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Caramel Swirled Cheesecake Bars--unbelievable easy and so delicious! Completely from scratch!

Caramel Swirled Cheesecake Bars

Closely adapted from Alice Medrich. Note this recipe is best made a day in advance, or at least 5-6 hours.

Course Dessert
Cuisine Cookies
Author TheSpicedLife


For shortbread crust:

  • 7 T unsalted butter, melted and still warm
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 cup (126 g) AP flour

For cheesecake:

  • 1/4 cup prepared caramel sauce (see link in notes)
  • 12 oz (1 1/2 packages) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 egg, room temperature


First prepare the shortbread crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 9X9 pan with foil. Do not grease it.

  2. This is a super simple and easy recipe that can be made by hand. Whisk together the butter and sugar in a medium-large bowl. Whisk in the vanilla and salt. 

  3. 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.
  4. Press the dough into the prepared pan. Press it in evenly. 
  5. 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Have your caramel sauce measured and ready.

  5. When the crust comes out, pour the cheesecake batter over it. Shake gently side to side to get it evenly over the entire crust.
  6. Dollop the caramel in large dots onto the cheesecake--make sure you leave parts without caramel.

  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!