Move over pumpkin pie, and say hello to pumpkin cheesecake! If you really truly want to impress your guests this holiday season, I recommend this cheesecake. Tall and proud like a classic New York style version, this one has a pumpkin cream cheese filling with a splash of bourbon, all sitting atop a pecan graham cracker crust.
And if that wasn’t enough, we bathe it with homemade caramel sauce and whipped cream.
The Best Pumpkin Cheesecake
Yes, it is good. Better than good. Downright fabulous.
I first made this pumpkin cheesecake for my mother years ago. She’s a “cake girl” in family of people who prefer pies, and cheesecake is her favorite cake. A pastry chef reader sent me his recipe (thank you, Glen!), which I adapted to this one.
Like a proper New York cheesecake, this one is tall and requires a high-sided springform pan. You may be able to halve the filling and cook it in a standard pie tin (if you do, let us know how it works out for you) with less cooking time.
It also requires cooking in a water bath, which can sometimes be problematic. My recommendation is to use three layers of heavy duty aluminum foil, and make sure that when you are wrapping the pan you do so gently, so you don’t introduce any holes that would cause the pan to leak. Several people have also suggested using a turkey roasting bag as a way to keep the water out of the pan.
If you are a fan of cheesecake and pumpkin pie, this cake is so worth doing. Just be warned that it serves a small army, which might be just what you need for the holidays.
Here’s our official guide to doing cheesecake in a water bath.
Here’s our official guide to How to Freeze Cheesecake. Make sure you wait to add the caramel sauce until after the cake has thawed.
This recipe uses a graham cracker crust with pecans. If you want to use one without nuts, see this post.
MORE FAVORITE PUMPKIN DESSERTS
Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe
You can make your own pumpkin purée by cutting a sugar pumpkin in half, scooping out the seeds, placing the pumpkin halves cut-side down in a roasting pan with a 1/4 inch of water in it, and cooking it in a 350°F oven for an hour, until soft. Scoop out the flesh and purée it in a blender or food processor. Strain out excess water.
For the crust:
- 1 cup pecans
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (approximately 4 graham crackers)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 egg yolk
For the filling:
- 2 15-ounce cans pumpkin puree (see Recipe Note)
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons bourbon or other whiskey
- 5 large eggs
- 4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 cups (1 pound) brown sugar
- 1 9-inch diameter, 3-inch tall springform pan
1 Make graham cracker pecan crust: Pulse pecans, flour, brown sugar, and graham cracker crumbs in a food processor. Add butter and egg yolk. Pulse until mixture is homogenous. Press into bottom of 9” springform pan and bake for 10 minutes at 375°F. Remove from oven and let cool.
2 Drain or strain any liquid from pumpkin purée. Take pumpkin purée and place on several layers of paper towels. Cover with several layers of paper towels and use your hands to gently squeeze out liquid from the purée.
Note that you will probably go through a lot of paper towels (can use tea towels too). Two 15-ounce cans of puréed pumpkin should yield a little more than 2 cups of purée, with the excess moisture removed. You want exactly 2 cups of the purée.
3 Mix spices with pumpkin purée, bourbon, eggs: Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ground ginger, grated nutmeg, and allspice in a medium bowl. With a wooden spoon (no need for a mixer for this step), mix in the salt, pumpkin purée, vanilla, and bourbon. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
4 Mix cream cheese with brown sugar, add pumpkin mixture: In a large bowl, (helps to use a mixer for this step) combine the cream cheese and the brown sugar until fully creamed and smooth (no lumps). Gradually add the pumpkin mixture until fully incorporated. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
5 Line pan with 3 layers of thick foil: Place crust-baked springform pan in the middle of three layers of large sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil (to help prevent water-bath moisture from leaking into the pan). Fold the aluminum foil up the sides of the pan and trim. (You can also use a turkey roasting bag instead of the foil to keep the water out.)
6 Pour filling into pan: Place the aluminum wrapped pan in a large roasting pan (large enough so that there is room on all sides). Pour the pumpkin cream cheese mixture into the springform pan.
7 Pour hot water into roasting pan to create water bath: Place the roasting pan containing the springform pan in a 325°F oven on the middle rack. Pour boiling water into the pan so that it comes halfway up the side of the springform pan.
8 Cook for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven heat and prop the oven door open. Let the cheesecake sit in the oven, cooling for another hour. Then remove from oven and let come to room temperature. Once it has cooled down, chill for several hours in the refrigerator, preferably overnight.
9 When ready to serve, gently remove the cake from the springform pan.
To do this well, I recommend a tip by Dorie Greenspan in her book Baking: From My Home to Yours. To help ensure that the cake doesn't stick to the springform side as you unlock it, first run a blunt knife around the cake and then warm the sides of the pan with a hair dryer. Then carefully unlock the springform and lift off the sides.
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