Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free Caramel Apple Cheesecake

I love autumn. As a little girl in Wisconsin, I played in the bounty of crunchy, multi-colored leaves, having always treasured seeing the difference in foliage. As an adult in Colorado, I enjoy feeling the crispness in the air, not mowing my lawn, and spying apples, ripe on the trees, ready for harvest.

It is for these reasons, and because my husband hails from Washington State (home of many apple orchards, including his sister’s acres of organic crops), that we ordered two heirloom apple trees for ourselves. We nurture our Rhode Island Greenings on a full-sized root-stock and Yellow Transparents on dwarf stock, and, despite our growing them in the wrong climate, they have still produced a wonderful crop annually.

I typically do not use apples in my kitchen for baking, choosing, instead, berries for their lower sugar content and high fiber; but the thought of caramel apples for fall was so tantalizing, I couldn’t resist. As well, I discovered that Granny Smith apples, in particular, contain a commendable amount of starch for an apple, which can help curb the effects of sugar absorption, creating longer satiety. Its slightly higher potassium content from other apples also help heart function.

Friends tested this decadent cheesecake recipe in the last week, and all have loved it dearly, whether they savored caramel apple bites over warm conversation or made the following recipe from scratch. The recipe contains several elements, but think of the process as four, easy recipes combining into one terrific finish, and you will appreciate the simple process for a dessert that looks and tastes anything but. I hope you will also consider trying my personal, favorite sweetener options and make your own white and brown sugar replacements from scratch, but yours will work wonderfully, too.

Apple topping ingredients before I placed them into the saucepan

In terms of simplicity, you will notice expansive nutritional information I am providing to aid you in the process of making sweetener choices and choosing options for your dessert. You can elect to make only the cheesecake (with or without the crust), the apple topping, or the caramel, and combine as you see fit, based on your needs. I will also publish the topping, caramel and crust separately on the site.

While the fat content seems exorbitant, it is the satisfying factor in this gourmet recipe, whether it is found in the bulky decadence of the creamy, dense filling enhancing the flavor and the texture, the protein-enriched, flavorful crust, the silky-smooth caramel sauce dripping on your tongue, or the bright, chunky, sweet flavors of apple as the finishing pop of delight. You can certainly make your own substitutions to limit the fats; be sure to read labels in these products to assure the fats removed weren’t replaced with sugar.

One small slice of this caramel apple cheesecake does more than satisfy that yearning sweet tooth; it hearkens us back to more youthful days spent picking sweet apples and jumping in the bounty of crisp colored years of our happiest autumns.

Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free Carmel Apple Cheesecake

The delicate crunch of the Granny Smith apple lends just the right amount of acid to the sweetness of the brown sugar substitute and the earthy pecans. The autumn crust lends depth, while the caramel sauce, adapted slightly from Betty Crocker’s caramel sauce recipe, allows for both cheesecake use and an added drizzle over the top for serving.  

Serves 16

Cheesecake Crust:
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar equivalent in a substitute

Process walnuts, macadamia nuts, and sunflower seeds together until a coarse meal. Combine with butter and the brown sugar substitute. Line a springform pan with parchment. Press crust to fill the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Cheesecake Filling:
4-8 ounce packages room temperature cream cheese
1 cup brown sugar equivalent in a substitute
3 large eggs
½ cup sour cream
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1-1/2  tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine filling ingredients and pour into the cheesecake pan. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven. The steam from the water helps prevent the cheesecake from cracking. Bake at 325 for 75-90 minutes, or until the cheesecake is puffy and on the verge of golden-brown in some spots. In the last five minutes of baking, turn off the heat. Allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 30 minutes. Refrigerate. The cheesecake will fall as it cools. This is normal.

Caramel:
1/4 cup brown sugar equivalent in a substitute
1/4 cup white sugar equivalent in a substitute
1/8 cup (2 Tbsp) butter
1/4 cup water
1 mixed egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all caramel ingredients. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly, and then remove from heat. Let cool. Pour the mixture to cover the top of cheesecake (you may save some for drizzling if desired).  Refrigerate for at least an hour before adding the apple topping.

Apple Topping:
½ cup brown sugar equivalent in a substitute
1 peeled and diced (about 1.5 cups) Granny Smith apple
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup butter

Combine all ingredients and cook on the stove top in a medium saucepan over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The apples will begin to soften slightly, and the mixture will take on a more uniform appearance. Let cool completely. Spoon-drop the topping over the cheesecake and spread gently, using care to not disturb the caramel. Refrigerate until serving. Refrigerate leftovers.

YIELD: 16 servings

NOTE: This cheesecake can be frozen. Simply individually wrap slices and store in a freezer bag in the freezer for up to six months.

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING, all ingredients: Calories: 398.2, Carbohydrates: 8 grams, Fiber: 1.1 grams, Net Carbohydrates: 7 grams, Protein: 7.08 grams, Fat: 38.8 grams

CHEESECAKE: Nutritional Information per serving using sucralose as the sweetener: Calories: 232.8, Carbohydrates: 3.4 grams, Fiber: 0 grams, Net Carbohydrates: 3.4 grams, Protein: 5.7  grams, Fat: 22.2 grams

CARAMEL: Nutritional Information per 1/16 of the recipe: Calories: 19, Carbohydrates: .75 grams, Fiber: 0 grams, Net Carbohydrates: .75 grams, Protein: .18 grams, Fat: 1.7 grams

APPLE: Nutritional Information per 1/16: Calories: 85.2, Carbohydrates: 2.8 grams, Fiber: .5 grams, Net Carbohydrates: 2.3 grams, Protein: .3 grams, Fat: 8.5  grams

CRUST: Nutritional Information per 1/16 crust: Calories: 61.2, Carbohydrates: 1.1  grams, Fiber: .6 grams, Net Carbohydrates: .5 grams, Protein: .9 grams, Fat: 6.4 grams

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Comments

  1. Oh my! On the dessert list for thanksgiving!

  2. Jamie,
    It seems I saw a post a while ago where you made a sugar substitute with stevia. Am I right? I am starting to experiment with xylitol & erythritol because of the funny taste with stevia in cooking. (I do use drops of stevia sparingly in drinks.) I spent quite a bit on the xylitol, etc. but now I read that sugar alcohols aren’t good for you… So, as I am learning, I’m in a quandry.
    I’m allergic to molasses so the brown sugar sub. is out for me. Can you give me the low down on all of these sweeteners & what you use for what?
    I appreciate your knowledge & help!

    • Hi, Jan! I have not made a sweetener sub with stevia, but only because I am unhappy with ho I feel it performs in baked goods. For me, it is going to be erythritol, xylitol and Splenda, and always mixed. I will say that Truvia makes a great sweetener that combines ingredients with stevia, and it a wonderful option. The recipes are fine with any sweeteners, typically, that use a 1:1 sugar:sweetener ratio, so the bonus is that you can pick your favorites and use them!

  3. Forget reading the entire recipe…..my mouth was watering at just the crust! All those delicious nuts! Ah! Then the rest of the recipe, well, it is pure perfection, Jamie, you have surpassed your own self’s creativity! Amazingly, yummy! This will be my Christmas dessert, for Thanksgiving was the second Monday of October, here in Canada! But as aforementioned this will enhance Christmas!

    Regards,
    Glad

    • Glad, I am so glad you like the crust! an admission: I was out of ingredients and put together what made me the happiest! And then I absolutely loved the result. Note to self: I should run out of pantry ingredients more often…

      • Absolutely! Do! Run out of ingredients more often!

        Live by the rule, there are no mistakes in the kitchen, simply new recipes waiting to be discovered and created! With only one word in mind……

        YUM!

        Regards,
        Glad

  4. OMG, looks amazing Jamie! You hit this one out of the ball park! Thank you, I can’t wait to make this for thanksgiving!

  5. Heather Jones says:

    Swooning over here in NC!

  6. Ohhhh myyyyy … I am drooling on my keyboard! I was just sitting here trying to figure out what to take to our huge family Thanksgiving feast. This will be perfect! But I may shoo away the sugar eaters and keep it for myself, my hubs and mom-in-law (we’re the low carb black sheep in the family)

    • I think you’re going to have a hit on your hands! The caramel and the topping just put this cheesecake over the top. It’s also one of the most terrific cheesecake crusts I accidentally made, since I ran out of my typical cheesecake crust ingredients (almond and cashew).

  7. Linda Cavanagh says:

    What can I use for a brown sugar equivalent / substitute?

  8. Denise Maynard says:

    This looks, and sounds, divine Jamie. I’m going to make this for our family’s Thanksgiving dinner, and have all of the ingredients on hand except macadamia nuts and sunflower seeds. One question, do I need to buy salted or unsalted macadamia nuts and sunflower seeds? Can’t wait to make this, and thanks for sharing your recipes with us.

  9. Tracey Lago says:

    THANKS for posting this Jamie! Looks so delicious. I plan to make this and bring it to Thanksgiving at my SIL’s house (even though she said not to bring anything – gotta have some sweet treat I can eat!!)

    However, I’ve never made cheesecake before so want to buy a springform pan. What size did you use?

  10. I made this for our huge family Turkey Day feast, which we had yesterday …

    Rave, rave, rave review!! This was just amazing and everyone that tried it simply swooned over it!

