The long awaited and much anticipated Epic Hot Apple Frozen Cheesecake is FINALLY HERE! But be warned. It is sweet, rich, creamy, and very decadent. It is designed for holidays and special occasions, but we like having some in the freezer for impromptu, surprise decadence on a whim … which is how we use the leftovers (assuming there are any).
Make no mistake about it though … this recipe is pretty involved if you try to do it all in one day, but easy if you do it in stages. Therefore, I am providing (below the recipe itself) a proposed plan for a great way to approach Epic Hot Apple Frozen Cheesecake (even on the most hectic of holidays!) so be sure to check that out before you head to the kitchen. It really simplifies an otherwise complicated recipe. In fact, do yourself a favor and read all the tips and instructions before you begin!
Thank You, Recipe Testers!
Before I go any further though, I want to take a moment to thank all those who participated in testing Epic Hot Apple Frozen Cheesecake! I do not usually test recipes beyond my own kitchen, but in this case, I was seeking near-perfection so I went in search of testers. We had four volunteers who generously & graciously donated their time, effort, ingredients, kitchens, and families (who were taste testers) to reproduce the original recipe in their own kitchens and provide us with some invaluable feedback. That feedback indeed led to some very positive changes (which are reflected here). Thanks go out to:
- Angela Caciola-Forget, reader & friend
- Andrea Marshall Pommer, blogger at Little Big Harvest
- Kathleen Yorba, blogger at Simply Living Simply & doTERRA International
- Janet Pesaturo, blogger at Our One Acre Farm
Ladies! You rock! I could not have done this without you!
Thank you SO MUCH! I owe you one!
For photos of the process, scroll down below the recipe!
Curious how Epic Hot Apple Frozen Cheesecake got its name? Scroll all the way to the bottom for the story!
Before You Begin . . . PLEASE READ!
I strongly advise you to read these tips and to carefully read the entire recipe from beginning to end. It will save you some headaches when you are actually working on this recipe.
- You can substitute with low fat ingredients, if desired. One tester did this and it still turned out wonderful.
- Don’t be brand conscious. You can use store brands and it will be fine.
- If you’re not a big cinnamon fan, you can use plain graham crackers.
- One 14 ounce box of graham crackers should provide you enough for the entire recipe. I used Keebler brand grahams (2 ½ sleeves of eight crackers each) and it made exactly 2 ½ cups of graham cracker crumbs (which is what you need total), but it depends on the size and number of crackers in the box you bought. So get as close to 14 ounces as you can and if you are a tad short, don’t worry about it. It is not a big deal.
- Use REAL BUTTER only! Do NOT use margarine. Unsalted butter is preferred but salted will work.
- Make no mistake about it … this recipe is easy if done in stages, but involved if you try to do it all in one day. So be prepared! If you are new to cooking and/or can get a little frazzled with more complicated recipes, be sure to scroll down below the recipe to read a proposed plan for a great way to approach this recipe (even on the most hectic of holidays!) and still pull it off without a hitch!
- 2 C cinnamon graham crackers -- finely crushed and firmly packed
- ¼ C Sugar
- 1 stick butter -- melted
- 3 - 8 ounce packages cream cheese -- softened
- 1 T lemon juice (if lemon juice is unavailable, use 1 extra tablespoons of apple cider)
- 2 T apple cider (if apple cider is unavailable, use 2 extra tablespoons of lemon juice)
- 1 ½ t vanilla extract
- 8 ounces whipped cream – thawed (we like Cool Whip but any brand is fine)
- 3 ½ C powdered sugar (for a less sweet cheesecake, you can reduce this by 1 - 1½ cups)
- ½ C cinnamon graham crackers -- finely crushed and firmly packed
- ¼ C brown sugar -- firmly packed
- ¼ C quick cook oats -- uncooked
- ½ stick butter -- softened
- 3 cups apples -- peeled, cored, diced (this will take 2-4 apples depending on size)
- 2 T butter
- ¼ C lemon juice
- 2 T sugar
- 2 T brown sugar
- ½ t cinnamon
- ½ t nutmeg
- 1 t cornstarch mixed in 4 T water (you might not need this, but have it handy)
- Caramel Sauce for drizzling (optional - use if you want to go over the top, roll their socks decedent) -- warmed
- Whisk all crust ingredients together well until finely crumbled.
- Press firmly into the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish or pan, preferably glass.
- Place in the freezer.
- Beat the cream cheese until thoroughly softened.
- Add the liquid ingredients and mix until no lumps remain and the consistency is creamy.
- Add the whipped cream and continue to mix. Be sure to scrap the sides and bottom often.
- When you are convinced that there are no more cream cheese lumps, add the powdered sugar and whip until fully blended and smooth.
- Retrieve the frozen crust from the freezer and spread the batter evenly over the crust, watching for & removing lumps as you work.
- Return it to the freezer for at least 4-6 hours.
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Whisk all topping crisp ingredients together well until finely crumbled.
- Spread topping crisp thinly on a cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes stirring once as soon you start to smell it.
- When it is golden brown in the middle and slightly darker around the edges, it is ready.
