Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Pie is a classic during the holiday season.  I like pecan pie.  Serious Yum.  I might have said that before.  Then mix some chocolate in that pie and that is more than just a serious yum.  We usually don't have these pies any other time of the year.  It is interesting that something we love so much yet we wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas to have them.  Maybe that is partly what makes them taste so good . . . the waiting and anticipation.  I know pecan pie for me is just not the same any other time of the year, for instance in the summertime.  It just doesn't seem right.

Now pumpkin pie is not really at the top of my list of things to make at any time including Thanksgiving. Usually someone is delegated this duty that really likes pumpkin pie.   I can make an OK pumpkin pie but personally I am not that crazy about it, it is probably just me and not the pie.  Although for me, it is a quest and I like a good challenge.  I am just like that.  It is the pie that is always leftover in my house (unless a certain relative brings canned mincemeat in a store bought crust that my husband feels obliged to have a piece so as not to have hurt feelings).  However if I make a pumpkin cheesecake that is a whole different event.  The one I made for this blog was intended to be frozen until T-day.  That didn't happen.  The cheesecake-ivores got loose and found it before I was even aware.  Like a flash it was gone.  I was stunned.  You think I am kidding.  Who the hell can eat a whole cheesecake and still get through the doorway.  To be fair, I am almost certain it wasn't just one person.

I love a spicy, creamy pumpkin cheesecake. I have been toying with pumpkin cheesecake on and off for years.  I have a family of cheesecake lovers, myself not really included, so why make a pumpkin pie when a pumpkin cheesecake is loved so much more.  I have made several.  Some contained tangy elements like lemon juice which was OK but I didn't like the tangy flavor with pumpkin and spice.  The cream cheese seems to add enough tang for me.  So for all my fiddlings and experimentation, this is the recipe I made the other day.  I am not going to say this was amazing or anything like that.  What I will say is while I was pondering the issue, the whole damn thing disappeared.  That says enough for me. I ponder no more. Sometimes I am not the best judge of my own recipes anyway!

Tips for a successful cheesecake (that is one without cracks!  Everything else about a cheesecake is fairly easy):

Allow all ingredients to come to room temperature.  I usually leave the cream cheese and eggs out overnight.  My house is usually 60 degrees at night.

Don't whip the batter!  This incorporates tiny air bubbles that expand and the top of the cheese cake cracks while baking.  I always like the idea of a fluffy cheesecake and it took me a while to figure this one out.  Food science at its best! Stir to incorporate the ingredients.

If cooked at 350 degrees, cook in a water bath for even baking.  Keeping the internal temperature of the cheesecake even and not too high is key for a crackless cheesecake.  Cooking at 325 degrees for a little longer will work also.

Another method of baking that has always worked for me.  It takes more time but you can put those oven timers to good use.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place cheesecake on a sheet pan (no water bath needed) and bake in the oven for 20 minutes then reduce the oven temperature down to 200 degrees and continue baking for 2 hours.  Now turn the oven off and set the timer for another 2 hours and let the cheesecake remain in the oven.  Resist the temptation of opening the door.  Take it out and let it come to room temperature and put the cheesecake in the frig overnight or freeze it.  Now I recognize this cooking method takes a long time but it is worth it if you can find the time.
Batter is smooth and thick.
Crust pressed down in the springform pan.
 I love how you can see the specks of spices and the lovely light orange color!
 Voila! A delicious slice of cheesecake.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
makes up to 16 slices

40 gingersnap wafers (should equal 2 cups of fine crumbs after processing)
3 tablespoons of light brown sugar
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled

32 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup of sugar, (option is to use 1/2 light brown & 1/2 white sugar)
3 tablespoon of maple syrup (I used grade B, more flavor less sugar)
4 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoon of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree
1/4 cup of heavy cream

Whipped  Cream Topping
1 pint of whipping cream
1 tablespoon of powdered sugar or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or real cinnamon extract
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 cup of crystallized ginger, chopped fine (don't skip this unless you just have to!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust:

Place the cookies and sugar in the food processor and process until the crumbs are uniform.  Transfer to a bowl and mix in the butter until well combined.  Mixture should hold together when you squeeze a handful.  Place into a lightly greased 9-inch springform pan and tamp down with your palm, flat bottom of a glass or bottom of a dry measuring cup.  Work some of the crumbs up the side.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Let cool while making filling.

