I’ve always marveled at pictures of cheesecakes from the Cheesecake Factory and other fancy restaurants. A cheesecake always seemed like a complicated and daunting dessert to make which is why I often refrained from attempting it when I initially got into baking.
Nonetheless, as my Aunt’s annual Thanksgiving dinner approached last year, I felt drawn to the idea of finally giving it a try.
I had a can of pumpkin puree conveniently waiting in the pantry at home so I first planned to bake a classic pumpkin pie like those that are always found on the Thanksgiving dessert table. However, while I love pumpkin pie and look forward to it every fall to accompany my usual Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks, I wanted to make something more versatile and challenging for a change. I debated between a spiced pumpkin cake, a pumpkin roll, or a pumpkin cheesecake…
I love baking so much that I truly considered making all three! I probably would have but I knew there was already going to be a lot of wonderful desserts offered (mainly, very generous amounts of pumpkin/apple pie and scoops of vanilla ice cream). I realized that it would be better to try and complement those treats by making a dessert that’s slightly less sweet but still rich, fancy, and fall-themed.
I imagined that something with a distinctive smooth and velvety texture would be the most ideal. I felt that it was just the right texture to go with the warmth of the pie fillings, or the crispiness of the pie crusts, and even the sweetness of the ice-cream.
While I usually consider graham crackers to be the key in cheesecake crusts, I ended up substituting with gingersnap cookies for this recipe. I was looking for an additional warm, autumnal flavor to the cheesecake besides the pumpkin and luckily found a huge box of gingersnaps just past the vanilla wafers and Oreos at the cookie aisle of my local grocery store. What I loved about them was that they were just as crispy as graham crackers but they were also twice as flavorful! They even made appealing, simple garnishes to add to the swirls of whipped cream, pecans, and maple syrup decorating the top.
2 cups of crushed gingersnap cookies
4 tbsp melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
16 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1 can of pure pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp granulated white sugar
Additional gingersnap cookies
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, butter a spring form pan, and cover the exterior of the pan with aluminum foil at the bottom to prevent anything from leaking.
For the crust, combine the crushed gingersnap cookies with the melted unsalted butter and pat the mixture into the pan.
Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust in the oven for 8 minutes.
In one bowl, combine the light brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.
In a separate bowl, cream the cream cheese until it has a smooth texture and whisk in the brown sugar mixture.
Beat in each egg and add in the pumpkin puree and vanilla extract.
Pour the cheesecake filling into the spring form pan and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
Lower the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the cheesecake for an additional 20 minutes.
Combine the sour cream, vanilla extract, and granulated white sugar.
Spread the sour cream mixture on the cheesecake as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Bake it with the sour cream topping on for another 8 minutes.
Let the cheesecake cool at room temperature for an hour then put it in the fridge to set overnight.
The next day, loosen the edges and unclip the latch of the spring form pan, leaving only the base.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the heavy cream until it grows thicker, then add the granulated sugar and keep whisking until it reaches stiff peaks.
Decorate the top of the cheesecake as desired with swirls of whipped cream, a drizzle of maple syrup, gingersnap cookies, and pecans (whole or crushed up).
I made this Pumpkin-Gingersnap Cheesecake in 2013 and since then, I can say that I have definitely overcome my fear of baking cheesecakes at home! I recommend anyone who loves pumpkin and ginger cookies to give this recipe a shot even if they’ve never made a cheesecake before. It’s a lot easier than I thought it would be and absolutely delicious!