The cook may drape a sinister "spider's web" of icing over this Pumpkin-Pecan Cheesecake, and put nasty, nutty "spiders" on guard. But it would take a lot more than that to scare sweet-toothed Halloween tricksters away from this treat.
The cake is guaranteed to please kids and grown-ups alike, with its creamy texture and gently spiced flavor. It's easy to make, too. You can prepare it as one 9-inch cake or as 12 individual cakes.
Makes one 9-inch cake (serves 8) or 12 muffin-size cakes
CRUST: 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted 3/4 cup graham-cracker crumbs 1/4 cup sugar 1/3 cup butter, melted
PUMPKIN MIXTURE: 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin 1/3 cup water two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened 1 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon allspice 2 1/2 cups canned or cooked pumpkin 2 cups whipping cream, whipped
SPIDERS: black cake-decorating gel pecan halves black or red licorice whips
TOMBSTONES: chocolate wafers white cake-decorating gel black cake-decorating gel gummy worms
Preparation time 20 minutes, cooking time for crust 10 minutes.
FOR 9-INCH CHEESECAKE:
To make crust: Combine pecans, graham-cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Let cool.
To make pumpkin mixture: Soften gelatin in water; stir over low heat until dissolved. Combine cream cheese and sugar; mix at medium speed until well blended. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and pumpkin; mix at medium speed until blended. Gradually add gelatin to cream-cheese mixture and mix until blended. Chill cream-cheese mixture until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Fold in whipped cream; pour over crust. Chill until firm.
Decorating suggestions: For "spider web," use cake-decorating piping gel to draw concentric circles on surface of cheesecake. Take paring knife and draw lines from center of cake outward, as if drawing spokes of a wheel. The gel will drag slightly, creating an illusion of movement.
For "spiders": Using pecan halves as spider bodies, attach small pieces of black or red licorice as legs. Place on top of cheesecake.
FOR INDIVIDUAL CHEESECAKES:
Prepare crust and pumpkin mixtures as above.
Crust: Place 12 cupcake liners into muffin tin. Distribute crumb mixture evenly among the 12 liners. Press mixture firmly onto bottom of each cupcake liner. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Let cool.
Pumpkin mixture: Spoon batter into cupcake liners and refrigerate until firm.
Decorating suggestions: Make "tombstones" with chocolate wafers. Using white cake-decorating gel, pipe on names or "R.I.P." and press vertically into cheesecakes. Crumble wafers to make "dirt" on cake tops. Make creepy crawlies, bats or worms with black cake-decorating gel and gummy worms. -- From the American Dairy Association