Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Praline Sauce

It’s that time of year again. And that only means one thing: time to start thinking about the holiday baking. In Paris, bakery windows fill up with Bûches de Noël (Yule log cakes) and bourriches (wooden crates) of oysters are piled up at the markets. The chocolate shops are crammed with people, buying multiple boxes as gifts, and people splurge on caviar and Champagne, one of the few things that go on sale in France during the holidays.

One thing you don’t see is the use of pumpkin in desserts. A tart or pie (or ice cream) made of squash might sound funny, especially to non-Americans, but helps to remember that pumpkins, and other squash, are technically fruit. One could also point out the classic Swiss Chard Tart from Provence (which is in a whole other category), and Melanzane al cioccolato, eggplant with chocolate sauce, which I like. (Which one could argue is good because it’s smothered in dark chocolate.) But I don’t think everything goes with chocolate: A friend tried the hot chocolate with oysters at a famed chocolate shop in Paris, and after her description, I wasn’t rushing over there to try a cup.


To get that last image out of your mind, I present pumpkin cheesecake with a pecan praline sauce, that has nothing not to like about it. Cream cheese and sour cream, a buttery cookie crust, and a brown sugar and bourbon-tinged sauce loaded with crunchy pecans. I’m in.

DIYers may raise an eyebrow at using canned pumpkin. I’ve got a few reasons for using it. (And as many of you perhaps know, it’s not made from pumpkin, but a variety of squash similar to butternut squash.) One, is that when writing a recipe, it’s easy to get consistent, similar results when we’re all using the same ingredient. And two, it’s a heckuva lot easier, which is appreciated around the holidays when all of us have enough on our plates, and in our ovens, and it’s  fewer dishes to wash to boot.


If you want to go the other route, you can also make your own cream cheese and Graham crackers, grow your own pecans, churn up your own butter, and make your own cake pan. If you do go that route, let me know when your cheesecake is done ; )

In the meantime, I’m standing over my stove, stirring warm, just-toasted pecans into my praline sauce before lacing it with a dash of bourbon.


The praline sauce is decidedly on the sweet side. But that didn’t stop me (like, at all…) from dipping my spoon into it over and over and over again. Be sure to toast the pecans before using them. My pet-peeve in restaurants is when they don’t toast nuts. Toasting any nut usually improves it by at least 99%, if not more, so if you’re not consistently toasting your nuts before using them on salads, sauces, and in ice creams, start doing it now. It’s not too late.

But I can’t imagine this cheesecake being served without it. Although I could imagine eating the sauce without the cheesecake. And if you’re anything like me, you might find yourself spooning it over ice cream, ladling it over pumpkin pie (without the marshmallow topping), or even spooning it right into your mouth, like I do.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Praline Sauce
Print Recipe
12 to 14 servings
Make sure if using canned pumpkin, that you don't use canned pumpkin pie filling (which is sweetened and spiced); you want to use canned pumpkin, which is 100% pumpkin puree. If you want to make sugar pumpkin puree yourself, you can find instructions here, or make butternut squash puree by splitting a squash lengthwise and scraping out the seeds. Butter the cut side of each side of the squash, and bake the two squash halves, cut side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a 375ºF/180ºC oven until very tender, about 35 to 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and puree in a blender or food processor, or pass it through a food mill.If you want to balance the sweetness of the sauce, you could add a scant teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to it, or to taste. Conversely, adding more liquor will take the edge off as well.Outside of the U.S., I often use speculoos cookies in place of the Graham crackers for the crust. If you go that route, you might want to reduce the butter in the crust by about 20% since speculoos cookies tend to be more buttery than Graham crackers.I use a glass-bottom springform pan for cheesecakes, which makes serving them much easier.
For the crust
1 1/2 cups (180g) Graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons (60g) melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the pumpkin cheesecake filling
Three 8-ounce (680g) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
grated zest one lemon, preferably unsprayed
4 large eggs, at room temperature
One 15-ounce (425g) canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sour cream or whole-milk plain yogurt
1 tablespoon cornstarch, or 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of salt
Pecan praline sauce
3/4 cup ( g) packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) heavy cream
6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter
1/4 cup (60ml) maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup (60ml) bourbon
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. To make the crust, in a medium bowl, mix the Graham cracker crumbs together with the melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon until the crumbs are thoroughly moistened. Butter a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan then press the crumbs evenly across the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate until ready to bake.
2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Bake the crust until it feels set in the center, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Turn the oven down to 325ºF (165ºC).
3. To make the filling, in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or by hand, in a large bowl), beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and lemon zest, until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, stopping the mixer between each addition to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl, then add the pumpkin puree, sour cream, cornstarch or flour, and vanilla extract, along with the spices and salt.
4. Line the outside bottom of the springform pan with foil so it reaches all the way up to the top of the outside of the pan. If you have to use several pieces, I recommend triple-wrapping it to prevent leaking or water getting in the cake pan. (Better yet, use extra-wide foil, so you only need one sheet.) Scrape the mixture into the prepared springform pan and smooth the top. Place the cheesecake in a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, then add very warm water to the larger pan until it reaches halfway up the outside of the cake pan.
5. Bake the cheesecake in the oven until the center feels just slightly set, about 1 hour, to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and let sit in the water bath for 30 minutes, then remove the cake from the water bath and let cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.
6. Make the pecan praline sauce by heating the brown sugar, cream, butter, maple syrup and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, until it comes to a boil, stirring frequently. Let boil for 1 minute without stirring. Remove from heat and add the bourbon, pecans, and vanilla.

Serving: Run a sharp knife around the outside of the cheesecake to release it from the springform pan, then remove the sides of the pan. Dip the knife in warm water, wipe it dry, and use it to cut clean slices from the cheesecake. Serve with a ladleful of warm sauce poured over it. If the sauce gets too thick upon standing, you can thin it with milk or water.

Storage: The baked or unbaked crust can be made up to three days ahead and stored at room temperature (if baked), or refrigerated (unbaked). It can also be frozen either baked or unbaked for 2-3 months. The baked cheesecake will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Related Recipes and Links

Dulce de leche cheesecake

Ingredients for American Baking in Paris

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Cheesecake

Maple Pumpkin Flan

Homemade Graham Crackers (Smitten Kitchen)

Homemade bourbon (Bourbon of the Day)

Homemade salt (Ruhlman)

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Praline Sauce - a perfect holiday dessert!

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46 comments

  • berit
    November 11, 2017 2:20pm

    Oh my, this looks SO decadent <3

    Also, I didn't know glass-bottom spring pans exist and of course want one now! Reply

  • Tracy Richardson
    November 11, 2017 3:00pm

    This looks delicious! How far in advance can I make the sauce? Reply

    • November 11, 2017 3:05pm
      David Lebovitz

      At least a week – keep in the refrigerator and rewarm before serving. Reply

  • Connie
    November 11, 2017 3:39pm

    Hi David – this looks wonderful! Can we use (homemade) creme fraiche in place of the sour cream? Reply

  • Sharon
    November 11, 2017 5:15pm

    When I first moved to Germany, I brought back canned pumpkin from the US because all you can get here – still – is fresh or pickled. When I learned to roast a pumpkin, that took care of carting the cans back here. But yes, it is inconsistent as there are so many kinds of pumpkin! Reply

  • me in nj
    November 11, 2017 5:31pm

    Never heard of glass-bottomed springforms! Make your own pan–LOL! Reply

  • Ginny
    November 11, 2017 5:33pm

    Your desserts never fail to please. In fact, for our daughter’s wedding this summer, the only wedding cake she wanted was your Almond Cake. I baked TEN of them! They looked spectacular at the farm to table dinner, all done up in fresh flowers and powdered sugar. Inspiration from you!Your blog was cited on their wedding website. Reply

  • Dawn
    November 11, 2017 5:38pm

    I am glad you posted this I am having 25 for thanksgiving and my niece requested this. I don’t usually make something for the first time and serve it to guests but I trust you thanks again Reply

