Impossibly Delicious Pumpkin Desserts for Thanksgiving

Pumpkins and other squash have been accumulating in my house since early October, so with Thanksgiving approaching, I decided to put them to the use they were intended for: delicious baked goods.

The first recipe below is so easy a child could make it (all right, maybe not a small child) -- I've been making it since I was in middle school, when I found a fast, easy pumpkin-pie recipe that didn't even bother with a crust (which I viewed as an annoying impediment to the pumpkin custard filling). I've been making it ever since.

Back then, I made the pie with canned ingredients. Nowadays the process is a little more involved, but a lot more tasty. A few years back I decided to experiment. I roasted a pumpkin from the Eastside Food Co-op and made my usual pie recipe. I expected it to be less good than one made with canned pumpkin. Turns out I was wrong. I'll never go back.

To roast a pumpkin, preheat the oven to 400F. Oil a heavy, rimmed baking sheet. Cut off the top and stem of the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin in half, then remove the seeds and string. Place the cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast the pumpkin for about an hour, until it's very soft. Remove, let it cool, scrape the flesh from the skin, and then divide the pumpkin into approximately two-cup portions. That's it.

I stopped using canned evaporated milk and now use fresh, local milk instead, along with fresh, local eggs. I use whole-wheat flour rather than white (I often make it with gluten-free flour for gluten-free friends).

This is an easy recipe to adapt for diet restrictions:

  • Use oil and non-dairy milk for those who can't eat dairy.
  • Use gluten free flour and a 1/2 teaspoon of xantham gum for those who can't eat gluten.
  • Used maple syrup instead of sugar for a local, less-refined sweetener.

I use fresh-ground cinnamon and ginger instead of whatever's hanging around in my pantry, and I grate my own nutmeg and crush my own cloves too -- the spices really sing.  

Whole-Wheat Impossible Pumpkin Pie: No Crust Needed!
(serves 8 to 12)


1 3/4 to 2 cups roasted pumpkin

1 1/4 cup milk

2/3 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 Tablespoons butter, melted then cooled

2 large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch glass or Pyrex pie plate. Place all ingredients in blender; blend until smooth. Pour mixture into pie plate and bake for about an hour, or till center is set and tester comes out clean. Cool, then chill for several hours. Serve with maple whipped cream.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

This next recipe is not as easy and not so traditional. But it is beyond tasty, and easy to adapt for gluten-free diets by using gluten-free flour and xantham gum. Heavy Table linked to a version by She Said. She Said. recently. The recipe is available from Martha Stewart, but she got it from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, a collection of recipes for some of the most popular items at their Brooklyn bakery. If you try these whoopie pies and fall in love, check out Lewis and Poliafito's new book, Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented. It has recipes for both chocolate and red velvet whoopie pies. 

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Cream-Cheese Filling, adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
(makes 12 to 16 whoopie pies) 

 For the pumpkin cookies:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

2 cups firmly packed dark-brown sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 cups pumpkin puree, chilled

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the cream-cheese filling:

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1. For the cookies: Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves; set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together brown sugar and oil until well combined. Add pumpkin puree and whisk until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk until well combined. Sprinkle flour mixture over pumpkin mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.

3. Using a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism, drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Transfer to oven and bake until cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cookie comes out clean, 15 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely on pan.

4. For the filling: Sift confectioner’ sugar into a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Add cream cheese and beat until well combined. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, beat just until smooth. (Filling can be made up to a day in advance. Cover and refrigerate; let stand at room temperature to soften before using.)

5. Assemble the whoopie pies: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. When cookies have cooled completely, place a heaping tablespoon of filling on the flat side of half of the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edge of the cookies. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate cookies at least 30 minutes before serving and up to 3 days. 

 *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

If you have leftover filling (and I always make sure that I do), make graham-cracker sandwiches. Snap a big graham rectangle in half, place a heaping tablespoon of filling on one square, cover and repeat until filling is gone. Place these gently in a large container. Freeze for 24 hours. The graham crackers take on a soft consistency reminiscent of ice-cream sandwiches.


Kristin Boldon is a frequent contributor for Simple, Good and Tasty, who also writes for the Eastside Food Cooperative's newsletter on health and wellness, and for her own blog Girl DetectiveHer last post for us was From Vision to Reality: Revisiting the Cornerstone Group's Rooftop Farm.