Thanksgiving Cake

A small Bundt cake packed with all our favorite fall flavors like pumpkin, apple, cranberry, pecans and fresh ginger plus fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. It's barely sweet with a moist crumb, a cake to return to all autumn for a casual snacking cake (just one thin sliver at a time, yes?) or a dessert to carry for fall gatherings. For everyday, consider baking this "loaded" pumpkin bread in a loaf pan, too.

Thanksgiving Cake ♥, one cake, all our favorite fall flavors, pumpkin, apple, cranberry, pecans, warm spices.

An Approachable Home-style Cake, Fresh-Baked & Family-Approved. Beautiful Color! A Long-Time Family Favorite Especially for Favorite Recipes for Fall Baking. Extra Welcome When "Supper's a Little Skimpy". Fun Fall Picnic Food. Budget Friendly. Potluck & Party Friendly.

Thanksgiving Cake: For Fall, Not Just for Thanksgiving

Call me the Cake Lady, because I'm your girl ...

Canadian Thanksgiving. Fall Potlucks. Game-Day Snacks. Tailgates. Harvest Gatherings. Neighborhood Block Parties. Friendsgivings.

It's a Gathering Time of Year and if you're someone known for bringing sweet treats, well, move this recipe right to the top of that towering "bake now" list of yours. It'll carry you right through autumn and straight into Thanksgiving, one cake, one loaf at a time. Yes, it's that good.

Until now, I've never found my "forever" recipe for pumpkin bread at all "plain" but it is (albeit plain but perfect) at least compared to Thanksgiving Cake's riotous abundance of apple, cranberry, pecans and so many spices. This cake? It's a celebration cake without all the layers and icing, one that marks the harvest season all in one. And if there's no celebration? Well, then let's call it a celebratory cake, one that turns everyday into extraordinary.

Thanksgiving Cake baked as quick bread ♥, one cake, all our favorite fall flavors, pumpkin, apple, cranberry, pecans, warm spices.

About This Recipe: Thanksgiving Cake

  • Thanksgiving Cake is pumpkin bread loaded with fall flavors, baked either in a Bundt cake or in a loaf.
  • Distinctive Ingredients = canned pumpkin + apple + fresh or frozen cranberries + nuts + spices
  • Short Ingredient List = all the above + sugar + brown sugar + 1 egg + vanilla + flour + baking soda + cinnamon + ginger + nutmeg + salt
  • It takes about a half hour to mix the cake, under 45 minutes to bake, then time to cool before serving.
  • Thanksgiving Cake is quite pretty, the crumb is a lovely pumpkin-y orange hue and the bites of cranberry really brighten the appearance. The Bundt stands tall and pretty, the loaf slices nice and thick.
  • This is pantry-friendly recipe, especially if your baking pantry already includes canned pumpkin, fresh or frozen cranberries and an apple.
  • This is a budget-friendly recipe, no fancy ingredients to shop for, no specialty spices to seek out.
  • As written, this recipe makes 3-1/2 cups of cake batter, that's enough for a small Bundt pan or a standard loaf pan like the one you'd use for baking banana bread. No small Bundt pan? No problem, just double or triple the recipe for a full-size Bundt cake.
  • If you prefer something a little plainer, take a look at Autumn Pumpkin Bread, it's been my go-to never-need-another-recipe as long as I can remember.
  • Not quite what you're looking for? Check out my other recipes for quick breads and cake recipes.
Thanksgiving Cake ♥, one cake, all our favorite fall flavors, pumpkin, apple, cranberry, pecans, warm spices.

What's In Thanksgiving Cake? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

  • All the Usual Wet Ingredients butter + sugar + brown sugar + 1 egg + vanilla
  • All the Usual Dry Ingredients flour + baking powder + baking soda + table salt
  • All Those Fall Spices cinnamon + ginger + nutmeg
  • What Makes This Cake Stand Apart canned pumpkin purée + grated apple + fresh or frozen cranberries + toasted pecans + grated fresh ginger (optional)
  • For Garnish a sprinkle of coarse sugar like Swedish snow (optional but pretty)
  • For Serving a quick homemade caramel sauce + whipped cream (both optional)
Thanksgiving Cake, prep collage ♥, one cake, all our favorite fall flavors, pumpkin, apple, cranberry, pecans, warm spices.

Ingredient Notes & Substitutions

  • BUTTER I always bake with salted butter but if you prefer unsalted butter, no problem, just double the salt. I would think that coconut oil would work here too, but haven't tried it. Be sure to let the butter warm to room temperature before mixing, that's about an hour on the counter if left whole, less if diced up.
  • SUGARS The recipe calls for two sugars, white and brown. My "house" sugars are white sugar (cane sugar) and brown sugar (dark brown sugar). I don't have experience using other sweeteners in baking so if anyone knows of a good substitute, please do chime in!
  • EGG My recipes always call for large eggs. No eggs or can't eat eggs? Sorry, I don't have experience with substitutes.
  • VANILLA No vanilla extract? Use bourbon (my favorite, even if I have vanilla) or apple juice.
  • PUMPKIN This recipe calls for canned pumpkin purée. Be sure that it's 100% pumpkin, not a pre-mixed pumpkin pie filling that includes sugar and spices. This recipe doesn't use up an entire can (sorry, hate that) so do check out my other pumpkin recipes for ideas to use up the leftover pumpkin. If you happen to triple the recipe, a whole can of 425 grams will be slightly short of the 450 grams tripled amount of puréed pumpkin, just use the whole can, no extra is needed. You might also use Homemade Kabocha Squash "Pumpkin" Purée instead of canned pumpkin, just be sure to shoot for roughly the same moisture level and texture.
  • FLOUR I make this cake with all-purpose flour (a good brand like either General Mills or Pillsbury or some times King Arthur). I also think it would do fine with white whole-wheat flour (Bob's Red Mill) or a measure-for-measure gluten-free flour (do be aware, gluten-free flours often need extra oven time for the non-wheat gluten to fully develop).
  • BAKING POWDER Out of baking powder? Oops, it happens. I have good luck making my own baking powder substitute. The formula is 1 teaspoon baking powder = 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar + 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
  • BAKING SODA Out of baking soda? That's harder because baking soda has greater leavening strength than baking powder. The formula is 1 teaspoon baking soda = 3 teaspoons baking powder. For this recipe, that would mean an additional 3/4 teaspoon baking powder instead of 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
  • CINNAMON & GINGER & NUTMEG Use ground spices here. If you're missing one spice, bump up one of the others. Alternatively, substitute other spices, cardamom, say or something like a store-bought pumpkin pie spice (or if you like, make my version, Pumpkin Pie Spice). I wouldn't bump up the ground ginger though, it's already a strong flavor here.
  • SALT I use table salt for baking. A fine sea salt is a good substitute.
  • APPLE Grated apple adds moisture to the cake. A tart apple works especially well but really, use any apple you already have on hand. Once, I used grated carrot, not as much moisture but still worked! To grate the apple, peel it first. Keep the apple whole, rub one section against the large holes of a cheese grater until reaching the core; turn the apple and repeat until you've got enough. (FYI I've had the same four-sided grater for years but like the looks of how this two-sided cheese grater (affiliate link) folds flat for storage. Handy!)
  • CRANBERRIES Wow, the cranberries really stand out here. I use fresh (vs dried) cranberries and have great luck with both fresh cranberries and frozen cranberries. You do want to cut the cranberries up so they distribute more evenly and don't have big pops of sourness, little pops are perfect! Fresh cranberries slice easily, so do still-frozen cranberries. It's a bit fiddly but totally worth the effort.
  • NUTS I'm partial to pecans here but other nuts would work well too, walnuts, black walnuts. Do toast the nuts first and be sure to chop them well before turning into the cake batter.
  • GINGER I go back and forth on whether fresh ginger is "great" or "optional". It does add a nice touch, gilding the lily. If I needed to buy other ingredients for the cake, I'd probably get ginger too. But if I could make it without running to the store? Sorry, ginger.
  • SWEDISH SNOW (PEARL SUGAR) I love the dramatic appearance of this coarse, bright-white sugar, especially on the Bundt version of Thanksgiving Cake. But it's optional, taste-wise.
Thanksgiving Cake just out of the oven ♥, one cake, all our favorite fall flavors, pumpkin, apple, cranberry, pecans, warm spices.

