Butternut Squash Cheesecake with Toffee Sauce
October 21, 2021
Butternut squash is the new pumpkin. I mean, yeah, it’s also the old pumpkin, since most brands of canned pumpkin have included a combination of squashes (including butternut) for years. So let’s just agree to call it what it is. This fall season, treat yourself to a sweet and tangy butternut squash cheesecake, topped with gooey toffee sauce drizzle.
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The butternuts are out in abundance, along with all of their other squash friends. We have a dedicated squash shelf in the basement, so we can keep them cool and dry. It’s the squash happy place, and it’s starting to get crowded. Luckily, I absolutely love cooking with winter squashes of all kinds, whether in sweet or savory preparations.
In this recipe, I decided to go extra sweet, and paired the nutty earthiness of a butternut squash with ooey gooey toffee sauce and tangy cream cheese. It’s a combination of flavors that whispers autumn and screams delicious. Plus, who can resist those cute little toffee bits on top?
What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for this Butternut Squash Cheesecake at your grocery store:
- Pantry: Graham crackers, Brown sugar, Granulated sugar, Corn syrup, Toffee pieces
- Fridge: Butter, Cream cheese, Eggs, Ricotta, Heavy cream
- Produce: Butternut squash
- Equipment: 9-inch Springform pan, Food processor, Stand mixer, Saucepan, Thermometer
Let’s Make Butternut Squash Cheesecake
If you are like me, you might already have some roasted butternut squash puree in your fridge or freezer from whatever previous delicious meal you made with it. Otherwise, the first thing you’ll need to do to make this cheesecake is to get roasting.
I like to whole-roast my butternut squashes, as long as they aren’t too big to fit in my oven. This saves me from having to fight with a raw squash to cut it in half. You can simply place the squash on a foil-lined pan and use the sharp tip of a knife to poke a few holes in it.
Roasting squash is a bit of an art. Every oven is different, and every squash is a different size and shape. I generally will roast mine for about half an hour before I begin checking it. The real trick to a perfectly roasted squash is to check it regularly and make adjustments from there.
When the squash is done, you should be able to easily insert a butter knife into the flesh. The skin will have a little resistance, but once you get past that layer, it will feel like butter. If it’s not there yet, give it more time. If some parts are harder than others, rotate the pan or flip the squash over. Eventually it will be soft, I promise.
Allow the roasted squash to cool until it can be handled, then slice it in half longways. The skin should peel off fairly easily, and I can generally remove it with just tongs or a butter knife. Scoop out the the seeds and stringy bits with a spoon. Finally, use a potato masher or large fork to break up any large chunks.
You generally will get much more roasted squash than you need for a single recipe. These squashes tend to be quite large, and in most cases, I get at least four cups of puree, even with small ones.
You can store the puree in the fridge for a few days or freeze it for a couple months. There are tons of ways to use up the extra, like in pasta dishes, or mixed into tomato sauce or mac and cheese. Or, you can use it anywhere you would normally use canned pumpkin.
If you are roasting the squash and making the cheesecake on the same day, you’ll need to let the oven cool down. Cracking open the oven door can help get you there a little bit faster.
When you do preheat the oven for your cheesecake, make sure you have both a rack in the center and a second rack at the bottom. The bottom rack is for the steam bath. I don’t like cooking my cheesecake in a water bath, but I do like the extra moisture, so instead I add some steam into the oven.
The first thing you’ll do to make the cheesecake is to prepare the graham cracker crust. Snap each of the graham crackers in half and add them to your food processor. Pulse on high until the crackers have broken down into fine crumbs. Then add the brown sugar and melted butter and pulse on low until combined.
When the crust is ready, a small piece should hold together when pinched. If not, you can add a little bit more melted butter and continue pulsing to combine everything together until it does. If you don’t have a food processor, you can crush the cookies with a rolling pin or similar and stir to make the crust.
If you’d like to get your springform pan base back a little faster, line the pan with a parchment round on the base. You can buy these cut to size or cut one yourself. I don’t suggest lining the sides of the pan with parchment, however.
Dump the crust into the springform pan, and press it into the bottom and about two-thirds of the way up the sides. I always like to use a measuring cup to help me with this part. The flat bottom and rounded sides assist with pressing the crumbs in place, and packing them in nice and tight.
Bake the crust for right around twelve minutes until it is lightly browned on both the bottom and the top edges. Then set it aside to cool slightly, but leave the oven on. It’s not done working for you yet!
Now that your crust is done, it’s time to start the cheesecake. If you are using a stand mixer, this can come together pretty quickly. A hand mixer may take a little bit longer. Either way, I suggest starting to bring water to a boil for your steam bath. A kettle is best to use here for easier pouring.
