The Recipe: Cheesecake bars with four pretty layers, one cheesecake, one pumpkin and one whipped cream, all atop a graham cracker crust. Positively addictive!
"It's very yummy." ~ Anonymous
"... now a family favourite." ~ Anonymous
"Made for Canadian Thanksgiving dessert four years in a row." ~ Michelle
Oh dear, this is gonna date me. Who else remembers that layered concoction of pudding mix, cream cheese and Cool Whip? As a teenager in the 1970s, it felt naughty to call it "sex in a pan" cake and "better than sex" cake. Even the more polite "Robert Redford in a Pan" warranted a titter or two. The cake was a favorite at church suppers – take that, church elders! – and neighborhood potlucks.
Well, this is the very same cake, just gussied up a bit with fresh ingredients. It’s not complicated to make but does have several moving parts. Diet alert: it’s positively addictive.
The recipe comes from my dear, dear Auntie Gloria, one of the best cooks ever. She make this AND pumpkin pie for Canadian Thanksgiving.
Please note that the egg whites in the Pumpkin Layer are not cooked so this recipe isn’t appropriate for anyone who doesn’t or can’t eat raw egg. And even for the rest of us, it's smart to choose pasteurized eggs.
I tested this recipe with canned pumpkin but it’s easy to roast a whole pumpkin, see Homemade Kabocha Squash Pumpkin Purée. You’ll want two cups of pumpkin flesh.
Next time, I may try these in muffin tins for individual round servings. My aunt also makes it in a standard cheesecake pan.
I like to flavor the whipped cream layer with ginger, it’s a bit unexpected.
I use a metal teaball to sprinkle the cinnamon over top.
The layers firm up considerably after being refrigerated a couple of hours. My photo was taken after maybe an hour in the fridge; a few hours later, the layers were crisp and very distinctive.
PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE BARS
Time to table: 2 hours
Serves 20 (can halve the recipe for a 9x9 pan)
- 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted
CREAM CHEESE LAYER
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 8 ounces cream cheese (low-fat Neufchatel works just fine), room temperature
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 15 ounces canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1 envelope gelatin
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 3 large egg whites (see TIPS)
- 1/4 cup sugar
WHIPPED CREAM LAYER
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon ginger (or cinnamon or nutmeg)
- Cinnamon, for sprinkling
- Maraschino cherries, snipped, for centers
Heat oven to 350F/180C.
CRUST Spray a 9x13 baking pan with baking spray. Mix all ingredients until sandy, press into the pan with the back of a spoon.
CREAM CHEESE LAYER In a bowl, beat the eggs til smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and beat til smooth. Pour over crust. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheesecake layer is firm all the way through. Let cool thoroughly.
PUMPKIN LAYER In a saucepan, whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the sugar. Add the pumpkin, milk, spices and salt. Gently bring to a boil, stirring often. Let cool slightly. In a small bowl, stir together the gelatin and water, fold into pumpkin mixture. Let mixture cool. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy. Slowly add the sugar, beating the entire time. Beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into pumpkin mixture. Spread evenly over cream cheese layer.
WHIPPED CREAM LAYER Whip cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Add spices and continue whipping until quite stiff. Spread evenly over whipped cream layer. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
SERVING Refrigerate for at least an hour and up to a day before serving. Cut into pieces, topping each one with a snip of maraschino cherries.
More Pumpkin Treats for Fall: Thanksgiving, Anyone?
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