So Many Pan Sizes: Pan Sizes for Baking for One or Two

In the past few months, I've come to realize that many (many!) of my recipes are either written for cooking for one or two or easily scale down for small households. I'm even mid-way updating this long-time page called Cooking for One or Two to reflect that reality.

But. Here's the thing as it relates to Thanksgiving Cake, which as written, yields 3-1/2 cups batter.

I bake it two ways, as a small Bundt cake (in a pan that holds up to 4 cups) and a quick loaf (in a loaf pan that holds up to 6 cups). Both work fine.

For years, I've thought of my "small" Bundt cake pan as "half the size" of a big Bunt pan. But it turns out that's not quite right.

  • My "small" Bundt pan holds up to 4 cups of batter, leaving room to rise. Honestly? It's such a wonderful size!
  • This one's in the ballpark, size-wise. Nordic Ware sells a five-cup Bundt pan (affiliate link) though honestly, I'd be nervous about all those tight turns. Ha. Yes, I see Nordic Ware also sells a special cleaning tool (affiliate link) separately.
  • The "small" Bundt pans from Nordic Ware, Williams Sonoma and other sellers hold up to six cups of batter.
  • Come to find out, I have another somewhat-smaller sculpted Bundt pan that holds 8 cups of batter.
  • A "full size" big Bundt pan holds 12 cups of batter ... which makes my small pan better described as a "third size" Bundt pan.

So what size pan should you use for Thanksgiving Cake?

Whatever you have! Just fill it with cupsful of water to the height you'd normally fill it to with cake batter.

Then do the math, knowing that as written, the recipe yields 3-1/2 cups of batter.

  • If your pan holds up to, say, 5 cups, you're probably good with a single batch.
  • If your pan holds up to, say, 6 cups, I'd possibly make a single batch but probably a 1.5x batch, adding an extra egg yolk instead of a second whole egg.
  • If it holds, say, 8 cups, then double the recipe.
  • If it holds, say, 12 cups, then triple the recipe.

FYI, the baking time may well vary with larger cakes, especially the triple recipe.

PS Arrrrgh! No wonder recipes don't always work out for us! If only pan sizes were more consistent! And I can tell you, I'm going to actively update my baking recipes with information about batter volume!

Thanksgiving Cake ♥, one cake, all our favorite fall flavors, pumpkin, apple, cranberry, pecans, warm spices.

For Best Results

For my weekly column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I interviewed chefs and translated their restaurant recipes for home kitchens. The most illuminating question? "How can a home cook ensure the same results?" So now I ask that question of myself, too, for my own recipes. Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

Bake to an Internal Temperature of 200F - 205F Quick breads with so many "extras" like Thanksgiving Cake's pumpkin, apple, nuts and ginger are notorious for turning out underbaked and overbaked. It's just harder to tell when they're done!

With plainer quick breads, it's okay to test the center for doneness with a trusty cake tester (affiliate link) or a thin knife inserted into the center, either one should come out clean in a couple of places, no signs of wetness or batter.

But here, better still, use a digital thermometer to test for doneness, just like we've learned to test the internal temperatures when cooking meat. For the last couple of years, I've fallen in love with this ThermoPro Meat Thermometer (affiliate link).

It's really two thermometers in one. First, it's an instant probe for yeast breads and quick breads, you insert the probe to measure the temperature when you "think" it's done. Second, it's a probe attached to a wire that stays in the meat, casseroles and more with an alarm when the internal temperature reaches what you're looking for.

For Thanksgiving Cake, the internal temperature should reach at least 200F, up to 205F (about 95C). That's according to King Arthur Baking. That said, I've been baking Thanksgiving Cakes to 210F with no apparent problem, King Arthur says cakes and loaves baked longer will be a little overdone and won't last as long but again, 210F has worked great for me.

