Itty bitty desserts are all the rage, in case you have been living underneath a giant cake and hadn’t heard yet. Recipe developer Jessica Morone of Jess Loves Cooking has come up with a magnificent recipe for mini caramel apple streusel cheesecakes. According to Morone, "[This recipe is] definitely easier than making one big cheesecake, because you don’t have to worry about any cracks forming on the top when they are so small." In addition, it’s always a wonderful thing to have a finger dessert recipe that you can pull out for special occasions, dinner parties, brunches, or just because you’re craving something sweet. They are neat to eat and don’t involve a lot of mess when it comes to serving. Plus, the presentation looks oh-so special.
Meanwhile, what these small-scale sweets lack in size, they make up in taste, composed of multiple layers Morone describes as "a playful mix of textures." She goes on to detail each layer, and yes, you will want to make and eat her dessert ASAP, with Morone saying, "The graham cracker crust [has] a delicate crunch, the cream cheese layer is really rich and creamy, the apples are invitingly soft, yet retain some of their bite, and the streusel layer is a buttery crumble." (We’re guessing you want to taste one of these incredible desserts right about now.)
Sure, these mini apple streusel cheesecakes involve several steps, but don’t worry. Morone assures home bakers about her recipe, "It does end up being pretty simple."
Gather the ingredients to prepare these mini caramel apple streusel cheesecakes
Your shopping list for these dainty delights includes many ingredients you are sure to have in your kitchen already, in addition to a few you may need to pick up at the store. So, shop for or gather from your pantry and fridge cinnamon graham crackers, salt, butter, sugar, cream cheese (which should be at room temperature), eggs, sour cream, cinnamon applesauce, vanilla extract, cinnamon, a Granny Smith apple, brown sugar, flour, and for the most delicious finale, caramel sundae syrup. This last ingredient may very well be the most important ingredient of all!
As far as why Morone uses cinnamon graham crackers and applesauce in her recipe, she says, "Rather than putting additional cinnamon in some of the steps of this recipe, I used cinnamon graham crackers and cinnamon applesauce to make it easier." She also explains why she chose Granny Smith apples specifically. "I think they are the perfect apples for baking, [as] they aren’t overly sweet or too tart, they keep their structure while baking, and [they] don’t get mushy." She adds, "Plus, they always seem to be available at the grocery store!"
Cinnamon adds such a delicious flavor to this divine treat, and the aroma in your kitchen is sure to be amazing. This dessert may remind you of a crisp fall evening, but you can really make it any time of the year.
Make and bake your crust
Now that you have all of your ingredients together, it’s time to follow one step of this recipe at a time. You will easily be able to follow the process to create these layered mini flavor bombs in just about no time. First, you’ll need to preheat the oven to 325 F. While the oven is preheating, you will line a 12-muffin tin with paper liners.
Now, it’s time to get started on your delicious crust, which is the very first layer of the mini cheesecakes. Grab a large bowl, and crush up your graham crackers into crumbs. Then, add ⅛ teaspoon of salt, 5 tablespoons of melted butter, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Mix the ingredients to combine them well. Next, into each tin, spoon a rounded tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture. Finally, press down the crumbs to form a crust base with a spoon or your fingers.
You will bake the crusts first, with Morone explaining, "Baking the crust is the quickest way to get it set and make sure it doesn’t get soggy when you put in the cheesecake filling." But, this baking process only takes five minutes. Afterwards, you will remove the baking tin from the oven, then let the crusts cool completely. Get excited, because the next step will be adding your next layer: the cheesecake. This dessert is starting to get real.
Add your cheesecake layer
While your crusts are baking and cooling, you can get started on mixing up your cheesecake layer. In a large bowl (the same one cleaned out, perhaps, so you don’t have too many items out in your kitchen), combine the softened cream cheese, ⅔ cup of sugar, your eggs, sour cream, the cinnamon applesauce, vanilla extract, and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon together in your bowl.
Then, mix the ingredients really well with a hand mixer on medium speed until the mixture is dreamily smooth. Morone was sure to point out that although this mini cheesecake recipe is easy, "I think the one way these could be messed up is if you don’t let the cream cheese get to room temperature before mixing it, because if it’s too cold, the cream cheese mix will end up lumpy."
Finally, once everything is smooth and silky, you’re going to spoon that rich and creamy cheesecake mixture right over the cooled crusts in each of the lined muffin tins.
Add your apple layer, and make the streusel topping
So, at this point, you have created your crust layer and your cheesecake layer. The next step will be to create the apple layer. First, you’re going to peel and finely chop your Granny Smith apple. Then, in a separate bowl, combine the apple pieces, along with ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon, and ½ tablespoon of sugar, and get to mixing everything together really well.
Once the apple pieces are coated with both the cinnamon and sugar, you will spoon the apple mixture over each of the cheesecake layers.
The last but not least layer for your mini cheesecakes will be the delicious crumble topping. To create the crumble that goes on top, add ⅓ cup each of brown sugar, white sugar, and flour, along with 4 tablespoons of softened butter to the bowl of a food processor. Go ahead and pulse the items together until you have formed a mixture of coarse crumbs.
Add the streusel topping, and bake
When you’re done pulsing, artfully add the crumble mixture on top of each apple layer with a spoon. Now, your mini cheesecakes are completely assembled and ready to bake. But what about the caramel, you might ask? Be patient, because we are almost there!
Your finished cheesecakes will get baked for 30 to 35 minutes. How do you ensure you don’t burn these beauties? "When these are done, the center will look set, but still jiggle a little, and the streusel topping will be golden brown," Morone says. "If the cheesecakes still look wet or the streusel is pale, it isn’t done yet," she adds. "But if you stick to around 35 minutes, they should come out perfectly." And this dessert deserves every bit of perfection.
Once your bake time is done, Morone instructs home bakers to allow the desserts to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Now comes the last fun part before eating them. You’re going to drizzle the caramel syrup on top of each cheesecake. We’re guessing your mouth is watering, and ours are, too.
Finally, you’ll need to refrigerate the cheesecakes for at least 2 hours before serving, although this indulgent treat can be made up to a day in advance. "You will want to store these in the fridge because of the cheesecake layer, covered with plastic wrap, and they should last about five days," Morone says. (But we’re guessing they will be gone by then!)
- 1 cup cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
- ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
- 9 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 cup plus 2 ½ tablespoons sugar, divided
- 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon applesauce
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon, divided
- 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and finely chopped
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ⅓ cup flour
- ½ cup caramel sundae syrup
- Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
- In a large bowl, combine the cinnamon graham cracker crumbs, ⅛ teaspoon of salt, 5 tablespoons of melted butter, and 2 tablespoons of sugar until well mixed.
- Spoon a rounded tablespoon of mixture into each paper liner, then press down with a spoon or your fingers.
- Bake the cheesecake crusts in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Once they are baked, remove the tin from the oven and let the crusts cool completely.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, ⅔ cup of sugar, eggs, sour cream, cinnamon applesauce, vanilla extract, and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon. Mix on medium speed until the mixture is smooth.
- Spoon the cheesecake mixture over the crusts.
- In a separate bowl, combine the apple pieces, ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon, and ½ tablespoon of sugar. Once combined, spoon the apple mixture over the cheesecake mixture in the muffin tin.
- Add the brown sugar, ⅓ cup of white sugar, flour, and 4 tablespoons of softened butter to the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until mixture forms coarse crumbs.
- Spoon the crumble mixture on top of apple mixture.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven until the centers are set.
- Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, then drizzle caramel syrup on top of each cheesecake.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to a day before serving.