Swirled Caramel Cheesecake Bars - rich, creamy, and velvety smooth cheesecake on top of a sweet, crunchy, shortbread crust, with swirls of rich caramel. All the deliciousness of cheesecake in a quick and easy bar!
Cheesecake bars are one of my family's favorite treats. And this one goes fast!
I've used the same cheesecake filling as in my Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars. It's so creamy, rich, and smooth. And it's the perfect ratio of cheesecake filling to crust.
I've used a shortbread cookie crust as the base because it's my all-time favorite crust for cheesecakes. It's buttery, delicious, and stays nice and crunchy. There's nothing worse on a cheesecake than a soggy crust.
And to top everything off - a swirl of caramel. It's delicious and pretty. I love the dense, fudgy caramel crevices it makes. You can make your own quick and easy Caramel Sauce or use a jarred one. I highly recommend a homemade one, the flavor can't be matched, and it's all natural. It's so easy, and it only takes a few minutes. It doesn't even need a thermometer. I like to make the caramel a little more amber for these Swirled Caramel Cheesecake Bars because the flavor will really stand out.
To make the crust for these Swirled Caramel Cheesecake Bars, shortbread cookie crumbs are mixed with melted butter, pressed into the bottom of a baking pan, and baked until golden. Lining the pan with aluminum foil allows you to easily lift the bars out of the pan for slicing. A removable bottom baking pan (kind of like a springform pan) works great here.
Mix the caramel sauce with a tablespoon of the cheesecake batter to lighten it up a bit. If it's not lightened up, it makes deep cracks and craters as it sinks down.
After the crust has cooled a few minutes, the cheesecake filling is poured on top. The caramel is spooned on and swirled with a knife. When you spoon on the caramel, put it in bigger globs like you see below, leaving plenty of white space. (You'll see why in a minute.)
Take a knife or a skewer and make swirls in the caramel, but not too many. I just go through the caramel 5 or 6 times.
Here's what you DON'T want to do:
Swirling the caramel too much might look pretty before it's baked, but not so much afterwards. It took me a couple of tries to get the caramel on just right. It tastes good either way so no worries.
The Swirled Caramel Cheesecake Bars are baked for about 30 minutes. The center should be a little jiggly. Let it cool to room temperature then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before slicing.
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For the crust:
- 1½ cups shortbread cookie crumbs, finely ground (6.75oz, 191g)
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted (1.5oz, 43)
For the filling:
- 16oz cream cheese, softened (454g)
- ⅓ cup sugar (2.3oz, 65g)
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup caramel sauce, homemade or jarred
For the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Prepare an 8 inch baking pan with a removable bottom by lining the bottom with baking parchment and spraying with nonstick cooking spray.
- Alternatively, line an 8 inch baking pan with aluminum foil, letting the sides overhang, and spray with baking spray.
- Mix the cookie crumbs and the melted butter until well combined and moistened.
- Press the crumbs into the bottom of the baking pan. Using a flat bottomed measuring cup, press the crust firmly and evenly into the bottom of the pan,
- Bake until golden brown around the edges and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
For the cheesecake:
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down bowl.
- Add sugar and beat another 2 minutes, scraping down bowl halfway through.
- Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed for 20 seconds after each egg. Scrape down bowl.
- Add vanilla and salt and mix until thoroughly combined.
- Remove 1 tablespoon of batter and stir into caramel sauce.
- Pour remaining batter into pan.
- Use a spoon to drop globs of caramel sauce on the cheesecake, as shown above.
- Use a knife and make 5-6 swirls through the caramel sauce, being careful not to hit the crust.
- Bake until only slightly wobbly in the center, about 30-35 minutes.
- Let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 4 hours before slicing.
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