As much as I adore Christmas (fa-la-la-la-la!!!), it’s Thanksgiving that I love even more. The all-day cooking, the donning of stretchy pants, the gathering around the table without all the stress of shopping and buying and buying more and exchanging gifts. Thanksgiving is about comfort and reflection, family and home, and filling up our souls by eating like horses. And really, what’s better than that? Actually, this reminds me of a time when I was about 10 years old, returning to my mom’s house after spending a week with my dad during summer vacation. My mom asked what I’d like for dinner when I got home and I asked for Thanksgiving. And by God, my mother delivered Thanksgiving in July. This is evidence not only of how awesome my mom is and how wacky of a child I was, but that Thanksgiving has always, always felt like home to me.
Part of what makes the Thanksgiving meal one of my favorites of the entire year is the predictability–my family has had basically the same Thanksgiving menu for my entire life. In fact, I can taste the entire plate right now if I close my eyes and think about it. I think most people have similar family experiences when it comes to the foods they connect only to Thanksgiving. And there’s something really magical about that, isn’t there? I mean, there’s always a year here and there where someone tries to throw in some crazy salad or make the green bean casserole the “fancy way” (a scratch sauce instead of canned mushroom soup, are you insane?!), but for the most part the basics endure. Glorious!
Speaking of basics, I think most of us expect pies at Thanksgiving. Namely pumpkin, apple, and maybe pecan. And can’t nobody hate on pie. But when it comes to the Thanksgiving menu, I think the safest place to flip the script without inciting a riot is the dessert buffet. I love the idea of taking something familiar and delivering it in a slightly different package. I’m not talking about serving a deconstructed pumpkin pie or something fussy–let’s not get crazy, here. But what about a little remix? Like this Pumpkin Cream Trifle with a zippy Gingersnap Sponge Cake. It’s full of fall flavors, and only gets better as it sits in the fridge, making it the ultimate make-ahead dessert to ease the heart palpitations brought on by the Thanksgiving meal prep marathon.
Allow me to brag a little, if you don’t mind. Because I’ve created a lot of recipes in my day, but this Gingersnap Sponge Cake is quite the feather in my recipe developing cap, if I do say so myself. It’s my favorite airy classic sponge cake recipe, but it tastes like gingerbread. For real! And the superstar ingredients that get us there are Wholesome!™‘s crazy good Organic Dark Brown Sugar and a hit of their Organic Molasses, along with a generous dusting of ginger and cinnamon. When I was developing the recipes for Real Sweet, I was surprised again and again by the flavor payoff with a simple sugar upgrade, and this cake is a perfect example of an easy switch that makes allllll the difference.
After you bake, cool, and cube your cake, the pumpkin cream comes in, with more brown sugar and spice (adding nutmeg this time for a little nod to pumpkin pie). Now, most traditional trifles would have you make a custard, but for me, that’s all a little too much work at this point in my life (see my previous post re: huge move into new house with two-year-old). So we’re making a sort of cheater’s “custard” with cream cheese, that not only takes just minutes to pull together, but tempers sweetness with a bit of tang and adds even more dimension to the whole thing. What’s that you say? So it tastes like pumpkin pie AND cheesecake? Pumpkin pie AND cheesecake AND gingersnap sponge cake? With vanilla whipped cream? WHY YES, THAT’S CORRECT.
Now the world is your dessert playground, because you can either layer the trifle in one big jazzy trifle dish to serve family-style, or if you’re a very sophisticated holiday person, you can use individual dessert glasses. I suppose you could even do dessert shot glasses if you are trying to win the award for Most Pinteresting Thanksgiving Celebrator. Thankful for options!
