8 Amazing Thanksgiving Desserts

Top off your feast with one of our favorite cakes, crisps, tarts, and cheesecakes

One of our absolute favoritesOne of our absolute favorites
Roasted Sweet-Potato Cheesecake with Maple Cream
This prize-winning recipe from a Sunset reader is one of our absolute favorites, creamy and moist, with just the right amount of sweetness, this dessert will wow your guests.

Yield: Makes 12 to 16 servings
Total: 2 Hours, 30 Minutes


2 dark orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb. total), such as jewel or red garnet (sometimes sold as yams)
1 tablespoon melted butter
Pecan Crust (recipe follows)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, regular or light (neufchâtel), at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Maple Cream (recipe follows)


1. Preheat oven to 375° (convection not recommended). Peel sweet potatoes and cut in half lengthwise. Place in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan and brush with melted butter. Bake until potatoes are soft when pressed, 45 to 55 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare crust. Bake in same oven with potatoes until lightly browned all over, 10 to 12 minutes.

3. Scrape any charred spots off potatoes, then cut potatoes into chunks. Whirl in a food processor or mash in a bowl with lemon juice until smooth. Reserve 1 cup; save any extra for another use.

4. Reduce oven temperature to 325°. In a bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in granulated and brown sugars, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally, until mixture is well blended and smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until blended. Add reserved sweet potato mixture, the whipping cream, sour cream, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Mix on low speed until well blended.

5. Wrap bottom of cheesecake pan with heavy-duty foil, pressing it up the sides. Pour batter over crust. Put cheesecake pan in a 12- by 15-inch roasting pan at least 2 inches deep. Set pans in oven and pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cheesecake pan.

6. Bake until cake barely jiggles in the center when gently shaken, about 55 minutes. Remove pans from oven. Lift cheesecake pan from roasting pan and let cool completely on a rack, about 1 hour, then chill until cold, at least 1 1/2 hours, or up to 3 days (cover once cold).

7. Up to 6 hours before serving, cut around inside of pan rim to release cake; remove rim. With a pastry bag, pipe dollops of maple cream onto cake. Or serve maple cream separately, to spoon onto each wedge.

Pecan Crust
: Whirl 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans in a blender until finely ground; you should have 1/4 cup. In a bowl, mix pecans, 1 1/4 cups fine graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 5 tablespoons melted butter. Pour into a 9-inch cheesecake pan with removable rim (2 1/4 in. tall). Press mixture evenly over bottom of pan.

Maple Cream
: In a bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat 3/4 cup whipping cream until stiff peaks form. On low speed, beat in 1/4 cup maple syrup just until blended.

You can make this cheesecake up to 3 days ahead; cover and chill. Garnish with cream up to 6 hours before serving; cover and chill until serving.

Nutritional Information
Amount per serving
Calories: 418
Calories from fat: 60%
Protein: 6.2g
Fat: 28g
Saturated fat: 16g
Carbohydrate: 38g
Fiber: 1g
Sodium: 239mg
Cholesterol: 130mg

Chocolate pumpkin cupcakesChocolate pumpkin cupcakes
Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes

The canned pumpkin in the batter keeps these cupcakes moist, reducing the amount of oil you need to use.

Yield: Makes 22 cupcakes
Prep Time: 45 Minutes
Chill: 1 Hour, 30 Minutes


1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder


8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar


About 1 1/2 cups sweetened whipped cream
22 chocolate pastilles*


1. Make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat sugar, buttermilk, oil, eggs, pumpkin, salt, and vanilla until well blended.

2. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Gradually add to wet mixture, beating on medium speed until smooth.

3. Line muffin pans with muffin cups and fill each cup with 3 tbsp. batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 25 minutes. Cool completely.

4. Make frosting: In a medium bowl, beat mascarpone, pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin, vanilla, and salt with a mixer until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar. Chill until firm, 1 hour. Spread on cupcakes and top each with whipped cream and a pastille. Chill until frosting is firm, about 30 minutes.

*Find chocolate pastilles in the baking aisle at well-stocked grocery stores.

Note: Nutritional analysis is per cupcake.

Nutritional Information
Amount per serving
Calories: 259
Calories from fat: 48%
Protein: 3.5g
Fat: 14g
Saturated fat: 5.5g
Carbohydrate: 33g
Fiber: 1.6g
Sodium: 214mg
Cholesterol: 41mg

Walnut-caramel tartWalnut-caramel tart
Walnut-Caramel Tart

Ooey-gooey caramel and toasted walnuts in a buttery crust make this tart something special.

Yield: Makes 12 to 16 servings


3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups walnut halves
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup crème fraîche or whipping cream


1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat 1/2 cup butter and the brown sugar until smooth. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Add flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt and beat until mixture forms a ball.

2. Press dough over bottom and up sides to rim of a 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable rim. Freeze until firm, 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, spread walnuts in a large baking pan. Bake until lightly golden under skins, about 8 minutes (leave oven on). When walnuts are cool enough to handle, chop 2 cups; reserve remainder.

