Pumpkin Cheesecake

updated Oct 24, 2023
christmas

This is a mashup of classic pumpkin pie and the creamy goodness of a New York-style cheesecake.

Serves12

Makes1 (9-inch) cheesecake

Prep35 minutes to 45 minutes

Cook1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes

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Pumpkin cheesecake has become a fall and winter dessert classic for good reason. The lively, familiar spices of classic pumpkin pie are balanced by the cool and creamy goodness of a New York-style cheesecake.

The combination makes each bite memorably delicious and worthy of any celebration — especially Thanksgiving. Even if you have never made a cheesecake or pumpkin pie before, this is a dessert that is within your reach. This recipe was designed to work for the novice baker and the seasoned cook.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

The Ingredients You’ll Need for Pumpkin Cheesecake

  • Pumpkin: You’ll need one can of pumpkin purée (not pumpkin filling), or scant 2 cups homemade puréed pumpkin.
  • Cream cheese: Go with full-fat, not low-fat, cream cheese, you’ll need 1 1/2 pounds.
  • Other dairy: Sour cream goes into the filling to give it that distinctive New York cheesecake flavor, and unsalted butter is melted and used for the crust.
  • Eggs: You’ll need 4 large eggs and 2 large egg yolks.
  • Graham crackers: Turn whole graham cracker sheets into crumbs, or use store-bought graham cracker crumbs for the crust.
  • Flavorings: Vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice flavor the cheesecake filling.
  • Cornstarch: A little bit of cornstarch keeps the cheesecake filling from cracking.
  • Baking staples: You’ll need light brown sugar, granulated sugar, and kosher salt from the pantry.

How to Make Pumpkin Cheesecake

Make the crust. Blitz graham crackers into crumbs in a food processor then mix with melted butter, sugar, and salt. Press into a springform pan and bake until fragrant.

Make the filling. Beat softened cream cheese with light brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cornstarch until fluffy. Next, beat in the sour cream, pumpkin purée, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla. Finally, beat in the egg and egg yolks one at a time.

Bake the cheesecake. Pour the filling over the crust. Place the springform pan in a hot water bath and bake until almost completely set, about about 70 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake stay in there for another hour. Take it out of the water bath and cool for another hour before putting until the refrigerator. Wait until the pumpkin cheesecake is completely chilled through before serving, at least 24 hours.

5 Tips for Pumpkin Cheesecake Success

Below are a few of the key elements that ensure success:

  1. Use sour cream for flavor and texture. This cheesecake is designed to have a fluffy, but not airy, texture. For texture, sour cream does the job better when it comes to cheesecake, and for taste, it’s a necessity to balance the sweetness of the batter. If you love using heavy cream, keep the proportion the same and add two to three more tablespoons of cornstarch.
  2. Mix the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and fluffy. The cream cheese, sugar, and cornstarch mixture needs to be mixed until it is very, very smooth, pale, and fluffy. Make sure to scrape the bottom and side of the bowl and watch out for cream cheese that seems to stick toward the top of the bowl. This ensures the final cheesecake is silky, fluffy, and creamy.
  3. Bake the cheesecake in a water bath for consistent, creamy results. A water bath, or bain marie, is a classic French baking technique, and it is used for baked custards of all sorts to ensure that the heat of baking is gentle and consistent (read: eggs don’t curdle, and custards set beautifully). Cheesecake at its core is a type of custard, and using a water bath ensures the best and most consistent result.
  4. Cool the cheesecake slowly in the oven. If you have never made a cheesecake, this is a peculiar direction, but it is very important. Turn off the oven but leave the cheesecake in to cool down slowly for one hour. Some bakers believe that you can prevent the top of cheesecakes from cracking if you slow down the cooling process. I don’t know that it always works to prevent cracks, but it certainly allows for the filling to slowly finish cooking, so it remains delicate in texture and doesn’t sink in at all.
  5. Make it ahead. To ripen a cheesecake means to make it a day or so in advance. Some argue that it allows the flavors to meld together better, some believe the long chill lets the cake firm up long enough to cut with ease, and some do it out of tradition. All are probably correct, and I know from experience that this step is a part of the “cooking” process that can’t be skipped. With a pumpkin cheesecake, which is extra-moist, one day is plenty. Three days is a bit too much and will lead to a soggy bottom. This make-ahead requirement also just happens to makes serving cheesecake at events which require a ton of cooking — like holiday meals — an easy and always-welcome treat.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe

This is a mashup of classic pumpkin pie and the creamy goodness of a New York-style cheesecake.

