My sharp-eyed husband caught this bourbon pumpkin cheesecake recipe while I was — typically — flipping through a Gourmet magazine last year. Although it was a total hit at Thanksgiving, my fleeting recipe attention span struck again this year, but as I began hunting for a new and different fall-themed cheesecake it was made clear I’d still be welcome at the table with something else — just a little less so.
Like any good newlywed, last year I made two cakes — one for the family we would spend the afternoon with, and one for the family that had reserved our evening shift. I had intended to do the same this year until I realized that I’d left the base to one of my springform pans at my parents. Already having two batters and crumb crusts prepared, I cursed several times, refilled my wine glass and decided I’d try to make twelve cupcake-sized cheesecakes with the second batter. (Why oh WHY did I not buy these the fifteen times I have seen them at the store and fawned over them? The headaches $15 could have saved me!) While the full-sized cake looks lovely, the jury is still out on whether those cupcake cheesecakes are ever coming out of the pan, and it’s not looking very promising.
The good news, however, is that is the remaining batter fit perfectly in a single 4.75-inch springform — no doubt purchased on impulse because it was sooo cuuute — I’d forgotten about which means we get both samples and pictures this year. I know it’s a little late in the game to change your dessert plans to this, and how arrogant for me to suggest that you should, but if you’re looking for that little something-something that will make your pumpkin cheesecake sing, that splash of bourbon (of course), crunching of ground pecans in the crust or even slightly sweetened sour cream topping could be used to juice up any recipe.
And now we make pie.
Cheesecake, previously: Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake, Key Lime Cheesecake, Nectarine, Mascarpone and Gingersnap Tart (almost no-bake!), Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake, Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares, Black-Bottomed Cupcakes (with a cheesecake filling) and Cream Cheese Marbled Brownies.
Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake
- 3/4 cup graham cracker (from five 4 3/4- by 2 1/4-inch crackers) or gingersnap crumbs
- 1/2 cup (50 grams) pecans, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup (45 grams) packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- Two pinches of salt
- 1 15-ounce can solid-pack pumpkin (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup (95 grams) packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) bourbon liqueur or bourbon (optional)
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
- 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 2 cups sour cream
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon (optional)
- Garnish: pecan halves
Stir together crumbs, pecans, sugars, and butter in a bowl until combined well. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1/2 inch up side of pan, then chill crust, 1 hour, although, honestly, I do it for much less these days, often only 15 to 20 minutes.
Make filling and bake cheesecake: Put oven rack in middle position and heat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and liqueur (if using) in a bowl until combined. Stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in large bowl. Add cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, then add pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.
Pour filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks). Bake until center is just set, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 5 minutes. (Leave oven on.)
Make topping: Whisk together sour cream, sugar, and liqueur (if using) in a bowl, then spread on top of cheesecake and bake 5 additional minutes.
Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 3 hours. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours. Remove side of pan and bring back to room temperature before serving.
Do ahead: Baked cheesecake can be chilled, covered, up to 1 week.
A few ways I’ve simplified this recipe over the decade-plus I’ve been making it:
Do you have a food processor? If so, listen closely: this recipe is easier than you can imagine. For the crust, you can go ahead and grind your cookies and pecans (no need to pre-chop, although it helps to break up the cookies a little), and sugars together to make fine crumbs, then even add cold (!) butter in cubes and run the machine until the mixture clumps. You can then wipe out your food processor bowl (not even fully wash it, it doesn’t matter) and make the cheesecake layer in there. But I put the ingredients in a different order: First in the bowl go the sugars, then cold (!) cream cheese, cut into a few chunks. Blend and blend together until it’s absolutely smooth, no lumps at all. Scrape down the sides. Now add pumpkin, cornstarch, salt, and spices and blend to combine. Add the eggs one at time, blending briefly between additions. Add the vanilla, cream and bourbon, if using. That’s it; you can go ahead and pour it over the crust now and bake it as written above.
Want to make cheesecake bars? Line the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch cake pan with one large piece of foil with no tears in it. (I find that flipping your cake pan over and molding the foil over top and sides first, before flipping it back over and lining the pan with this foil, causes less tearing.) Coat it lightly with butter or nonstick spray. Either 1.5x or 2x the crust recipe so you have a substantial enough base for a bar. Press it across the bottom and then 1/2-inch up the sides, then chill it as you do above. Make the pumpkin layer as written above and pour it on top. This bakes at 350°F for 30 to 40 minutes (check it at 30, then 35 to be safe), i.e. it’s much faster. Continue with the sour cream topping as written. To serve it once it’s totally chilled, carefully lift the whole pan out using the foil sling and transfer it to your counter. Use a knife dipped in hot water to make clean slices, and wipe the knife between cuts. I cut mine into 24 squares.
Want to make even fewer cheesecake squares? You could halve the recipe (but use a full yield of the crust) in an 8×8-inch square pan. The baking time is 30 to 40 minutes, about the same as the full-size bars.