Unexpected Thanksgiving Desserts Your Entire Family Will Love

Cinnamon Swirl Apple Slab Pie
Will Anderson

As much as we love classic classic apple or pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, sometimes it's nice to mix things up a bit. These unexpected Thanksgiving desserts are just what you need to round out the dessert table on this important holiday. Here are out-of-the-ordinary choices including delectable cakes, bread puddings, cheesecakes, and more.

For the most unpie-like pie option out there, consider this fabulous Cinnamon-Swirl Apple Slab Pie. It has all the flavors of fall your family loves and expects (including apple and cinnamon) but in a fresh, new way. Other apple-centric desserts your family will gobble up? Try an all-American pandowdy with a buttery apple filling or serve caramelized apple cider sundaes for a decadent end to the meal.

Pumpkin is another ingredient that lends itself to a host of desserts beyond the usual pie. Use the same essential ingredient—canned pure pumpkin purée—in a tall pumpkin layer cake, an easy-to-make pumpkin spice latte cake (no frosting needed!), or a decadent jelly roll, our pumpkin roulade with mascarpone and white chocolate. Our fan-favorite pumpkin bread pudding is also sure to please.

Do you think chocolate is what your Thanksgiving dinner has been missing? Then bake a decadent chocolate layer cake or serve a tart with chunks of chocolate in the crust (another unexpected touch, this tart is not the usual round, it’s rectangular). But if something more seasonal seems to be in order, you can't beat our cranberry swirl cheesecake. Made with cranberry sauce (either homemade or store-bought), guests will love the clever use of an essential Thanksgiving side dish—that is if they aren’t too busy eating it to even consider that! A palate-cleansing cranberry-port sorbet is a decidedly lighter option that still feels special.

Whichever you chose, we're sure that the usual pecan pie will sound totally boring next to any of these out-of-the-ordinary Thanksgiving desserts.

01 of 20

Three-Tier Candied-Pecan Cake with Brown-Butter Pears

Johnny Miller

This impressive three-tier cake can be refrigerated for up to three days before serving. Just top with whipped cream before unveiling it for your guests.

02 of 20

Pear Cranberry Slab Pie

Marcus Nilsson

Prepared in a rimmed baking sheet, this mega-fruit pie has a crumb topping and a perfect crust-filling-topping ratio in each of its 24 slices.

03 of 20

Apple Crostata with Cheddar Crust


This rustic free-form take on apple pie gets a savory tang from the addition of sharp cheddar cheese to the crust. After the crostata comes out of the oven, brush the filling with melted apricot jam to make it glisten.

04 of 20

Pumpkin Layer Cake

pumpkin layer cake with quince compote
Marcus Nilsson

Cinnamon, nutmeg, and fresh ginger spice this moist pumpkin-buttermilk cake. The combination of cream cheese and goat cheese in the frosting gives it a unique, tangy twist.

05 of 20

Salted-Caramel Six-Layer Chocolate Cake

Salted-Caramel Six-Layer Chocolate Cake
Johnny Miller

Rich salted caramel oozes between layers of chocolate buttermilk cake. Use a candy thermometer to ensure that the caramel turns out perfectly.

06 of 20

Cranberry-Port Sorbet

cranberry port sorbet

Ruby port adds depth to tangy cranberry sorbet. Serve it as a palate cleanser between courses, or with Black Walnut Shortbread Cookies as a light dessert.

07 of 20

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Dulce de Leche


Rich, anise-scented pumpkin custard bakes with bread cubes and pecans in this rustic dessert. Drizzle it with homemade or store-bought dulce de leche just before serving.

08 of 20

Pear and Apple Phyllo Crisp


Sprinkle chopped pecans and cinnamon-spiced breadcrumbs between the layers of phyllo dough for a uniquely crunchy crust. This easy, elegant tart doesn't have a filling; simply arrange thin slices of apple and pear over the top.

09 of 20

Sweet Potato Souffle Pie

Sweet Potato Souffle Pie
Gentl and Hyers

In place of traditional pie crust, this soufflé-like sweet potato pie is surrounded by light, crisp layers of phyllo dough. The pie filling will puff up while baking, but it will settle once it has begun to cool.

10 of 20

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cake

Pumpkin-Spice-Latte Cake
Lennart Weibull

Can't get enough of your favorite fall espresso drink? Have it for dessert, too! This moist cake is reminiscent of gingerbread is topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream and dusted with espresso powder—just like the real deal.

11 of 20

Pumpkin Roulade with Mascarpone and White Chocolate

sliced pumpkin roll and sifter with powdered sugar
Mike Krautter

While rolled cakes are most often associated with Christmas, and the classic holiday Buche de Noel, once you taste this luscious pumpkin roulade you'll want for Thanksgiving and all through the fall. Lightly whipped mascarpone cheese and white chocolate provides the perfect filling.

12 of 20

Chocolate-Maple Pecan Tart

Mike Krautter

Everyone expects pecan pie on their Thanksgiving table, but offer a delicious surprise by serving it in tart form with a chocolate-studded crust. Cut this rectangular tart into wedges so everyone gets the perfect slice with plenty of crust.

13 of 20

Maple Flan


Maple syrup stands in for the usual caramel sauce in this fall take on flan. It pairs wonderfully with the light, creamy custard.

14 of 20

Apple Pandowdy

apple pandowdy
Bryan Gardner

Like a cross between a pie and cobbler, a pandowdy is an easy, traditional dessert that deserves a place on the Thanksgiving table. Don't let its funny name distract you!

15 of 20

Cranberry-Curd-and-Citrus Pavlova

cranberry curd and citrus pavlova with sliced oranges
Ryan Liebe

Want to make a holiday dessert that's a true showstopper? Look no further than this easy but stunning pavlova, the meringue is topped with luscious cranberry curd and plenty of sunset-colored fruit.

16 of 20

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

round cranberry cheesecake with slice cut
Justin Walker

Can't get enough cranberry sauce or have too much leftover? Then make this classic cheesecake, the filling is swirled with homemade or store-bought sauce for a picture-perfect Thanksgiving dessert.

17 of 20

Pear-Cranberry Tart

Aya Brackett

No apples, pumpkins, or pecans in sight here! Serve a magical tart with sliced pears and sugar-coated cranberries, which cuts their tartness. The crust can easily be pressed into a tart pan, so no rolling or flouring needed either. Win-win!

18 of 20

Apple Sundaes with Caramel Cider Sauce

apple sundae with cider caramel
Justin Walker

Ice cream sundaes might not be the first thing that comes to mind for Thanksgiving dessert, but with caramelized apples and a cream- and cider-based sauce, they totally make sense.

19 of 20

Apple-Cider Doughnut Cake

apple cider donut cake
Jonathan Lovekin

Who doesn't love eating apple cider doughnuts during the fall? This Bundt has all the flavors—apple cider, cinnamon, and sugar—of fall's favorite ring-shaped treat in cake form.

20 of 20

Apple-Cardamom Brown-Butter Dutch Baby

Stephen Kent Johnson

A Dutch baby is essentially a giant, fluffy pancake that can be served for breakfast or dessert. Here, we've given it the autumnal touch it deserves with nutty brown butter and slices of tart Granny Smith apples.

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