Those who are not big fans of pumpkin pie, look at pumpkin cheesecake as “a nice change,” but the expectations are low. Textures run the gamut from dry and dense to wet, soft, and mousse-like. Flavors veer from far too cheesy and tangy to pungently over-spiced to totally bland. America’s Test Kitchen wanted to create a creamy pumpkin cheesecake with a velvety smooth texture that tasted of sweet, earthy pumpkin as well as tangy cream cheese, that struck a harmonious spicy chord, and, of course, that had a crisp, buttery, cookie-crumb crust. For a cookie crust that complemented the earthy, warm flavors of pumpkin, they spiced up a graham cracker crust with ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. For a smooth and creamy texture, they blotted canned pumpkin purée with paper towels to remove excess moisture—this solved the sogginess issue. For dairy, they chose heavy cream, not sour cream, for added richness. They also preferred white sugar to brown, which tended to overpower the pumpkin flavor. Whole eggs, vanilla, salt, lemon juice, and a moderate blend of spices rounded out this delicious cake. And for a smooth, velvety texture, that baked the cheesecake in a water bath in a moderate oven.

TIP: Be sure to buy unsweetened canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, which is pre-seasoned and sweetened. For neater slices, clean the knife thoroughly between slices.


For the Crust:

    • 8 whole graham crackers, broken into 1-inch pieces
    • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
    • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

For the Filling:

    • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
    • 1⅓ cups (9⅓ ounces) sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
    • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
    • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
    • ½ teaspoon table salt
    • pounds cream cheese, cut into chunks and softened
    • 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 1 cup heavy cream


    1. For the crust: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Process the graham cracker pieces in a food processor to fine, even crumbs, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the melted butter, the sugar, and spices over the crumbs and pulse to incorporate. Sprinkle the mixture into a 9-inch springform pan. Press the crumbs firmly into an even layer using the bottom of a measuring cup. Bake the crust until fragrant and beginning to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Let the crust cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Once cool, wrap the outside of the pan with two sheets of heavy-duty foil and set in a large roasting pan lined with a dish towel. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
    2. For the filling: Pat the pumpkin purée dry with several layers of paper towels. Whisk the sugar, spices, and salt together in a small bowl.
    3. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium-low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and beaters as needed.
    4. Beat in half of the sugar mixture until incorporated, about 1 minute. Beat in the remaining sugar mixture until incorporated, about 1 minute. Beat in the dried pumpkin, lemon juice, and vanilla until incorporated, about 1 minute. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the heavy cream until incorporated, about 1 minute.
    5. Being careful not to disturb the baked crust, brush the inside of the springform pan with the remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter. Carefully pour the filling into the pan. Set the roasting pan, with the cheesecake, on the oven rack and pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake the cheesecake until the center registers 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 1½ hours.
    6. Cool the cheesecake in the roasting pan for 45 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool until barely warm, 2½ to 3 hours, running a knife around the edge of the cake every hour or so. Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.
    7. To unmold the cheesecake, wrap a wet, hot kitchen towel around the cake pan and let sit for 1 minute. Remove the sides of the pan and carefully slide the cake onto a cake platter. Let the cheesecake sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Serves 12

Top photo by Daniel J. van Ackere/America’s Test Kitchen LLC.

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