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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24 Responses to “pumpkin pie, an odyssey”

  1. 1
    Liz the Chef — October 16, 2010 @ 7:41 pm

    It is definitely time for me to update my family recipe – love the rum and blind-baking. Soggy crust – who needs it?! We can put our husbands together with my old recipe and scarf down yours 😉 best, Liz

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — October 17th, 2010 @ 7:59 am

      I like your idea, Liz!

  2. 2
    Sunchowder - Wendy Read — October 16, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

    Love to see this in print after watching your tweets last weekend. The pie looks wonderful!! Too funny that you hubby likes you “old” pie–isn’t it always the way??? Beautiful post from a lovely person:)

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — October 17th, 2010 @ 8:02 am

      Thanks, Wendy. And, yes, it always seems to happen that way. As much as I love him, my sweet husband is somewhat resistant to change. 🙂

  3. 3
    Nancy@acommunaltable — October 16, 2010 @ 8:43 pm

    This is truly a beautiful pumpkin pie – I love it’s rich, deep color and I bet it tastes fantastic! Adding the rum was a wonderful idea – I have found that adding a little alcohol can really amplify flavors as I am sure that it does with the pie!!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — October 17th, 2010 @ 8:04 am

      Nancy – Last year I made one with bourbon, but I found the sweetness and booziness too overpowering. The rum worked really well – enhanced the flavors and I couldn’t tell there was any alcohol used.

  4. 4
    Camala - CC Recipe — October 16, 2010 @ 9:01 pm

    Ha, that is too funny about your husband, sounds like mine:) This pumpkin pie looks fabulous, but yes I agree it should be sweet, because that does suck!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — October 17th, 2010 @ 8:04 am

      Camala – I’ll never forget that sugar again, that’s for sure! 🙂

  5. 5
    Joy — October 16, 2010 @ 10:59 pm

    I couldn’t be happier with this pie. I’ve made this last year and this year again for our (Canadian) Thanksgiving feast and it hasn’t failed to deliver. 🙂

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — October 17th, 2010 @ 8:05 am

      Joy – Yay! I love getting votes of confidence for this pie. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving!

  6. 6
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — October 17, 2010 @ 6:21 am

    When I saw you tweeting about this, I couldn’t wait to read the post. Gorgeous as always and so well written. I am not a pumpkin pie fan (learning to like it) but perhaps I will try this one 🙂 Plus, you can’t go past good vanilla and rum!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — October 17th, 2010 @ 8:07 am

      Thanks, Mardi! I agree with you – everything’s better with a little vanilla and rum. 🙂

  7. 7

    I’ve been trying to convince my mom to update her pumpkin pie recipe for a while, but she just won’t change it. Some people just don’t like to mess with classics.
    I will try to get her to blind bake the crust next time to avoid the soggy crust issue. Maybe baby steps will lead to change! Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. 8
    Avatar — October 17, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

    i’ve got a pumpkin roasting away as we speak, so your post and tips are timely, indeed. oh, and sugarless pie? that’s an oopsie if I ever heard one. You sure know how to paint a lovely picture with your words, of course the perfect photos are screen-licking good.

  9. 9
    Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — October 17, 2010 @ 5:23 pm

    For all the hubs resistance to change…I remain tickled at your sweet daughter applauding your effort without sugar. Now that’s Mom’s girl!

    Beautiful pie…and reminds me. I so want a ceramic pie plate like yours; sure adds a touch of elegance to the finished result.

  10. 10
    Macaroni Mama — October 17, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

    I’m looking forward to the pie…with a little rum.

  11. 11
    Gail — October 17, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

    Brilliant idea about warming the pie filling a bit, and then putting it into a partially baked shell.
    And, of course, rum couldn’t hurt.
    You should be proud of yourself. The pie even looks proud of itself!!!

  12. 12

    Love the addition of the rum. Got to love America’s Test Kitchen – they tend to perfect recipes. Thank you for testing out the pumpkin pies and sharing your best. A must make for the holidays!!

  13. 13
    Pam @ Kitchen Cookware — October 18, 2010 @ 2:23 am

    I love Pumpkin pies and make different versions of it, as I have yet to find a right recipes that is perfect! I have never tried Rum inside the pie before, but I do love America’s test kitchen so I may try it out.

  14. 14
    Kate @ Savour Fare — October 19, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

    You are becoming the pie queen. My husband LOVES pumpkin pie (no fancy additions) and we have it every year — last year my aunt made the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever tasted — I have to get her recipe.

  15. 15
    Jason Phelps — October 21, 2010 @ 6:20 pm

    The simplest way to improve pumpkin pie is to use freshly roasted pumpkin from a local source. Everything else is pretty much standard. Canned it OK, but it doesn’t taste as good as something right from the pumpkin patch. Works for squash or a combination as well.


  16. 16
    Jamie — October 22, 2010 @ 8:34 am

    I actually make that pumpkin pie from America’s Test Kitchen and love it. Although, I do not cook the filling first and I cut back on the amount of one of the liquids, but it still turns out fantastic every time. My husbands mother wasn’t a fan of pumpkin pie until she ate that one! To add a little booze to it, we make a bourbon whipped cream to add to the top. Delicious!

  17. 17
    Brenda — October 25, 2010 @ 8:22 pm

    I’m going to try this recipe as a flan, with a little more rum and a caramel topping. My family did not grow up eating pumpkin pie, but they eat flan, so I think this will work. . . . (using less pumpkin too)

  18. Pingback: the gifts of thanksgiving, and a recipe: pumpkin pie, the 2012 edition | The Merry Gourmet

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