This gorgeous cheesecake is full of good things—succulent pumpkin; those familiar warm spices of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg; and unctuous cream cheese—all with the smoky surprise of bourbon in both the filling and the topping. Carve out a special afternoon for this prep, and there are plenty of opportunities to do other things while the cake is cooling. To make the kitchen activities smoother and more joyful, you can bake the pumpkin, make the gingersnap crumbs, and measure out the spices up to three days before. The ingredients and time spent here are SOOOO totally worth it. And, instead of cramming this in at the end of a full meal, enjoy itty-bitty slices with a good cup of afternoon coffee.
For the crust
¾ cup gingersnap crumbs
½ cup finely chopped pecans
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated white sugar
½ stick butter (melted and slightly cooled)
For the filling
1½ cups cooked pumpkin
3 large eggs
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup bourbon
½ cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
24 ounces cream cheese (softened)
For the topping
2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
¼ cup bourbon
Choice of garnish
Sugar-glazed pecan halves
To make the crust:
Butter a locked 9-inch springform pan.
Combine the gingersnap crumbs, pecans, brown and white sugars, and butter in a small bowl. Press the crumb mixture evenly onto the bottom of the pan and ½ inch up the side.
Chill for 1 hour.
To make the filling and the cheesecake:
Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Put the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, heavy cream, vanilla, and bourbon in a food processor. Pulse several times until well-combined. Empty into a large bowl and set aside. (Leaving behind little bits in the processor container is okay.)
Combine the white sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in the food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the cream cheese and process 2 minutes. Add the pumpkin mixture and pulse until everything is thoroughly blended.
Pour the filling into the crust. Place the pan in a shallow baking dish to catch leaks and bake until the center has barely set, 50 to 60 minutes.
Transfer to a rack and cool 5 minutes.
To make the topping and finish the cheesecake:
Whisk together the sour cream, sugar, and bourbon in a small bowl.
Spread the mixture over the top of the cheesecake and bake 5 minutes.
Cool the cheesecake completely in the pan on a rack for about 3 hours. Then cover it and chill until cold, at least 4 hours.
Remove the cake from the side of the pan and garnish it with the pecan pieces, gingersnap crumbs, and pecan halves as you desire.
For the best flavor, bring the cheesecake to room temperature before serving.
Cook’s tips and tricks: This cheesecake is just as beautiful and scrumptious prepared in and served from a 9-by-12-inch glass baking dish. It will survive 3 days in the refrigerator, but I can say that there will be little to save.
—Deborah DeBord, Ph.D.
Picked at the Peak
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