Endlessly Customizable Layered Cheesecake Bars
Just one pan of these 3-in-1 cheesecake bars will fill your entire dessert tray or a Christmas tin for gifting. Get creative by swapping in your own fillings and toppings, or use our easy guide for the season’s most tempting flavors: Cookies ‘n Cream, Peppermint Patty and Pecan Pie. They all come from one pan and the variety is sure to please a crowd.
- 3 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 10 mini chocolate-covered mint patties (such as York Peppermint Patties)
- 8 whole cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (such as Oreos)
- YIELD: 18 bars
- 32 oz. cream cheese, softened (four 8 oz. packages)
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon mint extract
- milk or cream to thin
- 1-3 drops green food color
- 3 mini chocolate-covered peppermint patties, chopped
- 2 crushed soft peppermint puffs
- 2 tablespoons sprinkles in Christmas hues (red, green and white)
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans, plus extra for garnish
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 4 whole cream-filled sandwich cookies, broken
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt and melted butter (Image 1). Stir together until the mixture resembles wet sand and all the crumbs are coated with the melted butter. Pour the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan. Press evenly using your palms or the flat bottom of a large measuring cup (Image 2). Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
Beginning at one end of the pan, line pecan halves over 1/3 of the crust. Place peppermint patties in two even rows across the middle third of the crust. Place cream-filled sandwich cookies over the last 1/3 of the crust. Use a nontoxic marker to dot the foil on each side of the mint patties, so you’ll know where the flavors begin and end. Clip a wooden clothespin to the end of the pan with the pecans (or use the marker to make a defining mark).
Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well before each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again briefly. Add the sour cream and vanilla. Beat until smooth and lump-free.
Pour the batter over the assembled crust and smooth evenly. Bake for 45 minutes or until the center is set with just a slight wobble. Remove the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate the cheesecake bars for at least 8 hours or overnight. When the cheesecake is well chilled, make the toppings.
Mint Patty Buttercream Topping
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until thick and creamy. Add the mint extract and food color. Mix again. Add milk or cream to thin the mixture to spreading consistency one tablespoon at a time. Beat until a pale, fluffy, green buttercream is achieved (Image 1). Spread the mixture in the center 1/3 of the cheesecake between the marked lines on the foil (Image 2). Immediately top with chopped mint patties, crushed peppermint candy and sprinkles (Image 3).
Pecan Pie Topping
In a small saucepan, combine the pecans, brown sugar, cream, butter, cinnamon and salt (Image 1). Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Using the clothespin or other defining mark as a guide, spread the mixture over the 1/3 portion of the pecan cheesecake (Image 2). Sprinkle with extra chopped pecans, if desired.
Cookies ‘n Cream Topping
Combine the chocolate chips and cream in a medium microwave-safe bowl (Image 1). Heat the mixture at 100% power for 1 minute. Let the hot mixture stand for 1 minute. Using a whisk, stir together the cream and chocolate until a consistent shiny ganache is formed. Let cool slightly. Pour over the remaining 1/3 of the cheesecake (Image 2) and top with crushed cream-filled sandwich cookies.
Refrigerate the cheesecake bars until ready to serve. When ready to slice, dip a knife in hot water and wipe dry before cutting. This will ensure the neatest slices. Place bars in cupcake papers for easy pick-up from the dessert buffet.
Store sliced portions in the fridge till guests arrive, then place on a pretty tray so everyone can help themselves to their favorite flavor. Place a mix of these delectable mini-portions in an airtight container for a homemade holiday gift cheescake lovers won't soon forget. Be sure to refrigerate leftovers — if there are any!
Try These Other Festive Flavor Variations
Cookie butter: Layer Biscoff cookies over 1/3 of the crust. Top cheesecake with Biscoff spread and more broken Biscoff cookies.
Orange-cranberry: Layer dried cranberries over 1/3 of the crust. Top cheesecake with ready-made marmalade and more dried cranberries.
Gingerbread: Layer gingersnaps over 1/3 of the crust. Top cheesecake with whipped cream and cinnamon-sugar.
Candied lemon: Layer minced candied citron over 1/3 of the crust. Top cheesecake with ready-made lemon curd.