slice of pumpkin cheesecake

Pumpkin pie is the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert. Most people eat it just once a year, and that’s after first gorging themselves on turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, and about ten other side dishes. Yet more often than not I hear people say they’ll take only a “sliver” of pumpkin pie, saving any available room for the other desserts. Sure, we serve pumpkin pie each November, but mostly because it’s become obligatory: an expected holiday staple very few get excited about.

But pumpkin pie can be more than the standard fare of pureed pumpkin mixed with cream, sugar, eggs, and spices in a butter or graham cracker crust. I mean, honestly, do we all need to make the same pie every year? So this holiday, after a lifetime of eating traditional pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, I decided I was in the mood for something a little different. While enjoying some pecan shortbread last week, I started to wonder how it would taste paired with a pumpkin custard. But then my mind began to wander even further from the norm. Why make a regular custard filling when I could use cream cheese? I looked up some pumpkin cheesecake recipes, but most seemed more cheesecake than pumpkin pie, and I wanted to retain the pie’s essence for the holiday, so I decided to make up my own concoction.

As I wanted the pie to preserve some traditional flavors, I started with the customary pumpkin puree mixed with eggs, sugar, and cream, along with the conventional spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. With my eye on making my pie creamier and richer than in years past, I then mixed in a package of cream cheese that had been whipped with some sugar, more eggs and vanilla. Then, to wake up the palate a bit, I also added in some ginger. Of course I used a pecan shortbread crust, the idea of which started this whole adventure in the first place. Finally, once the cake cooled, I topped it with sour cream that had been flavored with maple syrup simply because I wanted a hint of tartness and sugar to help balance the rich creaminess of the cake.

My new and improved pumpkin dessert was light and silky with a rich Fall flavor that wasn’t overwhelming. Using only one package of cream cheese endowed the filling with a velvety sumptuousness that was more fluffy than overwhelmingly cheesy. The pecan crust’s nutty and buttery crispness was also the perfect foil for the creamy center. And did I mention that you just press the dough in the pan, which means you don’t have to prepare and roll out a crust? I have a feeling this new pumpkin dessert will find a place in my holiday repertoire of desserts, but I’m also open to future experimentation.

pumpkin cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Pecan Shortbread Crust

Makes: 1 8-inch cake


1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling
1 8-oz package cream cheese
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 15-oz can pureed pumpkin or 2 cups cooked pumpkin
3/4 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp chopped pecans


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Mix together all ingredients using either the paddle of a mixer or your hands.
3. Press crust into a 9-inch spring-form pan, being sure to make the bottom even and also pressing the edges of the dough about a 1/4 to 1/2 way up the sides of the pan. Set the pan in the refrigerator.
4. In a medium bowl, whip together the pumpkin puree, cream, 2 eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and salt until fully incorporated.
5. Using a the paddle attachment on your mixer, combine the softened cream cheese, 2 eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla until creamy.
6. Gently add the pumpkin mixture to the cream cheese, being sure not to over mix.
7. Take the crust out of the refrigerator and set the pan on a large baking sheet. Pour the filling into the pan.
8. Place the filled pan (which should still be on the large baking sheet) into the oven for 45 minutes or until the center only slightly jiggles. If the middle shakes like jell-o, leave it in until it sets further.
9. Once the cake has cooled down, mix the sour cream and maple syrup together. Spread the mixture on top of the cake and then sprinkle on the chopped pecans.
10. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight and serve.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Pecan Shortbread Crust 28 October,2015Denise Santoro Lincoln

  • Stephanie

    This sounds (and looks!) absolutely delicious. I’m warning you though, speaking from experience, someone at your dinner is going to poke around and ask for “real” pumpkin pie. One year, with some 20+ folks at my table, I decided to skip making the same boring pumpkin pie and instead whipped up a lovely bowl of fantastic pumpkin-ginger mousse. Only to find, to my horror, that no one touched it, and everyone asked where the pumpkin pie was.

  • Hi Stephanie — Oh no! How could anyone ignore a lovely pumpkin-ginger mousse! I’ll keep my fingers crossed the same thing doesn’t happen next Thursday at my dinner.

  • Shirley Lee

    Looks beautiful…and IS delicious! My husband and I had a few generous slices the other night. It was silky and nutty and there was enough pumpkin to satisfy my cravings (and boy do I crave pumpkin this time of year!) I may still also reach for a slice of regular pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, but I’m definitely going to make this one as well. I know my family back east is going to love it. Thanks for the exciting twist on an old routine, Denise!

  • ann ceraldi

    Good Lord–I want some right now! I’m barely squeezing into my jeans as it is–I’ll be dressing in tents after the holidays..

  • Julie

    I made this for our family of 23 for Thanksgiving. I doubled the crust recipe and added another half recipe to the filling for my 11 inch spring pan. Baked it at 325 for 75 minutes. This dessert was AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS! It doesn’t taste too cheese cakey or too much like a traditional pumpkin pie filling. It’s light, creamy and now a family favorite! Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe 🙂

  • Hi Julie — I’m so glad you liked the recipe. I love it too. Thanks for submitting the nice comment. You’ve made my day 🙂

  • Mary Bowman

    I made this for Thanksgiving dinner last week and it was wonderful and my guests loved it. I’ve got a question however; if Ms Lincoln or someone else who didn’t have this issue can help it would be appreciated: The crust around the edges was perfect, but the bottom was doughy. I was thinking of pre-baking it but afraid the sides would get over done Any ideas–how did you handle it? I want to make this every year. Thanks.

  • Hi Mary — I am so happy you and your guests enjoyed the pumpkin cheesecake! It is a favorite of mine as well 🙂 I have never had have a problem with a doughy crust, but I also refrigerate the dough in the pie pan after making it (per step #3). Keeping the butter cold in the dough is key. That said, I see nothing wrong with blind baking the crust first. To do this, poke some holes in the dough with a fork and then set some parchment paper on top of it (so it covers the entire crust) along with about a cup of dried beans or pie weights if you have those on hand (and please don’t reuse the dried beans afterward as they are then unusable). The beans or weights will prevent the crust from bubbling up and the parchment paper will prevent the crust from browning too much. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes and then remove the crust, let cool, take off the parchment paper and weights/beans and then follow steps 4 – 10. Good luck and let me know how it turns out if you do this.


Denise Santoro Lincoln

I am a writer, editor, mother of twins, and enthusiastic home cook. I was raised by an Italian-American mother who, in the 1970s, grew her own basil (because she couldn’t find any in the local grocery stores), zucchini (for those delicious flowers), and tomatoes (because the ones in the store tasted like “a potato”). My mom taught us to love all kinds of food and revere high-quality ingredients. I am now trying to follow in my mother’s footsteps and am on a mission to help my daughters become adventurous eaters who have a healthy respect for seasonal food raised locally. My daughters and I grow vegetables and go to the farmers’ market. We also love to shop at Piedmont Grocery and Trader Joe’s. When I’m not hanging out with my daughters or cooking, I like to contribute to cookbooks (including Williams-Sonoma’s Food Made Fast and Foods of the World series), work as an editor, and write about food for Bay Area Bites and Denise’s Kitchen. My food inspirations are M.F.K Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters — three fabulous women who encompass everything I love about food.

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