This twist on a classic Thanksgiving dessert will be a delicious addition to your holiday menu.
My mother’s recipe box is a treasure. Just flipping through its cards while sipping a cup of coffee is a comforting activity for me. I’ll often find a recipe that trips a memory or makes me say something like, “well, look at that!”
Recently, I found a recipe card for “Pumpkin Tart.” It's not in either Mom’s or Grandma Bubba’s handwriting, so my guess is a friend shared the recipe with one of them. How typical of that era; now it seems like when we want to make a new dish, we ask Google and not a girlfriend.
Most years, Bubba baked pies for Thanksgiving: two pumpkin and one apple. As I learned to bake and cook, I’d occasionally contribute a pecan pie. But I remember we had Pumpkin Cheesecake Tart at least once, but it’s so delicious, it should have become a family tradition.
What I love about this Pumpkin Cheesecake Tart is despite the cheesecake filling, it’s surprisingly light, which is just what you want after a heavy Thanksgiving meal. The other selling point to this recipe is you can make it days ahead of Thanksgiving and keep it in your refrigerator. And it’s absolutely delicious, so let’s get cooking!
For this recipe you’ll need:
Crust: 12 whole graham crackers
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
Cheesecake: 2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pumpkin topping: 2 cups pumpkin
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar (half of this is used in pumpkin, half added to egg whites)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 envelope plain gelatin
Pumpkin Cheesecake Tart is made in three easy stages. It starts with the outstanding graham cracker crust. The easiest way to crush the graham crackers is in a food processor, so I drug out Mom’s old Magic Chef appliance affectionately known as "The Beast." I think this thing might be able to crush bones, but since I only needed crushed crackers, it literally took a couple of seconds. I added the melted butter and sugar and gave it another whirl, then voila! It was ready to press into a 9-by-13-inch pan.
Next comes the cheesecake filling that will be poured over the crust and baked for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Using a hand mixer, I creamed together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and cream cheese. After the cheesecake is baked, allow it to cool at least 20 minutes before topping it with the pumpkin mixture, which was the most involved of all three steps.
In a medium sauce pan, I stirred together the pumpkin, egg yolks, 1/4 cup of sugar, salt, milk, cinnamon and cloves. Mom’s recipe card only gave the vague instruction of “cook until thick,” but I wondered “how thick are they talking about?” So, I decided to cook the mixture over medium heat until it started to blip while stirring occasionally; in total, this took about 15 minutes, but the time may differ depending on your stove.
I transferred the mixture to a mixing bowl to cool. Meanwhile, I dissolved the packet of gelatin in a 1/2 cup of water and stirred this into the pumpkin mixture.
Next, I beat the egg whites using a mixer, gradually adding the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. The fluffy egg whites were gently folded into the cooled pumpkin, and this now lightened-up pumpkin topping was poured over the cooled cheesecake. After smoothing the pumpkin evenly, the pan was placed into the refrigerator to chill and set up; I left it overnight, but you'll need to plan for at least five hours.
The end result is a divine autumn dessert with a pumpkin mousse top layer, an airy cheesecake middle, and a rich graham cracker crust that had the perfect chewy texture.
How long can you store this dessert? My daughter and I enjoyed this Pumpkin Cheesecake Tart for a week, and each bite was as good as the first. But honestly, if you’re making this for a Thanksgiving gathering, there likely will not be any leftovers!
Can I use a traditional pie crust instead of graham crackers? I think it could detract from the finished dessert if a pastry crust was used, but if it’s necessary you could try this swap that bakes in a springform pan. If someone has a gluten allergy, I’d suggest trying gluten-free graham crackers to use when making the crust.
For additional Thanksgiving ideas, check out: