One of the things I love about making cheesecakes is that every one has its own personality. Some call for precision in beating, some need to cool in the oven for 5 hours, and some just need a quick trip to the fridge and they’re happy-each flavor and texture has its own special temperament.
This cheesecake is unique in that unlike a classic NY-style cheesecake, the cake is more fluffy mousse than hard cheese. This is because the addition of pumpkin purée and lots of egg whites keep the body puffy and light, rather than stiff and dense. The cake also requires little time to bake and has a less demanding cooling process.
However, even though this cake is simple enough, it has a trickster personality, meaning it likes to make you think all hell is breaking loose right before it settles into the perfect little cake that it is (you’ll see exactly what I’m referring to later in this post). I call this cheesecake Miss Prissy, because she truly is a brat, but everyone loves her in the end 😉
Also, some people think there’s a lot of steps to cheesecakes that make them hard or damn-near impossible to make. But there are some very easy tricks to get the perfect cheesecake and I’ll list them here-they are flawless and work every time-helping to make this cheesecake a nice alternative to the classic pumpkin pie if you’re feeling a little creative this Thanksgiving.
*This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit
- 9-inch springform pan
- Electric beaters
- Food processor or blender
For the crust:
- 2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (I take gingersnap cookies, put them in a ziplock bag and then crush them with a rolling pin)
- 1 cup pecans (I used honey roasted pecans this time and they were amazing)
- 1 Tbl. ground ginger or 2 Tbl. crystallized ginger (since I used honey roasted pecans, which already have a sugar coating, I used ground ginger. If you use regular pecans, I’d try to use the crystallized ginger, which you can find at most grocery stores)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted
For the filling: *Note: Cold ingredients like eggs and cream cheese should ALWAYS be at room temperature for cheesecakes, as this will ensure your cake is smooth and clean and not lumpy or gritty
- 4 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, room temperature
- 5 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
- 3 Tbl. flour
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbl. vanilla extract
- Mini marshmallows or cool whip
Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray your springform pan with nonstick spray. Grind together cookie crumbs, pecans, brown sugar and ginger in a food processor or blender. Pour into medium bowl and add butter. Stir, making sure butter incorporates with all of the mixture. Transfer to the springform and press the crust 2-inch. up the sides. *Note: Sometimes it’s easy when forming the crust up the sides of the pan to have the crease area (the place where the bottom and side connects) packed with too much crust. This leads to a super hard, packed crust area that can be difficult to cut into later when people are eating a slice of the cake. Just make sure that your crease area isn’t too thick! Bake the crust in the preheated oven 10 min., or until lightly browned. Remove and cool completely.
*Note: After you’ve removed the crust from the oven, it’s now time for your bain-marie, or water bath. Most chefs want you to place your springform inside a pan filled with water, since this helps to keep your cheesecake from cracking with dryness. But the problem is, even if you surround your springform with foil or purchase a waterproof pan, 90% of the time some water will seep through and create a soggy crust. The trick is in knowing why the bain-marie works: think of it like a sauna-the more water you add to a super hot space, the more steam it will create. It’s this steam that keeps your cheesecake moist. Therefore, you don’t need to put your cake inside of a water bath-place your cheesecake on the middle rack of the oven and then place an oven-safe pan of water (I like to use a 9 x 11 cake pan filled with about 3-4 inches of cold water) on the rack directly below your cheesecake. After the crust comes out of the oven, this is the time to put your bain marie on the lower rack, since it will take a few min. for your water to get hot. By the time your filling is ready, your bath will have begun to steam the oven. Leave the bain marie in with your cheesecake until the cake is ready to come out. This trick works for ALL cheesecakes.
Filling: *Note: don’t use a stand mixer for this-the filling is more than what can fit in a stand mixer bowl. In a VERY large bowl, and using electric beaters, beat the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy-2 min. *Note: For most classic-style cheesecakes, overbeating your ingredients isn’t good because it makes the cake less dense. However, since this cake is more light and fluffy, you can relax and beat as you see fit. Beat in the pumpkin. Add the eggs, ONE AT A TIME, beating on low speed. Add the flour, spices, and salt. Beat in vanilla. Transfer to the cooled crust (you will have some filling left over, but that’s normal).
Bake until filling is just set in the center (filling will jiggle slightly when pan is shaken gently) and edges begin to crack, about 1 1/2-2 hours. *Note: this is why this cheesecake gets the name of Miss Prissy-you will think your bain marie didn’t work and that your cheesecake is ruined because of the massive cracks on the edges. But don’t let her fool you! Since the cake is mousse-like, the cheesecake will deflate as it cools, contracting the cracks so that they are barely visible. The top will then be nice and level for you to top with your topping. Remove from the oven and let cool 2 hours in room temp. After the cake has been out of the oven for about 1/2 an hour, lightly run a sharp knife around the top 1/2 of the cheesecake-this will help keep the crust from pulling off of the cake as the cake contracts. After 2 hours, refrigerate, UNCOVERED, overnight (if you cover it, the condensation from the still-cooling cake will create wet spots on the top of the cake).
The next day, top with either cool whip, or for a fancier topping, line the top with mini marshmallows and toast with a kitchen torch (the people I was making this for prefer cool whip, so for these photos no marshmallows are shown).