I had only heard of bread pudding as a kid, but never actually tasted it. When I eventually made it for myself as an adult, I fell in love with it! So, I decided to make it into a cheesecake, and WOW... This union of tasty cranberry bread pudding, light cream cheese, ricotta cheese, and citrus caramel sauce, with an unexpected and welcome toffee crunch, is the definition of delicious, modern comfort food.
And this Cranberry Bread Pudding Cheesecake is the perfect holiday cheesecake recipe! It's also ideal for special occasions. But I wondered why we never had bread pudding growing up?
We weren't much of a dessert family - kudos to my Mom for not setting us up for bad habits. But even when we did have dessert for special occasions and holiday dinners, bread pudding was NEVER on the menu.
When I asked my Mom why we never had bread pudding she was surprised that I'd even want it. When she was growing up, it was not a particularly desirable dessert. It was a dessert for using up leftover stale bread; it was what you ate for dessert if you didn't have money. But to me, bread pudding was special, even kind of exotic. Funny how perceptions change from generation to generation.
💭What is bread pudding?
But Mom was right about bread pudding (among lots of other things) - it was known as "poor man's pudding" going all the way back to the 11th century. Yet, although it started out as a frugal dessert, bread pudding recipes are now considered trendy; even showing up on the menu of upscale restaurants! You can read more about the Origin of Bread Pudding HERE.
I add cranberries to my bread pudding because cranberries add a welcome tartness to a sweet dish and they always make me think of Christmas. So I added them to my Christmas Cheesecake too! With their bright, red shiny color, they reflect the season so perfectly. Even as early as the 1840's, people were stringing them with popcorn to make festive garlands for the Christmas tree.
With their winter availability and the fact they were slow to spoil, cranberries represented one of the few fruits that could be served fresh during the holidays. And although many berries are now available all year round, cranberries still symbolize the holidays, whatever form you serve them in!
For this bread pudding cheesecake recipe, you'll need:
- crushed graham crackers
- fine bread crumbs
- all-purpose flour
- white sugar
- powdered sugar/icing sugar
- dried bread
- condensed milk
- Toffee bits * I use Skor
- dried cranberries
- Digestive cookies/digestive biscuits
- ricotta cheese
- light cream cheese
- orange juice
- Whipping cream (heavy cream)
- orange zest
*see recipe card for quantities
For mini cheesecakes: Use meat pie foil plates (5” X 1 ⅜”) and cook the crust and filling for about half the time of the regular cheesecake (checking regularly for doneness)
💭 Top tips
Quick Dried Bread: To dry out your bread very quickly, bake it in the oven at 300 degrees F for 3 minutes on each side
Water bath for Cheesecake: If you want to learn how to make a water bath, then watch this video on how to make a water bath for cheesecake! I like her trick of using a bigger pan to protect the cheesecake, but you can also tinfoil.
How to tell if your cheesecake is done: It will still be barely jiggly when you shake/move it from side to side and the sides will have separated from the edges of the pan. But you will see it is puffed up a little around the center
You could also use an instant-read thermometer (affiliate link). Pull the cheesecake from the oven when the internal temperature of the center reaches 145°F (63°C). Start checking the internal temperature about 10 minutes before the suggested baking time is up to be sure you don’t overbake
👪 Serving Size
This Bread Pudding Cheesecake recipe makes 1- 9 inch cake and serves 12.
You can make this bread pudding cheesecake in advance and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
And this Cranberry Cheesecake is the perfect holiday cheesecake recipe as well as the ultimate bread pudding lover's cheesecake. It makes a great holiday dessert, especially if you're looking for something a little different. My family had it for Thanksgiving this year and it was a great way to change things up a little!
Bread pudding is such a comforting dessert and in a cheesecake, it's well... just spectacular! So, if you are looking for a cranberry cheesecake recipe and you love bread pudding, this is like a cranberry bread pudding and holiday cheesecake all rolled into one!
This Bread Pudding Cheesecake is a spectacular dessert that will definitely become your new holiday cheesecake tradition! And be sure to check out my other holiday cheesecake recipes below the recipe card.
📋Cranberry Bread Pudding Cheesecake Recipe
- 6 dried bread slices, cut into bread cubes I uses ½ white bread and ½ whole wheat cut into cubes (leave on counter overnight or dry in oven - see RECIPE NOTES for details)
- ½ cupcakes condensed milk
- ¾ cup 1% milk
- ⅓ cup mini toffee bits * I use Skor
- ¾ cup sweetened dried cranberries
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 cup digestive cookies/digestive biscuits crushed into bits - about ½ a 350 g box
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 3- 8- oz. -packages light cream cheese at room temperature
- 2 tbp all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
Orange Caramel Topping:
- ¼ cup toffee bits
- orange zest
- Heads up: There is an 8 hr setting (refrigeration) time!
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F/ 190 degrees C. Spray 9” springform pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker, bread crumbs, granulated sugar, ½ tsp. cinnamon and icing sugar. Mix in the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly moist and clump together slightly.
- Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan. Bake until the crust is fragrant - approx. 10 minutes. Let the pan cool on a rack. Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
- In a separate large bowl, mix together the milk, condensed milk, ½ tsp. cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Pour the mixture over the bread and stir until the bread is coated. Let soak 5 minutes. Stir in toffee bits and dried cranberries. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, ricotta, flour, and a pinch of table salt on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl and the paddle frequently. Beat until very smooth and fluffy- about 5 minutes.
- Make sure the cheese has no lumps. Add the granulated sugar and continue beating until well blended and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon cinnamon , beating just until blended.
- Fold in the bread mixture and crushed cookies into the cream cheese mixture. Pour cheesecake filling into a prepared springform plan.
- Bake at 300 degrees F (in water bath- see NOTES OR simply put a pan ⅔ full of hot water UNDER the cheesecake to create moisture in oven) until the center jiggles like Jell-O when nudged- approximately 1 hour.
- To make the Caramel-Orange Sauce: in a small saucepan, combine the sugar and orange juice, and orange zest. Cook over medium-high heat about 8 minutes until the sugar turns amber in color.
- Remove from heat and quickly stir in the warm cream. Return sauce to stove, whisk in cornstarch and cook for approximately 5-7 additional minutes on medium low, until it thickens to the consistency of gravy. Whisk constantly turn to low at end up to 10 minutes.
- When cake has completely cooled (20-30 minutes) pour topping over the top of the bread pudding cheesecake and refrigerate for 8 hrs. or overnight.(*Note: Do not skip this step! It must be refrigerated for 8 hours or cake will have a runny center).
- Top with toffee bits, orange zest and cranberries (as shown in photos) and serve.