Pumpkin Cheesecake

The Recipe: A five-star dessert, a creamy-creamy barely sweet pumpkin cheesecake. There's three layers, a crust made with ginger cookies and pecans; the cheesecake layer, full of warm pumpkin-pie spices and a splash of bourbon; and a creamy layer of firm, bourbon-spiked sour cream. Make it a day ahead, either in a full-size cheesecake for a crowd or a Thanksgiving buffet or in a mini cheesecake (pictured) for smaller gatherings.

The Conversation: The best tip for extra-creamy cheesecake, for this recipe or another favorite? Time and Temperature!

Pumpkin Cheesecake, full-size or mini, barely sweet with ginger-pecan crust and bourbon, real crowd pleaser. Recipe, tips, WW points at #KitchenParade.

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Isn’t cheesecake just so versatile?!

A full-size cheesecake not only feeds a crowd but is a real crowd-pleaser.

For the last few years, this barely sweet Pumpkin Cheesecake has been my go-to Thanksgiving dessert. I make it the day before and even with lots of competition on the dessert table, the slices just go-go-go.

But can cheesecake work for smaller groups too? Heaven knows, our hips won’t thank us for leftover cheesecake!

By accident, I came across a half-size springform pan for a half-size cheesecake. The smaller pan holds exactly half the volume of the larger pan. Brilliant! This makes for easy recipe math! (It’s not quite that simple but still, works. More detail below …)

But let’s talk about how to make the very best cheesecake, whether you make this recipe or your own favorite cheesecake recipe.

The most-important tips for making a great cheesecake? Time and Temperature!

First, do let the cream cheese warm to room temperature – not for an hour, not even a couple of hours but several hours – otherwise your cheesecake layer will have tiny clumps of cream cheese because those clumps are just too cold to mix in easily.

Second, my friend Ann (aka the Pastry Whisperer, she knows all the inside tips) is an advocate of taking a long, long time beating that cream cheese into submission. “It won't get creamier in the oven,” she’ll say.

So one cheesecake, I followed her tip and beat the cream cheese mixture for a full 20 minutes. Did it make a difference? Oh my, that cheesecake was so very creamy. I didn’t even mind the extra mixing time: spent it cleaning up the kitchen. When the mixing is done, the kitchen is cleaned up too. Once again, good math!

Now is all that mixing time necessary? In her inimitable fashion, Ann says that twenty minutes isn’t necessary – but thirty minutes is, if the cream cheese starts off cold. ☺ If I’m in a rush, I mix the filling for about ten minutes, not twenty.

Oh. And since the food processor is already out to make the crumbs, it’s tempting to use it to mix the filling too. That works great too, run it for about 3 - 5 minutes, scraping the bowl several times. Yes, you still have to start with very room-temperature cream cheese. ☺

ADJUSTING FOR A MINI CHEESECAKE PAN My full-size springform pan is 10 inches in diameter, has an area of 78 inches and holds 8 cups. My half-size springform pan is 6.5 inches in diameter, has an area of 33 inches and holds 4 cups. This means, roughly, that the recipe can be divided in half for the smaller pan. That said, because the area is smaller, the slices will be slightly thicker. I use two eggs for the smaller cheesecake.

ALANNA’s TIPS “Leave the sugar alone!” That’s the reaction when I question whether the cheesecake should be just a tiny bit sweeter. The cheesecake and sour cream layers are barely sweet, this is compensated by the very-sweet crust. Make sure to get a little of each in every bite! For ginger cookies, I’ve used both the widely available but less ginger-y Annas Swedish Ginger Thins and my preference, the extra-ginger-y 365-brand Ginger Snap Cookies, that’s the house brand at Whole Foods. Remember that Upside-Down Rhubarb Cheesecake? Same cookies! For 3/4 cups crumbs, you’ll need exactly 18 Annas ginger thins or 13 365-brand ginger snap cookies. I do love easy math! While you “may” use regular graham crackers crumbs for the crust (and I have), the crust just isn’t as special. If you do, add a little cinnamon and ginger to the crumbs. Make sure the pecans are completely cool before putting them in the food processor – warm pecans turn into pecan butter in an instant! Don’t be tempted, as I was just once, to dump in the whole can of pumpkin. That makes for something way more pumpkin-y than cheesecake-y.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!


