Brown Sugar Pumpkin Cheesecake

For Thanksgiving this year we went to my mom’s house for dinner.  As far as cooking goes, what this means for me is that instead of concentrating on the main courses, I got to have fun with desserts and appetizers.  I made this pumpkin cheesecake last year and it was so popular I felt bad for all the other desserts.  This year was no different, although there was some stiff competition (as always) from my cousin Angie’s 3-layer chocolate pie.  Regular pumpkin pie didn’t stand a chance.

The chocolate shortbread crust on this cheesecake is an interesting twist that I really like, but if you prefer a more traditional graham cracker crust, feel free to change it up, or just leave out the cocoa powder for a more straightforward shortbread crust.  Let’s face it, the crust is just a conveyance for the good stuff anyway!

Brown Sugar Pumpkin Cheesecake. Yum.

Brown Sugar Pumpkin Cheesecake

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
10 tbsp. butter, diced and softened
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
5 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

24 oz. cream cheese (that’s 3 8-oz. bricks), at room temperature
1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla (or cognac)
1 15-oz. can 100% pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan and set aside.  To make crust, put powdered sugar and butter in a mixing bowl and beat until well combined. Add egg yolks and vanilla and beat until combined. Add flour, cocoa powder and salt.  Beat until incorporated.  Dough will be uniform and about the consistency of play-doh.  Press into the bottom and sides of springform pan.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Try to get it somewhat even, going up to about 1/2 inch from the top.  Prick holes in the crust all over with a fork (prevents air bubbles from forming as it cooks).  Bake for about 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool while you make the filling.

Chocolate shortbread crust, all ready for some pumpkin love.

Lower oven temperature to 325˚.  In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until blocks are broken up and it’s all creamy.  Add brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and beat well to incorporate.  Add pumpkin.  Add vanilla (or if you want to bump it up a notch, use cognac instead), add flour and pumpkin pie spice and beat gently until combined.  Pour into your cooled crust.  For best results just go up to the edge of the crust.

All ready to go in the oven.

Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes, until it looks set, but jiggles just a bit in the center if you move the pan.  Crack open the oven door a few inches and let sit for an additional 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes.  Don’t be alarmed if cracks form as it cools, it always happens with mine.  You’re going to cover them up anyway so no worries.  Put it in the fridge to cool completely for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

It may have a crack like the Grand Canyon, but it will be delicious. Trust me.

Beat whipping cream and brown sugar until soft peaks form.  Smooth over top of cheesecake.  Carefully remove the ring from the springform pan to reveal your beautiful cheesecake.  Slice and serve.  Makes one 9-inch cheesecake.

Look at that gorgeous thing. Time to eat!

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