The Improv Cooking Challenge: Mini Pumpkin Pie Cheesecakes

. You all know how much I absolutely adore the baking/cooking challenges I am a part of (i.e., SRC and ICC), right?  Well I am, they're something I look forward to every month because it's a chance for me to really dive into the baking world.  Both being introduced to fellow bloggers and getting to tap into my creative side (no matter how hidden it may be!).

But this time around, I bring you a post I am oh-so-happy about but in the meanwhile, a little gray cloud also hangs.  In my first ICC post, I introduced you all (if you didn't happen to already know her) to Sheryl from The Lady Behind the Curtain.  She was the founder of ICC and the passion she held for the idea simply radiated from her blog.  However, due to personal circumstances, Sheryl had to leave behind both her blog and ICC.  It was a sad moment when I received her e-mail, letting all of the participants know that ICC would no longer be.

So what the heck am I doing with a second ICC post?  Fortunately, Kristen, from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker, swooped in to save the day.  Later that same morning, Kristen sent out an e-mail to the ICC participants, offering to continue ICC through her own blog.  WHAAT!?  YESSSS!  As much as we will all miss Sheryl's amazing words, I think I can say for most bloggers that we are so ecstatic that Kristen decided to keep ICC in the mix.

So here I am with my November ICC post, and the secret ingredients?

Pumpkin and Cream Cheese 

Gosh dang it, those are some fab ingredients, huh?  The possibilities are endless and I can't even begin to tell you how many ideas flashed through my mind when attempting to decide what to bake.  But to help myself out, I narrowed down the options to something that would serve a dual purpose: a pumpkin/cream cheese treat for ICC and a goodie that would be perfect in anyone's Thanksgiving spread.  Which brings us to the shining star of this post, my very own Mini Pumpkin Pie Cheesecakes.

So what are these little guys anyway?  Well, they're a combination of pumpkin pie and cheesecake!  The buttery crust and pumpkin flavors from a traditional pumpkin pie and the wonderful lusciousness we have come to love about cheesecakes.  Pretty straightforward, eh?  But trying to figure out exactly how to make these was definitely not straightforward.  I'll tell you that I spent a good amount of time Googling and researching exactly how to put together pie crust and cheesecake.

What type of crust should I use?  Flakey?  Shortbread?  Do I pre-bake the crust?  Or will it end up burning since cheesecake bakes for quite awhile?  How big should I cut the pie crusts?  What types and amounts of spices do I use to get that pumpkin pie flavor?  How long do mini cheesecakes bake?  When do you know to take them out of the oven?

These and about, oh, a bajillion more questions rushed through my mind.  It was a lot to think about but I think after nailing down what recipes I wanted to use, everything went rather smoothly.  If I do say so myself ☺

I absolutely love how this recipe gives you individual servings of dessert.  We all know how much we tend to eat on Thanksgiving [or at least I do...], so these will give you the hit ending to a stuff-you-silly dinner without knocking you into a complete food coma.

Finally, I just want to say thanks again to Kristen for picking up ICC.  I had a great time with this months' ingredients and can't wait for December! .

My Notes:
  • The pie crust recipe below yields four individual pie crusts or two double-crust pies.  That's a lot of crust!  But don't worry, you can freeze the remaining dough you don't use [mine is definitely in the freezer] for 2 to 3 months and use it later for something else.
  • If you don't have any shortening around, you can use 1 cup of unsalted butter.
  • To me, cutting shapes out of pie crust was very intimidating.  But I attempted leaves this go around and I can vouch that it's not hard in the least!  It's actually rather simple and makes any dessert look extra special!
  • Since I created this recipe from several sources, you'll have a lot of cheesecake filling left over.  However, you can always use the left over dough and filling to make more mini pumpkin pie cheesecakes.  
  • If you don't have the time to make these individual cups, the entire recipe will make enough for a 9-inch pumpkin pie cheesecake.  Make the crust, place it in the pan, pour in the entire cheesecake mixture, and bake at 325°F for 1 hour.
  • I initially baked these yummies for 30 minutes at 325°F and thinking they were done, took them out.  But, they definitely were still a little underdone so I popped them back in the oven for 20 additional minutes at 350°F.  So, please note!, my time stated in the recipe is a guesstimate, so make sure to check on your pies around 40 minutes or so just to be safe.