  • Bev
    November 11, 2017 6:16pm

    This cheesecake sounds scrumptious. I have found that a gingersnap crust goes really well with pumpkin. Reply

  • Chris
    November 11, 2017 6:54pm

    Can this be made in a regular pie pan? I don’t have a springform pan. If not, I can just make the sauce! It looks delicious. Reply

    • Ttrockwood
      November 12, 2017 11:54pm

      Yes you can use a pie pan but it won’t take as long to bake so check it much earlier. Be sure it’s well chilled before slicing to serve it, the first piece will be difficult to get out nicely. Reply

  • debby and michael
    November 11, 2017 8:18pm

    The recipe looks fantastic BUT your newest book is what I must comment on by saying it is a wonderful read. I feel like I am living your travails with you. Your ability to engage the reader be it with your blog posts or your books is a gift. Bravo…. Reply

  • Sandra
    November 11, 2017 8:32pm

    Definitely decadent ( and will raise blood sugar!) but who is counting when it’s Thanksgiving?!? I’m sure you’ll cringe when I tell a brief story about a cheesecake I made earlier this fall because a close friend has serious gastric issues and is not only gluten free, lactose intolerant–to the chagrin of her family and their tastes. To keep this short, I used the -gasp- fake stuff–tofutti cream cheese and sour cream. With all the other ingredients, it tasted exactly like the real thing. The crust was toasted finely ground almonds made like the graham cracker crust. She was happy and really appreciated it. This method wouldn’t suit many people and I would certainly make it with the real stuff again, unless she was coming to dine—or for those who keep kosher and separate meat and dairy. But your recipe is now under serious consideration and will consult with my daughter Leah on it for Thanksgiving! Reply

  • Erika
    November 11, 2017 9:46pm

    Hello, David,

    I’m big fan of you, the cake looks wonderful!!!!
    I just wanted to know if I can use a butternut squash (have it baked before) because we do not have canned pumpkin in Lithuania.

    Thank you! Reply

  • anne
    November 12, 2017 12:09am

    Wow that looks yummy. For folks in the US they can buy Dr. Pete’s Mustard Parline Sauce Really good if you can’t wait to get to the cheesecake. I will be making your cake this year. The recipe I have been making is so complicated it takes hours. Also got your new book from Amazon yesterday and started reading last night. Love it! Can’t wait to make the flatbread. Reply

  • Toni
    November 12, 2017 12:20am

    How timely! I’ve been looking for a pumpkin cheesecake recipe to make for Thanksgiving, and this is exactly what I wanted. Thanks! Reply

  • Kaori
    November 12, 2017 1:12am

    Hi David, I have been a big fan of your blog since 2002 or earlier, from Tokyo. Each time I read your posts, I always have so many new things to learn but from this post :) And from this post, I decided to toast the nuts each time I use them – not only nuts but sesame also gets better, I think, so I will start toasting sesames as well. Thanks for good post as always :) This pumpkin cheese cake looks so delicious…! Reply

  • November 12, 2017 2:46am
    David Lebovitz

    Connie: You could but I found after a number of taste tests, that I prefer sour cream to crème fraîche in cheesecake (which makes is more dense and a little too-tangy, to my taste). But if you want to use it, it’ll work fine.

    anne, and debbie & michael: Really happy you’re enjoying the book and finding it a good read. Whew! – it was quite the story, wasn’t it? ; )

    erika: Yes, I mention in the headnote before the recipe how to use butternut squash.

    chris: You could but you’d have to cut down the amount of filling since it’s for a springform pan and a pie plate or pan would hold a lot less filling. Reply

  • November 12, 2017 7:41am

    Hi David, I love cheesecakes. So far mines are Vanilla and citrus, quite classic. Yours is appealing for a change although I am surprised you use canned pumpkin and Auchan cream cheese. I am a fan of quality ingredients, rather homemade or organic. With Terroir d’Avenir rue du Nil, I have access to wonderful old fashioned Pumpkins and quality cheeses. So I’ll try your recipe with these ingredients and let you know. Reply