For the filling:

Beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add sugar and maple syrup and mix until combined. Add  eggs one at a time, completely blending in each one.  Mix the flour, spices and salt together and add.  Stir for a couple of seconds.  Add vanilla, cream and pumpkin and stir until just mixed well.  Now choose your cooking method.  I do both and they both result in a delicious and  creamy cheesecake.  It is all about the cracks!

Cooking method #1

Start heating water in a kettle.  Put foil on bottom of cheesecake pan (this is easier before you put the batter in) covering 3 inches or higher up the sides and place into a large roasting pan. Place pan on center rack in the preheated oven to 350 degrees and then pour in the boiling water half way up the side of the cheesecake pan but not above the foil line.  Bake for 1 hour and 35 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes.  The cheesecake should have a slight jiggle in the center.  Remove from the oven and run a thin, sharp knife around the pan and cheesecake.  This is to ensure as the cake cools it won't stick to the sides and create cracks.  Although for me, this method seems to always have some minor cracks, but that is what toppings are for!

Cooking method #2

Place cheesecake on a baking pan.  Place in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Then reduce the heat to 200 degrees and leave in for 2 hours.  Now turn the oven off and leave in for another two hours. At this point is should not have a slight jiggle like the previous method. Remove from the oven and slide a thin, sharp knife around the edges to the cheesecake, so it won't stick and crack as it cools.  Allow to come to room temperature and place in the refrigerator overnight.

For the whipped cream:

Whip the cream with a whisk (with a mixer or by hand) until it is thick.  Add sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and whisk until stiff peaks.  Place a dollop onto each cheesecake slice and sprinkle with chopped crystallized ginger (you could mix it into the cream but it is much prettier on top).

Note:  This cheesecake (or any cheesecake) can be made in advance and frozen making baking for the holidays or any event just a little easier.  Place in the freezer instead of the refrigerator.  Thawing should take about two days in the refrigerator.  Slow thawing = less condensation.

Print recipe

Enjoy!  Happy Holidays!


  1. This cheesecake looks great...I love the gingersnap crust! Also, thanks for all the baking tips...I have had some problems with the tops of my cracking. I'll try the different methods.

  2. YUM! I love love love pumpkin cheesecake. This looks amazing.

  3. wow.. it looks tempting ! and thx for sharing tips and info abt baking cheese cake.. so useful for beginner like me :)

  4. I'm going to miss the pumpkin cheesecake this year. I'm in Peru and although they eat a lot of cheesecake, there are no pumpkins

  5. This looks really good, going to have to try this recipe. Thanks!

  6. This cheesecake looks delicious! I wasn't planning on making pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving this year, but I may have to now!

  7. Oh pumpkin cheesecake, how I love thee! I just posted a recipe for a mini version, but yours is absolutely gorgeous!

  8. Looks like heaven on a dessert plate! I would be right there with fork in hand devouring this dessert. Yummy!!!

  9. Your pumpkin cheesecake looks so good, specially
    with the gingersnap crust.

  10. Great tips! Thanks so much I will definitely give them a try next time I am whipping up a cheesecake!

  11. Hey there,
    I just found your blog off of Joythebaker.com . What a find! Added you to my favorites.

  12. Hi Laura,

    I’ve an award for you (The Versatile Blogger Award), please come and pick it up when you’re free.


  13. Thank you all for the inspiring comments. Thank you Becky for the Versatile Blogger award. It was so nice of you to recognize my little piece of cyberspace!

  14. Would it be alright to use fresh pumpkin puree, instead of from a can?

    1. Sure, just use a good flavorful pumpkin. A creamy puree can be a little hard to achieve in a food processor so use a heavy duty blender if you have one or know someone who does! I would love to know how your cheesecake turns out. Bon appetit!

    2. Thank you for your advice :) I opted for the canned pumpkin (I can be lazy), and it was so so delicious - thank you! It was a huge hit and the best I've ever had.


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