These caramel cheesecake cupcakes strike the perfect balance between sweet and tangy with a lavender caramel sauce swirl, a lemon cream cheese and goat cheese filling and a lavender graham cracker crust.
The recipe makes eight mini cheesecake cupcakes that are easily baked inside cupcake liners in muffin tin wells. The mini cakes make a delicious and pretty dessert, whether it’s a special holiday or just an everyday afternoon that calls for a sweet treat.
About the recipe:
The subtle lavender flavor in these lemon cheesecake cupcakes comes both from the caramel sauce that is made with lavender-infused cream and from finely chopped dried lavender that is baked into the graham cracker crust. It works great with the slightly tangy, lemon-flavored filling.
The goat cheese gives these easy mini cheesecakes extra tang and creates a smooth and creamy, New York-style cheesecake texture. Because this dessert is quite rich, individual cupcakes make the perfect portion size.
The caramel swirl not only adds flavor, it also makes for a beautiful finish. If you’re a swirling novice, fear not, it’s very easy to do this: simply spoon a bit of caramel sauce onto the cheesecake batter and drag it through with a bamboo skewer or a toothpick (see the photo in step number 13 below).
How to make the caramel sauce:
Step 1. Add 3/4 cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender to a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat off, cover the saucepan and let the mix steep for 15 minutes.
Step 2. Strain the cream through a fine mesh sieve and use a small spoon to press the last bit of the cream through the sieve. Set the cream aside.
Step 3. Grab a clean saucepan and add 1/2 cup of water to it. (It’s important that the saucepan is clean so your sugar doesn’t crystallize). Add 1 cup granulated sugar into the center of the pan and make sure that no sugar gets onto the sides of the pan.
Step 4. Turn on the heat and without any stirring of any sort, let the sugar mix boil to a deep amber color. Be careful, the mix will be extremely hot, so don’t touch the saucepan or the caramel under any circumstances.
Step 5. Standing back from the pan, slowly whisk in the lavender cream. Be careful, the mix will bubble up violently, so stand back and again don’t touch the caramel under any circumstances.
Let the caramel cool.
How to make the graham cracker crust:
Step 6. Crush up about two and a quarter sheets of graham crackers to make 1/3 cup crushed graham crackers. Mix them with 1 teaspoon finely chopped, dried culinary lavender and 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar.
Step 7. Mix in 1 tablespoon melted, unsalted butter and make sure that the lavender is distributed more or less evenly.
Step 8. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. and line 8 muffin tin wells with cupcake liners. Divide the graham cracker crust among the wells (about 1 scant tablespoon per well), then press the mix into the liners using either your fingers or an espresso tamper. Bake the crusts until they start to brown (about 5 minutes).
How to make the cheesecake filling:
Step 9. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. for the cheesecake filling.
In a mixing bowl, add 4 ounces cream cheese* (at room temperature), 3 ounces goat cheese (at room temperature), 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. In two separate bowls, add 5 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 egg.
*RECIPE NOTE: Don’t use any cream cheese products that are labeled as low-fat or reduced-fat. Those have a higher moisture content than full-fat cream cheese and that will interfere with the baking process.
Step 10. With an electric mixer, whip the cream cheese, the goat cheese, the lemon zest and juice and the vanilla together until well combined.
Whip in the sugar and then the egg and continue to whip until you have a very smooth batter.
Step 11. Scoop the batter onto the crusts and fill each well about 3/4 full. (You can use a metal scoop like I did here or an actual spoon).
Step 12. Rap the muffin tins on the kitchen counter once or twice to smooth out the batter, then add about 1 teaspoon of the lavender caramel sauce onto the cupcakes.
Step 13. Swirl the caramel sauce in with a bamboo skewer or toothpick.
Recipe Note: Be sure NOT to drag the caramel all the way out to the cupcake liner. You want an outer rim of pure cheesecake batter that will bake up into firm cheesecake, which will give the cupcakes the sturdy structure they need.
Bake the cupcakes until they are set (about 20 minutes).
Let the cupcakes cool to room temperature in the muffins pans and then chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
A few recipe tips:
- How to crush graham crackers: You can do this in three different ways: 1) crush the crackers in a large mortar with a pestle or 2) pulse them a few times in the food processor or 3) put them in large ziploc bag, seal the bag, then smash the crackers with something heavy, like a rolling pin.
- How to keep the sugar from crystallizing when making the caramel sauce: you have to do two things: 1) make sure that the saucepan you’re using is absolutely clean and 2) leave the saucepan completely alone during the whole time the sugar and water are boiling. Don’t swirl or stir or do anything else with the boiling sugar mix and your sugar will not crystallize.
Questions and Answers:
How can I tell that the cheesecakes are done baking?
The cakes are done baking when their centers no longer jiggle when you move the muffin pan.
Can I make this recipe without lavender?
Absolutely! Simply use straight up cream in the caramel sauce and skip the lavender in the graham cracker crust. The cheesecakes will taste purely lemony and still very delicious this way.
How to store leftovers:
Store any leftover cheesecakes in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one day. (Any longer than that and the crust will get soggy).
You will have quite a bit of lavender caramel sauce left over from this recipe that you can store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
What to do with leftover lavender caramel sauce:
You can use the caramel sauce on ice cream, cake or you can stir it into your espresso drink. Just warm it up in the microwave or over a pot of simmering water to soften it before using.
Can I make this recipe gluten-free?
Yes, you can easily do that by using gluten-free graham crackers for the crust.
Can I make my own graham crackers for the crust?
Go for it! Homemade graham crackers are delicious and easy to make. I love this homemade graham crackers recipe from Martha Stewart.
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Caramel Cheesecake Cupcakes
For the lavender caramel sauce:
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
For the lavender graham cracker crust:
- ⅓ cup crushed graham crackers (you need about 2 and ¼ sheets for that)
- 1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender, finely chopped
- ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
For the cheesecake filling:
- 4 ounces cream cheese,* at room temperature
- 3 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 egg
For the lavender caramel sauce:
- Add the heavy cream and the lavender to a saucepan.
- Heat the cream until it starts to simmer, then turn the heat off, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.
- Strain the cream through a fine mesh sieve into a container that you can easily pour from, such as a liquid measuring cup. Use a spoon to press the remaining cream through the sieve. Set aside.
- Add the water to a clean saucepan.
- Slowly add the sugar in a mound into the middle of the saucepan. Be careful not to have any sugar on the sides of the pan.
- On high heat and without any stirring or touching of any sort, let the sugar/water mix come to a full boil. Be very careful, the mix will get very, very hot. Do not touch the pot or the caramel under any circumstances.
- Keep boiling the mix on high heat (still without any stirring) until it starts to turn golden brown.
- Turn the heat down to medium and continue to boil until the mix reaches a deep amber color.
- Turn the heat off.
- Standing back, slowly whisk the lavender cream into the mix, a little bit at a time. The sauce will bubble violently and is still very hot, so be careful.
- Let the sauce cool.**
For the lavender graham cracker crust:
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Mix the graham crackers, the lavender and the sugar together in a bowl. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in the microwave or in a saucepan.
- Stir the butter into the graham crackers. Make sure to mix everything well so that the lavender is distributed evenly.
- Grab two muffin pans and line 8 of the wells with cupcake liners.
- Distribute the mix among the cupcake liners and press into the bottom using an espresso tamper or your fingers.
- Set the two pans on a baking sheet and bake until the crusts start to brown, about 5 minutes. Take the pans out and let them cool.
For the cheesecake filling:
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. for the cheesecake filling.
- Add cream cheese, goat cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla to a large mixing bowl and whip until smooth.
- Whip in the sugar, then the egg and continue to whip until the batter is very smooth.
- Pour the batter onto the crusts, filling each cavity about 3/4 full.
- Add about 1 teaspoon of the lavender caramel sauce onto each cupcake and swirl it in with a bamboo skewer or toothpick.***
- Bake the cupcakes until set and no longer jiggly in the center (about 20 minutes).
- Let the cupcakes cool completely in the pan, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.