Anything goes pumpkin desserts

When we think of dessert to end the Thanksgiving feast, pumpkin pie is the popular choice. For years I’ve served the classic pie made from the recipe on the label of the Libby’s pumpkin can. It’s creamy, sweet, spicy and downright delicious. Last year though, I decided to get fancy and make a pumpkin cheesecake. When no one complained, I took that as a sign that anything goes, as long as it’s creamy, sweet and pumpkin.

I like to go the cheesecake route because I can bake it ahead and chill or freeze, freeing up precious time for the rest of the meal. Really easy to bake, and to eat, are Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes. These little gems are just the right size, offering a taste of dessert to guests who are too full for a full-sized slice.

If your plan is to impress, Pumpkin Pecan Layer Cake is a real show-stopper. Moist and delicious, it starts with a spice cake mix, a can of pumpkin puree and loads of chopped pecans. A sweet cream cheese filling, caramel topping and more pecans finish this triple-layer beauty.

Another impressive, yet easy dessert, is Pumpkin Creme Brulee. Simply whisk together the ingredients for the rich and silky pumpkin egg custard and bake in a water bath in individual ramekins. When ready to serve, sprinkle tops with sugar, and brown under the broiler till caramelized. Delicious!

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Crust:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

2 T. brown sugar

2 T. butter, melted

1 T. maple syrup

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Filling:

8 ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 whole egg plus 1 egg white, lightly beaten

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 T. maple syrup

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground ginger

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Pinch of ground cloves

Directions: Combine all crust ingredients. Line mini muffin pans with miniature paper liners. Spoon 1 teaspoon crumb mixture into each liner; gently press into bottom.

In mixing bowl beat cream cheese at high speed of electric mixer till light and fluffy. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix well; spoon mixture into liners. Bake in 350 degree oven 10 minutes. Remove from oven; cool. Store in refrigerator. Makes 2 dozen.

Pumpkin Pecan

Layer Cake

Pecan layer:

2 cups crushed vanilla wafers

1 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup butter, softened

Cake:

1 (18-ounce) package spice cake mix

1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1/4 cup butter, softened

4 eggs

Filling and Frosting:

3 cups powdered sugar

2/3 cup butter, softened

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tsps. vanilla

1/4 cup caramel topping

1 cup pecan halves

Directions: In large mixer bowl combine vanilla wafers crumbs, chopped pecans and 1/4 cup butter. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, till crumbly. Press mixture evenly on bottom of 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

In same bowl combine cake mix, pumpkin, 1/4 cup butter and eggs. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often till well mixed. Spread 1 3/4 cup batter over crumbs in each pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven, 20 to 25 minutes or till wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans. Cool completely.

In small mixer bowl combine the cream cheese, 2/3 cup butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, till light and fluffy.

On serving plate, place 1 layer, nut-side-down. Spread with 1/2 cup filling. Repeat with second layer. Top with third layer, still nut-side-down (do not frost.) With remaining filling, frost sides of cake only.

Spread caramel topping over top of cake, drizzling some over the frosted sides. Arrange pecan halves in 3 rings on top of cake, starting from outside edge to center. Store in refrigerator. Serves 16.

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup pure canned pumpkin

2 tsps. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1 T. white or raw sugar, for caramelizing tops

Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place six 4-ounce ramekins inside a roasting pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla and spices. Add the milk and evaporated milk and whisk again till combined. Evenly divide the mixture among the ramekins.

Pour hot water into the roasting pan halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake about 60 minutes or till custard is just set (the middle will jiggle a little.) Remove ramekins from roasting pan. Cool in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve sprinkle some of the sugar over each ramekin. Roll the sugar around so that tops are completely covered with sugar. Using a kitchen blow torch or oven broiler, melt the sugar till it is caramelized golden brown. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

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