Dessert

Cherry Dr Pepper cheesecake bars

Cherry Dr Pepper cheesecake bars | Homesick Texan

A few years ago for his birthday, my uncle asked my grandma to make a cherry pie he’d spied in her collection of recipes. This was an unusual request as he’s firmly on team peach pie when it comes to her repertoire of desserts, but she complied with his wishes.

What was even more unusual, however, was that it wasn’t a classic cherry pie with lattice pastry but instead it was a cherry no-bake cheesecake. Despite the misleading name, the dessert was a hit.

When I visited a few weeks later, my grandma offered to make another one, but this time with strawberries. While it was pleasant, she and I agreed that it would be far superior with cherries as their tart, juicy nature is an excellent foil to the rich and creamy cheesecake base.

Now, when I lived in New York City, during the summer I had no problem procuring sour cherries, which are the type most often used for pies, cobblers, and toppings. Unlike the more ubiquitous sweet cherry, sour cherries when eaten raw are uncomfortably sharp. But if you slowly cook them with sugar they take on a candy-like quality that is balanced in its sweet and sour flavors. They are fantastic

Cherry Dr Pepper cheesecake bars | Homesick Texan


These cherries, however, are rare in the United States, with New York, Michigan, Oregon, and New Mexico being the locales with the most abundant orchards. So, to get them fresh, you most likely need to visit these places and either pick your own or grab some from a farmers market. Likewise, I have never seen fresh ones shipped and I’m not sure that any stores outside of the cherries’ growing regions even stock the precious fruit.

Sour cherries’ brief season is happening now and so I always associate them with early July and Independence Day. While I was sad when I couldn’t find fresh ones in Texas, I was elated to discover frozen ones at the grocery store. I grabbed a few bags, brought them home, and prepared to make a special treat.

There’s a pie maker in Fort Worth named Sweet Lucy’s Pies, and a few weeks ago she had a Dr Pepper cherry pie on offer. I thought that was a brilliant idea, and considered following suit, as the warm and spicy notes of the beverage go well with the bright fruit. Then I recalled my grandma’s no-bake cheesecake, and not wanting to turn on the oven for any length of time, I decided to pair that with a Dr Pepper cherry topping instead.

While the cheesecake recipe was originally intended to be served in a pie pan, I opted to bake it in a square dish so I could cut it into bars for serving. Not only would bars be easier to serve at gatherings, but the cheesecake is so rich that a smaller serving is also very satisfying.

First, for the cherries, I stewed them with cane sugar-sweetened Dr Pepper and a pinch of cinnamon until the syrup had reduced a bit. A slurry of cornstarch thickened it up and gave it a glossy shine. The cheesecake’s filling was a blend of whipped cream, softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, lime juice, and vanilla, which I then spread onto a Graham cracker crust.

The cheesecake then goes into the refrigerator to firm up a bit (though it will remain a bit softer than a traditional egg-based custard) and to finish, before serving I topped it with the cherries.

Cherry Dr Pepper cheesecake bars | Homesick Texan

The buttery crust, smooth filling, and lively, juicy cherries made a cool and cheerful treat. When shared with friends, the bars went fast. It was agreed that the Dr Pepper added just the right amount of zest to the cherries, and an excellent contrast to the creamy cheesecake. A welcome addition for any get together, these cherry Dr Pepper cheesecake bars will most certainly be a hit.
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Cherry Dr Pepper cheesecake bars | Homesick Texan
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Cherry Dr Pepper cheesecake bars

Servings 16 bars
Author Lisa Fain

Ingredients

For the cherry Dr Pepper topping:

  • 12 ounces frozen sour cherries
  • 1/2 cup Dr Pepper, preferably cane sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch

For the crust:

  • 9 Graham crackers, finely crushed
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch kosher salt

For the cheesecake filling:

  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

  1. To make the cherry topping, place the cherries in a saucepan (it’s okay if they’re frozen) along with the Dr Pepper. Bring to a boil on high then simmer for 15 minutes on low or until the liquids have reduced in half. Stir in the cinnamon then whisk in the corn starch. Turn the heat up to medium and stir until thickened. Turn off the heat and refrigerate the cherries covered.

  2. To make the crust, heat the oven to 375°. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper or lightly grease.

  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan then stir in the crushed Graham crackers, cinnamon, and salt until well combined. Pour the crackers into the pan and evenly pat along the bottom until the pan is covered. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven.
  4. To make the filling, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl, blend the cream cheese, powdered sugar, lime juice, and vanilla until well combined, then stir in the whipped cream. Blend until well combined.
  5. To assemble the cheesecake, spread the cream cheese filling evenly over the crust, cover, and freeze for 2 hours, or refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

  6. To serve, remove the pan from the freezer, slice into bars, top with cherries, then serve. If you’ve used parchment paper, to make it easier you can lift the entire cheesecake from the pan before slicing. Serve chilled, and they can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Recipe Notes

This can be prepared in a pie pan, as well, with the same Graham cracker crust or a regular pie crust.

If you want to make it simple, a friend suggested stuffing the filling into phyllo cups, which I also tried and it’s excellent. You would need 30 mini phyllo cups for that version.



  1. Gotta add this to the dessert bar at my cousin’s wedding on Saturday. Thank you for the recipe!

    • Lisa Fain

      Haley–You’re welcome! Congrats to your cousin and enjoy the bars!

  2. Just when I was in need of a fun dessert to bring for a 4th of July party, I open my email, and voila! Homesick Texan to the rescue! Thank you for continuing to supply delicious recipes that salute Texas!

    • Lisa Fain

      Emily–So pleased to be of assistance! Happy Fourth of July!

  3. ann brooke reaugh

    Sounds good (and the insight into where sour cherries are most common matches my and my neighbors problems growing them in east Tennessee.)

    Most happy to see you are back in Texas. That just makes me smile for you.

    Ann

    • Lisa Fain

      Ann–Thank you! It’s excellent to be back home! And yes, I think it’s probably too warm to grow sour cherries in Tennessee as it is in Texas, sadly.

      • ann brooke reaugh

        We have grown them, but the trees died in year eight, the same year as some Sour Cherry trees at a adjoining farm died at about 30 years. Some years were great production; other years were sparse.

  4. Celeste

    Oh this is perfect timing! I’ve ordered a 10 lb bucket from a local orchard. They spoil so quickly if you try to transport them like other fruits that they’re mainly pitted and packed in water, or dried or frozen. Sour cherries are just a very special ingredient, and I will love to try them in a Dr Pepper sauce! I bet it will be wonderful on ice cream, too.

    • Lisa Fain

      Celeste–It will be excellent on ice cream! Enjoy your sour cherries!

    • When I was growing up, “sour” cherries were wild fruit and would pucker you up big time! There were a couple of varieties and my sister and I used to pick them for jam. Pie cherries, not nearly as sour, and grew in our orchard. We also had a tree of Queen Anne sweet cherries for table eating.

  5. I grew up on an Iowa farm with cherry trees in our orchard–and DH in the now defunct orchard area of west central Michigan where they were once grown. They were always known as “pie” cherries, and you are right about eating out of hand.–they are definitely too tart. But they are the flavor we identify as “cherry.” About the only way most of us can find them is in cans, and although I used to find unsweetened ones, now I only see them as pie filling, all of which is too sweet and thick for my taste. Even in areas where pie cherries grow, they are a bit fragile. During my childhood, we lost 2 trees to lightening, and another to disease. Although no one lives on my farm any more, my sister and I planted a couple of trees, and I am happy to say that they feed orioles and cedar waxwings since we are rarely there in cherry season. Thanks for a terrific recipe and I will look for the frozen pie cherries.

    • Lisa Fain

      Janet–In New Mexico, they call them pie cherries, as well. My first encounter with them was in New York where they’re known as sour cherries. And the frozen ones I buy in Texas are called tart cherries!

  6. Linda Cromartie

    Didn’t understand the Dr Pepper preferable cane sugar part of the recipe. Please clarify

    • Lisa Fain

      Linda–The cane sugar Dr Pepper has a better flavor to me then the regular (it’s the version that comes in little glass bottles), though one could certainly use regular Dr Pepper, too!

  7. Ann Scandiffio

    This sounds delicious! I live in NY so I should be able to get my hands on some sour cherries easily, though I have never looked for them before. I love idea of having it over ice cream, as someone mentioned above. I wonder if using Dr pepper cherry vanilla
    would be alright? Might enhance the cherry flavor even more! Thank you for sharing this recipe.

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