Crisp and spicy ginger snap crust baked with fluffy, creamy gingerbread cheesecake filling and topped with eye catching toasted meringue. A holiday spin on the classic New York style cheesecake is the perfect sweet end to your holiday meal!
This gingerbread cheesecake right here is going down in my all time favorite holiday desserts. Don't get me wrong, spice cake is still on the list of favorites, but the sweet and spicy gingerbread flavor with crunchy gingersnap crust and pretty meringue topping is both beautiful on the eyes and on the taste buds.
Best of all it's great to make in advance so you're not rushing to finish your dish before hustling out to your holiday get together!
It's not that I'm trying to brag, but cheesecakes are kind of my thing. They're my favorite thing to bake, which is a little odd because they're like the diva of the cake world. You've got to get a special pan, they need to bake in a water bath, they need to rest in the oven after baking and chill in the fridge before serving.
I'm channeling all my inner Chandler vibes when I say, "Cheesecake, you could be anymore 'extra'?"
But it's ok, I've got you. Cheesecakes have been baking up in my kitchens since I was 16 and I'm going to share my best tips on getting the perfect cheesecake the first time around.
How to make a perfectly crisp cheesecake crust
It's a conundrum, right? You need to bake it in a water bath, in a pan that comes apart, but also try to not get water inside?! What kind of logic problem is this?
Making a perfectly crisp cheesecake crust just takes a few simple tips and tricks when it comes to wrapping the pan.
PLASTIC WRAP + ALUMINUM FOIL WRAP
This is my favorite and most fool proof method for wrapping the springform pan.
After the crust is done cooking, let it cool just a smidge. Lay two pieces of plastic wrap perpendicular to each other – like an even shape ‘t’. Wrap the bottom of the still warm pan. Because the pan is still fairly hot (be careful or use a kitchen towel to help!) the plastic will mold around the bottom without melting, creating a waterproof seal. Then wrap with aluminum foil.
ALUMINUM FOIL ONLY
You can go the simplest route and use aluminum foil only. The catch is to buy the extra wide roll so you don't have to create a seam. The foil should go completely up the sides of the pan.
CROCK POT BAG
Another great option is to use a slow cooker bag. Wrap the pan first with aluminum foil then place it in the bag before settling it in the water bath. This is a nice, simple option, but if you frequently make cheesecakes I find it a little pricey so it's not my favorite.
Forming the gingersnap crust
Using the bottom side of a measuring cup makes for a well pressed crust! After transferring your buttered crumbs to the pan, level them with a fork then press down with a flat surface or your finger tips. Start in the middle of the pan, working your way out and up the sides.
Baking Your Gingerbread Cheesecake
Great news! The hardest parts are already over!
Preparing the crust and wrapping the pan are the most boring and tedious parts of making the cheesecake. Now comes the fun stuff - making the batter!
To get a perfect gingerbread cheesecake that doesn't crack during baking, be sure to try these tips:
- Use softened or room temperature cream cheese
- Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl often during mixing
- Don't forget the corn starch - this is my secret ingredient to a perfect texture!
- DON'T OPEN THE OVEN
- For the people in the back: don't open the oven
- Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour, turn off the oven and let it rest for 1 hour, and guess what? Don't open the oven.
- After the 1 hour rest in the oven, let it cool for at least 4 hours but overnight is best.
Meringue Topped Cheesecake
This part is totally optional, but makes for a stunning cheesecake! Plus, it's always fun to whip out the kitchen torch so this is a delicious excuse to do just that.
Essentially you're making fluffy egg white marshmallow without the gelatin. That's what meringue taste like.
The most important things to know about making meringue is to use a clean, grease free bowl, allow time between sugar additions so the meringue doesn't end up grainy, and to wait until stiff peaks form.
Use the back side of a spoon or small spatula to create a swirling pattern in the meringue before toasting it with the kitchen torch. That's it! You've got a beautiful, festive cheesecake to wow your friends and family and earn yourself a 'Master of Dessert' title.
What event are you baking your gingerbread cheesecake for? My personal favorite is to bring this to get togethers with my in laws. We're all big cheesecake fans - especially New York style - and this recipe is a good marriage between gingerbread flavor and New York cheesecake texture. Be sure to snap a photo of your bakes and tag @hungerthirstplay or #gingerbreadweek so I can see!
If you're in the mood for more cheesecake bakes, this gluten free and nut free cheesecake is hands down one of my most loved recipes. Our family usually requests this crust regardless of dietary needs. Or if candy is on your list of must make holiday treats, the buttercrunch is always the first thing to go and totally worth the effort of picking up a candy thermometer. If your family has a sweet treat they demand every year, drop it in the comments I would love to know!
Gingerbread Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust
- 1 box gingersnap cookies (1 lb box)
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 packages cream cheese (room temperature, 8-ounce packages)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 3 eggs
- 4 egg whites
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Prep the crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a spring form pan with parchment paper, set aside.
- In a blender or food processor, add the gingersnap cookies and pulse until mostly broken then run on high until the mixture is a fine crumb. Transfer to a large bowl and drizzle with melted butter while stirring the crumbs with a fork until there are no longer dry spots of crumb.
- Pour the buttered gingersnap crumbs into the prepared springform pan and lightly even out with a fork. Using the flat bottom side of a measuring cup or your hand, press down on the crumbs to form the crust starting on the bottom of the pain and working your way up the sides.
- Bake the crust for 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the crust cool completely be filling with batter. Place the pan in the freezer to cool faster if needed.
- Prep the filling: In a standing mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the softened cream cheese until creamy about 2 minutes.
- Beat the sugar into the cream cheese until fully incorporated, 2 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- On low speed, add the vanilla, molasses, spices and corn starch. Add the eggs, one at a time. Raise the speed to medium and mix until the ingredients are well incorporated incorporated, about 1 minute.
- Pour the batter into the cooled crust in a wrapped springform pan (see notes) and place the wrapped springform pan directly in a larger, deep sided pan. Fill 1 to 1 ½″ up the spring form pan with water. Bake for 1 hour in the water bath. After 1 hour, shut off the oven and without opening the door let rest for 1 hour more.
- After resting, remove from the water bath and remove the foil and wrap. Chill overnight in the refrigerator.
- Make the meringue: Before serving, top the cheesecake with the meringue. Check your bowl to make sure it is completely clean and grease free. In a standing mixer with whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, add the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt.
- Stir on low speed until the mixture is foamy, about 2 minutes, then increase the speed to high.
- Gradually add the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Once all the sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla and continue to beat until the meringue is thick, shiny, and forms 'stiff peaks' on the end of the whisk attachment when taken out of the meringue.
- Scoop the meringue on to the top of the cheesecake, swirling with the backside of a spoon. Use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue. Serve immediately or return to the fridge to chill before serving.
- The easiest way to line a spring form pan is to remove the bottom, trace it on parchment paper and cut it out with scissors. Return the bottom to the pan, lightly rub a little cold butter then line with parchment paper. The butter isn't for flavor but helps keep the parchment paper from moving.
- Wrapping the pan: After the crust is done cooking, let it cool just a smidge. Lay two pieces of plastic wrap perpendicular to each other – like an even shape ‘t’. Wrap the bottom of the still warm pan, because the pan is still fairly hot (be careful or use a kitchen towel to help!) the plastic will mold around the bottom without melting, creating a waterproof seal. Then wrap with aluminum foil. An additional option is to wrap with foil then place inside a slow cooker bag.
- Softened or room temperature cream cheese is a must! Cold cream cheese will result in lumpy, uneven batter that is more likely to crack during baking.
- For perfect results, do not open the oven door during baking or for 1 hour after. Opening the door will release the steam environment you've worked hard to create.