I love a good shortbread recipe, and the addition of cherry cheesecake anything (cherry cheesecake waffles, anyone??) is always going to be welcome! These Cherry Cheesecake Shortbread Bars are the perfect easy dessert to share with anyone (or keep for yourself!).
Ingredients for Cherry Cheesecake Shortbread Bars
For the shortbread layer, you only need 3 ingredients: two sticks of butter, two cups of all-purpose flour, and ½ cup of confectioner’s (powdered) sugar.
For the cheesecake layer, cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract are all you need. A can of cherry pie filling will finish off your bars!
Making the Shortbread Layer
Lightly grease an 8×8 square baking dish with baking spray or butter.
Make sure butter is softened; you should be able to press into it easily, but it should not feel or look oily. Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until lightened in color, or about 3 minutes.
Sprinkle the powdered sugar over the top and beat together until combined and fluffy.
Beat the flour in gradually. I add ½ cup at a time and mix on medium-low until it’s combined, then add in the next half cup.
When the flour is fully mixed in, dump the crumbly dough into the 8×8 baking dish.
Use your fingers to press the dough firmly into the pan.
Chill the shortbread dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour. (If you’re interested in why, see the tips and tricks below.)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake the shortbread for 28-35 minutes; start checking the dough at 25 minutes in case your oven runs hot. When the shortbread is light brown, it’s done. Remove it from the oven and let it cool completely.
Cherry Cheesecake Layer
While your shortbread is cooling, leave a block of cream cheese out on the counter to soften. When the cream cheese is soft, beat it in a stand mixer until it’s light and fluffy. Sprinkle in ¼ cup of powdered confectioner’s sugar. Beat until smooth and creamy. I find you don’t need much sugar in this layer, because the cherry pie filling on top lends a lot of sweetness.
You can add a ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract for extra flavor, if desired.
Spread the cheesecake layer over the top of the cooled shortbread. Then spoon dollops of cherry pie filling on top and use a spoon or icing spatula to spread it evenly.
Refrigerate the Cherry Cheesecake Shortbread Bars until ready to serve, then cut into squares or rectangles to serve.
Tips and Tricks: Softening Butter
Can I soften the butter in the microwave if I forgot to get it out ahead of time?
You could, if you had absolutely no time to wait. But I really, really recommend letting it soften at room temperature. The reason for this is that the texture of shortbread – because there are only 3 ingredients to balance each other out – very much depends on the butter being appropriately soft. If you let the butter get overly soft – which often happens in the microwave – you run the risk of ending up with shortbread that is too tough or overly dense.
To Sift or Not To Sift?
Most flour packages say ‘pre-sifted’ but you should always sift your flour before adding it to baked goods. Flour settles in the package, and sifting before adding makes sure you have a light, fluffy flour to add to your shortbread.
You should also sift your powdered sugar. I don’t find that it’s a big deal if you sift it before adding it to your cream cheese for the cheesecake layer, but it does make a difference in your shortbread layer. Sifted powdered sugar will give you a fluffier, lighter shortbread, while unsifted gives a more dense shortbread.
Whole Wheat Flour Vs. White All-Purpose Flour
In the picture, you can tell I used whole wheat flour this time around. I’ve made this recipe numerous times, but this time, I happened to be out of white flour. (Who runs out of flour?? This isn’t 2020!) So I used whole wheat flour.
You can use whole wheat flour if you’re looking for a healthier flour in your shortbread. But it does affect the texture and the flavor. Whole wheat flour gives the shortbread a nuttier taste, and a chewier texture. I recommend starting with 1 ½ cups white flour and ½ cup whole wheat flour the first time, so that you can judge how it affects taste and texture.
The simple answer: the butter. The long answer: the butter needs to be soft when mixing the shortbread dough together. But when the shortbread bakes, you get the best texture if the butter has firmed back up and can melt slowly into the flour as it bakes. There are plenty of recipes out there that don’t require chilling, but you’ll usually get a better product if you do.
If you’re short on time, let the dough chill for as long as you can. Any time is going to be better than none.
You could mix this recipe up with any pie filling – think blueberry, apples, or peach! Yum!
Cherry Cheesecake Shortbread Bars
- 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 c. confectioner's (powdered) sugar
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 8 oz full-fat cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 c. confectioner's sugar
- 1 can (21 oz) cherry pie filling
- Lightly grease an 8x8 square baking dish with baking spray or butter.
- Beat butter in bowl of stand mixer until lightened in color, or about 3 minutes.
- Sprinkle 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar over the butter and beat in until combines and fluffy, 3 minutes or so.
- Beat flour in, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing in between.
- Press crumbly dough firmly into 8x8 baking dish with fingers. Refrigerate at lest 1 hour.
- Bake chill shortbread in preheated 325 degree oven for 28-35 minutes. Check at 25 minutes (in case oven runs hot), and remove when shortbread is light brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
- Beat cream cheese in stand mixer until light and fluffy. Sprinkle in 1/4 cup powdered sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
- Spread cheesecake mixture over top of cooled shortbread layer.
- Spoon dollops of cherry pie filling on top and use spoon or icing spatula to spread evenly.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve, then cut into squares or rectangles to serve.
Let’s Stay Friends!