30 2-inch gingersnaps, finely ground
3/4 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
½ cup pecans (optional)

(for cinnamon crust, use 1 cup graham crackers, 2tsp. cinnamon and 2 tbsps. sugar)


6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped or broken up
11/2 lbs. (12 oz.) of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
11/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 lb. canned pumpkin purée
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons Cognac, Armagnac or bourbon (preferably Wild Turkey)


1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
½ cup whipped cream
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons (of whatever booze you used in the filling – optional)
1 ½ cups pecan halves, toasted (350 degrees for 4 minutes)

Make crust:

1. Pre-heat oven to 325°.
2. Toast pecans for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant ands lightly brown.
3. Mix gingersnap crumbs, pecans and butter together (both crushing and mixing can be done in a food processor), and then press onto bottom (and a little up the sides, if you have enough crumb) of a buttered spring form pan.
4. Bake crust in middle of the oven until edge is golden brown – about 8 minutes. (Watch carefully towards the end – gingersnaps burn easily). Cool in the pan on a rack.

Make filling:

5. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, stirring frequently.
6. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the cornstarch and vanilla.
7. In a separate large bowl, mix together the pumpkin purée, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and Cognac. Add this to the cheesecake batter and mix until really fluffy – almost mousse-like.
8. Lightly mix about half of the melted chocolate into the batter, basically by swirling the chocolate as it pours. Pour into buttered spring form pan. Repeat with other half of the chocolate, making swirls or marbling patterns as you pour. Don’t over-stir – this is the free-form, no-rules part (!)
9. Set the spring form pan onto either a roasting pan or jelly roll pan, put into the center of the oven, and either fill the jelly roll pan as full as you can with hot water, or the roasting pan about half-full. Bake the cheesecake, in its hot bath, for about 1½ hours, or until the cake is firm around the edges but slightly jiggly in the center. Turn the oven off, prop open the door, and let the cheesecake set in the water bath in the oven for 1 hour, or until completely set.
10. Remove cheesecake from the water bath and chill thoroughly (at least 4 hours) or overnight. The cheesecake can live happily in the fridge in its springform for up to four days. When ready, remove the springform rim and plate as desired.

Make topping:

11. Bring sugar, cream, butter, corn syrup and salt to a boil in a medium sauce pan, whisking until sugar dissolves; boil 1 minute without stirring. Remove from heat, stir in booze, then pecans. Cool, stirring occasionally. Top cheesecake, using a spatula – this is easier when sauce is fully cooled.