Here’s a little bit of personal info about me: I’m kind of weird about the winter holidays. I’m not a very traditional person and I don’t always agree with particular aspects of what certain holidays stand for, including Thanksgiving and Christmas, both of which I grew up celebrating with my family despite my reservations. That aside, I do appreciate paid days off work and quality time spent with family who I don’t get to visit often, as well as holiday trees and lights. I’m basically a cat, i.e. I love sparkly things, haha. I also love an excuse to cook up a bunch of indulgent, time-consuming, homemade treats–things I’m usually too practical or don’t have time for: creamy smashed potatoes, brined and roasted turkey stuffed with fresh aromatics, gravy and stuffing made with turkey drippings, homemade yeast rolls, browned butter green beans with toasted walnuts and fresh sage, etc. etc., you get the point.
My family always does our big Thanksgiving dinner the day after since my mom and I are the only cooks and I always attend MC’s family dinner the day of. We don’t have anything better to do the day after anyway as none of us are brave/crazy enough for Black Friday shopping, haha. This year was different though–due to unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances, my family’s regular day after Thanksgiving celebration was called off. Despite an overall trying time, our visit still had some good moments and we made sure to get our feast on at MC’s family dinner. Stressed out or not, a girl’s gotta eat. They do their dinner potluck style as they have many great cooks in the family, so I only needed to bring a couple of dishes.
I ended up going with yeast rolls (baking bread from scratch is one of my most favorite things, but still working on my technique so we’ll save that recipe for another time) and my (somewhat infamous ‘round these parts) Pumpkin Cheesecake with Toasted Pecan Butter Rum Sauce and Vanilla Whipped Cream. I’ve been waiting to share this one with y’all for a while and am really excited to finally do so, and just in time for Christmas too! Aside from the Layered Mocha Cheesecake, this is my most requested dessert. It’s also my personal fave out of all my cheesecake recipes, mainly because I LOVE pumpkin desserts. Yeah, I’m that chick, PUMPKIN SPICE ALL THE THINGS, as far as I’m concerned.
This was the first cheesecake recipe that I adapted and really made my own, many moons ago, when I first started making cheesecakes. I’ve had this recipe for so long that I am unsure of the original sources, but it’s a hodgepodge of pumpkin cheesecake recipes with my own special touches thrown in. The original filling recipe I used included mace, cinnamon and ginger, but I like my pumpkin treats a little spicier so I added cloves and nutmeg to the mix. It also specified using mostly egg yolks and leaving out the whites which I’ve found imparts a unique, almost pumpkin pie-like texture, not quite as firm as my usual cheesecakes. I think this texture is perfect for this dessert, so I do actually use the cream cheese/egg proportions from the original recipe, with the addition of some extra pumpkin. I did mention that I love pumpkin, right? 😉
The crust is mostly the same as the original source recipe, with the addition of chopped pecans and crystallized ginger sprinkled on top before pouring in the pumpkin filling, which adds texture and a little punch of spice to each bite. The butter rum sauce inspiration comes from Bon Appetite’s Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe with Caramel Bourbon Sauce. I don’t follow their actual cheesecake recipe at all, but the sauce is amazing. I’ve altered it by substituting dark rum for the bourbon and honey for the corn syrup. I prefer the rum flavor with pumpkin, and as I don’t keep corn syrup on hand I’ve experimented and found honey to be a great substitute.
Oh, and whatever you do, don’t forget the whipped cream! Whether you make it from scratch or grab some store-bought, it’s a mortal sin to serve pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake without whipped cream (yes, Cool Whip totally counts, ain’t nothin’ wrong with that). I hope y’all enjoy this recipe and please make sure to leave a review if you give it a go. Cheers and happy holidays, or happy regular days, whichever works for you!
Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe w/Toasted Pecan Butter Rum Sauce & Vanilla Whipped Cream
(makes one 9” cheesecake, 16-20 servings)
- ¾ c gingersnap crumbs
- ½ c ground pecans
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- ¼ c melted butter
- ½ c chopped pecans
- ⅛ c chopped crystallized ginger
- ¾ c white sugar
- 1 c pumpkin puree (make your own or use canned)
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground mace
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 8oz packs cream cheese, room temp
- ⅜ c white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Toasted Pecan Butter Rum Sauce
- 1 c (packed) dark brown sugar
- ½ c heavy cream
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 c honey
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 to 4 tbsp dark or spiced rum
- 1 ½ c pecan pieces, toasted
Vanilla Whipped Cream
- 2 c heavy cream
- ½ c powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla paste or extract
- 9” springform pan
- larger pan with 2” or higher sides which will be big enough to hold your springform pan (I use an ancient roasting pan which fits up to a 10” springform pan inside)
- cake lifter (not necessary, but highly recommended for moving your cheesecake from pan to serving platter)
Preheat oven to 350°.
Grease and flour a 9” springform pan, then wrap the bottom and sides securely with several layers of tin foil so that it is leak-proof.
Combine ¾ c gingersnap crumbs, ½ c ground pecans, 2 tbsp white sugar, 2 tbsp brown sugar, and ¼ c melted butter in a small mixing bowl until thoroughly mixed and evenly moistened, then press onto bottom and partially up sides of prepared springform pan with your hands or the bottom of a glass. Bake in preheated oven for 10 mins, remove from oven, sprinkle evenly with pecan pieces and crystallized ginger, then set aside to cool. Lower oven temp to 325°.
In a medium mixing bowl combine ¾ c white sugar, pumpkin, 3 egg yolks, cinnamon, mace, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt, whisk until thoroughly combined, then set aside.
Using an electric mixer on med-high, beat cream cheese and ⅜ c white sugar until light and fluffy. Turn speed to medium and add the whole egg, remaining egg yolk and 2 tbsp heavy cream, scraping down bowl as necessary. Add cornstarch and vanilla and continue mixing on medium until smooth. Do not over mix as this can cause air bubbles; you want everything mixed just until combined at this stage. Once batter is smooth, stir in pumpkin mixture with a rubber spatula until combined, then pour batter into the prepared crust.
Place prepared cheesecake into the larger pan, then add enough hot water to come about 1” up sides of springform pan. Bake at 325° for 1-1 ½ hours until edges of cheesecake are set and center is mostly set but still jiggly. Turn off heat, leave oven closed and let cheesecake rest in oven until it’s completely cooled. The center will solidify as it sits in the cooling oven and it will turn out perfectly cooked and even on top with no cracks and no sinking when done. Once cheesecake has cooled to room temp and center has set, remove springform pan from water bath and refrigerate the cheesecake in the pan. It’s best to let it chill for at least 8 hours before removing from pan.
Toasted Pecan Butter Rum Sauce
First, toast your pecan pieces if you haven’t already. There are a number of ways to successfully toast nuts; my personal preference is on the stove in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently so they don’t burn. Toasted nuts have a different flavor profile than untoasted, so while it’s not necessary I do highly recommend it for this sauce. To make the sauce, bring dark brown sugar, heavy cream, butter, honey, and salt to boil in medium saucepan over medium high heat, whisking until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium then boil 1 minute without stirring, watching the whole time to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Remove from heat, stir in rum and pecans, then allow to cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Vanilla Whipped Cream
Place a large metal mixing bowl and your mixer’s whisk attachment in the freezer for 10 mins or so prior to making the whipped cream. A cold metal bowl and mixing tool will yield the best result. Pour heavy cream into bowl and whip on high speed until cream begins to thicken. Once cream has thickened a bit, add powdered sugar and vanilla paste or extract, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Remove the foil and the sides of the springform pan, then carefully remove the cheesecake from the bottom of the pan using either a cake lifter or a couple of spatulas and place on your serving platter. You can pipe whipped cream decoratively on top of cheesecake, or simply serve it on the side. I serve the sauce on the side as well in case anyone doesn’t have a taste for rum (I use the max amount of rum to really kick up the flavor).