Pumpkin Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

Cheesecakes aren’t easy or cheap to make, they are wickedly high in calories, but they hold this mystique over humans that is unmatched by any other dessert.  Of course, I have LOADS of cheesecake recipes, but this is my personal favorite.  As you’ll notice, I use the long-slow bake method for cheesecakes.  I did the whole water-bath thing for a few years, but after ending up with SO many soggy crusts due to leaks in the foil, I resorted to this method that I truly love.  It completely changes the texture of the cheesecake…you end up with a mousse-like cheesecake.  Light, fluffy, and not remotely dense.  (Unlike a certain national brand of cheesecake restaurant we all love.)

I like to bake this cheesecake overnight.  I set my oven’s cook time to 7 hours.  It turns itself off and the cheesecake sets and cools slowly in the oven as it lowers naturally in temperature, and you end up with a perfectly-flat cheesecake with NO cracks in the middle.

You DO need a springform pan for this recipe.  Spend a little money and get a cheap one…you can also use it for cakes, quiches, tarts, and other desserts.

Also, this is technically a pumpkin CRANBERRY cheesecake, but you can leave out the cranberries if you don’t like them or can’t find them.  I really love the sweet/tart cranberry swirl in this very sweet and rich cheesecake, but it DOES function beautifully without it.

In a food processor, combine:

9 Graham crackers (that’s 9 big crackers, each cracker has 4 smaller crackers fused together, or 5 ounces)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 t ginger
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t cloves

Process until the crackers are finely ground into crumbs.  Then add:

6 T melted butter

Pulse a few times until all ingredients are moist.  Pour into a buttered 9″ springform pan.  Spread evenly in the pan and 1/3 of the way up the sides, pressing into place.  Bake in a preheated 325F oven for 15 minutes until set.  Cool on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes before adding the filling.  Reduce the oven temp to 200F.

Make the cranberry swirl by combining:

1 package cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup orange juice

In a saucepan, cook until half the cranberries have popped their skins. Remove and fully cool, then drain most of the liquid off the cranberries. Save that liquid to pour over ice cream, pancakes, or anything.  Let the mixture cool.

(Off season when fresh cranberries aren’t available, or if you can’t find frozen cranberries, take a cup or two of dried cranberries and microwave them, covered with plastic wrap, in 1 cup of red wine plus 2 Tbspns sugar and 1 Tbspn corn starch, for 4 minutes. Mixture should thicken as it cools.)

Now time for the filling!

Whether you use a can of pumpkin, or fresh pumpkin puree, perform the following to extract excess moisture from the pumpkin.  Spread:

1 can of pumpkin or 2 cups of fresh pumpkin puree

onto 3 layers of paper towels.  Place 3 additional layers on top and press gently.  Let it sit 5 minutes.  Perform this step EVEN if you have already extracted excess moisture from your fresh pumpkin puree using bath towels.  The drier your puree is, the better your cheesecake will be.  (See my pumpkin pie recipe and video to learn how to make fresh pumpkin puree.)

In a bowl, thoroughly combine:

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark is fine)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tablespoon each cinnamon, ginger, cardamom
1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg, cloves, allspice

In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat:

1 1/2 pounds cream cheese (3 normal packages)

When it’s soft and smooth, add 1/3 of the sugar/spice mixture, and mix on medium-low speed for 1 minute, scraping down once or twice during that time.  Add another 1/3 of the mixture, and mix on medium-low for another minute, then the final 1/3 for another minute, scraping frequently.  Then add the pumpkin puree, along with:

1 T vanilla
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 T cornstarch (helps reduce cracking)

Beat on medium speed for 1 minute.  Scrape.  Then add:

2 eggs

Beat on medium speed for 45 seconds.  Scrape.  Then add:

3 more eggs

Beat on medium speed for 45 seconds.  Scrape.  Then add:

1 cup heavy cream

Mix on low speed for 45 seconds.  Pour half the cream cheese filling into the crust, then add 3/4ths of the cranberry swirl layer.  Add the remaining pumpkin cream cheese.  With a table knife, gently insert it into the filling and swirl the knife around randomly, moving the knife up and down gently as you swirl.  Then add the remaining 1/4 of the cranberry mixture in a spiral pattern to the top of the cheesecake.  Draw your knife from the center of the cheesecake out toward the crust, which creates almost a spider-web pattern through the cranberry swirl.

Bake on the center rack of a 200F oven for 6-8 hours.  The middle part of the cheesecake should still be slightly wobbly.  (The ideal internal temp is 150F if you want to use a probe thermometer to poke a horrid hole right in the center of your perfect cheesecake!)

Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack for 3 hours.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before running a knife around the inside of the pan and removing the sidewall.  Let the cheesecake sit on the counter at room temp for at least 1 hour before serving.  All cheesecakes taste best at room temperature.  Chilled cheesecake has a duller flavor.

As mentioned before, if you do this as an overnight cheesecake, set your oven to a bake time of 7 hours.  When the oven turns on, the cheesecake will continue to slowly bake as it coasts downward in temperature, and should be ready for the fridge when you wake up the next morning.

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