This turtle cheesecake is perfect for thanksgiving! It has a graham cracker pecan crust with a baked brown sugar cheesecake swirled with chocolate cheesecake. It is topped with salted caramel and pecans.
I have been compensated by Wholesome, Inc., maker of, Wholesome™ sweeteners for my participation in this campaign.
This turtle cheesecake is the perfect mix of flavors. This will be a hit at any special occasions with the perfectly balanced combination of chocolate cheesecake, brown sugar cheesecake, pecans, and caramel topping.
This perfect cheesecake is so good that after sharing this with your family members they won't go back to cheesecake factory again.
This cheesecake is also made using organic and fair trade light brown sugar and cane sugar! Wholesome has high quality baking ingredients that really make the difference in quality in this cheesecake.
Why This Recipe Works
- Creamy cheesecake- The best cheesecakes are creamy and so delicious you can't put them down and this turtle cheesecake recipe delivers!
- Homemade caramel- This homemade caramel sauce is easy to make and just SO good.
- Brown sugar and chocolate swirl- The swirled in cheesecake flavors perfectly complement each other as well as looking great!
Here are some notes on the ingredients. For a full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card below.
- Wholesome Organic Fair Trade Cane Sugar- The sugar crystals are larger than white granulated sugar, but it is such a higher quality! It melts beautifully into caramel sauce.
- Wholesome Organic Fair Trade Light Brown Sugar- The brown sugar also has larger sugar crystals, but it mixes great into the cheesecake batter.
- Unsalted butter- The butter is melted for the pecan graham cracker crust. You can melt this in the microwave.
- Heavy Cream- Pull this out 2 hours before baking.
- Sour Cream- Use full fat sour cream or greek yogurt. Pull this out 2 hours before baking.
- Cream cheese- Use full fat cream cheese. Pull this out 2 hours before baking.
- Eggs- Pull the large eggs out 2 hours before baking so they are room temperature. I use whole egg, not egg white for the fatty yolk.
- Unsweetened cocoa powder- I strongly recommend dutch process cocoa powder for a more rich chocolate flavor. This is the one I used.
Step By Step Instructions
STEP 1: Make the crust. Using a food processor, blend the graham crackers into fine crumbs. Mix them together with the melted butter, Wholesome Organic Fair Trade Light Brown Sugar, and pecans using a fork.
STEP 2: Bake the crust. Pour the mixture into the bottom of 9-inch springform pan and use your hands to press the crust halfway up the sides of the pan. Then, use the back of a measuring cup to really compact the crust down.
Bake the crust for 11 minutes at 325 degree F.
STEP 3: Beat the cream cheese and sugar. Beat the full fat cream cheese and Wholesome Organic Fair Trade Light Brown Sugar in your mixer in a large bowl on high speed for 2 minutes.
STEP 4: Add wet ingredients. Add the sour cream, heavy cream, and pure vanilla extract to the cream cheese mixture. Mix on high speed until combined.
Add in the eggs one at a time while mixing on low speed.
STEP 5: Make chocolate cheesecake. Separate out ⅓ of the cheesecake batter into a medium bowl. Add the unsweetened cocoa powder and gently mix it in with a spatula until it is combined.
STEP 6: Pour. Pour half of the white cheesecake batter into the pan to make an even layer. Dollop half of the chocolate cheesecake on top. Swirl it in with a butter knife. Pour the rest of the white cheesecake on top, then dollop and swirl the remaining chocolate cheesecake.
STEP 7: Bake the cheesecake. Place the pan in your water bath using one of the hot water bath methods listed below.
Bake cheesecake for 60-75 minutes
STEP 8: Cool cheesecake. Turn off the oven and prop the oven door. Let the cheesecake slightly cool for 30 minutes.
Then finish cooling on a wire rack until room temperature. Cover and chill in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.
Decorating the Cheesecake
First you will need to make the salted caramel. See my salted caramel recipe for a ton of tips and tricks on making caramel.
