Dulce de Leche Cheesecake
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the most amazing Dulce de Leche Cheesecake that has ever been! Smooth, creamy perfection on a sinful pecan crust and topped with a luscious dulce de leche sauce. This is without a doubt the best cheesecake I have ever eaten!
This post is sponsored by NABISCO, but all opinions are my own.
By now, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably know I have a small obsession with dulce de leche. This cheesecake is the newest addition to my collection, joining several other recipes, including my Dulce de Leche Banana Bread, Dulce de Leche Molten Cakes and Dulce de Leche Pecan Pie.
I’m going to start this post with a confession. Cheesecake is usually not my dessert of choice!
There, phew, I got it out of the way. But don’t run for the hills just yet! Let me explain.
You see, I find that it is really easy to be disappointed by cheesecake. It can be too dense, too dry, too soft, not creamy enough, too sweet or have a soggy crust. That’s why I rarely order cheesecake when dining out!
Now, the cheesecake I make at home? A whole different story!
I have been perfecting my cheesecake for years and I’m quite proud of it. My classic cheesecake is the only cheesecake I get excited about eating. That is, until this dulce de leche cheesecake was born! ❤️
The recipe is quite similar to my classic one, but the dulce de leche really makes this a showstopper! It is so so good that it simply belongs at your holiday table (or at any dinner party or special event).
Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!
What is Dulce de Leche?
Dulce de Leche is a South American confection of caramelized milk. It is prepared by slowly cooking milk and sugar for several hours, until the mixture reaches the consistency of caramel and a beautiful, rich brown golden color.
While it can certainly be eaten by the spoonful (who has never?!?), it is often used as an ingredient or topping/filling for desserts, such as churros, cookies, ice cream, cakes and – yours truly – cheesecake.
In Brazil, my home country, it is also eaten as a snack, with white cheese or spread on a banana.
To make this dulce de leche cheesecake, you will need:
FOR THE CRUST
- Honey Maid Graham Crackers – A must ingredient for the perfect cheesecake crust! Made with real honey, with no high-fructose corn syrup, saturated fat, or cholesterol.
- Pecans – While a simple graham cracker crust would work in this cheesecake, I thought it’d be fun to add pecans too. The pecans pair great with the dulce de leche and give this cheesecake an extra oomph, making it perfect for the holidays!
- Brown Sugar – I find that brown sugar, with its caramel undertones, works better than sugar in this crust. That being said, you can definitely use white sugar if that’s what you have on hand!
- Cinnamon – A touch of cinnamon makes this crust special! It adds a bit of warmth that really complements the dulce de leche.
- Salt – A pinch of salt to enhance flavors!
- Butter – Make sure to use unsalted butter. If you only have salted butter on hand, omit the salt!
FOR THE CHEESECAKE
- Dulce de Leche – Homemade or store bought. Nowadays, you can find dulce de leche at any major supermarkets, in the hispanic aisle. If you can’t find any at your local store, you can order it online.
- Cream Cheese – Make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature. If the cream cheese is cold, it won’t mix properly and your cheesecake will end up lumpy.
- Sugar – We’ll add just 1/2 cup of sugar to the custard, as the dulce de leche will also impart sweetness.
- Eggs – Don’t forget to bring them to room temperature so they mix nicely in the batter!
- Corn Starch – A small amount of corn starch in the cheesecake batter helps the cheesecake to set nicely and prevents cracking.
- Vanilla Extract – For an extra depth of flavor.
- Lemon Juice – The lemon juice acts not only as a flavor enhancer but also as a thickener. The acid reacts with the milk proteins, causing the cheesecake to thicken.
- Heavy Cream – The heavy cream softens the texture of the cheesecake, making it creamier and not as dense!
- Salt – A pinch of salt to balance out the sweetness from the dulce de leche and sugar.
A brief pause on this recipe tutorial to tell you a little bit about Walmart’s new recipe contest! 😊
How does it work? You submit a recipe creation using at least one Mondelez product (such as NABISCO, Swedish Fish or SOUR PATCH KIDS) by November 29th 2021. Then, you ask your friends and family to vote for your recipe!
