‘Tis the season for cheesecake! This Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake is incredibly creamy and so delicious, beautiful, and festive! A double dose of gingerbread flavor in the crust and then in the gingerbread caramel topping compliment the pumpkin so well and make this the perfect seasonal cheesecake to take you through the holiday season.
Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake
This Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake is truly one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever made (and I’ve made countless cheesecakes). I recently served this to my pumpkin-loving best friend and as she finished her first bite she confirmed what I already knew as she said: “this is the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted.” A bold statement because she has had my classic cheesecake many times. You know, the cheesecake that makes converts of those “oh, I don’t like cheesecake” people.
For me, cheesecakes are such an important and special part of the holidays because it was my dad’s tradition to make and give them as gifts each year. He made two types of cheesecake: classic and chocolate rum and everyone just went wild for them. I have such vivid memories of seeing our countertops lined with cooling cheesecakes, as far as my eyes could see.
A Legacy and a Gift
As I got older and started cooking for myself, I took my dad’s recipe and fiddled around with it, adding a few things and baking it in a water bath so it wouldn’t sink in the middle. Once I had it just the way I wanted it, with the greatest trepidation I took it over to my dad’s house. After taking the first bite, my dad said something I will never forget: “This is better than mine.” And with that comment, the torch was passed. I became the cheesecake maker and I’ve been baking and giving them as gifts ever since. Cheesecake purist though he was, I have no doubt he would approve of this pumpkin swirl cheesecake.
Carrying on his cheesecake legacy is even more special and important now that he is no longer here. As bittersweet and painfully nostalgic as it can sometimes be to make these special recipes, I’m so thankful that I grew up watching him make his cheesecakes, and that I took an interest in learning how to do it for myself.
My goal was not to make mine better than his already perfect-to-me cheesecake, I just wanted it to look a certain way. But the changes I made plus the water bath did result in a more light and creamy texture which is just so irresistible and is the reason so many people have told me my cheesecake is the best.
Until now, I have never publicly shared my cheesecake recipe. Only a few friends have been gifted the very personal, very special recipe. So here is my holiday gift to you.
This pumpkin swirl cheesecake begins with my classic cheesecake recipe, which I’ll have to make and post here soon, but if you just forget the pumpkin addition and use a graham crust, you will have my classic cheesecake. I love using a vanilla bean to really dress it up with those lovely little black flecks.
Much like my dad, I was a cheesecake purist for the longest time. I kind of turned my nose up at all the wild varieties out there, and I’m sure I would have turned my nose up at this pumpkin swirl cheesecake years ago. Slowly though, I’ve softened and broadened my cheesecake horizons. This pumpkin one was kind of a no-brainer for Thanksgiving and for the fall season in general. Don’t get me started on the pumpkin spice craziness. If you follow me here or in Instagram you know how much it bugs me that it is such a trend now. Like, is it even fall if you don’t have a pumpkin spice latte?? Yes, yes it is.
Ok, rant over. Pumpkin is delicious and is very welcome in my kitchen along with the spices that compliment it best: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice. I like to call this my fall spice blend, as it is so good with apples, pears, basic muffin and cake recipes, pancakes, waffles, and of course pumpkin. You can feel free to call it pumpkin spice if that makes you happy.
The base for this pumpkin swirl cheesecake is made of gingersnap cookies that I grind up with soft butter (no need to melt it), some sugar, and a bit of that fall spice blend. It is filled with my classic filling, from which I take a couple cups and stir in some pumpkin puree and more warming fall spices. Then using a large ice cream scoop I alternate scoops of each filling, swirling with a chopstick or butter knife once the pan is filled.
A few notes on the recipe
You’ll definitely want to bake this pumpkin swirl cheesecake in a water bath for the smoothest, creamiest texture. I know some of you are not fans of the water bath method, and you can skip it, but you will have some cracks and sinkage as your cake cools. It will still taste delicious.
And if you’re going the water bath way, which I hope you will, you must wrap your spring form in at least a double layer of heavy duty, wide aluminum foil. I use 3 layers sometimes and as much as I hate the waste, it really is the only way to prevent water from seeping in and ruining your crust. Trust me, I speak from experience.
Also, I highly recommend a candy thermometer for this particular caramel because it is made with dark molasses. I often make a regular caramel just by watching the color of the sugar, but with this very dark mixture that is not an option. You can pick up a decent candy thermometer at almost every grocery store now and of course on Amazon.
