Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Crust

I have never made cheesecake before. It's another dish that I've always wanted to try, but was intimidated by stories of half set, cracked, and stuck to the pan cheesecakes. Ha! I have conquered the beast and all it took was a well greased pan, a pan of water in the oven, and a sharp eye close to the end of the baking time. This is totally doable for the holidays and I like this recipe better than pumpkin pie.
This cheesecake is adapted from a Paula Deen recipe that has stellar reviews and is very similar to Cheesecake's Factory's pumpkin cheesecake. Whether you love or hate Paula Deen, you've got to admit the woman knows how to make something rich and decadent. And what better time for decadence than at the holidays, when there is plenty of people around to help you polish this off.

This recipe starts with  a simple crust of crushed graham cracker, brown sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter pressed into the bottom of a pan.

Then you beat 3 packages of cream cheese until they are light and fluffy and mix in the rest of the filling ingredients. Here's the filling before it goes into the pan:
Then you pour the filling over the crust and bake for about 60-75 minutes. I put the cheesecake on the middle rack and a pan of water on the lower rack to help it keep from cracking. Start checking the cheesecake at about 60 minutes. It's a bit tricky to tell when it's done. It should be slightly puffed on top and it will still shake somewhat, but it shouldn't jiggle like jello. When I checked mine at 65 minutes the outer edge was puffed but the center was still really jiggly. 10 more minutes and it was perfect.  You can definitely use a regular springform pan instead of the bundt-style one with the center hole that I used here. It's just what my husband's family had handy. Here it is after baking, puffed with only a couple of hairline cracks.
You let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then cover it and refrigerate at least fours hours before serving. The cheesecake shrinks away from the sides of the pan as it cools, making it really easy to remove after the chilling period. Please excuse the orange-colored pictures. It was all I could do at 8 pm before it was devoured.
My husband whipped some cream with brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla for the topping, but if you want to take this up a level or two, I think a few candied walnuts or pecans and maybe a small drizzle of caramel on top would be awesome. (A restaurant in Atlanta serves pumpkin cheesecake this way and it's by far my favorite).  I also want to try these in muffin tins for mini cheesecakes when it's just my husband and I eating; the rest should freeze well. Other alterations might include: gingersnap crumbs for the crust or pecan meal for the crust and nut flour in place of regular for a gluten-free version.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Adapted slightly from Paula Deen's recipe
(Paula says this yields 8 servings, but it's so rich that many people will only want a sliver. I would guess the servings are actually about 12, and you could definitely get 16 if you plated it for your guests.) 



  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (Buy crumbs or crush crackers in a bag with a rolling pin.)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick melted salted butter 
    • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature (or sub Neufchatel for less fat)
    • 1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin (about 2 cups if you make your own)
    • 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
    • 1/4 cup sour cream (or sub Greek yogurt)
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

      1. Preheat your oven to 350. Set the racks to the middle and lower positions. Put a pan of water on the lower rack. Grease a 9 or 10 inch springform pan.

      2. Make the crust: Melt the stick of butter and set aside. Combine all the other crust ingredients and then stir in the butter until moistened. Press into the bottom of the springform pan.

      3. Make the filling: Beat the cream cheese with a hand blender until light and fluffy. Beat in all the other filling ingredients, adding the flour last. Pour over the crust.

      4. Bake for 60-75 minutes or until the top is slightly puffed and the cheesecake no longer jiggles like jello (it will still shake some). Let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for four hours or more. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and release from form. Enjoy!


      1. That looks amazing! I'm happy that your first cheesecake came out well. I used to be intimidated too but now I think they're way easier than most things. So much quicker and you don't have to decorate them! And I agree, pumpkin cheesecake is way better than pumpkin pie. :)

      2. @Texanerin. Thanks! You're totally right, cheesecake is easier than a lot of other desserts (Lattice-top pies, pastries, and truffles, I'm looking at you!). The active time on this recipe is probably about 15 minutes. Then it's just a matter of making sure you don't overbake it. I'll be making this regularly during the holidays.