Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Caramel Sauce

pumpkin-cheesecake

Pumpkin pie is always expected at Thanksgiving, but this year I decided to shake things up a bit and make pumpkin cheesecake instead. Having never made one before, I scoured the internet in search of the perfect recipe and tested six different variations. (Obsessive, I know, but you probably already know that about me by now!) I took what I liked from each one and created this recipe. I promise you: it’s the ultimate sweet ending to your Thanksgiving feast — and no one will miss that tired ol’ pumpkin pie.

The recipe is not hard — as you can see, there aren’t that many ingredients — but it’s a bit of a project, especially if you make the homemade caramel sauce that goes with it. I hope that won’t deter you because it’s totally worth it, especially once a year! I know many cooks avoid baking cheesecakes at home because they need to be cooked in a water bath so they cook evenly and don’t crack. It seems fussy but, honestly, it’s not a big deal. You’ll see below, all you do is set the cake pan in another larger pan and fill the larger pan with water.

Begin by wrapping a 9-inch springform pan with aluminum foil. I prefer to use heavy duty foil because it does a better job of preventing water from seeping into the pan and also comes in wider sheets. Spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Next, make the crust: combine the gingersnaps and sugar in a food processor and pulse until the crumbs are fine.

Add the melted butter.

Then pulse until crumbs are moistened.

Press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Then bake the crust for 15 minutes.

Set the crust aside to cool, and move on to the filling.

Combine the pumpkin, sugar and spices in a medium saucepan and stir over low heat until shiny and thickened. This step, borrowed from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe, both intensifies the pumpkin flavor and dries the pumpkin out.

Next, transfer the pumpkin mixture to a food processor and run for one minute to smooth and cool the mixture.

With the motor running, add the cold heavy cream.

The mixture will look like this.

Then add the cream cheese in large chunks.

And process until smooth.

Finally, add the eggs and pulse until just combined. It’s important not to overmix — if you incorporate too much air into the filling, it will rise and crack or fall when it bakes.

Set the cake pan in a large roasting pan, then pour the filling into the cooled crust.

Next, pour hot water into the roasting pan until it reaches about halfway up the side of the springform pan.

Bake in a 325 degree oven until just set, about 1-1/2 hours. If it jiggles when you shake the pan, it’s not done.

Let the cheesecake cool in the water bath, then leave it out on a rack to cool completely. Finally, cover and refrigerate until chilled — at least four hours or overnight. On that note, it’s a good idea to bake this cake a day ahead of time or early in the morning on the day you plan to serve it.

For the homemade caramel sauce — which is optional yet oh so good — I recommend a very simple recipe from Cooks Illustrated, which takes less than 10 minutes to make in the microwave and requires no fancy equipment or candy thermometers.

Begin by combining the sugar with the corn syrup, water and lemon juice in a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup. Be sure it holds at least 2 cups of liquid so the mixture doesn’t boil over.

Microwave the mixture for 4-8 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow in color. Check it frequently after four minutes; if it gets too dark, the caramel sauce will burn. It should look like this…

Let the caramel sit undisturbed for about five minutes and it will gradually darken to a rich amber color.

At this point, stir in the hot heavy cream little by little. It will bubble up vigorously but shouldn’t overflow.

Finally, stir in the butter.

When you’re ready to serve the cheesecake, warm up the caramel sauce (it stiffens as it sits) and thin it with more heavy cream if necessary.



Drizzle the caramel sauce over the each piece of cheesecake and top with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and a light dusting of cinnamon if desired. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Note: You’ll need a large food processor — preferably with a 12-cup capacity — to make the filling (you can also use an 11-cup, but you may have a bit of leakage). If you don’t have one, it’s fine to use a Kitchenaid Mixer or electric beaters for the filling and a small food processor for the crust.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Caramel Sauce

Print Recipe
Servings: Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 12.
Total Time: 2 Hours

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 7-1/2 ounces gingersnaps (or 1-1/2 cups finely ground gingersnap crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling

  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin (such as Libby's)
  • 1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 1-1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature

For Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more if necessary
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Instructions

For the Crust

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Wrap a 9-inch springform pan twice with aluminum foil (preferably heavy duty). Take care to pull the foil all the way up the sides so that water cannot seep in from the water bath. Spray the bottom and sides of the pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pulse the crackers (or crumbs) and sugar in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until finely ground. Add the butter and pulse a few times to combine. Dump the moistened crumbs into the prepared pan and, using a measuring cup or glass, press into an even layer. Bake until fragrant and set, about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while you prepare the filling.

