Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Caramel Sauce

Tested & Perfected Recipes

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

Pumpkin pie is always expected at Thanksgiving, but pumpkin cheesecake is just as festive and, honestly, so much more delicious. In coming up with this version, I scoured the internet for the best recipes and tested six different versions. I took what I liked from each one and created this pumpkin cheesecake 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 at all hard – as you can see below, there are very few ingredients – but it’s a bit of a project. I hope that won’t deter you because it’s totally worth it, especially once a year! Many cooks avoid baking cheesecakes because they need to be baked in a water bath so they cook evenly and don’t crack. It seems fussy but it’s really not a big deal – all you do is set the cake pan in another larger pan and fill the larger pan with water. I walk you through the whole process below. Let’s get started!

What you’ll need to make pumpkin cheesecake

how to make pumpkin cheesecake

Step-by-Step Instructions

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

  • 7½ ounces gingersnaps (or 1½ cups finely ground gingersnap crumbs)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling

  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin (such as Libby's)
  • 1⅓ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 1½ 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
  • ⅛ teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ 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, 1½ to 1¾ 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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Comments

  • Is there a way to fix the caramel sauce if it didn’t get dark enough after all the ingredients have been added? Thank you in advance for your help. The cheesecake was amazing!! It was just the caramel that I struggled with. I have never made caramel in the microwave before just on the cooktop and my microwave should be retired!

    • — Susan T on December 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Glad you like the cheesecake. Yes, you can put the caramel sauce back in the microwave for about 30 seconds and then let it sit for about 5 minutes; during that time it should continue to darken. If it doesn’t you can nuke it for another 30 seconds and repeat the process (just be careful not to burn it).

      • — Jenn on December 29, 2021
      • Reply
  • Loved it ! My 1st attempt at water bath cooking and it worked well! I just prefer graham crackers 🙂 Thank you!

    • — Sidnie on December 27, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this for Thanksgiving and it was fantastic! I’ll be making this again.

    • — Nora Starling on December 8, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I am going to try and halve recipe to make a 6-inch size cheesecake. Any suggestion for baking time? Also, did you test adding vanilla extract to cheesecake when you were creating recipe? If so, did it detract from the flavor? If I wanted to add some vanilla to a halved recipe, how much would you suggest I try? Thanks for all the wonderful recipes you have shared. I just purchased your second book and am looking forward to reading and using it. All the best, Anne

    • — Anne on December 4, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Anne, I haven’t added vanilla to this but I think you could, I’d suggest 1/2 teaspoon and for a halved recipe, the baking time will be less, but not certain how much less so just keep a close eye on it. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 6, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! I was in charge of desserts for Thanksgiving, and so I made this cheesecake along with your Brown Butter Bourbon Pecan Pie. I provided garnish options of fresh whipped cream and homemade Bourbon Caramel Sauce. Both desserts were out of this world DELICIOUS! I have always been leery of trying cheesecakes that require a water bath, but your step by step directions and photos made everything so easy. Thank you! I would give more than 5 stars if I could 😁. Your recipes are always top notch, so I am looking forward to spending many hours exploring down the “Onceuponachef” rabbit hole…..

    • — Kristi on November 27, 2021
    • Reply

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