3 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 c. butter-flavored shortening
1 large egg
4 to 8 tbsp. ice water
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Pumpkin Cheesecake:
3/4 lb. (one and a half 8 oz. packages) cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1-1/2 c. canned pumpkin puree
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of nutmeg

Whipped cream (homemade or store-bought)

1.  For crust, place flour in food processor (or large bowl).  Add sugar and salt and process for 20 seconds to combine.  Cut in butter by pulsing (or using pastry blender or fingers) until mixture looks crumbly.

2.  Add egg and drizzle ice water and lemon juice on top.  Turn on food processor for 15 seconds (gently mix crust with fingertips) until mixture just holds together.  Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface and gently knead for a few seconds to smooth out dough.

3.  Divide dough in half and pat into flattened disks.  Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight (this is when the dough can be frozen until you need it for something else).

4.  Grease a standard muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Take one disk from the refrigerator and roll out to about 1/8-inch thick.  Cut out circles of dough roughly 1-inch wider than the muffin tin (using a cookie cutter or top of glass).  

5.  Place cut outs into muffin pan, using fingertips to gently form the crust to the pan.

6.  If desired, use the second dough disk to cut out shapes to adorn the cups.  You can also use the remainder of the second disk to make additional mini crusts to fill.

7.  Heat oven to 325°F.  For cheesecake, in a large bowl beat cream cheese with electric mixer on low speed until very smooth.

8.  Gradually add sugar and brown sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time (scrape down sides of bowl as needed).  Add the pumpkin puree and mix until just blended.

9.  Stir in heavy whipping cream, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

10.  Fill crusts with cheesecake mixture until just barely full.  Bake 45 minutes or until cheesecakes are set and crusts are golden brown.

11.  When cheesecakes are done, turn off heat and prop open oven door to let the cheesecakes cool for 1 hour before removing from oven (do this step, it will help avoid cracks in the top of the cheesecakes).

12.  Garnish cheesecakes with whipped cream before serving.

Yield: 9 mini cheesecakes


  1. The leaves are so cute! What a nice finishing touch!

  2. Hello fellow Improv Blogger. What a great treat this is. Looks just delicious. Your photos look fantastic. Come visit. We have pumpkin velvet cake.

  3. I've heard of mini apple pies, but never pumpkin. So cute!

  4. I just love anything mini! Your pie cheesecakes look amazing. Great job!

  5. Love your minis, adorable and delicious looking.

    If you haven't already, I'd love for you to check out my Improv Cooking Challenge recipe: Praline Pumpkin Cheesecake.

    Cook Lisa Cook

  6. these mini pumpkin pies are adorable. i love the dough leaves you included. love your recipe!

  7. I love all things mini - I just can't resist! They look beautiful!

  8. Hi! I'm a fellow Challenge Participant and wanted to let you know that I added your recipe to my Fun Friday Finds Improv Edition. I hope you can stop by.

  9. Love your pictures and tutorial, Jess!

    Also, thanks for stopping by my blog.


  10. Oh My Goodness! These look delicious and are just the right portion size!
    They are too cute

  11. I love those pastry leaves! What an adorable dessert. I am so excited to see how creative all of our improv members are!!

  12. OMG these are cute!
    Come to A Themed Baker's Sunday where this week's theme is Thanksgiving treats. Be sure to vote on the side bar for next week's theme as well! Happy Holidays!

    Cupcake Apothecary


  13. Adorable! Love the leaves. Almost too pretty to eat! So nice cooking along with you in the Improv Cooking Challenge :)


  14. More great tutorial pictures! The individual pies are the best! I am making my pies today -so I am thinking about using your recipe... wish me luck!

  15. Hi Jess! Your mini pies are so beautiful! They look so much better than the ones I made. Just wanted you to know that you were in the top again last week on Sweet Indulgences Sunday.


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