This post shows the power of peer pressure. On Saturday, I did an impromptu online cooking class showing folks how to make my Boozy Spiced Cranberry Sauce. I left with a Pumpkin Cheesecake class scheduled. Did I intend to host a pumpkin cheesecake-making class? No. Do I love my readers so much that I let them convince me to teach one? Apparently so.
This pumpkin cheesecake has passed through many peoples lips. People have literally begged for it. In the past, I have kept a very guarded secret…but, now I’m releasing it. The creamy, spiced pumpkin batter must be shared with the world. It is needed. As with all of my cheesecakes, begin this one a day before you plan to serve it.
Why not Pumpkin Pie?
Pumpkin pie is a classic Thanksgiving dessert. Growing up, both were served on BOTH sides of my family: the Black and the Puerto Rican sides.
My answer to this question is, “Because pumpkin pie is garbage.” I absolutely detest pumpkin pie. It’s so revolting to me that I gag when I put the slightest bit in my mouth. Since I don’t even like pumpkin, as a grownup, I knew a pie made from them was never going to grace my holiday sweets display. But, a cheesecake? For that, I may make an exception.
This particular cheesecake, on the other hand? 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 like I do, you’re going to love this.
And, once I perfected the recipe, I knew a holiday wouldn’t pass without my serving it. So, that’s my rationale behind messing with the classic pie. Because I can. And, because it’s as good as all get out.
What will I need to make a Pumpkin Cheesecake?
Well, it depends on if you’re a purist, or not. Because if you are, you’ll need a pound of pumpkin. If you’re more a fan of convenience you’ll need a 15 oz can of packed pumpkin puree. Not pumpkin pie filling. One is mixed with other ingredients. The other is pure pumpkin.
What kind of pumpkin should I buy to make puree from scratch?
Not all pumpkins are created equal. If you plan to roast and puree your pumpkin at home, look for a pie pumpkin. Pie pumpkins are smaller and sweeter than the larger pumpkins you’d use to carve jack-o-lanterns with.
Check out this post on how to roast and puree your own pumpkin at home. You totally can use canned pumpkin, though. I actually encourage it.
What else is needed for this Pumpkin Cheesecake?
You’ll also need room temperature cream cheese, crisp gingersnap cookie crumbs, unsalted butter, large eggs, granulated sugar, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, heavy cream, salt, vanilla, cornstarch, and lemon zest.
You can whip up a fresh batch of whipped cream if you want to top your cheesecake with it, too.
How do I make a Gingersnap cracker crust for cheesecake?
The cheesecake crust can make or break the entire dessert. I get annoyed when a cheesecake’s crust crumbles all to hell while I’m trying to eat it, I don’t care how irrational it is. The key to getting a suitable crust for your pumpkin cheesecake is making sure you are using the right ratio of melted butter to gingersnap cookie crumbs.
First, though, you need to make those crumbs. Pulse crisp gingersnap cookies in your food processor using the metal blade until they are a fine crumb. Use the driest, crunchiest gingersnap cookies you can find. I actually pinch the cookies in their bag when I’m shopping for them in the grocery store. If they’re super hard, they’re perfect for my crust.
Once you have your gingersnap cookie crumbs, combine them with the melted butter in a bowl and mix them together. Grab a fistful of the crumbs and squeeze them. If the crust holds together in a firm clump, you’re good to go. On the contrary, if your crumbs stay crumbly, you will need to add a couple more teaspoons of melted butter. If, on the other hand, your mixture clumps and oozes butter, you need to add more gingersnap crumbs to soak up the excess fat.
Can I make a regular graham cracker crust?
You can do anything you want, Sugar. If you only have graham crumbs, use those the same way as you would the gingersnap cookie crumbs.
Once you have a good balance and a clumpy mixture, press it into a 9″ springform pan. I just use the same measuring cup I used for measuring my ingredients to press the crust into place. Don’t forget to give your pumpkin cheesecake a bit of a side crust, too.
Bake the crust for 10 minutes in an oven that’s been preheated to 350°F. The rule of thumb is: when you can smell it, it’s ready to come out.
After the crust has baked, leave the pan to cool down before wrapping it in two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil. This will make sense later.
How do I make a Pumpkin Cheesecake batter?
The most labor-intensive aspect of this recipe is the cooling process. Oh! Fighting your guests for the last piece is also pretty gangster, but cooling it properly is the toughest. I’m very particular about my cheesecakes so my cooling process is just that- a process.
Start the preparation of the pumpkin cheesecake by mixing together the spice blend that flavors it. Combine ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves; along with kosher salt and cornstarch in a small bowl. The cornstarch gives the pumpkin cheesecake that fluffy texture you’re just gonna swoon over.
In a large mixing bowl, blend together the cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla bean paste on low speed.
Once the mixture is creamy and smooth, begin adding the eggs- one at a time- to the bowl. Be sure to continue blending on low speed- we don’t have time for messes.
Also, you want to scrape down the bowl after each egg is incorporated. You’ll mix a well-blended filling this way.
After you’ve added all of the eggs, slowly mix in the mashed pumpkin and the heavy cream.
Finally, add the spice blend you mixed earlier. Blend the spices just until incorporated. Over-mixing after you’ve added the cornstarch will lead to a gummy texture later.
Set a pot of water on the stove to boil for the next step.
How long do I need to bake my Pumpkin Cheesecake?
