Pecan Pie Cheesecake - for when you can't decide between pie or cake. Have both! One of our favourite cheesecakes. A whiskey spiked brown sugar cheesecake with caramel pecan topping.
This Pecan Pie Cheesecake may be the best cheesecake ever. And I would know because I have made so many cheesecakes. And I really have a thing for caramel cheesecakes-- check out this apple caramel cheesecake and this banana and caramel cheesecake. Caramel and cheesecakes just go together.
Once upon a time, I cooked my way through the Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese calendar. For real. I made every.one. of those cakes. For every occasion, I'd whip together a cheesecake. It was the 90s and it was just a good idea.
My daughter does not like cheesecake. ("why?" for the love of cheese, why not? And she does really, really love cheese).. we just don't understand...
But my son. My boy. Came up with this request for his 9th birthday. "Pecan Pie, but I want a cheesecake"
It may have been his best idea ever.
And it is almost Valentines, so you can make this for the sweetest pecan pie loving person in your life.
About this cheesecake
The cake started with this one from Smitten Kitchen, I used the crust just as is. From there I stuck to my basic cheesecake formula - which involves cheese, eggs, and sugar.
It's that simple.
A few tricks to turn a basic cheesecake into something pecan pie like:
- Add pecans to the graham cracker crust. Pecans have a distinct flavor and adding a handful to the crust just adds a bit more of "pecan pie" to this cheesecake
- Brown sugar - because, because, pecan pie - brown sugar highlights the caramel goodness that is pecan pie. There is brown sugar in both the crust and the cake itself.
- Whiskey! - optional of course. Canadian Rye whiskey (my preference) or a rich bourbon is a natural addition to a good pecan pie. Adding some good whiskey to the cheesecake highlights the caramel and brown sugar already in the cake. Flavored whiskey can be fun to experiment with.
- Caramel sauce. Go storebought here. If you are feeling really ambitious, you can, of course, make your own caramel sauce. Or you could grab a can of Hershey's Top Scotch. It is exactly the right flavor of caramel for pecan pie.
So there you have it... the prettiest of cheesecakes. With lots of caramel sauce. Lots.
How to prevent your cheesecake top from cracking
The trick it to bake your cake slowly.
There are a couple of methods that help prevent cracks. Basically, the most important point here it to control the temperature while the cake bakes. Cheesecakse -- because they are so full of eggs - like a low and slow heat. A few tips:
- Use the waterbath method to keep a moist and even heat in your oven. The recipe below describes how I usually do this.
- Avoid openning the door of the oven to check on the cake while it is baking.
- The cake is done when it is mostly set on top. The very center may seem still a bit jiggly. This is okay. It will firm up as the cake cools.
- When the cake appears done, as noted above, turn off the oven and crack the oven door. Allow the cake to sit in oven for about an hour. Then remove it to a cooling rack.
- Cheesecakes are best made the day before. Once the cake has completely cooled I wrap it in plastic and store overnight before topping and serving.
A few more notes - make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature before you start making the cake. Lumps in the batter will almost guarrentee cracks. And don't over beat the eggs when you add them to the cake. This creates air, and air will get trapped inside the batter and create cracks.
Pecan Pie Cheesecake with Canadian Whiskey
For the crust:
- 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs from five 4-3/4 by 2-1/4 inch crackers
- 1/2 cup pecans 1-3/4 ounce, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter 1/4 cup, melted and cooled
For the cheesecake
- 24 oz cream cheese 3 - 8oz bricks of cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1-1/2 Tablespoons whiskey or bourbon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup caramel sauce 284ml Hershey's Top Scotch Butterscotch Topping (or caramel topping of your choice)
- 1-1/2 cups pecan halves
For the crust:
- Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Spray a 10 inch spring-form pan with cooking spray and wrap the outside of the pan with aliuminon foil. Press graham cracker mixture into the bottom of the pan, press firmly, evenly, and about 1 inch up the sides. Chilli crust in refrigerator for 1 hour.
For the filling:
- Preheat oven to 350 and boil a kettle of water. You will need a large, shallow roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet to place under the cake in the oven for the waterbath.
- In the bowl of stand mixer add cream cheese and sugar and mix on medium speed until creamy and well blended. Continue to beat on low speed. Add vanilla, whisky and eggs, one at a time until well blended after each addition. Do not over beat the eggs. Finally, add spices and ensure they are fully incorporated. Pour mixture into spring-form pan, on top of chilled crust.
- Prepare the water bath: fill the roasting pan or rimmed baking pan on the bottom rack in the oven and carefully fill with boiling water. Place the cheesecake filled spring-form pan on a oven rack above the water bath, so that the cake is approximately in the middle of the oven.
- Bake at 350 until the center is set (but not cracked) about 50 to 60 minutes. I found 50 was just perfect. The edges of the pie may start to brown, which looks pretty with the caramel sauce on top.
- When the cake is set, turn off the oven and crack open the oven door. Leave the cake in the oven to cool for about an hour, two hours is fine. You want to the cake to cool slowly. Then remove from oven and allow to cool completely before adding toppings.
- Once cake is completely cooled, remove ring from around the base of the spring-form pan. I like to run a thin knife gently around the edge of the cake before I do this to loosen the cake from the ring. Place cake on serving platter (I leave the bottom of the spring form under the cake to make it easier to move around).
- Pour the caramel sauce over the top of the cake. Just enough to fill the center. I used about 3/4 of the can. Place pecans on top of the caramel sauce. Serve