  • Maja
    November 12, 2017 1:06pm

    Hi David, this looks perfect, thank you. What is the equivalent of Graham cracker in France? Speculos? Is it possible to find pumpkin puree at Monoprix or so…
    Thanks. Maja. Reply

    • November 12, 2017 1:30pm
      David Lebovitz

      Just before the recipe, in the headnote, I mentioned that outside the U.S., speculoos are a good alternative (and perhaps reducing the butter a bit in the crust, since they’re moister than Graham crackers.) You can get pumpkin puree at shops like The Real McCoy, Thanksgiving, and La Grande ÉpicerieReply

  • November 12, 2017 4:43pm

    I don’t know whether one can get tinned pumpkin here in the UK – I’ve never looked, to be honest! I don’t think I’ve ever tried pumpkin for the sweet course – I love it too much as a vegetable!

    In the UK, biscuit crumb bases are usually made with digestive biscuits, or possibly Hob Nobs, but ginger nuts are my preferred alternative (I use them if and when I make a banoffee pie, which I definitely prefer). Reply

  • November 12, 2017 9:08pm

    Hello David, did you ever try to bake cheesecakes with speculoos as a base?:) for me this delicious spicy belgian biscuit is great with this kind of pudding and quite popularly used as such in Belgium. I will try your recipe using ‘potimarron’ a variety of squash that seems to be less known in the anglo-saxon world. Reply

    • November 12, 2017 10:20pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, I mentioned in the headnote before the recipe (and in response to Maja’s comment, just above) that you can use speculoos in the crust in place of the Graham crackers.

      Potimarrons are wonderful. In the U.S. they’re called “kuri” squash. Reply

    • Troy
      November 17, 2017 6:49pm

      I’m going to use potimarrons for the cheesecake too. I love them. Reply

  • Jess
    November 13, 2017 12:44am

    Making this for Thanksgiving dessert — can’t wait to try it! :) Reply

  • November 13, 2017 9:41am

    I find that a mix of speculoos and Traou Mad cookies is better than straight speculoos (which, as you say are not exactly like graham crackers; I think they have more butter/fat even though they are very crispy and easy to crumble).
    Thank you for this recipe! A friend brought a pumpkin cheesecake to work many years ago and I still dream about it. I asked for the recipe, but he had made it up on the fly. Nothing I have tried since has been as good. I hope your version is the one of my dreams. Reply

  • November 13, 2017 1:57pm

    Great recipe! I love how cream cheese is (finally) slowly making its way into french grocery stores… I remember wanting to make a cheesecake in Brittany, about 4-5 years ago, and I could not find cream cheese anywhere! Pumpkin cheesecake sounds lovely, will have to try it! :) Reply

  • Emma
    November 13, 2017 3:01pm

    Dear David,

    As I am French, I am not sure of the right French term : is it a courge butter nut that I have to use ?
    And what is sour cream in France if it is not crème fraîche ?

    Thanks Reply

  • Kat
    November 13, 2017 6:25pm

    Homemade butter and cream cheese? Not a problem!
    Make my own cooking pan? It wouldn’t be the first time!
    Make Deb’s graham crackers from scratch? Nope. Can’t do it. I always eat all the dough. That stuff is CRACK! Reply

  • Jon
    November 13, 2017 9:34pm

    Made this the other night – it turns out dense and gloriously tall! Thanks for a great recipe.

    David, what’s your rule of thumb for toasting nuts? I did mine in a convection toaster oven at 325 F for only a few minutes and they tasted just a tad burnt/overcooked. Better to carefully warm them in a pan on the range maybe? Reply

  • Nancy
    November 14, 2017 7:43am

    Wondering what, if anything, to use in place of the bourbon? A bit worried it will be too sweet without adding something…..
    Thanks Reply

  • November 14, 2017 2:35pm
    David Lebovitz

    Emma: Crème fraîche has a lot more butterfat than sour cream (30% versus 18%, more or less) so I prefer to use something like fromage frais or even Bridelice in place of the sour cream. There are more tips on substitutions here.

