Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Caramel Sauce

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This pumpkin cheesecake is the ultimate sweet ending to your Thanksgiving feast — and no one will miss the pumpkin pie.

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. 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.

What you’ll need to make pumpkin cheesecake

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

How to make pumpkin cheesecake

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.

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

Begin by wrapping a 9- or 10-inch springform pan with a double layer of aluminum foil. It’s important to use heavy-duty foil because it comes in wider sheets and does a better job of preventing water from seeping into the pan. (If you’d like to try another technique that doesn’t require wrapping the pan in foil, get more guidance here.) Spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray.

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

Next, make the crust: combine the gingersnaps, sugar, and melted butter in a food processor.

how to make pumpkin cheesecake Pulse until the crumbs are fine.

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

Transfer the crumbs to the prepared pan.

how to make pumpkin cheesecakePress the crumbs into an even layer, then bake for 15 minutes.

 

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

Set the crust aside to cool, and move on to the filling. Combine the pumpkin, sugar and spices in a medium saucepan.

how to make pumpkin cheesecake Stir over medium heat until shiny, bronze, and thickened. This step, borrowed from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe, both intensifies the pumpkin flavor and dries the pumpkin out.

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

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

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

With the motor running, add the cold heavy cream. The mixture will look like this.

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

Add the cream cheese in large chunks.

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

Process until smooth.

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

Finally, add the eggs.

how to make pumpkin cheesecakePulse until just combined. It’s important not to over-mix — if you incorporate too much air into the filling, it will rise and crack or fall when it bakes.

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

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

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

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

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

Bake in a 325°F-oven until just set, about 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hours. A properly cooked cheesecake will jiggle a bit when you nudge the pan, but if the center still seems liquidy, it’s not done.

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

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.

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

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.

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

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

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

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

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

Finally, stir in the butter.

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

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.

how to make pumpkin cheesecakeDrizzle 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!

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

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Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Caramel Sauce

This pumpkin cheesecake is the ultimate sweet ending to your Thanksgiving feast — and no one will miss the pumpkin pie.

Servings: Makes one 9- or 10-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
  • 4 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
  • Special equipment: 9- or 10-inch springform pan; 18-inch heavy-duty aluminum foil

For the Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup granulated 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°F degrees and set a rack in the lower middle position. Wrap a 9- or 10-inch springform pan with with one large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, covering the underside and extending all the way to the top so there are no seams on the bottom or sides of the pan. Repeat with another sheet of foil for insurance. Spray the inside of the pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pulse the gingersnaps, sugar, and melted butter in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until finely ground. Transfer the moistened crumbs into the prepared pan and 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. Set a kettle of water to boil (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, 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hours. A properly cooked cheesecake will jiggle a bit when you nudge the pan, but if the center seems at all liquidy, it's not done. CAREFULLY remove the roasting pan from the oven and set on a wire rack. Run a sharp paring knife around the edges 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 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, immediately stir in the hot cream a few tablespoons at a time. It will bubble up intensely, but it 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 14-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.
  3. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The cheesecake can be frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze: place the cake in the freezer briefly, unwrapped, to firm it up. Then double-wrap it tightly with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place it in heavy-duty freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator the night before you plan to eat it.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (12 servings)
  • Serving size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 643
  • Fat: 40g
  • Saturated fat: 23g
  • Carbohydrates: 66g
  • Sugar: 54g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 8g
  • Sodium: 397mg
  • Cholesterol: 196mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • I made this for my husband for Valentine’s Day because he loves cheesecake and pumpkin. I’m not a huge fan of either, but this was beyond delicious. So good! Easy recipe to make, and the caramel was a perfect compliment. I topped with a light not-so-sweet whipped cream to cut the richness a bit, but it is fantastic either way.

    • — G. Sirkel on February 15, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is the second year I have made this for Thanksgiving. If you follow the directions it turns out perfectly! I love the suggestion to use heavy duty foil twice. I had made other recipes that didn’t specify and had leaking.
    This is so delicious that I don’t think the caramel sauce is necessary. I like to taste the divine cheesecake alone.

    • — Anna Dixon on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is part of family holiday tradition now. We all rave about it so much it’s bookmarked on my phone! Seriously! I enjoy the depth of information in your recipes in general and this one reading the whole thing is well worth it. Thank you.

    • — Jennifer on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’ve made this a few times, followed the instructions to a “T,” and it is a keeper! Creamy and smooth deliciousness with a spoon of the caramel poured over for swoon-worthy requests for one more piece. It’s rich, it’s filling, and you might say it’s a bit naughty to gild the lily with this dessert, but let’s face it, if you’re going to indulge, indulge with this!

    • — Lynn S on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • She’s right. You won’t miss the pie. Its so good. I started using this recipe in 2018 and because of the success I decided not to try others. It is requested at my Thanksgiving and others. I am a cheesecake novice and this turns out every time. My notes say don’t forget to spray/parchment the pan. I also put my waterbath pan on stove next to the cooling cheesecake. My MIL thinks this helps with cracking.? The caramel sauce is good, but not necessary. I love you can make in advance due to it freezing well. Plan ahead and don’t be in a hurry. It will be GREAT! Thanks Jen.

