Salted Caramel Cheesecake
Homemade salted caramel sauce is the perfect topping for silky smooth and creamy cheesecake. This salted caramel cheesecake with buttery graham cracker crust is the ultimate decadent dessert!
This recipe is sponsored by Go Bold with Butter.
It’s hard to top a really good classic cheesecake, but I think I have done just that!
Adding rich and luscious homemade caramel sauce brings a delightful sweet and salty contrast to the smooth and creamy cheesecake filling. A hint of cinnamon in the crisp graham cracker crust adds warmth, and a generous sprinkling of flaky sea salt over the top is the perfect final flourish.
This salted caramel cheesecake is definitely an elegant dessert that’s perfect for special occasions, but it’s also something that any home cook can successfully bake. Keep reading for all of my best tips for making this recipe!
Ingredients you’ll need
Let’s get baking! Here’s everything you’ll need (full recipe is below):
- Graham crackers
- Full-fat cream cheese
- Granulated sugar
- Heavy cream
- All-purpose flour
- Vanilla extract or vanilla bean
- Ground cinnamon
Why I bake with real butter
Real dairy is the key to this cheesecake, and without it this dessert just wouldn’t even come close. Cream cheese may get most of the glory, but it’s actually butter that plays one of the biggest roles in both the flavor and structure.
Butter binds the graham cracker crumbs to make the crust, and helps with the slight crisp crunch that pairs so well with the creamy cheesecake filling. Butter is also extremely crucial to a delicious caramel sauce. It adds additional flavor to caramelized sugar, and also helps provide a velvety thick texture. The caramel in this recipe is thick, smooth, and incredibly delicious!
Note: I like to use salted butter in both the crust and caramel sauce as it brings out even more sweet and salty flavor, but you can also use unsalted butter and taste and adjust the salt amount in the caramel sauce to your preference.
How to make salted caramel cheesecake
- Prepare and bake graham cracker crust. Combine crust ingredients in a food processor, then press into a greased 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes, then cool.
- Prepare cheesecake filling. Use an electric mixer to combine filling ingredients, then pour into cooled crust.
- Bake in a water bath. Set springform pan into a water bath (keep reading for more info on this) and bake at 325° for nearly 2 hours, until only the center 2-3 inches wobble slightly when gently shaken.
- Let cool. First, turn off the oven and crack the door open and keep the cheesecake inside for an hour. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool for another hour or so, and then move to the fridge to cool completely (4-8 hours or overnight).
- Make caramel sauce. Cook sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until it starts to melt and then caramelize. Add heavy cream while whisking until smooth. Remove from heat and add butter, vanilla and salt. Let cool to room temperature.
- Top cheesecake with caramel. Pour caramel sauce over cooled cheesecake until the top is covered to the edges (you won’t use all of it). Serve cheesecake immediately for caramel that will drip down the sides of slices, or chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes for firmer caramel. Drizzle more caramel sauce over slices if desired.
Tips for making this salted caramel cheesecake
- Start with room temperature dairy and eggs. Cold cream cheese will not whip or incorporate well, resulting in a lumpy filling. Room temperature ingredients help ensure a smooth batter and finished product. Pull ingredients out at least 1 hour before baking, though I’ll often let cream cheese sit at room temperature for a few hours to be sure it’s soft enough. See also my tips for how to quickly bring cream cheese and eggs to room temperature.
- Scrape down the bowl often and don’t overmix eggs. Another important step to getting a lump-free batter is to scrape down the mixing bowl often. Once the eggs are added, only mix until incorporated (now is not the time to try to beat out any lumps). Over-mixing the batter at this point will incorporate too much air, causing the cheesecake to deflate as it cools.
- Bake in a water bath. This is the best way to ensure the cheesecake doesn’t crack, as it creates a moist environment in the oven and provides even and gentle cooking. There are a few ways to wrap the cheesecake before placing it in a larger pan and adding hot water. Learn how to make a water bath here.
- Let cheesecake cool gradually. Changing the temperature too quickly can also result in cracks on the cheesecake. Gradually cool the cheesecake first in the oven with the door open, then on the counter, and finally in the fridge. Chill it for a minimum of 4-6 hours before serving, and preferably overnight.
- Homemade caramel sauce is worth the effort! I have yet to find a store bought caramel that tastes as good as homemade. If making caramel intimidates you, see my post on how to make caramel for lots of step-by-step photos and tips.