Once the pumpkin cheesecake batter is blended, place the prepared cheesecake pan into a larger pan. There needs to be at least two inches of clearance on the sides of the cheesecake pan. Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared cheesecake pan.
This here’s the reason we wrapped our pan twice in heavy duty foil: the water bath, or bain marie.
After the water on the stovetop comes to a boil, carefully pour it into the larger pan which the cheesecake pan is sitting in. You can see, above, that I take the added precaution of using my bench scraper as a shield. The bench scraper prevents any water from splashing onto the cheesecake batter. This is just one of my tricks because I’m a savage when it comes to anything requiring finesse. That double-layer of foil will keep the water we’ve just poured into the outer pan from seeping through the cracks in the springform pan. I’ve made the mistake of not wrapping my springform pan properly and ended up with a water-logged cheesecake. To say it was disheartening is an understatement.
Carefully place the pan setup into your preheated oven and bake the cheesecake for 1 hour. 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 another hour. After the final hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven and the water bath. Remove the protective foil and allow the pumpkin cheesecake to cool to the touch on the countertop. Transfer the pan to the fridge and allow it to chill for 8 hours or overnight.
Is Baking Cheesecake in a Water Bath Really Necessary?
A lot of my friends ask me if all the steps I take when baking my cheesecakes are necessary. The short answer is, yes, they are.
The water bath creates an accurately consistent temperature for the cheesecake to bake in. Cheesecakes are nothing but custards, which means they need a consistent temperature in order to bake evenly.
The added step of allowing the cheesecake to cool gradually in the vented oven protects the surface of the cheesecake from developing a crack. A sudden change in temperature- like being removed from a 350°F oven to a 72°F countertop- will, more often than not, result in a fault that rivals the San Andreas. Over-baking can also cause this to happen. Finally, letting the cheesecake chill for a few hours in the fridge gives the interior a chance to firm up properly.
So, like I said- it’s all necessary. And highly worth it.
How do I top my Pumpkin Cheesecake?
Even the simplest of toppings- a whipped cream- can transform this pumpkin cheesecake from good to gooder. <I love to exasperate my nerdy kids>
In a mixing bowl, combine the heavy cream and your flavoring of choice. For a fall-flavored cream, add maple, cinnamon, or a pumpkin spice extract. I like maple, personally, that’s what went into mine.
Begin with your electric hand mixer on medium speed and whip the cream. Once the beaters start 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.
How do I serve this Pumpkin Cheesecake?
Do you need a specific way to serve it? No. Well, I mean, I don’t.
I just take a knife to it and slice off a few hunks for me and the fam. Coffee is always a great side dish for my cheesecakes.
Seriously. Why wouldn’t you want to switch things up this year with a Pumpkin Cheesecake instead of that whack pumpkin pie nonsense? How will a plain ol’ pumpkin pie ever compete with the likes of this?
It won’t, that’s how.
I did discover, however, that my Boozy Spiced Cranberry Sauce is amazing on top of it.
How should I store the cheesecake?
Keep the pumpkin cheesecake refrigerated until you’re ready to serve it. Be sure to enjoy it within 72 hours after baking.
A tip on storing: after cutting slices from a whole cheesecake, I press a piece of plastic film or wax paper against the exposed cheesecake to keep it from getting dried out and gross in the fridge.
Can I freeze this cheesecake?
You can freeze the pumpkin cheesecake after baking and cooling it. Just wrap it well in plastic wrap and freeze it for up to two months. Thaw the cheesecake in the fridge for 12 hours (or overnight) before serving.
There’s no doubt that you’ll be the dessert hero for making this bad boy and you don’t have to deal with the grossness that is pumpkin pie. Be sure to share this with your friends and family and pin for easy finding later.
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust
- 9" springform pan
For the Gingersnap Crust
- 2 cups 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 (2 grams) ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) ground nutmeg
- 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 (251 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from 1 medium lemon)
- 2 teaspoons 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 maple extract or cinnamon, hazelnut, rum, or vanilla extract
Prepare the Gingersnap Crust
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C).In a bowl, mix together the gingersnap cookie crumbs and melted butter.Squeeze a fistful of the crumbs together to check that the mixture is the proper consistency: If the crust holds together in a firm clump, it's ready. On the contrary, if your crumbs stay crumby- add a couple more teaspoons of melted butter; if it oozes butter add more graham crumbs to soak up the excess fat.
- 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 a 350°F oven.Remove the baked crust from the oven to cool. 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 4 cups) to boil while you prepare the cheesecake batter.
- Combine the ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, salt, and cornstarch in a small bowl.Set this spice blend aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, blend together 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, slowly 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
- After the pumpkin cheesecake batter has been mixed, place the foil-wrapped cheesecake pan into a larger pan that has at least two inches of clearance on the sides of the cheesecake pan.Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared cheesecake pan.
- Carefully pour the boiling water into the larger (exterior) pan which the cheesecake pan is sitting in. Be careful to avoid splashing water into the cheesecake batter.Place the pans into your preheated oven and bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- 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 another hour.After the final hour, remove the cheesecake from the oven, then from the water bath. Remove the protective foil and allow the pumpkin cheesecake to cool to the touch on the countertop.Transfer the pan to the fridge and allow it to chill for 8-24 hours.
Prepare the Maple Whipped Cream Topping
- Three hours before you plan to serve the pumpkin cheesecake, combine the heavy cream and maple (or your choice of) extract in a mixing bowl. Starting 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.
- 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.