Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Pecan Praline Topping are your favorite pumpkin cheesecake (but better!) in easy, portable, handheld hero sizes – and they’re make ahead friendly!
These Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes will be the hit of Thanksgiving and everyone’s new favorite fall dessert! They combine both lusciously creamy, warmly spiced pumpkin cheesecake with tantalizingly sweet and crunchy brown sugar pecan praline topping, all crowned with pillowy whipped cream. These mini pumpkin cheesecakes are also fabulous because they are easier to make than traditional cheesecake (no water bath or cracking), feed a crowd (they make 24), are fun to serve (and eat!) and they are make ahead friendly which eliminates all of that last-minute stress/hassle. You can even add the adorable whipped cream topping ahead of time with my trick for stabilized whipped cream. In this Min Pumpkin Cheesecake post, I’ve included step by step photos, tips and tricks and everything you need to know to make these Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes the hit of the season, even if you’ve never made cheesecake before!
Fall ‘tis the season for everything pumpkin! If you’re a pumpkin lover, don’t miss all of my pumpkin recipes! Pumpkin Nutella bars, pumpkin Bundt cake, pumpkin roll and Nutella pumpkin roll, pumpkin bread, pumpkin bread pudding, pumpkin spice cake and pumpkin muffins are all fabulous!
How to Make Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes Video
The best Pumpkin Cheesecake!
Do you have a must-make annual pumpkin dessert? For decades my mom would bring her famous pumpkin pie to every Thanksgiving, and then one year she brought her famous pumpkin pie AND a pumpkin cheesecake. We all agreed the pumpkin cheesecake stole the show, I mean, it is cheesecake AND pumpkin! Since that love-at-first bite years ago, I’ve made several adaptations of pumpkin cheesecake such as my double layer pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake bars and now I’m ecstatic to share these Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with you!
These Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes instantly have become my must-make dessert of fall. They are luxuriously creamy, bursting with warm pumpkin goodness complimented by tangy cheesecake and the crunchy candied pecan praline elevates them to the best Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes, in my humble opinion. Once you sink your teeth into these bites of bliss, you will never go back to traditional pumpkin pie again!
These Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes are the best because:
- The cheesecake: the addition of sour cream and an extra egg yolk make the cheesecake extra creamy and the additional lemon juice brightens the flavor.
- The pumpkin: generous shakes of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger combined with the pumpkin puree translate into warm pumpkin pie flavor that cuts through the rich cheesecake.
- The pecan praline: the praline topping is the icing on an already delicious but would-be-one-note-creamy cheesecake. The crunchy pecans bathed in brown sugar with a hint of vanilla add the satisfying crunch you didn’t know you were missing. SO addicting!
Pumpkin Cheesecake Made easy!
You will also love that these Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes look impressive and adorable, but are actually easy to make!
These Mini Cheesecakes…
- are easy to make in a muffin tin and don’t require a water bath
- are easy to bake in muffin wrappers and don’t require a spring pan
- bake faster than a whole cheesecake
- won’t crack on top because they bake so quickly
- require less cooling time than a whole cheesecake
- are the perfect transportable party size without having to slice a whole cheesecake or even use forks
- Are fun to eat!
To make these Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes, you will whip up an easy graham cracker crust and bake for 5 minutes while you beat the cheesecake ingredients together, then bake the cheesecakes for 20 minutes, add your pecan praline topping and bake another 5-10 minutes. Viola!
So, if you’re looking for a make ahead, stress free, show stopping dessert that everyone LOVES, look no further than these Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes! Be the hero of Thanksgiving with this new twist on the comforting classic!
Mini PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE INGREDIENTS
- Graham crackers: I’ve stuck with honey graham crackers to keep the crust delish but neutral so the cheesecake and pecan praline topping remain the star of the show. You will need 14 graham cracker sheets.
- Butter: use unsalted butter so we can control the salt in the recipe.
