International House of Thanksgiving (IHOT) Cheesecake, Arepas, French Men, Oh My!

This weekend was insane. Of course, it was insane in the best possible way that insane can be. There were people everywhere, the fridge was so full that we had to start triple stacking things, and my Latin brother came home to me once more. But before I get into all of that sweet and cuddly garbage, let me tell you about this cheesecake.

This bad boy was the staple to our beloved dessert spread. The dessert that occurred at 4pm because we all thought we were going to die if we ate it right after the meal….and rightfully so. I first came across this recipe quite a while ago and I thought, “Wow, I didn’t realize there were so many levels that are equally and completely horribly bad for your waste line.” So that is exactly why I made it. That tends to be how I roll.

Not only was this a cheesecake, as not to confuse you by the iced beauty up above, but this was a chocolate and icing covered cheesecake. Double. Whammy.

In addition, this was supposed to be a massive two layered iced cheesecake.

Well….my oven had an affair with another women. Her name? Waterbath.

You see, cheesecakes bake in water baths as to avoid cracks in the top and even baking. I, having made many many cheesecakes at Ard’s back in the day, know this full well. So I get everything ready, pour my two layers into the pans, and bake.

After the buzzer beeped, I successfully took pan #1 out of the waterbath.

Pan #2 got eaten, by water.

Ever wondered how they make wet dog food? Well come over to my house and I’ll drop a cheesecake in water again. I swear it looks just like it. My oven and I are still trying to work out our differences. I never thought he would do that to me.

So, I got over it, and the cheesecake, although not double in it’s glory, most definitely shined. In fact, the newly weddedValerie Elsasser uttered something to me in the most sincere tone I have ever heard.

“Lauren, I think I just had a foodgasm.”

Oh the joys of making people……ugh…smile? hehe

Someone else asked my what in the world it was and after my 49 second introduction, she said:

“Lauren, just stop. Any dessert that has more than three names is worth eating.”

Time for the recipe?

Double Layer (Just Kidding) Pumpkin Buttercream Cheesecake With White Chocolate Ganache


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract


  • 8 ounces (about half a can) pureed pumpkin, moisture removed (see below)
  • 2 1/2 packages softened cream cheese (8 ounce each)
  • 2 whole eggs plus 1 egg yolg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and baking powder
  • pinch of salt
Buttercream filling
  • 3 sticks softened buter
  • 6 cups siftened powdered sugar
  • 2 TBS. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
White Chocolate Ganache
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips, melted
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (more or less if desired)
  1. The night before preparation, take the pumpkin puree, wrap it in paper towels over a strainer, and set in a bowl in the regrigerator. This will take all of the excess moisture out of the pumpkin.
  2. The day of: Start with the crust. Preheat the oven to 400* F.  Line a 9 inch deep cake pan with parchment paper. Lightly spray with non-stick spray, set aside. Combine the cold butter and flour with a pastry blender until it resembles small crumbles. Next, add the remaining ingredients just until a crumble starts to form. Do not over mix!
  3. Press the crust into the bottom of the lined pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, make the cheesecake filling: In a large electric mixer (or bowl with handmixer), beat the cream cheese until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, then the pumpkin puree. Next add everything but the sugar and chocolate chips. Once combined, fold in the sugar and chocolate. Pour into the prepared pan.
  5. Next, your oven should be at 325* F for the cheesecake. Prepare a water bath by finding a large pan, and filling it half way with water (but not high enough that it will run into your cheesecake!) Place cheesecake into the waterbath and bake for 1 hour 45 minutes. It’s a long stinking time, but you can do it. Then, take out of the oven! Set in the freezer or refrigerator to cool.
  6. While the cheesecake is cooling, prepare the buttercream by combining the butter, vanilla, and half of the powdered sugar. Next add the cream and slowly add the rest of the sugar. Beat on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Store in the refrigerator until ready to frost Mr. Cheesecake
  7. Time to make everything beautiful. Take your cheesecake from the freezer and slide a knife around the inside of the pan to make sure it does not stick. Flip the cheesecake onto a flat plate, the flip right side up onto your serving dish.
  8. Next, ice the sides and top of the cheesecake. Make the ganache by combining the chocolate chips and the heavy cream. Add more chips if to thin, add more milk if to thick. Pour over the tops of the cheesecake.
  9. Set the cheesecake in the freezer for about 5 minutes before you put the finishing touches on it.
  10. Take it out and the rest is up to you. Pipe icing onto the top, use candy pumpkins for garnish, sprinkle roasted pecans and cinamon.
  11. Have a foodgasm. Valerie did.

