I am not a fan of pumpkin. There, I said it. I like pumpkins for decoration, like seeing them growing in patches, maybe painting one for Halloween, but in terms of pumpkin bread, pumpkin pies, pumpkin spice lattes? Not my thing. Growing up, we were a sweet potato pie family and that’s always stuck with me. Now the experienced foodies out there probably know by now that with most dishes, whether you use sweet potato or pumpkin, the spices are often the same and there’s probably only a slight difference in taste depending on how much sugar is used… but you still won’t see pumpkin “delicacies” coming out of my kitchen.
This sweet potato cheesecake recipe was a result of the combination of my love for cheesecake and the rapidly dwindling supplies of frozen homemade sweet potato pies that my aunt would send us each year. I’ve made sweet potato pies before, but somehow they don’t seem to impress and/or entice as much as cheesecake. I admit it, sometimes I make a dessert to bring to an event that will impress. I’m only human!
- 14-ounce bag of gingersnap cookies, finely ground
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 14-ounce can of canned yams in light syrup*, mashed with fork until it makes 3⁄4 cup
- 24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons apple cider
- 3⁄4 teaspoon ginger
- 3⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons cream
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 10 1 1⁄2-inch springform pan. (Optional) Line the bottom and sides of the pan with buttered parchment paper to make for an easier removal.
- If you’re a kitchen gadget person–like me–grind the cookies up in a food processor, if not, place the cookies in a large zip-top bag and crush them to your desired fineness with a rolling pin or empty wine bottle.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs and melted butter and stir well. Pour the crumbs into the bottom of the springform pan, pressing out from the center and up against the sides to roughly an inch. A thicker base crust will mean less height on the sides. Use any round smooth-bottomed glass, measuring cup or kitchen tool to tamp down the crumbs, forming an even crust.
- Bake for about 10-15 minutes, the edges of the crust should pick up a bit of color but the crust will not be set. Remove from oven to cool slightly while completing the cake batter.
- In a mixer with paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, butter and sugar. Mix until smooth and combined. You may need to pause to scrape down the bowl once or twice.
- Add the reserved sweet potato puree and mix to blend. Add apple cider, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cream and mix well. Add eggs, two at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions and mix just until incorporated and the batter is smooth. (With most mixers, paddle attachments are pretty good at collecting "potato strings" for easy removal.)
- Pour batter into the prepared crust and bake at 350° F for an hour. It should be just set around the edges, and slightly jiggly in the center.
- Employ your own "cheesecake baking/cooling method" here. I prefer an hour at constant temperature, then turning the heat off and leaving it in the oven another hour or two until it’s cooled down to help avoid cracking.
- Some cheesecake recipes call for a slow reducing of temperature over time. Ex: 20 minutes at 350, then 20 at 325, 20 at 300, etc. That’s too much bother for me, but your miles may vary and you know your oven better than I.
- Once the cake has cooled, refrigerate it for a few hours or overnight before serving.
* Notes: My default crust for cheesecakes is now ginger snaps as opposed to graham crackers. It generally adds something extra and I’ve had friends that wanted to nibble on the crust more than the cake. I think the cookie better complements this cheesecake, but feel free to substitute your preferred crust.
I drain the yams and reserve the syrup, adding it back in as needed to make a smooth puree. It’s ok to mash together everything in the can, but be mindful of the level of sweetness.
As I note in the recipe, everyone has their particular cheesecake baking quirks, usually based on their oven or aversion to cracked cheesecakes. Sometimes I use a water bath or just a baking pan filled with water for steam, but the addition of the sweet potato puree to this one seems to ward off cracking, but if you have a standard baking method, there’s no need to deviate just for this recipe.
And before the purists get on my case, I know, the recipe says “sweet potato” and I’m using canned yams. I consider that a result of my upbringing as well since we didn’t really know the difference and more often than not bought cans labeled “yams” for the pie. I have made this with actual sweet potatoes–but not actual yams–before, and when it comes to the supermarket aisle, you’ll often see cans with both “yams” and “sweet potatoes” on the label. From what I can tell, what’s in the cans are sweet potatoes, but the cake will still taste great.
Obviously this cheesecake would be a hit at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but don’t be afraid to serve it anytime. Enjoy!