Caramel Swirled Cheesecake Bars are deceptively simple and absolutely delicious. And they are easy to make from scratch with a homemade caramel sauce. Creative Cookie Exchange this month is all about layered bars, so keep reading to check out all the fabulous layers! Affiliate links have been used in this post to link to items I am discussing.
The amount of butter and sugar put to use this past weekend at my house was a little out of control. First, like a nincompoop, I baked for the cakewalk at my kids’ school’s carnival this weekend and did not choose any kind of layered bar (honesty compels me to admit I was distracted by football). So despite all that baking (and those items are coming soon!), I still needed to bake again to make a layered bar. And keep in mind, to keep my kids from rioting (I do not allow them to do the cakewalk–no sense in bringing more baked goods back home!), I doubled one of the recipes and have that in the house. And then my first bar failed. So I made these. Except it turned out that while I still think the “failed” recipe needs improvement, it was seriously tasty. So I have the doubled bars from the cakewalk, the failed bars and these bars in my house.
Please someone, anyone!, would you please like to come over for some coffee and cookies?
Yipes! Luckily these bars improve with a little time, so for now and as delicious as these are, we are working on the other bars. But these are fantastic, make no mistake. John walked in, tried one, and promptly stole another. And while we were out at a university function tonight, I got a text from my daughter asking if they could please eat them. Sure I said, but they had to choose just one bar, whichever kind it was. Ominous silence. She assures me they only had one bar each–I have not looked to confirm this story. They modeled the bars for me, which is how they knew they loved them:
Some of their sillier expressions are from trying not to laugh while they are chewing. I personally find it hilarious that I have raised my kids to model food for me!
The bars are barely adapted from the always reliable and treasured Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich. I halved the recipe–see comments above about all the treats in my house!–but otherwise it was a difficult recipe to play with, simple and perfect as it is. If you are a cookie lover this book should be in your library, and I promise I am not paid or compensated in any way to tell you that. I love this book that much.
- For shortbread:
- 7 T unsalted butter, melted and still warm
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 t pure vanilla extract
- ¼ t salt
- 1 cup (126 g) AP flour
- For cheesecake:
- ¼ cup prepared caramel sauce (until I get my recipe up, this is a good one)
- 12 oz (1½ packages) cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 T sugar
- pinch of fine sea salt
- 1 t vanilla
- 1 egg, room temperature
- First prepare the shortbread crust: preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 9X9 pan with foil. Do not grease it.
- This is a super simple and easy recipe that can be made by hand. Whisk together the butter and sugar. Whisk in the vanilla and salt. Switch to a spatula and stir in the flour. Get it completely incorporated but do not overmix. Medrich says that oily is fine and that was my experience as well. It will come together in its own oily ball of dough.
- Press the dough into the prepared pan. Press it in evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the edges are browning further. Remove to a cooling rack and lower the oven to 325 F.
- While the crust is baking, work on the cheesecake: first beat the cream cheese in a mixer until it is lump-free and creamy. This will take longer if your cream cheese is cold.
- Add the sugar and salt and beat. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as well as the beater. Beat again to make sure is completely incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.
- Scrape the bowl and beater again. Add the egg and mix just until incorporated. Traditional advice is to go no higher than speed 2 on a stand mixer; I will turn the speed up higher for literally 2-3 seconds to get it incorporated better, but no longer (if the egg beats too much, it will inflate in the oven, leading to cracking). Finish by hand if necessary.
- Have your caramel measured and ready.
- When the crust comes out, pour the cheesecake batter over it. Shake gently side to side to get it evenly over the entire crust.
- Dollop the caramel onto the cheesecake--make sure you leave parts without caramel.
- Gently shake from side to side again to even out the caramel a bit, especially if it is mounding high. Then take a toothpick or a chopstick and run it through the cheesecake--be sure not to hit the baked shortbread--in a long snake motion from side to side. Do not overdo it or it will get muddy looking--I made maybe 4-5 lines.
- Confirm your oven is at 325 now (i.e., make sure you remembered to lower the temperature). Bake the cheesecake for 20-30 minutes (a large range I am guessing depending on how hot your crust was when you added the cheesecake--20 minutes was enough for me), or until the edges are puffed but the center still jiggles a bit when gently shaken.
- Let the bars cool completely, and then wrap the pan in plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. I chilled them overnight since we had so many other tasty bars to eat!
The theme this month is Layered Bar Cookies–if you like crispy, crunchy, chewy, creamy or gooey layers packed into one cookie you have come to the right place!! If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.
You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes–be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month!
Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of our bloggers have made this month:
- Caramel Swirled Cheesecake Bars from The Spiced Life
- Hawaiian Layer Bars from Food Lust People Love
- Praline Pecan Coconut Shortbread Bars from Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Cookie Dough Brownie and Cheesecake Bars from Spiceroots
- Club Chocolate Peanut Butter Layered Bars from Our Good Life
- Nanaimo Bars from A Shaggy Dough Story
- Gooey Pumpkin Cookie Bars from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Magic Peanut Butter S’mores Cookie Bars from Rhubarb and Honey
- Double chocolate caramel squares from Flours and Frostings
- Caramel Apple Bar Cookies from 2CookinMamas
- Churros Cheesecake Bars from A Baker’s House
And here is a collage for the collage fans: