Cranberry Swirl Cheesecakes with Chocolate Crust (Low Carb and Gluten Free)


It was about a month ago, as I was standing in line at the grocery store check-out, that I saw exactly what I wanted to have for dessert on Christmas Day. There it was, staring out at me from the front cover of a cooking magazine, I hardly even know which one. A beautiful vanilla cheesecake, swirled through with what appeared to be cranberry, and with a gorgeous chocolate crumb crust. I didn’t buy the magazine, I didn’t even pick it up and thumb through it, I just took the image home in my head and started thinking about how I would recreate the dessert to be low carb and gluten free. Because dessert is important, particularly on special days like Christmas, and I was hardly going to skip it in deference to my blood sugar.

I also knew that I wanted to make the cheesecake in miniature. Growing up, dessert on Christmas always consisted of a platter of all the little cookies and cakes we’d been making, along with those given to us by friends and neighbours. As a child, I found it so exciting to be able to pick two or three sweets, my hand hovering over the plate as I tried to decide which one to taste first. It’s a tradition I have carried over into my own family and I love watching my children’s faces as they pick and choose. So my version of the magazine-cover dessert had to be small enough to share space with the caramel nut bars and gingerbread biscotti on the dessert platter.

The other requirement of my low-carb Christmas dessert was that it not be obvious that it was low carb. We were having friends over for Christmas dinner, and I wanted to make something that we could all enjoy. Cheesecake truly is one of the simplest desserts to make low carb and have it still be really, really good. The crust is the only part that takes much thought, but as I discovered with my Pumpkin Bourbon Cheesecake, nut-based crusts are as good as, or perhaps better than, graham cracker crusts. Beyond that, it simply requires substituting alternative sweeteners for the sugar, and which sweetener you use is really just a matter of taste.

The Results: After telling you how important dessert is on Christmas, I have to confess that I didn’t even try my little cheesecakes on the actual day. I was too full from all the other wonderful food we’d had. But my husband and our guests tried them and gave them the thumbs up, saying they never would have known it was low carb if I hadn’t told them. And when I tried one the next day, I was more than pleased. The combination of chocolate, vanilla and cranberry is lovely, without any one part dominating the whole. And they weren’t overly sweet and cloying, as some cheesecake can be, just nice and creamy.

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecakes with Chocolate Crust

Cranberry Sauce:
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp granulated erythritol
10 drops stevia extract

3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp granulated erythritol or xylitol
2 tbsp butter, melted

1 1/2 packages cream cheese (12 oz), softened
1/4 cup granulated erythritol
1 large egg
1 egg white
2 tbsp whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
15 drops stevia extract

For the cranberry sauce, combine cranberries, water and erythritol in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook until berries pop and mixture thickens, about 8 minutes. Add stevia and mash berries with the back of a fork. Set aside and let cool.

For the crust, line a 12 muffin pan with paper liners and preheat oven to 350F. Mix almond meal, cocoa, sweetener and butter in a medium bowl until mixture begins to clump together. Divide evenly among prepared muffin tins and press down into bottom of paper liners to form a crust. Bake 8 minutes. Set aside and reduce oven temperature to 325F.

For the filling, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in erythritol, then egg and egg white, until each is incorporated. Beat in cream, vanilla and stevia until fully combined and mixture is smooth and pourable.

Divide filling among muffin tins, smoothing carefully with the back of a spoon. Dab one or two teaspoons of cranberry sauce over the top of each cheesecake and swirl with a toothpick to create a marbled effect. Bake until cheesecakes are puffed and set, 25-30 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool completely, then transfer to refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours. Remove paper muffin liners before serving.

Makes 12. Each cheesecake has a total of 10g of carbs, but only 3.6g if you subtract erythritol.

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  1. The Mom Chef says

    Bravo on an amazing looking dessert. I adore cheesecake and think that that crust would be much better than graham cracker (which I've never been overly fond of). Thanks for sharing your creation.

  2. Charlie @ SweetSaltySpicy says

    Yummy! The combination of white chocolate and berries is always great but I never tried it in cake form!

  3. Evan @swEEts says

    Beautiful cheesecakes! I love being inspired by the numerous magazines lining the isles at the grocery store. I'm sure these were delicious :) Hope you had a wonderful holiday!


    Holy cow! I still don't understand how you can make such decedent looking treats that are relatively good for you!

  5. Sandra says

    Oh did it again! These look so good! I Love cheesecake, and have some in the fridge :)))- I need to stop mouthwatering from your photos! LOL!
    Fantastic post!

  6. sara @ CaffeIna says

    I'm not a big chocolate fan but I always love chocolate crust in cheesecakes because it contrasts so much better with the cream cheese! And I'm with Christiane: I like that it's not Graham crackers crust. Great job!

  7. Green Girl @ A little bit of everything says

    Cooking Light December 2010 issue. I saw it while I was waiting to pay for my grocery too.
    Yours look just perfect
    Thanks for sharing
    Hope you'll have a wonderful day

  8. Tiffany says

    Wow – YUM!! Looks gorgeous and intimidating (I'm not one to often tackle desserts) but after reading the ingredients and instructions, looks totally do-able! Thanks for sharing!

  9. All That's Left Are The Crumbs says

    I made this cheesecake too from the Cooking Light magazine. It just looked so pretty. I changed mine a little to cranberry-raspberry. I love you idea of turning it into mini cheesecakes.

  10. rosanna says

    I love cheesecakes, and we are lucky they are quite low-carb and we can make them still more using nuts and sweeteners. This one looks so great! I want to try it!!!
    And how did you manage trough these holidays meals?
    I had some troubles, its wasn't easy to keep my blood sugar levels under control. It gets more difficult every year…

  11. Stephanie says

    Those look like dainty rose petals in perfect bloom. I am in love with that color combo — hot pink and choco brown. So sassy and IT! Way to go, Carolyn!

  12. Kim - Liv Life says

    I think I saw that magazine! I don't recall when or where, but I do remember thinking how perfect it was.
    Love the changes in your dessert! I've got this one printed!

  13. baking.serendipity says

    I love these! Mini cheesecakes are the best and I always make mine in muffin tins too :) I hope you had a great Christmas and are still enjoying the holiday season :)

  14. says

    These look amazing! My mom is a diabetic and this would be a wonderful dessert that all of us could enjoy! I am bookmarking this one! :)

  15. Kristen says

    Good for you for 1. not buying the magazine and 2. for recreating it from your imagination into a beautiful, healthy (;-) dessert. The minis are gorgeous.

  16. Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels says

    I have the Cooking Light magazine with the cheesecake on the front and I couldn't stop drooling over it! Your mini cheesecakes are just adorable and I love the beautiful swirls on the top. Cranberries are one of my favorite ingredients in desserts and you know I just LOVE chocolate. :) They look sooooo good!

  17. Sommer J says

    Looks so gorgeous!!! Don't you love getting inspired that way? I have watched shows or sites without even looking at the recipe, just thinking up whatever was in my head.

    You're so creative and I am sure these were amazing! They look stunning!! Hope you had an awesome Xmas your babies are feeling better!

  18. Foodiva says

    That last photo of your adorable cupcake looks a bit like a pink rose! How clever… I love the flavor and color combinations, in fact, I could eat a handful of these all by myself… Yikes! Thank goodness they're low carb.

  19. Boulder Locavore says

    These are so dainty and beautiful (something about that color in a dessert)….Great for Valentine's Day! I so appreciate counting on your for all these gorgeous gluten free desserts Carolyn! No need for all the testing on my end when I need a sure bet! Check out my blog today; I introduced a gluten-free restaurant/travel review based site that I had not heard of before last fall. Not sure if you have but it's always good to know about new resources!