For the Filling

  1. Bring about 4 quarts of water to a simmer in a tea kettle (this will be used for the water bath). In a small, heavy saucepan, stir together the pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a sputter, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, until thick, bronzed and shiny. Scrape the mixture into a large food processor fitted with the metal blade and process for 1 minute with the feed tube open.
  2. With the motor running, add the cold cream. Add the cream cheese (cut into chunks) and process for about 30 seconds, scraping the sides if necessary, or until smoothly incorporated. Add the eggs and process for about 5 seconds or just until incorporated (do not overmix!).
  3. Set the cake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour the batter into the cooled crust, and then pour enough boiling water into the large roasting pan to come about halfway up side of the cake pan. Bake until the cake is just set, about 1-1/2 hours. If it jiggles, it's not done. Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven and set on a wire rack. Use a paring knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Cool until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove the springform pan from the water bath, discard the foil and set on a wire rack. Continue to cool at room temperature until barely warm, about 3 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

For the Caramel Sauce

  1. Stir the sugar, corn syrup, water and lemon juice together in a 2-cup microwave-safe measuring cup or medium glass bowl. Microwave until the caramel is pale yellow, or just barely starting to take on some color, 4-8 minutes (depending on the strength of your microwave). It's fine to stop and open the microwave to check often; just don't let it get too dark or it will burn. Let the caramel sit for about 5 minutes -- it will gradually turn a rich amber color. (If after five minutes, it's not dark enough, place it back in the microwave for thirty seconds or so, then let it darken again. If it gets too dark, start over.)
  2. In the meantime, heat the cream in the microwave until hot. Once the caramel reaches the right color, add the hot cream a few tablespoons at a time. It will bubble up intensely, but won't overflow. After you've added all the cream, stir to incorporate then add the butter. Add more cream if the mixture seems too thick. Once the caramel cools, you can store it in your fridge.

For Serving

  1. Remove the outer ring from the springform pan. Slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and pan bottom to loosen, then slide the cheesecake onto a serving platter. (Alternatively, you can keep it on the pan bottom.) If there is condensation on the top of the cheesecake, blot it gently with a flat paper towel. Let the cheesecake stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then cut it into wedges. Warm up the caramel sauce in the microwave (it stiffens in the fridge). If it's too thick, add more heavy cream to thin it out. Drizzle the caramel sauce over each piece of cheesecake and top with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream if desired.
  2. Note: You'll need a large food processor -- preferably with a 12-cup capacity -- to make the filling (you can also use an 11-cup, but you may have a bit of leakage). If you don't have one, it's fine to use a Kitchenaid Mixer or electric beaters for the filling and a small food processor for the crust.
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  • Looks amazing! Anyone would be lucky to have this grace their dessert table.

  • Step aside pumpkin pie!!
    Once you go pumpkin cheesecake at Thanksgiving, I really don’t think you can go back. My family has our own pumpkin praline version, but I love your gingersnap crust idea. I think it would be just perfect.
    Thanks for the great recipe and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

  • Mmm I made a dessert with a gingersnap crust a few weeks ago and I love the flavor – this looks amazing! Love the caramel drizzled on top

  • Carmen

    This looks so wonderful! How large is your food processor? I’m worried that it will overflow in mine.

    • Jenn

      Hi Carmen, Mine is 11 cups and it just fits. You could also make it in a food processor…just be sure the cream cheese is room temp.

    • Chad

      Mine was about to overflow. I just took a couple cups out and put it in a big mixing bowl, continued mixing it all together in the food processor, and then just stirred it all in the big mixing bowl. Turned out fine.

  • Karen

    OMG, my dream dessert! I have tried making a pumpkin cheesecake,(recipes from the internet) and have not had success. I cannot wait to try this one. Thank you for doing all the trial and error, and perfecting this dream come true.

  • Oh my, this looks so good. The recipe looks simple and easy to follow. Thanks for perfecting for us! Can’t wait to try that caramel sauce.

  • edna

    It is a picture perfect cheesecake…thanks for the post…Happy Thanksgiving to yiou and yours…e*

  • Sri K.

    Looks yummy. I always make pumpkin cheesecake for T’giving. I’m going to try this version tomorrow.

  • Lily

    I made this last night and it looks amazing. However, I used an 11 cup Cuisinart Food Processor and the filling was leaking through the bottom of the work bowl. You must work fast if you don’t want to lose too much of the filling. I ended up with a few pea sized cream cheese chunks because I had to stop processing the filling and get it in the pan. Not a huge problem as I used my finger and a fork to break up the chunks of cream cheese. I wish my food processor had a sealed blade. The max fill line for liquids in the work bowl is very low. Great Recipe! Can’t wait to taste it tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Jenn

      Hi Lily, This is good to know, and I will make a note in the recipe. A 12 or 14 cup food processor is best, but if you don’t have one it’s fine to make the filling in a kitchen aid mixer or large bowl with an electric beater. You could also make the filling up to the eggs in a food processor, and then whisk in the eggs by hand in a large bowl. I just like to use a food processor because it’s fast and doesn’t incorporate too much air into the filling. Please come back and let me know how you liked it!

