Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle

Pumpkin pie is the tradition at Thanksgiving. Sarah Kieffer, author of The Vanilla Bean Baking Book, keeps with the pumpkin tradition. With a twist.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifle
Yellow Cake recipe from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book by Sarah Kieffer

Yellow Cake

3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups (284g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (297g) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks; 227g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces

Pumpkin Cheesecake

One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
1/3 cup (66g) brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Pinch cloves
16 ounces (452g) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (198g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup heavy cream

Graham Cracker Crumbs

2 cups (200g) graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the cake

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour two 8 by 2-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, sour cream, and buttermilk.

In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low until combined. With the mixer running on low, add the butter one piece at a time, beating until the mixture resembles coarse sand. With the mixer still running on low, slowly add half the wet ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. with the mixer running on low, add the rest of the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 20 seconds (the batter may still look a little bumpy). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and use a spatula to mix the batter a few more times.

Divide the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Tap the pans gently on the counter 2 times to help get rid of any bubbles. Bake 35 to 50 minutes (see note above), rotating the pans halfway through, until the cake are golden brown and a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment paper, and let cool completely

For the pumpkin cheesecake filling

Cooking the pumpkin gets rid of extra moisture, and the concentrated pumpkin has a much better flavor.

Combine the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in a small saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat to medium and continue to heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (the mixture is quite thick, so you need to look for slow bubbles). Once the puree is bubbling, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes, still stirring. Remove the puree from the heat. For a fine consistency, use a blender (or stick blender) to blitz. Cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the cream cheese until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar and beat again until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed, 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla, lemon juice, salt, and heavy cream, and mix on low until combined. Add the cooled pumpkin mixture and mix until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Chill the mixture at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

For the graham cracker crumbs

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the crumbs, sugar, and butter. Mix until combined. Spread the crumbs onto the prepared pan, and bake 7-10 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Move the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.

For the whipped cream

At least ten minutes before whipping the cream, place the bowl and whisk attachment you will be using in the freezer, and let chill. Add the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla to the chilled mixer bowl, then place on the stand mixer and fit the mixer with the chilled whisk attachment.

Beat the cream on low speed for 30-45 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and continue beating, about 30-45 more seconds. Increase speed to high and continue beating until cream is smooth, thick, and nearly double in volume, another 30 seconds to a minute. The whipped cream can be made two hours ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.

To Assemble

Slice the cake layers in half horizontally. Fit one layer of cake snugly in the bottom of a 4-quart trifle dish or other glass bowl, trimming if necessary. Gently spread the top of the layer with 1/3 of the pumpkin mixture, 1/3 of the graham cracker crumbs, and then 1/3 of whipped cream. Repeat to make two more layers; garnish with any remaining graham cracker crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 24 hours. (You will have one half cake layer left over.)

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