Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping

The perfect marriage of cheesecake + caramel apples, these caramel apple cheesecake bars with that buttery, delightful streusel topping are one of my favorite fall desserts!

Slice of caramel apple cheesecake bars drizzled with caramel on wood cutting board.

Move over pumpkin, because today, apples are getting their rightful attention as favorite fall flavor, too!

I mean, obviously you can enjoy apples every day of the year if you want (same with pumpkin, if we’re going to have this conversation), but there’s something about fall that brings out the delicious, warm flavors of apples.

And there’s no better combination than apples + caramel. Am I right?

Throw a little shortbread, cheesecake and streusel in there and you are looking at one of my family’s favorite desserts EVER.

Forkful bite of caramel apple cheesecake bar.

And ok, fine, I actually have never relegated these caramel apple cheesecake bars to just autumn time. They are an oft-requested and oft-made treat all through the year.

My brother, Nathan, sent me the recipe years and years ago after his coworkers basically told him he should never bring any other treat in to work besides these babies. (Sidenote: my brother is an incredible baker and makes the most delectable desserts.)

I soon saw for myself the popularity that follows these bars. As in, you may get mobbed for the recipe. Prepare yourself.

Every time I bring these to a church activity or book club or social gathering (that highlight reel makes me sound like I actually get dressed and leave my house on occasion, which is slightly misleading), they are wildly, wildly popular.

Caramel apple cheesecake bar on white plate.

I mean, just look at them! I know looks aren’t everything, but you have to admit, they are stunning little bars. And the outside appearance is just the beginning. They are ridiculously delicious. Like, best thing I ever ate kind of delicious.

That buttery shortbread based topped with a luscious creamy cheesecake layer and then followed by the syrupy tender apples…it’s almost too much.

But wait! There’s more! We’re going to take it two steps further with a buttery golden streusel (streusel is life) and caramel sauce drizzled on top with wild abandon.

I know. Let me give you a minute.

Half eaten caramel apple cheesecake bar on white plate.

If you are looking for a showstopper dessert this fall, these caramel apple cheesecake bars should be very high on the to-make list.

And I’m not the only one with undying love! I originally posted this recipe back in 2010, and it has continued to be a family favorite of ours and many of yours, too (check out the comments for reviews and feedback).

There is a lot going on in this recipe, there’s no doubt about that. But I promise the end result will be worth it.

All of the components come together quickly and simply. It’s just a matter of assembling them all together (and bribing someone else to wash the dishes).

And in the name of giving apples a chance to shine today, here are a couple of my other favorite apple recipes (that aren’t pie)! 
Whole Grain Applesauce Cinnamon Quick Bread
Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls
Apple Dapple Cake with Warm Vanilla Sauce (one of my favorite cakes ever)
Caramel Apple Bundt Cake
Apple Cinnamon Waffles
Apple Cinnamon Streusel Dessert Pizza
Caramel Apple Cider Floats

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping

Yield: 9X13-inch pan
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients

Apples:

  • 3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Streusel Topping:

  • 1 cup (7.5 ounces) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (1.75 ounces) quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter, softened

Shortbread Base:

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (3.75 ounces) packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) butter, softened

Cream Cheese Layer:

  • 2 (8 ounces each) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup (3.75 ounces) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel Sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup (7.5 ounces) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream cream
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla (can cut down to 1 teaspoon for less vanilla flavor)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9X13-inch pan with foil (helps with cleanup but isn't necessary). Lightly grease the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. For the apples, in a small bowl, stir together the chopped apples, two tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. For the streusel, in a medium bowl, combine all the streusel topping ingredients and mix with a pastry blender or two forks (or your fingers) until crumbly. Set aside.
  4. For the shortbread base, in a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two forks until mixture is crumbly but evenly and well combined. Press the crust evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until very lightly browned around the edges.
  5. For the cream cheese layer, while the crust is baking, in a large bowl with an electric handheld mixer (or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), beat the cream cheese with the 1/2 cup sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla. Mix until evenly combined, scraping down the edges of the bowl as needed. Pour over the warm crust.
  6. Give the apple mixture a good stir and spoon over the cheesecake layer. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the apples. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the filling is set.
  7. For the caramel sauce, add the butter, brown sugar, cream, and salt to a saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook while stirring gently for 5-7 minutes, until thickened slightly. Add the vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. If the caramel sauce has been refrigerated, warm slightly to pour over the bars.
  8. Cool the bars to room temperature. Drizzle with the caramel topping (or plate individual slices and drizzle with topping one by one).

Follow @melskitchencafe on Instagram and show me the recipes you are making from my blog using the hashtag #melskitchencafe. I love seeing all the goodness you are whipping up in your kitchens!

Recipe Source: Bars adapted from my brother, Nate (I think he originally found them here), caramel sauce from Pioneer Woman

Recipe originally published October 2010; updated with new photos, commentary and recipe notes.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping