See below for a chocolate variation!

This cheesecake is so good that everyone who tastes it will want you to make it for their birthday! Rick suggested writing on the cake with licorice pastilles for Sara's 15th birthday. Then a couple of weeks later, Kathy wrote "Happy Professor" on HIS cake. You can put them on just before serving, and they are quite distinct. You can pick them off, and eat them later. But for an interesting taste, that blends in a lovely way... they soften after being on the cake in the refrigerator and seem like part "of the act".

* Early in the day, leave out the cream cheese. If it is soft to start with, it will make the whole process easy, and mixing by hand is easily accomplished, if you like to do this, as Kathy does.

*This recipe calls for a spring-form pan.
We bought one and it is worth having.
It can be made in an ordinary pan, but then you have to scoop it out rather than have the cake out for slicing.
*The "water bath" for the spring form pan makes it come out freely and elegantly when it is done, although it is a little hard to deal with while cooking.

* Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In 9" by 3" springform pan, with fork, stir 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (grind crackers in blender)
3 Tbs melted butter or our favorite, "Earth Balance Buttery Spread"
2 tbs organic sugar until moistened.
With hand, press mixture onto bottom of pan.

* Tightly wrap outside of pan with heavy-duty foil to prevent leakage when baking in water bath later.
* Bake crust 10 minutes.
* Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Set out these ingredients:

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups organic sugar
1 can (16 ounces) organic pumpkin
3/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs

* In large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth
slowly beat in sugar until blended. Mix in 3/4 cup of sour cream, beat in 1 (16 oz) can pumpkin, 2 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp allspice, and 1/4 tsp salt. Add 4 eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
* Pour pumpkin mixture into crust and place covered springform pan in a large roasting pan. Place pan on oven rack. Carefully pour enough boiling water into pan to come 1 inch up side of springform pan. Bake cheesecake 1 hour 10 minutes or until center barely jiggles.

* Meanwhile, prepare Sour-Cream Topping:
In small bowl, with wire whisk, beat
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Remove cheesecake from water bath, leaving water bath in oven, and spread sour-cream mixture evenly over top. Return cake to water bath and bake 5 minutes longer.
*Remove cheesecake from water bath to wire rack; discard foil. With small knife, loosen cheesecake from side of pan to help prevent cracking during cooling. Cool cheesecake completely. Cover and refrigerate cheesecake at least 6 hours or overnight, until well chilled. Remove side of pan to serve.
Adapted but based on a recipe from:
Good Housekeeping website

* KATHY'S CHOCOLATE VARIATION: Follow the above recipe, except instead of pumpkin, melt a large bar of your favorite dark chocolate with as little cream, and add. To the topping, add a different favorite, melted into the sour cream for variety.

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