Thanksgiving Dessert Alternatives to Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving desserts are pretty standard: pumpkin pie, apple pie, sweet potato pie, and pecan pie. And one or two of these likely makes an appearance at your annual Thanksgiving gathering. I am not one to scoff a these classics; I love pie as much as (probably more than) the next person—in fact, I look forward to pie more than anything else. Sometimes though, you want to bring something new to the table (pun intended).

These two recipes don’t stray far from the classic fall flavors of Thanksgiving—they are simple to make and are sure to impress everyone at your table this year.

Ginger Snap Lemon Icebox Cake

Icebox cakes became popular in the 20s and 30s as a “back of the box” recipe for chocolate wafers. The formula consists of layers of cookies and whipped cream that are left overnight in the refrigerator. The cream softens the cookies and the layers meld together to create a light and creamy “cake.” Lemon and ginger is one of my favorite combinations, hence the inspiration for this recipe. You can customize it to your liking with different cookies and flavors in the cream—be creative! Just be sure to use crisp cookies or the cake will end up soggy.


•    1 and 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
•    1/3 cup granulated sugar
•    8 ounces Italian mascarpone cheese, cold
•    Zest and juice of 1 lemon
•    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
•    14 ounces of crisp ginger snaps, store bought or homemade.
•    Ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks, for garnish


Line an 8” round cake pan with plastic wrap by laying two long strips in a cross and pressing the wrap into the edges of the pan. There should be plenty of over hang on the pan so you can lift the cake out later.

To make the cream mixture: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a large bowl if using a handheld mixer) add all of the ingredients except for the ginger snaps. Mix on low speed until the mixture comes together and then gradually increase to high speed. Whip until firm peaks form—this should only take a minute or two.

Add the cookies in a single layer in the bottom of the cake pan. Cover the space as best you can, breaking cookies to fit the larger gaps.

Spread a fourth of the cream mixture evenly over the cookies to cover them, making sure to get the cream close to the edges. The layer will be fairly thin but you shouldn’t be able to see the cookies through the cream. Repeat the process with all of the cookies and cream, creating four layers.

Cover in plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

The following day, use the plastic wrap over hang to lift the cake out of the pan. Transfer to a plate using a large spatula. If garnishing, sprinkle cinnamon over top of the cake and add a pile of cinnamon sticks in the center. Serve cold. The cake will last if stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.


Apple Pear Cranberry Crisp

Fruit crisps are a fall classic. They are earthy and comforting and even easier to make than pie. I’ve updated one of my favorite crisps with the addition of fresh cranberries for tartness. I like to add pecans to the topping for added depth of flavor and texture but if feel free to leave these out or substitute with walnuts or almonds. To make this recipe gluten free you can substitute the flour and oats for all-purpose GF flour and GF oats.


For the filling:
•    2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed
•    4 large tart apples, about 2 and 1/2 pounds (such as granny smith, jonagold, or fugi)
•    3 large bosc pears, about 2 pounds (they are quite firm when ripe)
•    Zest and juice of 1 orange
•    Zest and juice of 1 lemon
•    ½ cup granulated sugar
•    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
•    ¼ cup all purpose flour

For the topping:
•    1 and ½ cups all purpose flour
•    ¾ cup granulated sugar
•    ¾ cup light brown sugar
•    ½ teaspoon kosher salt
•    1 cup oats
•    1 and ½ cups pecans, chopped
•    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a saucepan over medium heat add the fresh cranberries and sprinkle over ¼ cup of the sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally until the cranberries pop and soften. Remove the mixture from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Peel and slice the apples and pears into ½ inch chunks and add to a 9” x 13” pan. Add the zest and juice of the orange and lemon, the remaining ¼ cup sugar, cinnamon, and flour, stir together to coat the fruit.

Add the cranberries to the pear and apple mixture and stir to combine them evenly throughout.


Combine all of the ingredients except for the butter and stir together. Cut in the cold butter using a pastry cutter (or your hands) and mash the butter into the dry ingredients to create a clumpy topping.

Spread the topping evenly over the fruit and bake for 45–50 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly and the fruit is soft.

Serve warm with ice cream. Store in the fridge covered in plastic for up to 3 days.