Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Recipe for cheesecake bars with four pretty layers, cheesecake, pumpkin and whipped cream, all on a graham cracker crust. Positively addictive.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

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 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 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.
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.
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So pretty on a plate!
Hands-on time: 1 hour
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
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (low-fat Neufchatel works just fine), room temperature
  • 3 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 egg whites (see TIPS)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger (or cinnamon or nutmeg)
  • Cinnamon
  • Maraschino cherries, snipped

Preheat oven to 350F.

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.

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, top each one with a snip of maraschino cherries.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Serving: 258 Calories; 13g Tot Fat; 8g Sat Fat; 91mg Cholesterol; 299mg Sodium; 28g Carb; 1g Fiber; 24g Sugar; 8g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 6 & PointsPlus 7

More Thanksgiving Dessert Ideas

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Pumpkin Bread Pudding Autumn Pumpkin Bread American Apple Pie

~ more pumpkin recipes ~
from my food blog, A Veggie Venture, I'm especially fond of
~ Pumpkin Dip ~
~ Pumpkin Muffins ~
~ Honey Pumpkin Pie ~

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Oh yes, this definitely sounds addictive! I don't like pumpkin pie that much, but for some reason I LOVE pumpkin cheesecake.
I hear these made quite an impression at deer camp.
Oh sure - out with the vegetables and in with the dessert! Oh, Alanna, what are you trying to do with my girlish figure?!? LOL
OMG this is my grandmother's pumpkin dessert! It's very yummy.
I made this for the first time 2 years ago and it is now a family favourite. Even my kids who would never try pumpkin pie love it.
Anonymous ~ My Auntie Gloria will be thrilled! Thanks for taking the time to say.
Made for Canadian Thanks Giving Dessert 4th year in a row. It is a family favourite. Thank you very much for all your great recipes.

Is the gelatin in the pumpkin layer an absolute necessity? Not sure I'm gonna make it back to the grocery store.

Barb, Oh dear, a trip to the grocery store this late? I can see why you wouldn't want to do that. I just did a quick internet search for gelatin substitutes and found nothing that wouldn't require its own trip.

So I would attack this one of a couple of ways, for thickening. The first option is to remove the liquid from the pumpkin by either draining it well or cooking off the liquid. I'd also add another egg yolk. The second way is to add another thickening agent, either arrowroot or cornstarch, maybe a tablespoon with the sugar. Good luck - let me know how it goes.

PS Thanks for the reminder about this recipe, I'm adding it to a long list of possibilities for a holiday dessert tasting I'm hosting in December.
I thank you so much for your speedy response, Alanna. I think I will brave the grocery one more time today as I want to make this exactly how you did before I start messing around with it's obvious perfection. ;) Have a blessed holiday!

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna