This pumpkin cheesecake features a delicious pumpkin spice swirl, rich and creamy cheesecake filling, a deliciously spiced and crunchy gingersnap cookie crust, and is topped with fresh whipped cream and salted caramel sauce.
After a couple months of nonstop travel, we’re heading into a relaxed weekend at home. It’s about that time of year where things begin to slow down. All the new shows are on, weather cools down (well, I hope soon!!!), sweaters come out, fireplace heats up, and the kitchen echoes with banging pots and pans as we cook comforting meals like chili, soup, and maybe even some butternut squash mac & cheese. ♥
But let’s get serious– we’re obviously in a mad dash to bake all the fall things like homemade bread, apple cider donuts, and pumpkin cheesecake. Baking soothes my soul and when life gets too hectic, a few hours in the kitchen is all I need to feel centered again. I have a feeling you’re the same way!
My latest creation is pumpkin swirl cheesecake, a delicious alternative to pumpkin pie and pumpkin cake. Judging by the May Baking Challenge, I know most of you are CRAZY for cheesecake too!
How to Make Pumpkin Cheesecake
If you look back on my classic cheesecake recipe, you’ll notice that today’s pumpkin cheesecake uses mostly all of the same ingredients. Besides the amounts of each, the difference is that we’ll divide the batter in half and add pumpkin + spices to create a hypnotizing pumpkin swirl. The result is pockets of luscious cheesecake paired with rich, creamy, perfectly spiced pumpkin cheesecake.
All this sits on top of a crunchy gingersnap crust that you’ll spice with extra cinnamon and ginger. Not all store-bought gingersnap cookies are the same, so make sure you read my notes below about which cookies are best for a gingersnap crust.
How to swirl: The swirling part looks tricky, but it couldn’t be easier! My trick is to drop spoonfuls of alternating batter– plain and pumpkin– until the pan is filled, then use a toothpick or knife to swirl. Doesn’t need to be perfect, doesn’t need to be neat. See my photo below.
How to Make a Cheesecake Water Bath
A cheesecake water bath is nothing complicated. All you’re doing is placing the springform pan in a roasting pan, filling it with hot water, and baking. What’s the point of a water bath? I actually wrote an entire post about a cheesecake water bath years ago. Cheesecakes are egg-heavy desserts. Eggs need a moist and humid environment in the oven to (1) properly rise and (2) avoid drying out and burning. The steam from the hot water will lift the cheesecake up slowly and evenly, reducing the risk of cracks on the surface. Additionally, this slow and even baking method helps prevent the cheesecake from sinking back down as it cools. Taking a few extra minutes to prepare a water bath for your cheesecake is well worth it. I can’t say enough how valuable it is!
Springform pans can leak if you’re baking the cheesecake in a water bath, but this particular pan is reliable. I haven’t had any leaking issues.
Perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake Tips
- Make sure you’re using blocks of cream cheese, not cream cheese spread.
- All of the cheesecake batter ingredients must be at room temperature so the batter remains smooth and combines quickly, so as to not over-beat the eggs.
- Do not over-mix the cheesecake batter
- Bake cheesecake in a water bath OR alternate discussed above
- Leave cheesecake in the cooling oven for 1 hour
- Cool completely at room temperature before chilling
I did have a small crack in the upper right edge of my pumpkin cheesecake, but that’s nothing a thick layer of fresh whipped cream can’t hide! Add a little salted caramel and I’m pretty sure this pumpkin cheesecake is the definition of dessert heaven.
(I actually just created a new post for how to make whipped cream, so head on over. Lots of tips and ways to use it!)
How to Freeze Cheesecake
- Cool the cheesecake on the counter before freezing. No need to chill it in the refrigerator
- Freeze on springform pan: Remove the outer rim from the springform pan. Wrap the cheesecake with the bottom of the pan with a few layers of plastic wrap, then a final layer of aluminum foil.
- Freeze without springform pan: After the cheesecake has completely cooled, run a sharp knife underneath the crust to release it from the bottom of the pan. Carefully slide it onto a parchment paper lined piece of cardboard or use a plate. Wrap it all in a few layers of plastic wrap, then a final layer of aluminum foil.
- Freeze for up to 3 months, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
- Do not freeze cheesecake with any toppings. Prepare toppings for serving cheesecake.
