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Thanksgiving Cake Is a Thing. Here Are 21 Recipes That Prove It

Alert the presses: Thanksgiving cake is the dessert that’s set to overthrow every pumpkin, apple and pecan pie at your holiday table in 2022. Don’t believe us? That’s because you’ve never served a gorgeous apple cake, sliced into a cider doughnut loaf or basked in the oohs and ahhs after unveiling a layered pumpkin masterpiece for your guests. Here, 21 Thanksgiving cake recipes to end your feast on a sweet note.

1. Caramelized Butternut Squash Upside-Down Cake

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Photo: Matt Dutile/Styling: Erin McDowell

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: special occasion–worthy, crowd-pleaser

If you’re not sold on the idea of butternut in a dessert, consider that pumpkin is also a type of squash. This cake is sticky, moist and coated in a layer of caramelly glaze from the pan.

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2. Apple Cider Caramel Poke Cake with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Katherine Gillen

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours
  • Why We Love It: special occasion–worthy, kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser

True to its name, this is a cake you poke all over, so it’s as fun to make as it is to eat. The holes have a purpose, too: Once you pour over the apple cider caramel, it’ll infuse the entire confection with extra flavor and moisture.

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3. Pumpkin Angel Food Cake with Cream Cheese Glaze

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Photo: Matt Dutile/Styling: Erin McDowell

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 5 minutes
  • Why We Love It: special occasion–worthy, kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser

You wrote off angel food cake long ago as bland and boring, but this one will make you reconsider. It’s still light and airy, but with a pumpkin-y flavor and a thick cream cheese glaze—we’re breaking all the rules tonight.

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4. Cinnamon Sheet Cake with Cider Frosting

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Erin McDowell

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, special occasion–worthy

When you’re already juggling a huge turkey and a hundred other side dishes, making a cake can seem daunting. This sheet cake is a stunner with minimal effort. It’s ready in less than an hour and gilded with a sweet frosting that’s bursting with cider flavor.

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5. Apple-Cider Pear Spelt Cake

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Erin McDowell

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly

For a lighter post-dinner bite, this nutty loaf cake is the ticket. It’s made with a touch of spelt flour (an ancient type of wheat), so it has a light crumb and a nutty, sweet flavor that complements the tender pears.

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6. Cardamom Cream-Filled Bundt Cake

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Photo: Matt Dutile/Styling: Erin McDowell

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion–worthy

Have you ever dreamed of biting into a cardamon cloud? Us too, which is why we’re making this impressive, Swedish-inspired Bundt cake this holiday. It’s lightly spiced and has a lofty, light-as-air texture thanks to yeast in the batter.

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7. Sticky Toffee Honeycomb Cake

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Erin McDowell

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: special occasion–worthy, crowd-pleaser

On the other hand, if your dessert dreams involve something sticky-sweet and over the top, this riff on sticky toffee pudding should be your Thanksgiving cake of choice. Combining honeycomb and butter in the bottom of the pan are the secret to creating a thick, honey caramel when you invert the pan.

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8. Gingerbread Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Katherine Gillen

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly, make ahead

This loaf is flavored with a classic blend of spices for the most nostalgic effect, but feel free to adjust the amounts as you see fit. If you love cinnamon and hate nutmeg, replace one with the other! Not a fan of cloves? Leave them out. Just don’t skip the thick layer of vanilla cream cheese frosting.

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9. Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Aran Goyoaga/Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours, 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, gluten free

The secret’s out: We love serving loaf cakes to a crowd because they’re easy to make and slice, plus you can make the cake ahead and frost on the big day. This one happens to be gluten free, but you can substitute regular flour if gluten isn’t a concern.

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10. Mini No-Bake Gingersnap Icebox Cakes

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, no cook, beginner-friendly, <10 ingredients

Between a roast turkey, sweet potato casserole and all the fixings, your oven is exhausted. The solution: A dessert that requires no more than assembly and an overnight stint in the fridge. (OK, a drizzle of caramel sauce won’t hurt either.)

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11. The Ultimate White Cake

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Photo: Nico Schinco/Styling: Erin McDowell

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion–worthy

Pumpkin and spice aren’t for everyone, and we get it. This classic cake is pretty enough for a special occasion and will please all the palates at the table.

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12. Snickerdoodle Chocolate-Chunk Bundt Cake

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly

You’ll recognize the same flavors as your favorite all-American cookie here, thanks to thick cinnamon-sugar layers. We also added chocolate chunks and glaze (because why not?).

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13. Dorie Greenspan’s Miso-Maple Loaf

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Mark Weinberg/Baking with Dorie

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 5 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, beginner-friendly

Miso and maple are an unlikely pairing, but together they create flavors that are warm, robust and hard to place a finger on. Translation: It’s sure to become a Thanksgiving tradition.

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14. Kumquat Upside-Down Cake

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Photo: Christine Han/Styling: Erin McDowell

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly, special occasion–worthy

Allow us to introduce you to our cute new friend, kumquat. She’s kind of tart, kind of bitter and the star ingredient in this upside-down cake. We think you’ll love her, and even more so with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

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15. Flourless Chocolate, Olive Oil and Almond Cake

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Laura Edwards/A Good Day to Bake

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, gluten free, special occasion–worthy

It’s great that this decadent cake is gluten free, but you know what’s even better? It doesn’t require a stand mixer to make it. The ground almonds keep the texture light and moist, and the chocolate ganache requires no explanation.

16. The Best Pumpkin Cake

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Sally’s Baking Addiction

  • Time Commitment: 4 hours (includes cooling time)
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly

Why is it the best? It’s packed with pumpkin and baking spices, it has a layer of tangy cream cheese frosting and it’s made in a single pan, so there’s almost no assembly required.

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17. Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Pinch of Yum

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly

Juicy, crunchy, sweet-tart Honeycrisp is the favorite apple variety in this sweet treat, but Granny Smith also work if you like more zing. Save any leftover slices for breakfast…if there are any leftovers, that is.

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18. Caramel Apple Cake

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Broma Bakery

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: special occasion–worthy, crowd-pleaser

Who needs a centerpiece when you have this beauty sitting on the Turkey Day table? It’s finished with a thick drizzle of homemade salted caramel, so you know it’s going to be an instant winner.

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19. Apple Cranberry Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Spoon Fork Bacon

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours, 5 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion–worthy

Fresh cranberries and sage give this simple, flavorful cake a festive touch, so you don’t even need to be skilled with frosting or a piping bag to impress your guests.

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20. Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Half Baked Harvest

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser

There’s a lot to love in this Thanksgiving-ready cake, so take your pick. Will it be the vanilla maple apple butter sponge, the fudgy chocolate filling or the creamy caramel icing? (For us, it’s all three.)

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21. Apple Cider Doughnut Cake

food, thanksgiving cake is a thing. here are 21 recipes that prove it

Grandbaby Cakes

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly

Few things taste more like fall than a fresh apple cider doughnut, but you can’t exactly hit the farmstand right after carving the turkey. Instead, replicate the flavor with this moist, tender Bundt cake—a giant doughnut, if you will.

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Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City restaurants. She used to sling sugary desserts in a pastry kitchen, but now she’s an avid home cook and fanatic baker.

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