getting older, and a pumpkin cheesecake

So, I have a birthday next week.

I should probably start ignoring my birthday eventually. I could pretend that it doesn’t really exist when it rolls around each October, like clockwork. Perhaps I should become the type of woman who always lies about my age, always pretending to be five, then six, then seven years younger than I really am.

The simple truth is that I kind of like my birthday. And also, I’m a terrible liar, so lying about my age just isn’t an option.

I didn’t have lots of birthday parties when I was growing up, but the day was always acknowledged in some special way. And, while my dad would tell me that my birthday is really no big deal, to get over it already, I can’t help but feel a little special on that one day each year.

I have never worn a shiny, bejeweled tiara on my birthday, but I usually feel like I’m wearing one. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling like Queen of the Day, at least one day each year. We should all feel that way some times – well, lots of times, really.

So, while my birthday next week isn’t a milestone birthday – I’ll be 39 – I think I’ll still enjoy the day.

Because, really, isn’t every birthday a milestone?

I’m just thrilled to be alive. I’m happy and healthy, doing work I love, spending my days with a family I adore, and knowing I have friends who are always there for me. Those are the milestones I’ll be celebrating next week.

Yield: Serves 10-12.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

My key to a perfectly un-cracked cheesecake is using a waterbath and letting the cheesecake hang out in the oven with the door cracked for a little while when it's done cooking. I describe the process in the recipe here.

This is not an overly sweet cheesecake. While it looks rich and heavy, it certainly doesn't taste like it. Which can be dangerous to the hips, of course, so consider yourself warned.


For Crust:
8 ounces gingersnaps, finely ground in food processor
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Pinch kosher salt

For Cheesecake:
32 ounces cream cheese (4 eight-ounce packages), softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


Make crust:

1. Place rack in the middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Place a round of parchment in the bottom of the pan and butter the parchment.

2. Stir together the finely ground gingersnaps, melted butter, and salt in a bowl until well combined. Wrap your fingers in plastic wrap and press the crumbs onto the bottom and approx 1 1/2 inches up the sides of springform pan.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a rack. Once cooled, place on a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil and wrap sides of pan in preparation for baking in a water bath. Set aside.

Make filling:

1. Decrease oven temperature to 325 degrees. Place a kettle or pot of water on to boil.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a large bowl and an electric mixer) beat cream cheese and light brown sugar at medium high speed, 3 to 5 minutes, until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each egg addition. Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary. Add vanilla, pumpkin puree, spices, and salt, and beat at low speed until smooth. Pour into cooled crust.

3. Place foil-wrapped filled springform pan into a roasting pan. Carefully pour the hot water into the roasting pan and around the wrapped springform pan, taking care not to splash the cheesecake. Place roasting pan in oven and bake for about 1 hour, until the cake is puffy around edges but still trembles slightly in the middle when pan is shaken gently. Turn off oven, crack oven door, and let the cheesecake sit in oven for about 1 hour. Remove pan from oven, carefully lift out of waterbath, and let cool completely on a rack.

4. Chill, loosely covered, at least 8 hours prior to serving. When ready to serve, run a blunt knife around edge of cheesecake to loosen it from springform pan and remove sides of pan.

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12 Responses to “on the first father’s day, and a recipe: black-bottom peanut butter pie”

  1. Marly — June 19, 2014 @ 10:13 am

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your father. My dad died a couple of years ago and it is very hard. It’s hard to know he won’t be calling again, stopping by to say hello. It does get easier at times, but then there are other times when it’s right back with you again. My thoughts are with you.

  2. Gail — June 19, 2014 @ 10:24 am

    The first Fathers’ Day is tough, that’s for sure.
    It will be melancholy for a while, I’m afraid.
    Celebrate Sam; revel in the kids celebraing their dad.


  3. Mimi — June 19, 2014 @ 10:48 am

    Sounds like your husband had a wonderful Father’s Day! I never had a father, or a decent father, so those dad-daughter photos just piss me off, but if you atually had a father you liked, I can certainly understand the sadness. I’m really sorry for both of your losses. You just can’t pick your parents, can you?!!! It makes me sad when I read something like this, because my mother is the meanest person alive and she’s 85 and still kicking! But that pie looks absolutely perfect and delicious!!! sorry for my rambling!

  4. Beth @ The First Year — June 19, 2014 @ 1:30 pm

    It sounds like your travels will be a vacation to remember! As for the pie, I would dig in immediately!

  5. Liren — June 19, 2014 @ 2:34 pm

    Oh, it will be good to get away. Especially without the technology, so I understand your inner cheers. Your father’s day was my mother’s day, and these holidays are just so hard, aren’t they? It’s so easy to feel envy and grief when social media is full of images we wish we still had. I send you hugs and hope you and the family enjoy every bit of your trip. I have a feeling it will be perfect 🙂

  6. Aw MJ, my heart went out to both you and Sam this Fathers’ Day. Sam is an amazing dad, for sure and it sounds like he had the day he deserves 🙂 I can’t wait to read more about your adventures (just stay away from those bears!)

  7. Martha @ A Family Feast — June 19, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. My father passed over 20 years ago (and my mother just 2 years ago) – and it’s just plain hard not to have your parents around, especially at all of the different holidays. The first year is definitely the most difficult! But – I did also want to tell you that your pie looks absolutely fantastic! I make a similar peanut butter pie recipe – but love the black bottom of yours! I am going to try your version the next time!

  8. Joelen Tan — June 19, 2014 @ 9:27 pm

    This is a wonderful dessert choice to celebrate, albeit bittersweetly. Your upcoming vacation sounds wonderful and I look forward to reading all about it soon!

  9. dina — June 19, 2014 @ 10:34 pm

    it looks sooo good!

  10. Kathryn — June 20, 2014 @ 6:07 am

    Sending you lots and lots of love. We had a similar Mother’s Day last year as both my grandmothers had died in the previous year – it was so hard for both my parents and the day was tinged with such sadness.

  11. Di — June 24, 2014 @ 10:11 am

    The first year after a loved one’s passing is the most difficult because of the all those “firsts” without them. Sounds like you and your husband handled it in a healthy way …. putting one foot infront the other when your heart isn’t in it is not easy. I am happy to read your posts again. I missed them. Enjoy your family time off the grid.

  12. Liesl — June 27, 2014 @ 6:39 pm

    I so know how you feel. I wrote a month or so ago, having just lost my dad in February. I completely understand the “grief surprising you in it’s ferocity.” That is such a good way to state what I am feeling. Even though I knew it would be extremely hard to lose him, I just didn’t know how it would feel.
    Sending love your way.

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