PUMPKIN ORANGE CHEESECAKE with a Cranberry Twist: Brooklyn Style

My mother made the best New York cheesecake.  It was dense.  It was rich.  It would explode out of the springform and coat the oven with deliciousness.  Granted, this only happened when my best friend Christine and I made it in the mini-bake oven that passed for the real deal in her basement apartment at UVA.  We may have been a little tipsy.  It was still damn tasty.

Mom's had a sweet crust, one that was crumbly and "hard."  Hard in the best way.  Like shortbread.  But when I caught wind of Junior's famous cheesecake, one where the filling was as rich and dense as Mom's but sitting atop tender sponge cake, I knew I'd found my way to something better (sorry Mom).

Trust  me.  This stuff is amazing.  And flavored with pumpkin, orange and cranberry, this cheesecake reaches celebratory heights that no cheesecake has reached before.  In the history of cheesecake.

makes one 8" cheesecake

(adapted from King Arthur Flour's Brooklyn Cheesecake.  Find their recipe here.)

For the sponge

1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
4 tablespoons oil (I used Canola)
4 egg whites
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon orange extract

Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Line the bottom of an 8" springform with parchment. Spray the parchment with non-stick cooking spray, trying to avoid spraying the sides.  (I used an 8" cake ring that I placed in a 9" cake pan that was lined with a parchment covered cake round that I then lined with aluminum foil so I could lift the cake out easily.  I chose this cockamamy set up because I have never had much luck with keeping a springform leak-free in a bain marie.)

In the bowl of a  stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, egg yolks, pumpkin puree, oil, baking powder, and orange extract.  Mix on high until a smooth paste forms.  Set aside.

In the (clean) bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and the salt.  Whisk on high until foamy.  Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and whisk until stiff peaks form.

Stir in about 1/4 of the egg whites to the egg yolk mixture until smooth.

Add the remaining egg whites and gently fold them into the mixture, making sure to keep the batter well aerated.

Transfer the batter to the prepared springform (or cake ring) and smooth with a small offset spatula.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cake springs back when gently poked and a toothpick comes out cleanly (leave the oven on).

Using a paring knife, run the knife along the edge of the cake to release it from the ring (leave the ring in place, though).  The cake will shrink slightly.

For the filling

3 (8 ounces) packets of cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine one packet of cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup corn starch.  Mix on LOW until smooth and combined.  Add the remaining two cream cheese packets and the remaining 1 cup sugar.  Mix on LOW until smooth.  Add the eggs, pumpkin puree, orange extract, vanilla extract and salt.  Mix on LOW until smooth.  If for some odd reason your filling has a few lumps, run through a fine sieve.

Spray the exposed sides of the springform/cake ring with nonstick spray.  Pour the cheesecake filling into the pan on top of the cake and smooth with a small offset spatula.

Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the middle of the cheesecake barely shimmies in the middle.  (If you choose to use a bain marie, which helps keep the cake from cracking, cover the springform in aluminum foil to keep the water from seeping into the springform or use my cockamamie cake ring in a cake pan contraption.  Place the springform or cake pan in a larger pan with high sides, place in the oven and then pour water in in the larger pan being VERY careful not to keep the water in the larger vessel.)

Allow the cake to cool in the springform while you make the cranberry topping.

For the cranberry topping

1 (12 ounce bag) fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat, cook for 10 minutes until the cranberries pop.  Run the cranberries and through a sieve back into the saucepan and continue to cook until the sauce has slightly thickened (about 5 minutes).  Pour on top of the cheesecake and refrigerate until cool and set, a few hours.  Using a paring knife, run the knife along the sides of the cake to release it.

To finish (optional)

I used my recipe from Better Homes and Gardens for the candied cranberries.  Find it HERE.  In this case, I rolled the cranberries in granulated sugar.

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