This Strawberry Crunch Cheesecake is a nod to the nostalgic strawberry shortcake ice cream bar. You know which one I’m talking about, right?! It has vanilla and strawberry ice cream, all coated in that signature crumbly shortcake topping. I created my own strawberry shortcake crumble which is made up of Nilla wafers, freeze-dried strawberries, and melted butter. I use the crumble 2 ways in this recipe, as the cheesecake crust and also sprinkled on top of the cheesecake to mimic those of the ice cream bar. The thick, creamy layer of vanilla cheesecake is the star of the show and the bright, tart strawberry sauce adds a pop of fresh strawberry flavor that will wake up your tastebuds.
One of the (many) things I love about this cheesecake base is that it isn’t really a traditional cheesecake recipe. There are no eggs in the cheesecake batter which also means no water bath is needed when baking, which most cheesecake recipes will call for. This makes for an easy, no-fuss process. And to top it all off (literally), you get a bright burst of real strawberry flavor – nothing artificial here. The strawberry flavors come through well between the freeze-dried strawberries in the crust and topping, plus the fresh strawberries in the sauce. It’s fresh, it’s bright, and it’s so smooth and creamy.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Nilla Wafers: My original plan for this recipe was to make this crust with golden Oreos. When I wasn’t able to find any in stores after I had already tested this recipe using them, I settled for Nilla wafers instead. I actually ended up liking the results even more with the Nilla wafers! If you’re in a pinch though, just know that golden Oreos or even graham crackers would still be delicious.
- Freeze-Dried Strawberry Powder: I like using the freeze-dried powder as opposed to the freeze-dried fruit pieces because it’s already ground up so it saves you a step. You can find strawberry powder online like this one. You can use whole freeze-dried strawberries instead but be sure to use the gram measurement in the recipe and grind them up with the Nilla wafers. These give the crust and the crumble topping that real strawberry flavor without having to add any moisture or artificial flavors to the mix.
- Cream Cheese: This is the star of the show so don’t skimp on this and go for the full-fat variety since this is cheesecake after all. Make sure you get the blocks of cream cheese and not anything labeled “cream cheese spread” because this will give you a completely different texture and result. Let your cream cheese come to room temperature before mixing the batter to ensure you end up with a smooth, lump-free cheesecake.
- Strawberries: I like using fresh strawberries for the strawberry sauce but frozen ones will work too. You will need to increase the cooking time by at least a few minutes if using frozen strawberries so they can thaw and break down. See the measurement noted in the ingredients list for using frozen strawberries.
How to Make Strawberry Crunch Cheesecake
- Make the strawberry sauce. This sauce is so quick and simple and requires only 3 ingredients. Add the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice into a saucepan and let it cook on the stove for about 10 minutes. Then blend with either an immersion blender or food processor. That’s it! It’s so easy but adds great flavor and tang to this cheesecake. Don’t skip this sauce!
- Make the strawberry shortcake crumble. This doubles as both the crust and the topping. Instead of the traditional graham cracker crust, I went with Nilla wafers to get that shortcake-like flavor, plus the addition of freeze-dried strawberries. Pulse those in the food processor with the butter. Use either your hands or the bottom of a measuring cup to firmly press the crust into your springform pan bottom and about halfway up the sides. You’ll reserve what’s left (which should be about 1 cup) of the mixture to use for sprinkling on top of the cheesecake to resemble those classic strawberry shortcake crumbs.
- Make the cheesecake filling. This cheesecake filling is different than most because it doesn’t contain any eggs or sour cream like most recipes out there. It also does not require a water bath since no eggs are involved. Just 5 ingredients that come together quickly. You should end up with a smooth batter but be careful not to overmix.
- Bake the cheesecake. The cheesecake should puff up slightly and start to brown just slightly around the edges. A bit of cracking around the edges is normal (and will get covered up with strawberry sauce anyway). It should be firm and set but still wiggle a little when you give the pan a shake, after about 40 minutes. Allow the cheesecake to cool at room temperature then chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
- Top and serve. Remove the chilled cheesecake from the springform pan and move it to your serving platter or a cake stand. Then top with a layer of strawberry sauce and sprinkle on the reserved strawberry crumble mixture. Serve with extra strawberry sauce and enjoy!
