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This pumpkin swirl cheesecake officially marks the start of the holiday baking season in my house [and also officially marks my return to the gym after a not-so-brief leave]. A lot of people shy away from making cheesecake at home, because they think its a complicated or temperamental process. This recipe is actually about five times easier than baking a cake and making icing. The hardest part is not eating the batter with the raw eggs in it. As a classic rule follower, you’d think I’d know better than to eat raw batter. But no. I think I’ve suffered from self-induced salmonella at least twice in the past two years. If there is cream cheese and sugar in a bowl, my self-control plunges.

With two days before the holiday season, I’m in full out prep mode. This year I’m making a cheese tray, winter sangria, two side dishes, and two desserts to bring with me to my parent’s house on Thursday. I’ll be sharing all of the recipes over the next week or so, but I wanted to get you something delicious before Thanksgiving in case you’re scouring the internet tonight for a dessert that will put those store-bought pies on the table to shame.

The crust of this cheesecake is probably worth a million calories alone. Using gingerbread cookies in place of graham crackers for the crust really elevates the taste of the cheesecake. The gingerbread/pumpkin combination works incredibly well together and because gingerbread cookies are a bit firmer than graham crackers, the crust stays nice and crisp. I provide instructions at the bottom for how to properly freeze and thaw cheesecakes, if you’re looking to make these in advance to use as gifts throughout the holiday season.

I made my cheesecake pretty shallow to be more like a tart. If you’re looking for a nice high cheesecake, you will want to multiply the recipe by 1.5 to get a deeper cheesecake in a 10 inch spring-form pan and increase the baking time by about 5-10 min. If you’re using a smaller, store bought graham cracker crust, the recipe below should be perfect to fill it. Enjoy!

The Ingredients

Yields one 9-inch cheesecake
1 ¾ gingerbread cookies (like Ginger snaps)
½ c sugar
5 tbsp butter, melted
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 (8oz) packages of cream cheese at room temperature
2 eggs
¾ c sugar
¾ c pumpkin puree (I use Libby’s)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

The Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Crush ginger bread cookies in a food processor or by putting them in a plastic bag and rolling over them with the rolling pin. I prefer the second method because I like there to be slightly larger crumbs in my crust.
  3. Combine cookie crumbs, ½ c sugar, and melted butter.

  4. Pack mixture tightly into the bottom of the spring-form pan. Place spring-form pan on top of a baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes. Butter based crusts are known for leaking through the spring-form pan when baking, so save yourself the mess and smoke in your oven by putting a cookie sheet with sides under your pan.

  5. When crust is done baking, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Let crust cool completely before filling.
  6. In a mixer, combine cream cheese and sugar until creamy and smooth.

  7. Add vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium until smooth.
  8. Remove ¾ cup of the cream cheese mixture and set aside. This will be used for swirling.
  9. Add pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin to your mixing bowl and beat until smooth.

  10. Pour pumpkin mixture into your cooled crust. Add dollops of your plain cheesecake mix to the top.

  11. Using a toothpick, swirl the plain cheesecake mix into the pumpkin cheesecake to get the swirled effect.

  12. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the center of the cheesecake is set but still has a slight jiggle to it. Let sit at room temperature for about an hour. After that hour, the cheesecake can go in the refrigerator if being served within 2-3 days. Else you can follow the freezing tips below.

Freezing and thawing cheesecakes: If you’re interested in making cheesecakes in advance, it’s possible to freeze and thaw them as needed. They will stay good in your freezer for about 2 months. However you’ll want to follow these tips so as to ensure that your crust doesn’t get soggy:

  • Let cheesecake cool completely at room temperature before putting in the freezer.
  • Once completely cool, place cheesecake (still on the bottom of the spring-form pan or moved on a cake board) in the freezer for 1-2 hours on a flat surface until it is solid.
  • Wrap frozen cheesecake in two layers of plastic wrap. Wrap a layer of aluminum foil around the plastic wrap. Return to freezer.
  • When thawing, you always want to thaw frozen cheesecakes in the refrigerator to keep from for condensation and making the crust soggy. Thaw frozen cheesecakes in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. Cheesecake can be thawed at room temperature for the last 30 minutes before serving.