Christmas Cranberry Cheesecake

Christmas Day.

Liam and I are in Portland again for the long weekend. Getting together with my family—no matter how long we’ve been apart—is a frenzy – of stories being told, voices wanting to be heard and a lot of very different personalities trying to get through. It can be a little overwhelming. Actually, I’ve been trying to finish this post all day, but I just can’t. There’s too much going on, too much distraction. But all the good kind.

My sister Christine and I made this cheesecake together. I’m not used to sharing my…space…with others. I’m learning, though.

I adapted Dorie Greenspan’s Tall and Creamy Cheesecake recipe for tonight’s Christmas dinner. I’m not going to say too much about it—the pictures speak for themselves. Super rich and creamy cheesecake base, lovely tartness from the cranberries and holiday spice from the gingersnap base. Sugar, spice and everything nice!!

Happy Holidays! Enjoy!

Christmas Cranberry Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Crust (adapted from this recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours and this recipe from The Delicious Life)

Makes one gigantic 9-inch cheesecake


Cranberry Sauce:

12 oz fresh cranberries

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup water

a pinch of salt

zest of 1/2 a medium orange

1 tsp cinnamon


1 3/4 cups graham cracker or gingersnap crumbs

3 tbsp sugar

a pinch of salt

1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted


2 lbs (four 8 oz boxes) cream cheese, at room temp.

1 1/3 cups sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs, at room temp.

1 1/3 cups sour cream or heavy cream, or a combination of the two

1 tsp cinnamon


Prepare the Cranberry Sauce:

  1. Wash cranberries and remove any wayward stems and mushy, brown/bruised berries.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat water and sugar over low heat until sugar dissolves. Add cranberries, increase heat, and bring to a boil. Turn down heat to low and simmer cranberries until most of them have cracked or burst, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the cinnamon and stir.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Cranberry sauce “gels” more as it cools.

Prepare the crust:

  1. Butter a 9-inch springform pan—choose one that has sides that are 2 3/4 inches high (if the sides are lower, you will have cheesecake batter leftover)—and wrap the bottom of the pan in a double layer of aluminum foil; put the pan on a baking sheet.
  2. Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. (I do this with my fingers.) Turn the ingredients into the buttered springform pan and use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and about halfway up the sides. Don’t worry if the sides are not perfectly even or if the crumbs reach above or below the midway mark on the sides—this doesn’t have to be a precision job. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
  3. Center a rack in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and place the springform on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

Make the cheesecake:

  1. Put a kettle of water on to boil.
  2. Working in a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft and lives up to the creamy part of its name, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one, beating for a full minute after each addition—you want a well-aerated batter. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the sour cream and/or heavy cream.
  3. Put the foil-wrapped springform pan in the roaster pan.
  4. Spoon half the cranberry sauce over the bottom of the crust, spreading out evenly.
  5. Give the batter a few stirs with a rubber spatula, just to make sure that nothing has been left unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, and scrape the batter into the springform pan. The batter will reach the brim of the pan. (If you have a pan with lower sides and have leftover batter, you can bake the batter in a buttered ramekin or small soufflé mold.) Put the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roaster to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
  6. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, at which point the top will be browned (and perhaps cracked) and may have risen just a little above the rim of the pan. Turn off the oven’s heat and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to luxuriate in its water bath for another hour.
  7. After 1 hour, carefully pull the setup out of the oven, lift the springform pan out of the roaster—be careful, there may be some hot water in the aluminum foil—remove the foil. Let the cheesecake come to room temperature on a cooling rack.
  8. When the cake is cool, cover the top lightly and chill the cake for at least 4 hours, although overnight would be better.

To Serve:

Remove the sides of the springform pan and set the cake, still on the pan’s base, on a serving platter. Spread the remaining half of the cranberry sauce over the cheesecake. (You can also serve the sauce on the side.)

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  • sarah  On December 25, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    love your combination for christmas, and glad the cranberry sauce worked out! isn’t it the most gorgeous red color?!

    • Theresa  On December 26, 2009 at 12:03 am

      Thanks for the comment and the super simple and tasty sauce recipe! I know what you mean about the red–it’s so vibrant against the white of the cream cheese!

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