Roasted, stuffed, glazed, and baked, turkey and pie often take centerstage during the special holiday that is Thanksgiving. But, if you’ve clicked on this article, I’d like to believe you’re ready or at least willing to switch up the Thanksgiving dessert spread this year.
As a girl with a sweet tooth, what always excites me the most about family-oriented holidays is dessert! And, as a treat that can be overlooked during the season of gratitude, I am thrilled to dig into the deliciousness of Thanksgiving cakes. And, to the traditional die-hards, don’t worry, we’ve still made some space for pie here too. Read below as we tell you how you can serve Thanksgiving cake, pie, or both for this fun holiday.
The History of Thanksgiving Dessert: Why Pie?
Ever taken a bite of a delicious holiday dish and thought ‘why am I eating this right now, on this particular day?’ — me neither! Honestly, I’m probably considering how I can get more without looking greedy. Nonetheless, there is an interesting history behind why we eat pie for Thanksgiving, and I thought I’d share.
Believe it or not, there was not a pumpkin pie in sight at the very first Thanksgiving, as the pilgrims were not cultivating wheat at the time. However, once they gained knowledge about pumpkins from the Native Americans, it was carried over to the British colonies in New England.
Experimentation resulted in roasted whole pumpkins with milk, sugar and nutmeg, and eventually, stewed pumpkin in pastry crust. Once canned pumpkin became available in the 1800s, pumpkin pie was a common dish made for Thanksgiving throughout the country. This tradition made it’s way across the world, and today millions of people eat pumpkin, apple, and pecan pie on Thanksgiving for reasons they cannot really explain.
Thanksgiving Pie vs Thanksgiving Cake: A Bake Down
When I said we made some room for pie, what I really mean’t is that we made room for it to plead it’s case. Okay, just kidding, but also not because it seems that the pie vs cake debate can be quite an emotional one. And, not only amongst the mere mortals who feast on it for special occasions, but also amongst industry professionals who bake for a living!
An article from Huffpost called ‘Proffesional Bakers Throw Down on The Topic of Pie vs. Cake’ produces a few opinions from experts in the pastry field. Founder of the Pie Hole LA, Lindsay Hollister Heffner, for one says that, “We bake from four generations of family recipes. Most people have memories of their grandmother, or mother, baking pie. Basically, pie has soul! Also, what is Thanksgiving without pie?”
But, what about Thanksgiving cake? Richard Ruetter of Caroline’s Cakes in South Carolina came to this confectionary’s defense and said that, “with cake, you can always sneak another little sliver, whereas with pies it may be more difficult to get away with a smaller portion because the fillings are harder to contain.”
My verdict? Well, personally, I’m a cake lover and the pies I’ve tasted in my life have honestly been ‘meh’. But, for the sake of fairness and an inability to let go of tradition, I can’t imagine Thanksgiving without a scrumptious apple crumble! The most beautiful part though, is that you don’t actually have to choose – but we’ll get to that later.
Going Beyond Pie: 4 Unique Thanksgiving Cake Ideas
It’s time to turn the Thanksgiving tables (metaphorically of course) and add cake into the equation! Here are 5 unique cakes that can sweeten up the festivities:
Spiced Pear Upside Down Cake
Replace apples with pears when you bake this deliciously warm dessert. Includes all the ingredients you’re used to using in traditional Thanksgiving desserts – warm spices, sugar, and maple syrup. Served with ice cream, whipped cream, or vanilla custard, Spiced Pear Upside Down Cake is the perfect addition to your holiday table.
Sweet Potato Sour Cream Cake
Not only is this cake quirky and different, it’s a great way to use up extra sweet potatoes from Thanksgiving dinner! Baked with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, this cake captures all the much-loved flavors of the holiday. Surprise your family with this delectable dessert.
Chocolate Cake With Toasted Marshmallow
You can switch things up and still leave some room for tradition! Don’t just add marshmallows to your casserole this year, make it the main event with this six-layer chocolate cake. A heavenly chocolate tower coated in toasted marshmallow buttercream frosting with toasted marshmallow filling, it will make for the most exquisite addition to your Thanksgiving dessert menu! .
Orange Cranberry Cake
When it comes to ending off a big meal, you can never go wrong with citrus desserts. Orange and cranberry offer a burst of freshness and a sweetness that isn’t cloyingly sweet! With a recipe including orange zest as well as orange juice, you’ll be serving your guests a refreshing dessert with the Orange Cranberry Cake.
