Festive cheesecake with sugared cranberries

It’s been at least 3 years since I last made cheesecake (I’ve been focusing my dessert love on pie-baking of late). However, the winter season isn’t known for its pies (though there are some good options!), and so I thought I’d change things up for a friend’s holiday party. I love a good ol’ NY-style cheesecake, but I thought I’d embrace the festivus by topping it with sugared cranberries–where they look like they’ve been blanketed in frost. Perfect for a wintery evening! I also discovered I no longer have a roasting pan large enough to create a water bath for my cheesecake pan, so it was a fun (re: mildly stressful) and fruitful discovery to learn how to make cheesecake sans water bath!


9 graham crackers, broken into pieces
3 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes

5 8-oz packages cream cheese
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grind graham crackers to coarse crumbs in processor. Add butter and sugar. Process until blended and crumb mixture begins to stick together. Press crumb mixture onto bottom (not sides) of 9″ diameter springform pan. Bake crust until golden and firm to touch, about 25 minutes. Cool crust in pan on rack. Wrap outside of pan with 3 layers of heavy-duty foil. Increase oven temperature to 400.

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until blended. Beat in eggs and egg yolk one at a time just until blended, occasionally scraping down sides of the bowl. Beat in lemon juice, vanilla and salt. Sift flour over; beat on low speed until blended. Scrape filling over crust in pan. Bake cheesecake at 400 F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 200 F and continue baking for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. The centre should still slightly jiggle, while the outer 2 to 3″ ring should be firm and not jiggle. Cut around pan sides to loosen cake. Turn off the oven and keep cheesecake in the oven for an hour. Place cheesecake in pan on rack and cool completely at room temperature. Cover and chill overnight.

Sugared cranberries
½ cup water
2 cups sugar, divided
12 oz fresh cranberries

In medium saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium heat, until sugar is fully dissolved. Stir in cranberries and make sure each is fully coated in the simple syrup. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cranberries to a wire rack and let dry for at least 45 minutes. Cranberries should be dry but sticky. Roll them in the remaining sugar until they are fully coated. Let them sit until dry for another 1 hour. Arrange on top of cheesecake.

Berry sauce
2 cups mixed frozen berries
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water

In medium saucepan over medium heat, place berries, sugar, and lemon juice and cook for about 5 minutes, mixing occasionally until liquid released from the berries thickens. In a small cup, whisk water and cornstarch together until smooth, then add to saucepan. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes until it reaches the desired consistency. Let cool.


A few notes on preparation: For extra festiveness, I also sugared a few sprigs of rosemary.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the cheesecake turned out despite the lack of water bath! Just as delicious and creamy as ever. I could’ve probably baked it a touch longer, but I’d rather have a slightly creamier cheesecake than an overdone one. The cranberries turned out beautifully, providing a beautiful, wintery adornment, and were not too tart as some feared. The sugaring gave it a nice tart/sweet combination. I will say that they didn’t remain pretty when serving, as they tended to roll off, so I’ll have to do some thinking about how to better secure them in future. We also whipped up a quick berry sauce to drizzle over when serving, just to give it a little bit of extra sweetness for those that wanted it. A tasty addition to the holiday baking repertoire!

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