The Real “Pumpkin Spice” Cheesecake

Slice of Pumpkin Spice
Slice of Pumpkin Spice

Who says you can’t enjoy pumpkin after thanksgiving?

If it’s cold outside, I’m enjoying pumpkin spice.

I’m sure you’ve heard about Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte not containing actual pumpkin, at least until this year when they decided to add it… well, I’m here to assure you there are plenty of holiday recipes made with real pumpkin and spice.

The beauty of real pumpkin spice recipes is you can adjust the “spice” to your liking. Cloves have a real punch, so many opt to leave it out altogether… I used the full amount in this recipe, only 1/4 teaspoon, and found it plenty adequate. Cinnamon comes in many varieties, so you can alter the flavor of your favorite recipes simply by purchasing a different type of cinnamon. My favorite spice shops are Penzeys and The Spice House, both of which have a variety of fall spices.

This Pumpkin Cheesecake is baked in a water bath, but I’m sure you’re a pro at that by now, if you’ve followed my blog thus far! A few tips:

  • Plan ahead, as this should refrigerate overnight. Still tasty after three days, if kept refrigerated and covered.
  • You’ll need a 10-inch springform pan, which is an inch larger than the seemingly “standard” 9-inch. I have both sizes, but if you only have a 9-inch pan, you’ll need to increase the baking time.

For the Crust

  • Crust Ingredients
    Sweet + Cinnamon
    Crust Crumbs
    Crumbly Perfection

    9 whole graham crackers (about one sleeve in a box, 4 oz)

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Prepare the springform pan by wrapping heavy-duty aluminum foil around the bottom, to keep the water bath from seeping through.

Blend graham crackers, sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor until finely ground. Slowly add melted butter, pulsing until crumbs start to clump. If you don’t have a food processor, place graham crackers in a ziplock bag, crush with a rolling pin (or soup can, or whatever you have… hey, I’ve been there), then mix the remaining ingredients thoroughly until the mixture will clump when pinched with your fingers. Press the mixture into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes, and allow to cool.

For the Filling

  • Half of the Finished Cheesecake... It Goes Fast!
    Half of the Finished Cheesecake… It Goes Fast!

    4 eight-ounce packages cream cheese, softened/room temp

  • 1 1/2 cups  sugar
  • 1 fifteen (15) ounce can pure pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves

(note, spices are in ground form)

  1. Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, beating in one at a time.
  2. Add pumpkin, cream, vanilla and spices; beat until incorporated.
  3. Pour filling into prepared crust. Place filled springform pan into large roasting pan (see water bath post for hints!). Fill with enough water to come halfway up the side of the springform pan.
  4. Bake until slightly puffed, golden and softly set, about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove springform pan from water bath and set on rack to cool.
  5. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  6. To serve, run a thin plastic knife around the sides of the springform pan, then release the latch to open the pan. Serve as-is or with whipped cream.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Flourless Chocolate Cake

What better way to make a comeback with a recipe that will wow your friends. Flourless Chocolate Cake is wickedly delicious. Bonus: it gives a fabulous “I worked really hard on this” impression.

Chocolate + Butter+ Eggs + Coffee = Bliss

There’s two keys to this recipe. Preparation and patience. Here’s what you need:

  • 8 eggs
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee

But before you think this recipe is TOO easy, let me warn you: this cake is baked in a water bath. If you’re really nervous, take a look at this webpage by A Family Feast to learn more.

Prep all these items before you start to make the cake:

  1. Dig out a turkey roasting pan, a large stock pot or tea kettle, and a 8 or 9 inch springform pan.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Line the bottom of the springform pan with parchment paper and wrap the entire outside of the pan with foil. Spray the sides with nonstick spray or grease with butter.
  4. Brew a strong cup of coffee.
  5. Fill the stock pot or tea kettle with water and start to bring to a boil.
  6. Coarsely chop the chocolate into pieces smaller than the size of a quarter (to help with melting).
  7. Cut the butter into tablespoons (to help with melting).
  8. Take out your mixer (stand mixer, if you have it).

Assess the situation. Are you ready to bake? Really? Ok. The rest is as easy as melting chocolate.

  1. Combine the chopped chocolate, butter, and coffee into a microwavable bowl. Cook at 50% power for 2 minutes, stir, and repeat. Continue heating at 50% power one minute at a time until the mixture is completely smooth.
  2. Beat the eggs on medium speed for 5 minutes, using a wire whisk attachment if you have it, until they are foamy and has significantly more volume.
  3. Carefully fold 1/3 of the beaten eggs into the chocolate mixture (use a larger bowl if needed), then continue in thirds until the mixture entirely combined and uniform in color. Pour into the prepped springform pan and smooth top if needed.
  4. By now the water should be boiling. Set your filled cake pan into the large roasting pan; the pan should be large enough that water should be able to surround the springform pan and come halfway up the sides.
  5. Carefully pour (if using a tea kettle) or ladle the boiling water into the roasting pan, using care to not splash into the cake batter. (I chose to ladle instead of pour hot water from pan to pan because I’m confident I would either burn myself or ruin the cake). Once the hot water has surrounded the cake pan and measures halfway up the sides of that pan, it can go in the oven.
  6. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes, or until the cake has risen slightly, the sides of the cake start to set and “pull away” from the side of pan slightly. The middle of the cake will look “jiggly”, but there should be a slight sheen to the top of the cake to help indicate it’s done. Bake time will be longer for an 8 inch pan versus a 9 inch pan.

This cake, from my experience, it best judged done by how it looks, so use the time as a guide.

Finished Cake in Water Bath
Finished Cake in Water Bath

After the cake is done, remove from the water bath and set on a cooling rack. After a few minutes, carefully pull back the foil, knowing there’s likely water in the foil, so be prepared for it! Once the cake is room temperature, cover and refrigerate. This is where patience comes in. You must chill the cake for it to set properly. If you cut it too soon, you’ll have a pudding-like middle. Don’t you wonder how I know that? Ha!

I topped my cake with a bit of dark chocolate ganache, but it’s great on its own or with some fresh whipped cream.