Recipes and essays exploring Southern identity through food and travel

Recipes and essays exploring Southern identity through food and travel

Chai-Spiced Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

Chai-Spiced Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

This recipe for Chai-spiced cheesecake occurred to me out of a desire for my favorite and discontinued ice cream flavor, Private Selection chai ice cream with ginger cookie and caramel swirl. I don’t have an ice cream maker, but it was my birthday this past week and a cake did seem more fitting anyway. This cheesecake is warm, spicy, and creamy, hints of fall and winter make this the perfect dessert to close out wintertime with.

If you happen to be stuck inside for the weekend, baking a cheesecake wouldn’t be the worst use of your time. This cheesecake is certainly a labor of love. Allow time for the caramel to set. If you’re really prepared, even make the caramel sauce and the chai-spiced butter the day before. It’s always nice to spread out your baking time, and besides, then your kitchen will smell like warm cinnamon and cloves two days in a row. With a cheesecake at the end of that road, I would call that a win-win.

If you’re looking for something a little more on the simple side, my Kladdkaka fits the bill. You’ll have a decadent chocolate cake in less than an hour.

Chai-Spiced Cheesecake

Melted butter steeped in sweet, spicy chai tea gives this dense, creamy cheesecake it's signature zing. The spiced butter finds its way into the cheesecake batter and also into the crushed gingersnap crust. A wonderful, warm dessert for the close of winter.

Course Dessert
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings 10 slices


Chai-Spiced Butter

  • 16 ounces butter unsalted
  • 3 sticks cinnamon
  • 12 bags chai tea

Chai-Spiced Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 teaspoons ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 12 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Gingersnap Crust

  • 8 ounces gingersnap crushed
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 4 ounces chai-spiced butter


  • 18 ounces cream cheese
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 ounces chai-spiced butter
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cardamom


Chai-Spiced Caramel

  1. Warm heavy cream in a small pan. When the heavy cream is beginning to steam, but before cream is boiling, remove from the heat. Mix ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves into cream and set aside.

  2. Add sugar and water to medium saucepan with a candy thermometer clipped to the side. Cook over low heat for 5-8 minutes until sugar has completely dissolved. Do not stir.

  3. Once sugar has dissolved, increase temperature to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Refrain from stirring. Boil 5-7 minutes, or until mixture reaches 350 degrees on the thermometer. The mixture should be amber, a nice medium brown. Remove immediately from the heat.

  4. Carefully stir cream and vanilla into the pan. The mixture will seize and clump, but continue to stir.

  5. Return to heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel has reached dissolved into a smooth texture, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a heat-safe bowl. Cool for 4 hours at room temperature, or in the refrigerator for 2. 

Chai-Spiced Butter

  1. Melt 16 ounces ob unsalted butter in a large skillet with three cinnamon sticks.

  2. When butter has melted, remove from heat, leaving cinnamon sticks in the melted butter. Add 12 tea bags to the butter and let steep, 10 - 15 minutes.

  3. Remove tea bags, squeezing as much butter from each one as possible. Allow butter to come to room temperature.

Gingersnap Crust

  1. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan by covering the bottom with parchment paper and buttering the sides. Cover the outside of the springform pan with aluminum foil.

  2. Preheat oven to 375.

  3. Pulse ginger cookies in a food processor or place in Ziploc bag and bang with rolling pin until cookies are a fine crumb.

  4. Mix cookie crumbs, sugar, salt, and chai-spiced butter in a medium bowl. Dump mixture into prepared springform pan and press crust with hands or rubber spatula into an even layer, covering the entire bottom.

  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until crust is just darkening and beginning to smell toasty. Remove from oven and set aside.


  1. Add cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, and brown sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with wire whisk until smooth and thick.

  2. Add chai-spiced butter and continue to mix until well-combined.

  3. Add eggs, one at a time, then yolks. Continue to mix. Once fully incorporated, stop mixing and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add spices and vanilla and mix until fully combined. 

  4. Pour cheesecake batter into pre-baked gingersnap crust. Place pan in a sturdy roasting pan and place in the oven.

  5. Once in the oven, carefully add water to the pan until the water is high enough to reach the middle of the cheesecake. Do not get any water in the cheesecake itself, only around the outside.

  6. Bake for 1 hour, or until the cheesecake is just set at the edges, but still wobbles a bit in the middle. 

  7. Remove from oven and refrigerate for 8 hours before serving. Serve with chai-spiced caramel sauce and crushed ginger cookies.

Recipe Notes

When making a tea-spiced butter, it's best to start with at least double the amount of butter required for the recipe. A good deal of butter is lost to the tea leaves and the bags in the process, so this is a good rule of thumb.

Covering the bottom of the springform pan with aluminum foil prevents water from the water bath from seeping into the cheesecake while baking. If you aren't using a water bath to cook your cheesecake, skip this step.

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