Sweet milk caramel, or dulce de leche, takes this decadent cheesecake over the top–be sure to save room for dessert!
Prepare Crust: Preheat oven to 350°. Process shortbread cookies and almonds in a food processor 30 seconds or until finely ground. Place in a medium bowl; stir in melted butter. Press mixture onto bottom of a 9-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 350° for 12 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.
Prepare Filling: Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add dulce de leche, beating at low speed until blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition. Add pumpkin and next 3 ingredients, beating at low speed until just blended. Pour batter into prepared crust.
Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until almost set. Turn off oven. Let cheesecake stand in oven, with door partially open, 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven, and gently run a knife around edge of cheesecake to loosen from sides of pan. (Do not remove sides of pan.) Cool on a wire rack 1 hour. Cover and chill at least 8 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare Candied Almonds: Preheat oven to 300°. Whisk egg white, sugar, and cinnamon until foamy. Fold in almonds until coated. Spread almonds in a single layer on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet.
Bake at 300° for 26 to 28 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on pan (about 30 minutes). Remove almonds from parchment paper, and break into small pieces.
Prepare Topping: Beat 1/2 cup whipping cream until foamy; gradually add powdered sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Transfer chilled cheesecake to a serving plate. Spread topping over cheesecake.
Combine 1/2 cup dulce de leche and remaining 1/4 cup whipping cream in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, 4 minutes or until smooth. Drizzle dulce de leche sauce over topping, and sprinkle with Candied Almonds. Serve immediately.
2012 Christmas with Southern Living