Mini Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Mini Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecakes are creamy cheesecake bites topped with salted caramel sauce and whipped cream!

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Two years ago today I hit the “Publish” button for the first time, creating a tiny, little speckle on the Internet.  It wasn’t even a recipe, it was merely a little post proclaiming my love for fall.  I thought I knew what I was doing a little bit, having read an awesome book titled Will Write for Food, by Dianne Jacobs, but in the grand scheme of things, I new nothing.  I don’t claim to know everything about blogging now…I still have a LOT to learn.  I’m happy where my blog is now for the most part, but there’s plenty of room for growth.  In the near future, I want to hit my first blogging conference, and attend photography and food writing workshops/classes.  This blog thing…it’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. 🙂

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Being that it’s my 2 year anniversary, something special was in order, and it needed to be something to celebrate fall as well!  Last year I celebrated by kicking off pumpkin season with my Pumpkin Cupcakes with Coconut Filling and Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.  I decided to kick off pumpkin season on my anniversary this year too, and I was stuck between mini pumpkin cheesecakes, a pumpkin cake roll, or pumpkin donuts.  I asked my Facebook readers which of the 3 they would choose, and pumpkin cheesecakes won.  Secretly, I was glad.  And that doesn’t mean I won’t get to a pumpkin cake roll and donuts later in the season, because they’re gonna happen. 🙂

I purchased a mini cheesecake pan last year, and somehow never used it.  I’ve told you I don’t do cheesecake much because it’s so heavy, but little bite sized ones?   Oh yeah, I do those.  Especially when it comes to pumpkin…I love pumpkin cheesecake.

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I used only brown sugar in this recipe — in the crust and the filling — because the warm flavors go so well with the pumpkin.  I also added finely chopped, toasted pecans to the crust, because I love the flavor, texture, and pecans also pair so well with pumpkin.  Think of the pumpkin as the star here, and the brown sugar and pecans are the supporting cast.

What else does pumpkin need?  Whipped cream….lightly sweetened fresh whipped cream…with a touch of cinnamon  sprinkled over the top.  And then, because it makes almost everything better, salted caramel sauce is drizzled over the top.  Not only does it taste incredible, it adds drama to the presentation too.  There’s just something about caramel sauce oozing down the sides that gets me every time. 🙂

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I have to thank my dog for this caramel sauce, as strange as it sounds.  The caramel was bubbling away with a little color around the edges, and normally I’m so afraid it’s going to burn, I pull it off maybe a touch too soon for my taste.  See, I love caramel when it’s a deep, dark amber because it’s not as sweet.  It has a mild burnt flavor without being burnt, if that makes sense.  Well, today my dog needed to go out, and I took my time about it thinking the caramel wasn’t too close yet.  When I got back, it was totally done, and I was afraid overly done.  I whisked in the cream, butter, and sea salt, and it was the most perfect caramel sauce I’ve ever made.  My dog is getting extra treats tomorrow. 🙂

If you don’t have a mini cheesecake pan, just use a standard muffin or mini muffin pan lined with paper liners.  Just be sure to keep an eye on them in the oven because cooking time will vary.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my blog’s 2 year anniversary than with these adorable little cheesecakes.  What about a giveaway, you ask?  I’m glad you asked, because that’s happening next week!  It’s not an anniversary without a giveaway is it?  And you deserve it after putting up with me for 2 whole years.  🙂

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Mini Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecakes
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Mini Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecakes are lightened up, creamy cheesecakes full of pumpkin and spice, atop a brown sugar pecan graham cracker crust. Top with whipped cream and salted caramel sauce for the ultimate fall dessert!
Serves: 12 mini cheesecakes
Ingredients
For the crust:
  • ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup finely chopped, toasted pecans
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • pinch of salt
For the filling:
  • (1) 8 ounce package ⅓ less fat neufchâtel cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream (I used full fat)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the salted caramel sauce:
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 drops fresh lemon juice*
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
  • ½ teaspoon fleur de sel or finishing salt (I used Maldon)
For the whipped cream:
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ground cinnamon, for garnish (optional)
  • fleur de sel or finishing salt, for garnish (optional)
Instructions
Prepare the crust:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the inserts into the bottom of each of the (12) cavities of a mini cheesecake pan, and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Place the graham cracker crumbs, pecans, brown sugar, and pinch of salt in a small bowl and stir to combine. Add the butter and stir until the mixture is well coated with butter. Drop 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the mixture into the each of the (12) cavities, and press down firmly with the back of a teaspoon. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack while you make the filling.
Prepare the filling:
  1. Beat the cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar, pumpkin, sour cream, egg, vanilla, and spices, and beat until smooth and well combined. Fill each cavity with the filling, leaving about ¼" of space at the top. You will have a bit of filling leftover. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 15-20 minutes or until set. Begin checking for doneness after 10 minutes, as oven temperatures vary considerably. Cool 20 minutes on a wire rack, then using your finger, push up through the hole in the bottom of each cheesecake and remove each one. Use a knife to loosen the sides if necessary -- I didn't have to. Remove the metal insert if they're easy to remove at this point, and cool completely in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.
Prepare the salted caramel sauce:
  1. Place the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar has melted, stirring just a bit to combine the ingredients. Once the sugar has melted, increase the heat to high and do not stir. The mixture will bubble rapidly, then the bubbles will become bigger and slower, and it will begin to color. The edges will normally color first, and you can swirl the pan ever so gently to distribute the color so the mixture doesn't burn. When the caramel is a golden amber color, remove it from heat. Slowly whisk in the cream a bit at a time, as the mixture will bubble over if you add too much, then whisk in the butter and finishing salt. If the caramel has hardened, place it back over medium low heat and whisk until it's smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Prepare the whipped cream:
  1. Place the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the sugar, and beat at medium high speed until medium peaks form. Whisk a little more by hand if you'd like it a bit thicker. Place in a piping bag fitted with the tip of your choice (I used 1M), and pipe the whipped cream over the chilled cheesecake. Sprinkle some cinnamon over the top, and drizzle the caramel sauce over that. Sprinkle with a bit more finishing salt, if desired, and enjoy! Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.
Notes
If you don't wish to use the pecans, substitute with an additional ¼ cup of graham cracker crumbs.

You may use a mini muffin pan or standard muffin pan lined with paper liners if you don't have a mini cheesecake pan, just bear in mind that the amount of crust and filling will vary from this recipe, so cooking times will vary.

*Lemon juice is used in the caramel sauce to help prevent crystallization. If you stir the mixture too much, crystallization may still occur.

You will have a substantial amount of caramel sauce left, which will keep in an air tight container in the fridge for at least 2 weeks. You may make it ahead and rewarm prior to drizzling.

Cheesecake, Crust, and Whipped Cream recipe by Flavor the Moments.

Salted Caramel Sauce recipe adapted by Tante Marie Cooking School, San Francisco, CA.

Mini Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecakes are the ultimate fall dessert! @FlavortheMoment