    One word of caution though … read the label of your sweetener very carefully. Not all are 1 for 1 equivalent. Splenda Brown Sugar is a 1 to 2 … 1 cup Splenda = 1/2 sugar. Also, Splenda Brown Sugar does have a fairly significant carb count – 2 grams per 1/2 teaspoon.

    I made my crust with sunflower seeds, cashews and pecans. It turned out GREAT! It had a crisp, crunchiness like graham cracker crusts do. I’ve made cheesecake crust from crushed almonds before, and they come out more chewy than crisp. I will do it this way from now on.

    Our dinner was to be at 4:00 yesterday, so I did this the night before. If I had it to do over again, I would do the cheesecake the night before so it could firm up in the fridge overnight, but wait until the day of to do the caramel and apple-pecan topping. I did it all at the same time, then assembled the next day. I think the topping would have been crisper and more apple-y if I made those just long enough before to let it cool down.

    I made the cheesecake in my Kitchen Aid Pro mixer, so I was able to whip it up really well. That made the cake very fluffy, almost to the point that the slices would not hold their shape. The heavy topping contributes to this as well. Just a note if appearance is a big thing for you. (It isn’t for me, I just want delicious noms in mah belleh!) If you want a pretty presentation, you might want to keep the apple topping on the side and drizzle over the sliced cake after plating.

    Because I made the apple topping the night before, and I may have left it boiling a titch too long, it was kind of mushy. But it was still delicious. Because I erred in the sweetener measurement, the cheesecake was very sweet and didn’t have a lot of the usual tartness one associates with this dessert. When I make it again for Christmas, I will use less sweetener!

    Overall, I give this recipe a 10 out of 10. Any flaws were due to my own execution, but it was still amazingly delicious!

    • Lissa– That is such good information and advice! I would have thought all brown sugar sweeteners measured 1:1 like sugar, especially since the Splenda baking blend measures that way.

      And, by the way, I am so very happy you love this recipe!

  11. This recipe if FABULOUS, Jamie!

  12. Thank you so much for this recipe! I made it for Thanksgiving; it was a big hit and no one could guess that it was gluten free and low carb. I will be sure to make this one again! :-)

  13. Tracey Lago says:

    Hi, Jamie – made this cheesecake for Thanksgiving, and I’m enjoying the leftovers! I’ve never made cheesecake before, so I might have done something wrong as mine turned out kinda dry and crumbly instead of creamy. Do you think I baked it too long? The topping was delicious, but as much as I love pecans, next time my personal preference will be to leave the pecans out of the topping, since the nutty flavor from the crust was enough, I think. Overall, the flavor was great, but texture wise, not so much. Any tips for me next time?

    • Hi, Tracey! What size pan did you use? How long did you bake it? Were the ingredients high fat or low fat? Which sweetener did you use? These might help me a little.

      • Tracey Lago says:

        Hey, Jamie – I used an 11″ pan, all fat ingredients as in the recipe. I did switch the sweetener a bit: 3/4 cup Ideal brand brown sugar and equivalent drops of EZ Sweets for the remaining 1/4 cup sweetener. I baked at the stated temperature for 90 mins, then turned off the oven, opened it slightly and left it in for about 45 mins- to an hour. It was golden brown over the whole top. Should it have a creamy texture or a drier, kinda crumbly texture? Thanks in advance for any advice.

        • Hi! Thanks so much for sending me the particulars! It definitely ought not have been a dry, crumbly texture for sure. It should have been dense but moist. It sounds like yours may have overcooked slightly.

          • Tracey Lago says:

            Thanks, Jamie. You’re a peach! I’ll definitely make this again (but not too soon – my holiday was a bit too indulgent), but bake for less time next go round.

  14. robyn herron says:

    Making this for hubby’s bday tomorrow!

  15. Gonna try this. Just wish I could find recipes that don’t contain nuts/flour cuz my family has severe nut allergies. Will have to be careful to keep away from them so I don’t kill them, and I am NOT kidding!

  16. Hello Jamie! I’m baking this on Sunday and taking it to my family thanksgiving in New York…I was wondering is there a way to substitute the sour cream with additional cream cheese? Also how much will it effect the calorie/fat content?

  17. brenda payne deneault says:

    so are your measurements for regular sugar or have you already made the swaps between regular sugar and the alternate sweetner?

  18. This is DEF in my top 3 favorites of Desserts!! (ok, maybe top 2…hard to compare apples and chocolate for top spot..lol) Great job on this Jamie, it was a HUGE hit with everyone in my family; they are already asking me to make it again….Thank you! :)

Trackbacks

  1. […] Lunch: Testing some recipes, so a taste of a few things + a new pizza slice (tiny) + a slice of my caramel apple cheesecake Dinner: Toppings from a slice of Hawaiian pizza (my lunch was heyooge, but I wanted a tiny bit of […]

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