Cranberry Cheesecake with a delicious shortbread cookie crust and crumble and fresh cranberry swirl is a delightful holiday dessert! Topped with more sugared cranberries, this cheesecake looks as good as it tastes.
Table of Contents
Why This Cheesecake Recipe Works
We could all use a little extra cheer right now, and what says “cheer” quite like a slice of cheesecake? This recipe takes the tart cranberry flavor you crave this time of year and swirls it into creamy filling.
The crust for this cheesecake recipe mimics a shortbread cookie made from a simple combination of butter, sugar and flour.
I also sprinkle some of the crust mixture on top of the cheesecake for a buttery crumb topping!
Sugared cranberries add the final touch. They look like snow-dusted Christmas ornaments on top of the Cranberry Cheesecake!
You’d be hard pressed to find a more perfect cranberry dessert for your big holiday meal.
- Cranberries – Frozen and thawed cranberries will work for the swirl but you’ll need whole fresh cranberries for the topping. You can also use your favorite homemade cranberry sauce recipe or canned cranberry sauce for the swirl instead!
- Cream Cheese – Make sure the cream cheese is full fat and softened to room temperature first.
- Ricotta – You can substitute the ricotta for more cream cheese if preferred. Ricotta helps create a more stable cake that is less likely to crack; if using all cream cheese just expect the cake to turn out a bit softer. But extra ricotta to make our delish ricotta cookies!
- Vanilla Extract – Make a bottle of Homemade Vanilla Extract to use in all your baking!
While this cake has several components, don’t let that intimidate you! It comes together easily once all the parts are made.
FOR THE CRANBERRY SWIRL:
Heat cranberries on the stove with water, sugar and a pinch of salt until the berries have broken down. Then, puree the cranberry sauce until it’s smooth and set it aside to cool.
FOR THE SHORTBREAD CRUST:
Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Pour in melted butter and mix to form a dough.
Now, you’ll add about 2/3 of the crust mixture to the bottom of a spring form cake pan in an even layer, pressing into the sides of the pan as well. Set aside the rest of the mixture to make the crumb topping later.
PRO TIP: Line the bottom of your springform pan with parchment paper before latching it. This helps slide the cheesecake off the plate easily.
FOR THE CHEESECAKE FILLING
Beat the cheeses and granulated sugar, then add the eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice and butter. Stir in the dry ingredients to combine.
FOR THE SUGARED CRANBERRIES:
Cook fresh cranberries in sugar water until softened, then remove from the water with a slotted spoon to cool for a few minutes. Toss the cranberries in a bowl of sugar until well coated.
Now you’re ready to assemble the cheesecake! Pour the filling into the crust, swirl the pureed cranberry sauce into the top, then bake. Part way through the baking time, you’ll remove the cake from the oven to add the crumb topping.
Let the cheesecake cool, then top with the sugared cranberries and serve!
Tips & Tricks
- I strongly recommend a leak-proof spring form pan for this cheesecake recipe.
- Make the sugared cranberries, dough for the crust and the cranberry swirl the day before to make this quicker and easier to assemble.
- Still in a rush? Substitute a can of cranberry sauce for the swirl in a pinch!
When your cheesecake is done baking, the center will be slightly jiggly but the rest of the filling will be set and firm.
There are a few reasons cheesecakes crack while baking. The most common ones are over baking or an oven that’s too hot. Keep the temperature at 325 to help prevent cracking and be sure to take the cheesecake out of the oven before the center is fully set.
I also find that cakes made with all cream cheese in the filling have a softer consistency and dry out more quickly, making cracking more likely. That’s why I prefer a blend of ricotta and cream cheeses in this recipe.
Yes, cranberries thawed from frozen will work just fine in the swirl. However, you need to use fresh cranberries to make the sugared topping.
Store your cheesecake covered in the refrigerator to keep it fresh!
More Easy Dessert Recipes
- Pistachio Cheesecake Recipe– beautiful, no bake Christmas dessert!
- Zucchini Orange Muffins
- White Chocolate Cranberry Shortbread
- Cranberry Christmas Cake
- Cranberry Bliss Bars
- Cream Cheese Fruit Dip
For the Cranberry Swirl:
- 1 ½ Cups cranberries frozen and thawed is fine
- ½ Cup granulated sugar
- ¼ Cup water
- Pinch of salt
For the Cheesecake Crust and Crumb Topping:
- 3 Cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ Teaspoons salt
- ¾ Cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled
For the Cheesecake Filling:
- 16 ounce Full fat cream cheese at room temperature
- 8 ounce Full fat ricotta cheese
- 1 ¼ Cups granulated sugar
- 3 Large Eggs
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled
- ½ Teaspoon salt
- ¾ Cup all-purpose flour
For the Sugared Cranberries:
- 2 Cups fresh cranberries
- ½ Cup water
- 1 ½ Cups granulated sugar divided
- Pinch of salt
For the Cranberry Swirl:
- Add the cranberries, granulated sugar, water and salt to a pot and set over medium low heat. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 to 10 minutes until the cranberries have broken down.
- Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth and set aside to cool.
For the Crust:
- Combine the all-purpose flour, granulated sugar and salt in a bowl. Pour in the melted butter and mix to combine.
- Add 2/3 of the mixture to a 9” round spring-form pan and press into the bottom and sides. Tip: use the back of a measuring cup to press down and help make a smooth bottom. Reserve the remaining 1/3 of the mixture for the crumb topping.
For the Filling:
- Combine the cream cheese, ricotta cheese and granulated sugar in a stand mixer. Beat until the sugar has dissolved. Beat in the eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, fresh lemon juice and melted butter to combine. Stir in the salt and all-purpose flour.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, as needed, and continue stirring until the mixture is smooth. Tip: This can also be done in a food processor.
- Pour the cheesecake batter into the crust. Refrigerate while you pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Place dollops of the cranberry swirl mixture on top of the batter and swirl in using a butter knife.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Using the remainder of the crust dough, form small clumps with your hands and sprinkle on top of the cheesecake.
If you prefer to let the swirl show, just sprinkle the crumbs along the edges. Return to the oven for an additional 45 to 50 minutes.
- The cheesecake is done when there’s a slight jiggle in the middle but is otherwise set. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan. Top with the sugared cranberries before serving.
For the Sugared Cranberries:
- Add the water and ½ cup of the granulated sugar to a pot on low heat. Cook for a few minutes, just until the sugar has melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the cranberries.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the cranberries and place them on a wire rack, set over a pan, for a few minutes to cool.
- Add the remaining cup of sugar to a large dish and toss the cranberries in the sugar until well coated.
- For cheesecake batters, I highly recommend using a leak-proof spring-form pan. The divet at the base creates a perfect seal. If using a different style of pan, I suggest wrapping the base in aluminum foil to catch any leaks.
- You can use all cream cheese instead of the cream cheese/ricotta cheese mixture in the recipe. The texture will be a little softer. I find that adding the ricotta gives a more stable cake that is less likely to crack.
- The sugared cranberries, cranberry swirl and dough can all be made the day before, if desired.
- Use homemade cranberry sauce for the swirl, or even the canned stuff works great too in a pinch.
- Make a batch of homemade vanilla extract to use in all your baking.
Have you ever seen a prettier cheesecake? You’ll impress all your family and friends when you show up with this Cranberry Cheesecake for dessert!