- Sugar: brown sugar as opposed to granulated sugar adds richer, slight molasses flavor. I use light brown sugar but you can use medium or dark if that’s what you have on hand.
- Cream cheese: I used full fat cream cheese but it will also work with less fat, but remember less fat = less flavor and creaminess. Please do NOT use nonfat cream cheese.
- Sour cream: full fat please!
- Sugar: granulated sugar will do the trick.
- Egg: use 3 large eggs and one large egg yolk (so you will need a total of 4 eggs). The eggs bind the cheesecake together and the extra yolk makes it extra creamy. Take care your eggs are at room temperature.
- Lemon juice: bottled or fresh is fine.
- Vanilla extract: use quality extract for best results.
- Pumpkin puree: use pure pumpkin puree NOT Pumpkin Pie Filling. Pumpkin Puree is 100% pure pumpkin that has been cooked and pureed. Pumpkin Pie Filling, however, is sweetened and seasoned with spices and will not work in this recipe.
- Seasonings: ground cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg, ginger infuse the mini pumpkin cheesecakes with that warm fall goodness.
THE Pecan praline
Pecan praline is a southern tradition of candied pecans, commonly made with sugar, corn syrup, milk, butter, and pecan halves dating back to the 17 century. We are taking the essence of pecan praline to make this tasty topping. You will need:
- Pecans: use plain, unsalted, raw pecans.
- Dark brown sugar: contains more molasses than light brown sugar for a richer flavor with more pronounced caramel undertones. You may use light brown sugar if that’s all you have on hand.
- Granulated sugar: is sprinkled on the top for a candied affect. Combining granulated sugar and brown sugar gives you the bests of both sugars.
- Corn syrup: is commonly used in candy making and is the glue that holds pecans topping together. You may substitute with pure maple syrup but it will affect the flavor.
- Vanilla extract: adds an extra oomph of flavor.
- Salt: enhances the flavors and balances out the sweetness.
Stabilized whipped cream (optional)
- Heavy cream: labeled “heavy whipping cream” at the grocery store. You must use heavy cream – no other substitutions will work. Take care that your heavy cream is very cold, remove it from the refrigerator just when ready to use.
- Unflavored gelatin: is a common baking ingredient and can be found next to the packages of Jell-O and pudding at your grocery store. It is what makes this “stabilized” whipped cream and not just whipped cream.
- Powdered sugar: also known as confectioner’s sugar interacts better with the gelatin than granulated sugar.
- Vanilla extract: use quality extract for best results.
- Water: cold tap water please.
CAN YOU MAKE PUMPKIN cheesecake WITH CANNED PUMPKIN? FRESH PUMPKIN?
You are welcome to use your own fresh pumpkin instead of canned pumpkin puree. My only caution is that you cannot use a carving pumpkin (like the pumpkin you carve for Halloween), but need to use a sugar pumpkin. Sugar pumpkins are smaller, sweeter, and less fibrous than carving pumpkins. Carving pumpkins are raised for their durability and not their taste; they are blander, stringier and moister than sugar pumpkins. To make pumpkin puree:
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (for easy cleanup). Halve the pumpkin(s) and scoop out the seeds (reserve seeds for roasting if you wish). Slice each pumpkin halve in half to make quarters.
- Place pumpkin quarters cut sides down on the baking sheet. Roast for 35 minutes at 425 OR until the flesh easily pierces through with a fork. Set aside to cool for a few minutes (you can use this time to clean the pumpkin seeds) then peel the pumpkin skin off of the pumpkins; discard the skin.
- To drain cooked, fresh pumpkin, line a strainer with cheesecloth and place over a large bowl. Add the cooked pumpkin puree and let drain for 1-2 hours or until the pumpkin is thick and can hold its shape when pressed together in the cheesecloth. Once the pumpkin is to this consistency, you can use it in this recipe!
