Here we go! It’s finally December and I am torn between “OMG already?!” and “OMG finally!” after this crazy year. When we went into lockdown in June, it felt like we hit the pause button on life. Those months don’t really count, do they? But here we are, it’s Christmas again and I feel uncharacteristically festive. The first recipe that I’m sharing this Christmas season is these absolutely delicious Mulled Wine Cherry Cheesecake Bars.
I have literally had this recipe in my head and on my blog ideas list for about three years. I’m happy to say that it turned out even better than I expected! I have made a few mulled wine desserts in the past such as doughnuts and marshmallows but this is my favourite yet. I loved each distinct layer of these Cheesecake Bars on their own, but when you get a taste of it all together it was sublime. The flavours were perfectly balanced – not too creamy, or rich, or sweet, but just right.
The other thing I loved is that this dessert requires no baking at all and can be made in advance. It’s perfect for our hot Aussie Christmas Day, where you’re more likely to want a slice of watermelon than a slice of pudding. Each component is pretty quick and easy to make on their own, but do require the previous one to be set before it’s added on top. Of course you don’t have to serve these as bars but I love the way it looks. You could make this in a round cake tin and serve it in slices.
I honestly can’t rave enough about these Mulled Wine Cherry Cheesecake Bars! We all really, really loved this one. Even the non wine lovers were big fans! It feels so special and festive to me – the perfect dessert to end off Christmas lunch. I think it looks beautiful with the three distinct layers and the pops of cherry all throughout.
Let’s run through each layer of these Cheesecake Bars…
- Biscuit Base: The base is crushed Ginger Nut cookies and melted butter – super easy, nothing fancy here. But they really are the most perfect cookie crumb base for the flavours in this dessert. If you want to use any other kind of cookie as the base, I’d recommend adding in a little bit of ground ginger to get a similar flavour.
- Cheesecake: The middle layer is a no-bake cheesecake. I actually think this is one of the most perfect cheesecakes I’ve ever made. It’s creamy of course, but quite light and not too rich or heavy, with a little gelatine added to help it set. And a LOT of vanilla because it just tastes good. It slices up perfectly and keeps its shape, which very is important when you make a bar shape. I just know that I’ll be making this over and over in endless variations in the future.
- Mulled Wine Cherries: Dotted into the cheesecake layer, we have some wine stewed cherries. I absolutely love cherry desserts at this time of year. They always feel so festive to me and I’m forever grateful that our Australian Christmas happens during summer and right in the middle of stone fruit season. However, if cherries aren’t in season where you live, these Cheesecake Bars would still be delicious without them, or you could try it with canned or frozen cherries. Or even a little bit of cherry jam swirled through the cheesecake layer would be so lovely.
- Mulled Red Wine Jelly: My favourite part. I cooked down an entire bottle of wine with a little sugar and some warming spices like cinnamon, star anise, cloves, ginger and vanilla. It made the whole house smell delicious. The cherries take on the spiced red wine flavour they’re cooked in, and the juice they release adds sweetness as well.
My sister has been learning all about wine from New South Wales and picked an amazing option for this dessert. We used a Bélena Montepulciano from Calabria Family Wines in the Riverina region. With flavour notes such as cherries, boysenberries and plum, it was an absolutely perfect choice for this dessert. Plus, the bottle is stunning and just begged to be photographed too. The jelly layer might taste slightly different depending on the wine you use. I would recommend picking something that has similar dark fruit notes and a little spice, or a decent quality red wine that you love the taste of.
And lastly, if you make these Mulled Wine Cherry Cheesecake Bars or any of my other Christmas recipes, please let me know here in the comments or over on Instagram. Please take a pic and tag me @spicyicecream. I absolutely love to see your photos of the recipes you’ve made!
Mulled Wine Cherry Cheesecake Bars
These Mulled Wine Cherry Cheesecake Bars are a delicious, sophisticated and festive dessert for this Christmas season. Each component is absolutely delicious but when you taste them all together, the result is sublime! Plus, it’s no bake and can be made ahead of time!
Biscuit Base Layer
- 250 g ginger nut biscuits
- 90 g butter, melted
Mulled Wine Cherries and Jelly
- 350 g cherries, pitted
- 750 ml red wine
- 6 cloves
- Rind of 1 lemon or orange
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 cm piece of ginger, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons gelatine
- 1/8 cup water
- 3 teaspoons gelatine
- 1/4 cup water
- 500 g cream cheese, softened
- 2/3 cup caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 300 ml cream
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
Prepare a 19cm square cake tin by lining the base and sides with baking paper.
To make the biscuit base layer, add the ginger nut biscuits to a food processor and process until fine. Add the melted butter and pulse a few times until fully combined. Press the biscuits into the base of the cake tin and smooth with the back of a spoon. Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes before adding the next layer.
In the meantime, make the mulled wine cherries. Place the red wine, cherries, sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, orange/lemon rind, vanilla and ginger into a saucepan and heat over low heat until it just comes to a boil. Simmer on a very low heat uncovered for around 30 minutes. Remove the cherries and continue to cook mulled wine for another 10 minutes. At this point you can allow to infuse for up to an hour if you’d like a stronger taste.
To make the cheesecake filling, sprinkle 3 teaspoons of gelatine over the 1/4 cup of water in a small bowl. Stand this bowl in a larger bowl filled with hot water or over a small saucepan. Whisk until the gelatine is completely dissolved. Put aside until ready to use.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla, cream, maple syrup. Whisk until light and fluffy. Stir in the gelatine mixture until fully combined. Pour the filling over top of the biscuit base in the pan. Add the stewed cherries, pressing them into the mixture until mostly submerged and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Strain out the spices from the mulled wine mixture. Put back onto the heat until just coming to a boil. Allow to cool slightly.
Sprinkle the 2 teaspoons of gelatine over 1/8 cup water and whisk to dissolve in the same way as above, over hot/simmering water. When dissolved, whisk into the wine mixture until fully dissolved. Optionally, you can strain this mixture again through a piece of muslin into a heatproof jug. Pour the mulled wine mixture over top of the fully set cheesecake layer and place back into the fridge to chill overnight.
When ready to serve, cut slices with a hot knife and wipe down the knife between each cut. You can cut into 10 larger bars or cut each in half again for a “bite size” cheesecake bar. Serve immediately.