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31 Thanksgiving Desserts That Aren’t Pie (Like Pumpkin Angel Food Cake and Pecan Brownies)

Somewhere along the road, pie staked its claim as the official dessert of Turkey Day. We have nothing against a slice of pecan, apple or pumpkin, but what would life be like if the holiday menu included brownies, cake and cookies too? It would be better—so much better. If you, like us, are looking for Thanksgiving desserts that aren’t pie, you’ve come to the right place. Presenting 31 sweet recipes—from gooey dulce de leche brownies to butternut squash cake—that are just as festive and even more exciting than pie.

Why Do We Even Eat Turkey and Mashed Sweet Potatoes on Thanksgiving? (And Can We, Like, Not?)


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

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

True to its name, this a cake you literally poke all over—then top with a gooey sauce that seeps into the holes, infusing the entire confection with extra flavor and moisture. The cake is gently spiced, the caramel is spiked with cider and the frosting is cream cheese—dreamy.

2. Pecan Pie Brownies

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

In our humble opinion, the holiday spread is always lacking one thing: chocolate. The solution is easy, and it’s called brownies. Even better, these start with a boxed mix, so dessert is as easy to make as it is impressive.

3. Sweet Potato Sugar Cookies with Marshmallow Topping

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: ready in <30 minutes, crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly

If you, like us, are convinced that the sweet potato casserole Great Aunt Sally serves every Thanksgiving is more of a dessert than a side dish, then these cookies are for you. Make the sweet potato puree in advance to save time, and hold off on adding the marshmallows until the cookies are half-baked, so they don’t burn.

4. Caramel-Stuffed Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

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

They’re sweet, spiced and filled with gooey caramel (store-bought, don’t fret!) for a treat that’s sure to please everyone from your kid cousins to your grandpa.

5. No-Cook Pumpkin Spice Tiramisu

  • Time Commitment: 6 hours, 30 minutes (includes chilling)
  • Why We Love It: make ahead, special occasion­–worthy, crowd-pleaser, no cook

It’s creamy, lightly sweet and laced with fall baking spices, but the ease of execution is the real kicker. There’s no fussing with a cooked custard, and it actually tastes better if you make it ahead. (The bourbon is optional, so omit it if you want to make it kid-friendly.)

6. Caramelized Butternut Squash Upside-Down Cake

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

Vegetables in a cake? We went there. Butternut squash is naturally sweet, making it a perfect pair for a toffee-like cake. Because the caramel coats the top like a glaze, it doesn’t need any accompaniment…but a drizzle of cold heavy cream just before serving wouldn’t hurt either.

7. Creamy Pumpkin Eton Mess

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

Behold, a Thanksgiving dessert with all the flavor of pumpkin pie (minus the trouble of making a crust). You can use store-bought meringue cookies to streamline it further.

8. Pumpkin Angel Food Cake with Cream Cheese Glaze

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

Light-as-air pumpkin cake, swoon-worthy cream cheese frosting drips and a 20-minute prep time? Yes, yes and yes. (Psst: You can serve that glaze on the side, too, if everyone wants to drizzle their own.)

9. Aran Goyoaga’s Spiced Sweet Potato Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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

We love a loaf cake for many reasons, but the fact that you can make it ahead is main among them. This one happens to be gluten free, but you can make it with wheat flour too.

10. Cinnamon Sheet Cake with Cider Frosting

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

When you need dessert and you need it fast, this gorgeous, aromatic cake has your back. It’s ready in about an hour and tastes like fall in every bite.

11. Roasted Apple Pavlova with Honey Whipped Cream

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours, 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: special occasion–worthy, crowd-pleaser, gluten free

When you want a show-stopping dessert for a fall get-together or holiday party, this is it. Plus, it’s naturally gluten free thanks to the meringue base.

12. Dulce de Leche Skillet Brownie

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours, 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, one pan, kid-friendly

Let’s make Thanksgiving brownies a thing. These are extremely gooey and decadent, and if you’re wondering, plates are optional. (Go ahead, dive in with a spoon.)

13. Sweet Potato Pots de Crème with Toasted Marshmallow

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, special occasion–worthy, crowd-pleaser, gluten free

If your goal is to impress your Thanksgiving guests, look no further. These pots de crème—essentially a type of custard or pudding—give fancy restaurant vibes but are home kitchen friendly. (You can and absolutely should make them in advance.)

