Gourmet Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipes (With Helpful Tips!)
Pumpkin Cheesecake Is So Easy to Make
Not until the last decade have many cooks attempted to bake a pumpkin cheesecake, but those who have swear it is addicting, including myself.
A pumpkin cheesecake is a perfect addition to any holiday dinner table, and it is becoming more and more fashionable to be served as an alternative to the standard pumpkin pie at the annual Thanksgiving feast or Christmas dinner.
A pumpkin cheesecake may seem to be a very difficult confection to create, but it is actually one of the easiest elegant desserts to whip up for someone with little to no experience. The only real difficulty is the time taken from start to finish.
I have never been much of a cake baker; I enjoy baking pies and pride myself on my expertise with the flakey pie pastry I am able to make. A cheesecake, on the other hand, is especially easy even for someone like me who has a difficult time with multiple cake layers and icing.
Something that you must keep in mind when making a REAL cheesecake, no matter what the flavor, is that you must use REAL ingredients. Substituting low-fat or low-quality ingredients is one of the major causes of cheesecake failure.
Hawaiian Paradise Pumpkin Cheesecake
This is a recipe that I created from trial and error. I call it Hawaiian Paradise because I am from Hawaii.
My father-in-law likes it better than his favorite pumpkin pie and asks me to make it for him every year. The paradise is because he says he is in paradise when he eats it.
Prep Time: 20 min
Start to Finish: 8 hr 45 min
Makes: 12–14 servings
- 1 3/4 cups gingersnap crumbs (about 14 cookies)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 stick butter (4 tablespoons), melted
- 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted macadamia nuts (or pecans if mac nuts aren't available)
Note: If you want a thicker crust, just increase the amounts.
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon mace or allspice (optional)
- 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup packed golden brown sugar (originally called for 1 cup, but was too sweet for my taste)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
- 2 tablespoons rum or brandy, if desired
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/3 cup evaporated milk
Note: All ingredients should be at room temperature.
- Heat oven to 325°F. Butter the insides of a 9-inch springform cake pan. The bottom will not need it because of the butter in the crumb mixture. I use the butter wrappers to grease the sides.
- In a small bowl, mix cookie crumbs, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, the nuts, and the melted butter. Press crumb mixture in bottom of the pan and about an inch up the sides. Wrap foil around outside bottom of the pan to prevent drips. Chill in refrigerator while making the filling.
- Meanwhile, in another small bowl, mix spices; set aside. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Beat in brown sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add in pumpkin, the spice mixture, evaporated milk, rum, and vanilla and beat just until blended. Gradually beat in 1 egg at a time just until blended.
- Pour filling into chilled crust. Bake 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes or until set but the center of cheesecake still jiggles slightly when moved. Turn oven off; open oven door at least 4 inches. Let cheesecake remain in oven 30 minutes.
- Cool in pan on wire rack 30 minutes (see below). Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight before serving.
- To serve, run a knife around edge of pan to loosen cheesecake. Carefully remove the side of the pan. Have ready a piece of cardboard cut the same size as the bottom of the cake. With a long, thin metal spatula, slide under the bottom of the cake to loosen from the pan and slide cake onto cardboard.
Store covered in the refrigerator.
To help prevent cracks in the cheesecake, don't over beat the cream cheese mixture once the eggs are added and do not over bake.
With spiced whipped cream. Just whip 1 cup of heavy cream with about 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to stiff peaks.
Pipe onto the top of the pumpkin cheesecake using a pastry bag or just add a dollop of the whipped cream to the top of each individual piece when serving. If a pastry bag isn't available cut off a small corner of a plastic bag and fill the bag with the whipped cream.
High Altitude (3500–6500 feet):
Decrease butter for the crust to 1/4 cup. Before heating the oven, place a small baking pan filled with 1 to 2 cups water on oven rack below the center rack to help prevent the cheesecake from cracking (leave pan in oven while cheesecake cools). Heat oven to 350°F.
Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake
- 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs* (from five 4 3/4 by 2 1/4-inch crackers)
- 1/2 cup pecans (1 3/4 ounces), finely chopped (reserve a few whole nuts for garnish)
- 1/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
- 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 pound canned Libby's solid-pack pumpkin
- 1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon
- 1 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 cups sour cream (20 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon
Garnish: Pecan Halves
Make crust: Blend crumbs, pecans, sugar, and butter in a bowl until combined well and looks like coarse crumbs. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1/2- inch to 1- inch up side of a 9-inch springform pan. Chill crust, for 1 hour.
Make filling: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325˚F.
- Using an electric mixer beat cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth.
- Mix in sugar. Add eggs 1 at a time and beat until fluffy.
- Blend in cream, vanilla, liqueur, and spices, just until creamy and smooth, about 4 minutes.
- Reduce speed to medium, then add pumpkin and beat just until mixed and smooth.
- Pour filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan on a shallow baking pan, or cover bottom with aluminum foil (in case springform pan leaks).
Bake cheesecake: Set pan in center of oven. Bake until top center is just set, about 70–80 minutes. Depending on oven, it may take a little longer. Transfer to rack and cool 5 minutes. (Leave oven on.)
Make topping: Whisk together sour cream, sugar, and liqueur in a bowl, then spread on top of cheesecake and bake 5 minutes. Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 3 hours. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 6 hours. Remove side of pan and bring to room temperature before serving.
Garnish: Before serving, add a few whole pecans to the top of the Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake in any pattern you wish.
*Options: Crust can be made of a mixture of graham cracker crumbs and gingersnap crumbs.
Different Ways to Top Pumpkin CheesecakesClick thumbnail to view full-size
10 Tips for a Better Pumpkin Cheesecake
If you want your cheesecake to turn out right, you must not substitute ingredients. Yes, a real cheesecake is rich and full of calories, but none of my recipes will turn out well if you try to substitute low-fat, dietary ingredients. In my opinion, these types of ingredients do more harm to the body than good. If you want a low-fat recipe, you'd better look elsewhere!
- Only use real butter. Margarine should not be substituted.
- Only use real cream cheese. Low-fat cannot be substituted; Neufchatel may not be substituted. The cheesecake will fail.
- Only use real vanilla extract. Artificial should not be substituted. The flavor is watered down with an artificial product.
- Sugar substitutes may NOT be used. Not only are these chemical products toxic for your body, but they also do not combine properly with the other ingredients. As good as agave and honey may be for your body, it will take a lot of experimenting to get them to work properly in my recipes.
- Use Libby's canned pumpkin. In my experience, it is the most stable. I have found other brands are often too watery and can ruin the cheesecake. Use your own judgment here. DO NOT use a pumpkin pie filling or mix. It has to be 100% pure pumpkin.
- Avoid adding cornstarch to a cheesecake batter. It changes the texture of the cheesecake and is an unnecessary additive.
- All ingredients should be at room temperature.
- Use an electric mixer, but do not overbeat the batter.
- Use a high-quality springform pan to bake it.
- Cool for 12–24 hours. For a truly dense and delicious cheesecake, you must allow for 12–24 hours of cooling time. Trust me, a couple hours simply isn't enough! I usually bake cheesecake the day before serving it so that I can make sure it's had enough time to cool.
Invest in a Kaiser Bakeware Springform Pan
A springform baking pan is a must for baking cheesecakes, so you will really want to have a high-quality one for these recipes. Poor-quality springform baking pans tend to leak from the bottom and bake unevenly.
I bought one of these and then bought two more. It is the best springform pan for even baking and easy cleanup. The bottom is truly a no-leak bottom.
Next, I plan to pick up the set of mini cheesecake pans from the same company.
Never Buy an Aluminum Springform Baking Pan
For one, the aluminum leaches into your food, which in turn, you ingest into your body when you eat the food. Many are not aware of how toxic this can be over time as the aluminum gets stored in the body.
The second reason is that they are just crappy baking pans that seldom hold up over time. They can get bent out of shape very easily, and often the bottoms leak.
Tip: Silver pans will cook faster than dark pans. You will need to adjust your baking time by about 5 minutes.
Plan on Baking the Day Before Serving
The only difficult part of baking a pumpkin cheesecake—or any flavor cheesecake for that matter—is the long cooling periods that the cheesecake has to go through.
