Pumpkin Cheesecake is a creamy, New York-style custard with fresh pumpkin puree and warm fall spices. Its gingersnap crust adds more depth of flavor with its crunchy spiciness. This is the dessert your holiday table is pining for.
*This post is an update from the original article written in November 2020. Only the article is new.*
What is a Pumpkin Cheesecake?
In its simplest form, cheesecake is a custard of cheese, like cream cheese, Neufchâtel, quark, or ricotta, eggs, and sugar, baked inside a cookie crust until set. It is most often served cold. You might find the addition of heavy cream, depending on the region a cheesecake is from. A New York-style cheesecake often incorporates heavy cream into the batter, making it a rich, dense dessert.
Pumpkin cheesecake is a cheesecake that incorporates pumpkin puree and spices synonymous with fall, like allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Though most pumpkin cheesecakes use a plain graham cracker crust as a base, this recipe adds more flavor by baking the pumpkin cheesecake in a gingersnap crust.
How Do You Make the Best Pumpkin Cheesecake?
I absolutely loathe pumpkin pie. Even my pumpkin pie, which people swear is amazing, is not something I would choose to eat. But my pumpkin cheesecake? I can eat the whole dessert by myself. The cream cheese mitigates the pumpkin flavor, so it’s not as pronounced. If you hate pumpkin pie as I do, you’re going to love this.
To make the best pumpkin cheesecake, you need to start with room-temperature cream cheese, solid-pack pumpkin puree, and a generous amount of spices. Additionally, baking it in a water bath is the only way to ensure you make the best pumpkin cheesecake, as this is the foolproof way to avoid cracks.
What Ingredients Go In a Pumpkin Cheesecake?
Pumpkin cheesecake consists of room temperature cream cheese, solid pack pumpkin puree, sugar, eggs, warming spices or pumpkin spice blend, kosher salt, cornstarch, heavy cream, lemon zest, and vanilla extract.
To make gingersnap crust for your cheesecake, you need crisp, crunchy gingersnap cookie crumbs and melted unsalted butter.
The dessert bakes in a 9-inch springform pan set inside a larger, 12 to 14-inch oven-safe pan. You need a stand or an electric hand mixer to blend the cheesecake batter. Also, a food processor is handy for pulsing the gingersnap cookies into crumbs.
Are All Cheesecakes Made With a Crust?
The cheesecake crust can make or break the entire dessert. Most cheesecakes have a crust of some kind. Some are not even crusts; they’re sponge cakes, as with New York’s Junior’s cheesecakes. In rare cases, there are crustless cheesecakes. Those should just be called baked custards, but I’m not the pastry police.
The worst thing you can do is bake a pumpkin cheesecake with a crumbly or greasy crust. I have this irrational anger about cheesecake’s crust that crumbles all to hell while I’m trying to eat it or those that leave my plate greasy. The key to achieving the perfect crust for your pumpkin cheesecake is using the right ratio of melted butter to cookie crumbs.
Pulse the cookies for your cheesecake in your food processor using the metal blade until they are a fine crumb. To avoid a soggy cheesecake crust, use the driest, crunchiest cookies you can find to make your cheesecake crust.
Combine the cookie crumbs with the melted butter in a bowl and mix them together. Squeeze the crumb mixture in your hand after mixing it. If the cheesecake crust mixture holds together in a firm clump, it’s ready to use in your cheesecake recipe. On the contrary, if the cheesecake crust falls apart when you release pressure, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of melted butter to bind it together. If the cheesecake crust mixture seeps butter when you squeeze it in your hand, add more gingersnap crumbs to soak up the excess fat.
Can I Replace the Gingersnaps With a Different Cookie?
You can use a variety of cookies to make your cheesecake crust. Instead of gingersnap cookies for your cheesecake crust, use graham cracker crumbs, Biscoff cookie crumbs, vanilla or chocolate wafers, or animal crackers.
Use the bottom of a measuring cup to press your cheesecake crust into a 9″ springform pan. As you press the bottom, press along the side of the pan to create a side crust.
Bake the cheesecake crust in a 350°F (177°C) oven for 10 minutes or until you smell its aroma.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature. Wrap the bottom and sides of the pan in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil once it’s cool enough to handle. Wrapping your springform pan in foil prevents water from seeping into the cheesecake pan as it bakes in the water bath.
Keep the oven on since you’ll be using it again soon.
How Do You Make Pumpkin Cheesecake?
To make the pumpkin cheesecake batter, begin by mixing together the spice blend that flavors it. Use a whisk to combine the ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, kosher salt, and cornstarch in a small bowl. You can also replace the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves in this mixture with a pumpkin spice blend or a chai spice blend. Cornstarch gives pumpkin cheesecake that fluffy texture and body that are ideal in a cheesecake. You can replace the cornstarch with the same amount of all-purpose flour or leave it out altogether.