- Don’t forget the flaky sea salt. It’s the perfect garnish, providing both an extra visual flair and one more layer of sweet and salty flavor. Maldon is my favorite brand, look for it at specialty food stores or buy online.
- You can make this cheesecake ahead of time! Both the cheesecake and caramel sauce can be made ahead of time. Cheesecake will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge, and the caramel sauce will last for a few weeks. You can add caramel to cheesecake just before serving, or up to a few days before.
More cheesecake recipes you’ll love
- Classic Cheesecake
- No-Bake Lime Cheesecake Bars
- Mini Cheesecakes
- No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake Bars
- Brownie Bottom Mini Cheesecakes
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Salted Caramel Cheesecake
Graham Cracker Crust:
- 2 cup graham cracker crumbs (215 grams, 14 full sheets crackers, almost 2 envelopes)
- 5 tablespoons butter (79 grams)
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar (38 grams)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 24 ounces full-fat cream cheese , cubed and softened to room temperature (3 bricks, 680 grams)
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar (300 grams)
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (24 grams)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 vanilla bean , scraped (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
- 4 large eggs , at room temperature
- ¾ cup heavy cream , at room temperature
Salted Caramel Sauce:
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup butter (56 grams, 4 tablespoons)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon flaky salt , plus more for sprinkling over cheesecake
- Hand-held mixer or Stand mixer
- Food processor
- Large roasting dish
To prepared the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick baking spray.
- Pulse graham crackers in food processor to crumbs (or place in a ziplock bag and crush with a rolling pin). Add butter, sugar, salt, and cinnamon and pulse till combined.
- Use the underside of a measuring cup to pack graham crackers into prepared pan in an even layer on the bottom and up 1 inch of the sides.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
To prepare filling:
- Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Make sure top rack is in the center of the oven.
- With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese together until smooth, 1-2 minutes.
- Add sugar, flour, salt and vanilla bean seeds and beat until smooth and light, 2-3 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl at least 2 times. Mixture should be completely smooth with no lumps.
- Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Add heavy cream and mix until combined. Scrape down bowl as needed when adding eggs and cream.
- Pour filling into cooled graham cracker crust and prepare for water bath (see Notes).
- Set springform pan inside large roasting pan and place in oven. Fill roasting pan with hot water 1-2 inches up the sides of the springform pan.
- Bake for 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours, until edges are set but center 2-3 inches wobble slightly when gently shaken. Top should be light golden brown (if yours browns too quickly, cover with foil while baking) and an instant thermometer inserted into the center reads about 155°F. Do not over bake!
- Turn oven off and crack the door open. Let cheesecake cool in oven for 1 hour.
- Transfer to a cooling rack on the counter and cool for another hour. Then transfer to fridge and chill for 4-8 hours or overnight (recommended).
To make caramel sauce:
- Sprinkle sugar evenly on the bottom of a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Allow sugar to melt and caramelize, swirling as necessary to promote even caramelization. Do not stir. This will take about 10 minutes.
- As soon as the caramel is dark amber in color, reduce heat to low, and gradually add the heavy cream while whisking constantly. Caramel will bubble violently.
- Stir caramel sauce over low or medium heat until any clumps have dissolved and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in butter, then vanilla and salt. Cool to room temperature.
- Pour about ½ cup of the caramel sauce over the chilled cheesecake, just so it generously covers the top. Let it set for a few minutes, then sprinkle with flaky salt.
- Serve cheesecake immediately for caramel that will drip down the sides of slices, or chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes for firmer caramel. Drizzle more caramel sauce over slices if desired.
- To prepare for water bath: Cover bottoms and sides of springform pan with 2 layers of heavy duty foil (it's easier if done before pouring filling into the crust). Or you can set springform pan into 10-inch baking pan or a slow cooker liner (rolled down and left open at top) instead of lining with foil.
- To avoid cracks in your cheesecake, read tips in my classic cheesecake recipe and follow recipe instructions as written.
- Cheesecake will last in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Disclosure: This recipe was created in partnership with Go Bold With Butter. Thank you for supporting partnerships with brands I love and believe in, which make Completely Delicious possible. All opinions are always 100% my own. To learn more about Go Bold With Butter, you can visit their website here. You can also find them on facebook, instagram, and pinterest.