I don’t recommend straying too far from the cheesecake recipe as baking is science and can go wrong very quickly, but you can make adjustments to the topping or the crust. You can omit the topping altogether, go with a streusel topping, gingersnap topping or even crushed Oreo topping.
For the crust, you may also substitute with your favorite cookie (1 ¾ cup) to create:
- shortbread crust
- gingerbread cookie crust
- Oreo crust
- cinnamon graham cracker crust
- vanilla wafer crust
If using shortbread cookies or gingersnap cookies, combine them with the sugar and butter per recipe instructions. If using Oreos, combine them with sugar but reduce the butter to 3 tablespoons because the Oreo filling creates the same binding effect.
GLUTEN FREE CRUST
To make a gluten free crust, simply use your favorite gluten free cookie such as gluten-free graham crackers.
HOW TO MAKE MINI PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE
Now onto the main event – How to make Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes. There are a few steps, but each one is very simple and you can make them at different stages/parts of the day if you wish:
STEP 1: CRUST
First, you’ll melt butter in a large microwave safe bowl. I use a large bowl so I can add the Graham crackers and sugar directly to it and don’t have to dirty one more dish. You can grind the crackers in your food processor in a sealable bag with a rolling pin. You’ll want very finely ground crumbs because they stick together better.
Distribute the crumbs between lightly greased cupcake liners in TWO muffin tins (for a total of 24) and firmly press the crumbs down on the bottom of the pan into an even layer. You can use the back of a spoon or the bottom of a lightly greased cup to press the crumbs.
Bake the crust at 350 degrees F for 5 minutes then allow to cool while you make the pecan praline topping and the cheesecake. Baking the crust before adding the cheesecake allows it to seal together and cooling the crust before adding the cheesecake prevents it from becoming soggy.
STEP 2: PECAN PRALINE TOPPING
For the easy, crazy delicious topping, we combine chopped pecans, brown sugar, vanilla and a small amount of corn syrup. This super easy, simplified approach to the praline adds a brown sugar crunch without all the work of boiling pecans with corn syrup for a sticky topping that is too sweet for this dessert. This praline topping, however, is perfection.
STEP 3: MAKE CHEESECAKE
Cheesecake might sound intimidating but that usually is because it involves a spring form pan, a water bath, not knowing exactly when it’s done, fear of cracking, etc. – but not these mini pumpkin cheesecakes! Making these cheesecakes is so easy, the mixer literally does all the work!! You’ll simply beat cream cheese and sugar together until fluffy, mix in the eggs, sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla and then the pumpkin puree cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. Next, evenly distribute the gorgeous cheesecake filling between the 24 cupcake liners.
STEP 4: bake cheesecake
Bake cheesecakes at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove muffin tins from the oven and sprinkle the pecan praline topping evenly over each cheesecake, gently patting it down with your hands, followed by a sprinkling of granulated sugar. Return the cheesecakes to the oven and bake another 5-10 minutes, just long enough for the pecans to roast and the topping to clump as the buttery browns sugar and corn syrup melt and coat the pecans.
STEP 5: COOL cheesecake
Remove the muffin tins from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack at room temperature for 90 minutes (no less!), then cover and transfer to refrigerator and chill at least 3 hours (best if 24).
STEP 6: stabilized whipped cream (optional)
Making stabilized whipped cream is like making traditional whipped cream, just with the easy added steps of combining gelatin with water and letting it sit for 5 minutes, then microwaving for 10 seconds.
While you’re waiting for the gelatin to cool, you’ll mix heavy cream, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until it thickens and forms soft peaks (the whipped cream folds over when you lift the beaters out of the bowl). Once you’ve reached the soft peak stage, you’ll slowly pour the cooled gelatin mixture in as your mixing the whipped cream and continue to mix until the whipped cream forms stiff peaks (the whipped cream stands straight up and doesn’t fold over when you lift the beaters out of the bowl).
