No more room in the oven? These no-bake bourbon pumpkin cheesecakes are a lifesaver

Stored and served in mason jars, these easy desserts can be made two days in advance

By Joseph Neese

Deputy Editor in Chief

Published November 23, 2019 5:30PM (EST)

Pumpkin Cheesecake (Skyhorse Publishing)
Pumpkin Cheesecake (Skyhorse Publishing)

When it comes to preparing for the holidays, the one thing entertainers all need a little less of is stress. So what if we told you that the secret to a stress-free Thanksgiving in the kitchen has finally been cracked?

“Oven space is prime real estate on Thanksgiving. You’ve got the bird, you’ve got the sides, you’ve got the appetizers,” Meghan McGarry, the classically trained pastry chef and culinary personality behind Buttercream Blondie, tells Salon. “Growing up, I was always waiting at the end to get into the oven to bake dessert.”

Inspired by that memory, McGarry tore up the rule book this year when she conceived a no-bake cheesecake to ring in the end of the decade. As it turns out, just because Martha Stewart regulates no-bake desserts to the summer months doesn’t mean you have to follow the crowd.

“You can roast your turkey without any competition — and reduce your stress in the process,” McGarry says of the latest addition to her collection of spiked desserts. “The Golden Rule of Baking is: Dessert should always be fun.”

In addition to saving crucial oven space, a no-bake dessert can also save time because it can be executed well in advance of a party. McGarry’s cheesecake stays fresh for up to two days. You can knock out this Thanksgiving treat on a Tuesday, and as an added bonus, the recipe calls for individual servings to be doled out into mason jars. That means your storage containers are ready to go — just pop on the lid before you move them to the fridge. On the big day, all you will have to make fresh is the whipped cream. Yes, you can actually hit the ground running on Thanksgiving morning.

But the ease that this no bake dessert can add to your Turkey Day does not stop there. When you’re in charge of making dessert for the big day, you have to take into consideration what everyone likes and does not like, and try to come up with a dish that will make everyone happy. Now you won’t have to wonder aloud any more, “Who likes apple? Who likes pecan? Who likes sweet potato?”

When deciding on her flavor profile for the cheesecake, McGarry started with pumpkin. Even though it may not be everyone’s favorite pie, there is a reason it gets a second look when made over as a cheesecake.

“Let’s face it: Pumpkin is a touchy subject. Some people absolutely love it. They’ve already bought the ring, and they’re ready for a lifetime commitment,” McGarry says as she reflects on her many years of pastry experience. “Others don’t even want to go near it. They just give me a look that says, ‘Not happening,’ But when you feature pumpkin in a dessert that everyone already loves like cheesecake, they’re willing to take a bite.”

When you do a no-bake dessert such as this one, it is crucial to layer in your flavors. In this case, McGarry expertly deploys a crust made of gingersnaps for a baseline of fall flavor. Her cheesecake filling is accented with brown sugar and bourbon, which gives the mouth a warm hug. All of the spices pumpkin pie lovers expect in their favorite dessert — it has the cinnamon, the ginger, the nutmeg (McGarry recommends freshly grating it) — add the inviting warmth they know and love.

The next layer is a white chocolate ganache, which provides a delicate pop of sweetness that balances the remaining cozy flavors. Everything is topped off with homemade whipped cream, and your palate will not argue with another shot of bourbon and a hint of vanilla bean to truly kick things up a notch.

For an added crunch, top your cheesecake off with crushed pieces of leftover gingersnap crust. Then you are not only getting a combination of flavors but also texture throughout. Don’t forget to add sprinkles,


Recipe: No-Bake Pumpkin Mousse Cheesecake
Yield: 4-6 parfaits depending on size


Gingersnap Crust
1 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs ( about 22 store bought gingersnaps)
Pinch of salt
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

White Chocolate Ganache
5 ounces white chooclate
1/4 cup heavy cream


Gingersnap Crust
1, Melt butter and mix with cookie crumbs and salt.
2: Press 2 Tbsp. crumb mixture in the bottom of parfait glasses and refrigerate.

White Chocolate Ganache
1. In small saucepan, bring heavy cream up to a scald.
2, Pour over chopped chocolate and whisk till smooth.
3. Spoon 2 Tbsp. ganache in each parfait glass and refrigerate.

You’re not done yet! Head over to Buttercream Blondie for the remainder of the recipe.


By Joseph Neese

Joseph Neese is Salon's Deputy Editor in Chief. You can follow him on Twitter: @josephneese.

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