It was time to change things up.
One of my Thanksgiving traditions is to make a pumpkin cheesecake with a graham cracker crust and cinamon-chai buttercream frosting. It’s a favorite every year, so I didn’t want to change my plans entirely, but last year I thought it was a little too creamy, and not quite cakey enough. So I poked around the web to see what other recipes were out there.
Some required prolonged baking, like leaving the oven door propped open for an extra hour or two to finish things off, and I didn’t want to deal with that. Others just didn’t look tasty enough in the photos. And then I found one that looked about right, and I decided to get brave and mess with it a bit; perhaps not the wisest of choices when people have come to rely on a yearly dessert, but I did it anyway.
I started with the crust, which fit much better into my new 9″ pan than the 10″ one I’d been using, which has a dent in it anyway.
The crust went about halfway up the sides, which I like, because honestly, I could just eat the crust and walk (roll) away happy.
Then I worked on the filling, which was the risky part. At the last minute I decided some adjustments were in order, so I swapped out her spices for the ones I always used, and then did some research on flour. My old recipe calls for three tablespoons of it, but this one didn’t, and the cheesecake community seems divided on the subject. So what does the flour do, exactly? I looked it up.
Turns out that the flour makes for a cake-like texture, and while that didn’t explain why my regular cheesecake wasn’t as cakey as I wanted it to be, it still seemed like it was something I should add in. I also adjusted the sugar content. What I kept from the new recipe, that turned out to be rather stress-inducing, was the low baking temperature. My one-hour cheesecake took over an hour and a half to stop jiggling like JELL-O, and I kept hovering between thinking it needed more time and worrying that it was going to overbake.
Eventually, I decided it was done.
No cracks! The water bath did its job.
For the first time, I managed to keep the plastic wrap from sliding across the top and leaving a mark on my cheesecake. I’m so proud!
I chilled it overnight, and the next day, I added the frosting around the edges, and some cute fall sugar decorations. And somehow, I managed to transport it all the way to my Dad’s without wrecking it. When we arrived, my Dad provided me with a lovely serving dish, and it took its place on the Thanksgiving table.
The cake was a hit. Only a little was left, and that was saved for my sister Rosie, who was away, and everyone else oohed and aahed, and ate, and for once, it was more popular than the apple pie. Woohoo!
PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE WITH CHAI BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin (I added a tiny bit more, since I had it on hand)4 large eggs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 teaspoons chai spice
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon 1% milk (or more as needed)
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Grease or spray a 9-inch springform pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon until thoroughly mixed. Add melted butter and combine. Press into the pan, spreading evenly across the bottom and up the sides if desired. (I use the bottom of a measuring cup for this.) Set aside.
Using a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg and cloves until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the pumpkin. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each one on low to medium speed, just until blended. Add in the flour and beat on low speed until incorporated. Scrape the bowl with a spatula a few times to make sure everything is mixed.
Wrap the bottom of your springform pan in foil to prevent leaks, then place into a water bath. (I use a large roasting pan, then put the springform pan in there, and start adding water, making sure the water level is about a 1/4 – 1/2 of its height.)
Pour the batter into the crust, spreading as evenly as possible.
Bake at 300 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or as needed. To see if it’s done, tap the edge of the pan with a wooden spoon until it is just jiggling a bit in the middle.
Remove from water bath. Cool on a wire rack for at least half an hour, then move to the fridge. Chill overnight.
In a stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the vanilla and chai spice, and beat again. Add the powdered sugar incrementally, beating on medium speed. If the frosting seems to thick add the milk, or more as needed. A tablespoon is usually just right.
Take the ring off the springform pan, running a knife around the edges first if it looks like the cake is sticking. (Mine didn’t.)
Pipe little swirls around the edges; it doesn’t really matter what tip you use, but you want the frosting just around the edges so the flavor doesn’t overwhelm. You can also put a large circle in the middle if you like.
If you have other decorations to add, go ahead!