    Jon: I toast nuts for about 10 minutes in a 350F/180ºC oven, on a baking sheets, stirring once or twice while baking. If yours are burning after a few minutes, at a lower temperature, you may want to get an oven thermometer and check the temperature of your oven. Some people do toast nuts in a skillet, but I find they tend to get dark spots on them and don’t toast as evenly.

    Nancy: I knew that question would come up and was considering including a swap-out in the headnote to the recipe but I couldn’t think of one. You could serve this with a caramel sauce, and add toasted pecans to it. I have a recipe in Ready for Dessert or you can find one online. Reply

  • Barbara T.
    November 14, 2017 9:23pm

    Hi David, I love this recipe and can’t wait to make it! How long would the pecan sauce last in the refrigerator? I plan to make it ahead and warm just before serving. Reply

    • November 15, 2017 3:33pm
      David Lebovitz

      It will keep for at least a week, perhaps a few days longer, although the pecans won’t remain as crisp the longer you keep it. Reply

  • November 15, 2017 5:56pm

    Hello David, I know you are busy with your book tour, but wondered if you are still using the Canon 70D? I have a 60D and would like to upgrade. Thanks if you see this message! Reply

    • November 18, 2017 5:32pm
      David Lebovitz

      I still use the 70D. I like it because of the touchscreen which has auto-focus, a great asset for those of us with less-than-perfect eyesight : ) Reply

  • Marcia from New Mexico
    November 15, 2017 9:14pm

    Oooh, my new winter cheesecake recipe — can’t wait to try it.
    And thanks so much for your wonderful new book. I have to slow down reading it or I’d quickly devour it — just like one of your many delicious recipes.
    You never disappoint, David.
    Congratulations on the birth of l’appart! Reply

  • November 16, 2017 4:55pm

    David, can’t wait to read and listen to L’appart! In this recipe, now that I have baked my crust, I now realize that I SHOULD have lined the bottom of the springform pan first! This despite reading the recipe over several times. Maybe move those instructions to before the crust-baking directions? Always your loyal fan, many of your recipes (properly credited of course) on my family recipe blog. Reply

    • November 16, 2017 5:32pm
      David Lebovitz

      You line the outside of the pan with foil, not the inside. The crust is pressed directly into the buttered pan (no foil or parchment underneath it), then you wrap the outside/bottom of the pan with foil, and make sure it goes up the side. Hope that helps! Reply

  • Amy
    November 17, 2017 4:58pm

    Hi David, It’s so hard to narrow down to one recipe from your Thanksgiving recipes post! We are cheesecake lovers so am going to give this a whirl, but I”m still thinking about apple cake too : ) . I have a 10″ springform pa,n since the one we make often is large. How should I adjust the baking time to accomodate? Congrats on the book! Reply

    • November 18, 2017 5:23pm
      David Lebovitz

      Most springform pans, it’s you carefully measure them, are often closer to 9.5 inches, due to their being made outside the U.S., so they are sometimes in metric, and 9-inch is what they are labeled in the U.S. market. I don’t think you’d have to make adjustments; but since it might be less thick, you may wish to cook is slightly less. Reply

      • duda
        November 19, 2017 4:23am

        Hello I have a European one that is 26cm would you say it will be too thin and less cooking (how many minutes approximately?) Thank you Reply

  • SUBBU
    November 18, 2017 7:05am

    The use of Pumpkin as a dessert is also very popular in India eg Pumpkin halwa which is a sweet made with grated pumpkins,sugar and cardomom spice.This is something to die for Reply

  • Melissa
    November 18, 2017 11:40pm

    This is cooling as I write and I’m Wonder if it’s possible to freeze the backed cake? Is there anything special to freezing a while cheesecake? Thanks! Reply

  • Lauren
    November 19, 2017 3:27am

    Being under 21, can I just leave out the bourbon in the pecan praline sauce or would you recommend substituting something else? Reply

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