Caramel cheesecake: A backrub for bakers


I know how hard you’ve been working lately. Between getting ready for winter, cooking and baking for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Oh, My Aching Back Tuesday, it’s all been sitting on your shoulders.  Personally, I think you deserve a break…

I wish I had a way to send a soft, soothing massage to you. A binary back rub, a cyber chirapsia, a pseudo Shiatsu. Imagine your computer screen blending into muted colors, while pan flute music flows from your speakers.

Your chair would become pillowy soft, and gentle waves would flow through the fabric, like a cat purring on your back.

Your footrest would pool around your feet, filled with  scented water and effervescence. The headrest would slowly move your head in circles, draining all the tension away.

Softly dear, softly comes the waiter with your cheesecake. A cinnamon-scented crust with notes of toasted nuts. Golden caramel swirls cover the top. More nuts tempt you with their crunchy goodness. Each bite glides on the tongue and the last bit of worry wisps away.

Now that’s what I call a  Caramel Pecan Cheesecake break.

While I can’t send you one through cyberspace, we can go to the kitchen and make one together.  Let’s make Caramel Pecan Cheesecake.

For the crust, mix together King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour, pecan meal, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add the softened butter and blend together until you have a soft, crumbly dough that holds its shape when pressed together lightly.

Sprinkle the dough evenly over the bottom of a lightly greased 9” springform pan.

It really does help to take the time to break up the dough and sprinkle it over the bottom of the pan. It helps ensure an even crust, and prevents you from having to try and push the crust from the middle of the pan to the edges.

To help press the crust flat and even, spritz the bottom of a small glass or measuring cup with cooking spray. It will cover more ground in one pass than your fingers, and is perfectly flat.

Gently press the crust into the pan with the bottom of the cup. Remember to leave extra crust at the edges.

Use your thumb and the extra crust to form a 1” rim around the edge of the crust.

Prick the crust all over with a fork, and place in a 375°F oven to bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly golden.

The scent will tease your nose with hints of cinnamon and toasted nuts. Deep breath… aaaaahhhhh.

Once you remove the crust from the oven, reduce the temperature to 325°F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Blend on low speed until the mixture is smooth. Stop the machine and scrape the sides several times during this process.

When making cheesecake, it’s very important that the cream cheese be at soft room temperature. If your cream cheese is too cold, there will be little lumps of cream cheese in the batter, and these just don’t blend or bake out.

Add the eggs one at a time, blending well between each one, and again scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl several times. See that yellow streak on the left? That’s unblended egg yolk scraped up from the bottom of the bowl.

While you can surely use jarred caramel sauce for making this cheesecake, I like to melt some of our Merckens caramel block thinned with a little cream. The flavor is rich, pure caramel decadence.

Melt 1 cup of Merckens caramel with 2 to 3 tablespoons of cream; you’ll have plenty for both the filling and the topping.

Add 1/2 cup of the caramel sauce to the cheesecake batter.

It’s a bit like a Rorschach ink blot test looking at the last little drizzles. I see a blue whale racing a little worm, headed for a big mushroom. Hmmm, wonder what that says about me?

Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust. Bake the cake in the 325°F oven for 40 minutes.

Reduce the heat again to 300°F and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

An instant-read thermometer inserted 2” from the outside edge will read 170°F.

Be careful not to put your thumb into the top as I did. At least it will get covered in more caramel.

You can see that the center is still slightly wet looking. That’s actually good news. If it were fully baked in the center at this point, the egg proteins would begin to shrink and cause the dreaded cracked cheesecake.

Now, turn off the oven and prop the door open slightly with an oven mitt or piece of foil. Let the cake cool in the oven for one hour. By gradually cooling the cake, you’ll bring the temperature down slowly and avoid cracks.

After that hour, you can remove the cake from the oven. Don’t remove the ring from your pan; the cheesecake is still warm and tender at this point.

Leave the pan to cool at room temperature for another hour. Again, reducing the temperature slowly is key to a smooth-topped, creamy centered cheesecake.

Refrigerate the cheesecake for 8 hours, or overnight.

Remove the springform ring, top the cheesecake with additional caramel and pecans, and you’re ready to serve this sumptuous  dessert. Each bite is full of creamy caramel flavor with a subtle hint of cinnamon from the crust.

Eating this cheesecake is like getting a massage. Your shoulders relax, the tension leaves your forehead, small happy noises escape your lips. Maybe Baked Good Therapy is just around the corner. Sign me up!

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Caramel Pecan Cheesecake.

MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


  1. sandra

    That’s it. I have to bake one of these. Resistance is futile.
    Two favourite flavours in one thing. Caramel and cheesecake. I must have done something to deserve it, I just can’t remember what!
    You could celebrate “I Put my Socks on Day” or maybe ” I Love KAF Blog Day”. I like the sound of that one.
    Happy baking! ~ MaryJane

  2. bachaney

    Do you have a suggestion for a homemade caramel that would work in this recipe? Because I would LOVE to try this, but I also would like to make caramel from scratch!
    Hi there,
    I’d check out the comments section on the Thousand Dollar Bars blog. There are lots of suggestions there for homemade caramels. ~ MaryJane

  3. Paul from Ohio

    Unbelieveable! Yesterday I got a catalog from Eli’s Cheesecake of Chicago – a definitive and deeply loved product from my hometown. And on the cover is a new one: Salted Caramel Cheesecake!

    How do you do it MJ? Read my mind AND my mail and my desire for just this recipe! Oh yeah, I’ll be trying this, like soonest! Thanks. I even have a partially used block of Merkens carmel in my pantry! Now a few sprinkles of sea salt and boy will I be “au current”!!!!
    Just part of my test kitchen magic, Paul :)! Now Ihave to remake this cheesecake with sea salt, can’t fall behind the times! ~ MaryJane

  4. woocar5

    Can you make this cheesecake gluten free?

    Hi Carolyn – I think you could make this recipe GF. The crust is the only part that contains gluten, so if you have a favorite crust you could use that or I think our GF-Roll-Out Cookie Recipe might work. You’d have to give it a try and let us know how it turns out! – kelsey

  5. kimberley p.

    Can you give us some idea of the *freezability* of this? I know cheesecakes are often frozen, just wanted your opinion on it! It would be nice to make this one the weekend ahead of Christmas and pop in the freezer – to make more baking time avail for unfreezable pies the day before the holiday. For those of us who have to make three or four desserts, it would be great to get one out of the way earlier in the week :>)

    You should be able to freeze this cheesecake for up to 6 months. I would seal it up tightly and freeze away! – kelsey

  6. Tuty

    I’ve read a lot about baking cheesecake with au bain marie method. I love the fact that this recipe doesn’t need to baked that way. Thank you for showing me that cheesecake can be successfully made this way.

    BTW, whenever I made cheesecake, I cut them into wedges, wrap each slice in parchment paper then put them in plastic storage box. Whenever we have company or I have a dessert craving at night, I just pull one slice out and defrost them at room temp ;-)

  7. Kata40

    Can you suggest an alternative crust? I am terribly allergic to nuts. And would this cheesecake benefit from a water bath, or is that unnecessary. :)


    I suggest making a graham cracker or zwieback crust. This batter does not require a water bath. Frank @ KAF

  8. cr8zyamy

    Ok MJ here’s a challenge for your very talented mind. Ground hazelnuts, cream cheese, espresso powder, chocolate, eggs, butter, sugar, flour, or maybe some crushed cookies. How do we turn this into a chocolate hazelnut cheese cake. If I get it figured out I’ll send it to you, but if you figure it out could you or anyone else post it.
    Thanks, AmyT ; )
    Hi Amy,
    I’d actually start with a chocolate cheesecake recipe and tweak it with espresso and hazelnut until you have the flavor you like. I don’t experiment with coffee/espresso flavors much, I truly don’t like coffee, but I’m sure you’ll have something you like soon. Happy baking! ~ MaryJane

  9. milkwithknives

    Oh, my gosh! This is gorgeous! My little sister just called me at my desk to tell me she and her husband are expecting their first baby, and she is the absolute cheesecake queen. I believe I will unleash this very one on everybody this weekend to congratulate her. One quick question though, there aren’t nearly enough of us to eat the whole thing and I also don’t own a springform. Is this something I could make a half batch in a 9″ tart pan, would you say? I feel dumb asking, but some recipes can’t be scaled, as I have found out the hard way more than once.

    Thanks for the wonderful post, and I’m REALLY looking forward to my upcoming backrub. (grin)

    Yes, you may reduce this recipe. But a half batch is still going to overwhelm a 9″ tart pan. You will likely only need 1/3 of the recipe for a tart. Frank @ KAF.

  10. Kata40

    Can I have a crust suggestion omitting the pecan meal that will be of this same crumbly cookie quality?

    I suggest making a graham cracker or zwieback crust. Frank @ KAF

  11. Sandy

    I had a fancy dinner party last Saturday evening and one of the 3 desserts I made was Toffee Crunch Caramel Cheesecake. Oh was it good!! It too had a layer of caramel on the top (I used my homemade caramel recipe) and then ringed the top with broken up pieces of Heath Bars….yummo!!

  12. kathy9764

    I made this for our family’s Thanksgiving Dinner and it turned out amazing! My father in-law said this is what he wants for his birthday every year. Great recipe, thanks KAF…

  13. mrsnarbonne

    I just made homemade caramel sauce for this recipe (no easy access to pre-made caramel here) and it cooked faster than I expected (my first time). Do you think this recipe would work with a very dark, bittersweet caramel or should I start over? It’s not burnt, just a dark caramel.
    I believe it would work just fine, the big difference would be flavor. If you like the flavor of your caramel, I’d say go for it. ~ MaryJane

  14. Regina

    I’m currently insane (translation: doing Weight Watchers during the holiday baking season) but REALLY want this cheesecake. Any cooking time or other suggestions for doing cupcake tin mini-cheesecakes?”If you do this in muffin tins, be sure to set your tin in a water bath, as the cakes are small and fragile and could use the gentle bake in the steam. As for the timing, I would check them after 15 minutes and continue checking on them once they are close to being set. Happy holidays! Amy @ KAF

  15. mrsnarbonne

    So I tried it with the dark caramel and it was a big hit at the Christmas party I took it to tonight. Probably less sweet than a golden caramel (because of the added bitterness of the darker caramel) – but the kids liked it, too, even though I thought it would be more of an adult flavor profile.

  16. milkwithknives

    I did make this in a tart pan (ten inch, not nine, duh), and a half batch of the crust with one third batch of the filling were just right. I suspect I overbaked it a bit at 28 minutes, so I’ll start checking earlier next time. Unfortunately, we were all so full of other Christmas treats that we never got around to cutting it, but it is in the freezer waiting for our New Year’s Eve party tomorrow. I shall have a piece and then review. Thanks for the guidance.
    Super, thanks for checking in and we look forward to hearing more when tasting time comes. ~ MaryJane

  17. ldellett

    I recently bought a mini cheesecake pan and would love to try this recipe for the holidays. How long do you think I should bake the cheesecakes? Thanks so much for such great recipes and products!
    These should take about 18-20 minutes to bake. ~Amy

  18. Boilerbaker1

    Could I swap out 1 carton of mascarpone cheese(8 oz) for one of the cream cheese pkg? The mascarpone is getting toward its expiration date.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We haven’t tried this in our recipe, but you could certainly give it a try! Jon@KAF

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