Thanksgiving Dessert Buffet 1 – Pumpkin Bourbon Caramel Cheesecake

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Although it’s been almost 2 years since my cousins moved to Winchester, it still feels novel to have relatives close by. As I’ve written before, when I was growing up, relatives were always far, far away – an 8-hour car drive away – in Pittsburgh. It’s so wonderful to have cousins who are not only close to us geographically, but also close in age and really cool. This year we went to Thanksgiving at their house.

First of all, there was a smoked turkey…

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…and a most amazing array of delicious side dishes…

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…great company from the cousins, the cousins’ 3 girls, D.’s mother, and D.’s wonderful colleague E. and her friend from home – Croatia – D.

…And then there was the dessert buffet…

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I am genetically unable to not offer to bring something when I am invited for a meal. So when asked to bring dessert, I suggested 3 options. When my cousin L. jokingly told me she wanted to try all three, I surprised everyone by obliging. What’s better than one dessert, anyway? Well…three!

Dessert 1 was a modification of a new favorite recipe of mine. Based on the lemon curd marbled cheesecake, the lemon curd is swapped for a bourbon caramel pumpkin filling. My cousin’s mom brought the pumpkin pie, and as pumpkin pie goes, it was the best I’ve ever had, I think. But, for those of you like me who don’t love pumpkin pie because of the texture and the strong vegetal taste that can never be fully surmounted regardless of the cinnamon, sugar, and whipped cream added, this Pumpkin Bourbon Caramel Cheesecake will satisfy your craving for the nostalgic pumpkin taste without the texture or vegetal issues. The texture and taste are predominantly cheesecake, and the sweetness of the bourbon caramel tempers the vegetal nature of the pumpkin, yet doesn’t overwhelm with sweetness.

Pumpkin Bourbon Caramel Cheesecake ((Adapted from Marbled Lemon Cheesecake (Adapted from Epicurious’ Lemon Curd Cheesecake))

Caramel Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 3/4 Tablespoons salted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 shot glass half full of bourbon 


  • 1 1/3 cups (5 oz) finely ground gingerbread or other spiced cookie crumbs. – Annas Ginger Swedish Thins are ideal for this recipe.
  • 1/3 cup granulated  sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons  cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons salted butter, melted

*For this particular cake, I decided to try some Swedish cookies that I found at the Golden Goose. They didn’t have any gingerbread cookies that I liked, and I knew these would have a somewhat similar flavor profile. They were even better than gingerbread, I think. A bit heavier on the clove, they worked perfectly with the pumpkin. And, unlike gingerbread cookies or even graham crackers, the package was exactly the amount needed for the crust.

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Cheesecake Batter:

  • 3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 7 oz container Fage 2% Greek Yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Special equipment: a 9- to 91/2-inch (24-cm) springform pan

Pumpkin Swirl:

  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin pie filling
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup slightly cooled caramel sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground clove

Make Caramel:

  1. Cook sugar in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, undisturbed, until it begins to melt.
  2. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar is melted to a deep golden caramel. Tilt pan and carefully pour in cream (caramel will harden and steam vigorously).
  3. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until caramel is dissolved.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla, salt, and bourbon.

Make and bake crust: 

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Invert bottom of springform pan (to make it easier to slide cake off bottom), then lock on side.
  3. Stir together crust ingredients in a bowl, then press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of springform pan. I use a flat bottomed glass to help press flatten it evenly.

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  1. Place springform pan in a shallow baking pan and bake 10 minutes
  2. Cool crust completely in springform pan on a rack.

Make filling and bake cheesecake:

  1. Beat together cream cheese and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.

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  1. Reduce speed to low and add eggs 1 at a time, beating until incorporated.
  2. Beat in yogurt and vanilla and bourbon until combined.
  3. Pour two thirds of cream cheese filling into crust, then spoon half of the pumpkin bourbon caramel filling over cheesecake.

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  1. Swirl curd into filling with a small knife. (Avoid touching crust with knife to prevent crumbs getting into filling.)

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  1. Repeat with remaining filling and pumpkin


Baking the Cheesecake – the baking time on this is a little tricky because it depends on your oven temp and will require some observation and judgement on your part.

    • Set the oven at 300F.
    • At 45 minutes, look at the cake. Ultimately you’ll know the cake is done when it is set about 1 1/2 inches from edge. The center will appear loose-ish, but set compared to what it looked like raw. The cake will continue to set as it cools.
    • If cake is not done at 45 min, add time in 5 min increments and continue to check.
    • When cake is done,  transfer springform pan to a rack and immediately run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen.
    • Cool completely, about 2 hours, then chill, uncovered, at least 4 hours. 8 hours is better
    • Remove side of springform pan before serving.
    • Cheesecake can be chilled, loosely covered, up to 2 days. Cheesecake must be completely chilled before covering to prevent condensation on its surface.
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