There are two key reasons behind how this show-stopping dessert came to be: One is that before baking cookies, my abiding passion in the kitchen was making cakes. All kinds of cakes; I developed quite a repertoire. Secondly, we do Thanksgiving big in the DiSomma family. Our table is lavishly decorated, numerous pies are made, and the dinner runs to several courses. These two influences combine perfectly in the Pumpkin Turkey Cake!


Pumpkin (Turkey) Cake


  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup apple sauce
  • 2 cups canned solid pumpkin (do not use canned pumpkin pie mix)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystalized ginger
  • 8-ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk, as needed


  1. To prepare the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a pan (preferably turkey shaped! I use a two-part pan set that has two sides of the turkey; see picture above). After baking and cooling, the two cake pieces are adhered together with frosting. If you’re using such a pan, make sure to grease and flour both sides. For other pan types, see note at the end of the recipe.
  2. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine the sugar, oil, applesauce, and pumpkin. With mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. On low speed, slowly add the flour to the pumpkin mixture. Add the crystalized ginger and mix until just blended.
  3. Divide the batter evenly among the two prepared pans (if using multiple pans). Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Carefully remove each half from the pan and let cool completely on cooling racks. When completely cooled, place halves back into the pans. Use a serrated knife to cut the “dome” off each side of the cake so that they are level. If using a single pan, see note below.
  4. Prepare the frosting. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine the cream cheese and butter. Whip until fluffy. With mixer on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar followed by the vanilla and sufficient milk to make a spreadable frosting.
  5. Remove the leveled cake from the pan(s). If you have made the cake in multiple pans, spread frosting over the cut side of one of the halves. Place remaining turkey half on top of the frosting, pressing lightly to set. Let stand for one hour. Place cake on a serving platter and use the remaining frosting to decorate the turkey cake.(If making in a single pan, simply add frosting to top, and let stand for one hour.)
  6. Note: If you don’t have a turkey-shaped pan, don’t fret! This cake can be prepared in a 9- by 13-inch pan or two 9-inch round pans. Check the round cakes after 25 minutes and the 9- by 13-inch pan after 35 minutes. SImply insert a toothpick in the middle to see if they are done. Frost the cakes with the icing as desired.
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November 13, 2020 — Mary DiSomma