Several years ago, I lived in Florida and had dreams of opening a bakery. I built a pretty substantial client list baking out of my home, and it seemed like the ovens were on non-stop during the Holidays. One year I made 19 cheesecakes during Thanksgiving week. I was exhausted, but loved doing it. Since we’ve moved, and I had to leave my beautiful double ovens behind, I rarely take orders now, but this cheesecake will always be part of our Thanksgiving.
You’ll definitely need a springform pan for this recipe. The gingersnap crust is a nice change from the typical graham cracker crust. This cheesecake is delicious on its own, but Salted Caramel Sauce and Candied Pecans take it over on top. Be sure to wear your stretchy pants and enjoy!
Makes a 9” Cake
2 ½ cups (325 g) gingersnap cookie crumbs
⅓ cup (80 g) light brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 Tablespoons (71 g) unsalted butter (melted)
4 (8 oz.) (904 g) packages cream cheese (room temp)
1 can (15 oz.) (425 g) pumpkin puree
1 ⅓ cups (310 g) light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon (11 g) cornstarch
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs (room temp)
2 large egg yolks (room temp)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350°. If not using a convection oven, preheat to 325°. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of your springform pan or spray lightly with cooking spray.
Make the crust: Pulse the cookies and brown sugar in a food processor until well combined. If you don’t have a food processor, you can do this by putting cookies into a large plastic Ziploc bag and crushing with a rolling pin or just your hands. Transfer crumbs to a medium bowl and add the melted butter. Combine thoroughly, first with a spoon and then with your fingers, until the mixture holds together when you squeeze a handful.
Press the mixture evenly over the bottom and half-way up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Use a measuring cup to smooth crumbs up the sides. Chill in the freezer for 5 minutes and then bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven to let cool. After the crust cools, wrap a long strip of aluminum foil around the sides of the pan. The aluminum keeps the temperature even during the bake.
While the crust is cooling, lower the oven temperature to 325°. Place a large pan on the bottom rack in the oven. Fill about half with water. The water keeps the air inside the oven moist and will eliminate cracks in the cake. (Please don’t judge the cleanliness of my oven. I’m having a new one installed next week and cleaning this one is at the bottom of my list.)
Make the filling: With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the pumpkin to the cream cheese and beat until well blended.
In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Add this mixture to the cream cheese. Beat until well blended, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, making sure each is thoroughly blended before adding the next. Do not over beat, as this will incorporate too much air into your cake, which can also cause cracks.
Pour the batter into the cooled crust. The batter will come up past the crust and will fill the pan almost to the rim. Tap the pan gently a few times on the counter to release any air bubbles. Place cake on rack above pan of water. Do NOT put cake in the pan of water. I emphasize this because I’ve done it. No one wants a soggy-bottomed cheesecake.
Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes. All ovens are different, so check your cheesecake a few minutes before the time ends. If the center is set, your cake is done. You want it to jiggle a little bit in the middle, but not too much. If it’s too jiggly, bake another 15 minutes and check again.
Once set, turn the oven off, crack the door and let the cake sit in the oven for at least 30 minutes to cool down. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and run a sharp knife between the crust and the pan sides. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature in the pan on a wire rack. Once the cake has cooled, unhinge the pan and remove. Cover cake with plastic wrap and chill overnight. This cake can be made a couple of days before serving. You can also freeze by double wrapping in foil or plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator a day or two before serving to thaw.
If you want to make the Salted Caramel Sauce to pour on top, this can be made several days ahead. I could type out the entire recipe, but if you click this link, it will take you to the exact one I use. Making caramel can be intimidating, but the Brown Eyed Baker makes it simple. I’ve made this recipe several times and it always turns out perfect. If you’re not feeling adventurous or have too many things to do before your Thanksgiving feast, pick up a jar of the good stuff at the grocery store…no one will be the wiser 😉
The Candied Pecans can also be made several days ahead of time. These were so easy to whip together and only took about 5 minutes. You’ll have plenty for the cheesecake and some extra for snacking.
Adapted from Mirlandra’s Kitchen
2 Tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter
1½ cups (162 g) pecans
¼ cup (52 g) dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
Place a piece of wax paper or parchment paper on a baking sheet and set aside.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pecans and stir to coat. Add brown sugar and salt. Stir constantly for about 2 minutes, until all sugar is melted.
Spread nuts onto baking sheet in an even layer. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container.