You can pipe the stabilized whipped cream onto the room temperature cheesecakes before you pop them into the fridge or any time after that. The beauty of stabilized whipped cream is it will hold its shape indefinitely. If using regular whipped cream, top just before serving.
HOW TO KNOW WHEN pumpkin CHEESECAKEs ARE DONE
You don’t want to bake your Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes until they are completely firm or they will be overcooked by the time they cool, resulting in dry, heavy, far less creamy cheesecakes. Instead, bake the cheesecakes until the outside is firm and slightly puffed and the center of the cheesecake is barely jiggly, but not runny.
The baking time can vary due to the differences in ovens, baking pans, beating times, etc., so make sure to check the cheesecake 5 minutes after baking with the pecan praline topping and continue to bake if needed (mine took the full 10 minutes after adding the praline).
TIPS FOR mini PUMPKIN cheesecake
Although this Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe is simple, there are a few proper techniques that ensure the perfect cheesecakes. Here’s what to pay special attention to:
- Use the correct pan size. This recipe is for REGULAR muffin size/cupcake size tins – not mini muffin tins.
- Grease cupcake liners. Don’t forget to lightly spray the cupcake liners with cooking spray or your cheesecakes won’t peel away cleanly.
- Use food processor. The easiest way to make graham cracker crumbs is in your food processor – it literally takes seconds! If you don’t have a food processor, you can crush the crackers in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or side of a can.
- Use fine crumbs. The finer the crumbs, the more cohesive the crust and less crumbly it will be when baked.
- Press crumbs firmly into pan. Use the bottom of a cup or measuring cup to get the crust layer nice and compact so it doesn’t crumble later.
- Use soft cream cheese. The cream cheese should be soft enough that it can easily beat into a creamy consistency. If it is not soft enough, then it will yield lumpy cheesecake and will leave white specks in the pumpkin puree (see three methods to soften cream cheese below).
- Beat cream cheese until fluffy. The most important part of making your Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes is to beat the cream cheese and sugar until light and fully with your paddle attachment – about 4 minutes. Four minutes can seem like a long time, so set your timer and don’t stop early! Beating the cream cheese creates lusciously smooth and creamy cheesecake.
- Don’t overbeat eggs. Once you add the eggs, beat as LITTLE as possible, beating just until combined after each egg addition. Overbeating eggs can lead to the cheesecake cracking and not as creamy cheesecake.
- Use room temperature ingredients. Use room temperature eggs, egg yolks, and sour cream. This allows you to beat as little as possible when adding the eggs.
- To quickly bring eggs to room temperature: Fill a bowl with warm water (not hot) and add eggs and let sit 10-20 minutes.
- Don’t skip the lemon or sour cream! The both add just the right tanginess to offset the sweetness and cut through the richness.
- Don’t overbake cheesecakes. Over baking the pumpkin cheesecakes means less creamy pumpkin cheesecakes. You want the edges to be firm but the center to wobble slightly when shaken.
- Cool pumpkin cheesecakes to room temperature. Cool the Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes on the counter to allow them to cool gradually. If you transfer warm cheesecakes to the refrigerator, they won’t firm up completely and can even crack.
- Chill pumpkin cheesecakes long enough. Don’t rush the chilling process as it allows the flavors to build, and marry. You may serve the Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes 6 hours after chilling, but I suggest allowing them to chill for a full 24-48 hours for the best flavor – you will be amazed at the difference it makes!
- Use the stabilized whipped cream. If you want to prep the Mini Cheesecakes 100% in advance, stabilized whipped cream is the way to go. You can pipe on the whipped cream days ahead of time them just pull out your gorgeous pumpkin cheesecakes when you’re ready to serve.
- Chill bowl and beaters. It’s best to chill your bowl and beaters for about 15 minutes before making the whipped cream. It’s not essential, but chilling helps your whipped cream thicken more quickly and increases the volume.
- Chill gelatin. Make sure to let your gelatin cool slightly before mixing it into the whipped cream, you don’t want it to be too hot when you add it to the bowl.