Hands-on time: 35 minutes up front
Baking time: 1 hour
Cooling time: 3 hours
Chill time: 4 hours – overnight
Time to table: 24 hours
Makes 1 large cheesecake serving 12/24 with generous/thin slices
(easily halved for a miniature cheesecake that serves 9)
  • Butter, for the springform pan
  • 3/4 cup (85g) ginger cookie crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (58g) toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter, soft but not melted
  • 3 8-ounce (680g) packages lower-fat (Neufchatel) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon or more vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups (300g) canned pumpkin purée
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/16 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1-1/2 cups (360g) sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon or vanilla
  • Toasted pecan pieces

Heat oven to 350F/175C. Lightly butter a 10-inch springform pan. Place rack in center of oven and a cookie sheet (to catch any drips) on the bottom rack.

GINGER-PECAN CRUST In a food processor, process cookies until tiny crumbles, add sugars and process until fine. Move cookie mixture to a bowl. Add pecans to food processor, process until sandy, stir into cookie mixture. With your fingers work butter into cookie-pecan mixture until well-incorporated.

Transfer in dollops to springform pan. With the back of a spoon, press mixture into the pan to form the crust, first a half-inch up the sides, then evenly across the bottom. Freeze the crust while continuing.

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE LAYER In a large bowl, with an electric mixer at a low to medium-low speed, mix cream cheese, eggs, sugar, cream, vanilla and bourbon for 5–10 minutes. Stir in pumpkin, cornstarch, spices and salt and mix for another 5–10 minutes, scraping down the sides every so often. (Yes, really, that’s a total of 10–20 minutes. Don't be tempted to "speed up" the process with a higher speed, that adds too much air into the mixture.)

Pour filling into crust, smooth and level the top.

BAKE Bake until center is just set about 50–60 minutes. The top may crack a little, this is not a problem.

SOUR CREAM TOPPING While cheesecake bakes, whisk together topping ingredients, let rest at room temperature, allowing sugar to dissolve and flavors to meld.

COOL BRIEFLY After cheesecake bakes, leave the oven on but transfer cheesecake to a rack and let cool outside the oven for 5 minutes.

ADD & BAKE SOUR CREAM TOPPING Spread topping evenly across the cheesecake, swirling a bit to create some texture to bake in. Bake for 5 minutes. Don't touch the cream cheese to see if it's done! It won't "look" done but will firm up as it cools.

COOL THREE HOURS Remove cheesecake from oven, while it's still warm, run a knife around the edge, separating the cheesecake from the springform pan. Leave uncovered, you don't want condensation to drip onto the surface, and let cool at room temperature for 3 hours.

REFRIGERATE OVERNIGHT Carefully cover then refrigerate cheesecake until cold, at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.

TO SERVE Gently remove the side of the pan, lift off to a cake stand. Bring cheesecake to room temperature. Slice and serve, garnished with toasted pecans.

Full-Size Cheesecake, Per Slice, assumes 24/12 slices: 206/412 Calories; 13/25g Tot Fat; 7/14g Sat Fat; 58/117mg Cholesterol; 282/564mg Sodium; 17/33g Carb; 1/2g Fiber; 13/26g Sugar; 4/7g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 5/10 & WW PointsPlus 5/11.
Half-Size Cheesecake, Per Slice, assumes 9 slices: 275 Calories; 17g Tot Fat; 10g Sat Fat; 78mg Cholesterol; 376mg Sodium; 22g Carb; 1g Fiber; 17g Sugar; 5g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 7 & WW PointsPlus 7.
Adapted from Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake, I swear, I've been making this since it was first published in the still-much-missed Gourmet magazine back in 1990!

Pumpkin Cheesecake: A Make-Ahead Crowd Pleaser

Pumpkin Cheesecake, full-size or mini, barely sweet with ginger-pecan crust and bourbon, real crowd pleaser. Recipe, tips, WW points at #KitchenParade.

A full-size cheesecake works beautifully for a crowd. I like to cut thin slices for a Thanksgiving dessert buffet, real fans can always come back for seconds!

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


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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