4. Bake tart shell until golden, 16 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.

5. Meanwhile, in a 3- to 4-quart pan over medium heat, combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water. Stir until sugar is dissolved, then increase heat to high and boil, swirling mixture occasionally, until mixture is a deep golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in crème fraîche, remaining 1/4 cup butter, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt (mixture will foam). Stir until smooth.

6. Spread chopped walnuts in tart shell, then pour in hot caramel; spread level. Garnish edge of tart with reserved walnut halves. Let tart cool until caramel is firm enough to slice, at least 4 hours, or chill up to 2 days (bring to room temperature before serving). Cut into thin wedges.

Nutritional Information
Amount per serving
Calories: 366
Calories from fat: 54%
Protein: 4.2g
Fat: 22g
Saturated fat: 8.2g
Carbohydrate: 40g
Fiber: 1.1g
Sodium: 209mg
Cholesterol: 43mg

Juicy pears take the place of applesJuicy pears take the place of apples
Pear Cranberry Crisps
Juicy pears take the place of apples in this twist on the apple cranberry crisp. Bake them in individual dishes for an especially pretty presentation.

: Makes 12 crisps


For the fruit
Zest and juice of 1 large orange
3 tablespoons lemon juice
9 firm-ripe Bosc pears
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over, rinsed, and drained
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons cornstarch

For the topping

1 tablespoon orange zest
1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup regular oats10 tablespoon melted butter
Ginger Crème Anglaise


1. Preheat oven to 400° and space 2 baking racks evenly apart. Put orange and lemon juices in a large bowl. Peel, halve, and core pears, then slice thinly lengthwise and cut slices in half. Add pears to juice and toss gently. Stir in cranberries.

2. In a separate small bowl, mix together zest from juiced orange, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cornstarch. Sprinkle over pears and cranberries and gently but thoroughly toss together. Divide among 12 small oval baking dishes (see Notes).

3. Make topping: In a medium bowl, mix zest, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and oats. Add butter and stir with a fork until mixture forms small clumps (break up any large clumps with your fingers).

4. Top fruit with crumbs, dividing evenly. Arrange ramekins diagonally on 2 large baking sheets. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and topping is quite browned. Serve warm, with Ginger Crème Anglaise.

Note: Nutritional analysis is per ramekin.

Nutritional Information
Amount per serving
Calories: 338
Calories from fat: 29%
Protein: 3.1g
Fat: 11g
Saturated fat: 6.1g
Carbohydrate: 61g
Fiber: 4.4g
Sodium: 154mg
Cholesterol: 26mg

An incredibly easy seasonal dessertAn incredibly easy seasonal dessert
Rustic Pear Tarts with Crème Fraiche
Fresh pears and purchased puff pastry add up to an incredibly easy seasonal dessert.

: Serves 6


1 sheet (about 10 by 12 in.) frozen puff pastry (14-oz. package), thawed
2 or 3 firm-ripe pears, such as Bosc or Comice
About 1/3 cup orange marmalade
1 large egg, beaten to blend
About 2 tbsp. turbinado sugar
6 tablespoons crème fraîche
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar


1. Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly butter 2 large baking sheets. On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out pastry to 16 by 18 in. Cut pastry in thirds lengthwise and in half crosswise. With a wide spatula, transfer the 6 rectangles to baking sheets.

2. Core pears and cut into thin wedges. Arrange, slightly overlapping, on pastry rectangles, leaving a 1 1/2-in. border bare (angle slices if necessary). Warm marmalade in a microwave oven to melt, then brush over pears. Fold border over edge of pears, stretching slightly and pressing down to hold. Brush new edges with egg, then sprinkle turbinado sugar over tarts, especially pastry edges.

3. Bake until pastries are richly browned, 25 to 30 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk crème fraîche and granulated sugar until slightly thickened. Serve tarts warm or cool, with crème fraîche.

Note: Nutritional analysis is per tart.

Nutritional Information
Amount per serving
Calories: 556
Calories from fat: 53%
Protein: 6.9g
Fat: 33g
Saturated fat: 8.1g
Carbohydrate: 60g
Fiber: 2.8g
Sodium: 209mg
Cholesterol: 51mg

Try serving this in addition to the classic pieTry serving this in addition to the classic pie
Chocolate-Caramel Trifle with Raspberries
Not everyone loves pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, so try serving this gorgeous and decadent chocolate raspberry trifle in addition to the classic pie.

Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings

About 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine, at room temperature
About 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup hazelnut- or coffee-flavor liqueur (see notes)
Caramel Pastry Cream
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries (6 oz.), rinsed and drained


1. Butter and flour a 9-inch square baking pan.

2. Coarsely chop 3 ounces of the chocolate and place in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in a microwave oven on full power (100%), stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth, about 1 1/2 minutes total.

3. In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium-high speed, beat 1/2 cup butter and the sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well blended. Stir in melted chocolate.

4. In another bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture and milk to butter mixture, stir to combine, then beat until well blended. Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread level.

