Vanilla Wafers Are The Perfect Base For Mini Cheesecake

Homemade cheesecake is usually not a dessert you can throw together at the last minute. This treat makes you put in some work, which usually starts with assembling the crust, whether it's the classic choice of pulverized graham crackers mixed with butter or a more involved sponge cake base. If you have a cheesecake craving that needs to be satisfied ASAP, or you want a finger food version for a party, consider miniaturizing the dessert, including its crust.

Perhaps the simplest way to prepare cheesecake (short of buying a frozen one) is to bake miniature versions in a muffin pan, with small vanilla wafers as the crust. You don't need to crush up the wafers — just drop one into the bottom of each well in the pan, then pour your cheesecake batter on top and bake. The simple, sweet cookies act as a sturdy base, and won't turn soggy during the baking and cooling time (which both shorten considerably when you make your cheesecake in mini form). 

With the time you would usually spend to make your cheesecake crust, you now have plenty of room to whip up a homemade filling or experiment with fun toppings that you might have otherwise left on the cutting room floor. If you want a little more pizzazz in your mini cheesecakes, though, or perhaps a crust that coordinates with a flavored filling, other cookies can sub in for vanilla wafers.

Vanilla wafers are just one option for an easy crust

Vanilla wafers are sized and flavored perfectly for classic mini cheesecakes, but you don't have to limit yourself to these, so long as you keep a few things in mind. You'll want to make sure the cookies you use are round, so they fit in your muffin tin, as well as sturdy and crisp, so they will retain their crunch after baking. 

Chocolate sandwich cookies (whole or with the filling scraped out) like Oreos would be a great choice for chocolate or cookies and cream-flavored cheesecakes. Famous Amos or Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies can create an instant cookie dough cheesecake, and also would be delicious with a peanut butter flavor. Gingersnaps would make tasty "crusts" for lemon cheesecake. 

Alternatively, you can make cheesecake crust from pre-sliced cookie dough. Just roll out a sheet of your favorite store-bought dough and cut it into rounds that fit into your muffin tin. A cute idea is to use slice-and-bake cookie dough emblazoned with colorful, seasonal designs, whether it be Christmas trees, Halloween pumpkins, or Valentine's hearts. Simply place rounds of the unbaked dough in your muffin pan and bake. Then, top with a no-bake cheesecake filling and chill for adorable cheesecakes with a hidden design on the bottom.

Mini cheesecakes give you all the flavor with less time

Mini cheesecakes can save you time in areas beyond the crust. Classic cheesecakes often call for preparing a water bath, or filling up a tray with water, placing the cake pan inside, and then baking. This keeps the cake moist so it won't crack, and your dessert will require around an hour (sometimes more) of baking time. From there, the cake needs to be chilled for hours before serving.

Mini cheesecakes, on the other hand, require no water bath because they spend a short time in the oven — about 20 minutes for cakes baked in a standard-sized muffin pan, and 15 minutes for mini muffin pans. They also cool much faster, too. Of course, no oven time is required if you choose a no-bake option. No-bake cheesecakes don't use eggs, instead relying on ingredients like whipped cream, sour cream, and/or gelatin combined with cream cheese. However, these recipes require a long stay in the fridge to ensure the filling sets into a firm, creamy texture, so plan accordingly.

Finally, if you want to add some flavor to your mini cheesecakes, the ideas for toppings are endless. From fresh fruit to jams and preserves to crushed cookies and candies, quick and easy options are probably already sitting in your pantry. Canned pie filling, a drizzle of melted peanut butter, chocolate chips, or even just a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar would make for a simple and tasty dessert.