Forget pumpkin pie — try cake, sorbet or pears and cranberries

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Let us reveal a shocking truth: Some people don’t like pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving is a large, carb-filled meal. Desserts, like homemade pumpkin pie or a coconut cake, even a sticky sweet pecan pie, can be the belly buster that sends your guests into groans of discomfort.

You can’t change the turkey or the mashed potatoes, the dressing or the candied sweet potatoes without a fuss, but you could make something different for dessert.

Think of seasonal flavors to guide your menu planning.

Apples are certainly abundant and fall-like. And if it’s the warm spices the anti-pumpkin person objects to, this apple sheet cake recipe uses none of those. It is very, very sweet, and very moist, suitable for a more rustic dessert. We found it in the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens, and we’re going to make a few suggestions on how it could be altered to be less sweet.

This is the original recipe:

Applelicious Sheet Cake

2 medium baking apples

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 2/3 cups packed dark brown sugar

1 cup apple butter

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup finely chapped dried apples

1 recipe Maple Icing, below

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan; set aside. Peel, core and coarsely shred 1 apple using a box grater. Thinly slice the remaining apple without peeling or coring. Cover, set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together butter, brown sugar, apple butter, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; whisk to combine. Fold in dried apples and fresh shredded apple. Spread batter in prepared pan and arrange apple slices over the top.

Bake 40 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack. Pour Maple Icing over hot cake, spread evenly. Cool completely. Dust with cinnamon. Makes 24 slices.

Maple Icing: In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, 1 Tbsp. melted butter, 1 Tbsp. maple syrup, 1 Tbsp. milk and 1/4 tsp. vanilla until smooth.

Tester’s notes: This cake is very dark due to the dark brown sugar and apple butter, and extremely sweet. If you’d like to lighten it up a bit, try these suggestions:

Use light brown sugar instead of dark and unsweetened apple butter or unsweetened applesauce in place of the apple butter.

Instead of maple icing, make a simple lemon glaze using 2/3 cup confectioners sugar, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice and 1 tsp. grated lemon zest. Mix all together until smooth and well blended. Pour over warm cake and spread with an offset spatula.

Here’s a great idea from Max Falkowitz on the website Serious Eats — Clementine Sorbet.

A sorbet has no dairy in it and could be the perfect end to a heavy meal. This one makes use of clementines, plentiful this time of year, and a bright addition to the holiday table.

It really couldn’t be simpler.

Clementine Sorbet

20 chilled clementines (about 1 case or 3 3/4 pounds), peeled and broken into segments

1 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

In batches, purée clementine segments until smooth, about 30 second. Pour purée through a fine mesh strainer, pressing down on solids with a spoon, into a large measuring cup until you have 4 cups of strained juice. Reserve remaining juice for another purpose and rinse out blender. If clementines were not chilled, chill juice in refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours until very cold.

Combine strained clementine juice and sugar in blender and blend on high speed until sugar is completely dissolved, about 30 seconds. Blend in salt to taste.

Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately as soft serve or transfer to an airtight container and chill in freezer for a least 4 hours for a firmer texture.

This is easily made ahead. You could serve it with a square of dark chocolate if you want to be a little decadent.

This Cranberry-Ginger Pear Pie from hits the right notes, with a tart, spicy flavor in contrast to the creamy dishes like gravy and mashed potatoes that preceded it.

The original recipe includes one for the crust, but so many of us buy prepared crusts, while others have their own tried and true recipe, that we’re sharing the filling and topping recipes here only. The recipe does suggest chilling the crust for 30 minutes once it’s in the pie pan to keep it firm.

This can be made in advance, but the crumb topping will absorb moisture from the filling as it sits.

Cranberry-Ginger Pear Pie


3 pounds Bartlett or Bosc pears, peeled, halved, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided

8 ounces (2 cups) cranberries

1 tsp. grated fresh ginger


3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

2 Tbsp. crystalized ginger, chopped

3/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. salt

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and still warm

To make the filling: In a large bowl, toss the pears with 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave until the pears turn translucent and release their juices, four to eight minutes, stirring once halfway through. Uncover and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on the oven rack and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare the topping: Combine the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, crystallized ginger, ground ginger and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and stir with a fork until the mixture is completely moistened. Let cool completely, about 10 minutes.

Finish the filling and assemble the pie: Combine cranberries, remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and fresh ginger in a food processor and pulse until the cranberries are roughly chopped, about five pulses. Drain the cooled pears and discard the liquid. Return the pears to the now empty bowl and add the cranberry mixture, stirring to combine. Transfer the mixture to the chilled dough-lined pie plate. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the pear filling, breaking up any large clumps.

Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake until the juices are bubbling and the topping is a deep golden brown, 40-45 minutes. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool completely, about four hours, before serving. The pie can be stored, covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Frozen, thawed cranberries can be substituted for fresh cranberries.