Pumpkin Cheesecake

For a dessert well-designed to make a hit, cheesecake is hard to beat. And pumpkin cheesecake can be the showpiece of your Fall and holiday meals.

I’ve always liked baking cheesecake, and this pumpkin cheesecake is a hit every time I serve it. It’s one of my most requested recipes. Not only is it larger (10″) than most, it really lends itself to a variety of finishing touches that really make it centerpiece worthy. And it should satisfy any pumpkin spice cravings.


For a traditional graham cracker crust:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar

For a pecan crust (my favorite):
1 1/2 – 2 cups pecans, finely chopped
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted

For the cheesecake:
2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 15oz can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
6 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


Position a rack in the center of the oven, place a roasting pan with 1 1/2 inches very hot water on the bottom rack, and preheat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Brush a 10-inch springform pan with some of the butter, or you can spray it with a non-stick cooking spray. It helps to line the bottom of the pan with parchment, and then butter or spray the parchment.

For a traditional graham cracker crust:
In a bowl, stir the melted butter with the crumbs, 1/4 cup of sugar, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, packing it tightly and evenly. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a rack before adding the batter.

For a pecan crust:
Mix the melted butter, pecans, and sugar in a bowl. Press the pecan mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, packing it tightly and evenly. You do not need to pre-bake the pecan crust.

For the cheesecake:
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium low until smooth.
Add the 2 1/2 cups sugar and beat until just light, scraping down the sides of the bowl and paddle as needed.
Beat in the sour cream, then add the pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, a pinch of salt, and the spices; beat until just combined.
Pour into the crust. It helps to place the springform pan in a rimmed baking sheet before putting it in the oven, as butter from the crust may come out, despite the tightness of the pan.
Bake until the outside of the cheesecake sets but the center is still loose, about 1 hour 45 minutes. Turn off the oven. Place a wooden spoon to prop the oven slightly open, and leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 more hour, then carefully remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Run a knife around the edge, cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
To serve, bring the cheesecake to room temperature 30 minutes before serving. Unlock and remove the springform ring. Finish to your preference.


First, a note about springform pans. Most springform pans, due to the nature of their construction, have a slight raised rim around the bottom. This rim can be troublesome when/if you want to remove the cake from the pan for display and serving. The solution is to turn the bottom of the pan over so that the rim is underneath and doesn’t interfere with your knife and serving piece. It also helps to line the bottom of the pan with parchment, which you put in the pan after coating or spraying, and then coat or spray the parchment. You’ll get an easier release.

To slice and serve, I use a 10″ slicer; its reach is a real plus. Before cutting, run some very hot water and warm the blade of the knife before each slice. You’ll get cleaner slices. Cut three pieces, then remove the middle one. This makes subsequent slices easier to remove, as you slice down and move the slice to the side to get a better ‘angle of attack’. When slicing, always cut down, then pull the knife out through the side of the cake. Lifting the knife can cause presentation issues.

Now for the finishing fun part!

As pictured, it’s just whipped cream and pecans. You can always over-indulge and cover more of the top with whipped cream. Or, even more decadent, cover the top with meringue and lightly brown it under the broiler or with a torch, pumpkin pie fashion. So many options.

A crowd favorite is a bourbon praline topping. For this you’ll need 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup whole milk, 1 oz. bourbon, and I cup of toasted pecan halves (or pieces). Melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often until melted and beginning to bubble. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and whisk in the milk and bourbon. Continue cooking and whisking until it begins to thicken, then stir in the pecans. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and allow to cool for at least an hour before using. 

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