Speaking of being thankful, I’m thankful for all you lovely people who visit this site, check out my books, have a baking obsession like me, and are generally just all-around incredible people. I’m sure you’ve noticed my partnership with Wholesome!™ over the past several posts, and I’ve been so thrilled to work with them and share their products with you, especially now that we’re really getting our holiday baking apron strings tied up tight. I’ll have one more Wholesome!™-inpsired holiday recipe coming for you next month, but for now, I wanted to hook you up with some of their incredible sugars and a few extra goodies to make your holiday baking season even more merry and bright. Let’s inspect the goods, shall we?
As you can see from the photo the good folks at Wholesome!™ have provided above, this incredible prize package includes 18 (!!) of their top-notch sugars and sweeteners, just in time to get into some serious holiday baking. And because they’re wonderfully generous and oh-so-sweet (har, har), they’re also throwing in some awesome Kate Spade baking linens, AND a lovely trifle dish that would be the perfect vessel for this very recipe. To round out the lot and help you discover some great ways to use all of those amazing ingredients, I’m also throwing in a copy of Real Sweet! Hooray!
To get in on this fabulous giveaway, simply visit the Wholesome!™ website for the official details and entry form, and for the official terms and conditions as well. The winner will be selected by Wholesome!™ and announced by them on December 1st!
Just picture it–you in a Kate Spade apron, looking the very picture of domestic success, leaning casually over your guests to set a Wholesome!™-sweetened Pumpkin Cream Trifle with Gingersnap Sponge Cake in the center of the table, to a sea of oohs and aahs. Even Gwyneth would pin that.
Pumpkin Cream Trifle with Gingersnap Sponge Cake
Serves 10 to 12
I love to serve this in pretty little individual glasses, but it’s perfect for a crowd (and seems to stretch even farther) when you layer the elements into one big dish. Either way, you’re winning Thanksgiving with this one. Just be sure to allow plenty of time for the trifle to chill and settle in, the cake and creams, flavors and textures all sort of meld together, the magic of a great trifle.
For the Gingersnap Sponge Cake:
1 cup Wholesome!™ Organic Dark Brown Sugar, divided
5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup Wholesome!™ Organic Molasses
3 tablespoons milk (low-fat is okay)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the Vanilla Whipped Cream:
2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons Wholesome!™ Organic Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Pumpkin Cream:
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
8 ounces full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup Wholesome!™ Organic Dark Brown Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350°F. Spray a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, and line with parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form, about three minutes. Stop the mixer, and gently sprinkle 1/4 cup of the brown sugar over the egg whites. Continue to beat on high speed until stiff and glossy, about 1 minute more. Transfer the brown sugar meringue to a large clean bowl.
To the mixer still fitted with the whisk attachment (no need to clean them!), beat together the egg yolks with 3/4 cup brown sugar and salt on high speed until thick, lightened in color and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes (you’ll need to stop the mixer and scrape the bowl once or twice to help the sugar dissolve).
In a small bowl, whisk together the molasses, milk, and vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the molasses mixture. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, and cinnamon. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the batter on low speed. When just a few streaks of flour remain, stir the batter gently by hand until-well blended.
Fold one-third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture, to lighten the batter. Gently fold in the remaining whites. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until the cake is a deep golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.
Clean the bowl and whisk attachment. Attach both back on the mixer. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the heavy cream, and pour the remainder into the mixer bowl. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla to the cream. Whip on high speed to soft peaks. Transfer to a separate bowl.
Remove the whisk attachment from the mixer and put on the paddle attachment (again, no need to clean the bowl). On high speed, beat together the cream cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger until very smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the pumpkin, mixing to blend well. Stir in the reserved 1 tablespoon of cream to loosen the mixture ever so slightly.
To assemble the trifle, being by cutting the cake into 1-inch cubes. Layer the trifle into a large, 3 or 4-quart trifle dish, or up to 12 individual dessert glasses. If using one large dish, start by layering in about a third of the cake cubes, followed by the pumpkin cream, and then a layer of the whipped cream. Repeat the layers twice more, ending with whipped cream. Finish with a dusting of cinnamon. Allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least four hours, although overnight is even better.
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