14. Rosé Poached Pears with Ginger and Vanilla

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: special occasion–worthy, beginner-friendly, gluten free

For something equally elegant but a bit lighter in flavor, these wine-poached pears will bring the oohs and ahhs. Better yet, they’re made with just six ingredients. Choose a dry rosé that you’d enjoy drinking on its own for best results.

15. Fig Tarte Tatin

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, crowd-pleaser, special occasion–worthy, beginner-friendly

To wow the table while barely lifting a finger, stock up on frozen puff pastry and make this one-skillet wonder. It’s best served warm, so it’s ideal for a special occasion and a room full of hungry people.

16. Apple Cider Pear Spelt Cake

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

Spelt is an ancient, nutrient-packed type of wheat, and here it adds nutty flavor and a beautiful color. (It doesn’t hurt that the cake is lightly sweet and feels sorta healthy.)

17. Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: kid-friendly, ready in <30 minutes, crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly

Sweet, tangy frosting and gently spiced, fluffy cookies—yep, it’s time to don your apron and make a batch of these babies. They’re a classic for a reason.

18. Chocolate ‘High-Ratio’ Sheet Cake

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion–worthy, beginner-friendly

What’s a high ratio cake, you ask? It’s a baker’s way of saying there’s at least a one-to-one ratio of sugar to flour. This ensures a tender, moist crumb like the cakes you’d find in a bakery.

19. Gingerbread Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting

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

Nothing says “holiday season” quite like gingerbread, but we’re ditching the cardboard cookies for this delightful cake. Feel free to adjust the spices to your taste.

20. Pumpkin Black and White Cookies

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: kid-friendly, beginner-friendly, crowd-pleaser

Remember those pumpkin cookies we suggested you make? As it turns out, you can use the same fluffy cookie base and frost them à la New York black and white cookies for a delicious twist. Make sure you’re using plain canned pumpkin puree and not pie filling—the latter contains added sugar and spices, and you’ll be adding your own.

21. Baked Pears with Maple Syrup and Almond Crumble

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: gluten free, beginner-friendly, <10 ingredients

If you spent too much time worrying about the turkey temperature and getting lumps out of your gravy, never fear. This chic (and relatively healthy) dessert takes about 30 minutes to make.

22. Giant Peanut Butter Cup

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 5 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, gluten free

Candy for Thanksgiving dessert is 100 percent acceptable when it’s in the form of this oversize peanut butter cup. Hot tip: Let it come to room temperature before slicing for the best presentation.

23. Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly

If making a whole cheesecake on Turkey Day sounds like your nightmare, try these sweet bites instead. They have all the flavors you crave without so much of the effort.

24. Chocolate Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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

While we wouldn’t object to a plate of chocolate chip cookies on the holiday table, this cake feels a little more capital-e Event-worthy. Luckily, it’s just as easy to make as a batch of those aforementioned treats.

25. Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly

To maximize the chewy texture of these cookies, make sure to not overbake them. Since the dough is dark, it can be tricky to check for doneness by color alone. Instead, look for puffed, crackly tops and just-set edges.

26. Texas Sheet Cake

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly

Give us rich, chocolatey chocolate cake and we’re happy campers. Make it a recipe you can’t mess up and we’re even more pleased.

27. Cardamom Crème Brûlée

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, gluten free, special occasion–worthy, make ahead

You’ll refrigerate the custard before adding that crackly top, so feel free to make them ahead and chill overnight. If you don’t have a kitchen torch, pop the ramekins in a cold oven and turn on the broiler for similar results.

28. Sticky Toffee Honeycomb Cake

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

This stunner is inspired by the British sticky toffee pudding. It has a thick, honey-flavored caramel hiding beneath a cloud of unsweetened whipped cream, so you could say it’s ready for its Thanksgiving closeup.

29. Cardamom Cream-Filled Bundt Cake

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

A slice of this light-as-air cake is like eating a sweet cloud, so go ahead and have that second piece. Baking it in a Bundt pan ensures it looks impressive without any intricate frosting or decorating.

30. Miniature Banoffee Cobblers

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly

Easy instructions and maximum flavor? Be still our hearts. Make these cobblers up to four hours ahead, then used the free time to sip on a well-deserved Thanksgiving cocktail.

31. Mini No-Bake Gingersnap Icebox Cakes

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

You had us at “mini,” but the sweetest thing about these bite-size cakes is they’re entirely no bake. Assemble, refrigerate and serve (and then pat yourself on the back).

55 Mini Thanksgiving Desserts That Are (Almost) Too Cute to Eat


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.