What is in it for you? A chance to have your recipe turned into a Tasty video by Buzzfeed, but also the honor to help NABISCO feed America.
NABISCO is donating $1,000,000 to Feeding America this season. Plus, for each vote received during the voting period 11/30 – 12/4, they will donate an additional $1 up to $50,000.
No Purchase Necessary. Open to residents of the 50 U.S. and D.C., 18 and older. Submit a recipe (and optional photo) by 11:59 p.m. ET on 11/29/21. Void where prohibited. For full details, see the Official Rules at www.Walmart.com/createsharegive. Between 11/30/21-12/4/21, residents of the 50 U.S./D.C. who are 18+ can vote for your favorite recipes (up to 5 each calendar day). Mondelēz will donate $1 per vote up to $50,000 to Feeding America®. Each donation funds approx. 10 meals at local Feeding America® food banks.
How to Make Dulce de Leche Cheesecake
Listen, I’m not going to beat around the bush. Making cheesecake is a labor of love!
You have to make the crust, pre-bake the crust, mix the custard, bake the custard in a water bath, cool the cheesecake for an hour inside the oven, plus God knows how much longer at room temperature until it cools completely, and then chill it for a bazillion hours (ok, only 4 or so, but it does feel like forever) before you can even eat a slice.
But it is so worth it, isn’t it? One bite and all the work is forgotten and you are left with the pure joy of having made something so special!
No, it is not a dessert you can quickly whip whenever unexpected guests knock at your door. This is definitely a project for the weekend or, even better, a dessert to serve as the grand finale of a holiday meal!
Plus, most of the time is inactive, so it’s really not as bad as it sounds. 😉
Recommended tools and equipment: food processor, measuring cup, springform pan, aluminum foil, large bowl, hand mixer, roasting pan, rubber spatula, saucepan.
Step 1: Make the crust.
- Combine the Honey Maid graham crackers, pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in the food processor. Pulse until finely ground.
- Add the melted butter and pulse a few times, until combined. The mixture will look like wet sand.
- Transfer to a greased 9 or 10-inch springform pan, wrapped with foil. That will prevent water from getting in contact with the crust, which can make it soggy!
- Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides, forming the crust. You can use a measuring cup to help you press, to make sure it’s tight.
- Pre-bake at 350ºF for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges look slightly golden brown.
Step 2: Mix the Custard.
- Combine the softened cream cheese, sugar, salt, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla extract and heavy cream in a large bowl. Mix well with a hand mixer.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing in between additions.
- Add the dulce de leche and mix until incorporated. For a smooth cheesecake without cracks, avoid over-mixing!
Step 3: Bake the Cheesecake.
- Pour the batter on the crust, using a rubber spatula to smooth it into an even layer.
- Place the cheesecake inside a large roasting pan, then transfer the pan to the oven.
- Carefully pour boiling water inside the pan, going at least 2-inches up the sides of the springform pan.
- Bake at 350ºF for 55 minutes, or until the cheesecake is almost set. (When you gently shake the cheesecake, the middle will wobble slightly.)
- Turn the oven off, but keep the cheesecake inside. Crack the door open and put a wooden spoon in between the door and the oven, so it stays open. Let the cheesecake cool there for 1 hour.
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven and water bath, and allow it to cool completely at room temperature.
- Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours (or overnight).
Step 4: Make the topping.
- To make the dulce de leche sauce, place 1/2 cup heavy cream in a saucepan and heat it over medium-low heat.
- Once the heavy cream is steaming, add 1 1/2 cups dulce de leche and cook, stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick, until it thickens slightly. Remove from heat. The sauce will continue thickening while it cools.
- Pour the sauce over the cheesecake.
- You can serve immediately or refrigerate if you prefer the topping to set!
- Use room temperature ingredients, especially the cream cheese and eggs. They will blend up more easily and you don’t risk ending up with a lumpy cheesecake.
