Jordan: Pie Month is technically over, but with Thanksgiving so late in November, we didn’t have a chance to share our holiday desserts with you, and it seems a shame to hold onto these for a full year.
Kitra: Plus, it’s always pie month in our hearts.
And cheesecake is a perfect transition recipe, since no one really knows how to classify it.
I’ve been making pumpkin chocolate cheesecake bars for yearsssssss.
Way way back in the day, Kitra used to get daily Better Homes & Gardens emails to our shared email account, and this came from that phase.
See also that blueberry charmer from a while back.
There were also what must have been monthly batches of lemon rosemary cupcakes… but the pumpkin chocolate cheesecake bars were the highlight.
And it seemed like there was real potential to make them flashier. They’ve already got three layers, but in a bar it’s kind of hard to tell. So why not magnify the whole thing!
Besides, cheesecake bars—while convenient—don’t have that show-stopping Thanksgiving dessert vibe that a full-sized cheesecake does.
Plus, we wanted to keep our forks working their full-tine jobs. (This joke killed me, and Jordan hates it. You decide.)
We also made two other pies for Thanksgiving. (Yes, we only had six people and two of them were children, this is a perfectly acceptable pie-to-person ratio.)
We hit the three categories of Thanksgiving pie: Orange, fruit, wildcard (Nut? Custard? Jello? Whoppers?)
Nothing but a pie tin full of Whoppers. Just like grandma used to make!
That was an autocorrect that we ran with. Anyway.
Our fruit pie was a pear version of Molly Yeh’s hawaij apple pie, which I liked but Kitra found too imperfect to share on the blog. (Though let’s all appreciate the beautiful pie crust braids she did on the top of that one.)
I’d recommend the pie we made last year if you’re looking for a spiced pear pie.
The other pie was a maple buttermilk custard pie from the Four and Twenty Blackbirds cookbook. It reminded me of the period where I ate maple-yogurt overnight oats for breakfast every day, in the best possible way. Mapley and tangy and very simple to put together.
It was delightful, but we just made my ideal custard pie so anything else was going to be a bit of a letdown. Also, I just have something against sour cream.
Still, if you have the cookbook (or want to try any of the versions floating around other blogs), it’s worth making.
If you’re looking for a dessert that pulls out all the stops for your holiday tables though, look no further than the cheesecake.
Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake
Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens
We disagree on the chocolate layer here. Kitra thinks it’s perfect; Jordan, who is less of a chocolate fan, thinks a thinner layer would be better. To make a thinner chocolate layer but keep the overall height the same, make the cake as written but reserve 1 ¼ cups of the pumpkin batter instead of a scant 2 cups. Stir in 6 oz chocolate and 2 tablespoons butter. Proceed as written.
If you happen to have pumpkin pie spice on hand, feel free to substitute ¾ teaspoon of that for the various spices.
You can easily make this a day or two in advance and just keep it refrigerated, but we wouldn’t leave it longer than that as the crust can get a little damp.
- 1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs (125g, from a little less than one packet)
- ¼ cup (50g) sugar
- ⅓ cup butter, melted
- 3 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
- 2 ½ cups (500g) sugar
- 4 eggs plus 1 yolk
- 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- pinch of ground clove
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla
- scant ½ teaspoon salt
- 9 oz (255g) semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup (240g) sour cream
- ¼ cup (50g) sugar, or to taste
- ground nutmeg and/or chocolate shavings, to decorate (optional)
Preheat oven to 325. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
In a medium bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs, ¼ cup sugar, and ⅓ cup of melted butter. Press the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of the springform and set aside.
In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), beat cream cheese and 2 ½ cups sugar together on medium until smooth. Add the eggs and yolk one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next.
Add pumpkin, spices, vanilla, and salt and beat on low until everything is just combined. Remove a scant 2 cups of the mixture into a separate bowl.
In a small heavy saucepan (or in a bowl in the microwave), combine the chocolate and 3 tablespoons butter. Heat on low until melted, then whisk the chocolate into the reserved pumpkin mixture. Pour just the chocolate/pumpkin layer over the crust. Bake for 15 minutes.
Once the chocolate layer comes out of the oven, carefully pour the remaining pumpkin mixture over top and spread it out evenly. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes more, until the filling is puffed and mostly set but the center is still slightly wobbly. Cool on a wire rack.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream and 1/4 cup sugar. Gently spread over cake. Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Before serving, unmold from pan and sprinkle top with fresh nutmeg and/or chocolate shavings.
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