Autumn Harvest Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Marshmallow

Howdy Folks!
We promised to return with all the food and recipe details on our Autumn Harvest Dessert Table, and here they are! It has been a super busy couple of weeks around here with Halloween preparations and execution so we apologize for the delay in posting.
If you are starting to plan your Thanksgiving menu and family gatherings then this post will really be helpful for those of you looking to do something different than pumpkin pie. We chose all savory spiced foods for our table. Selections that really represent the flavors of the season and provide a nice buffet of choices for your guests. Of course you can always add a pumpkin pie to the table too, nothing against those. 
First off we have the store bought items that require no baking. Did you hear that? I said NO BAKING, makes us smile when we see that. We used the following, all of which was purchased very inexpensively at our local Super Wal-mart.


Glazed Gingerbread, Cinnamon Sugar Spice and Acorn Cookies Pictured

Glazed Gingerbread Cookies - Henry Lambertz  and Cinnamon Sugar Spice Cookies - LU

Sold at Wal-Mart, store bought and proud of it!

Mulled Apple Cider

Sold at Wal-Mart - One jug of apple cider + one packet of mulling spices. Stew it on the stove-top for 30 minutes and you have fall in a jiffy! Just add cinnamon sticks for the complete experience!

Harvest Apples and Sugared Pears

Red Delicious Apples

Yep just plain ‘ole Red Apples, but they are so beautiful, tasty and classically fall.

Sugared Pears

The easiest, most elegant way to serve up a pear. Wash and dry Anjou pears (they are sweet and tender). Brush on a light coating of corn syrup on the bottom half of each pear, then roll them in coarse decorating sugar. You’re done. Pat yourself on the back, you know, for quick and easy awesomeness.


Next up are our recipes. Some of them require a little more effort than others but none of them are extremely complex or difficult. 


 Caramel Corn Stalks, Pumpkin Bread, Mulled Cider and Candied Pecans

Caramel Corn Stalks 

These are the brainchild of Jason. Inspired by a few popcorn balls on sticks and developed into popcorn “corn stalks” complete with husks, they were our favorite feature on the table! Here’s how to do it:

Popcorn Ingredients:
1-1/2 C unpopped popcorn
1/2 C butter (1 stick) + more for non-stick shaping
2 C brown sugar
1/2 C corn syrup
1 15 oz sweetened condensed milk
DIY Ingredients:
wooden skewers
corn husks
hot glue gun + glue
1.  Pop your popcorn in whichever method you prefer. You can use microwave popcorn if it is easier.
We used brown lunch bags and popped ½ cup at a time in the microwave.   
2. Put your popcorn into to large bowls, sprinkle the popcorn with a bit of salt.
3. In a medium sized sauce pan melt the butter. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk Stir it all around until well blended.
4. Heat the mixture to boiling. Boil while stirring till it reaches 300 degrees.
5. Remove from the heat and pour caramel over the top of the popcorn. Stir it up with a large wooden spoon until all of the popcorn is covered.
6. Allow the popcorn to cool enough to handle comfortably with your hands.
You will need to butter your hands generously in order to shape the popcorn without having a huge sticking issue.
7. To make the corn shapes, take a handful of popcorn and shape it until it looks like corn growing on the stalk, then insert a skewer in from one end to the other.
Be careful not to make your corns too heavy, we made this mistake and gravity worked against us, sliding our corn off the skewers.
8. Once you have made them all, place them on a wax paper lined baking sheet and set in the fridge until they are firm. The freezer works too if you are in a hurry.
9. Before serving attach several corn husks to your skewers using a hot glue gun to complete the look.
10. Place your skewers into a hay bail (or Styrofoam block) to serve on your table.


Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Marshmallow

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Topping - adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

These are deliciously moist and sticky just like the holiday casserole!

Ingredients for the cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
17 oz. sweet potato puree
½ tsp. vanilla extract
For the frosting:
8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
½ tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; stir together with a fork and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.  Mix in the sweet potatoes and vanilla extract, beating just until combined.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler. (Note: I just set my clean, dry mixer bowl over simmering water, to avoid dirtying two bowls.) Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it reaches 160° F with an instant-read thermometer. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form. Mix in the vanilla until combined. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired. Brown with a kitchen torch and garnish with a sprinkle of brown sugar, if desired.

Candied Spiced Nuts
Candied Spiced Nuts - Better Homes and Gardens Red/White Cookbook

This classic recipe happens to have a bit of sentimental value to me as it was something my grandmother made for our Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday get-together. Miss you Grandma!

1 egg white beaten
1 tbsp water
½ cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
16oz. nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds work best)
parchment paper

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. In a medium size bowl beat the egg white and water until frothy, toss the nuts in with the mixture and coat thoroughly. In a separate bowl mix the sugar and spices together. Add them to the nut mixture and toss until everything is coated. Spread the mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet and cook for 15-20 minutes until the sugar has caramelized slightly. Remove from the oven and let cool completely, then break apart and serve. These can be made and stored for up to a week ahead of time.

Acorn Cookies

Acorn Cookies

Super simple, super cute and de-lish! It will blow your mind how easy this one is.

Mini Nilla Wafers
Chocolate Kisses
Peanut Butter Chips
plastic baggie

Remove your chocolate kisses from the wrappers, you will need one per acorn. Heat a small amount of peanut butter chips in the microwave until melted, about 30 seconds - 1 minute. Place the melted peanut butter into a plastic baggie and squeeze it down to the corner. Snip off the corner of the baggie. You will use this as your glue. Attach the flat side of one kiss to the flat side of one mini-nilla wafer using the peanut butter glue. A small dot will suffice. Use the glue once more to attach the flat side of a peanut butter chip onto the center of the rounded side of the nilla wafer. Voila, you have an acorn! Continue until you have made as many acorns as desired.

Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin Cake - recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma

This one never disappoints, in fact my family looks forward to this recipe every fall.

Ingredients for the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
10 Tbs. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter room temp.
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs, room temp.
2/3 cup milk, room temp.
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temp.
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Food coloring as desired

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F. Generously grease and flour the wells of two bundt cake pans; tap out excess flour. This step is important if you do not want your cake to stick and break while removing.
To make the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the both sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Add the pumpkin puree and beat until incorporated.
Divide the batter between the wells of the prepared pans and spread it evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted near the center of a cake half comes out clean.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake halves cool upright in the pans for 15 minutes.
Gently tap the pans on a work surface to loosen the cake halves. Invert the pans onto the rack and lift off the pan. Let the cake halves cool completely before decorating.

Meanwhile, make the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the butter and beat until combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the confectioners sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Using a bread knife, cut 1/4 inch off the flat side of each cake half. Place one cake half, flat side up, on a cake stand or plate and spread the pumpkin frosting on top. Place the other cake half, flat side down, on top. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Add food coloring as desired to the remaining frosting (green for leaves and tendrils, orange for a jack-o’-lantern). To create leaves and tendrils, using a rubber spatula, transfer the green frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a leaf or medium plain tip. Pipe leaves and tendrils on the top of the cake. To create a jack-o-lantern, using a rubber spatula, transfer the orange frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a medium plain tip. Pipe an outline of the face on the cake, then fill in the design. Serves 12.


We hope you enjoyed our summary of recipes and dessert ideas for fall.

As always we invite you to join us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and share your ideas with us!

Happy Thanksgiving planning!