Ah, yes. It’s that time of year when pumpkin infiltrates every aspect of our lives from September through November. PSL, pumpkin scones, pumpkin soup, pumpkin candles. The list goes on…
But before you groan and roll your eyes just hear me out. Give pumpkin a last hurrah on Thanksgiving. Give it a proper send-off by transforming it into this light and delicious cheesecake served with a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream and a drizzle of white chocolate ganache. I promise your guests will enjoy it. I also promise that it’s not as complicated as you’d think.
There are a few secrets to cheesecake that I’m going to share with you. I have learned all of these lessons myself from many years of trial and error. The biggest issue is the crack and there are a couple of things you can do to prevent this.
First, cracking often happens if you take the cake right out of the oven when it’s done. The fix: After the cake is done baking, turn the oven off and keep the cake in the oven for 15 minutes, being sure to open the oven door a crack. Then take the cake out of the oven to cool to room temperature before refrigerating.
Second, bake the cheesecake with a hot water bath. This will keep moisture in the top of the cake. Make a “bath” by pouring boiling water into a casserole dish and place it on the bottom rack, right below your cheesecake.
Another secret to awesome cheesecake is making sure your ingredients are close to room temperature when blending. It’s also about how you blend it. My cheesecakes have a unique texture. It’s not dense; mine is light and creamy. It’s because I whip my batter together using the whisk attachment on my mixer, not the paddle.
If you’re going to make this for Thanksgiving, make it on Wednesday so it’s all ready and chilled for Thursday night. Note that you’re going to need some special equipment: a springform pan (8 to 10 inches will do) and a mixer (whether it’s a stand mixer of a hand mixer, it doesn’t matter). And don’t forget the casserole dish for your water bath! Oh, and if you’re going to make your own cookie crumbs for the crust you’ll need a food processor (but you can buy pre-made graham cracker crumbs. Yay!)
Now, it’s time to show you how to put this all together. Here goes…
Makes one 8 to 10 inch cheesecake.
- 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs (or ginger snap crumbs)
- 1 stick of butter, melted
- 2 tsp. of ground ginger (if using ginger snap crumbs, don’t include this)
- 3, 8 oz blocks of cream cheese (room temperature)
- 1/2 c. sour cream
- 1/2 c. white baker’s sugar
- 1 c. pureed pumpkin
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Cover the outside bottom of your springform pan with aluminum foil.
- In a medium bowl mix together the crumbs, butter and ground ginger using a fork, making sure all the crumbs are coated in butter. Dump this mixture into your springform pan and press the mixture firmly and evenly on the bottom and halfway up the sides to make the crust. Put the pan into the oven to set the crust for 8 minutes. When done, take out the pan to cool.
- Make the cheesecake. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the cream cheese on medium/high until smooth. Scrape down the sides and whip in the sour cream on medium speed. Scrape down the sides again and add the sugar. Whip in the sugar on medium for about 2 minutes. Mix in the pureed pumpkin on low speed until evenly incorporated into the batter. While still on low speed, add in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each egg. Finally, add in the pumpkin pie spice and mix it in on medium speed.
- Before pouring the batter into the crust, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to catch any chunks of cream cheese that escaped the whip. Fold them in to incorporate them into the batter.
- Carefully pour the batter into the prepared crust. After all the batter is poured, rap the cake against the counter to evenly spread the batter and get out any major air bubbles.
- Prepare your hot water bath by boiling water and pouring it into a casserole dish. Carefully place the “bath” into the bottom rack of the oven. Then place the cheesecake on the center rack, right above the hot water bath.
- Bake the cheesecake at 350F for 50 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the top looks matted, the edges are firm and the center is wobbly like a custard. DO NOT OVER BAKE.
- Once the 50 minutes are up, KEEP THE CAKE IN THE OVEN and turn the oven off, keeping the oven door open just a crack. Keep the cake in the turned off oven for 15 minutes. Once the time is up, take the cake out of the oven and set it to cool on the counter. DO NOT PUT THE CAKE IN THE FRIDGE UNTIL IT HAS COOLED TO ABOUT ROOM TEMPERATURE.
- Once the cake has cooled, put it in the fridge for at least 12 hours before serving.
- Before removing the springform, carefully run a knife along the sides of the cake to prevent sticking. Carefully remove the sides and bottom of the pan and place the cake on a serving platter.
Serve the cheesecake with a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream and white chocolate ganache. (Recipes below)
Cinnamon Whipped Cream
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream
- 6 heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar
- 1-2 tsp of ground cinnamon (depends on your taste)
In the chilled bowl of a stand mixer, whip the heavy whipping cream on high speed using the whisk attachment until smooth stiff peaks form (about 4 minutes). Add in the powdered sugar and cinnamon and whip on low speed until evenly incorporated.
You can cover the whipped cream and keep it in the fridge for 3 days.
White Chocolate Ganache
- 1 cup of white chocolate chips
- ½ cup of heavy cream
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 oz of bourbon (optional)
If using the bourbon, simmer the bourbon in a small pot on medium heat until it reduces by about one third. Set aside. Place the white chocolate chips and heavy cream in a medium sized glass bowl. Place the glass bowl over a small pot of simmering water and melt the chocolate chips with the whipping cream by whisking the mixture until it’s smooth. Remove from heat and mix in the ground nutmeg and reduced bourbon, whisking until everything is combined evenly.
You can use the sauce immediately while warm. You can cover it in the fridge and it will keep for 3 days. The sauce is still pretty fluid when cold but you can warm it up in the microwave in 15 second increments until it’s the temperature that you want.