A caramel cheesecake is a dessert featuring the typical cheesecake with caramel often also mixed into the batter or drizzled on as a garnish. A basic cheesecake has a crust and thick filling, while caramel is essentially heated sugar with optional butter and cream mixed in, depending on the desired consistency. Caramel can be incorporated into the treat in different ways, affecting how and when it's used, though the rest of the preparation and baking are very similar to that of a plain cheesecake.
Basic cheesecake consists of a crust made from graham cracker, pastry, or cake filled with a mixture featuring fresh cheese of some kind. The filling has a smooth, creamy texture and may be dense or fluffy. Sugar or other ingredients sweeten the cheese filling, and a variety of toppings are traditionally used, ranging from fresh fruit to caramel. Caramel cheesecake is served chilled, and its garnishes may also be chilled or warm.
Caramel is a confection created by heating one or more kinds of sugar, usually in a double broiler to prevent burning. Butter and heavy cream or milk give a full-bodied quality and taste for a richer caramel or to solidify it slightly. Both varieties are used in cheesecakes.
The syrupy confection is most often poured over the top of a cheesecake along with nuts or chocolate. It can also be layered between the crust and cheese topping or mixed into it. The syrup may be used for a chilled caramel cheesecake with sauce topping, or it may be drizzled on before refrigeration to form a thick layer.
Preparing a caramel cheesecake typically takes several hours of baking and an overnight chilling in a refrigerator. The crust is made and pre-baked while the cheese filling is prepared, adding ingredients like butter, sugar, and eggs along with the cheese and beating at low speed to keep a dense texture. The filling is then poured into the crust.
If caramel is being swirled in rather than being treated as a warm garnish, it's drizzled over the batter at this time. The baker uses a knife to swirl it into the mixture slightly. The caramel cheesecake's pan sits in a boiling water bath while it bakes and is taken out when the center is almost set. After the cake cools, it should be covered in plastic wrap or towels and then chilled overnight. Caramel sauce is drizzled over top during chilling or warm when it's served.