      • Lily

        Everybody in my family absolutely loved this cheesecake. Thank you for sharing this recipe. I will be adding it to my cache.

  • Jennifer F

    I just placed this beautiful dessert in the oven! Thanks for such an amazing Thanksgiving recipe!!! I am so thankful for your blog!!! :D It is always my “go to” site for deliciousness!

  • I just put mine in the oven and can not wait until tomorrow to have a slice, or two:)…I did my filling in a blender up until the eggs.I tranferred to a mixing bowl to add the eggs.

  • Sarahjones

    Making this right now, for tommorow. Wish me luck first time at making a cheesecake. It just looked to good to pass up!

  • Christy

    I made this for our thanksgiving celebration.

    I have no idea how much the quality of my cheesecake changed with me being an absolute beginner and NOT using a food processor.

    I committed to the project, bought all the ingredients, and then realized my food processor was out of commission.

    Cookies where smashed in a plastic baggie. Not sure I incorporated it well with the butter and sugar when I transferred it to a bowl.

    I don’t have any measuring cups, and I am in the EU–so I just crossed my fingers that 24 oz of cream cheese is equivalent to 680 grams. Trying to whisk it was so tiresome, and I wasn’t even sure it was all incorporated.

    When it came to the eggs, maybe I underbeat it, but I didn’t want any cracks! And when pouring my hot water for the bath, I spilled a couple tablespoons of water into my cheesecake.

    While it was really stressful, I can look back and laugh at it because the recipe turned out great!!

    There were no leftovers, except for a small slice I saved for myself because I wanted to see what would happen if I would have let it set overnight–and if you can, it is definitely a lot more flavorful the next day. I also felt the texture was a bit creamier.

    Next time I make this, day ahead!

    Thanks for reading my novella! And thank you for the recipe.

    • Jenn

      I so enjoyed reading this, Christy…and am very glad to know the recipe is fail-safe! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Liz McNett Crowl

    I made this for Thanksgiving dinner and it was a huge hit. It competed with traditional pumpkin pie and a layered chocolate dessert. Loved the Caramel Sauce in the microwave and LOVED it on the cheesecake. Adding it to my recipe file as a keeper.

  • Cynthia

    I made this for Thanksgiving dinner, and it was a huge hit (though mine turned out to be more caramel-colored and less orange than yours)! Due to a lack of communication, my sister in law also made pumpkin cheesecake, but of the more ‘conventional’ variety — there were loads of difference in the intensity of flavor! Thanks for another wonderful recipe.

  • My birthday was the day after Thanksgiving so my hubby made me a pumpkin cheesecake. I love the idea of doing a gingersnap crust!

  • susie dyksinski

    I’ve been making pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving for years now. When my gluten intolerant sister visits I simply use gluten free ginger snaps in the crust — always yummy.

  • susie 414

    I love pumpkin cheesecake — I’m always ready to try a new rendition

  • Sarahjones

    I made this for Thanksgiving. It turned out perfect! Thanks for making it so easy for my first time making it Jen!

  • This sounds amazing! I’m throwing it together this evening for a late Thanksgiving celebration with friends tomorrow. Your cheesecake looks so beautifully sliced! Do you have any unique techniques for how to get perfectly sliced cheesecake?

    • Jenn

      Hi Amy, Just be sure to rinse or dip the knife in hot water and wipe it clean before cutting each slice. Hope you enjoy it!

  • Rachelle

    This is the BEST dessert eva!!! I made it for “the girls” yearly Christmas dinner and one women said it was like havng an orgasm in her mouth…. EVERYONE Loved loved loved it!!! I also made it for family at Christmas and again rave reviews!!!
    I followed insturctions to the T and it was flawless… Thank you for sharing these wonderful recipes.

  • Barbara J

    Ok I admit it I am a cheescake nut, love to experiment with different flavors of cheesecake, this one, is really wonderful, with the gingersnap crust & the luscious sauce…the perfect decadent dessert.

  • I made your Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Caramel Sauce for a Thanksgiving potluck with friends last year. The filling was really flavorful and creamy! My only complaint with the recipe was that I found the crust to be a little soggy. I weighed my crust ingredients with a kitchen scale, so I think the portion were correct, but it didn’t have a very pleasant texture. I prefer a crust with a little more heft to contrast with the smooth and creamy cheesecake filling. Again, I’m not sure if that was a fault of mine or the recipe.

    When I make cheesecake, I find that the extra step of straining the batter into the pan really helps get out any lumps of cream cheese, egg, or spices and ensures a perfectly smooth filling. Also, I’ve learned that a piece of heavy duty white thread (or unflavored dental floss) can ensure a gorgeous presentation of a cut cheesecake.

  • Leanne Storch

    The caramel sauce was a nice addition to the cheesecake. Be careful when covering the springform pan with foil because I apparently had some holes and water got in. I thought the cheesecake was ruined, but it wasn’t thankfully. It was very creamy and the gingersnap crust was nice and crunchy.

  • Renee Evans

    I made this for family thanksgiving last year. It was great. I did find that I had to cook it for a lot longer than the recommended time (about 45min) as the center was still runny, and it ended up cracking on top. But it tasted amazing do it was well worth the time put into it :)

  • OMG ! I was lucky to get a bite. Made this for a party and it was gone I. The blink of an eye

  • Gianna

    I love pumpkin cheesecake.

  • Sally

    I just want to say that I can’t stand pumpkin pie and have always thought it was disgusting. I wanted an alternative and I stumbled upon this recipe. I was skeptical but my GOD these are the most delicious dessert I have EVER tasted. I made 36 muffin-sized cheesecakes and froze them for our upcoming Canadian Thanksgiving dinner and to be honest, I don’t want to share them at all. Thanks so much for posting this recipe!

  • Manda

    Looks interesting, will leave more details once I’ve baked it

  • Gina

    I found the 9″ springform too small, as the filling almost spilled over. Next time I will use an 11″ springform. Waiting for it to come out of the oven, but so far it smells great.

  • Gina

    The cheesecake was a huge hit this evening! I wasn’t sure what kind of pumpkin I should buy, the pure pumpkin, which came in a 14 oz can or the pumpkin pie filling, which came in a 15 oz can. Since the recipe called for a 15 oz can, I used the pie filling. I still added the spices as per the recipe. I was told that guests at the dinner, who don’t like pumpkin, loved the cheesecake because the pumpkin flavor was subtle. I suspect that had I used the pure pumpkin, the results might have been different.

    Also found that I needed to bake the cake for 2 hours and let it continue to set in the oven with the heat turned off and the oven door shut.

    Great recipe which I will add to my go-to recipes! Thanks for sharing it.

  • Wendy

    I just made this today for Thanksgiving Day (Canadian)….I was disappointed in the texture…the caramel sauce is to die for though !! ..I’m hoping the texture will improve with overnight in the fridge…maybe it wasn’t cooled enough……maybe I didn’t cook it long enough?? 3 1/2 hrs…but did have some trouble regulating the temp in my Honduran gas oven ….I doubled the spices, it found it was still bland….

  • This recipe is excellent. Our family loved it! Thanks!

  • Lizzie Crowl

    Made this last year for Thanksgiving and it received rave reviews. It is on the menu again this year by request!

  • Suzannah

    I cannot wait to try this in a few days!! How far in advance can I make this? Would you recommend no further than a day ahead?

    • Jenn

      Hi Suzannah, Yes, one day ahead is good as the crust will get soggy if you do it too far in advance. Hope you enjoy it!

  • Arianne

    What a treat!!! I make two and gave one away and got rave reviews. The one I served was loved by all. I am now making it for Thanksgiving in place of traditional pumpkin pie and everyone is happy about the change. Thank you so much for this divine recipe. I love this website and it’s philosophy.

  • Judee

    Silly question. Is it possible to get the pie off the springform pan bottom and on to a serving plate afterwards??? Or do you just keep it on and place that on the serving plate??? So excited to make this!!! Wish me luck, although all of your recipes that I make come out awesome!!

    • Jenn

      Hi Judee, Not silly! It is possible…you have to slide a thin metal spatula underneath the crust (it should be very hard from being in the fridge, so definitely wait til it’s chilled) to separate it from the bottom of the pan. Then you should be able to slide it off and transfer it. Please come back and let me know how it turns out…this is one of my favorites!

  • Elizabeth

    Hi Jenn, I am making the pumpkin cheese cake, it’s said about 11/2 hrs for baking, but mine still seems jiggle. Is it ok to keep baking it until it stop jiggling and should I add more water in the pan to keep it moist so it don’t crack on top?
    Thanks

    • Jenn

      Hi Elizabeth, Yes and yes!

  • Jill

    Wow, what an amazing recipe!!! Thank you so much for this! I tend to be a bit skeptical of recipes from the internet as I’ve had some real disasters. I am good cook with 40 years of experience (but not anywhere near a chef) so the disasters have not been my fault. Anyway, everything in this recipe was absolutely right on and I can appreciate that you did indeed test six recipes. I usually find that I end up tweaking a lot of recipes but there’s no need to do that with this one :) Right down to the caramel sauce, it all turned out perfectly. I’ve never made caramel sauce in the microwave before and it is so easy to do…..much easier than on the stove. Again, THANK YOU

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