Prep time 35 minutes to 45 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes

Makes 1 (9-inch) cheesecake

Serves 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 3 (8-ounce) packages

    cream cheese

  • 3/4 cup

    sour cream

  • 3/4 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 2/3 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 3 tablespoons

    cornstarch

  • 1 (15-ounce) can

    pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)

  • 1 tablespoon

    pumpkin pie spice

  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla extract

  • 4

    large eggs

  • 2

    large egg yolks

For the crust:

  • 12

    whole graham cracker sheets, or 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

  • 1/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 6 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

Equipment

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • 8- or 9-inch springform pan

  • Aluminum foil

  • Food processor

  • Drinking glass

  • Stand mixer with paddle attachment

  • Spatula

  • Jellyroll, baking, or roasting pan

Instructions

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  1. Place 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Place 3/4 cup sour cream on the counter. Let sit at room temperature until the cream cheese is softened.

Make the crust:

  1. Prepare the pan for baking. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Wrap 2 layers of aluminum foil around the outside of an 8-or 9-inch springform pan.

  2. Make the crust. Break up 12 whole graham cracker sheets along their lines and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar sugar and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Process until the graham crackers are very finely ground, about 30 seconds. Melt 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in the microwave or on the stovetop. Drizzle over the crumbs and pulse just until the crumbs are evenly moistened, 5 to 10 pulses. (If starting with graham cracker crumbs, just stir all the ingredients together in a medium bowl.) Transfer the crumbs to the prepared pan, press onto the bottom (not the sides), and flatten with the base of a drinking glass into an even layer.

  3. Bake the crust. Bake until fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

For the filling:

  1. Start the filling. Add 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar, 2/3 cup granulated sugar, and 3 tablespoons cornstarch to the bowl of cream cheese. Beat with the paddle attachment, starting at medium speed and gradually increasing to high, until creamy, fully combined, and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Stop and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.

  2. Add the flavorings. Add the sour cream, 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée, 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. Beat on medium-low speed until fully combined and smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed.

  3. Gradually add the eggs. Add 4 large eggs and 2 large egg yolks one at a time, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition, until fully incorporated.

  4. Fill the crust. Place the springform pan in a baking or roasting pan that is at least 1 inch deep and at least 1 inch wider than the springform on all sides (a 15.5- by 10.5-inch jellyroll pan or 8- by 12-inch half-sheet pan will work). Transfer the filling to the cooled crust and spread into an even layer.

  5. Put the cheesecake in the oven and make a water bath. Have a few cups of room temperature water ready. Pull out the oven rack and place the baking pan and cheesecake on it. Carefully add the water to the outer pan until it comes to about 3/4 inch up the side of the springform, being careful not to splash water onto the filling. Carefully push the oven rack all the way back in, trying not to splash the water, and close the oven door.

  6. Bake the cheesecake. Bake until the edges of the cheesecake are set but the center still jiggles just a bit, 65 to 80 minutes.

  7. Cool the cheesecake in a turned-off oven. Turn the oven off. Let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 1 hour.

  8. Cool the cheesecake completely. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack, remove the foil, and let cool for 1 hour. (Do not remove the ring from the pan.)

  9. Refrigerate at least 24 hours. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely cold, at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.

  10. Remove the cheesecake from the pan and serve. Uncover the cheesecake. Release and remove the ring of the springform. Transfer the cheesecake, still on the bottom of the pan, to a cake or serving plate. Cut into slices with a long, sharp knife (not a serrated one), rinsing and drying the knife with warm water between each slice for picture-perfect cuts.

Recipe Notes

Crust alternatives: Instead of graham crackers, you can use 18 to 19 gingersnap cookies instead. Line the bottom of the pan with a single layer of the whole cookies (skip the other ingredients and mixing anything together).

Make ahead: The cheesecake can be made, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days. It can also be frozen, wrapped well, for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.