Dessert Decisions

By Angela Denstad Stigeler

Thanksgiving has no shortage of traditional desserts, which often creates a dilemma of plenty. For the hopelessly undecided, I present my own strategy for avoiding dessert decisions by crafting a veritable cornucopia of Thanksgiving flavors, all layered into one centerpiece-worthy sweet. Who says you can’t have your pumpkin cheesecake—and pecan pie shell, and baked apples, and fruit preserves—and eat it all, too?


Pumpkin Cheesecake with Autumn Fruits in a Pecan Crust


Tart Shell

2 ounces (1/2 cup) pecans, lightly toasted

¼ cup packed brown sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon salt


1 8-ounce bar of cream cheese, softened

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon flour

¼ cup canned pumpkin puree

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1 large egg, room temperature


1 tablespoon butter

1 apple, quartered, cored and sliced

1 pear, quartered, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup cranberries

2-3 tablespoons sugar

1 cup assorted grapes

¼ cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

½ cup grape or apple jelly, melted

Sugared pecans for garnish (optional)


Make the shell. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 10-inch round fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Pulse the pecans with the brown sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Add the flour, butter, spices and salt and pulse until mixture begins to form large lumps. Transfer mixture to tart pan and press the mixture evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Chill for 30 minutes, then bake until golden, about 25 minutes.

While the shell is baking, start preparing the topping by melting the butter on a large rimmed baking sheet. Add the pear and apple slices and cinnamon. Toss to coat and roast for about 20 minutes, until softened. Add the cranberries and roast until they start to pop, another 2-5 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the sugar and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Beat the cream cheese and sugar on low speed with an electric mixer. Stir in flour, then pumpkin puree, spices, vanilla and salt; mix just until smooth. Add the egg, stirring to combine. Reduce the oven temperature to 300, scrape the batter into the prepared shell and bake until set, about 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then refrigerate until cold. Arrange the roasted fruit, the fresh grapes and pomegranate seeds on the tart. Brush the fruit all over with the melted jelly and garnish with sugared nuts.