Recipe: Three-Layer Thanksgiving Cake


Three-Layer Thanksgiving Cake by Justin Chapple and Laura Rege.

Photo by Con Poulos; Food styling by Simon Andrews

From Food & Wine magazine. Why settle for one delicious flavor when you can have three? This outrageous cake has layers of pumpkin, cranberry-cornmeal and candied pecan, guaranteeing that everyone at the table will be satisfied.

Three-Layer Thanksgiving Cake
Active: 35 mins.; Total: 2 hours
Serves 10


1½ sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus softened butter for greasing
2¼ cups plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/8 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. kosher salt 1¼ cups granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup pure pumpkin puree
1¼ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1¼ cups fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed and drained if frozen
1/3 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1¼ cups candied pecans, roughly chopped

1¼ lbs. cream cheese, softened
2½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
5 cups confectioners' sugar
Kosher salt


1. Make the cakes:  Preheat the oven to 350° with racks positioned in the upper and lower thirds. Butter three 9-by-9-inch metal cake pans and line them with parchment paper; allow 2 inches of overhang on 2 sides. Butter the paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk 2¼ cups of the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter with the granulated sugar, buttermilk and eggs until well combined. Whisk in the dry ingredients until just combined.

3. Divide the batter among 3 medium bowls (1½ cups per bowl). Whisk the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour into one of the bowls, then scrape the batter into one of the prepared pans. Fold the cranberries and cornmeal into another bowl and scrape into a second prepared pan. Fold the pecans into the final bowl and scrape the batter into the last prepared pan.

4. Transfer all 3 pans to the oven and bake the cakes for about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.

5. Meanwhile, make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar and a pinch of salt until smooth.

6. Place the pecan layer on a platter. Scrape ¾ cup of the frosting on top and spread to the edge. Top with the cranberry layer; scrape another ¾ cup of the frosting on top and spread to the edge. Top with the pumpkin layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting all over the cake and refrigerate until set, 15 minutes. Spread the remaining frosting all over the cake. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes, before serving.

From "The Ultimate Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Menu" courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine. All rights reserved.

For more food suggestions check out our 2017 "Food Issue" recipe index!