the proper consistency. If butter seeps through your fingers as you squeeze, add more graham crumbs until it's corrected.
- Use a measuring cup to press the graham cracker crumb mixture into an even layer in the bottom (and 1/4-inch up the sides) of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake the graham cracker crust in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
- Once baked, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool to the touch. Wrap the bottom and sides in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil taking care not to puncture the foil when wrapping as this will cause the wrapping to retain water, which can get into the cheesecake. Set the foil-wrapped pan aside while you prepare the apple cheesecake batter.
Mix the Apple Cinnamon Cheesecake Batter (see notes for options)
- Before starting the batter, set a pot of water on the stove to boil. This will be used later to make a water-bath in which to bake the cheesecake.Grab a pan that is a few inches larger than the springform pan you lined the graham crust with. Set the foil-wrapped cheesecake pan inside of the larger pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, use your electric hand mixer (or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) to blend the cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and lemon zest together on medium-low speed until they are smooth or 1 minute.Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and the beaters.
- Add one egg to the cheese mixture in the bowl. Blend the egg into the cheese on medium-low speed until it's fully incorporated. Scrape the bowl, then repeat this step with the remaining eggs. Add the vanilla with the last egg, blending them into the batter until combined.Scrape down the bowl and beaters once again.
- Add the applesauce and the heavy cream to the bowl with the cheese. Blend this addition into the cream cheese mixture on low speed, just until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beaters.
- Lastly, add the sifted flour to the mixture in the bowl. Blend just until the flour is no longer visible. Blending the mixture too much after adding the flour will cause the cheesecake to bake up tough.
- Once the batter has been blended, scrape it into the graham cracker crust in the springform pan. Pour boiling hot water you started earlier into the outer pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the foil-wrapped pan. Carefully slide the pans into the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour 15-minutes.
Prepare the Apple Pie Topping While the Cheesecake Bakes (or a couple of days ahead)
- Melt two tablespoons (or pats) of unsalted butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the apples, lemon juice over the apples, tossing the apples around to coat them in the butter and the juice.
- In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch, ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Once combined, sprinkle the mixture over the apples in the pot. Stir to coat the apples evenly, then bring them up to a simmer. Once the apples begin to release their juices, lower the heat slightly.
- Cook the mixture until the apples start to release their juice, and the cornstarch mixture causes that juice to thicken, or for 3-4 minutes. Stir frequently to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pot and scorching. Once the sauce sounds like rustling newspapers when you scrape the bottom of the pot, it's ready to come off the stove and cool.
- After removing the pot from the stove, stir in the remaining slices of butter until they are melted and evenly coat the apples. Allow the apple pie topping to rest at room temperature while the cheesecake continues to bake.
Top the Baked Apple Cinnamon Cheesecake with Apple Pie and Streusel
- Once the apple cheesecake has baked for 1 hour and 15 minutes, carefully remove the larger pan that contains the cheesecake pan from the oven and place it on the stovetop. Gently spoon the apple pie filling onto the surface of the cheesecake. Do this delicately as the structure of the cake hasn't had a chance to develop yet.
- After spooning the apple pie topping on evenly, sprinkle the streusel topping over it.Return the apple and streusel-topped cheesecake to the oven (still in the water bath) and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the streusel topping is golden brown.
Cool the Cheesecake Gradually and Completely
- Once the topping has browned, turn the oven off. Prop the oven door open slightly and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1 hour.
- After an hour of cooling in the oven, remove the larger pan to the counter. Take the cheesecake pan out of the water-bath and remove, then discard, the protective aluminum foil wrapper. Allow the cheesecake to cool on the counter for 30-45 minutes before covering in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerating for 6 hours or overnight.
Add the Caramel Sauce to the Chilled Cheesecake
- Remove the collar of the springform pan from around the cheesecake. I like to run a hot knife around the edges of the cheesecake first to prevent any sticking.
- Warm the prepared caramel sauce slightly: just enough to make it fluid. Use a spoon to drizzle the sauce over the surface of the cheesecake or spoon the sauce into a disposable piping bag and pipe strands of caramel over the surface of the chilled, de-panned cheesecake.
- Once it's baked, cooled, and sauced, store the cheesecake in the fridge covered to prevent the apple pie topping from drying out in the chill air. Serve and enjoy within 3 days of cutting the cheesecake and no longer than 4 days after baking.
To Switch Up the Cheesecake Crust, consider using these in place of plain graham cracker crumbs:
- cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
- gingersnap cookie crumbs
- molasses cookie crumbs
- Biscoff cookie crumbs
Notes on the Apple Pie Topping:If the apple pie topping isn't thickening add more cornstarch to the mixture in the pot:
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of cold water.
- Once this mixture is smooth, whisk this slurry into the center of the apple pie topping over low heat. Add the slurry in a slow, steady stream while constantly whisking to avoid creating lumps in the sauce.
- Heat the apple pie topping once again, stirring frequently, until it thickens. The final sauce should look like a thick gravy.
Alternative Topping for the Cheesecake (Replaces the Streusel):
- 3/4 cup chopped nuts (I recommend toasted pecans, walnuts, or almonds)
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 3/4 cup chopped graham crackers (or any of the cookies you used to make the crust)
Optional Sauces to Use Instead of Caramel:
- Store-bought caramel topping
- Crème Anglaise (Vanilla Sauce)
- Cajeta (Goat's Milk Caramel)
- Spiced Toffee Sauce
- The graham crust and cheesecake should be made the day you plan to bake it. They are not make-ahead friendly.
- The sauce can be made a week in advance and stored in the fridge.
- Streusel Topping can be frozen for 6 months.
- The apple pie topping can be made 2-3 days in advance and stored in a container in the refrigerator.
- Once the cheesecake has been cut, press a piece of wax or parchment paper against the exposed cake to prevent it from becoming gummy and hard.
- Freeze the cheesecake after cooling but before topping it with the caramel sauce.
- It's best to leave the cheesecake in the pan to keep it from being dented in the freezer:
- Wrap the pan in a double-layer of plastic wrap, followed by a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
If you need the pan for another recipe: chill the cheesecake thoroughly (or overnight) to harden the crust. To de-pan it: place a layer of plastic wrap on the cheesecake's surface and flip it over.
Pry the bottom of the pan from the graham crust and carefully flip the cheesecake back over.
Put the cheesecake on a freeze-safe plate or a cardboard cake circle and wrap it in a double layer of plastic wrap, followed by foil.
- Freeze the Apple Streusel Cheesecake for 2 months.
- A day before you plan to serve the cheesecake, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator. Unwrap it and drizzle it with caramel sauce before serving.