I’ve held off for as long as I could. Pumpkin-everything is coming, and it’s coming in hot; so go ahead and yield to it. I, personally, have been on a slow cooker kick lately. Since the use of my stove or oven heats this apartment up to ungodly temperatures, I’m forgoing their use as much as I can. Slow cookers also help me get meals on the table without having to dedicate too much of my attention to whatever’s cooking. This Pumpkin Cream Cheese French Toast Casserole’s name may be a mouthful, but once you taste it, the flavor will hook you.
Get set for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Goodness:
For this recipe you’ll need a loaf of stale-ish (day old) brioche or challah bread, pumpkin puree (fresh or from a can), eggs, pumpkin spice, cream cheese, vanilla extract, light brown sugar, a lemon, melted butter and some half and half.
Since I make this in my slow cooker, the directions from here on out will instruct you likewise. If you prefer to bake your Pumpkin Cream Cheese Casserole in the oven, see the recipe notes. Do take note that the only changes will be the dish you put the assembled casserole into, as well as the baking time.
Mix the Pumpkin Custard
Use a microplane to zest the peel of a small lemon- about a tablespoon of lemon zest- and add this to the bowl with the pumpkin and spices.
Add the eggs to the bowl, along with the vanilla extract, and melted butter (save a tablespoon of the butter to grease the slow cooker later), and whisk everything together until it’s smooth and free of clumps.
Whisk in the half-and-half until the custard is smooth to complete the pumpkin custard. Set this aside while you prepare the bread and cream cheese.
The key to an evenly pumpkin-y Pumpkin Cream Cheese casserole, is making sure all of that pumpkin cream goodness caresses every piece of bread.
As you can see, I’m a bit passionate about my french toast casseroles.
It’s important that you use stale, day-old bread when making this (or any) french toast. A stale bread absorbs the pumpkin cream custard without breaking apart into mushy-nastiness. I’ve left my bread out on the countertop for upwards of three days letting stale out. The staler the better.
Use another knife to dice the cream cheese into 1/2″ chunks- no need to dull the bread knife on this step. The cream cheese doesn’t need to be softened, since we’re going to refrigerate it after adding it to the slow cooker anyway.
Assemble the Pumpkin Cream Cheese French Toast Casserole
Because our goal is to get a mouthful of brioche, cream cheese, and pumpkin-y yumminess in one bite; you’ll need to layer these components in your slow cooker‘s insert. *I’ve included a link to my favorite slow cooker, mainly because this one switches to warm once the cooking time has elapsed. If you don’t have a slow cooker like this- or if your slow cooker doesn’t give you the option to set a specific cooking time- just set a timer to let you know when to turn it off.*
Brush the inside of the slow cooker with that tablespoon of melted butter that you reserved earlier. Add half of the cubed brioche and half of the cream cheese chunks to the dish. Cover with the remaining bread and the rest of the cream cheese.
Note: if you’re taking the conventional oven route, brush a 9″x13″ baking dish with the melted butter and add everything together the same way.
Pour the pumpkin custard over the contents of the slow cooker. Give it a stir with a large spoon to get that custard down to the bottom of the dish.
Now, just allow the casserole to soak overnight, or for at least 4 hours.
Soaking the casserole is important because it gives the custard a chance to infiltrate those piece of stale bread. What I normally do is prepare the pumpkin cream casserole the night before I plan to serve it. In the morning, I let it sit out on the counter for a half-hour, which reduces the chance of that ceramic insert shattering due to a drastic change in temperature. After I put it into the slow cooker and get it cooking, I can either head back to bed for a couple of hours or get ready for the day as it does its thing.
The same steps are true for baking this in the oven. The only exception being that you can place your ceramic dish into the oven as the oven is warming up. It takes less time to bake in the oven, but the results are just as delicious.
Cook and serve the Pumpkin Cream Cheese
French Toast Casserole
Cook the casserole for 2 hours on high, or in the oven for 1 hour. The casserole’s internal temperature should read 165°F when fully baked.
Once the casserole has baked, use a large spoon to scoop out a serving of the pumpkin cream cheese casserole.
I’ll be honest, it ain’t the prettiest thing I’ve ever made, but I’ll be damned if it ain’t a tasty lil’ sonofagun. (Did you just read that with a country accent? Because I sure did)
Sprinkle a generous amount of powdered sugar over your serving.
You could also top it with pure maple syrup. Or, do what I do and top yours with BOTH. You can eat it as is, topped with whipped cream, or- gasp– with vanilla ice cream!
Store leftovers in a container in the refrigerator for up to two days. Leftovers may be frozen for up to two months, as well.
To serve refrigerated leftovers, just reheat in the microwave until warmed through. For the frozen leftovers, allow them to thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before reheating thoroughly in the microwave.
Great stir-ins would be:
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 12 oz white or dark chocolate chips
On its own,, or customized to suit your family’s tastebuds, this Pumpkin Cream Cheese French Toast (Slow Cooker) Casserole is where it’s at. Be sure to pin the recipe for safekeeping and share with your friends.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Slow Cooker French Toast Casserole
Begin this recipe the night before you plan to serve it.
- 15 ounce can pumpkin puree (or 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree)
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice blend
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups half and half
- 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, divided
- 1 pound loaf day-old brioche bread (or challah), cut into 1" cubes
- 1 8 ounce package cream cheese, cut into 1/2" cubes
To Serve (Optional)
- pure maple syrup
- powdered sugar
- sweetened whipped cream
Prepare the Pumpkin Custard
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, Pumpkin Spice Blend, lemon zest, and salt.
Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the bowl and whisk until smooth.
Finally, add the half-and-half and 1 tablespoon of the melted butter to the bowl and whisk everything together until smooth.
Assemble and Soak the Pumpkin Cream Cheese French Toast Casserole
Grease the slow cooker's ceramic insert with the rest of the melted butter- alternatively, if you plan to bake this casserole- grease a 9"x13"x3" casserole dish.
Add half of the cubed brioche and half of the cream cheese chunks to the dish. Cover with the remaining bread and the rest of the cream cheese.
Pour the pumpkin custard over the bread and cream cheese. Use a large spoon to stir the casserole before covering the dish and refrigerating the casserole for 8 hours (or a minimum of 4 hours).
Cook the Casserole
After soaking, bring the ceramic dish to a warmer temperature by allowing it to sit on the counter for a half-hour. This important step reduces the chance of that ceramic insert shattering due to a drastic change in temperature.
Cook the casserole for 2 hours on high or until the casserole's internal temperature reads 165°F.
Spoon the casserole onto individual plates or bowls, and sprinkle with a generous amount of powdered sugar, a drizzle of maple syrup, or a combination of the two.
Enjoy soon after serving.
Store leftovers in a container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 12 oz white or dark chocolate chips
add the stir-ins when layering the bread and cream cheese
When baking this Pumpkin Cream Cheese French Toast casserole in the oven:
- place your baking dish into the oven before preheating. Allowing the dish to heat slowly- while the oven is coming up to baking temperature- will prevent the shattering of ceramic (or glass) baking dishes
- bake the casserole at 350°F for 45 minutes- covered in aluminum foil. Uncover and bake and additional 15 minutes
- the internal temperature of your baked casserole should be 165°F
To serve refrigerated leftovers: reheat in the microwave until warmed through.
For the frozen leftovers: thaw completely under refrigeration before reheating thoroughly in the microwave.