Caramel apple bars are the perfect way to indulge your fall cravings. This easy apple dessert has a sweet gingersnap crust, a rich and creamy apple cider and cinnamon cheesecake filling, and is finished with a drizzle of caramel sauce.
If you love nostalgic caramel apples and classic creamy cheesecake, you will love this easy recipe for caramel apple bars. A spiced gingersnap crust forms the bottom layer of this apple dessert, while the middle is a rich and creamy apple cider and cinnamon infused cheesecake. As if that wasn’t enough, a light drizzle of thick caramel sauce on top makes this one of the season’s best desserts.
The steps in this recipe couldn’t be easier. Making the homemade apple cider cheesecake filling takes just minutes, and with the help of a food processor, the gingersnap crust comes together quickly.
Square bars are perfect for holiday parties or special occasions where you’re entertaining a crowd. Arrange the bars on a dessert tray for an easy to handle, guest-friendly treat.
What are dessert bars?
Dessert bars were created in the Midwestern part of the United States, with best guesses placing their creation sometime around the 1930s. These baked layered desserts have the same texture as their conventional counterparts (whole cheesecakes, pies, cookies, or coffee cake), but are baked in a square pan so they can be cut into individual squares or small rectangular bars.
Dessert bars come in all sorts of varieties, from pie bars to cookie bars, from lemon bars to crumble bars, Chocolate Coconut Magic Bars and peanut butter bars. There’s a dessert bar for every season, and every occasion.
How to Make Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Make the syrup. Boil cider, sugar, and cinnamon stick until the mixture is thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
- Prep the baking pan. Line with parchment and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- Make the crust. Pulse the gingersnap cookies in a food processor, and then stir in ground cinnamon, and salt. Fold in the melted butter. Press the crumb crust in the bottom of the pan.
- Make the filling. Use a food processor to combine the cream cheese and cider syrup, followed by the eggs.
- Assemble the bars. Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Drizzle with ribbons of caramel syrup when cool; slice and serve!
For the topping:
- Apple Cider - Apple cider is naturally sweet and a little tart, and almost tastes like a slightly sweet Granny Smith apple. Pick up a jug of apple cider from your local orchard for maximum tree-to-the-bottle freshness.
- Light Brown Sugar - Adds a deep molasses flavor to the cheesecake.
- Cinnamon Stick - To infuse the cider syrup with cinnamon spice.
- Cream Cheese - The main ingredient in the cheesecake mixture. Use block cream cheese for a thicker, richer filling. Tub cream cheese is produced using a different method than block cream cheese, and will result in a slightly watery mixture.
- Eggs - Eggs give the cheesecake filling a smooth, rich texture.
- Caramel Syrup - A totally optional (but delicious) topping. Store-bought or homemade both work.
For the crust:
- Gingersnap Cookie Crumbs - Gingersnap cookies give the crust a lightly spiced flavor that works so well with the apple-cinnamon flavors. You don’t need to bake the cookies from scratch, store-bought gingersnap cookies work just fine. You could also swap for graham crackers, or buy pre-made graham cracker crumbs in your grocer’s baking aisle.
- Ground Cinnamon - For a hint of warm spice.
- Kosher Salt - Basic kitchen ingredient to enhance flavor.
- Unsalted Butter - Melted, unsalted butter binds the cookie crust together. If you use salted butter, adjust the amount of salt added.
How to Store Them
To store the apple bars, cover tightly with plastic wrap or foil, and place in the refrigerator. You can either keep the bars in the original baking pan, or transfer them to an airtight container. Because the main ingredient in caramel apple bars is dairy rich cream cheese, these bars should be stored in the refrigerator, rather than on the kitchen counter. Enjoy within 3-4 days.
- Use apple cider in this recipe, rather than sweetened apple juice. Apple cider has a naturally sweet-tart taste, while traditional apple juice has added sugar, which makes it a little too sweet for baking.
- Freeze individual pieces for school lunches, fall picnics, or on-the-go snacks.
- Save leftover caramel sauce for dipping apple slices.
- Change toppings - Whipped cream is never a bad dessert topping idea, especially on cheesecake. You could also use chocolate chips, or add a crumbly streusel topping.
- Make a different crust - Nothing says ‘cheesecake’ like a graham cracker crust. Swap gingersnaps for this classic cheesecake cookie, or go with buttery shortbread cookies.
If you want to extend fall’s gorgeous flavors, try making these bars and freezing them. Bake the bars as you normally would, but hold off on drizzling the caramel sauce. Allow the bars to cool completely before wrapping them in plastic and transferring to a sealed container. You can freeze the bars for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy, place the caramel bars in the refrigerator for 24 hours to defrost before serving.
The secret to knowing when cheesecake bars are done is the “jiggle” test. Yes, that’s right. The jiggle test. If the cheesecake bars have a little jiggle in the center of the pan, that’s a good indicator that the cheesecake is set, but not overcooked. The tops of your apple bars should also have a light golden brown color.
More Dessert Bar Recipes
- Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
- Fourth of July Cookie Bars
- Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie Bars
- Pink Lemonade Bars
- Dark Chocolate, Raspberry, and Oat Cookie Bars
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars Recipe
- 8x8 baking pan
- Food Processor
For the topping:
- 3 cups apple cider
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 8-ounce blocks cream cheese, softened to room temperature (be sure to use block cream cheese, not the kind in a tub)
- 2 large eggs
- ⅓ cup caramel syrup, store-bought or homemade (optional)
For the crust:
- 2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (200 grams; see note)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- In a small saucepan, boil cider, sugar, and cinnamon stick until the mixture is thick and syrupy and reduces to about ¾ cup. This should take about 10 minutes. Let the syrup cool completely. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick.
- While the syrup cools, line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment and lightly spray it with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a food processor, pulse together the gingersnap cookies.
- Stir together the cookie crumbs, ground cinnamon, and salt. Fold in the melted butter. Gently press the crumb crust the bottom of the pan.
- In the bowl of a food processor combine the cream cheese and cider syrup. Blend until smooth. Add the eggs and blend just until evenly combined and smooth.
- Pour the filling over the crust.
- Bake until the top is golden brown and the filling is set, 20-25 minutes.
- Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving. Drizzle with some caramel syrup right before serving.
These look so delicious!
Random follower here from Ottawa, Canada - I just LOVE your blog and have made several of your delicious recipes. So far, my favorite has been the summer rolls with peanut sauce. I'm going to take a stab at the white chicken chilli tonight 🙂
You and your family are adorable, it's such a pleasure following all your culinary adventures. Keep up the great work, Jess!
Thanks so much for your sweet note and for following along, Aja! Those summer rolls are one of my all time favorites, so I'm thrilled you like them. Stay warm up there in Ottawa!
These bars look all kinds of wonderful! I want to eat that caramel by the spoonful! It looks like you all had a great time at the pumpkin patch - thanks for sharing the photos!
Nicole ~ Cooking for Keeps
LOVE the Louisburg Cider Mill!! I haven't made it up there yet, but my fall isn't complete without some apple cider doughnuts! Although, these caramel apple cider bars might just be even better, they look PHENOMENAL!
Me too, Nicole. Going back to Louisburg brought back memories of going there on field trips as a kid - it's such a neat place, and I may or may not have eaten my weight in apple cider donuts.
Cathleen @ A Taste Of Madness
I miss going to the pumpkin patch! Love the fall fun being had!
Also, I absolutely love desserts that come together in the food processors!
Danielle @ So Munch Love
Yay, I love trips to the pumpkin patch! Our house is currently filled with almost too many pumpkins (almost). These bars look sooooo darn good. I love that you combined a apple caramel, gingersnaps, and the cream cheesy top. Delish!
We definitely have an excess of pumpkins around here too, Danielle! But I do love them. 😉