Would LOVE to know if you try the pumpkin cheesecake this weekend!
Gingersnap Cookie Crust
- 1 and 1/2 cups (150g) gingersnap cookie crumbs*
- 1/4 teaspoon each: ground ginger and ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons; 60g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- four 8-ounce blocks (904g) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (80g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup pumpkin puree*
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
- topping suggestions: salted caramel and whipped cream
- Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Make the crust: Using a food processor, pulse the gingersnap cookies into crumbs. Pour into a medium bowl and stir in ginger, cinnamon, sugar, and melted butter until combined. (You can also pulse it all together in the food processor.) Mixture will be sandy. Press firmly into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan. No need to grease the pan first. I use the bottom of a measuring cup to pack the crust down tightly. Pre-bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the hot pan on a large piece of aluminum foil. The foil will wrap around the pan for the water bath in step 4. Allow crust to slightly cool as you prepare the filling.
- Make the filling: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sour cream and vanilla extract, then beat until fully combined. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until just blended. After the final egg is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. To help prevent the cheesecake from deflating and cracking as it cools, avoid over-mixing the batter as best you can.
- Scoop out 2 cups of batter and place in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in the pumpkin, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice until combined. Begin adding spoonfuls of each batter, the plain and the pumpkin, on top of the crust. Alternate until all the batter is used and pan is filled. Using a toothpick or knife, swirl the batters together by dragging the toothpick top to bottom, then left to right.
- Prepare the simple water bath (see note): If you need a visual, watch me prepare a water bath right here. Boil a pot of water. You need 1 inch of water in your roasting pan for the water bath, so make sure you boil enough. I use an entire kettle of hot water. As the water is heating up, wrap the aluminum foil around the springform pan. Place the pan inside of a large roasting pan. Carefully pour the hot water inside of the pan and place in the oven. (Or you can place the roasting pan in the oven first, then pour the hot water in. Whichever is easier for you.)
- (Note: if you notice the cheesecake browning too quickly on top, tent it with aluminum foil halfway through baking.) Bake cheesecake for 55-70 minutes or until the center is almost set. When it’s done, the center of the cheesecake will slightly wobble if you gently shake the pan. Turn the oven off and open the oven door slightly. Let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 1 hour as it cools down. Remove cheesecake from the oven and allow to cool completely at room temperature, then refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Use a knife to loosen the chilled cheesecake from the rim of the springform pan, then remove the rim. Add toppings, if desired. Using a clean sharp knife, cut into slices for serving. For neat slices, wipe the knife clean and dip into warm water between each slice.
- Cover and store leftover cheesecake in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Make ahead tip: This cheesecake can be made the day before. It has to chill for quite some time before serving. See step 5. Another way to make this cheesecake ahead of time is to freeze it. Cheesecake can be frozen up to 2 or 3 months. I find this tutorial for freezing cheesecakes helpful. When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
- Gingersnap cookies: Store-bought gingersnap cookies are ideal as they are the most dry. The ONLY brand that I’ve had issues with is the Nabisco gingersnap cookies. They’re delicious on their own, but they’re too moist for a gingersnap cookie crust. Alternatively, you can use a graham cracker crust instead. Feel free to add or reduce the amount of cinnamon and ginger based on your taste preference.
- Pumpkin: I recommend canned pumpkin, not fresh pumpkin puree in this recipe. I like to use Libby’s brand. Fresh will work in a pinch, but the cheesecake is tastier and more firm with canned. Do not use pumpkin pie filling.
- Pumpkin pie spice: Instead of prepared pumpkin pie spice, you can use 1/2 teaspoon each: ground allspice and ground ginger AND 1/4 teaspoon each: ground nutmeg and ground cloves.
- Why is everything at room temperature? Bring all cold ingredients to room temperature before beginning. Room temperature ingredients combine quickly and evenly, so you won’t risk over-mixing. Also, beating cold ingredients together will result in a chunky cheesecake batter, hardly the way you want to begin!
- A note on the water bath: Some readers have baked cheesecakes with a large pan of hot water on the rack beneath the baking cheesecake. In this manner, the cheesecake does not bake directly in a roasting pan of water. I have never tried this method, but many report back with great reviews! This is a wonderful alternative if you do not own a large roasting pan or are nervous about your springform pan leaking. Simply place a large baking pan filled with 1 inch of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven.
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