First, heat the Wholesome Organic Fair Trade Cane Sugar. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the sugar. Use a whisk to stir until all the sugar crystals are melted and it turns amber in color.
Then, take the sugar off of the heat and add half of the butter at a time. It will bubble a lot and be hot, but keep stirring!
Heat up the cream for 30 seconds in the microwave so it is warm. Pour it in slowly while continuing to whisk. Then, add the salt and vanilla.
Pour it into a glass small bowl and let it cool completely.
Once your caramel is ready, remove the cheesecake from the pan. Tilt it on it's side to remove the parchment paper.
Pour the caramel over the top of the cheesecake. If it is too thick to pour you can heat it in the microwave for about 15 seconds to warm it up. Once you have plenty of caramel, top it with chopped pecans and mini chocolate chips to complete the look.
Water Bath Tips
The water bath provides a moist environment for the cheesecake. This is because of the steam. When it is too dry, it will create cracks in the cheesecake.
Here are two techniques to try. They both use a large roasting pan with hot steaming water.
- Place the springform pan inside a 10 inch cake pan. Place the larger pan in the roasting pan. Fill the pan with the hot water (about halfway up the cake pan)
- Wrap the springform pan with foil twice very tightly. Place the springform pan inside the roasting pan. Fill the pan halfway up with hot water.
My favorite method is the first one. This won't let any water at all get into the crust. It makes baking cheesecake so easy!
The second option gives the chance to get water inside and create a soggy crust.
Preventing Cheesecake Cracks
Beat the wet ingredients minus the eggs on high speed. Everything needs to be super creamy and smooth. Chunks of cream cheese can cause cracks.
Add eggs on low speed. The goal is to have as little air as possible when mixing the eggs. Too much air can cause big bubbles in the cheesecake batter. It will make the cheesecake rise and fall too quickly when baking. Which causes cracks.
Use a water bath. This is essential! See below for cheesecake tips.
Cool the cheesecake. Once the cheesecake is done baking, it needs to sit in the hot oven for 30 minutes. This lets it cool slowly.
If you were to put the cheesecake on the counter right after done baking, it will be too quick of a temperature change, which cause cracks.
How To Easily Remove The Cheesecake From The Pan
First, spray the springform pan with baking non stick spray. Next, line the bottom of the pan with 9 inch parchment paper circle. Make sure to spray the pan again.
Then, after the cheesecake has chilled overnight. The springform pan should pop right off. If it doesn't very gently use a knife around the edge of the cheesecake to pop it off.
Then, you should be able to lay the cheesecake on it's side to take off the bottom of pan and the parchment circle.
Divide this recipe into thirds to make 12 mini cheesecake. Bake in a muffin pan for 18-20 minutes.
You can halve the recipe to make these into turtle cheesecake bars using 8X8 or 9X9 inch baking pan (use 16 oz of cream cheese). You can also use a 8 inch springform pan. If you want to use a 6 inch springform pan, half the recipe, but use 16 oz of cream cheese.
First, make sure the cheesecake is very cold. Then, use a sharp knife to cut the slices. Clean the knife after every slice.
Storing and Freezing
Store this turtle cheesecake in the fridge in an airtight container like a cake carrier. Chill up to 5 days.
You can freeze the turtle cheesecake in individual slices. Store in an airtight container and freeze up to 30 days. Thaw for 1-2 hours before eating.
You can also freeze the cheesecake before decorating. Wrap the cooled cheesecake (it needs to chill in the fridge overnight first), in plastic wrap and freeze up to 30 days.
Thaw for 1-2 hours before decorating.