Tips for the Best Strawberry Crunch Cheesecake
- Use room temperature ingredients. This is important for the cheesecake batter. The cold ingredients (cream cheese and milk) need to be at room temperature to create a smooth, creamy batter. The room-temp ingredients will blend nicely which will also help prevent overmixing the batter.
- Don’t overmix the cheesecake batter. Cheesecake batter is notorious for being easily overmixed. Once you add the milk, flour, and vanilla, be sure to only mix until those ingredients are incorporated. Overmixing cheesecake batter will incorporate too much air which can make your cheesecake sink in the middle.
- Chill the cheesecake. Any cheesecake I’ve ever had is just better enjoyed chilled. I like to make the cheesecake the day before serving and let it chill overnight then add the toppings right before serving. If you’re making and serving it on the same day, just be sure to let the cheesecake chill for at least 4 hours.
- Make the strawberry sauce in advance. Warm strawberry sauce on cold cheesecake just does not sound appealing to me. Make the strawberry sauce ahead of time and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to top the cheesecake. This will also allow the strawberry sauce to thicken up so it’s not too runny. Serve extra sauce alongside the cheesecake for an extra drizzle of tanginess.
More Summer Dessert Recipes You’ll Love
- Blueberry Skillet Crisp
- Peanut Butter Oreo Cheesecake Bars
- Chantilly Crepe Cake
- Mixed Berry Streusel Bars
- S’mores Blondies
Take a trip back to childhood with this Strawberry Crunch Cheesecake. If you make this recipe, be sure to leave a comment below and tag @sweetkitchencravings on Instagram or TikTok. Happy cheesecake-making!
Strawberry Crunch Cheesecake
For the Strawberry Sauce
- 1 lb fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped (or about 12 oz frozen)
- 3 Tablespoons (38g) granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons (28g) lemon juice (juice from about half of a lemon)
For the Strawberry Shortcake Crumble
- 1 (11oz) package Nilla wafers
- ½ cup (1 stick or 113g) unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ cup (36g) freeze-dried strawberry powder
For the Cheesecake Filling
- 32 oz (four [8-ounce] blocks or 908g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
- 3 Tablespoons (42g) milk, at room temperature
- 2 Tablespoons (20g) all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon (13g) vanilla extract
- Strawberry sauce: Combine the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium-size saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally and cook for about 10 minutes, until the strawberries have broken down and are soft.
- Use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the mixture until no chunks of strawberries remain. Pour into a heat-proof container and cool in the fridge.
- Strawberry shortcake crumble: Preheat oven to 350° F. In a food processor, add the Nilla wafers and pulse to fine crumbs. Add in the melted butter and freeze-dried strawberries and pulse until the mixture is fully combined.
- To make the cheesecake crust, press the mixture firmly into the bottom and halfway up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside the remaining crumbs (you should have about 1 cup leftover). Bake the crust for 10 minutes and set it aside to cool.
- Cheesecake: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth and creamy. Add the milk, flour, and vanilla. Mix just until the ingredients are incorporated but be careful not to overmix.
- Pour the cheesecake filling into the slightly cooled crust and spread the batter smooth to the edges of the pan. It’s ok if a few crumbs get into the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the center is firm and set. The cheesecake should slightly wobble altogether when you shake the pan.
- Allow the cheesecake to cool at room temperature then finish in cooling and chill in the fridge, for about 4 hours or overnight. Once the cheesecake is chilled, remove it from the springform pan, using a knife or metal spatula if needed to loosen the edges. Carefully pull off the springform base and transfer the cheesecake to a serving plate or cake stand.
- Top the cheesecake with about half of the strawberry sauce, pushing it out to the edges, leaving about a ¼” rim. Sprinkle on the reserved strawberry crunch crumbles. Slice, serve, and enjoy!
- Storing: The cheesecake should be stored in the fridge, in an airtight container, or tightly wrapped in plastic, for up to 5 days.