5. Bake in a 350° regular or convection oven until cake begins to pull from pan sides, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cake cool to room temperature in pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

6. Run a thin knife between cake and pan sides and invert onto a board to release. Cut cake into 1- to 1 1/2-inch cubes. Layer a third of the cubes in the bottom of a 3- to 3 1/2-quart trifle bowl or other straight-sided glass bowl. Drizzle 1/4 cup liqueur evenly over cake. Spoon a third of the Caramel Pastry Cream over cake and spread level. Repeat to make two more layers each of cake, liqueur, and pastry cream, ending with pastry cream. Cover and chill at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.

7. Finely chop remaining 1 ounce chocolate or scrape into curls. Arrange raspberries on trifle and sprinkle chocolate evenly over berries. Scoop onto dessert plates to serve.

Nutritional Information
Amount per serving
Calories: 669
Calories from fat: 40%
Protein: 8.6g
Fat: 30g
Saturated fat: 18g
Carbohydrate: 88g
Fiber: 2g
Sodium: 379mg
Cholesterol: 205mg

Fall-inspired twist on the classic Fall-inspired twist on the classic
Pear and Ginger Upside-Down Cake

Brown sugar glazed pears top moist ginger cake in this fall-inspired twist on the classic pineapple upside-down cake.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings


2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
2 firm-ripe Bosc pears (1 lb. total)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs
3/4 cup dark molasses
1 1/4 cups buttermilk


1. Lightly butter a 9-inch cheesecake pan with removable rim at least 2 1/2 inches tall. Line pan with a 10-inch round of cooking parchment, pressing into bottom and about 1/2 inch up sides. Cut 2 tablespoons butter into about 1/4-inch chunks and drop evenly over parchment in pan bottom. Sprinkle evenly with 1/2 cup brown sugar and the crystallized ginger.

2. Peel pears and cut in half lengthwise, then, slicing parallel to cut edge, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. With a small knife, cut core from each slice. Arrange slices flat, in a single layer, over sugar mixture in pan, trimming pieces as needed to fit.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and allspice.

4. In another bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat remaining 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup brown sugar until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to medium-low and beat in molasses. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, beating until incorporated, then beat on high speed just until well blended. Pour batter over pears.

5. Bake in a 325° regular or 300° convection oven until a toothpick inserted in center (not in fruit) comes out clean, 1 hour and 35 to 40 minutes (cake center may settle slightly). Let cool in pan on a rack about 20 minutes. Remove pan sides. Invert a platter over cake, then, holding the two together, invert again. Carefully remove pan bottom and parchment. Serve warm.

Nutritional Information
Amount per serving
Calories: 392
Calories from fat: 25%
Protein: 4.8g
Fat: 11g
Saturated fat: 6.6g
Carbohydrate: 70g
Fiber: 1.7g
Sodium: 447mg
Cholesterol: 63mg

More favorite cake recipes

A luxuriously creamy cheesecakeA luxuriously creamy cheesecake
Cranberry Crown Cheesecake
For the Yogurt Cheese, drain 2 1/2 to 3 quarts nonfat yogurt at least 24 hours. If using cream cheese, omit the gelatin and step 3; in step 4, beat in the liqueur and vanilla until smooth, then beat in eggs


1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons orange-flavor liqueur or orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups Yogurt Cheese or cream cheese
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 to 2 cups cool Baked Cranberry-Orange Sauce


1. In a 9-inch cheesecake pan with removable rim (at least 1 3/4 in. tall), mix graham cracker crumbs and butter. Pat mixture evenly over bottom and about 1/2 inch up sides of pan.

2. Bake crust in a 350° regular or convection oven until slightly browner, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. In a 1- to 1 1/2-quart pan, mix gelatin with 2 tablespoons cold water; let stand until softened, about 1 minute. Stir over medium heat until gelatin is dissolved, about 45 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in liqueur and vanilla.

4. In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat cheese, sugar, and gelatin mixture until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until smoothly blended. Pour mixture into hot or cool crust.

5. Bake cheesecake in a 325° regular or 300° convection oven until center jiggles only slightly when pan is gently shaken, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool cake on a rack for about 30 minutes, then chill, uncovered, until cold, at least 2 hours. Serve, or cover airtight and chill up to 1 day.

6. Just before serving, lightly blot any moisture from surface of cake with a paper towel. Spread cranberry sauce evenly over cake. Remove pan rim and cut cake into wedges.

Nutritional analysis per serving with yogurt cheese: 259 cal., 15% (39 cal.) from fat; 7.9 g protein; 4.3 g fat (1.8 g sat.); 48 g carbo (1 g fiber); 116 mg sodium; 77 mg chol.

Nutritional analysis per serving with cream cheese: 419 cal., 52% (216 cal.) from fat; 6.9 g protein; 24 g fat (14 g sat.); 45 g carbo (1 g fiber); 251 mg sodium; 138 mg chol.

Now that you have the most important part of the meal taken care of, plan the rest of your Thanksgiving menu.