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Pumpkin pie doesn’t have to be the only dessert invited to Thanksgiving this year. Go beyond the classics and get ready to try cakes, puddings, and trifles.

For Amber Snyder, owner of Sweet Dreams Bakery, dessert on Thanksgiving means pumpkin, but not in pie. Baking since childhood, she bakes a pumpkin cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting for her holiday dessert.

“It’s a simple cake, but it’s so good,” Snyder said. Another family favorite comes from her southern roots in North Carolina – banana pudding. This simple dessert is made with vanilla pudding, vanilla wafers, and sliced bananas.

Snyder also suggested chocolate cake as a tasty Thanksgiving dessert. “You can’t go wrong with chocolate any time of the year,” she said.

For any sort of cake, like her pumpkin cake, Snyder recommended completely cooling the cake before applying the cream cheese frosting. Her advice is based off personal experience, when she applied the frosting too soon and it melted into the cake.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Snyder said with a laugh, “But it was good.”

Dannalee Nordhagen, co-owner of SmallCakes located at Rushmore Crossings, offers a twist on the traditional pumpkin pie.

“We make something a little different that we call a ka-pi,” Nordhagen said. “We bake a pie into a cake.”

The process involves taking a precooked pie, pouring some cake batter in the bottom of a pan, placing the pie upside down in the pan, and then adding the rest of the cake batter. This two-desserts-in-one dish gets baked together and then topped with frosting.

The ka-pi is popular with customers, especially when someone has been tasked with bringing the dessert for the holiday meal and they want something specialized and unique, explained Nordhagen.

Offering classic Thanksgiving flavors — ka-pi combinations include pumpkin pie in a vanilla cake, pecan pie in a German chocolate cake, or cherry pie paired with chocolate cake.

Nordhagen also offers holiday flavored cupcakes, which is another option for dessert. Some popular flavors includes sweet potato with marshmallows on top, pecan pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin ale, and eggnog cheesecake cupcakes.

At the Millstone Restaurant on West Main, Jeannie Tobias, day shift supervisor, offers a wide selection of pies and cobblers to tempt anyone’s taste buds. “It’s a given that there will be pumpkin pie, but dessert can really be whatever tradition you want to have in your family,” Tobias said.

Tobias’ family has a love of cheesecake and every year Tobias will try different flavors such as s’mores cheesecake and maple bacon cheesecake, both which were hits.

“My son also makes a killer trifle,” said Tobias. “And it’s so easy.” Tobias explained that her son layers freshly baked gingerbread with a mousse filling, and then tops it with homemade whipped cream. The finishing touches are cookies crumbled on top.

At the restaurant some of their offerings include peach crisp cobbler, cherry crisp cobbler, chocolate peanut butter cream pie, and raspberry cream. “We also offer a sour cream raisin cream pie, which is a favorite of seniors. It’s good,” said Tobias.

Cobblers can be a good choice for dessert, because they can be made a day or two before turkey day and then reheated. “Heat your oven to 200-250 degrees and place the cobbler in the oven when you sit down to dinner,” Tobias explained. “It will be warm by the time you’re done.”

For cream pies, she suggested making that Thanksgiving morning or the evening before if possible. “Cream pies are best fresh,” Tobias said.

Don’t be afraid to try something new, Tobias encouraged. “Don’t make something too complex though — try something easy, like making your own whipped cream for a store bought pie.”

Snyder agreed. “Keep desserts simple, because there’s so much other cooking going on.”

Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe Submitted by Amber Snyder

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil, divided

4 large eggs

3 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/2 cup 2% milk


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12 oz. cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup butter, softened (I used 6 Tbsp salted 6 Tbsp unsalted)

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

5 cups powdered sugar


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 3 9-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with a round of parchment paper. 

In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger for 20 seconds.

Whip together butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and 3 Tbsp of the vegetable oil until pale and fluffy (scrape down sides and bottom of bowl throughout mixing). 

Mix in remaining 1/4 + 1 Tbsp vegetable oil. 

Blend in eggs one at a time, adding in vanilla with last egg.

In a bowl, mix pumpkin with milk. 

Working in three separate batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, add 1/3 of the flour mixture alternating with half of the pumpkin mixture and mixing just until combined after each addition.

Divide batter among three prepared cake pans and spread batter into an even layer. 

Bake in preheated oven for about 30 - 35 minutes. 

Cool in cake pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire racks to cool completely. 

Once cool, frost cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Enjoy!

For the frosting:

Whip together cream cheese and butter until pale and fluffy. 

Add cinnamon, vanilla and powdered sugar and mix on low speed until combined, then increase to medium and whip until pale and fluffy (if frosting is runny, cover and refrigerate just until it no longer is runny before spreading on cake).

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