Kitchn Love Letters

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies Are Pillow-Puffs of Sweetness

published Nov 4, 2022
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Credit: Thao Thai

My toxic trait is my obsession with home-baked goods, paired with my utter unwillingness to actually bake anything myself. I come by my baking aversion honestly. Ours was never a baking family. If a cookie showed up on our kitchen counter, it was one of the chalky, thickly frosted kind from the grocery store. Brownies, rare as they were, appeared from a mix — a tradition I still uphold gleefully and without an ounce of guilt in my own kitchen now. 

Truth is: I’m just not that good at baking. I have a cook’s ego, spontaneously reaching for substitutions and approximating measurements like a toddler counting the days. This leads to some predictably unsuccessful baking experiments and an eggshell shard (or 12) found in whatever I pull out of the oven. So, for the sake of humanity at large, I usually opt for purchased sweets, rather than baking my own.

But once in a while, a cookie crosses my path with such panache, such promise of sweetness and flavor, that I can’t resist. This was the case with In Bloom Bakery’s viral pumpkin cheesecake cookies, discovered, as all great things are, on TikTok. Aside from the A+ production value of this autumnal video, the cookies themselves called to me. They seemed soft as pillows, with a thin layer of cheesecake filling in the middle, and a crystalline coating of pumpkin-spiced sugar surrounding each cookie. I thought biting into them might feel like dissolving the spirit of fall on one’s tongue.

There are multiple steps, including one where you dry the pumpkin purée, a process I’ve never seen in a recipe before, but one considered essential to this one. But, with over a million likes and 6,000+ comments, this recipe appeared to be worth the trouble. 

Is this where I hunker down in the kitchen? Not quite yet. Another toxic trait of mine is my willingness to outsource any and all difficult things. So I sent the viral recipe to my sweet neighbor, who is a master baker, with the following text: “I wonder what these taste like …My sly plan worked like a charm. Angel-neighbor baked the cookies one afternoon and packaged a few up for me, handing them over at school pickup, murmuring, “You don’t have to share these with your family, if you don’t want to.” Woman after my own heart. 

Did the cookies live up to the expectation? My golly, yes. They had a nice, soft chew, with a little sweet grit from the pumpkin-sugar coating. The creamy filling added a rich, lickable, frosting-like layer. It was a perfect dance of flavors — cinnamony, pumpkiny, and altogether delectable. And these cookies have the bonus of being kid-friendly, even among those littles who typically refuse non-traditional cookies. Chump as I am, I did share the cookies with my family, and they disappeared sooner than my heart could take. 

So I decided to bake them myself, following each step as well as I could with zero substitutions. And I have some tips!

Credit: Thao Thai

Tips on Baking Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies, from a Non-Baker

  • Plan for some baking time. This is not a quick recipe. There are multiple steps, and although it’s not terribly complicated (trust me! I would have given up if it were), the recipe does require some attention and precision. Also, this is not a recipe that you will want to involve kids in, unless your kids are very patient and very good listeners. If that is the case, my inbox is open for parenting tips. 
  • Do not skip the pumpkin drying part. These cookies have an irresistibly chewy texture that must be preserved at all costs. The purée drying is essential for getting the moisture out, while retaining the pumpkin flavor. The purée should reduce in half, from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup. (The recipe recommends Libby’s as the preferred purée brand; it has less “soupiness,” evidently. Homemade pumpkin purée is discouraged, because it tends to have more moisture.)
  • Weigh your flour. I skipped this part, and in retrospect, I would have remained faithful to the measurements. Commenters said this made a big difference in the texture of their cookies. 
  • Completely freeze your cream cheese balls. You might need to plan ahead to make sure that the cream cheese balls are completely frozen prior to baking. This will affect the way they spread inside of the cookie.
  • Flatten the cookies with a spatula. One common note is that the cookies didn’t quite spread the way they did in the images. While my cookies were still warm, I lightly pressed on them with a spatula to get them slightly flatter.
  • Allow the cookies to cool completely. This step is hard if you’re an impatient taste-tester! But take it from me, they need that time to settle and firm up. You will want to give them some time on the cookie sheet, then on a rack to cool completely. Rake some leaves while you wait, knit an afghan — I don’t know, just don’t skip this step. 

Of course, not being a total jerk, I shared my stash with my neighbor, but I had a great many cookies left to hoard. I savored my cookies with warmed-up apple cider in the evening and a brown-sugar latte in the morning. I slipped them into my daughter’s lunch box. When feeling romantic, I ran one up to my husband, who was working in his office upstairs. Mostly, I just ate them myself, standing in front of the kitchen counter with some borderline-inappropriate moaning. Every time I bit into a cookie, it felt like the best of fall. Spiced warmth and sweetness, with that delicious promise of exciting things to come.

If you’re looking for a cookie that captures the spirit of the season, I urge you to bake these babies (or, you know, persuade someone else to do it for you). And if you’re attending a holiday potluck? Let me suggest that this is a better addition to the dessert table than even pumpkin pie.