These blackberry cheesecake bars are super creamy and simply bursting with flavour, thanks to an abundance of lemon zest and vanilla bean paste in the base cheesecake filling, as well as the aromatic blackberry swirl flavoured with a blackberry reduction. Plus, I’m giving you all the tips and tricks to prevent your cheesecake (bars) from cracking, without using a water bath!
There’s a blackberry bush growing at the bottom of our garden, providing us with an abundance of ripe, juicy blackberries, absolutely bursting with flavour. And while my gluten free blackberry pie used to be my go-to blackberry dessert recipe, it’s been replaced by these glorious cheesecake bars.
They are the result of a rather spontaneous baking impulse – I was craving something creamy and aromatic and refreshing, and not too tricky or labour-intensive to make. And let me tell you: these blackberry cheesecake bars delivered all that and more.
In addition to being insanely delicious, they’re also one of the best looking desserts I’ve ever made. Just look at these beautiful swirls!
What makes these blackberry cheesecake bars so amazing?
1. The creaminess – These blackberry cheesecake bars are super creamy, without having the mouthfeel of eating pure cream cheese. Instead, they’re light and smooth, and their creaminess pairs beautifully with the buttery crumbliness of the cheesecake crust, as well as the bursts of tangy juiciness from the blackberries.
2. They’re bursting with flavour – First, there’s the butteriness of the cheesecake crust. Then, there’s the base cheesecake filling, flavoured with vanilla bean paste, lemon juice and lots of lemon zest. The blackberry swirl gets its amazing colour and flavour from an aromatic blackberry reduction. And for that extra pop of colour and freshness, whole blackberries are dotted on top. The end result is a refreshing flavour explosion, with the perfect balance of sweetness and zesty tanginess.
3. They’re GORGEOUS – This just might be the prettiest dessert I’ve ever made or eaten. Honestly, it was a close call between baking the bars and just straight up framing them – they’re just THAT gorgeous!!
4. No water bath needed – I don’t like using water baths when baking cheesecakes or cheesecake bars. First of all, they can give the cheesecake a texture that’s a bit too close to that of straight up cream cheese for my linking – a bit too smooth, so that it almost sticks to the roof of your mouth. Secondly, they’re messy. All that boiling hot water is just asking for a disaster to happen, and that’s not even taking into account the possibility of the water leaking into the cheesecake.
Thirdly, and most importantly: it’s just not necessary. As long as you have all your ingredients at room temperature, don’t over-whip your cheesecake filling, and bake the cheesecake (bars) at a low enough temperature, there will be NO CRACKING in sight. Promise. Plus, cheesecake bars are far less likely to crack than a cheesecake (but my method of baking works equally well with cheesecakes).
5. Easy to make – Sure, there’s an extra step of making the blackberry reduction, but that’s as simple as cooking the blackberry juices down until thickened. Overall, these cheesecake bars are truly easy to make… and really FUN to make, as well, what with dotting the colourful blackberry mixture around the creamy white cheesecake filling, and then twirling and swirling it around until just so.
6. Can be made gluten free – As long as you use a gluten free cookie/biscuit for the cheesecake crust, these bars can easily be made gluten free.
Before we get to the bits and bobs of making these wonderful cheesecake bars – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!
Note: the full recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.
How do you make the cheesecake crust?
The crust for these cheesecake bars is made from only two ingredients: finely crushed up digestive biscuits (or graham crackers, or other cookies/biscuits of choice) and melted butter.
To make the cheesecake crust, just mix the two together until you get a mixture resembling wet sand (it should hold together when you squeeze it, but shouldn’t feel oily/greasy), transfer it into a lined baking tin and compact it into an even layer using the bottom of a measuring cup or a glass.
Note that the amount of butter listed in the recipe below is optimised for digestive biscuits – you might need to change it depending on the type (and brand) of cookies/biscuits you use. It’s best to add the melted butter slowly, bit by bit, stirring well after each addition, until you get to the “wet sand texture” I’ve mentioned above.
Once compacted, the cheesecake crust is baked at 355ºF (180ºC) for 10 minutes, and then cooled a bit before the cheesecake filling is poured on top.
How do you make the blackberry cheesecake bars?
The base cheesecake filling is made by mixing together room temperature cream cheese, yogurt, caster/superfine sugar, cornstarch, vanilla bean paste, lemon zest, eggs and lemon juice. You can easily mix it by hand, using a balloon whisk – just make sure to mix it, rather than whisking or aerating it. You don’t want to introduce too much air into the mixture, as that can result in the cheesecake bars cracking.
For that reason, I also don’t recommend using a hand mixer to make these cheesecake bars. Instead, if you don’t feel like making them by hand, use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on the lowest speed setting. Slow and steady is the best was to prepare a cheesecake, if you want to minimise the chances of it cracking.
Then, about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cheesecake filling are mixed into the blackberry reduction. This will prevent it from sinking into the base cheesecake filling – you want it to sit on top of it, so that you can create those pretty, pretty swirls.
The base cheesecake filling is then poured on top of the crust, and smoothed into an even layer. The blackberry mixture is spooned on top, and swirled around using a toothpick or skewer. Be careful not to over-swirl it; you want the two colours of the cheesecake fillings to stay separate and distinct, gently swirling around each other.
Finally, we’ll dot a few fresh blackberries around the cheesecake filling. And then, it’s off to the oven!
How do you prevent your cheesecake from cracking without a water bath?
Here are the 5 things you need to keep in mind to prevent your cheesecake (bars) from cracking:
- Bring all your ingredients to room temperature. This includes the cream cheese, yogurt and eggs – and any other ingredients typically stored in the fridge.
- Don’t aerate the cheesecake batter. You want to mix rather than whisk or aerate the cheesecake filling – do it by hand or using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on the lowest speed setting.
- Bake the cheesecake at a low temperature. I typically bake my cheesecake and cheesecake bars at 285ºF (140ºC).
- Turn off the oven when the cheesecake is still wobbly in the middle. Remember: your cheesecake will continue cooking through even after the oven is turned off, so you don’t want to bake it until it’s completely set in the middle.
- Cool the cheesecake in a turned-off oven with the oven door ajar. This ensures that the cheesecake cools down slowly and further reduces the chances of cracking.
How long do you bake the blackberry cheesecake bars?
I’ve found that these blackberry cheesecake bars are perfectly baked after 30-35 minutes at 285ºF (140ºC).
Note that this temperature is for a conventional oven, not for a fan oven. I usually don’t recommend using a fan/convectional oven for baking cheesecake (bars), but if you don’t have other options, reduce the temperature by 20ºC.
Once baked, I cool the cheesecake bars in a turned-off oven with the oven door ajar, until they’re at room temperature. This usually takes about 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes.
Do you have to chill the cheesecake bars before serving?
Okay, I admit it: I’ve been known to tuck into cheesecake bars (and even the occasional cheesecake) when they’re still warm. And I have zero regrets. Eating warm cheesecake bars is a completely different experience – you get to enjoy a different set of textures and flavours. In fact, I almost prefer a warm vanilla cheesecake to its chilled equivalent (I know that this might be a slightly controversial opinion).
That said, I do recommend chilling these blackberry cheesecake bars. Chilling them (preferably overnight in the fridge) really brings out the blackberry flavour, makes the lemon zest more prominent and allows you to cut neat slices.
Can you use other fruit to make these cheesecake bars?
While blackberries are hands down my favourite pick for these cheesecake bars, you can also use raspberries (in fact: check out my recipe for small-batch raspberry cheesecake bars) or blueberries.
And there you have it, friends. Everything and anything you need to know to prepare THE PERFECT blackberry cheesecake bars. I hope you love them as much as I do.
I’ve actually been on something of a cheesecake bars kick lately, and I have an exiting new recipe in the works already – so be on the lookout for a coffee cheesecake bars recipe, with the most luscious coffee caramel swirl. (Yes, they’re every bit as delicious as they sound.)
Have a wonderful day, friends, and happy baking!
If you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!
Blackberry Cheesecake Bars
For blackberry reduction:
- 210 g (1 1/2 cups) fresh or frozen blackberries
For cheesecake crust:
- 150 g (1 1/2 cups) crushed digestive biscuits (You can also use graham crackers. If you need the cheesecake bars to be gluten free, you can use gluten free digestives or rich tea biscuits, or other GF cookies/biscuits of choice.)
- 45 g (1/3 stick + 1/2 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
For base cheesecake filling:
- 400 g (1 3/4 cups) full-fat cream cheese, room temperature (I used Philadelphia.)
- 80 g (1/3 cup) full-fat plain or Greek-style yoghurt, room temperature (You can also use sour cream.)
- 100 g (1/2 cup) caster/superfine sugar
- 10 g (1 1/2 tbsp) cornstarch
- 2 UK medium/US large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- zest of 1 lemon
You will also need:
- 70 g (1/2 cup) fresh blackberries
For blackberry reduction:
- In a small saucepan, cook the blackberries on medium-high heat until they have released their juices and part of the liquid has evaporated.
- Pass the blackberry mixture through a sieve to remove the seeds and skin.
- Return the blackberry juices to the saucepan and cook them further until thickened. You want them to be viscous, but not quite jam-like.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
For crushed graham cracker crust:
- Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, pre-heat the oven to 355ºF (180ºC) and line an 8 inch square baking tin with baking/greaseproof paper.
- Mix together the crushed digestive biscuits and melted butter, then press them into the lined baking tin to form a firm, even layer. This is easiest done using the flat bottom of a glass or measuring cup.Depending on the type and brand of cookies/biscuits you use, you might need slightly less or slightly more butter than listed in this recipe. Add the butter slowly, mixing well after each addition, until you reach the consistency of wet sand. You want a mixture that somewhat sticks together or holds its shape when pressed together, but it shouldn't feel/look greasy or oily.
- Bake at 355ºF (180ºC) for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
For base cheesecake filling:
- Reduce the oven temperature to 285ºF (140ºC).
- In a large bowl using a whisk, mix the cream cheese and yoghurt together until smooth. Make sure to MIX rather than whisk or aerate – you don't want to incorporate too much air into the mixture. If you don't want to do this by hand, don't use a hand mixer. Instead, use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on the lowest speed setting.
- Add the sugar and cornstarch, and mix until combined.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition, until smooth.
- Add the lemon juice, vanilla and lemon zest. Mix well until smooth.
Assembling the blackberry cheesecake bars:
- Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of the base cheesecake filling into the cooled blackberry reduction and mix until evenly combined. Set aside.
- Transfer the remaining base cheesecake filling on top of the slightly cooled cheesecake crust, and smooth it out into an even layer.
- Gently spoon the blackberry mixture on top of the base cheesecake filling (see post for step-by-step photos) and use a skewer or toothpick to swirl it around.
- Evenly distribute the fresh blackberries on top.
- Bake at 285ºF (140ºC) for about 30-35 minutes, or until the filling is very light golden brown around the edges and the middle is still slightly wobbly when you shake the baking tin.
- Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake bars to cool to room temperature in the turned-off oven with the oven door ajar.
- Once cooled to room temperature, transfer the cheesecake bars into the fridge for at least 1 hour (or preferably overnight) before removing them from the baking tin and serving.
- The blackberry cheesecake bars keep well in a closed container in the fridge for 3 - 4 days.