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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28 Responses to “getting older, and a pumpkin cheesecake”

  1. 1
    Kulsum@Journeykitchen — October 11, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

    I have never been big on birthdays. But yes , even then it feels kind of special. I keep telling friends aging is beautiful, which it really is but its a little intimidating too honestly. Anyway, wishing u a very happy in advance birthday sweet lady. That cheesecake looks perfect!

  2. 2
    Brian — October 11, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

    If there’s any way to celebrate a birthday, it’d be with a pumpkin cheesecake. No doubt about that. Sending you lots of love and warm thoughts on your wonderful day (I know it’s a few days from now)! Yay 39!

  3. 3
    Karriann Graf — October 11, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

    I love pumpkin cheesecake its a tradition for me at Thanksgiving time! I normally make a pecan crust.

  4. 4
    Janelle — October 11, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

    I felt the same way when I read your post. I just had my birthday and actually wondered if I should stop as well. Just wanted to add it is nice to know others think the same way 🙂 Happy birthday!

  5. 5
    Kim Foster — October 11, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

    I love you.

    I think those are beautiful things to celebrate next week. And we will be celebrating right along with you. xo

    • 5.1
      Merry-Jennifer — October 11, 2011 @ 6:39 pm

      And I am SO looking forward to birthday hugs from you!

  6. 6
    DessertForTwo — October 11, 2011 @ 6:46 pm

    Yes, you do deserve to wear a tiara on your birthday and make no apologies about it!

    I, too, can’t lie about my age. I’m happy with where I’m at in life, so why lie about it?

  7. 7
    Barb Bamber — October 11, 2011 @ 7:05 pm

    What a delicious pumpkin cheesecake.. I have some leftover pumpkin puree just waiting for a new recipe. Btw… I hope you have a wonderful birthday surrounded by your family and your friends:)

  8. 8
    Paula — October 11, 2011 @ 7:06 pm

    While I’ve never made a big deal about my own birthday, it is still a very special day and always made more special when others do acknowledge it. Most birthdays when growing up were celebrated just with family (there were enough of us!) but I do remember having a party when I was five and being able to invite other kids. I’ve never forgotten it.
    Your cheesecake is perfect! You do have lots of reasons to celebrate your day next week and it’s wonderful that they will all be with you. Enjoy your day and best wishes to you for a wonderful year Merry-Jennifer.

  9. 9
    erinnish — October 12, 2011 @ 5:37 am

    The pumpkin cheesecake looks absolutely perfect & delicious!

    Happy Birthday in advance! Life is all about celebrations.. So enjoy you special day 😀

  10. 10
    sara — October 12, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

    This cheesecake looks super delicious – love that gingersnap crust, bet it goes great with the pumpkin! 🙂

  11. 11
    Karriann Graf — October 12, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

    I like cakes! esp. pumpkins.. this is really great for any events!

  12. 12
    Julia — October 12, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

    Happy Birthday, well, an early birthday wish!!!! I hope you feel like a queen! Amazing cheesecake. It’s just flawless!

  13. 13
    Gourmantine — October 12, 2011 @ 5:56 pm

    I love the texture of the cheesecake, looks so airy and indulgent! Beautifully done 🙂

  14. 14
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — October 12, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

    Your cheesecake is just stunning. Despite my best efforts, mine always has a crack! I will have to give your recipe a shot.

    PS – Happy early birthday 🙂

  15. 15
    anna — October 12, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

    Of course, it is a big deal…It’s your birthday! Have a happy celebration! Celebrate love, life and all its blessings! People all over the world will celebrate with you…Your cheesecake recipe is awesome! Love it!

  16. 16
    Jamie — October 13, 2011 @ 6:18 am

    I turn 40 in two weeks so I understand about wanting to hide from your birthday. I think making this cheesecake will help me forget the fact that I am celebrating a milestone birthday!!

  17. 17
    sweetsugarbelle — October 13, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

    Beautiful cheesecake! I love it that you aren’t scared of birthdays. Enjoy yours!

  18. 18
    Aggie — October 13, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

    I love birthdays 🙂 Happy happy birthday to you! (whatever day it may be)

    Your cheesecake is gorgeous and perfect. the crust, the color…pumpkin!!

    I’m missing you!

  19. 19
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — October 16, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

    Merry Jennifer. I WISH I could be there to give you birthday hugs. It will have to be virtual one sadly. Your cheesecake is a wonderful way to celebrate.

  20. 20

    A pumpin cheesecake sounds like a great way to celebrate a birthday! I know I would like it…I’m very interested in the gingersnap/pumpkin combo. Happy birthday!

  21. Pingback: Pumpkin Craze « soundZtastee

  22. 21
    Paula - bell'alimento — October 22, 2011 @ 5:00 pm

    Happy Happy Birthday MJ! So happy to call you my friend xoxo

  23. Pingback: Pumpkin treats from Bloggers | Created by Diane

  24. 22
    Rosie — October 30, 2011 @ 10:39 pm

    Oh my goodness. I had a Halloween party last night and made this, and it was unbelievable! It’s such a mixed blessing that I have leftovers. 😉

    • 22.1
      Merry-Jennifer — October 31, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

      Thanks so much for this comment, Rosie! You made my night. 🙂

  25. 23
    Adrienne — November 22, 2011 @ 5:56 pm

    It’s official, we’re making this for Thanksgiving! It’s too lovely not to make!

  26. 24
    Cheri Kennedy — November 25, 2011 @ 11:39 am

    Just wanted to let you know this was a HUGE hit with my family for Thanksgiving! Thank you for your love for food and wonderful blog. God bless you and your family!

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