Cheesecake! That is one dessert I’ve never had a problem swallowing. For some people it happens with bananas, for others it might be mashed potatoes. But for me, it’s pumpkin pie. I confess to having a bit of a gag reflex when I try to bite into a piece, which is too bad since I love the taste of pumpkin. Maybe it’s the soggy pie crust or that baby-food texture of the pie that causes this involuntary reflex.
Thanksgiving is coming up and I foresee many hostesses proudly offering me a slice of their homemade uvula torture. I’m a lady who prefers to not gag in public—so I have a preventive counter-measure planned: prepare and bring my own pumpkin cheesecake as a hostess gift.
I discovered this recipe in Sunset magazine circa 1996. Spicy gingersnaps replace the traditional graham cracker crust and pumpkin is spiced up with Chinese five spice. The Sunset recipe didn’t quite work for me, so here’s my slightly modified version:
Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake
Preheat oven to 325º
Special equipment: 8” cheesecake pan with removable rim
1 ¾ cups gingersnap cookie crumbs
2 tablespoons super fine sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 packages (8 ounces each) neufchâtel (light cream) cheese or lite cream cheese
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons Chinese five spice
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
Mix together cookie crumbs, sugar and butter in bottom of cheesecake pan. Press crumbs firmly to form an even layer on the base. Push crumbs well into the corner and 1 1/2” up the side.
Bake crust for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, blend together the cheese, brown sugar and eggs. Reserve ¼ cup and set aside. Add five spice and pumpkin to mixer and blend well.
Pour pumpkin mixture into baked shell. Transfer reserved cream cheese mixture into a zip lock baggy or small piping bag. Snip the end to a fine point. Pipe the cheese into a spiral starting from the center and ending at the crust. Use a tooth pick and drag it in and out of the spiral and through the pumpkin to create the marbled effect. Gently tap the pan on the counter to help the white cheese settle into the pumpkin.
Transfer to a baking tray, and bake for 50 minutes or until the center is fairly firm. If cake begins to crack, build an aluminum tent until finished cooking.
Transfer to cooling rack. Cover and chill thoroughly before slicing.
Note: If you don’t have an 8” cheesecake pan that’s ok! If you use a smaller pan build the side crust up higher and increase the baking time. If using a larger pan, make a shorter side crust and decrease the baking time.
Patricia Bainter is a blogger and writer for 303magazine. She trained at Le Cordon Bleu London and shares her culinary musings and recipes at her own website ThePatricianPalette.com. Photos taken by Mark Woolcott Photography.