1. Cooking

Five ideas for festive cheesecakes

Cranberry cheesecake. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Cranberry cheesecake. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Published Dec. 19, 2017

In the delicious battle of pie versus cake, how do you classify the indulgent cheesecake? It has "cake" in its name, but probably because "cheesepie" just sounded weird. Like pie, cheesecake is basically a decadent filling inside a crust. It can be sweet or savory — yes, savory! — and it's perfect anytime of the year, especially during the indulgent holidays. So instead of serving a classic pie this month, consider the gloriously gluttonous cheesecake. It's a crowd-pleaser, and not too hard to make, especially in a mini version.

A couple of tips from Marcelle Bienvenu of Use room temperature (softened) cream cheese. It's easier to beat this way. Cracks happen when the cheesecake is exposed to abrupt temperature changes, so don't open the oven door while baking. Cheesecakes are so dense they will continue cooking after baking. Let them cool completely at room temperature, away from drafts, before refrigerating.

Here are five party-worthy cheesecakes.

Brittany Volk, Times staff writer

Candy Cane White Chocolate Mini Cheesecakes

With no slicing required, grab-and-go mini cheesecakes are perfect Christmas cookie partners. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place foil liners in two muffin pans. Place 1 vanilla wafer cookie in the bottom of each muffin cup. Beat 2 (8-ounce) blocks of softened low-fat cream cheese until smooth in a bowl, then add ¾ cup sugar, 3 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract just until incorporated. Do not overbeat. Gently stir in ½ cup white chocolate chips and ½ crushed candy cane pieces. Fill each muffin cup ¾ of the way full with mixture. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until almost set. Remove from oven; let cool 5 minutes on rack and then remove from muffin pan. Once cool, cover and refrigerate for 3 hours. Before serving, place ½ cup white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, microwave for 15 seconds, stir, microwave for 15 more seconds, stir and repeat if necessary until smooth. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon crushed candy cane pieces in the center of each cheesecake, then use a fork to drizzle white chocolate back and forth over the top. Makes 18 servings. Recipe from .

Easy Eggnog Mini Cheesecakes

Eggnog and gingerbread are a match made in Christmas heaven. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. Cut 1 tube of prepared gingerbread dough into 20 discs and press each disc of dough into liners. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat 16 ounces softened cream cheese and ? cup sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, a dash of rum extract, ? cup eggnog, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Mix until blended. Scoop into prepared muffin cups. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. Makes 20 mini cheesecakes. Recipe from

Mini Herb Cheesecakes

A savory cheesecake, you say? We're in. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place 12 pumpernickel crackers, flat side down, at the bottom of each of 12 foil- or paper-lined baking cups. Combine 2 (8-ounce) packages softened cream cheese and 2 tablespoons flour in a bowl, mixing at medium speed on electric mixer until well blended. Add 1 egg and ½ cup sour cream; mix well. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped chives, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour mixture into baking cups, filling each cup almost full. Bake for 25 minutes and cool before removing from pan. Chill. Garnish with red and green pepper strips, if desired. Makes 12 servings. Recipe from Peppermint Cheesecake

Sing with me, to the tune of the Mariah Carey classic: "All I want for Christmas is cheesecake." Heat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, beat 3 (8-ounce) blocks softened cream cheese and 1 cup sugar. Add 2 large eggs, one at a time, ¼ cup sour cream, 1?½ tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon peppermint extract, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and ¼ teaspoon salt. Gently fold in ½ cup each chopped milk and white chocolate and ½ cup chopped candy canes and set aside. To make the crust, crush 24 peppermint or original Oreos into fine crumbs. Mix with 5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter until moist. Add crust to prepared pan and pack tightly. Pour filling into crust and place pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until center is only slightly jiggly, about 1 hour. If you want to use a water bath to ensure no cracking, wrap springform pan in foil and place springform pan in a deep-sided roasting pan. Pour boiling water into roasting pan until it is halfway up the springform pan. When done cooking, turn off oven and let cheesecake cool in oven for 1 hour. Refrigerate cheesecake until completely chilled, at least 4 hours but preferably overnight. Before serving, make chocolate ganache: Pour ¾ cup hot heavy cream over 1?½ cups semisweet chocolate chips and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir until all chocolate is melted. If ganache seems too thin, refrigerate 5 minutes. Spread ganache over chilled cheesecake and garnish with chopped chocolate and crushed candy canes. Refrigerate 10 minutes before serving to let ganache harden. Serves 8 to 10. Recipe from

Cranberry Cheesecake

You can't go wrong with the classic Christmas flavors here. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1?¾ cups ground gingersnaps, ? cup unsalted melted butter and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Press mixture firmly into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then let cool. Reduce oven to 325 degrees. Carefully wrap the outside of the cooled pan in two layers of heavy-duty foil. Place pan in a large roasting dish (or any pan larger than the springform) and boil some water. Set aside. Beat 3 (8-ounce) blocks low-fat softened cream cheese on medium speed for 3 minutes until smooth. Add 1 cup sugar and beat for an additional minute. Add 1 cup Greek yogurt and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and beat for an additional minute, stopping to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition. Do not overbeat. Pour into crust. Place pans on a shelf in bottom third of the oven. Very carefully use a large measuring cup to pour boiling water into the larger pan to form a water bath around the springform pan, so that it comes up about 1 inch around the springform pan. Bake about 90 minutes, or until center is almost set. The cake should still jiggle ever so slightly. Turn oven off and open oven door slightly. Let cheesecake set in oven 1 hour. Remove cheesecake from oven, carefully run a knife around the edges of the cake and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, make the topping. Bring 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 4 cups fresh cranberries, cover and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they have all just popped. Remove from heat and let cool. There will be quite a bit of excess liquid. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cranberries to the top of the cheesecake, and sprinkle with the zest of 1 orange. Remove springform rim to serve. Serves 8 to 10. Adapted from