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No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake

Serves 10-12     adjust servings

This easy recipe for No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake is smooth, creamy, and perfectly pumpkin-y. There is never enough crispy crust in most cheesecake situations. I solve this problem by adding extra Pecan Graham Crumble and sprinkling it on top as a garnish! Add a drizzle of caramel sauce and you will be in fall dessert heaven. Make this ahead of time for Thanksgiving!

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1/2 cup Raley's chopped pecans
  • 12 full sheets Raley's graham crackers (1 and 1/2 cups crushed)
  • 1/3 cup Raley's dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Raley's salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

For the cheesecake filling

  • 1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream*
  • 1/4 cup Raley's powdered sugar
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages Raley's cream cheese, softened**
  • 1 and 1/4 cups Raley's dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Raley's vanilla
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons Raley's cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Raley's powdered ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon Raley's powdered nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon Raley's salt
  • 1 (15 ounce) can Raley's pumpkin puree

For the Pecan Graham Crumble (optional)

  • 6 full sheets Raley's graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup butter (half stick butter)
  • 3/4 cup Raley's chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons Raley's dark brown sugar

To garnish

  • More whipped cream, to decorate top*** (see notes)
  • caramel sauce, optional

Instructions

  1. Make the crust. First decide if you want a true no bake situation (chilled crust) or a baked crust, which will be crispier, and in my opinion, tastier. See notes for how to bake the crust.
  2. To chill the crust: In a small saucepan, toast 1/2 cup chopped pecans over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes, until fragrant. Be sure to stir often. Let cool. Add 1/2 cup toasted pecans and 12 sheets graham crackers to a food processor. Run the processor until they are finely crushed. (You could also seal the crackers and pecans in a ziplock and crush with a rolling pin.)
  3. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl (if not using a food processor). Add 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup melted butter. Stir (or pulse in the processor) until everything is moistened and the mixture looks like wet sand. 
  4. Press the mixture very firmly into the bottom and at least 2 inches up the sides of a 9 or 10 inch springform pan. I like to use a measuring cup to press it into the corners. The more firmly you press your crust, the less likely it will be to crumble and fall apart on you when slicing. Put your back into it! 
  5. Chill the crust for at least 20 minutes in the fridge or freezer before adding the cheesecake filling. 
  6. Make the cheesecake filling: In a large bowl or stand mixer, add 1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream and 1/4 cup powdered sugar. Beat on high for about 2 minutes, watching it carefully to make sure you don't churn it into butter! Whip the cream until stiff peaks form, scraping the sides as necessary. 
  7. Chill the whipped cream. If you are using a stand mixer, scrape the whipped cream into another bowl and store in the fridge. Use the same bowl to make the rest of the filling (no need to clean it out). (If you are using a hand mixer, just put the whipped cream in the fridge and get a new large bowl. 
  8. Beat the cream cheese. Add 2 packages of softened cream cheese to the bowl.** Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom. Make sure there are absolutely no lumps. Keep beating until it is smooth! 
  9. Add 1 and 1/4 cups dark brown sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Beat for another minute or so, scraping the sides and bottom and making sure there are no lumps!
  10. Add the 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree.  Beat on low speed until the pumpkin is incorporated, scraping the sides. 
  11. Fold in the whipped cream. Put away your mixer. We don't want to deflate the whipped cream! Use a large rubber spatula to gently fold in the whipped cream that you beat earlier. Only mix until everything is combined, and then stop. You want it to stay light and fluffy! 
  12. Fill the crust. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the filling into the crust. If you are using a 9 inch pan, you might have a little extra filling. Only fill it to the point where it can be smoothed out flat. (This is the part where you scrape the extra filling into a bowl and eat it with a spoon right then and there. It's your reward for getting this dessert done ahead of time. Also, you have to test it, right?) Use an offset spatula to smooth the top of the cheesecake nice and flat. 
  13. Cover the cheesecake tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours, or up to 2 days. I like to chill at least 8-12 hours before serving. That way the cheesecake has plenty of time not only to set up, but also for the flavors to deepen. 
  14. Make the Pecan Graham Crumble. (If you are dedicated to a true no bake cheesecake, you will have to skip the deliciousness that follows. Therefore, it is optional. But I feel that only a fool would make this choice. Don't be foolish now.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  15. Add 6 full sheets graham crackers to a ziplock bag. Use a rolling pin to break up the graham crackers. See photos. I like to leave some big chunks in there, the biggest ones were about the size of a quarter. 
  16. In a medium bowl, melt 1/4 cup butter in the microwave. Add the crumbled graham crackers, 3/4 cup chopped pecans, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar to the bowl. Mix it all together and make sure the butter is distributed. 
  17. Spread the mixture out onto a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 9-12 minutes, making sure to stick around to open the oven and stir the mixture every 3 minutes or so. When the mixture is lightly browned and fragrant, take it out and let cool completely. 
  18. Decorate the cheesecake with whipped cream around the edges, if desired. See notes for making your own whipped cream. I used a star tip and piping bag to decorate the edges. If you are sure that you are going to eat the entire cheesecake right away, you can choose to fill the center of the cheesecake with a mound of Pecan Graham Crumble. But keep in mind that it will get soggy in just a little while, so if you are not serving the whole cheesecake, leave it off and garnish individual slices. 
  19. Serve the cheesecake. Use a sharp knife to slice the cheesecake, wiping off the knife in between cuts. Garnish each slice with additional whipped cream, plenty of Pecan Graham Crumble, and a drizzle of caramel sauce for good measure. Devour!
  20. Store leftovers in the fridge. Cheesecake is very forgiving; it will stay fresh for 3-4 days. Do not freeze no bake cheesecakes. Baked cheesecakes are ideal for freezing, but no-bakes are quite different. It will change the texture significantly if you freeze it, so I don't recommend it. 

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