Just FYI, the internal temperature for quick loaves baked with gluten-free flours is a little higher, 205F - 210F (about 95C - 100C).

Thanksgiving Cake plated with caramel sauce, whipped cream ♥, one cake, all our favorite fall flavors, pumpkin, apple, cranberry, pecans, warm spices.

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this special fall cake inspires you, please do save and share! I'd be honored ...

Thanksgiving Cake ♥, one cake, all our favorite fall flavors, pumpkin, apple, cranberry, pecans, warm spices.
Thanksgiving Cake ♥, one cake, all our favorite fall flavors, pumpkin, apple, cranberry, pecans, warm spices.


Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Time-to-table: about 2 hours
Makes about 3-1/2 cups batter, enough for a small Bundt cake pan (double or triple the recipe for a full-size 12-cup Bundt pan) or a standard 8x4 loaf pan used for loaves of quick bread.
  • 5 tablespoons (70g) salted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (150g) canned 100% pumpkin purée

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 125g
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup (100g) grated tart apple (peel before grating)
  • 1 cup (100g) fresh or frozen cranberries, cut cross-wise in halves or thirds
  • 1/2 cup (60g) toasted pecans, walnuts or our favorite, black walnuts, chopped if needed (see ALANNA's TIPS)
  • 1 tablespoon (9g) grated fresh ginger, optional although really nice
  • "Swedish Snow" (Swedish pearl sugar, see TIPS)
  • 1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick/62g) butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Cake Slices
  • Caramel Sauce
  • Whipped Cream, preferably homemade
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugared Cranberries

PREP Heat the oven to 350F/180C. Spray a small Bundt cake or a loaf pan with baking spray, preferably with Baker's Joy or DIY Substitute for Baker's Joy. If you are baking a loaf, if you like, in addition to spraying, line the loaf pan with parchment paper, creating a sort of "sling" the comes well out of the long sides of the loaf pan; with it, it's easy to lift the loaf right out of the pan after it's baked and cooled a bit, easy-peasy.

If you like, prep the apple, cranberries, pecans and fresh ginger.

MIX THE CAKE BATTER With an electric mixer on low speed, combine the butter and both sugars until fully combined, make sure to work out any pesky clumps of brown sugar, however tiny. Mix in the egg and vanilla until fully combined. Mix in the pumpkin purée until fully combined.

In a small bowl, collect and stir together the dry ingredients, that is, the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Pour about half the flour mixture into the mixing bowl and barely work in; add the remainder and work in most of the way, a few glimpses of flour are okay.

STIR IN FAVORITE FALL FLAVORS Switch to a spatula for mixing, pulling the bowl off the stand mixer if that's what you're using. Fold in the apple, cranberries, nuts and ginger, distributing evenly.

BAKE With a large spoon, spoon the batter evenly into the Bundt pan or the loaf pan, filling the bottom first, then adding another layer. Gently smooth the top of the cake batter.

Bake for about 40 minutes for the Bundt, about 45 minutes for the loaf, checking for doneness starting at about 30 minutes. The top of the cake should be golden and the edges firm and beginning to form a crust.

Better still, use a digital thermometer to test for doneness. Here, the internal temperature at the center of the cake should reach at least 200F, up to 205F and possibly up to 210F. (That's 95C - 100C.)

COOL Remove the cake from the oven and let cool right-side up on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes.

To remove the cake from the Bundt pan takes a touch of finesse. Here's how. Working carefully, hold the cooling rack in one hand and the cake pan in the other. Press the rack against the top of the cake pan, then gently invert the pan onto the rack, leaving the cake upside-down. Place the rack on the counter and gently lift the cake pan straight up off the cake itself. Let the cake rest until fully cooled before moving to a cake plate.

To remove the cake from a loaf pan, slip a knife along the edge of the cake on all four sides, then gently turn upside down onto a baking rack, then flip again to finish cooling top-side up.

GARNISH If you like, sprinkle the top of the cake / loaf with Swedish Snow.

