Justin and I went to our good friends’ wedding this weekend in Lawrence, Kansas. Our friends are Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones fans so they decided to have elements from both series in their wedding much to our delight! For example, when it was time to exchange wedding bands, the groom relinquished The Ring to Rule Them All he was wearing by tossing it into a mini fuming paper mache-looking volcano two groomsmen brought out just for the occasion. And as is the wedding tradition in Game of Thrones, the groom draped his bride in a necklace and a fur cloth bringing her under his protection. Instead of a unity candle, the couple mixed two different types of wine they had made themselves, and at the end of the ceremony, the couple got on horses and rode off into the sunset, or perhaps in this case, the parking lot. Later on in the evening, they had a wooden catapult robot made to launch the bride’s garter for the garter toss. Needless to say it was a cool wedding. The wedding was also a mini college reunion for me, as many of my college friends and their spouses and members of the fraternity house I used to frequent were there.
It was a little surreal being back in my college town after eleven years. I was astounded to see what had changed since I’d been there. Restaurants that were new when I had lived there had since gone out of business. Old staples of the town had been replaced by new trendy stores and coffee houses. Sometimes I wish I could bottle up places and people in a time capsule so that I could revisit them periodically for nostalgia’s sake. But I recognize that most of the change is for the better. Other places around Lawrence looked completely unchanged like much of the campus itself. And downtown, I saw many familiar faces of people from my past—one girl had lived on my floor in the dorms, and I ran into the man who was the assistant orchestra conductor in the short stent that I was a music major.
Well, you can’t turn back time, but you can make this delicious multi-layered cheesecake. I took it to work, and within an hour, it was gone. The bottom layer is homemade graham crack crust, the middle layers are made up of the regular and pumpkin cheesecake, and the top is the crunchy cinnamon streusel. It’s an impressive dessert, and if you are inclined to share it with others, it travels well. I feel like you can’t go wrong with cheesecake, ever, but this version is especially good. Before you begin to combine the ingredients, keep in mind the cream cheese needs to be at room temperature and that takes a full hour. And then once out of the oven, the cheesecake needs a couple hours to set. Enjoy!
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 3 minutes
Chilling time: 2 hours
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
12 full sheets graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
4 packages (8 ounces each) full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
Streusel and Topping Ingredients:
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (not melted)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Crust and Cheesecake Directions:
One hour before you start assembling ingredients, remove the cream cheese from the fridge, and let it sit out for an hour or until it is room temperature.
Once the cream cheese is at room temperature, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9 x 13 in baking pan with parchment paper (be sure to leave an overhand so you can easily pull it out later) and set aside.
In a bowl, combine the crust ingredients and mix until a thick dough forms. Press evenly into the bottom of the prepared 9 x 13 in. pan. Bake for 8 minutes, remove, and allow to cool.
In another bowl, combine the cream cheese, (be sure the cream cheese is at room temperature otherwise the texture won’t be smooth), sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat with hand mixers until smooth and creamy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and beat until each is combined.
Remove half of this mixture, and pour on top of the prepared crust.
Add the canned pumpkin, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice to the remaining cheesecake mixture and stir until combined.
Carefully pour the pumpkin layer on top of the plain cheesecake layer, ensuring that you’re not mixing the two. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the same bowl you used for the crust, stir together the brown sugar, white flour, quick cooking oats, and cinnamon. Add in small squares of the butter and vanilla and mix together (with a pastry cutter or hands) until well combined. Note: the butter should be softened, not melted otherwise the mixture will be too liquid. Sprinkle this streusel topping evenly over the pumpkin cheesecake layer.
Place in the oven and bake for a remaining 25-30 minutes or until the cheesecake has set.
Allow to cool for about an hour at room temperature and then place in the fridge for 1-2 hours. When cutting these bars, cut them straight out of the fridge with a sharp knife.