    • — Jill on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe takes some time but is well worth it! I made the “mistake” of making it for Thanksgiving a few years ago and now it’s expected at EVERY Thanksgiving. Everyone loves it. I cheat and use store bought caramel sauce. Bourbon caramel sauce is even better if you can find it.

    • — Keather on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this at Thanksgiving as a spin on traditional pumpkin pie and this is 100% becoming a Thanksgiving staple in our household. It turned out beautifully, I was able to prepare it the day before and just pull it out of the fridge after dinner. Definitely don’t skip the caramel sauce or whipped cream!

    • — Ceylan Myers on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • So good! A long recipe but worth it AND it came be made ahead of time making the recipe do-able for that special occasion!

    • — Yvonne Johnston on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • OMG! I made this cheesecake for Thanksgiving as part of my family does not like pumpkin pie. My youngest son likes to critic the pie as it never turns out the same.
    When I stumbled on this pumpkin cheesecake recipe it was the answer to all my dessert issues at Thanksgiving.
    This cheesecake was amazing. I followed the instructions, which were easy to do , the cheesecake turned out picture perfect
    All my family raved about it even the pumpkin pie haters. They made me promise to make it every year.
    This recipe turns out wonderfully every year. The best cheesecake I have ever made. Thank you!

    • — Norma Kleiman on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this for my boyfriend’s birthday since he loves both cheesecake and pumpkin pie, but unfortunately neither of us were fans of the cheesecake filling. I followed the recipe exactly and the filling was just too salty for some reason, had too much nutmeg, and something we couldn’t put our finger on. I wanted to love it since it looked so beautiful and was so time intensive, but it just tasted super off. The caramel sauce was good though

    • — Christine on January 10, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi! Is it normal for butter to puddle underneath the crust?

    • — Priscela Perez on December 29, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Priscela, Depending on the gingersnap cookies you use, the butter can “seep” a little from the crust. I’d just use a paper towel to soak up any visible butter.

      • — Jenn on December 30, 2020
      • Reply
      • Thank you! It actually dried up while in the refrigerator and the cheesecake tastes divine!! 😊 so creamy it literally melts in my mouth. Have a great day. Amazing recipe

        • — Priscela Perez on December 30, 2020
        • Reply
        • So glad it worked out!

          • — Jenn on December 30, 2020
          • Reply
  • Love this cake but the crust seems too moist. I can’t get it off the pan sliced or whole. I have even tried lining the pan with parchment. What am I doing wrong? I cooked the crust for the fifteen minutes. Thanks Jeanne

    • — Jeanne Shehan on December 26, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Jeanne, Is it possible that water is seeping in to your springform pan?

      • — Jenn on December 26, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi and thanks for your amazing recipes. I have a question about this one though. I just made this and when I took the band off the cake, I noticed something gelatiny is coming out of the cake. Clear gelatine like with salty taste. What could have gone wrong? I am very confused as this never had happened to any other cheesecake I’ve made before.
    Thank you again ❤️

    • — Elena on December 15, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes but sorry you had a problem with this one! That sounds really strange — I haven’t heard of any issues like that. Did you make any changes to the recipe?

      • — Jenn on December 16, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I would like to cut the ingredients in half to make a 6 inch cheesecake for Christmas. Would you have any guidance about how long it might take to bake? Thanks, Anne

    • — Anne on December 14, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Anne, You’re right – the baking time will be less, but not certain by how much so just keep a close eye on it. Please report back and let me know how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on December 14, 2020
      • Reply
  • We tried this for Thanksgiving and it was delicious. We also served a pumpkin pie just in case I botched this as I’ve never made cheesecake. Hands down all the family liked the cheesecake better. Myself included and I’m not even a big cheesecake fan-until now. In case this helps someone we used 36 cookies from the box we bought.

    • — Monica on December 7, 2020
    • Reply
  • Thanks for sharing your amazing recipes!!!!
    How can I get a crisper crust with the water bath? can I put the pan on the upper rack and the water bath down in the oven (NOT submerged in water) does it work like that?

    • — ADRIANA on December 6, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Adriana, Glad you like the recipes! I’d try this method if you want to avoid any chance of water seeping into the pan.

      • — Jenn on December 8, 2020
      • Reply
  • This was a WINNER! I have a new pumpkin cheesecake recipe moving forward, so thank you. I used duck eggs and it was super rich and velvety. I also substituted Biscoff cookies for the ginger snaps.

    • — Lori Renzi on November 30, 2020
    • Reply
  • I plan to serve this pumpkin cheesecake recipe at every future Thanksgiving dinner. Didn’t know if I liked gingersnap cookies or not but trust Once Upon a Chef recipes completely. The crust was of course a perfect match with the other flavors. Jenn is a genius!

    • — Louisville, KY on November 30, 2020
    • Reply
  • Thank you for sharing this recipe. Made it for thanksgiving and everyone loved it. I had no problem with water from the water bath leaking into it. It baked beautifully. Carmel sauce was kind of a pain to get it thick but I just popped it into the microwave longer and that worked. Crust was mushy but still had a good flavor.

    • — tina anderson on November 29, 2020
    • Reply
  • This cheesecake is heavenly divine and has been my go-to recipe for the last couple years! Thank you for making this!

    • — D. B. on November 27, 2020
    • Reply

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