Meanwhile, start mixing the cheesecake filling by adding the cream cheese into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Allow the cream cheese to mix up by itself for a few minutes first until it starts to soften.
Then, add in both sugars and continue mixing until combined. I like to use brown sugar in this cheesecake because the flavor complements the squash and toffee sauce nicely. But too much would lead to extra moisture, which the white sugar helps with.
Add in the eggs one a time, thoroughly incorporating each before adding the next. This really helps them mix into the rest of the batter smoothly, emulsifying with the cream cheese. If you add them all at once, it will actually take longer to mix them in.
Finally, add in both the ricotta and squash puree. I always like to add a little bit of ricotta to my cheesecakes for the flavor and creamy texture. Mix everything together on medium speed until the batter is smooth and thoroughly combined.
At this point, the crust should be slightly cooled. Pour the cheesecake filling into it, and be sure to use a flexible spatula to scrape it all out of the mixer bowl. The filling should come just about to the top of the crust, but it’s okay if it goes a little bit over the top. Don’t worry about it.
How to Finish Butternut Squash Cheesecake
Now it’s time to bake the cheesecake! Place a large, high-sided pan or casserole dish on the bottom rack of the oven. Then, place the springform pan with the cheesecake on the center rack. Just before closing the oven, pour the boiling water into the bottom pan to create a steam bath.
Bake the cheesecake for just over an hour before you begin checking it. When it’s done, the cheesecake will jiggle only uniformly. It will also begin to brown slightly at the edges and pull away from the sides of the pan.
Transfer the completed cheesecake to a trivet to cool to room temperature, keeping it in the springform pan. Then, once it has cooled, you can finish chilling it in the fridge overnight.
We’ve almost made it through the cheesecake marathon, and this toffee sauce is the sweet reward at the end. Toffee is similar to caramel, except it’s made with brown sugar. This gives it a richer, deeper flavor, which is lovely paired with the butternut squash cheesecake.
Combine the butter, water, brown sugar, and corn syrup in a small or medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar into the liquids. The corn syrup will help keep the toffee sauce from crystallizing as it cools.
Once the mixture begins to boil, stop stirring, and allow it to cook and bubble for about five minutes. Then, add in the cream and continue to cook the toffee. You should start checking the temperature with a thermometer, since you are looking to reach the soft ball stage of candy making. When the temperature reaches 235-240°F, turn off the heat.
Transfer the hot toffee sauce to a jar or glass measuring cup. This helps get it out of the hot pan to stop the cooking process. Cooking toffee or other candy for longer than necessary can cause it to be harder once cooled.
Let the sauce cool for only about five minutes before drizzling. If needed, the toffee sauce can be made in advance and stored in a sealed jar in the fridge for a few weeks. It will solidify when cold, so reheat it until it’s pourable.
Remove the cheesecake from the fridge, and then carefully take off the outer ring from the springform pan. Transfer the cheesecake on either the base of the pan or the parchment sheet onto a plate or a flat surface covered with a sheet of parchment paper. Be sure you have a little bit of buffer around the edges to catch any toffee drips.
Pour the warm toffee sauce over the top of the fully cooled cheesecake. The edges of the cheesecake will sit slightly higher than the center, which allows the sauce to settle nicely into the cake. However, there is enough extra sauce to full cover it.
If there are any cracks in the top of the cheesecake, use the toffee to fill them in. It makes for a nice surprise for whoever gets a cracked slice, all that extra toffee sauce dripping down into the cake.
You can also let some of the toffee sauce drip down the sides. Pour a little bit of sauce right on the edge, and it will drip down the side, making a pretty pattern. Some of the drips will fall on the plate or parchment. After it cools, you can peel the toffee off the paper and enjoy an extra treat.
If you’d like, top the cheesecake with some mini toffee bits. I added mine in a crescent moon shape, with a few other pieces scattered throughout. You can use more or less, or leave them off completely.
When you are ready to cut the cheesecake, run a sharp knife under warm water and then quickly wipe it dry. The heat will help make cleaner cuts through both the toffee sauce and cheesecake.
The baked cheesecake, whether it is topped with toffee sauce or not, can be stored covered in the fridge for a few days. Once sliced, some of the toffee sauce may slowly drip over the edges of the slices.
Forget pumpkin! This butternut squash cheesecake is smothered in a gooey, sticky toffee sauce for the fall dessert of your dreams.
How to Serve Butternut & Toffee Cheesecake
I categorized this cheesecake under dessert, but it’s important to know that no one here would ever stop you from enjoying this for breakfast, brunch, an afternoon snack, or even dinner. It has squash in it, after all.
A single slice is fairly rich and heavy on its own, so why not pair it with something a little bit lighter? I love the idea of this cheesecake served alongside a fall fruit bake, like an apple and pear crisp or peach & plum crumble.