- Don’t overwhip whipped cream. Stop mixing as soon as stiff peaks form because over-whipped cream becomes grainy. If you’ve accidently reached the grainy stage, you can try and salvage the whipped creamy by adding a few tablespoons of fresh cream and gently mixing it in by hand using a wire whisk. If the whipped cream is separated, then unfortunately it can’t be fixed.
HOW TO SOFTEN CREAM CHEESE FOR CHEESECAKE
Cream cheese is a key ingredient in these Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes so it’s important that it is softened correctly in order to produce lump free cheesecake. To soften cream cheese, you have three options:
- Water bath: This is my preferred method to soften cream cheese because it softens it evenly throughout without the risk of scorching it. To create a water bath, fill a medium bowl with hot water. Place the sealed, packaged cream cheese in the bowl for 10 minutes to soften. If it isn’t soft enough after 10 minutes, then dump out the hot water, refill and repeat.
- Counter + Microwave: This is my second preferred method as it is super quick and easy and allows the cream cheese to come to room temperature evenly. Cube cream cheese and transfer it to a microwave safe plate. Microwave for a few 30 seconds intervals then allow cream cheese to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. This gives it a head start to soften at room temperature.
- Soften at room temperature: The FDA states cream cheese can sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Cubing it into small cubes first will help it soften more quickly and evenly.
- Microwave: This method is if you need cream cheese NOW but it is a little riskier because the cream cheese can overcook/scorch – so proceed with care and caution. Cube cream cheese and transfer to a microwave safe plate. Microwave for 15-20 seconds, stir and microwave another 15 seconds. Repeat until cream cheese is softened.
These mini pumpkin cheesecakes are very best if allowed to chill at least 24 hours, making them the perfect make ahead dessert. I would say they are at their prime 24-48 hours after making, but are still scrumptious if you make them even farther ahead of time.
My goal for this mini pumpkin cheesecake recipe was to create a dessert that was 100% make ahead friendly – that includes the whipped cream. If you make traditional whipped cream and pipe it onto the cheesecakes, it will be deflated, or even worse, weeping within the hour. This is where miraculous stabilized whipped cream saves the day.
Stabilized whipped cream is simply heavy cream that has been whipped with gelatin in order to give it structure but it doesn’t alter the flavor.
To use this stabilized whipped cream, you’ll pipe it onto the mini pumpkin cheesecakes any time after they’ve cooled to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to serve. The whipped cream will hold its shape long after the last cheesecake is gone (it holds indefinitely). This mean your adorable desserts can be 100% ready to serve days before Thanksgiving! And bonus, they taste even better the second day.
You can completely assemble, bake and chill the Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes as described above, or prep different elements of the recipe ahead of time, here’s how:
- Crust: bake, cool then cover with foil 24 hours ahead of filling. No need to refrigerate.
- Cheesecake: beat the cheesecake ingredients together, cover and chill for up to 48 hours. Give the cheesecake a whisk before layering on the cooled crust.
- Pecan praline: can be combined 24 hours ahead of time and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
HOW TO STORE
These Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes should be covered and stored in the refrigerator. They are at their prime 24-48 hours after making, but are good for up to 7 days. Let them sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.
I like to use a cake container to cover the pumpkin cheesecakes so I can pipe on the whipped cream and cover them without smooshing them. If you don’t have a cake container, you can use a large inverted bowl or tent with foil.
how to freeze
- Line chilled cheesecakes in their cupcake liners on a baking sheet or tray without touching.
- Place the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze until solid (about 1 hour); this prevents the cheesecakes from freezing together later when stored. Alternatively, you can skip this step and freeze cheesecakes individually in their own plastic bags.
- Transfer mini pumpkin cheesecakes to a freezer safe airtight container; place parchment paper in between each row if stacking.
- Freeze for up to 3 months.
- When ready to eat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
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