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Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin cheesecake is a Thanksgiving tradition in our house, so I make it every year without fail. I like to change up the toppings from year to year, just to keep it interesting.

This year I’m serving it with Cranberry Drizzle, from 1000 Vegan Recipes. For an extra nuance, I’ve also topped it with caramelized pecan halves. The cranberry drizzle is then drizzled onto each slice of cheesecake after plating. By “drizzle,” I mean just spooning about a tablespoon or so per serving onto the slice. That way, there’s just a hint of the sweet-tart cranberry flavor — if you put too much on, it will overpower the pumpkin flavor.

Other toppings we enjoy on pumpkin cheesecake (besides the caramelized pecans and/or cranberry drizzle) are:
– chopped toasted pecans (or other nuts) sprinkled over the entire top or just around the outer edge
– vegan whipped cream (can be flavored with rum extract)
– crystallized ginger (that has been ground to a powder) lightly dusted around the outer edge of the cheesecake
– chocolate curls

Different variations I’ve used on occasion include adding a teaspoon of rum extract to the batter or adding extra spices for a more deeply “spiced” flavor: a combination of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, or cloves are good.

Sometimes, instead of a graham cracker crumb crust, I use crumbs made from vegan gingersnaps or shortbread cookies — or even chocolate cookies. (This time I used shortbread cookie crumbs.) Here’s the cheesecake before adding any toppings:

I often get e-mails asking for tips on making cheesecakes, so I thought I’d include some here:

1. Bring cream cheese to room temperature before using. (Use non-hydrogenated vegan cream cheese.)
2. For best results, make your filling in a food processor or use a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, but don’t use a blender because the mixture is too dense to mix properly.
3. For the crust: I usually use about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of crumbs for a 9-inch cheesecake. If you prefer a crisp crust rather than a soft crust, you can prebake the crust for 10 minutes and let cool before adding the filling.
4. When making the crust, add the melted margarine to the crumbs a little at a time — you need just need enough to moisten the crumbs. Usually 1/4 cup of melted margarine is enough, but it depends on the amount of crumbs you use and also how “dry” they are. For example, when I use ground shortbread cookies (instead of graham cracker crumbs) I find that there’s more moisture in the cookies, so I need to use less margarine. Sometimes the crumbs are very dry and I need a little extra margarine.
5. Always grease your springform pan (either with margarine or nonstick cooking spray). Make sure your springform pan is properly closed before using. Place the pan on a baking sheet in the oven to bake.
6. For pumpkin cheesecake, I like to use light brown sugar (which packs tightly into cup). If you’re using a different sugar, you may want to add extra to make it sweet enough.
7. Before scraping the batter into the crust, taste it — you can add a little more spices or sugar if desired.
8. I usually bake cheesecakes for 45 minutes and then leave them in the oven for a few extra minutes to gently continue cooking. A few tiny cracks may appear around the edge. If it overbakes, you may get more cracks.
9. Cool the cheesecake at room temperature for at least an hour, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours. I prefer to bake it the night before to allow for more chilling time.

Here’s the cheesecake still in the springform pan:

If you’re still looking for ideas for Thanksgiving dinner, be sure to check out my menu and recipes on