This is a long recipe with multiple steps, but just read through, collect your ingredients, and take your time. You got this!
Let me know if you give this one a try! I love seeing you all make my recipes. Come say hi on instagram @cookonawhim!
For Fall Spice Blend:
- 1/4 cup cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons ginger
- 1 tablespoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 30 or so gingersnap cookies
- 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) soft butter
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons fall spice blend
- 5 8-ounce packages cream cheese at room temperature
- 1.5 cups granulated sugar
- 4 eggs plus 3 yolks
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons fall spice blend
For Gingerbread Caramel Sauce:
- 1/2 cup water
- 1.5 cups brown sugar
- 1.5 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup molasses
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1.5 sticks cold butter (12 tablespoons), cut into small pieces
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
To prepare caramel:
- Combine molasses, water, and sugar in a heavy, large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves.
- Bring to a boil and cook until you reach 250 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
- Remove from heat and whisk in cream, butter, salt, and spices.
- Stir until all butter is melted and combined.
- Return to heat and allow to boil for another 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from heat, add bourbon if using and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Transfer to jars and store in refrigerator. Gently warm before serving.
To prepare crust:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Place a pan of water or tea kettle on to boil.
- Place all crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you have very fine crumbs. The mixture will resemble damp sand.
- Press this into the bottom and just slightly up the sides of springform pans.
- Bake for 10 minutes
- Remove from oven and allow to sit at room temperature while you prepare the filling.
- Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F
To prepare Cheesecake:
- In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together cream cheese and sugar until very soft and creamy and no lumps remain. This should take about 5 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beater a few times during this process.
- With mixer on low, add eggs and yolks one at a time, beating well between each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl a couple times during this process too. Really take your time here to avoid lumps of cream cheese in your final batter.
- Once eggs are all mixed in, add vanilla and sour cream and mix on low until combined.
- Remove 2 cups of batter to a separate bowl and stir in 1 cup of pumpkin puree and 2 teaspoons of fall spice blend. Mix thoroughly.
- Using a large ice cream or cookie scoop, place 4 scoops of plain batter into bottom of pan.
- Next, place 4 scoops of pumpkin batter in between the scoops of plain.
- Repeat this process until you have filled the pan almost to the top.
- Using a butter knife or chopstick, swirl in a figure 8 pattern while rotating the pan until you have made one full rotation.
Baking and Cooling Cheesecake:
- Lay your 2-3 sheets of foil down on a flat surface.
- Place cheesecake on top.
- Wrap first layer tightly around pan, then repeat with remaining layer(s)
- Lay a thin kitchen towel or layer of paper towels in the bottom of your large baking pan
- Place foil wrapped cheesecake on top
- Place this the pan in the middle of the oven with the rack pulled out.
- Carefully pour recently boiled water into baking dish until it comes about 1/2 way up the sides of the foil-wrapped pan.
- Be very careful not to get water in between the foil and the springform pan.
- Slowly push oven rack in and close oven door.
- Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F.
- Leave oven door closed. Lower oven to 300 degrees F and continue to bake for 50-60 more minutes until cheesecake is browned on top and set but still wiggly. The center should not look wet or soupy at all, it should just gently wiggle when you move the pan and it will be puffed up a bit but will settle and firm as it cools.
- Turn oven off and carefully remove the entire baking tray.
- Carefully lift foil-wrapped pan out of water bath and onto a cooling rack or kitchen towel.
- Allow to cool to room temperature for about an hour.
- Transfer to refrigerator to cool overnight. At least 8 hours or up to 3 days covered with plastic wrap.
Removing the cheesecake from the pan:
- Once cheesecake is completely cooled in refrigerator, slide a very thin knife around the outer edge. I like to use my boning knife as it is long, very thing, and flexible.
- Gently release the latch on springform pan and lift it straight up and off the cheesecake.
- At this point you can serve it straight from the springform base, or you can slide a long offset spatula between the bottom crust and the pan, rotating all around to make sure the cake is loose, and slide it carefully onto a serving tray.
- Serve with gingerbread caramel and softly whipped cream with a few extra crumbled gingersnaps if desired.
Having very soft, room temperature cream cheese is essential to a smooth cheesecake.
Keywords: Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake, Cheesecake, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Thanksgiving Dessert, Fall Dessert
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