Yes folks, it’s another pumpkin recipe. What can I say, I’m obsessed with these little guys. How can you not be? They are the “It” item of the month.
This month, amidst finals and papers, I promised myself that I would bake more with pumpkin to truly get my “Autumn fix” and I stayed true to my word. I already posted a favorite pumpkin pound cake, and I’ve got one more recipe in the works so if you are a pumpkin hater, you might want to leave now.
Normally, I bake pumpkin bread, and that’s it. Boring and safe. This year, I told myself to step outside the box. Why should I limit myself to tasty yet simple pumpkin bread when there is a whole plethora of pumpkin recipes waiting for me to tackle? Don’t get me wrong, I love me some pumpkin bread, but everyone and their mom has a pumpkin bread recipe. In my opinion, pumpkin bread can never go wrong, whether you buy a loaf from the grocery store or you make it on your own. But you never get the full pumpkin taste. I wanted something that grabbed the pumpkin flavor by the balls, so to speak.
In total woman-on-a-mission mode, I grabbed a copy of Baking Illustrated and started researching what kind of pumpkin recipe I wanted to do. I quickly fell upon their recipe for a spiced pumpkin cheesecake and knew I found a winner. Plus, I figured this recipe would work well with Anita’s Sugar High Friday that is all about spices. From cinnamon to cloves and nutmeg, this cheesecake screams spice, almost as loud as it screams EAT ME.
Let me warn you, this is not a quick and simple cheesecake. I set out a good afternoon to make this recipe and even then I felt a little rushed. You have to pre-bake the crust first, then bake the filling, then let it set up in the fridge overnight. But it’s a good make ahead recipe, especially if you have Halloween parties or family gatherings when you can plan ahead.
Based on my prior cheesecake baking experience, a water bath is crucial, especially when you have a sometimes unpredictable and hormonal oven like mine. My biggest problem with baking cheesecakes is that I have a hard time figuring out when it’s done. They say the cake is done when the middle jiggles a little, but not a lot. Kind of vague, right? Baking Illustrated instructed to use a candy thermometer to read the temperature which will tell you for sure if the cake is done, but then this is what happens.
You get a nice whole in the middle of you freaking cake. I was not happy. I need to invest in a high-tech digital read thermometer because my candy one is just not cutting it. For future reference, if it moves like jello, you should be ok, but if it moves like pudding, it might need more time. My perfectionist side wanted to cry after seeing that hole, but I shrugged it off, telling myself it would still taste ok.
After spending a night in my fridge, I decided to decorate the top like a spiderweb and melted some chocolate with heavy cream and swirled the chocolate on the cake. I need a little more practice and a steady hand, but it still looked to me. Everyone at the office swooned and sighed over this cheesecake. Some people wrinkled their nose at pumpkin cheesecake, but after one bite, they shut up and shoveled in piece after piece.
My thoughts and review on the cake were mixed. I am finicky about texture, especially cheesecake texture. I like mine solid and almost frozen, kind of like my guilty pleasure Sara Lee frozen cheesecakes. This cheesecake, on the other hand, was very soft and a little too creamy for my liking. Other recipes use sour cream in place of heavy cream, which I’m sure stabilizes the cake more, but nobody seemed to mind the soft cheesecake but me. I am a big crust person as well, as this crust was pretty good. I didn’t enjoy how the crust got a little greasy and soggy after a day at room temperature, but oh well. Again, not amazing, but ok. There will definitely be more pumpkin cheesecakes in my future, but this one was a good start, especially if you like your cheesecakes soft and creamy, like a cream pie.
Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
Origin: Baking Illustrated
Yield: one 9-inch cake, about 12 to 16 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Inactive Prep Time: 4 hours
● 5 oz. graham crackers (9 whole crackers)
● 3 Tbsp sugar
● 1/2 tsp ground ginger
● 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
● 1/4 tsp ground cloves
● 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
● 1 1/3 cups sugar
● 1 tsp ground cinnamon
● 1/2 tsp ground ginger
● 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
● 1/4 tsp ground allspice
● 1/2 tsp salt
● 15- oz. can pumpkin
● 1 1/2 lb. cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks and left to soften at room temperature
● 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
● 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
● 5 large eggs, left at room temperature about 30 minutes
● 1 cup heavy cream
For the crust:
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place graham crackers, sugar, and spices in a food processor and process until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses.
Transfer crumbs to a medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix with a rubber spatula until evenly moistened. Turn crumbs into prepared pan; using your hand, spread crumbs into an even layer. Using a flat-bottomed ramekin or drinking glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom, then use a soup spoon to press and smooth crumbs into edges of pan.
Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, about 30 minutes. When cool, wrap the outside of the pan with two 18-inch pieces of heavy-duty foil; set the springform pan in a roasting pan.
For the filling:
Bring about 4 quarts of water to simmer in a stockpot. While the crust is cooling, whisk the sugar, spices, and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
Line a baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels. Spread the pumpkin on the paper towels in a roughly even layer. Cover the pumpkin with a second triple layer of paper towels and press firmly until paper towels are saturated. Peel back the top layer of paper towels and discard. Grasp the bottom towels and fold pumpkin in half; peel back the towels. Flip pumpkin off the towels onto the baking sheet: it should flop right off in a solid mass.
Beat cream cheese in the bowl of a standing mixer set at medium speed to break up and soften slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape beater and sides of bowl well with a rubber spatula. Add about one third of the sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl and add remaining sugar in two additions, scraping after each addition.
Add pumpkin, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat at medium speed until combined, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl. Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape bowl. Add remaining 2 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape bowl. Add heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds. Using rubber spatula, scrape bottom and sides of bowl and give the mixture a final stir by hand.
Pour the filling into the springform pan and smooth the surface; set the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water to come about half-way up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake until center of cake is slightly wobbly when pan is shaken and center of cake registers 145 to 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours (start checking at 1 hour). Set the roasting pan on a wire rack and cool until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove the springform pan from the water bath, discard the foil, and set on a wire rack; run a paring knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the sides of the cake and cool until barely warm, about 3 hours. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
Remove the sides of the pan. Slide a thin, metal spatula between the crust and the pan bottom to loosen, then slide the cake onto a serving platter. Let the cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges.