Karishma Pradhan's Basque-Style Pumpkin Cheesecake

For over a decade, Karishma and her family gather for Thanksgiving and experiment with new recipes. This year, they're making a Basque-Style Pumpkin Cheesecake.

Side view of a basque cheesecake on a wooden serving platter.

Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

Without question, Thanksgiving at my parents' house in New England is my favorite time of the year. Since 2006, our family of four has spent the day cooking and enjoying a meal together. All of my first cousins, aunts, and uncles reside in India—where my parents immigrated from—so my Thanksgiving is small but no less lively.

Before 2006, we usually attended a family friend’s Thanksgiving celebration or picked up an assortment of dishes from local establishments. That all changed, however, when as a soon-to-be seventh-grader, I started cooking with the aid of Food Network television shows (I credit Giada De Laurentiis with my love for Italian cuisine). Months after watching my first cooking show and fumbling around in the kitchen, I proudly declared that we would cook a Thanksgiving meal together as a family. To coordinate the effort, I researched and printed out a scattering of recipes from the internet. We taped them to the cabinets of the kitchen and allotted tasks. I assigned myself the roast chicken (we’re not huge turkey fans) and pumpkin pie, my mom prepared the mashed potatoes, my brother chopped the vegetables, and my dad designated himself to dishwasher duty. Our petite Thanksgiving posed little pressure, allowing me to chop and cook with ease and composure. 

Basque-style cheesecake with slices cut out of it.

Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

That evening, feet achy from the hours of cooking, we sat down together at the dining room table and excitedly devoured the meal. Even though I was spent,  I felt immense satisfaction. I knew then that my family had started a new Thanksgiving tradition—one we could begin to call our own. 

We stuck to the classics for the first few Thanksgivings, but at some point, the menu transformed from a traditional set of dishes to one of lofty experimentation. I liked the challenge of trying out a different menu and the knowledge that accumulated from learning new techniques. One season, we swapped out pumpkin pie for pumpkin crème brulée. Another year, we put an Indian spin on each dish, from garam masala roast chicken to cardamom-spiced sweet potatoes. We tried rösti (Swiss potato cake), Korean-inspired gochujang glazed carrots, and Greek-style feta dip. But while our dishes evolved, we continued to practice the same traditions. Come November, without fault, I scour the internet, magazines, and cookbooks for new recipes to try. After the meal, my dad appends the latest recipes to a worn binder filled with dishes from years past. 

This year’s menu pays homage to my wanderlust for Basque Country, a region encompassing parts of Spain and France. Basque cuisine features a diverse repertoire of dishes that’s reflective of its varied geography. Across the region, restaurants serve a mix of fish and seafood, cured and grilled meats, and cheeses. On Thanksgiving Day, I expect to see a selection of small plates, inspired by pintxos (Basque-style tapas), featuring bites of toast topped with assorted spreads and cheeses. There might be a cozy potato soup, slow-roasted chicken with peppers, and vinegared green beans with almonds. 

"I knew then that my family had started a new Thanksgiving tradition—one we could begin to call our own. "

And for dessert? I’m taking inspiration from La Viña, a restaurant in San Sebastián, Spain, that serves a famous cheesecake (tarta de queso) known as burnt Basque cheesecake. This dessert breaks all of the rules with cheesecake because it bakes at a high temperature to encourage caramelization and cracks. The result, though, is anything but an overbaked cheesecake—its dark brown, caramelized exterior forms a sort of makeshift “crust” that protects a soft and creamy interior. The recipe from the restaurant is not a secret by any means, and chef Santiago Rivera has shared the how-to publicly

I adapted the original recipe for Thanksgiving by incorporating pumpkin purée. I also mix in ground cinnamon and ginger, so the resulting texture mirrors the flavors of pumpkin pie. Best of all, the recipe is flexible enough to achieve the consistency you like. For a creamier cheesecake, bake for less time. For a firmer texture, bake for the full 55 minutes. Serve at room temperature (or chilled ) with a glass of sherry. 

Basque-Style Pumpkin Cheesecake on plates

Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

Tips for the Best Basque-style Pumpkin Cheesecake


1. Room temperature ingredients are important: Ensure the cream cheese, eggs, and pumpkin purée are at room temperature for the smoothest consistency. Cold cream cheese yields a lumpy texture. Try this method for quickly bringing cream cheese to room temperature. 

2. For a creamier center, don’t overbake: Remove the cheesecake from the oven when the outside is a medium-brown color, and the edges feel set, but the center is still jiggly. It will probably seem undercooked, especially if you’ve made other cheesecakes before, but this is the key to creating a creamy center. 

3. Work with your oven to create the perfect caramelization: Once the top of the cheesecake begins to caramelize, it will brown rapidly within 10 to 15 minutes. Work with your oven to achieve the texture and color you’d like. If the outside is not caramelizing enough, you can raise the temperature to 500°F, keeping a close eye to ensure it does not burn. Or, if you want to preserve the creamy interior, use the broiler to brown the top within a matter of seconds.

Karishma Pradhan's Basque-Style Pumpkin Cheesecake

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Inactive Time 6 hrs
Total Time 7 hrs
Servings 16 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoons neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
  • 1 1/2 pounds (678g) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (267g) granulated sugar, plus 2 teaspoons (8g) for sprinkling on top
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup (249g) canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (177ml) heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup (31g) all-purpose flour
  • Special Equipment
  • 9-inch x 2 3/4-inch round springform pan

Method

  1. Position oven rack and preheat the oven:

    Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F.

  2. Prepare the baking pan:

    Using your hands, grease a 9-inch springform baking pan with oil on the bottom and sides. Line the pan with two sheets of parchment, such that the edges of the parchment extend at least 2 inches above the pan. The cheesecake will rise considerably, and the parchment helps prevent it from spilling over.

    The parchment will have various pleats and creases—this gives the dessert its quintessential uneven edges and caramelization.

    Place the parchment-lined springform pan on top of a half-sheet tray to catch any spills in the baking process.

    Lining a pan with parchment to make a basque-style cheesecake.

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

  3. Cream the cream cheese and sugar:

    Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a large bowl and a hand mixer), add the cream cheese and sugar.

    Beat the mixture at medium speed for about 3 minutes or until the cream cheese is smooth, fluffy, and doubled in size.

    Making the feeling for pumpkin cheesecake in a metal bowl.

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

  4. Add the eggs and wet ingredients:

    Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and add one egg at a time until fully incorporated. With a rubber spatula, stop and scrape the bowl to ensure there are no lumps or thick streaks of cream cheese.

    Next, add in the pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, heavy cream, and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Stop and scrape the bowl again to ensure the mixture is homogeneous and there are no streaks of cream cheese. At this point, tiny bits of cream cheese are okay, but if you see medium to large-sized clumps, strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve before proceeding to the next step.

    Making the feeling for pumpkin cheesecake in a metal bowl.

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

  5. Add the dry ingredients:

    With the mixer still on low, add the ginger, cinnamon, and salt to the batter. Turn the mixer off and remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Then, using a fine-mesh sieve, sift the flour into the batter. Reattach the bowl to the stand mixer and beat on low until just combined, about 30 seconds. Be careful to avoid overmixing to prevent any unwanted air bubbles or gluten from forming.

    Making the feeling for pumpkin cheesecake in a metal bowl.

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

  6. Bake the cheesecake:

    Pour the batter into the parchment-lined springform pan and place on top of a half sheet pan. Sprinkle the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar in an even layer on top of the cheesecake; the sugar adds a nice sweetness and helps brown the top. Bake the cheesecake for 45 to 55 minutes. The outside of the cheesecake should be deep brown, between a medium caramel and a burnt caramel color. The edges should feel set, but the inside will be quite jiggly.

    Overhead view of basque-style cheesecake in a pan and ready to be baked.

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

  7. Troubleshooting baking tips:

       About 35 minutes into the bake take a look at how your cheesecake is browning. If the top looks pale, increase the oven temperature to 500°F, keeping a close eye to ensure it does not burn. If you’d like to brown the top of the cheesecake but prevent the inside from cooking any further, you can turn the broiler on—keep in mind that the cheesecake will rapidly darken within a couple of minutes, so be sure to check on it every 30 seconds until it reaches the desired color.

    You can also check for doneness with a thermometer by sticking it into the center of the cake. When fully cooked, the internal temperature should read between 150°F to 155°F. For a firmer cheesecake, bake for the full 55 minutes (aim for an internal temperature no higher than 180°F). For a creamier interior, take the cheesecake out at 45 minutes.

  8. Let the cheesecake cool:

    Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let sit at room temperature for at least 5 hours until cooled. As it cools, the cheesecake will deflate and compact—this is normal.

    Overhead view of a baked basque cheesecake.

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

  9. Remove the cheesecake:

    Open the springform pan latch and remove the outer ring. Gently remove the parchment paper from the cake. At this point you can serve the cheesecake at room temperature or place it into the refrigerator to chill and serve it cold. 

    Overhead view of a baked basque cheesecake.

    Simply Recipes / Karishma Pradhan

  10. Serve and store:

    To serve, cut the cheesecake into individual slices and serve on its own or topped with a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream and a side of sherry. You can store it in the refrigerator under a cake dome, or carefully place the outer ring back on the cake and wrap the top with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.