Instead of a giant dessert, I'm always going to suggest using a muffin pan to make a cute tiny one instead! These mini cheesecakes with graham cracker crust are baked in a cupcake pan. This is a small batch recipe that makes just 4, but you can double or triple the recipe easily.
Why you will love this Individual Cheesecake recipe
Before we get to the land of perfectly chocolate-glazed mini cheesecakes with heart strawberry cut-outs, we have to start at the beginning. We all love loaf pan cheesecake. However, we can all over-do it on cheesecake, am I right? This is not true for the mini egg cheesecake, however--that never gets old.
I've been playing with my recipe for small batch mini cheesecakes made in muffin cups for probably a decade. To be exact--since the time my roommate in college made these by dropping in a nilla wafer instead of bothering with a crust. (I went to college before Pinterest existed, and yes, I am so very old). This is the method I use for my mini strawberry cheesecakes, by the way.
The gracious thing about mini cheesecakes in muffin cups is that you can't really over-do it. Especially when you're only making a small batch. This recipe makes just 4 mini cheesecakes with graham cracker crust. Two mini cheesecake cupcakes for you, two mini cheesecake cupcakes for me, and then none for tomorrow when we should get back to our January diets. But, this roundup makes it hard!
Best Ever Mini Cheesecake Recipe
Yes, we're making a small batch of graham cracker crumbs to make the crusts for these mini cheesecakes. It's so very worth it, especially if you're the type who happens to think the crust is the best part.
Beyond that, you should know that I always flavor my cheesecake with vanilla and freshly squeezed lemon juice. The unique combination of vanilla sweetness with lemon juice gives it just the right amount of tang. I also always use an egg for fluffiness.
If you don't want chocolate on top, try using my microwave lemon curd on top instead!
Small Cheesecake ingredients
- Graham Crackers. We need ½ cup of graham cracker crumbs, which you can buy from a box. If you would like to make them yourself, use 3 whole graham cracker sheets that you crush in a food processor until they are the texture of coarse sand.
- Butter. We need two tablespoons of melted butter to turn the graham crackers into a crust.
- Cream Cheese. Just 4 ounces of cream cheese that has been chopped and left out at room temperature to soften completely. If cream cheese isn't fully soft, it can be lumpy in the cheesecake batter, and the lumps will not melt or bake out. Use only room temperature cream cheese for making cheesecake. Do not use whipped cream cheese for a baked cheesecake. It's only okay to use whipped cream cheese is when you're not cooking it, like for the frosting of my sugar cookie bars.
- Granulated Sugar.
- Vanilla Extract.
- Lemon Juice. We only need one-half of a teaspoon of lemon juice, so it doesn't have to be freshly squeezed. Bottled lemon juice is fine here.
- Egg. One large egg that is at room temperature. If you forgot to take it out, just place it in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes while you make the rest of the recipe.
For topping the mini cheesecakes:
- Chocolate Chips. You can use semisweet chocolate chips or a bar of your favorite chocolate that you chop into small pieces.
- Coconut Oil. If you want that crisp chocolate shell, you need to use coconut oil. I use virigin coconut oil, because I like the coconut flavor that it imparts. If you want the glaze to be more melty and soft (like in my mini chocolate cake), then use heavy cream instead of coconut oil.
- Fresh Strawberries. This is optional, but if you use a tiny heart cutter, you can make the cutest little strawberry hearts like you see in the photos. Sliced strawberries are also just fine on top, as are raspberries and blueberries!
How to make Mini Cheesecakes
Preheat the oven to 325 (not 350--we bake cheesecake lower and slower than a regular cake). Place paper liners into 4 cups of a muffin pan. It's not necessary to use non-stick liners. Combine the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Mix until it looks like wet sand.
Divide it evenly between the paper cups, and use the back of a wooden spoon or small shot glass to press it firmly into the paper cup.
Next, beat together the softened cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice. Beat very well until homogenous.
Finally, stir in the egg by hand. It's important not to beat the egg in, because it adds too much air to the batter. Then, the cheesecake rise too much and crack as they cool.
Divide the batter into the paper cups, and bake on the center rack for about 20 minutes. The tops will be set (if you gently touch them, batter won't stick to your hand). They will be slightly puffy, but they will deflate as they cool into a flat surface. It's best to let them cool completely near the oven.
Once the cheesecakes are cool, move them to the fridge and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Then, make the chocolate shell: melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a double boiler. When fully melted, spoon a small amount over each cheesecake, and then place the cheesecake back in the fridge to set the chocolate. Garnish with strawberries.
How to store Individual Cheesecake
Can mini cheesecakes be frozen?
Yes, you can absolutely freeze mini cheesecakes! In fact, I prefer to eat them straight from the freezer at midnight before bed. To do this, place them on a small baking sheet, and slide it into the freezer. After 2 hours, remove them, wrap them in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag for up to 6 months. You can freeze them with the chocolate topping or without, it doesn't matter! If you want to eat them cold but not frozen, place them in the fridge overnight to defrost and then serve.
Mini Cheesecake Recipe FAQs
When the timer goes off, open the door and gently touch the top of the center cheesecake. It should not stick to your finger. The top will be fluffy and inflated, but that is fine. They will still have a mild jiggle to them, but not an overly wobbly appearance. Let them cool near the oven because drastic temperature changes can sometimes crack a cheesecake.
If you overbeat the eggs in a cheesecake, it will add too much air to the batter. Then, the air will puff up in the hot oven, causing a super domed cake. As the cheesecake cools, it will deflate and potentially sink. This is why I call for eggs to be stirred in by hand rather than using the electric mixer.
To prevent mini cheesecakes from cracking, do not beat in the egg with an electric mixer. This inflates air into the batter, which sinks when the cheesecakes come out of the oven. Instead, beat the egg very well in a separate bowl, and then stir it into the cheesecake batter. Also, as a preventative step, let the cheesecakes cool in the pan near the oven. Drastic temperature changes can crack cheesecakes, so never place your freshly baked hot cheesecakes into the freezer for faster cooler. Let them cool to room temperature gradually, and then refrigerate.
- ½ cup crushed graham crackers (about 3 sheets)
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 large egg
For the optional topping:
- ⅓ cup chocolate chips
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- 2 fresh strawberries
- Preheat the oven to 325, and line 4 cups in a muffin pan with paper liners.
- Mix together graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Divide evenly between the 4 cups, and press firmly to make a level crust.
- Next, in a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice. Beat very well until combined.
- Stir the egg in by hand (do not use a mixer for this step).
- Divide the batter between the cups, and bake for 20 minutes.
- Let the cheesecakes cool near the oven--no drastic temperature changes.
- Chill the cheesecakes overnight, covered in the fridge.
- Before serving, melt the chocolate and coconut oil either in a double boiler, or in the microwave in 20-second pulses, stirring each time.
- To make strawberry hearts, use a ½" tiny heart pie crust cookie cutter. Slice 2-3 planks off each strawberry, and cut out a heart from each. Reserve the rest of the berry of another use (smoothie time!).
- Decorate each cheesecake with a spoonful of melted chocolate, and sprinkle the hearts on the cheesecakes like you own the place.
Make-Ahead: These can be baked and frozen ahead of time. Once cool, place them on a small baking sheet, and slide it into the freezer. After 2 hours, remove them, wrap them individually in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag for up to 6 months. You can freeze them with the chocolate topping or without, it doesn't matter! To serve, thaw in the fridge overnight.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 358Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 90mgSodium: 158mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 1gSugar: 28gProtein: 5g