This lightly spiced toffee pumpkin cheesecake sits on a gingersnap cookie crust and features a double dose of pepitas (pumpkin seeds), both ground in the crust and made into a crunchy, sweet and salty toffee that crowns the sour cream topping. While there are a few components, make sure to take advantage of the many steps that can be done ahead. We suggest making the toffee a few days ahead and the crust the day before baking the cheesecake, if you like; the cheesecake itself should be refrigerated overnight before serving, all of which make this a great party cake.
Image: Peter Muka
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
- ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of baking soda
- ½ cup raw pepitas
- Kosher salt
- 1¼ cups gingersnap crumbs
- ¼ cup raw pepitas, finely ground
- 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 4, 8-ounce packages (2 pounds) cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into pieces
- ¾ cups sugar
- ¾ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup solid pack canned pumpkin purée
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 2 cups sour cream
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- For the Toffee: Cover a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and smooth out any wrinkles. Use extra butter (or even just the butter wrappers) to coat the foil well.
- Place butter and sugar in a very heavy-bottomed sauté pan. (We like to use a 10-inch cast-iron pan.) Begin melting butter over medium heat, stirring butter and sugar together very gently at this stage to encourage them to combine, but do not stir vigorously.
- Once the butter and sugar are combined and melted, attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and boil over medium-high heat. Occasionally draw a wooden spoon through the mixture to make sure it is heating evenly. When the mixture is approaching 250°F, combine the baking soda and vanilla in a small bowl and keep near the stove. Bring toffee to 305° F (hard crack stage). Immediately slide over to a cold burner, add soda/vanilla mixture and the pepitas and quickly combine with a wooden spoon. Immediately pour mixture out onto prepared pan. Most, if not all, will come out of the pan. Do not scrape the pan bottom. The toffee should pool into a large oval shape. Use an offset spatula if necessary to create an even layer, about ⅛ to ¼-inch thick. Don’t worry about uneven edges. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Place pan on rack to cool completely. Refrigerate in an airtight container until serving time, up to 1 week.
- For the Crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat insides of 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Wrap outside of pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil coming at least halfway up the outside.
- Combine gingersnaps, pepitas, brown sugar and butter in a small bowl and stir until blended. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom of pan. Bake for about 10 minutes or until fragrant and beginning to feel dry to the touch. Cool on wire rack. Turn oven down to 325°F.
- For the Cheesecake: Beat the cream cheese in mixer’s bowl using flat paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy. Add sugar and brown sugar gradually and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and scraping down the bowl once or twice. Beat in pumpkin, cornstarch, vanilla extract and spices just until well blended.
- Pour filling onto cooled crust. Place cake in roasting pan and add hot tap water to come 1-inch up the pan’s sides.
- Bake in 325°F oven for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. The cheesecake will look slightly puffed and the center will still be loose and a bit wobbly. Proceed with topping.
- For the Topping: Quickly whisk together the sour cream and sugar and spread gently and evenly over top of cheesecake. It will probably be level with the top of the pan or near to it; that’s OK.
- Place back in oven and bake for 3 minutes. Cool to room temperature on rack. Refrigerate overnight.
- To serve, run an icing spatula around the outer edge of the cake to separate it from the pan. Release the springform, remove outer ring and place cheesecake on serving platter. Break the toffee into small bite-sized pieces and place along top outer edge of cheesecake right before serving.
- The toffee makes a great snacking candy all on its own. In fact, we caution you not to eat too much of it or you won’t have enough to decorate the cheesecake! Luckily you can double the toffee recipe (it will still fit on the one rimmed baking sheet) and then have plenty to share.
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