I know, I know. There’s another name that Americans give this day of the year, that rhymes with Aack Iday. But I can think of about a million other things I would rather be doing today than waking up at the crack of dawn for “doorbusters”, fighting through crowds, watching people push and shove, standing in line after line, and frankly, buying way too much stuff that I don’t need.
Instead, today you will find me happily staying inside to enjoy a leisurely breakfast with family I’m visiting, doing some crafting with my mom, driving back to KC to attend one of my favorite services of the year at my church, and of course, eating lots of Thanksgiving leftovers…including this cranberry orange cheesecake!
There was just one piece of this delicious cake leftover from our extended family’s Thanksgiving feast yesterday, and I’m pretty sure it has my name written all over it. Because this cheesecake was awesome.
Said awesomeness is due to basically three things:
Gingersnap crust: Sure, you can sub in graham crackers if you like. But I used store-bought gingersnaps, which I’m convinced always make the world a better place.
“Lighter” orange cheesecake: The cheesecake filling is basically an orange version of the Lighter Blueberry Cheesecake recipe I posted on the blog last summer. It’s made with Greek yogurt and low-fat cream cheese, but no one would ever know. This filling is my go-to favorite for flavor, creaminess, and simplicity.
Cranberry-Orange Topping: Have leftover cranberry sauce? This cheesecake is a perfect place to use it! Or whip up a fresh batch, and then top it with some orange zest. So easy, and so good.
I like to think this cheesecake was also extra-awesome since my mom helped me make it. In addition to helping bake the cheesecake the night before Thanksgiving, she also stood in as a hand model and assistant when I decided to do an impromptu photo shoot right before Thanksgiving dinner so that I could share the recipe on the blog. Go, Mama, go!
Thankfully, the cranberry orange cheesecake was a hit at our family’s Thanksgiving dinner. So if you’re looking for a crowd-pleasing holiday dessert idea, or a use for leftover cranberries, or just a great new cheesecake recipe, you’ve gotta try it! Here’s the how to:
The ingredient list is really simple.
The orange cheesecake just calls for all of the ingredients in my favorite “lighter” cheesecake — low-fat cream cheese, Greek yogurt, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Plus you add in the zest of an entire orange. (Which, amazingly, will make your entire kitchen smell like orange for hours!)
The crust is a simple gingersnap crust, which calls for gingersnaps (I like the cheap store-bought ones for this!) and butter. But you could also substitute in graham crackers if desired.
Then the topping is classic cranberry sauce, which I recommend making homemade for this (instead of from a can) so that you can get a more whole-berry-ish consistency. All you need for that is a bag of fresh cranberries, water (or you could substitute in some of the fresh orange juice), and sugar.
Then grab one more orange so that you can sprinkle more zest on top of it all.
So to make the crust, ground up a bunch of gingersnaps. Then mix them with butter, and press into your baking dish.
If you want a traditional-looking cheesecake, you can press the gingersnap crust up the sides of the pan. But I’ve been hooked on flat crusts lately — easier, and also very pretty!
Pop that baby in the oven to pre-bake for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, get your orange cheesecake filling ready.
Be sure that your cream cheese, yogurt and eggs are all room temperature. Then mix up the batter according to the directions, and fold in a bunch of orange zest at the end. Try not to over-mix the batter, in order to prevent cracking.
Once the crust and batter are ready, pour the batter into the pre-baked crust, and use a rubber spatula or spoon to smooth out the top.
Bake according to directions, then let the cheesecake cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate until firm.
Once it’s cool, slide a knife around the side of the cheesecake to loosen it from the pan. Then carefully remove the sides of the pan. And if you want, slide a knife under the cheesecake crust, and very carefully slide the cheesecake onto your serving dish. (But you can also just leave the bottom of the springform pan attached to the cheesecake!)
Whip up a batch of cranberry sauce, although only cooking the cranberries until the have just cracked if you want the “whole cranberry” look for the topping. (Alternately, you can cook the cranberry sauce the classic way until the cranberries are totally mushy and have completely broken down — or use leftover cranberry sauce!) Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cranberries to the top of your cheesecake, and spread in a somewhat even layer. Then top with some more orange zest, and you’re good to go!
Definitely a new favorite recipe. In fact, I think I may go grab a bit of those leftovers right now… :)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Use a food processor to combine ground gingersnaps, butter and salt. (Or stir together in a large mixing bowl until combined.) Press mixture firmly into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan (or up the sides, if desired). Bake for 10 minutes, then remove and let cool. Reduce oven heat to 325°F.
Once the pan reaches room temperature, carefully wrap the outside of the pan in 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, being sure that there are NO gaps where water could seep through. (**If you are doubtful about this step, read in notes below for an alternative water bath in which the pan does not actually touch water.**) Place the pan in a large roasting dish (or any pan larger than the springform), and bring a tea kettle or pot of water to boil in preparation for the water bath. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed for 3 minutes until smooth. Add the sugar and beat for an additional minute until well blended. Add Greek yogurt and vanilla, and beat for an additional minute, stopping partway to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until blended. Do not overbeat! Pour into crust.
Place the double pans in the oven on a shelf on the bottom third of the oven. Very carefully use a tea kettle (or large measuring cup) to pour the boiling water in the larger pan to form a water bath around the springform pan, so that it comes up about 1-inch around the springform.
Close the oven door, and bake about 1 hour 30 min, 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. Then remove cheesecake from oven, carefully run a knife around the edges of the cake, and then let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
Remove springform rim, and top cheesecake with cranberry orange topping just before serving. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator in a covered container.
To Make The Orange Cranberry Topping:
Bring water and sugar to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cranberries, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the cranberries have all just popped. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. (I popped my berries in the freezer to speed up this process a bit.)
There will be quite a bit of excess liquid. So use a slotted spoon to transfer cranberries to the top of the cheesecake, and sprinkle with the zest of one orange.
**If you do not feel confident creating a really well-sealed aluminum foil wrapping around the springform pan, then just place a 9×13 baking dish (or any size baking dish) on the rack below the cheesecake in the oven, fill IT full of boiling water, close the oven door and cook according to directions.
I find that actually submerging the springform pan IN the water helps it to cook more evenly and avoid cracking. But this method is also great, and then you don’t have to worry about the potential of water seeping into the springform pan while cooking.
Be sure to check out these other cranberry recipes too!