Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Topping

Dessert at Thanksgiving has to be my favorite part of the entire meal. Growing up, we always had a minimum of four pies. Pumpkin chiffon pie ranked as my favorite among them and the others included mincemeat, senate cream and Aunt Nancy’s apple pie.

Before we had finished our multiple slices of pie, we would place “dibs” on who got the leftovers. Inevitably, one of us would sneak into the fridge in the middle of the night and finish off one of those pies that had already been spoken for, leaving someone disappointed the next day.

I’m trying something new this year: a pumpkin cheesecake with a homemade, gluten-free gingersnap crust. A caramel topping (recipe courtesy of my friend Susan Koonts) and whipped cream provide the finishing touches. I tried it out on some friends earlier this month and they all gave it thumbs up.

If you are making your own cookies you'll need to do that one day ahead of making the cheesecake.The cake itself should be made a day or two in advance which in the long run will save you time for the big turkey day.


For the Crust
12 ounces of gluten-free gingersnaps (recipe below)
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of candied ginger, ground (optional)
6 tablespoons of melted butter

For Gingersnap Cookies
Yields 5-1/2 dozen
2 cups of gluten-free flour
1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum
1 tablespoon baking of powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2-1/2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of cloves
1/8 teaspoon of pepper
1 cup of butter at room temperature
3/4 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of molasses
1 extra large egg

For Cheesecake Filling
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon of allspice
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1-1/4 cups of sugar
3 eight-ounce packages of cream cheese at room temperature
1 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon of vanilla
4 extra large eggs

For Caramel Sauce
2 cups of granulated sugar
2 cups of half and half divided
3/4 cup of light corn syrup
1/2 cup of butter


For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring form pan with a non-stick cooking spray. 

In your food processor crush the gingersnaps. Add the brown sugar, candied ginger and melted butter and pulsate until thoroughly combined. Pour the crumbs into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan and gently press evenly. Place in the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely before filling.

For the cookies: Whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and pepper. Using the paddle attachment, add the butter to the flour and cream together using medium speed occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl. It will be light and fluffy. Add the sugars, molasses and then the egg. Once well blended, cover and refrigerate for one hour or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350° F.

Using a one-inch melon ball scoop, portion the dough onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper and space 2 inches apart. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let air cool for a crisp cookie.

For the filling: In a small bowl mix the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, salt and sugar and set aside.

Using a stand mixer, blend the cream cheese with the sugar mixture using the paddle attachment. Occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl. Once the sugar and cream cheese is blended add the pumpkin. After this is blended add the eggs one at a time and continue to beat the mixture for one minute on medium speed. Do not over beat. 

Pour the filling into the prepared pan and smooth out the top and place in the middle of the oven and bake for 40 minutes. It is done when it jiggles slightly in the center of the cake while the sides are firm. At this point turn off the oven and let the cake cool in the oven. (Maybe an hour.) When it comes out of the oven and once the cake has cooled, run a knife around the edge of the cake. Chill over night, and then remove the spring form ring.

Sometimes a cheesecake will crack. Don’t worry about it. A topping such as caramel or whipped cream can conceal it. Cracking may be caused by overbeating, which adds too much air.

For the caramel sauce: In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, one cup of half and half, the corn syrup and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a full boil. Add remaining cup of cream and continue cooking, stirring often. The caramel sauce will be light in color and foamy. Cook for maybe 15 to 20 minutes. The candy thermometer should register 230° F. Let cool completely before applying to the cheesecake. If you find it is too thick to pour, reheat and add a little more cream.

Once the cheesecake is completely cooled and removed from the pan, you can either drizzle it with the caramel sauce or completely top with the sauce. 

This can be very tricky and a candy thermometer is a must for this recipe. If cooked too long it could turn to toffee. 

Ellen's Tips

Store bought caramel sauce and cookies make this recipe go a lot easier and faster. Gluten-free gingersnaps are now more readily available in grocery and health food stores than they were when I first made this recipe. Also Hershey’s Caramel Sauce is a great backup plan.