November 27, 2021

HERITAGE RECIPE: Autumn Cheesecake

This recipe definitely tugs at my heartstrings a bit. I'd decided to make a recipe from my grandma's cookbook (we called my grandma Gobby, and she lived from 1914-1999). My Aunt Mickey had put together a cookbook for all of the women in the family where she'd photocopied my grandma's handwritten recipes (and typed them out because my grandma's handwriting was very difficult to read! haha).

I was flipping through the book when "Autumn Cheesecake" caught my eye. 'Tis the season, right?

I saw that I had all of the ingredients except for allspice. And I didn't have a springform pan. That's where my mom came to the rescue. So I was excited to make this cheesecake! It wasn't until I was halfway through mixing the ingredients that I noticed the recipe said, "From the Kitchen of: Kim Forster".

Kim is my Aunt Mickey's daughter (Gobby's granddaughter and my cousin). Tragically, Kim passed away from cancer in October of 2005, when she was only 42 years old.

It was heartbreaking in the worst way. I've written about my Aunt Mickey here before (remember the post about poached eggs?) and Kim was just as sweet and loving and caring as her mom. She had three daughters who were young pre-teens at the time she passed away. They have an amazing dad who managed to continue to raise them to be every bit as compassionate as their mom. I'm not exaggerating even the tiniest amount about how wonderful their family is!

A fun fact about Kim is that she was a contestant on the show "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?" hosted by Regis Philbin. (It was in Season 3, Episode 209.) She was on the show shortly after being diagnosed with adrenal cancer. You could tell just by watching her on the show how sweet she was!

Kim was quite a bit older than me (my mom was the youngest of six kids, and my Aunt Mickey was Gobby's third child). When I was growing up, I was very close with Kim's daughters. Here is a photo of my Aunt Mickey, Kim, me, and Kim's oldest daughter right after she was born.

I didn't learn this until after she passed away, but Kim was also an avid runner. At her funeral, people kept saying that they remember her running and always smiling while she was running. At the time, I knew nothing about running, but how cool would that have been to have that in common with one of my favorite cousins? Kim ran even through her cancer treatment; she ran until she was physically unable to run anymore. That's how much she loved it.

One thing about Kim that I will be forever grateful for happened shortly after I had Noah. I wanted to breastfeed and I had planned on it through my whole pregnancy. However, after he was born, my milk never came in. I was so upset and frustrated. The lactation consultant was not at all helpful and was actually really rude to me when I was crying on the phone asking for advice.

Kim was a labor and delivery nurse, so I called her to ask if she could help. She was so calm and reassuring that I was doing everything I could for my baby. It turned out that my milk never did come in (with either of my kids) but that conversation with Kim made me feel like I was still a good mom even though I couldn't breastfeed.

Two of Kim's daughters are now nurse practitioners and one of them is a talented runner, just like she was. My mom told me that Kim's oldest daughter loves to make cheesecakes; she didn't know if this was because of Kim, but I love that I chose to make this recipe today. I'm saddened that this recipe was not the typical heritage recipes I post--where the recipe is handed down through generations. But I love that it made me think of not only my grandma, as I saw her handwriting in this book, but my beloved cousin Kim as well.

So, here is a recipe for Autumn Cheesecake; handed from Kim to Gobby.

As always, I made this recipe without modifying or altering it in any way. I want to see why it was so special to Gobby to ask Kim for the recipe! Here is the recipe copied exactly from the one Gobby wrote above; the "printer-friendly" version is re-written with my notes/clarifications.

Here is a printer-friendly version!

3/4 C vanilla wafer crumbs
1/2 C chopped walnuts
6 T. melted margarine
2# cream cheese
1-1/2 C sugar
1/3 C flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
6 eggs
1-1/2 C canned pumpkin

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 9" springform pan. Combine wafter crumbs, nuts and margarine. Press to sides and bottom of pan. Chill. Combine cream cheese, sugar, flour and spices. Add eggs. Add pumpkin and blend well. Bake 90 minutes, then turn off heat and let stand in oven 30 minutes longer with the door open. Cool on rack and chill.

My Notes:

First, I want to state the obvious: this is the ugliest cheesecake anyone has ever seen. But that is NOT the fault of the recipe! 

After I made it, I realized what I'd done wrong...

1) I forgot to set the damn timer when I put it in the oven! I tried to figure out how long it had been in the oven based on when I started writing this post (which was shortly after I put it in the oven) but I didn't know for sure. And cheesecake is finicky. It turns out that I most likely over baked it.

2) I think I also mixed the batter too long, which made it too airy. That could be a reason why the cake split in the middle (along with over-baking). I read later that you are supposed to add the eggs last (which I did) and mix minimally after that so that the batter doesn't get airy (which causes the cake to be unstable and crack). I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to mix it very long.

More notes:

I crushed the vanilla wafers and walnuts separately in order to get the correct amount. (Rather than put the wafers and walnuts (whole) in the food processor together.)

When I pressed the crust mixture into the pan, I was a little worried that there wasn't enough to cover even the bottom, let alone the sides. I know most cheesecake only has crust on the bottom and a tiny bit of the sides--so I just hoped that was the case here, because I certainly didn't have enough to put it up the sides.

I used a stand mixer with the whisk attachment to mix everything. The recipe is pretty straight-forward about the ingredients and directions.

The baking part was new to me--turning off the heat and then letting it sit with the door open. I found it interesting!

Jerry and I tasted the batter and we were blown away--it tasted exactly like the seasonal Ben & Jerry's Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream. We LOVE that ice cream. Seriously, we stalk the stores in the fall and hope we can find it and then we buy several of them, knowing that we won't get them again until next year!

I was a little worried about how much batter went into the pan. It was VERY tall and I wasn't sure if it was going to bake all the way through. When I checked on it later, I was shocked to see how much it rose in the oven!

I knew that when cheesecake cracks like the picture above, there is something wrong. So that was when I knew I'd over-baked it. I was super bummed! I wondered if I did something wrong, but I just trusted the recipe and if not for forgetting the timer, it would have turned out perfectly. 

As the cheesecake cooled it deflated a bit, which is what I imagine it's supposed to do. I put it in the fridge and hoped it would magically put itself back together and then be beautiful for a picture. No such luck.

BUT--it turned out to taste simply amazing! We had a few friends over tonight, and everyone agreed that it was really good. It looked better in slices than it did as a whole, haha. 

I will definitely be making this again. And I will definitely remember to set the oven timer. And of course, I will think of Kim.


  1. Such a sweet background story around this recipe. 💜

  2. What a splendid story. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Katie, you are a fabulous storyteller. Thank you for sharing about your cousin. She is certainly smiling in heaven!

  4. Such a neat story about the family origin of this cheesecake! This cheesecake recipe is almost identical to the pumpkin cheesecake recipe that I got from my husband's family. I remember the huge amount of cream cheese and eggs! I bake it in a 10-inch springform pan, and I don't see it rise that much in the oven. But it always falls and gets that taller rim around the edge like yours has. Usually it cracks, too. But it's very good and extremely rich. My husband's family would serve it with maple syrup.

  5. Love your story so sweet :). This looks so yummy too!

  6. Love your story so sweet :). This looks so yummy too!


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