- Cool (it will crisp up as it cools).
- Store in an airtight container until time to serve.
- Set caramel sauce (optional) in hot water to warm up.
- Remove the cheesecake from the freezer to allow the crust to thaw a little before cutting.
- Mix cornstarch & water (optional). Set aside.
- Mix all other apple topping ingredients in a medium sauce pan.
- Simmer lightly on medium to medium low heat (about 15-20 minutes) until apples start to soften and the mixture is hot. Stir occasionally. Do not overcook. You want the apples slightly firm. The liquid should be thick and clear (although it will be brown from the spices).
- If the liquid does not thicken, slowly add a small amount of the cornstarch mixture and stir.
- When ready, remove from heat and prepare to serve.
- Drizzle warm caramel sauce (optional) on individual plates or in dessert bowls.
- Cut the cheesecake into about 2 inch squares (3 horizontal cuts and 5 vertical cuts for 24 servings).
- Place the squares on the caramel drizzled plates/bowls.
- Top each with a tablespoon of so of the hot apple mixture and let it drip over the edges.
- Sprinkle on topping crisp - be generous, there is plenty!
- If desired, add a dollop of whipped cream and/or another drizzle of caramel sauce.
- Serve and watch for eye rolls from your guests.
- Be sure to pull the cheesecake from the freezer 20-30 minutes before cutting & serving. This makes it easier to cut through the crust.
- You can reduce the amount of powdered sugar by as much as half without ruining the batter, but it will not be quite the same. One of our testers did this and she said it is still very good.
- The batter is best done with a stand mixer using a paddle attachment, but a portable hand mixer should work too. I would not try to do this by hand; although, one of our testers did and I felt for her. This step is work.
- Do NOT substitute with margarine! Use real butter only. The topping crisp will not crisp up and instead it will be tough and chewy. It should be crispy & crunchy and only butter can do that.
- When the topping crisp comes out of the oven, it will seem soft and chewy but it WILL crisp up as it cools. Be patient. As long as it golden brown in the middle and just a tad darker around the edges, then it is done.
- If you have a little topping crisp leftover, use it up on hot cereals, mixed with granola, on yogurt, or just eat it as a snack.
- Granny Smith or Honey Crisp apples are recommended for their crispness & tartness, but you can use any apples.
Okay, here is how I recommend approaching this — my testers and I put this recipe through the ringer, made lots of notes, and came up a with a plan. First, figure out what day you want to serve this incredibly Epic Hot Apple Cheesecake. Count back three days. Because it is frozen, you can make this ahead as far you like (up to a couple weeks early), but you need at least two (if not, three) days. If you can do the tasks listed for Days 1 & 2 on the same day that is fine… do that. If not, then count back three days and follow the schedule below. Either way, Day 3’s tasks are done on “Serving Day” and since the cheesecake is (presumably) safely stashed in the freezer, serving day can be anytime.
Day 1: Prep Day
1. Read the recipe carefully, check the ingredients lists and shop for any missing ingredients.
2. Finely crush 2 ½ cups worth of graham crackers and place in an airtight container or baggy.
3. Set out cream cheese and one stick of butter to warm to room temperature overnight.
4. Place whipped cream (if frozen) in the fridge to thaw.
Day 2: Mix Day
1. Follow the instructions for the crust.
2. Follow the instructions for the batter.
4. Follow the instructions for the topping crisp and place in an airtight container.
5. If you wish and you have the time, you can also core, peel, and dice the apples and rinse or toss them in a tablespoon or two of lemon juice to prevent browning. Place in the fridge. If you don’t have time on Day 2, you can do that on Serving Day.
Day 3: Serving Day
1. Get the diced apples from the refrigerator (or dice them now).
2. If you diced them the day before, drain off the excess lemon juice.
3. Remove the cheesecake from the freezer about 20-30 minutes before cutting & serving. This thaws the crust just a tad and makes it a bit easier to cut.
4. Follow the instructions for the apple topping.
5. Follow the instructions for serving.
And now for our usual photo montage so you can see the steps!
How Epic Hot Apple Frozen Cheesecake Got Its Name
When I originally developed Epic Hot Apple Frozen Cheesecake, I assumed it would be best just chilled (not frozen) and asked my testers to eat it that way because that was how most no-bake cheesecakes are served. Still, I wondered whether freezing would ruin it. I thought it would be so much better if a) it were a make-ahead recipe for convenience sake and b) the leftovers could be perfectly preserved for later. So I tried it, and like many great discoveries, we learned it was even better frozen – creamy and soft but firm and satisfying – sweet, spicy and tart with a great balance of flavors. Even without the hot apple topping (heaven forbid), it was excellent!
So I messaged all the testers and asked them to try it this way as well. It was unanimous. “It was excellent chilled,” but as my friend, Angela said, “OMG, it is EPIC frozen!” So I changed the recipe and its name, thanks to Angela. “Epic” was her word (and she is stingy with her “epics”), but it absolutely fits! The contrast between the frozen cheesecake & hot apples is … well, just epic! So we named it Epic Hot Apple Frozen Cheesecake.
Have fun with this! And let us know how you liked it!