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Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha) Cheesecake

Marcela Valladolid makes pumpkin cheesecake for fall
TODAY Show: Food Network's Marcela Valladolid makes festive fall cheesecakes. -- November 5, 2015Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

Chef notes

Impress your guests on Thanksgiving day with Marcela Valladolid's stunning pumpkin cheesecake topped with shards of pumpkin-brown sugar brittle.


  • 2 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash, peeled
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar, about 3 ounces
  • 5 ounces Maria crackers (about 1 pack or 32 crackers), or graham crackers
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin-dark brown sugar syrup
  • 1 cup toasted shelled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


To make the filling and crust:

Place cubed butternut squash, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Cover and let cook until squash is cooked through and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer squash and 1/4 cup dark brown sugar syrup to blender and process until very smooth. Let cool. Reserve 1/3 cup syrup for brittle.

Meanwhile, blend the Maria crackers and the rest of the dark brown sugar and butter and process until the crumbs come together. Press the crumbs into the prepared springform pan. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool completely.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat cream cheese and mascarpone until creamy, about 1 minute. Add sugar, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and pumpkin puree and beat well, scraping down the bowl as needed, until well incorporated, about 1 minute.

Pour mixture over cooled crust and bake at 350 degrees F until light golden brown and the center barely jiggles, about 1 hour. Let cool at room temperature for 2 hours. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until completely cold, preferably overnight or for at least 6 hours.

To make the brittle:

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Combine sugar, remaining pumpkin syrup, and butter in a medium stainless steel, or any other non-reactive pot, and cook until mixture has thickened, darkened slightly, and reached 300 degrees F on a candy or instant read thermometer. Turn off heat. Add pepitas, salt and baking soda and stir, until well combined. Quickly pour caramel onto prepared pan and let stand until candy hardens. Break into small pieces.

To assemble the cheesecake:

Once the cheesecake has cooled, release and remove the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake on the bottom of the pan. Place on a cake platter.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine cream, and sugar. Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Place whipped cream in a pastry bag, fitted with a large open star tip. Pipe rosettes around edge of cheesecake and top with pieces of brittle.