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Challenge: Happiest Holidays

No Bake Cranberry Cheesecake Jars

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No Bake Cranberry Cheesecake JarsWe’ve all been there. Potluck Purgatory. You know the place. Just down the road from Dinnertime Dead Zone (when you have NO idea what to make). Around the corner from Lunch Lethargy (WHY did you put THAT in my lunch AGAIN?) It pops up when you’re invited to So-and-So’s for lunch/dinner/brunch/cocktails and you decide to show off your home training by asking, “what can I bring?” And instead of saying, “Just yourself!” your gracious host says, “Oh, just bring a dessert!” As if.

No Bake Cranberry Cheesecake JarsNo Bake Cranberry Cheesecake Jars

Well, say goodbye to Potluck Purgatory, at least the dessert side of town, because relief is here! These No Bake Cranberry Cheesecake Jars are the answer to your potluck prayers. See, they’re cheesecake (so, yum). They’re no bake (so, simple). They’re easy to transport AND pre-portioned (so, no spills all over your car or interrupting your fun to slice and serve). Most importantly, they taste like cheesecake heaven and are cute to boot! You can serve any no bake cheesecake in jars but these are topped with a cranberry compote that will knock your socks off! The tart-tart-tartness of the cranberries is mellowed by a simmer with sugar, lime zest, water and a cinnamon stick, so there’s tart, sweet and a little spice. Combine that with the creamiest of creamy cheesecake fillings and a buttery graham cracker crust and somebody get me a lighter and a cigarette (I don’t smoke. You shouldn’t either.) because I. Am. Done. Done with the foolishness of anything else other than getting my spoon to the bottom of that jar. Here’s what you need to know to make the perfect No Bake Cranberry Cheesecake Jars.


So, compote’s just a fancy way of saying cook some fruit with sugar and spices until it’s soft and thick. Fresh cranberries will cook until they burst and all their yummy juices will combine with the other flavors in the pot until you’re left with a thick, almost syrupy, delicious mess. (Think loose jelly or jam.) I’m always encouraging you to taste as you cook (clean spoons, no double dipping) and this recipe is no exception. Cranberries, on their own, can be slightly bitter and sharp. Taste your compote as it cooks to determine if you want or need to adjust sugar levels to suit your tastes. Remember the compote will continue to thicken as it cools so take it off the heat when it’s still slightly loose. Let it cool completely before assembling your cheesecakes. Even a slightly warm compote will melt your cheesecake filling.


A graham cracker crust is a perfect example of the beauty of simplicity. Simply stir your crumbs together with a little sugar and a (big) splash of melted butter and you’re ready to crust!! Line the bottom of your jars with a couple tablespoons of crust so you have a healthy layer to compliment your filling.


Start with cream cheese that’s been set out for 45 minutes to an hour to make sure it’s room temperature and soft. Cold, hard cream cheese won’t mix well and you’ll end up with a filling that’s lumpy instead of creamy and smooth as good cheesecake does. Let the mixer do its thing, mixing the cream cheese on its own for a minute or so before adding other ingredients, for optimum creamy-smoothness. (New word!) Add the powdered sugar and liquids gradually, with the mixer on low speed. They’ll incorporate better with the other ingredients and you (or your kitchen) won’t be covered in powdered sugar that’s been blown out of the bowl by an overzealous mixer on high speed.

Bottom line. Next time you draw the dessert straw (or you want something reallyreallyreally good), make these cheesecake jars. Keep in mind they’re just as easy to transport to your couch or bed as they are to a party! Happy Cheese-caking!

Use a microplane or small grater for the lemon zest. If the zest is small it will cook right into the compote. You won’t have to worry about fishing out large pieces of zest before assembling your cheesecakes.

Cool compote completely before using. Even a slightly warm compote will melt your filling.

Make sure the mouths of your jars are large enough for a spoon to fit inside. Nothing more frustrating than a No Bake Cranberry Cheesecake you can’t get to!

Mixer with Bowl


Small Bowl

Small Pot

Wooden Spoon

Small Glass Jars with Lids

Making a compote

Making a graham cracker crust

Mixing cheesecake filling

No Bake Cranberry Cheesecake Jars

No Bake Cranberry Cheesecake Jars


For Cranberry Compote:
1 12-oz bag fresh cranberries 1 cup sugar 1 cup water 1 cinnamon stick zest from 1 lime, finely grated
For Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs 2 tablespoons sugar 4 tablespoons butter, melted
For Filling:
2 8-oz blocks cream cheese, at room temperature 2/3 cup powdered sugar 1/2 cup heavy cream 2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Make Cranberry Compote:
Stir all ingredients together in a medium pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer until thickened, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Do not top cheesecake filling with warm or hot compote.
Make Graham Cracker Crust:
Stir graham cracker crumbs and sugar together in a small bowl. Stir in melted butter. Divide crust evenly between jars.
Make Cheesecake Filling:
Place cream cheese in bowl of a mixer and mix until smooth, about a minute. Gradually add powdered sugar and continue mixing until smooth and fluffy. Add cream, lemon juice and vanilla and continue mixing on low until filling is smooth and creamy. Spoon filling into jars on top of graham cracker crumbs. Top filling with cooled cranberry compote. Screw lids on jars and refrigerate at least two hours before serving.

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