Once the mixture is creamy and smooth, begin adding the eggs- one at a time- to the bowl. Blend in each egg at low speed until it is no longer visible. You also want to scrape down the bowl after each egg is incorporated to ensure the batter is evenly blended.
Mix in the mashed pumpkin and the heavy cream after all of the eggs are added.
Finally, add the spice blend you mixed earlier, blending the mixture in just until incorporated. If you over-mix the batter at this stage, the cornstarch will make the pumpkin cheesecake gummy texture.
Is Baking Cheesecake In a Water Bath Necessary?
Baking cheesecakes in a water bath creates a consistent temperature for the custard to bake in. Without a water bath, or a bain-marie, the pumpkin cheesecake’s temperature will rise and fall with the oven as it clicks on and off to regulate its internal temperature. This leads to the custard developing fissures, which later team up to create larger cracks in the surface of your cheesecake.
Add 6 cups of water to an 8-quart pot and bring this water up to a boil over medium-high heat.
How Long Does the Pumpkin Cheesecake Have to Bake?
Scrape the pumpkin cheesecake batter into the gingersnap crust. Next, set the foil-wrapped, filled cheesecake pan into the larger 12 to 14-inch pan. Make sure there’s at least two inches of clearance on the sides of the cheesecake pan to give you room enough to pour the hot water into the outer pan.
Carefully pour the hot water for the water bath into the larger outer pan. Using a bench scraper or wide spatula as a shield prevents water from splashing onto the cheesecake batter.
Carefully slide the entire setup into your preheated oven and bake the cheesecake for 1 hour.
How Do I Prevent a Crack In My Pumpkin Cheesecake?
Another way to avoid a crack in your cheesecake is to cool it gradually.
Once the baking time has elapsed, turn the oven off, then prop open the oven door with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to cool slowly in the oven for 1 hour. After an hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven and the water bath. Since sudden temperature changes, like being removed from a 350°F oven to a 72°F countertop, can cause a cheesecake to crack, it’s best to cool cheesecakes gradually in a vented oven. This gradual cooling of the pumpkin cheesecake allows the structure of the custard to set up slowly.
Remove the protective foil and allow the pumpkin cheesecake to cool to the touch on the countertop. This second, gradual cooling, acclimates the cheesecake to its surroundings to further strengthen the structure and prevent cracking. It also cools the cheesecake, so you don’t end up with condensation dripping from the plastic covering onto its surface.
Cover the cheesecake pan with plastic film and transfer the pan to the fridge once it’s at room temperature. Chill the cheesecake for at least 6 hours or overnight to allow its structure to set completely, which results in perfect slices. Before serving, remove the springform collar from around the cheesecake.
What Are Good Toppings for Pumpkin Cheesecake?
This pumpkin cheesecake doesn’t need a topping, but rosettes of whipped cream give it an air of festivity. This step is totally optional.
To make a fall-flavored whipped cream:
- Mix heavy cream and maple extract in a mixing bowl. If you want to switch up the flavor, I recommend vanilla, maple, cinnamon, or pumpkin spice extract.
- Begin whipping the cream at medium speed.
- Once the beaters start to leave ribbons in the cream, start sprinkling in the granulated sugar.
- After adding the sugar, increase the mixer’s speed to high and whip for 2-3 more minutes or until the cream is fluffy and stiff.
Garnish your chilled pumpkin cheesecake with rosettes of flavored whipped cream. Another great way to serve your pumpkin cheesecake is with a generous spoonful of my Boozy Spiced Cranberry Sauce, a drizzle of Cajeta, or Spiced Toffee Sauce.
How Do I Serve Pumpkin Cheesecake?
To serve cheesecake, use a thin, sharp knife dipped in hot water to make the first cut. Re-dip the knife into the hot water, wipe it with a paper towel, and make another cut to create a slice. Dipping your knife in the water removes the excess cheesecake from the knife blade, giving you a clean slice of cheesecake.
Many people enjoy cheesecake with coffee, tea, or milk. Enjoy yours however you like.
What’s the Best Way to Store Cheesecake?
Refrigerate pumpkin cheesecake until you’re ready to serve it. Store cheesecake, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days after baking it.
Press a piece of plastic film or wax paper against the insides of a cut cheesecake to keep it from drying out in the refrigerator. Try to avoid keeping cheesecakes out at room temperature for extended periods. Because pumpkin cheesecake is a custard, it must be kept refrigerated to prevent foodborne illnesses.
Can You Freeze Pumpkin Cheesecake?
You can freeze any cheesecake after you bake and cool it completely. To freeze pumpkin cheesecake:
- Carefully remove it from the springform pan and wrap it well in 2 layers of plastic wrap.
- Freeze the cheesecake for up to two months.
- Thaw the cheesecake in a refrigerator for 12 hours (or overnight) before serving.
