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- 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. Spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Next, make the crust: combine the gingersnaps, sugar, and melted butter in a food processor.
Pulse until the crumbs are fine.
Transfer the crumbs to the prepared pan.
Press the crumbs into an even layer, then bake 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.
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.
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.
Add the cream cheese in large chunks.
Process until smooth.
Finally, add the eggs.
Pulse 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.
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°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.
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!
My Recipe Videos
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Caramel Sauce
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
- 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
For the Crust
- 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
- 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.
- 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!).
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.