- A water bath (or bain-marie) is a must for a smooth, even baked cheesecake. The water acts as a buffer for heat, helping distribute it, ensuring the cheesecake bakes evenly. Without it, you risk over-baking the cheesecake!
- Don’t try to rush the cooling process! To ensure that the cheesecake doesn’t crack and sets evenly, it’s important that it cools slowly. Sudden changes in temperature can cause cracking!
- Another trick to avoid cracks is to avoid peeking, especially during the first 30 minutes of baking. Drafts can cause sudden temperature changes and we already know that can lead to cracks.
- That being said, do not worry if you end up with some cracks on your cheesecake. It happens! Plus, the dulce de leche topping will cover them and nobody will notice.
- This recipe makes enough dulce de leche sauce so you can have some extra to serve at the table. You never know when you’re going to have a dulce de leche lover (ahem, like moi!) for a guest! 😉😉😉
I personally find that cheesecake tastes best at room temperature. It is much creamier! So, if you can, let your cheesecake stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
A good trick to get clean, neat slices is to dip a sharp knife in a glass of hot tap water and then wipe it clean before making each cut. You can also achieve the same thing by running the knife under the tap. Yes, it’s a bit of work, but your cheesecake slices will look like they belong in a restaurant!
Frequently Asked Questions
This dulce de leche cheesecake will keep for 5 to 7 days in the fridge, if properly covered with plastic foil or stored in an airtight container.
Yes, this cheesecake freezes nicely! While it is safe to freeze for longer, I recommend eating it within a month or two.
This recipe makes enough batter to fill a 10-inch springform pan. If you’re using a 9-inch pan, you might end up with extra batter. You can use it to make mini cheesecakes, cheesecake cookies, cheesecake brownies, cheesecake muffins or fried cheesecake!
Dulce de Leche Cheesecake
For the Pecan Crust:
- 16 (62 grams) Honey Maid graham crackers
- 1 cup (125 grams) pecans, lightly toasted
- ¼ cup (50 grams) brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
For the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake:
- 4 (8oz) blocks (904 grams) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- ½ cup (115ml) heavy cream
- ½ cup (100 grams) sugar
- 1 tablespoon (7.5 grams) cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup (225 grams) dulce de leche
For the Dulce de Leche Topping:
- ½ cup (115ml) heavy cream
- 1 ½ cups (340 grams) dulce de leche
Make the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350ºF with a rack in the middle.
- Combine the graham crackers, pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely ground.
- Pour the melted butter and pulse a few times, until well combined. The mixture will look like wet sand.
- Grease an 9 or 10-inch springform pan and wrap tightly with foil on the outside. Pour the mixture into the pan, spreading the crumbs around so that they are evenly dispersed.
- Using a measuring cup, press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. It should be tight and compact.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Then, let it cool completely at room temperature.
Make the cheesecake batter:
- Using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese, heavy cream, sugar, cornstarch, salt, vanilla extract and lemon juice, until smooth.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in between additions.
- Add the dulce de leche and beat just until combined. Do not overmix!
- Set a kettle full of water to boil.
- Transfer the batter into the pre-baked crust, then place the pan in a roasting pan. To make the water bath, place the roasting pan with the cheesecake in the oven, then carefully pour the boiling water inside of the roasting pan. The water should go 2-inches up the sides of the springform pan.
- Bake for 55 minutes or until the cheesecake is almost set. You know it's ready when the middle jiggles slightly when gently shaken but the sides are set. Turn the oven off and keep the cheesecake inside. Crack the oven door open, using a wooden spoon to help keep it slightly cracked. Let it cool in the oven for 1 hour, then remove the cheesecake from the oven and water bath, and let it cool to room temperature.
- Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Make the topping:
- Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan, over medium-low heat. Once it begins to boil, add the dulce de leche and cook – stirring constantly so it doesn't stick to the pan – until it thickens slightly, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool. The sauce will keep thickening as it cools.
- Remove the cheesecake from the fridge and from the springform pan 30 minutes before serving. I recommend running a knife around the pan to help loosen the cheesecake from the springform pan, before removing the rim.
- Pour the sauce over the cheesecake and serve!