If you're looking for a Thanksgiving dessert that is sure to impress, get rave reviews, and stand out among the rest, then look no further than this pumpkin cheesecake. It's like a pumpkin pie but in cheesecake form! The filling is creamy, tangy, perfectly spiced, and the buttery, crisp graham cracker crust adds the perfect crunch. It is a must-try this fall season!
Fall is the perfect occasion to make all things pumpkin, from pumpkin pie to pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, or pumpkin cake. Today I'm highlighting pumpkin in one of my all-time favorite forms of dessert: a cheesecake! It has everything you love in a cheesecake combined with the classic flavors of a pumpkin pie. The result is a perfectly spiced, ultra-creamy, tangy, and absolutely delicious pumpkin cheesecake! And don't forget the buttery graham cracker crust which adds the perfect crunch and is hands-down irresistible!
WHAT YOU'LL NEED TO MAKE PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE:
For the Graham Cracker Crust:
- Graham cracker crumbs: I like to use cinnamon-flavored graham crackers for this recipe, but feel free to use honey-flavored or buy pre-packaged graham cracker crumbs that are sold in the baking aisle.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar adds the perfect amount of sweetness.
- Butter: Melted and slightly cooled. The filling isn't very salty so you can use either unsalted or salted butter.
For the Pumpkin Filling:
- Cream cheese: Brick-style, full-fat cream cheese. Softened to room temperature.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar.
- Flour: Flour helps to make the filling more sturdy and helps prevent cracks.
- Sour cream: Full-fat sour cream and preferably room temperature. Take it out of the fridge at the same time as the cream cheese, as long as it's not too cold you'll be fine.
- Spices: Cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. Or you can substitute these with 2 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice.
- Eggs: Room temperature is a must! To quickly bring the eggs to room temperature you can place them in a bowl of lukewarm water for 10-15 minutes.
- Pumpkin puree: Canned pumpkin puree is my preference because it's easier and more convenient. However, if you want to make your own go for it! Just be sure to drain out ALL of the liquid for at least 2 hours.
Cheesecakes love a humid environment, which is why baking in a water bath is recommended for the best results. The springform pan is placed in a larger pan that gets filled with boiling water and the steam from the water helps the cheesecake bake evenly and prevents cracks from forming on the surface.
HOW TO MAKE PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE:
- Prepare the springform pan: Line the bottom of the springform pan with parchment paper and spray generously with non-stick cooking spray. Wrap several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil around the bottom and up the sides. *Note: No matter how well you wrap your springform pan there is still a chance that water from the water bath can leak in and ruin your otherwise perfectly good cheesecake. This happened to me one too many times and so now I always follow a trick I learned thanks to lifeloveandsugar, which is to tie a slow cooker liner around the pan first and then wrap it with aluminum foil. My cheesecakes have been perfectly dry ever since!
- Preheat your oven to 350° and begin boiling water for the water bath.
- Make the graham cracker crust: Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a large bowl or in the bowl of a food processor. Press the crust into the bottom of the prepared springform pan and slightly up the sides. Use the bottom of a glass or measuring cup to even it out. Prebake the crust for 10 minutes while you prepare the filling.
- Make the filling: Use a hand-held mixer to beat room temperature cream cheese, sugar, and flour together in a large bowl until smooth and creamy with no lumps. Mix in the sour cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves until smooth. Add the room temperature eggs, one at a time, and mix until just combined after each. Add the pumpkin puree and mix until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, try not to overmix. Pour the filling into the baked crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any trapped air bubbles.
- Place the cheesecake in a larger baking pan with high sides and carefully pour the boiling water in, going up about 2 inches around the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 80 minutes, until only slightly wobbly in the center. Turn the oven off and slightly crack the door. Allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1 hour, then let cool completely before refrigerating. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving, or overnight for the best results.
HOW TO AVOID CRACKS IN CHEESECAKES:
- Avoid opening the oven door during baking. Sudden changes in temperature can lead to cracks, so it's best to avoid opening the oven door while the cheesecake bakes because it can cause the temperature inside the oven to fluctuate.
- Use a water bath: As stated previously, the water bath keeps the cheesecake baking more slowly and evenly which is crucial for preventing cracks from forming on the surface.
- Use room temperature ingredients: Room temperature ingredients come together more easily and evenly and require less mixing. Let the cream cheese, eggs, and sour cream sit out on the counter for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours before using. Or, to quickly bring cream cheese and eggs to room temperature you can place the wrapped packets of cream cheese and the eggs in a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes.
- Avoid overmixing: Overmixing creates pockets of air bubbles that rise to the surface of the cake during baking and turn into cracks. This is especially important once you've added in the eggs and also why it's important to use room temperature ingredients. Once you pour the filling into the crust, tap the pan on the counter a few times which will cause any trapped air bubbles to be released from the batter.
- Don't over-bake: There will be a 2-3" wobbly bit in the center when the cheesecake is done.
- Don't take the cheesecake out of the oven right away: To avoid sudden changes in temperature, turn the oven off and open the door slightly. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour while it comes to room temperature gradually. Then cool completely on the counter before refrigerating.
- Flour: Adding flour to the filling makes it stronger and adds extra insurance against cracks.
Cracks in cheesecakes: Despite your best efforts, sometimes cheesecakes will just go ahead and crack on you anyways. Luckily, there is a way to fix it! Carefully push the crack together then use an offset spatula dipped in hot water to seal it. Or, the easiest way to fix it is to simply cover the crack with some caramel sauce or whipped cream.
Enjoy! If you try this recipe please be sure to come back and let me know! I would love to hear how you liked it.
More Recipes Like This:
- 9" springform pan
For the Graham Cracker Crust:
- 1 and ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 6 tbsp. butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 3 (8 oz. blocks) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 and ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- ½ cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp. ground cloves
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line a 9" springform pan with parchment paper and spray generously with nonstick spray. Wrap several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil around the bottom and up the sides.* Begin boiling water for the water bath.
- Make the graham cracker crust: In a medium bowl or bowl of a food processor, stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press the crust into the bottom of the springform pan and up the sides. Use the bottom of a glass or measuring cup to pack it down evenly. Prebake the crust for 10 minutes.
- Make the filling: In a large bowl use a hand-held mixer to beat the softened cream cheese, sugar, and flour until smooth and no more lumps remain. Add the sour cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and mix until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the room temperature eggs, one at a time, and beat until just combined after each. Add the pumpkin puree and mix until smooth. Do your best to not overmix.
- Pour the filling into the baked crust and tap the pan on the counter several times to release any trapped air bubbles. Place the pan inside a larger pan and carefully pour the boiling water into the larger pan, going about 2 inches up the sides of the springform pan.
- Bake for 80 minutes, until only slightly wobbly in the center. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door cracked for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and the water bath and set on the counter to come to room temperature. Cool completely in the fridge for at least 3 hours, overnight is best if you can.
- Use a clean, very sharp knife to cut the cheesecake into slices. Serve with whipped cream and caramel sauce, if desired. Cover and store leftovers for up to 5 days in the fridge.