Cooking Channel Pumpkin Bake-Off

By: Sara Levine

To celebrate pumpkin season, which unofficially lasts from October 1 through Thanksgiving, Cooking Channel staff decided to forgo a carving contest — too messy for the office — in favor of a fun and tasty (and much cleaner) pumpkin dessert bake-off.

The sweet and toasty smell of pumpkin (and pumpkin pie spice) filled the room as we nibbled, evaluated, and voted for our top pick. Organizer extraordinaire Michelle welcomed and encouraged savory entries, but all participants preferred the sweet route. Here’s a sampling from the pumpkin dessert buffet.

Kristine contributed a super-popular pumpkin cheesecake from Food.com: “It’s billed as an unofficial Cheesecake Factory copycat and a former Cheesecake Factory employee even left a 5-star review giving it a thumbs up for being spot on,” she says. Maple whipped cream was served on the side.

Kate riffed off of Sassy Radish’s pumpkin bread pudding recipe, subbing rich, eggy brioche for challah.

Kirsten’s pumpkin bundt cake was studded with lots of chocolate chips and baked up in a lovely rose-shaped pan. The recipe comes from the new cookbook we’re giving away this week, Desserts from the Loveless Cafe. The giveaway ends at 5pm today, so hurry up and  enter to win if you want a chance at the book!

Alison’s pumpkin tiramisu offered an ingenious combination of pumpkin-infused mascarpone and boozy gingersnap cookies.

Michelle came in second place with a pumpkin ice cream from scratch, sandwiched between two homemade ginger snaps.

But the crowd favorite and ‘Pumpkin Fest’ winner was Rich’s walnut-topped pumpkin cheesecake**. His family recipe was a late addition to the spread, but, almost immediately, half of it was gone.

** By popular demand, Rich has shared his winning family recipe with us. Try it out for yourself at home.

Walnut Pumpkin Cheesecake
Cook Time: 1 hour 35 min

Make 1 day ahead.

Crust:
16 graham crackers, crushed
3/8 cup white sugar
8 tablespoons melted butter
Filling:
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
5 eggs
1 16-ounce can organic pumpkin
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
Topping:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
6 tablespoons butter
Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Prepare crust: Melt the butter and combine graham crackers and sugar in bowl, then place mixture into 10' springform pan. Use spoon to compact the crust along the bottom and sides of the pan.

3. Prepare filling: Beat the cream cheese, then add the remaining ingredients and beat to a smooth consistency. Pour the filling into crust-filled pan. Place in the preheated oven for 1 hour 35 minutes. Check readiness by inserting toothpick in top and pull out to see if clean. If the toothpick is wet, it’s not ready.

4. Prepare topping: Chop the walnuts, then combine with the sugar and room temperature butter in a bowl and mix together.

5. Once the cheesecake is ready, take it out of oven, add walnut topping and place back in oven for another 10 minutes. Let the cheesecake set to cool, then place it in the fridge overnight. Serve chilled the next day.

Are you in the mood to bake something pumpkin-y this weekend? This cook-off delinquent who didn’t enter her own dish sure is! Here are some favorite pumpkin recipes from Cooking Channel to get you started:

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