Just right for fall and winter entertaining, this creamy, lightly spiced tart filling is a cross between cheesecake and pumpkin pie – the best of both worlds! The easy press-in crust is made with finely crushed pretzels for a salty-sweet surprise and the crunchy texture is a nice counterpoint to the velvety filling. (A whiz in the food processor is the easiest way to make pretzel crumbs.) The tart is delicious served as is, but adding a dollop or two of the white chocolate whipped cream makes it over-the-top fabulous and downright glamourous. Did I mention that, as an added bonus, this whipped cream is make-ahead? Up to two days or more ahead of time!

Yes, there are three components to this dessert but please don’t feel intimidated or time-stressed. I’ve broken down the baking into manageable steps that can be accomplished over the course of several days so you can succeed at your own pace. Check out my tips and timeline here and formulate your action plan.

This recipe is the second in our new series on Cook the Vineyard called Baking Together. (Our first recipe was One Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes with an easy Milk Chocolate Frosting.) We look forward to hearing from you about your experiences with this and every recipe. What did you and your family think of the recipe? Tell us if you did anything differently. What about the filling? Did you change up the spices or add lemon or orange zest? Maybe you used your homemade puree made from roasted sugar pumpkins or butternut squash? Did you switch-up the flavor of the whipped cream or maybe you used another garnish (caramel sauce? Hello!)? Give us the scoop in the comments section below and we will all learn from each other here on Cook the Vineyard.

Makes 10 to 12 servings

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 cup (6 1/2 ounces) finely crushed salted pretzel crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch of table salt
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted


For the filling:

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (6 3/4 ounces) solid packed pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/4 teaspooon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 yolk from large egg
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


For the whipped cream:

  • 1 cup (8 1/2 ounces) heavy cream, divided
  • 3 ounces white chocolate (you can use 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, if it’s easier)


  • Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt, for garnish (optional)
  • Pretzel crumbs or sticks, for garnish (optional)


Make the crust

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Have ready a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Place the pan on a large piece of aluminum foil and wrap the bottom and sides.

2. Put the pretzel crumbs, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and stir until blended. Pour the melted butter over the crumbs and, using a silicone spatula, mix until well blended and the crumbs are evenly moist. Taste and add more salt if needed — the flavor should be both sweet and salty. Scrape the mixture into the tart pan and lay a large piece of plastic on top of the crumbs. With your fingers directly on the plastic, press the crumbs firmly and evenly into the sides and bottom of the pan. (A straight-sided, flat-bottomed coffee mug or a measuring cup works well to ensure the crumbs are tightly packed on the bottom.) Remove the plastic and bake the crust until fragrant, 9 to 11 minutes. Move the pan to a rack and set aside to cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Make the filling

1. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar with a stand mixer or hand-held mixer on medium speed until smooth with no lumps, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and continue beating until well blended, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the egg, yolk, and bourbon (or vanilla) and beat until just incorporated.

2. Scrape the filling into the crust and spread it evenly. Bake the tart until the filling just barely jiggles when the tart pan is nudged, 25 to 27 minutes. Move to a rack and let cool completely. Refrigerate the tart until chilled and firm, about 3 hours or up to 2 days.

Make the whipped cream

1. Put 1/4 cup (2 1/8 ounces) of the heavy cream and the white chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and melt in the microwave or over a pan of simmering water, stirring until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the remaining 3/4 cup (6 3/8 ounces) heavy cream and stir until well blended. Loosely cover with plastic and refrigerate until well chilled, 1 to 2 hours or up to 1 day ahead. For faster cooling, set the bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice and a little water, stirring and scraping the sides frequently.

2. Beat with an electric handheld mixer fitted with wire beaters on medium high speed and beat until the cream holds firm peaks. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate up to two days before serving. (The chilled mixture can also be whipped using a stand mixer and the whisk attachment.)

Abigail Johnson Dodge

3. To serve, set the tart pan on top of a wide can and allow the outer ring to drop down. Move the tart onto a flat serving plate. Garnish with whipped cream up to 6 hours ahead of time and keep refrigerated (uncovered to keep the cream pristine) but wait to garnish with the salt, pretzel crumbs or sticks until just before serving, or they will get soggy.