CARAMEL SAUCE While the cake bakes, make the caramel sauce on the stove. In a large, heavy saucepan on medium heat, whisk the butter and brown sugar until the butter melts, breaking up any bits of brown sugar. Whisk in the cream and stir continuously (don't step away!) until the sugar dissolves completely and the sauce turns smooth, about 3 minutes. Remove from the stove, transfer to a squeeze bottle or another storage container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

TO SERVE, JUST ONE IDEA Thin slice by thin slice, Thanksgiving Cake practically serves itself. But for something a bit fancy-pants, place a slice on a dessert plate slightly off-center. Drizzle a little Caramel Sauce onto the plate itself, a squiggle looks kinda cool. Dollop some whipped cream onto the plate too, sprinkle it with a little cinnamon. Arrange a few edible Sugared Cranberries alongside. Pretty, yes?

TIMING Thanksgiving Cake is best on the first day for serving to guests, say, but remains fresh and moist for a few days. Because of the pumpkin, apple and cranberry, do refrigerate the cake after the first day but let warm to room temperature to eat.

ALANNA's TIPS If you like, toast the nuts while the oven is heating up. Just spread them in a single layer across the bottom of a cake pan (or similar) and put into the cold oven. Set the timer for about 10 minutes, then check every 5 minutes or so until the nuts are golden and aromatic. How long will that be? Sorry, it so depends. Do let the nuts cool down before stirring into the cake batter but it's fall, right? You can probably cool them off outside! No apple? Substitute grated carrot! Even frozen cranberries are easy to cut in half (or thirds, for larger berries). This really shows off the color and architecture of the wonders that are cranberries. Could you substitute dried cranberries? Sure, but you might want to either soak them first in something like apple cider or bourbon or roughly chop them in a mini food processor. What is Swedish Snow? It's a coarse, non-melting sugar that adds visual interest to baked goods. It's also called Swedish Pearl Sugar (affiliate link). Eagle-eyed readers will note what looks like a drizzle of something in some of the Bundt-cake photos. I did indeed once try a drizzle of 1:2 ginger syrup:powdered sugar. Unfortunately, it just soaked into the cake, invisible and most of all, unneeded. Similarly, I also tried a spinkle of raw sugar atop the loaf version of Thanksgiving Cake, a technique that rarely fails. But here, it did. Instead of creating a sweet, crispy edge, the raw sugar stayed soft, perhaps because of the cake's high moisture content.

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more, including what size pan is best for Thanksgiving Cake especially if you don't have a four-cup Bundt pan. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See .
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Slice (assumes 8 generous slices): 295 Calories; 13g Tot Fat; 5g Sat Fat; 50mg Cholesterol;190 mg Sodium; 43g Carb; 2g Fiber; 27g Sugar; 4g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Sorry, due to technical issues during a laptop conversion, Weight Watchers points will be updated later.
First published at A Veggie Venture, my food blog about vegetables, way back in 2007, my version of a recipe called "All-in-One Holiday Bundt Cake" from Baking: From My Home to Yours (affiliate link) by the beloved cookbook author Dorie Greenspan (affiliate link). Ten years later, I started baking cake after cake, loaf after loaf. This recipe belongs among Kitchen Parade's tried-n-true recipes so now, yes, here it is.

Fall Cakes: It's a Special Time for Baking

~ cake recipes ~
~ Favorite Recipes for Fall Baking ~
Spiced Honey Cake ♥, sweetened with honey, warm with fall- and cold-weather spices.

Banana Nut Cake with Caramel Frosting ♥, my mom's famous recipe, a great special-occasion cake yet simple enough to make often. Plus, a new banana technique: no more waiting for bananas to ripen! Recipe, tips, nutrition & WW points included.

Finnish Tiger Cake ♥, a mini chocolate marble pound cake with stripes just like a tiger, easy to double for a large family or a party.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ pumpkin recipes ~
~ apples ~
~ cranberry ~
~ nuts ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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VV 2007 & 2023 (retired) & KP 2023

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.