Thanksgiving Desserts Worth Saving Room For

grandmother and granddaughter with Thanksgiving dessert in kitchen

Thanksgiving is the most anticipated meal of the year and desserts play a large role. Pie is a Thanksgiving staple, but it's not the only dessert in town. This year, go with the classics, but also think out of the box and add something new to your dessert table.

Fall Applesauce Cake

fall applesauce cake recipe

This spicy cake gets its moistness from applesauce, a harvest-time favorite. It's delicious with coffee or tea. The cake serves eight to 12.


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup butter, slightly soft
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups applesauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 6-8 walnut halves (optional)
  • Powdered sugar (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat eggs in small bowl; cream butter and sugar in large bowl.
  3. Add eggs to creamed mixture and combine well.
  4. In a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients together, and sift gradually into creamed mixture, mixing well.
  5. Add applesauce and vanilla; mix well.
  6. Stir in chopped walnuts (if desired).
  7. Pour batter into a well-greased and floured Bundt or tube pan.
  8. Bake for approximately 40-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, checking for doneness after 40 minutes.
  9. Cool for at least 15 minutes before turning cake out of pan. Putting a plate under the cake before turning it out, helps keep the cake stable.
  10. Serve the cake once it has cooled. Lightly sprinkle powdered sugar across the cake and top with walnut halves before serving.

Pumpkin-Ginger Harvest Trifle

pumpkin trifle dessert recipe

This beautiful, layered dessert adds elegance to your holiday table and is reminiscent of pumpkin pie. It serves about eight, depending on serving size.


  • Baked and cubed or sliced spice cake (made from a mix or homemade)
  • 1 package vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 container non-dairy whipped topping
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnaps

Pudding Directions

  1. Beat evaporated milk and pudding mix in a large bowl.
  2. Refrigerate 5 minutes or until set.
  3. Stir in pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice.

Trifle Assembly Instructions

  1. Add a layer of spice cake to the bottom of a trifle dish, a large glass bowl, or individual parfait cups; top with a layer of pumpkin pudding and a layer of non-dairy whipped topping sprinkled with crushed gingersnaps.
  2. Repeat layers until dish is full, making sure you end with a layer of non-dairy whipped topping and gingersnaps.
  3. Chill until ready to serve.

Mini Cranberry Sauce-Topped Cheesecakes

mini cranberry cheesecake recipe

When rich cheesecake is paired with tart cranberry sauce, the result is a luscious dessert guests will devour. The recipe makes about nine mini cheesecakes.

Crust Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Filling and Topping Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup white sugar, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 can whole-berry cranberry sauce


  1. Line each mini cheesecake pan with paper liners.
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs, 1 tablespoon sugar, and melted butter; press about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the bottom of each paper liner.
  3. In a medium bowl, cream the cream cheese and butter; stir in the vanilla, cinnamon, and egg.
  4. Spoon cream cheese batter into each paper liner, about 2/3 full.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until centers are almost set.
  6. Cool cheesecakes completely in pan; add 1 heaping tablespoon cranberry sauce to each cheesecake.
  7. Transfer cheesecakes to the refrigerator and chill until ready to serve.

Thanksgiving Cookies

Harvest Spice Thanksgiving Cut-Out Cookies

The turkey shape makes this cookie fun for kids to eat yet the sprinkling of coarse sugar makes it elegant enough to serve to adults. This recipe yields about 3 dozen cookies.


  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 sticks butter (slightly softened)
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin purée
  • Coarse sugar for sprinkling on cookies


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice.
  3. In another large bowl, cream the sugars, butter, pumpkin purée, and vanilla (by hand or using an electric mixer); stir in egg.
  4. Using an electric mixer, gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed ingredients. Be sure each addition is well-incorporated before adding more.
  5. Turn about 1/3 of the dough onto a floured surface; roll out to 1/4" thickness.
  6. Cut out turkey shapes using a floured cookie cutter; place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  7. Sprinkle each cookie shape with coarse sugar.
  8. Bake cookies for about 10 minutes or until edges are light brown.
  9. Remove cookies from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.

Other Desserts for Thanksgiving

The following desserts offer something for everyone.

  • Pumpkin pie: For many people, pumpkin pie is the best part of Thanksgiving! It's a beloved favorite with or without whipped cream.
  • Fat-free pumpkin mousse: Made with pumpkin puree, orange zest, spices, and Grand Marnier, this recipe is a great alternative to pumpkin pie for your health-conscious guests.
  • Gingerbread cake with pumpkin frosting: Warm gingerbread cake pairs perfectly with pumpkin frosting made of cream cheese, nutmeg, orange zest, and pumpkin purée.
  • Chocolate pecan pie: Try a pecan pie variation by adding 1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the classic recipe.
  • Sweet potato pie: Save your sweet potatoes for dessert by making this pie. It's created using ingredients such as sweet potatoes, spices, and brown sugar.

Decadant Desserts

A lot of thought, time, and love goes into making desserts, and Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to show-off your baking skills. Let your guests know you care by offering them an array of delicious desserts you're proud to serve.

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Thanksgiving Desserts Worth Saving Room For