Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cake of the Week: Caramel Apple Eggnog Cheesecake

Warning: there might be crack in this cake. (Unless I ever decide to run for public office – in which case, blog? What blog? I don’t eat cake! You are all hereby officially sworn to secrecy.) The tricky part is – where is it exactly? Is it in the graham cracker crust? The caramel nut layer? The baked apple filling? The creamy eggnog cheesecake? Or perhaps in the sour cream caramel topping?

I will leave the crack detection up to you.

Let it suffice to say that this cake is a process. But all good things are worth taking the time for, right? My motive was a Pre-Thanksgiving Potluck Party my housemates and I hosted this Sunday. Obviously I was commissioned for dessert. And obviously I was going to go above and beyond. (Life philosophy: go big or go home!)

I baked the cake on Saturday night, after returning from a day at museums. (FYI, cheesecake is best when it is baked a day in advance and then chilled overnight.) My friends watched The Notebook in my living room while I made a mess in the kitchen – it smelled amazing

Like Christmas and autumn and everything good in this world simmering on my stove (ok, ok, it was just apples, sugar and cinnamon – but wow!). I’m pretty sure some sneaky fingers snuck their way into the pot while I was out of the room…and while I was in the room…ok I admit it, some of those fingers were mine. Don’t judge.

Anywho, bottom line, the cake was a great success. My inspiration was this Caramel Apple Cheesecake recipe from Annie's Eats. But as you know, I can’t just follow directions – I have to get creative in some way! When I read through the recipe, I realize that there was only one package of cream cheese and one egg’s worth of cheesecake filling.

Ummmmk - I like more cheesecake with my cheesecake please. So I adapted this recipe for Eggnog Cheesecake from Not So Humble Pie. I 2/3rds’ed it (if that makes any sense) - see below for measurements.

Now so many people out there hate on eggnog. And to them I say – NO! Yes, it has a weird name. And yes, it’s thick. But it’s also absolutely delicious! My mama and I always get excited when we buy our first quart in November…and ridiculously sad when it goes out of stores at the end of December.

So eggnog and apples and caramel – it may sound like too much – bear with me here. The eggnogginess is barely detectable. I didn't add rum or brandy, so that mellowed out the flavor quite a bit I think. Just think of the eggnog component as 1) a little extra flavor in your cheesecake, and 2) a great excuse to get out there and buy yourself some eggnog!
The sour cream topping is something my family does on cheesecake – it covers any cracks, and tastes quite delish. Just mix up some sour cream and granulated sugar until it tastes yummy. Then spread over the top of the cake. It keeps better than a whipped cream topping, and looks really pretty with caramel swirls.

So there you have it – Caramel Apple Eggnog Cheesecake. Phew! Good thing I have roommates to keep me from eating the whole thing myself!   

Caramel Apple Eggnog Cheesecake
For the crust: 
  • 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 5 1/3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • ½-¾ cup caramel
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I used walnuts)
For the apple filling:
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 5-6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
For the cheesecake: 

  • 3 8 oz packages cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup fresh egg nog
  • 3 large eggs (at room temperature)
For the topping:
  • 3/4 cups sour cream
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4-1/2 cup caramel
  • Chopped pecans or walnuts

  1. To make the crust, preheat the oven to 375° F.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan with parchment paper.  
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter.  Toss with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened and the ingredients are evenly mixed.  
  3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared springform pan and press the crumbs in an even layer over the pan bottom and about half to two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan.  
  4. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until golden in color.  Let cool for about 10 minutes.  Pour a layer of caramel into the bottom of the crust and sprinkle evenly with the chopped pecans.  Refrigerate the crust while you prepare the filling.
  5. To make the apple filling, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  
  6. Mix in the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon and cook for 1 minute, until bubbling.  Mix in the apple slices and toss well to coat.  
  7. Cook over medium to medium-high heat until tender and most of the liquid has been reduced, about 15-20 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes and pour into the prepared pie shell.  Set aside.  
  8. Reduce the heat of the oven to 350° F.  
  9. To make the cheesecake layer, combine the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.   Mix in the vanilla, egg and spices and eggnog and mix, 1-2 minutes.  
  10. Spread the cheesecake filling into an even layer over the top of the cooked apples in the crust.  
  11. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes.  Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  
  12. To make the topping, mix the sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Pour mixture over the top of the cheesecake and spread evenly. Use a fork or a whisk to drizzle caramel over the top. Sprinkle with nuts if desired. 
  13. Slice with a long, thin knife to serve.