Thankful for Both: How to Turn Your Favorite Pie Into Thanksgiving Cake
Traditional pies are an integral part of Thanksgiving, or, at least the taste that they provide. And, you don’t have to give that up! In fact, cake baking allows more room for creating something new with same the flavors everyone craves around this festive time. Here are a few ways you can put on spin on familiarity by turning your favorite pie into Thanksgiving cake:
For the Apple Pie Lovers: Apple Pie Cake
While traditional apple pie doesn’t usually come topped with dollops of brown sugar frosting, a festive apple pie sheet cake will have everyone feeling just as warm and cozy. This cake is made with many of the same ingredients you’d use to make classic apple pie — like nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and diced apples. But, it’s the leaf-shaped cut-out toppings that really make this cake worthy of the spotlight on your Thanksgiving table.
For the Pumpkin Pie Peeps: Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes
Reimagine traditional pie crusts with this playful cupcake recipe! This recipe show you how to use your left-over pie crust to create a flaky leaf-shaped garnish, and enjoy a pumpkin spiced cupcake topped with cream cheese frosting!
Top Tip: Personalize your pumpkin pie cupcakes by using initial cookie-cutters to shape the pie-crust garnish! You’re guests will love receiving a cupcake with their name on it.
For the Pecan Pie Stans: Pecan Pie Chiffon Cake
The best thing about a traditional pecan pie is the ooey-gooey filling. But, it’s sweetness can often be a little overwhelming. Opt for a lighter alternative with this uniquely flavored chiffon cake! And not to worry, thanks to its sticky-sweet brown sugar glaze, you’ll still experience all the traditional flavors you love in pecan pie!
A Simple PieCaken Recipe
What is PieCaken you ask? It’s an utterly ridiculous but delicious solution for those who want both cake and pie this Thanksgiving. With this rather extravagant recipe, you’ll do more than wow your guests, you’ll have them talking about your Thanksgiving dinner for years to come! PieCaken is a three-layer cake with 2 pies inside of it – no I’m not joking. Below is the simplest recipe I could find, good luck!
What You’ll Need: Recipes for the Recipe
- A spiced cake recipe
- A pumpkin pie recipe
- A pecan pie recipe
Step 1: Make the Pies
Press pie dough into two pans, over the bottom and about two inches up the sides. Fill one with an inch of pecan pie filling and the other with an inch of pumpkin pie filling.
Bake the pies until the fillings are set and crust is golden. Once the pies cool, trim the crusts down a little to be even with the filling. Place both pies in th fridge to chill.
Step 2: Make the Cake
Pour spice cake batter in the third pan and bake. Once the finished cake is cool, slice through it horizontally to make a layer about 1-½ inches high. Then, chill the cake in the fridge.
Step 3: Make the Frosting
Make a buttercream frosting ( you can use this recipe) and add 1-2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Remember to make enough for a three-layer cake!
Step 4: Assemble the Cake
Place the chilled pecan pie on a cake board and frost the top with a half-inch of cinnamon buttercream. Chill it for 30 minutes.
Top tip: chilling helps make the layers stable for stacking!
Next, place the pumpkin pie ontop of the pecan pie and frost it with a half-inch of cinnamon buttercream. Chill the cake for 30 minutes.
And, finally, place the spice cake on the top, and frost it with a half-inch of cinnamon buttercream. Chill the cake for 30 minutes.
Step 5: Decorate the Cake
Use the remainder of your cinnamon buttercream frosting to carefully frost the whole cake. You can pipe a few decorative flourishes arounf the edges of the cake for some pizazz. Add the final touch with a dollop of apple pie filling on the top of the cake. Then, chill your PieCaken in the fridge for at least one hour.
Serve at room temperature for the best texture and taste!
Thanksgiving Cake is as Easy as PieCaken!
Which isn’t too easy at all. But, spending time with friends and family while sharing good food makes it all worth it! Get out of your comfort zone this year and blow your guests away with a dessert they won’t be expecting. Happy Thanksgiving from Cakes Overseas!
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Alex is a hopeless romantic who was supposed to be born in Italy (her dream destination), but proud to be South African nonetheless. She lives by her heart, and, consequentially, leaves a little bit of herself in everything she writes. She wholeheartedly believes that mermaids (and fairies) exist and is deadly afraid of the age ’30’.