Recipe: cheesecake, caramel, bourbon, pumpkin, oh my!

Pumpkin pie gets a facelift
Recipe: cheesecake, caramel, bourbon, pumpkin, oh my!
Photo by Maggie Hyde

Cool weather, cozy sweaters, football season, crunchy colorful leaves and pumpkin-flavored everything. Is there anything more quintessentially fall? For years, a traditional pumpkin pie adorned our Thanksgiving table. Delicious as the classic may be, I wanted to take our pumpkin dessert to the next level. This was a risky wager, as my sister is a pumpkin pie maniac and I do not like to disappoint. To mitigate the risk, I knew I needed to incorporate other favorites of hers.

Growing up, we made a cheesecake every Sunday evening. Yes, you read that right: cheesecake every week. I knew I couldn’t go wrong with that as the base. Pumpkin pie spices were an obvious choice, and for the crust–my sister’s favorite cookie, gingersnaps. I chose to top it with her beloved chocolate toffee candy and sea salt caramel, which I’ve seen her sneak straight from the jar.

Finally, I added some bourbon for good measure. What Wisconsin girl doesn’t love a bourbon old fashioned? This looked to be a winning combination: Pumpkin Bourbon Sea Salt Caramel Cheesecake. And guess what? We haven’t had a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving in six years.

Recipe: Pumpkin Bourbon Sea Salt Caramel Cheesecake


1 3/4 cups gingersnap crumbs
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature

8 ounces sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup crushed milk chocolate-toffee pieces
Sea salt caramel, store-bought or homemade


1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
3. In a medium bowl, combine ginger snaps, pecans and sugar. Add melted butter.
4. Press crumb mixture onto bottom of pan.
5. Bake for 10 minutes; set aside.

1. Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla and bourbon in a bowl until combined.
2. Whisk together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and salt in a separate bowl until combined.
3. Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add about 1/3 of sugar/spice mixture and beat at medium about 1 minute; scrape bowl. Add remaining mixture in two additions, scraping bowl each time.
4. Add pumpkin mixture. Beat until well combined.
5. Pour filling into crust, smoothing top. Lift and drop pan on counter to remove any trapped air bubbles. Put springform in a shallow baking pan. Bake until center is just set, 50 to 60 minutes. Set aside, leaving oven on.

1. Whisk together sour cream, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar and bourbon. Spread on top of cheesecake and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
2. Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes.
3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
4. Top with toffee and drizzle with sea salt caramel before serving.

Maggie Hyde is a writer and photographer behind the food blog Chews Local, where she shares seasonal recipes influenced by what’s currently in her garden, the forest or chicken coop. She is a member of the Whisk food blogger collective.