By Bailey Brammer | Editor-in-Chief
Although a chilly autumn is practically a myth in Texas, we still have the opportunity to celebrate all things fall, whether that be through carving pumpkins with pals or ordering pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks.
If you’re searching for a Wacoan way to enjoy the change in seasons, look no further than the Queen of Magnolia herself, the lovely Joanna Gaines. In 2015, Gaines posted a recipe on her blog for a “No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake” that was quick and simple. Two years later, on National Pumpkin Day, I’ve decided to try my hand at her seasonal treat while adding my own twist.
The recipe initially called for:
- 10 graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 large tub (12 oz.) whipped topping (Cool Whip)
However, being that I’m all about fall, I decided to swap out a few ingredients for some that might be a bit more festive. Instead of the graham crackers, I bought a bag of ginger snaps to give the crust a bit more of that autumn-y feel. Also, I decided to make my own whipped cream instead of purchasing Cool Whip, just because it only takes a few extra minutes and is much tastier in my opinion.
To start off, the recipe asks you to “Crush graham crackers and mix with butter. Press onto the bottom of jar or serving glass.” Since I swapped my graham crackers for ginger snaps, I placed about 25 cookies or so in a plastic Ziplock baggie, and then double bagged it so that when I crushed the cookies, the bag wouldn’t rip. I used a kitchen hammer to smash the ginger snaps, but if you don’t have one of those, you can use a small sauce pan or something else that’s hard and flat.
Next, Gaines directs us to “With a mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth, then add the pumpkin, vanilla, sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Mix it all together until it’s creamy.” I followed these instructions, but decided to add a touch of cinnamon, some cloves and a dash of nutmeg, just to continue to add to the festive-ness. Also, when cooking with cream cheese, and especially when making cheesecake, it’s imperative that the cream cheese be room temperature. Leave it out for about 45 minutes to an hour before you begin your baking. Otherwise, the cream cheese will stick to the sides of the bowl when you mix it, and your mixture will turn out lumpy.
This is where my version of the cheesecake begins to differ a lot from Gaines’. She instructs us to next “Add half of the whipped topping or whipped cream and gently stir it together.” Since I made my own whipped cream, I poured my pumpkin mixture into a separate bowl and set it aside, and then combined one cup of heavy whipping cream, two tablespoons of sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla.
This is a simple, easy version of homemade whipped cream that literally only takes two extra minutes. After you’ve combined your ingredients, beat the mixture for about two minutes, or until it starts to get fluffy and forms stiff peaks. While using an electric mixer for this would work better, you can also do this by hand.
After completing the whipped cream, I spooned half of it into the pumpkin mixture and stirred it until they were fully incorporated. Finally, the recipe says “To assemble, spoon a layer of your pumpkin cheesecake mix over the cookies in each jar and top with whipped cream if desired.”
I found that this dessert was best served if chilled for about 30 minutes rather than eaten right after its creation. Overall, our favorite home decorator’s recipe was indeed simple and delicious, and lent itself to whatever changes I came up with. While I certainly preferred my homemade whipped cream and ginger snap crust, it’s safe to say that I would definitely check out one of Gaines’ recipes again …even if I might make a few alterations.