Cushaw Cheesecake Recipe

By: Hannah Lee Leidy
Cushaw Cheesecake Recipe
Photo by Kate Blohm

Chef and spice creator Belinda Smith-Sullivan puts a new spin on fall cheesecakes with this cushaw and pecan cheesecake. From her cookbook Southern Sugar (2021), she writes, “Cushaw is a winter crookneck squash that grows abundantly in the Southern states and Appalachia. Also known as sweet potato pumpkin, it is naturally sweet, moist, and perfect for both sweet and savory dishes, just like sweet potatoes. Found mostly in farmers’ markets, it is recognizable by its green and white stripes. The squash left over from roasting this massive gourd for this recipe can be turned into soup, pie, or sides.”

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12 servings

  • 1 3/4 cups gingersnap crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • Filling
  • 2 cups cooked and puréed cushaw squash (can also use pumpkin, butternut squash or white sweet potatoes)
  • 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or allspice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Topping
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, room temperature
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Roast the cushaw

  1. Cut off neck of squash and set aside.
  2. Cut bottom of squash in half and scoop out seeds (save seeds for roasting and snacking later).
  3. Brush lightly with oil and place cut side down on lined sheet pan; roast at 400 degrees until soft, about 30–40 minutes.
  4. Cool slightly until you can handle; scoop out flesh from the skin with a spoon.
  5. Put into blender and purée; allow to cool before using for cake.

Save peels and neck for adding flavor to stocks and soups.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, blend crumbs, sugar, butter, and pecans and press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the bottom and outside of the pan with foil.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and squash until fluffy.
  3. Gradually add brown sugar, then add in eggs 1 at a time.
  4. Add sour cream and heavy cream and continue to beat. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  5. Fold in pecans and pour batter into prepared pan.
  6. Place cheesecake pan in another larger roasting pan and place in preheated oven. Fill the roasting pan halfway with hot water.
  7. Bake for 60–70 minutes or until slightly firm in the center. Turn off oven, leaving door ajar about 8 inches, and allow to cool in oven for 1 hour.
  8. Remove from oven and remove from water bath and cool completely in pan.
  1. In a small heavy saucepan, combine brown sugar and butter over low heat; stir until sugar dissolves.
  2. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in cream and nuts. Let cool slightly.


  1. Pour warm topping over cooled cheesecake and refrigerate (leave it in the pan during this process). When ready to serve, remove sides of springform pan and place cheesecake on a serving dish.
  • Recipe by Belinda Smith-Sullivan, from Southern Sugar (Gibbs Smith 2021)

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