As for drinks, try this with a sweet yet strong chocolate old fashioned or birthday cake martini. For something non-alcoholic, you’ll love this with a chai white hot chocolate. Or if you’re enjoying butternut squash cheesecake for breakfast, try it served alongside a bourbon and vanilla london fog.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- Use up both butternut squash and ricotta in a cozy cinnamon and curry cornbread.
- Cream cheese makes the perfect frosting for topping cinnamon roll cupcakes.
- Try adding corn syrup to the cinnamon caramel drizzle atop chewy apple oatmeal cookies.
- Extra toffee bits add a little something special to chocolate chip pecan bar cookies.
More Cheesecakes to Try
Butternut Squash Cheesecake with Toffee Sauce
Graham Cracker Crust
- 12 Whole Graham Crackers
- ¼ Cup Brown sugar
- 4 Tbsp Butter melted
Butternut Squash Cheesecake
- 24 oz Cream Cheese
- ⅓ Cup Granulated Sugar
- ⅔ Cup Brown sugar
- 4 Eggs
- 1 Cup Roasted Butternut Squash Puree see note
- ⅔ Cup Ricotta
- 4 Tbsp Butter
- 2 Tbsp Water
- 1 Tbsp Corn Syrup
- ½ Cup Brown Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Heavy Cream
- ¼ Cup Toffee Pieces optional, for decorating
Graham Cracker Crust
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center, and a second rack at the bottom. If desired, line a 9-inch springform pan with a parchment round on the base.
- Snap the graham crackers in half and add them to a food processor. Pulse on high until broken down into fine crumbs. Then add the brown sugar and melted butter and pulse on low until combined. A small piece of the crust should hold together when pinched. If not, add a little bit more butter until it does.
- Dump the crust into the springform pan, and press into the bottom and about ⅔ of the way up the sides. Use a flat bottomed measuring cup to help press.
- Bake the crust for 10-15 minutes until it is lightly browned. Then side aside to cool slightly, leaving the oven on.
Butternut Squash Cheesecake
- Bring about 3 cups of water to a boil, preferably in a kettle.
- Meanwhile, add the cream cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium until softened. Add both sugars and continue mixing until combined.
- Add the eggs one a time, thoroughly incorporating each before adding the next. Then add in the ricotta and squash puree. Mix on medium until everything is smooth and thoroughly combined.
- Pour the cheesecake filling into the slightly cooled crust. Place a large, high-sided baking pan (such as a 9x13 casserole dish) on the bottom rack of the oven. Place the cheesecake on the center rack. Just before closting the oven, add the boiling water to the bottom pan to create a steam bath.
- Bake the cheesecake for 70-80 minutes, until it jiggles only uniformly, and it is a turning golden brown on the edges. Transfer to a trivet to cool to room temperature.
- Once cooled, cover, and allow the cheesecake to chill overnight in the fridge, or for at least 8 hours.
Toffee Sauce Topping
- In a small-medium saucepan, combine the butter, water, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Once it begins boil, stop stirring, and allow the mixture to cook and bubbling for five minutes.
- Add in the cream and continue to cook, checking the temperature with an thermometer until it reaches 235-240°F, or the soft ball stage.
- Turn off heat and transfer the toffee sauce to a jar or glass measuring cup. Let cool for only about 5 minutes before drizzling.
- Remove the cheesecake from the fridge, and remove the outer ring from the springform pan. Transfer the cheesecake on either the base of the pan or the parchment sheet over a plate or more parchment paper, with at least an inch around the outer edge.
- Pour the toffee sauce over the top of the fully cooled cheesecake. If there are any cracks, use the toffee to fill them in. You can also let some drip down sides.
- Use a warm, sharp knife to cut 12 slices, and enjoy or chill for later.
- Roasted butternut squash puree:
- Use a sharp knife to poke a few holes in a butternut squash, and place on a foil-line pan.
- Roast at 425°F for 30-90 minutes (depending on the size) until the squash can be easily stabbed with a butter knife all over, with little to no resistance (except from the skin).
- Allow to cool until it can be handled, then peel off the skin, remove the seeds and stringy bits and use a potato masher or large fork to smash into a puree.
- You generally will get much more than needed for a single recipe from each butternut squash. It will store in the fridge for 2-3 days or the freezer for up to 2 months.
- Use extra butternut squash puree in pasta dishes, mixed into tomato sauce or mac and cheese. Or use it anywhere you would normally use canned pumpkin.
- Make ahead tips:
- The toffee sauce can be made in advance and stored in a sealed jar in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. It will solidify when cold, so reheat it until pourable.
- The baked cheesecake, topped with toffee sauce or not, can be stored covered in the fridge for 3-4 days. Serve chilled or let it sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.