Every cheesecake needs to sit on its cooling rack when it is removed from the oven and allowed to cool down to room temperature. Once it has cooled down, the cake pan sides can be removed; however, I usually wait until the next day. I find it less stressful to leave it in the pan while chilling.
The cheesecake will need, at the very least, 6 hours of chilling time in the fridge. The best is 12 to 24 hours of chill time for all of the flavors in the cheesecake to meld.
Before serving the cheesecake to your guests, it should be removed from the refrigerator and allowed to come back to room temperature.
Another Cheesecake Essential!
A cooling rack is essential for all baking and a round rack is more convenient for cheesecake pans. I like this 13-inch size to rest a 9 or 10-inch cake pan on and this nonstick variety will be the easiest to clean.
Most Common Cheesecake Baking Mistakes
1. Do not overbeat the cream cheese batter.
This is one of the most common mistakes made by many home bakers. If it says to "beat for 10 minutes", only beat for 10 minutes.
If the cheesecake recipe says to beat 25 minutes, throw the recipe away. The cook doesn't know how to make a good cheesecake. If the recipe says "beat until blended", only beat until the batter is mixed, and no longer.
2. Do NOT over bake.
This is another common mistake made by inexperienced pumpkin cheesecake bakers. Overbaking will crack the top of the cheesecake just like the one in this photo.
You do NOT want the top of your cheesecake to be cracked. You will know that your cheesecake is done if the top of it is set but the filling is still slightly jiggly when you remove it from the oven. It will continue to set up as it cools.
3. Allow to cool in the oven.
When the baking time is up. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for 10 minutes, (or longer if recipe calls for it) with the oven door open part-way, allowing the oven heat to escape.
4. Think twice before using a water bath.
The only time a water bath should be used is if you prefer a creamy, custard-style cheesecake rather than having a true, dense cheesecake. I personally never use them because I prefer the denser New York style of cheesecake. In my humble opinion, they are the best gourmet cheesecake.
5. Do NOT stick a knife in the cheesecake.
Sticking a knife into a cheesecake to test for doneness is not the correct thing to do. This will crack the cake. Remember that the cheesecake will still be a bit jiggly when it is finished baking, so this sort of test is redundant.
6. Be careful when removing the springform bottom.
Once the cheesecake has cooled, you will want to remove the cake from the springform pan bottom to transfer to a serving plate.
The trick to doing this is to slightly warm the bottom of the pan to loosen the butter's grip on the pan. Just setting it on top of a warm stovetop will do the trick.
Then, using a long blade spatula, gently slide the spatula between the crumb bottom and the pan to loosen and slide the cheesecake onto the serving plate.
History of Pumpkin Pie in the North American Colonies
Our first pumpkin pies in the new colonies of North America, in the early 1600s, were not pies at all. For the lack of a better description, they resembled "squash pudding buckets" because the custard was cooked in the pumpkin shell.
Early Americans learned from the Native Americans to scoop out the seeds and flesh from the native pumpkin. The seeds were roasted and the flesh was cooked down over the fire and mashed into a pulp.
The shell of the pumpkin was then filled back up with the pumpkin pulp, with cream or milk, and sweetened with either maple syrup or honey. The pumpkin was then cooked in the hot ashes of the cooking pit for hours until it solidified into a soft pudding.
Spices were not added as they were not to be had at that point in time and did not get added to the pumpkin recipes until around 1655 when the trading ships began delivering larger cargos that included molasses and spices.
The first pumpkin pie to resemble what we know as a pumpkin pie today, probably didn't happen until much later than 1621, the year of the first Thanksgiving, and was probably closer to the early to mid-1800s.
These first pies used molasses as one of the sweetening agents, and also added maple syrup, honey and available spices into the custard mixture. The ships that arrived in New England brought the added molasses and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and mace.
The first pies that were created were not a custard mixture like the Native Americans had made in the squash buckets either. They were made of pumpkin that was sliced much in the same fashion as we would slice apples for pies today.
Often the pumpkin slices were fried in fat before being placed into the pie crust. Keep in mind that there were not any apples in the Americas at this time.
Early Americans would also dry slices of pumpkin to store for later use during the harsh New England winters when the food stores were in short supply. Pumpkin, to this day, remains a highly nutritious, staple food in American culinary diets.
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