Pumpkin Cheesecake, Cali Style
Fall is here! I love fall, it’s one of my favorite times of the year. I love the crisp, cooler air. I love the cozier clothes; jeans, long sleeved shirts, boots. I love the warm, homey smells of cinnamon, cloves, bergamot, cider. And I LOOOOOOVE the tastes of fall. Pumpkin. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Sweet potato. Brown sugar. Pecans. Caramel. Honeycrisp apples. Yummmm. I think fall foods are some of the absolute best. Thanksgiving feast anyone? Yum yum yum!
I figured it only made sense to share one of my all-time favorite, and most popular, fall dessert recipes. I made this last year for the first time for Aaron’s work; his boss actually pays me every other week to make yummy treats and snacks for his employees! It was a massive hit with everyone, and I even got an order for two cheesecakes for Thanksgiving from one of his coworkers! Yep, someone else actually paid me to make their Thanksgiving dessert, it was such an honor and was so fun to do.
I don’t typically like to brag about things that I make, but this cheesecake really is that good. The texture is amazing, and the texture is what separates this from typically New York style cheesecakes. Most people aren’t familiar with California-style cheesecake, probably including Californians haha. But alas, it is a thing, at least to some of us out there. The main difference is the texture is a lot lighter than New York cheesecake. New York cheesecake is crazy dense, this isn’t.
I adapted this recipe from Jenn Cuisine, you can find the original recipe here. I found it several years ago when I was searching for a California-style cheesecake recipe to make for Aaron’s birthday (Cali cheesecake is his favorite dessert). I found hers right away; she has both a regular cheesecake and a pumpkin version on there. When I wanted to make a pumpkin cheesecake last year I knew that I wanted it to be Cali style again, so I went to her pumpkin recipe. I adapted it a lot from her original recipe, like omitting the pear Riesling sauce and adding a lot of spices, as well as increasing the overall amount of ingredients to make it a deeper cheesecake. This pumpkin cheesecake has a smooth, light and creamy texture, and tastes like a bite of pure fall.
Nothing annoys me more when I’m searching the internet for recipes than to find what I’m looking for and then having to scroll alllllllllllll the way down to the bottom of a very long post filled with pictures and recipe instructions just to look at the recipe card to see the ingredients and method. I think it’s important to include the steps, tips (like how to achieve a crack-free surface), and pictures of what things should like like in their different stages, however, it’s my goal with our website to keep the recipe card closer to the top of the post, with the more detailed instructions and pictures listed after. To me, it’s just more user-friendly that way, and a heck of a lot less annoying. So, without further ado, I give you: California Pumpkin Cheesecake.
Okay, so now that you’ve seen the actual recipe with the ingredient amounts and everything, here’s a more descriptive method behind the madness, and some tips to help you rock this cheesecake. Prepare your pan first; I highly recommend using a springform pan. Because this has a graham cracker crust made with butter, the stick factor isn’t super high, but sometimes I’ll trace the pan and cut out a circle of parchment paper and line the bottom with it. Now is a good time to get that oven preheating to 350 degrees as well.
Now it’s time to get started. Prepare your graham cracker crust by either running them through a food processor or putting them in a gallon-sized freezer bag and smashing them with a rolling pin. Add the sugar and melted butter and mix with a fork until combined. Press it evenly into your pan and then set it aside.
Next get your cream cheese nice and smooth. I always always always run my cream cheese through the food processor at the beginning after it hits room temperature (or close to it). A food processor really helps ensure you have super smooth, lump-free cream cheese. I used to use the mixer for that, but no matter how soft my cream cheese got it would still have some lumps in it. I finally tried it in the food processor and it comes out perfect every.single.time. Even if I forget to set my cream cheese out early enough (which happens almost every time) so it doesn’t get quite to room temp, blend it in the food processor a little longer and it magically turns smooth and silky and delicious. Sometimes I’ll mix the whole thing in my food processor, but only do that if you have a pretty big one, because it can get a little messy.
Add in the sugar, and mix until incorporated. Then add the lemon juice and vanilla and mix again. Scrape the sides as needed during all the mixing. Now add the pumpkin and, you guessed it, mix again. Now comes the fun part. Add in the spices, mix, and then taste. I highly highly recommend adding all the spices before the eggs, so you can taste and make sure it has the right amount. There’s nothing sadder in the pumpkin-spice world than a lack of spice. Start at about 2 tsp of cinnamon (I like to do rounded teaspoons for cinnamon) but to be honest I probably put in closer to 3 after mixing and testing a couple of times. I love me some cinnamon, what can I say?
Now add in your lightly beaten eggs. When baking, I beat my eggs in a bowl with a fork. Mix it all together one last time, and then pour it on top of your graham cracker crust. Drop it on the counter a few times to release most of the bubbles (lift it above the counter like an inch or so and drop/tap it on the counter). Place your pan in your water bath pan, fill that pan with water (about 1-1.5 inches deep), and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. It’s done when it still has a slight jiggle to it. We’re talking like a solid Santa belly kind of jiggle, where it all kinda moves as one, not a crazy jello kind of jiggle.
Finally, Some Tips for a Crack-Proof Cheesecake
1.) Bake it in a water bath. Don’t worry, it’s not nearly as fancy as it sounds. You literally just take a big, sided pan (2 inches deep should work well), and wrap the bottom of your springform pan really well with aluminum foil (wrap it twice to get a really seal, you don’t want any water seeping in). Once your cheesecake is ready to go in the oven, put it in the oven inside the bigger pan, and fill the big pan with1-1.5 inches of water. This creates a lot of steam which helps the cheesecake cook more evenly and really reduces the chances of cracks.
2.) Use a springform pan! They help prevent cracks, and they make cutting and serving the cheesecake so much easier because you can set the pan on a cup when it’s ready to serve and remove the sides.
3.) When your cheesecake is done it should still jiggle a little, if it doesn’t it’s overbaked. But instead of removing it from the oven and letting it cool on the counter, turn off the oven but leave the cheesecake in there. Using a wooden spoon, keep your oven door propped open a little to let the heat and steam escape. Leave your cheesecake to cool in there for at least an hour. Letting it cool slowly and gently is so important to prevent cracks. Once it’s down to room temperature, remove it from the oven and take off the aluminum foil. Put it in the fridge for an hour, and then cover it with plastic wrap (I have it touch the surface of the cheesecake). Put it back in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
If you follow all of those tips you’ll almost definitely have a crack-proof cheesecake. I say almost definitely because baking is weird and there’s so much involved that sometimes they crack anyway. But to be honest, who has ever refused to eat cheesecake because it has a little crack in it? I know I wouldn’t turn it down!
If you have a question or have made this recipe, leave a comment! We’d also love to see photos if you make this or any of our recipes, so tag us on Instagram @ naked_bakes_bakery or @floralwreathblog.