Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin pie.Jim Davis, American Cartoonist
Some nights, the aroma of baking brings me back to a certain consciousness. And it’s how I relax. Some folks soak in a lavender bath, others take a walk in nature or lose themselves in a book. I like to bake.
Today is National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day, and I’ve been experimenting a lot with pumpkins and pumpkin recipes. It only seems natural that pumpkins and cheesecake would form a perfect union, and I think I found the ultimate pumpkin cheesecake with this recipe. In fact, I think I’ve found the perfect Thanksgiving Day dessert.
There is great artistry in the pumpkin pie. It’s found in the silky, ginger texture of the pumpkin filling and the perfect symmetry of the crust that encircles it like a golden halo. Here we have combined all of the warmth of the traditional pumpkin pie with the best flavors of fall for this delectable dessert. Loaded with pumpkin puree and the spices of cinnamon and ginger tucked away into a crispy and savory cinnamon cookie crust, then topped with fresh whipped cream and a salted caramel sauce . . . . well, it is simply a delicious match made in heaven that will leave you pining for more.
Let’s take it step-by-step to create this ultimate pumpkin cheesecake, starting with the crust.
How to Make a Pumpkin Cheesecake Crust
It all starts with a crust. Most cheesecakes sit atop various forms of a graham cracker crust — a simple mixture of graham crackers, sugar and butter — formed in a springform pan. Others show off something unexpected like nuts or cookies. In fact, one of my friends uses Lorna Doone shortbread cookies for her New York cheesecake crust.
To enhance the flavors of fall, I choose these Lotus Biscoff cookies for their brown sugar and cinnamon flavor. Similar to making a graham cracker crust, I started by putting the cookies into the food processor to crush into fine crumbles. Place in a bowl to mix with melted butter, ginger, cinnamon and sugar. Pour into a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan and press gently throughout the bottom and partially up the sides of the pan. Using the back of a spoon or fork helps press the crumbs into place and keep them where you want them.
Tips for a Perfect Cheesecake Water Bath
A water bath sounds like something complicated or extravagant, though trust me, it will make all the difference in the finished cheesecake product. In its essence, it’s simply a pan of hot water placed in the oven while baking. This simple method adds moisture to the oven and especially helps to prevent cheesecakes (or custards) from cracking or becoming rubbery. It also provides a more even and slower heat source than the direct heat of the oven, which also helps prevent the cheesecake from sinking back down as it cools.
To prepare a water bath, take folded strips of heavy aluminum foil and wrap the edges of your springform pan to insulate the cheesecake even further. Once your pan is full of all the creamy goodness, set it inside a large roasting pan filled 1-2 inches up the pan with water. Place in the oven at the desired baking temperature.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Words of Wisdom
Here are some additional helpful hints for making the “ultimate” cheesecake of any flavor, and some specific pointers for the pumpkin cheesecake.
- Use full-fat cream cheese. I know, we all like to be prudent when baking. A cheesecake is just one of those indulgences that well, if you’re going to make and eat one, just go for it!
- Prepare your cheesecake using ingredients that are all at room temperature, including the cream cheese and eggs. This will prevent over-mixing of your cheesecake, and will allow the combination of ingredients to produce a very creamy and smooth cheesecake. (Using cold ingredients will produce a more chunky batter.)
- Use canned pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling.
- Bake in a water bath. See notes above.
- Once the cheesecake has baked to the desired doneness — still a bit wobbly in the center — turn the oven off and open the door to let the heat escape for approximately an hour.
- Cool the cheesecake completely before chilling.
- Chill your cheesecake for at least five hours or overnight.
If you follow all of the steps and helpful hints, you will be crowned cheesecake queen by your family. The pumpkin flavor, the creamy cheesecake, the snap of the cinnamon cookie crust, the dollops of freshly whipped cream, and the salted caramel drizzles all combine to create the homey taste of fall on your fork. It’s the perfect dessert for Thanksgiving, the holidays or any fall day.
The Ultimate Pumpkin Cheesecake
- 9" or 10" springform pan
- Large roasting pan (for water bath)
- Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer
- Food processor
- Heavy Aluminum Foil
- 1.5 cup Lotus Biscoff Cinnamon Cookies crumbs
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ cup unsalted butter melted
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 4 packages 8-ounce full fat cream cheese packages softened to room temperature
- 1.5 cups granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup sour cream room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup Libby's pumpkin puree
- 1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1.5 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- Whipped Cream
- Salted Caramel Sauce
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Using a food processor, pulse the cinnamon cookies into crumbs, yielding 1.5 cups. Pour into medium bowl, add ginger, cinnamon, sugar and melted butter. Mix to combine well. Pour into springform pan and press firmly up the sides and bottom of a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven. Allow crust to cool while you prepare the filling.
- Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until well combined, and the mixture is smooth and creamy, approximately 2 minutes.
- Add sour cream and vanilla and beat until fluffy and combined.
- On medium speed, add eggs one at a time, beating after each egg until just blended. After the final egg has been mixed in, stop mixing.
- Scoop out approximately 2 cups of the batter and place in a medium bowl. Stir in the pumpkin, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice until well combined.
- On top of the crust, scoop out a layer of the "plain" cheesecake batter. Then in large spoonfuls, add the pumpkin batter, and alternate until both batters have been put into the pan. Using a large toothpick, swirl the batters together by dragging the toothpick top to bottom and left to right. NOTE: This doesn't have to be a perfect science.
- Tear off two strips of aluminum foil. Fold so that each strip is approximately the height of your springform pan. Wrap around the edges of the pan.
- Place spring form pan wrapped in foil into a large roasting pan. Add hot water approximately 1 inch up the side of the springform pan. Place roasting pan in oven
Cooking & Chilling Instructions
- Bake cheesecake for approximately 55 to 70 minutes, depending upon your oven. NOTE: If top of cheesecake is getting too brown, tent the top with foil to prevent further browning or burning. You will know when the cheesecake is done when it is still slightly wobbly when shaking the pan. Turn off the oven, open the door partially and leave the cheesecake in the oven for one hour. Remove cheesecake from oven after baking and resting, and allow it to cool completely on your kitchen counter. When completely cool, put in refrigerator to chill, approximately 5 hours or overnight.
- Add toppings, as desired. Photos show freshly whipped cream and salted caramel drizzles.