Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed”

~ Maya Angelou

I was raised in a family where cooking for others is an act of giving that is equated with love.  We were always reminded to be grateful for what we receive, and more importantly, who we are blessed to have in our lives and around our table.  At our house Thanksgiving is a holiday meant to Share.Laugh.Eat.Repeat!

I hope you enjoy the Thanksgiving dessert recipes featured here.  They are just a few of my favorites.  They range in the amount of effort required.  I’ve done this intentionally with the knowledge that while we all want beautiful desserts for our celebrations, we have varying amounts of time to spend in the kitchen. You can find more of my harvest recipes in the November 2018 issue of Southwest Metro Magazine in the article titled Empty Nesters Kitchen Lives Fully.  Included are a skillet apple crisp + wine pairing suggestion, a festive cocktail from J.Carver Distillery in Waconia and my tempting recipe for pumpkin bread pudding (this one is also included here).

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Crust

 (Recipe from Regan Daley/ Fine Cooking Magazine, Issue 60 )


For the Gingersnap Crust

  • About 40 gingersnap wafers (to yield 2 cups cookie crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2-1/2 oz. (5 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling

  • 2 lb. (four 8-oz. packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
  • One 15-oz. can pure solid-pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)


  • Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.
  • Make the crust: Pulse the cookies and brown sugar in a food processor until well combined and the crumbs are uniform. Transfer to a medium bowl; add the melted butter. Combine thoroughly, first with a spoon and then with your fingers, until the mixture is evenly moist, crumbly, and holds together when you squeeze a handful. Press the mixture evenly over the bottom and partway up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Chill for 5 minutes and then bake for 10 minutes. Let cool.
  • Make the filling: Heat a kettle of water. With an electric mixer or a wooden spoon, beat the cream cheese until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and salt. Add this mixture to the cream cheese. Beat until well blended, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, making sure each is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next, and scraping down the bowl after each. Blend in the vanilla and pumpkin.
  • Scrape the batter into the cooled crust. The batter will come up past the crust and will fill the pan to the rim. Tap the pan gently once or twice on the counter to release any air bubbles. Set the pan in a larger baking dish (a roasting pan is good), and add enough hot water from the kettle to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the top of the cake looks deep golden and burnished and the center is set (the cake may just barely begin to crack), 1 hour 35 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes. The cake will jiggle a little bit when tapped. The top may rise a bit but will settle as it cools. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and run a thin-bladed knife between the crust and the pan sides (this will prevent the cake from breaking as it cools). Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature in the pan on a wire rack. Cover and chill overnight.
Optional: The sweetened whipped cream and gingersnaps on top were my addition.  See the whipped cream recipe at the bottom of the page.  The cake stand was purchased from HomeGoods in Eden Prairie.

Easy Apple Pie Parfaits


  • 1 large pre-made lattice apple pie (I bought mine from Costco)
  • Sweetened Whipped Cream (see recipe below)
  • Fresh nutmeg


  • Scoop apple pie into 10 decorative dishes or small martini glasses
  • Top with Sweetened Whipped Cream
  • Grate fresh nutmeg over the top



Pumpkin Bread Pudding Parfaits


  • 1 loaf of Challah bread (16 ounce), cut into 1 /2 inch cubes (preferable dried on a sheet pan for several hours or overnight)
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 – 15 ounce can of pumpkin pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and lightly butter a 2 quart baking dish.
  • Place dried challah bread in a large bowl.  
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together brown sugar, granulated sugar, pumpkin puree, whole milk, heavy cream, eggs, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves until mixture is well combined.  Pour custard over the bread. Stir gently and let rest for 15-20 minutes. This allows time for the bread time to soak up some of the custard.
  • Transfer the bread pudding into the prepared baking dish.  
  • Bake for 35-45 minutes* or until the bread pudding is just set and golden on the top.  
  • Let Cool.  
  • Scoop into mini dessert or parfait cups.  Top with whipped cream and fresh grated nutmeg.

*Oven temperatures and baking times can vary.  




Sweetened Whipped Cream Topping


  • 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar (more to adjust to desired sweetness level)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Beat heavy cream to desired thickness.
  2. Stir powdered sugar and vanilla extract until well combined.  

*Cooks tip: I chill the bowl prior to beating.  This decreases the amount of time required and lessens the chance of overbeating.

**The featured image at the top is a mini pumpkin pie that I made last year with some left over pie crust and pumpkin pie filling. It was baked in a small Lodge Cast Iron pan.

Using a cookie cutter, I created several leaves out of a Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust and baked them on a sheet pan.  A sharp paring knife was utilized to create the veins.  I used them to top a variety of desserts.

Have a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Coming soon to The Empty Nesters Kitchen Blog:

  • Holiday cocktails and dessert recipes
  • My photo Gallery of Tokyo and Kyoto Japan
  • Part 2 of the HAFA farm series focusing on the Veggie RX program




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