And of course, naturally I had to make cute little menus.

Now, we seemed to have a little bit of a menu mix-up. You see, my lovely exchange student brother decided to invite his French friend to our Thanksgiving feast. Now, that was all lovely, but I didn’t know his name. And although I had a strong urge to write, “French kid whose name I don’t know because Luis didn’t text me back quick enough,” it just didn’t fit.

Lovely guest worked too.

So, our kitchen has about 193 people running through it in the 20 minutes leading up to Thanksgiving. It kind of felt like everyone was on some kind of running around drug.

So, I decided to go all out this year and make some homemade rolls. As each of my family members would roll in (no pun intended..hehe), I would make sure that I told them that I made homemade rolls JUST for them.

It didn’t work after the 4th person.

Want the recipe for the best toasted pun turkey sandwich rolls EVER?

Check out the link here

Some good ole’ stuffin and butter laden mashed potatoes.

And Grandma Dreese’s Harvard beets and baked corn. Classics. Like a little black style.

And again, Lauren had to go crazy on the desserts. Because not everyone likes the best cheesecake in the world…I guess.

Grandma made some pies too so I’m pretty sure that we had about 15 desserts.

In my eyes, we could have used a few more ;)

And then comes the International part of this Thanksgiving feast of wonderfulness.

It’s nine o clock on a Saturday.

The regular crowd shuffles in.

Ok, so it was actually about 3pm, and I didn’t play a melody.

But I did sing a song, you piano man.

Sorry, I’m getting slightly carried away.

The Venezuelans made us arepas, I guess that’s what I’m trying to say.

Best. Arepas. Ever.

Not that I actually eat them often. haha

So this blog post is going to be kind of like this.

  • She mixed that with something
  • Then she rolled it to look like something flat-ish
  • Then she put it on the pan
  • Then she cut it and stuffed it with stuff
  • Then we all ate it and were like…woah.

It will be very scientific.

So Marianne, Luis’ sister and Laura, Luis’ girlfriend decided to give us a treat with these delightful cornish floury biscuits.

You start with a corn flour called masarepa. Confused already…well here is what is looks like.

You add it to water until it forms a stiff dough.

Roll them into palm-size flat disk shapes.

Yes, that is the most precise measurement I have for you. Deal with it.

Then you start with a very very hot pan plop them on there.

When they start to brown, flip that!

Then, cut them open.

You can keep the “stuff” inside, or scrape it out.

They actually ask you if you want the stuff in or out when you dine in Venezuela.

So, my American friends, I prefer the gunk out, just sayin…in case you ever run into this predicament.

Then add some of this delicious chicken stuff.

I have no idea how they made that, but it was darn good.

Next stuff it with some cheese, shredded cheddar and monterey jack, I believe.

Then, you must find a handsome French boy to model the empanadas made by Venezuelans, all while  being and American taking pictures. Seriously, it’s like I just committed International adultery…or something.

Like America is in a polygamist relationship with France and Venezuela…or something.

Any way you look at it, we had the best Thanksgiving ever in the Elsasser household.

I learned that sweaters are called “jumpers” in France. (Just like the kindergarten girl’s dresses)

I learned that French people think pumpkins and carrots are the same vegetable.

I learned that Harvard is better than MIT on every level.

And, I learned that I love all of these people and I want them back now.