Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake


I have had an irrational fear of making cheesecake for some time.  I made one in high school that ended up cracking in the middle, which of course bothered me far more than it bothered my friends, who inhaled it.

For a big Thanksgiving dinner with friends, I contemplated attempting another cheesecake.  I knew I wanted to make something with pumpkin, and this seemed like a great opportunity to conquer my fear.  I dutifully wrapped my springform pan in foil, carefully mixed the ingredients for the exact times given in the recipe, and anxiously waited as the cheesecake baked.  When in came time to remove the cake from the oven, and later, the water bath, I realized in horror that my foil had leaked – the pan was dripping with water.  Yes, the top was crack-free, but I thought for sure I had ruined my cheesecake.  
Before dumping the whole thing in the trash (I over-react sometimes, can you tell?), I decided to check the boards at chowhound to see if anyone else had had this problem.  A couple people said theirs filled with water but the cheesecake turned out fine, they just let it dry out on a rack for a few hours.  Extremely relieved, I did just that. 
Everyone loved it, and nobody knew that it had been dripping with water the night before!  So if you are not adept at foil-wrapping your pan, do not fear!  This recipe is fantastic, water-soaked or not.
(from America’s Test Kitchen, seen at Good Things Catered)
ATK notes: Depending on the oven and the temperature of the ingredients, the cheesecake may bake about 15 minutes faster or slower than the instructions indicate; it is therefore best to check the cake 11/4 hours into baking. Although the cheesecake can be made up to three days in advance, the crust will begin to lose its crispness after only one day. To make slicing the cheesecake easy and neat, use a knife with a narrow blade, such as a carving knife; between cuts, dip the blade into a pitcher of hot water and wipe it clean with paper towels. 

Crust:
5 oz graham crackers (9 whole crackers), broken into large pieces
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake
1 1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
1 1/2 lb cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks and left to soften at room temperature, about 30 minutes
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp juice from 1 lemon
5 large eggs, left at room temperature, about 30 minutes
1 c. heavy cream

Directions:
- For the crust: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.
-Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray.
-Pulse crackers, sugar, and spices in food processor until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses.
-Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix with rubber spatula until evenly moistened.
-Turn crumbs into prepared springform pan and, using hand, spread crumbs into even layer.
-Using flat-bottomed ramekin or drinking glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom, then use soup spoon to press and smooth crumbs into edges of pan.
-Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 15 minutes.
-Cool on wire rack while making filling.
-For the filling: Bring about 4 quarts water to a simmer.
-Whisk sugar, spices, and salt in small bowl; set aside.
-In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat cream cheese at medium speed to break up and soften slightly, about 1 minute.
-Scrape beater and bottom and sides of bowl well with rubber spatula.
-Add about one third of sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute; scrape bowl and add remaining sugar in two additions, scraping bowl after each addition.
-Add pumpkin, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat at medium speed until combined, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl.
-Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape bowl.
-Add remaining 2 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl.
-Add heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds.
-Using rubber spatula, scrape bottom and sides of bowl and give final stir by hand.
-Set springform pan with cooled crust on 18-inch-square doubled layer heavy-duty foil and wrap bottom and sides with foil; set wrapped pan in roasting pan.
-Pour filling into springform pan and smooth surface; set roasting pan in oven and pour in simmering water to come about halfway up side of springform pan.
-Bake until center of cake is slightly wobbly when pan is shaken and center of cake registers 145 to 150 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 11/2 hours (see note).
-Run paring knife around cake to loosen.
-Set roasting pan on wire rack and cool until water is just warm, about 45 minutes.
-Remove springform pan from water bath, discard foil and remove sides of pan, and set on wire rack; continue to cool until barely warm, about 3 hours.
-Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
-To serve: Slide thin metal spatula between crust and pan bottom to loosen, then slide cake onto serving platter.
-Let cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.

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6 comments to Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake

  • Steph

    I’m glad your cheesecake dried up. I’m so bad at lining my springform with foil so I just skip the waterbath when I bake cheesecakes. The best part about CI’s cheesecakes, is they never crack for me.. thank god! Crack or no crack, at least cheesecake still tastes amazing. Regular cakes on teh other hand are definitely not as forgiving.

  • That Girl

    I feel like my cheesecakes always end up wet when I do a waterbath!

  • Jaime

    I have never ever attempted a cheesecake. I just made pumpkin cookies and was excited they actually turned out well. Your cheesecake looks awesome!!

  • Vera

    Cate, the cake looks perfect! I always wrap my pan into 4 layers of heavy-duty foil :) Sounds crazy, perhaps, but this way water never penetrate.

  • Liz is loving life

    For those who have a hard time with wrapping the pan in foil – you can take a tin pie pan and turn it upside down, then set the cheesecake on top of that, above the water line. You can find old tin pie pans at goodwill. It may rust but just keep this as your special base pan.

  • Katie

    OH YAY!! I love this recipe!! I’ve never had tha problem, but for next time, you can always put the baking pan full of boiling water on the rack below the cheesecake and it seems to work just as well. So glad it turned out for you. You’s beautiful!

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