Have you been searching for a special dessert for Thanksgiving dinner? Something a little bit beyond the ordinary pumpkin pie? This velvety-smooth pumpkin cheesecake flavored with maple and cinnamon and topped with toasted pecans is sure to leave your guests blissfully satisfied.
I first tasted this cheesecake when I worked at Ray’s Boathouse 20 years ago (yikes, time flies!!!). It was my first job in a restaurant kitchen, and I never actually got to make Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake while I worked there. I was usually assigned “fun” prep-cook tasks like peeling and deveining thousands of shrimp, slicing pounds and pounds of potatoes, assembling appetizers for hours on end, or scooping hundreds of bowls of ice cream while standing in a sub-zero freezer. Scooping ice cream was the worst. I think I came pretty close to frost bite a few times. But really, I absolutely loved that job. It was the first time in my life that I looked forward to going to work every day.
Sometimes we’d serve Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake at a banquet and then I’d be assigned to cut and plate the cake. Occasionally there would be a portioning “mistake” and a piece would end up being shared between the kitchen crew. That’s how I first discovered how much I loved this recipe.
When Ray’s Boathouse: Seafood Secrets of the Pacific Northwest came out back in 2003, I was so happy to see Pumpkin Maple Cheesecake included. It’s actually not hard to make and it really is the perfect decadent Thanksgiving Day dessert.
Make Ahead Tip:
Cheesecake freezes well for up to 2 months, so you can plan ahead and make this for Thanksgiving or Christmas now. Just be sure to wrap it extremely well with plastic and then cover it with foil before putting it in the freezer. Before serving, thaw the cheesecake in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours and bring it to room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp. ground pecans
- 4 Tbsp. melted butter
- SOUR CREAM TOPPING:
- 1 and 1/4 cup sour cream
- 2 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
- 2 1/3 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 15 oz. can solid-pack pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. maple extract
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- Toasted pecans, caramel sauce and whipped cream for garnishing
- MAKE THE CRUST:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, pecans and butter in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Press mixture evenly onto the bottom of a 9″ springform pan. Bake until light golden, about 8 minutes.
- Cool the crust, then wrap the bottom and sides of the pan with foil. Set aside.
- MAKE THE SOUR CREAM TOPPING:
- Combine sour cream and brown sugar in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator.
- MAKE THE FILLING:
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Mix just until smooth. Do not over mix or mix until the cream cheese becomes “fluffy”.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold in the pumpkin, 1/3 at a time.
- Stir in the vanilla, maple, cinnamon and ginger.
- BAKE THE CHEESECAKE:
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Pour the pumpkin filling over the prepared crust. Tap the pan down on the counter a few times to settle the cream cheese and remove any air bubbles.
- Place the foil wrapped pan in a large roasting pan or baking dish. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come about 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 1 hour.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 275 and continue baking 1/2 hour more until the center is set.
- Remove the cheesecake from the oven and spread the sour cream topping evenly over the top.
- Place the cheesecake back in the oven, still in the water bath, and continue cooking 7 minutes more until the sour cream topping is set.
- Remove from the oven and roasting pan and cool the cake completely.
- Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight before serving.
- You can also freeze the cheese cake in the springform pan, well wrapped with plastic. Thaw completely in the refrigerator before serving.
- To serve, remove cake from the pan, and garnish with chopped nuts, caramel sauce or whipped cream if desired.