You’ll undoubtedly be the dessert hero for bringing this Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust to the dessert table this year. Be sure to share this with your friends and family and pin it for easy finding later.
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crustat Sense & Edibility
- 9" springform pan
- electric hand or stand mixer
For the Gingersnap Crust
- 2 cups (397 grams) gingersnap crumbs
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter melted
For the Pumpkin Cheesecake
- 1/3 cup (40 grams) cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon (3 grams) ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) ground nutmeg
- 3/4 teaspoon (2 grams) ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice optional
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
- 4 8 ounce packages (904 grams) cream cheese at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from 1 medium lemon)
- 2 teaspoons (10 grams) vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 15 ounce can (428 grams) pumpkin puree
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) heavy cream
Maple Whipped Cream
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon (16 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) maple extract or cinnamon, hazelnut, rum, or vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C).
Prepare and Bake the Gingersnap Crust
- In a bowl, mix together the gingersnap cookie crumbs and melted butter.Squeeze the crumbs together in the palm of your hand to check that the mixture is the proper consistency. If the crust holds together in a firm clump, it's ready. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of melted butter if it falls apart or 2 to 3 tablespoons more gingersnap crumbs to soak up the excess fat if it seeps butter.
- Use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the gingersnap crust mixture into a 9" springform pan.
- Bake the crust for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.Remove the baked crust from the oven to cool. Do not turn off the oven.Once it's cool, wrap the pan in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, then set aside.
Prepare the Pumpkin Cheesecake batter
- Bring a pot of water (approximately 6 cups) to boil over medium while you prepare the cheesecake batter.
- Whisk together the ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, salt, and cornstarch in a small bowl.Set this spice blend aside.
- In a 4-quart mixing bowl, blend the cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla bean paste on low speed, until smooth.
- Add the eggs- one at a time- to the bowl, making sure to scrape down the bowl after each egg is incorporated.After you've added all of the eggs, mix in the pumpkin and the heavy cream until blended.
- Finally, add the cornstarch-spice blend you mixed earlier.Blend just until the spices are incorporated. Be sure not to mix the batter too long after adding the cornstarch.
Bake the Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Scrape the prepared pumpkin cheesecake batter into the foil-wrapped cheesecake pan. Set the cheesecake pan into a larger pan that has at least two inches of clearance on the sides of the cheesecake pan.
- Carefully pour the boiling water into the larger outer pan. Be careful to avoid splashing water into the cheesecake batter.Place the pan setup into your the hot oven and bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Gradually Cool the Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Once the baking time has elapsed, turn the oven off and prop open the oven door with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to cool slowly in the oven for 1 hour.
- After an hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven, then from the water bath. Remove and discard the protective foil and allow the pumpkin cheesecake to cool to room temperature on the countertop.Cover the pan with plastic film and refrigerate the cheesecake for 6 to 12 hours (or overnight).
Prepare the Maple Whipped Cream Topping
- A few hours prior to serving the pumpkin cheesecake, combine the heavy cream and maple extract in a mixing bowl. With your electric hand mixer on medium speed, whip the cream just until the beaters begin to leave ribbons in the cream.
- Start sprinkling in the sugar. After adding the sugar, increase the mixer's speed to high and whip for 2-3 more minutes, or until the cream is fluffy and stiff. Use a spoon or a piping bag to pipe rosettes of cream on to the cheesecake to create a whipped cream border.
- For added flavor, top the pumpkin cheesecake with my Boozy Spiced Cranberry Sauce.Store the pumpkin cheesecake in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Enjoy it within 72 hours after baking.
Swaps and Substitutions:
- You can use fresh pumpkin puree instead of canned. Just use the same amount.
- Replace the pumpkin puree with mashed sweet potato.
- Replace the ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice with 3 1/4 teaspoons (9 grams) pumpkin spice blend or 2 teaspoons (6 grams) chai spice blend.
- Instead of gingersnap cookies for your cheesecake crust, use graham cracker crumbs, Biscoff cookie crumbs, vanilla or chocolate wafers, or animal crackers.
- You can replace the cornstarch with the same amount of all-purpose flour or leave it out altogether.
Tips and Techniques:
- Avoid over-mixing the batter after adding the cornstarch-spice blend as this will result in a gummy cheesecake.
- Try not to get any water in the cheesecake when making the water bath. This will prevent the custard from setting.
- Store cheesecake, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days after baking it.
- Press a piece of plastic film or wax paper against the insides of a cut cheesecake to keep it from drying out in the refrigerator.
- Avoid keeping cheesecakes out at room temperature for extended periods to prevent foodborne illnesses.
- Allow the pumpkin cheesecake to cool completely.
- Wrap in two layers of plastic wrap, then in one layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
- Freeze the cheesecake for up to 2 months. Thaw under refrigeration before serving.