  20. Elisabeth says

    Love the cute little cheesecakes in the cupcake forms. I should try to make it in the cupcake forms next time. Such a pretty addition with the swirls. Yumm!
    Thanks for sharing, Carolyn!

  21. Sugar Free Low Carb says

    I swear I didn't copy you with the swirled cranberry cheesecake. It had been on my mind for weeks. Funny how we keep thinking about baking the same things.

  22. BakingWithoutaBox says

    Oh that looks delicious, scrumptious even. Cheesecake can be hard to do healthy but that looks like a winner.

  23. Joanne says

    I love the idea of being able to have a few little desserts as opposed to having to choose just one big one. It's too hard! Everything looks so good! These sound absolutely delicious Carolyn! So glad you got to have your cake and eat it too!

  24. Rich says

    You didn't even try them on Christmas Day?? Man, that looks like the only gift I'd have wanted – those really do look delicious.

  25. She's Cookin' says

    Hard to believe a dessert this delicious looking can be low carb! Love the splash of color from the cranberries and the mini-me portions, now the questions is, can you stop at one 😉

  26. Stella says

    Yummerz! This combination of flavors sounds quite festive and delicious. And I know what your'e talking about with cheesecakes being overly sweet-what a way to ruin such a wonderful thing. Yours sounds perfecto!

  27. Danielle says

    We actually made that cheesecake from Cooking Light and I was really disappointed — the texture was way off. Yours look amazing though!

  28. says

    I made these for my mom who is a diabetic for Thanksgiving. They were a huge hit! :) No one even knew they were low carb. I substituted xylitol for the erythritol because the grocery store was out and they still turned out great! :) Thanks so much Carolyn!

  29. Catherine H. says

    These were AH. MAY. ZING. The first time I made them, I forgot to sweeten the cranberry sauce and I still loved them. In fact, I loved them so much I made the recipe a second time immediately after finishing the first batch–I never do that because I want to work my way through as many of your recipes as possible. I added an extra 4 oz. cream cheese and remembered to sweeten the cranberries the second time around, and fell in love all over again. Perfect, perfect, perfect–the exact right proportions of everything, as you said–a delicious marriage of chocolate, creamy cheese, and tangy cranberry. Once again, my husband helped me eat them (even taking two to work with him, the dear selfish beast) and he is VERY hard to please with low-carb desserts.

  30. RedZinnia says

    These are so yummy!!! The chocolate crust contrasts beautifully with the creamy cheesecake and the tangy cranberries. I highly recommend them.

  31. Chryste says

    Do you think I could make this as a regular cheesecake in a springform? It seems to me I could without a problem, but I have never made a cheesecake before. Thanks!

    • Carolyn says

      Yes, you could. The baking time will change, so keep your eye on it. It will probably take a bit longer than these mini cakes.

  32. Mike says

    These are really top-notch. I’ve probably made them at least ten or so times since I found this recipe. What’s great is that the recipe is also really open to experimentation. Here are some of my favorite variations that I’ve tried.

    Replace cranberries with cherries, add 1/2 tsp of lime extract and zest of one lime = BAM! Cherry Limeade. You can also do Strawberry Lemonade by replacing strawberries, and adding lemon extract/zest in the above amounts (personally, my favorite). Blackberries and orange also works nicely. Replace cranberries with blueberries, add one packet of unsweetened matcha green tea = BAM! Blueberry green tea. Really, the possibilities are endless since this recipe is so versatile!

    Doing the cranberry sauce as is or with other kind of berries makes a great topping to Carolyn’s Meyer Lemon Mug Cake as well!

    I can’t recommend this recipe enough. Seriously.

  33. Sandy says

    This is in the oven and the house smells amazing!! I made extra cranberry sauce to serve over low carb cornbread. Heaven! Thank you!

  34. says

    Carolyn! What a fantastic cheesecake! I made them in a mini cupcake pan to take to Thanksgiving, and again for our own party yesterday. They are loved by all! Thank you!

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