Other Cheesecake Recipes To Try
Graham Cracker and Pecan Crust
- 2 cups Crushed graham crackers
- ½ cup Chopped pecans
- ⅛ cup Wholesome Organic Fair Trade Light Brown Sugar packed light or dark
- 10 tablespoon Melted butter
Brown Sugar Cheesecake
- 24 oz Cream cheese room temperature
- ¾ cup Wholesome Organic Fair Trade Light Brown Sugar packed light or dark
- ½ cup Sour cream room temperature
- ¼ cup Heavy cream room temperature
- 1 teaspoon Pure vanilla extract
- 4 Large eggs room temperature
- ¼ cup Unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup Wholesome Organic Fair Trade Cane Sugar
- 4 tablespoon Unsalted Butter room temperature and cubed
- ½ cup Heavy cream room temperature
- 1 teaspoon Pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- ½ cup Chopped pecans
Graham Cracker and Pecan Crust
- Preheat oven to 325F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with a baking non stick spray. Place a 9-inch parchment circle on the bottom and spray again.
- Crush graham crackers in a food processor. In a small bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, Wholesome Organic Fair Trade Light or Dark Brown Sugar, melted butter, and pecans. Pour into spring form pan. Use your hands to press it halfway up the sides of the pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to compact the crust.2 cups Crushed graham crackers, ½ cup Chopped pecans, ⅛ cup Wholesome Organic Fair Trade Light Brown Sugar, 10 tablespoon Melted butter
- Bake for 11 minutes.
Brown Sugar Cheesecake
- Start this once the crust is done baking. Using a mixer, beat the cream cheese and Wholesome Organic Fair Trade Light on high speed for 2 minutes. Add in sour cream, heavy cream, and vanilla and mix on medium until combined.24 oz Cream cheese, ¾ cup Wholesome Organic Fair Trade Light Brown Sugar, ½ cup Sour cream, ¼ cup Heavy cream, 1 teaspoon Pure vanilla extract
- Add in the eggs and mix on low speed until just combined. Separate out ⅓rd of the cheesecake batter. In the ⅓rd of the batter, add in the unsweetened cocoa powder and use a rubber spatula to mix until just combined.4 Large eggs, ¼ cup Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Pour ½ of the white cheesecake batter into the crust. Dollop half of the chocolate cheesecake batter on top and use a butter knife to swirl. Pour the rest of the white cheesecake batter on top and dollop the remaining chocolate batter. Use a clean butter knife to swirl it again.
- Water bath. Use one of these methods for a water bath. Both methods use a large roasting pan and hot steaming water.1. Place the springform pan in a 10 inch cake pan. Place the cake pan in the roasting pan and fill with hot water halfway up the cake pan. This method prevent water getting into the crust.2. Wrap the springform pan tightly twice in aluminum foil. Place the springform pan inside the roasting pan. Fill with hot water halfway up the springform pan. This method works great, but can sometimes leak water into the crust.
- Bake for 70-80 minutes. Bake until the edges are set and the middle has a slight jiggle.
- When cheesecake is done baking, turn off oven and crack the oven door. Let sit in oven for 30 minutes while it slowly cools. Then, place springform pan on a cooling rack and cool completely.
- Cover with foil and chill overnight or at least 6 hours.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the Wholesome Organic Fair Trade Cane Sugar. Use a whisk to mix the sugar until all the sugar crystals melt. Let it sit until it turns amber in color. This take less than 30 seconds. Remove from heat.1 cup Wholesome Organic Fair Trade Cane Sugar
- Add half of the cubed butter and whisk until combined. (It will bubble up). Then, add the rest of the butter. Heat the cream in the microwave for 30 seconds so it is warm. Slowly pour in the cream while whisking continuously.4 tablespoon Unsalted Butter, ½ cup Heavy cream
- Then, add salt and vanilla. Pour into a glass container and let it cool completely.1 teaspoon Pure vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon Salt
- Take the springform pan and parchment paper off of the cheesecake. Pour the cooled caramel on top of the cheesecake. Use as much as desired. If the caramel is not pourable, heat in the microwave for 15 seconds.
- Top the cheesecake with chopped pecans and mini chocolate chips.½ cup Chopped pecans