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Thanksgiving Cake

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This not-pie Thanksgiving dessert takes the cake.

Pie gets the Thanksgiving love. But this year, it’s all about this easy Thanksgiving cake recipe with cranberries, apples, nuts, and spice

thanksgiving cake recipe
Pie who? Thanksgiving layer cake gets my vote as the new must-have dessert.

Let’s Make Thanksgiving Cake

This Thanksgiving, I am all about a slice of cake for dessert. Now I will be the first person to defend pie. I even have apple pie on my birthday instead of birthday cake. And it just wouldn’t be the Thanksgiving holiday without a slice of pumpkin. But — and this is a big but — other, non-pie Thanksgiving desserts like this Thanksgiving cake recipe make a fun, lets-shake-things-up alternative to the same old thing.

This easy Thanksgiving cake recipe is my top pick for Thanksgiving non-pie dessert this year. It’s a simple, super moist spice cake folded with apples, cranberries, and nuts. This sweet layer cake is festive, seasonal, and easy to make a day or two in advance. I think it may convert even the most dyed-in-the-wool pie lover.

ingredients for spiced apple cranberry nut layer holiday cake

How to Make This Best Apple Cranberry Thanksgiving Cake Recipe

I adapted this Thanksgiving apple cranberry spice cake recipe from a recipe from a Magnolia Bakery cookbook. I made it more straightforward, adjusted the spice measurements, and converted it into a layer cake.

The method is a simple creaming and folding method: Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, then fold in the nuts, apples, and cranberries.

The result is so, so good: moist, sweet but not overly so, and full of festive goodness.

Thanksgiving cake recipe batter with mix-ins
Make the Thanksgiving cake batter, then fold in the nuts and fruit.

Thanksgiving Layer Cake Ingredients

So much goodness! You’ll need the following ingredients to make this Thanksgiving cake:

  • Flour
  • Baking soda
  • Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Vegetable oil
  • Vanilla
  • Apples
  • Cranberries
  • Raisins
  • Pecans or walnuts
how to make an easy Thanksgiving cake
The cake batter is thick, so use a spatula to smooth it out.

Spiced Layer Cake Steps

This is a simple layer cake recipe to mix and bake. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Preheat the oven and grease two 9-inch cake pans.
  2. In a mixture, mix the eggs, oil, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and sugar until lightened.
  3. Stir in the flour and baking soda.
  4. Fold in the apples, cranberries, raisins, and chopped nuts.
  5. Bake, cool, frost, and serve.

slice of thanksgiving cake

Additional cake recipe notes, substitutions, and tips

This is a straightforward recipe, and should be easy to make. One of the great things about cake? Cake always tastes better the next day, meaning you can make it a day or two in advance. Store it at room temperature, wrapped, until you’re ready to frost and serve.

I do think that the spices and mix-ins (nuts, raisins, cranberries, apples) really make this cake something special. But feel free to cut out something if you don’t like it, or substitute pears for apples, walnuts for pecans, and so on.

To decorate your Thanksgiving cake, I suggest keeping it simple and seasonal. Some candied cranberries could be nice, or perhaps a ring of chopped or halved pecans.

thanksgiving cake recipe

Some more best non-pie Thanksgiving dessert ideas:


thanksgiving cake recipe

Thanksgiving Cake With Apples + Cranberries

This moist, spiced apple cranberry Thanksgiving cake recipe makes the ultimate non-pie dessert. A layer cake folded with apples, cranberries, nuts, and raisins for flavor, texture, and seasonal sweetness.
You can also make this cake as two loaves -- one for you, one to bring! (A standard baking loaf pan is about 8.5" x 4.5" x 2.6".)
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keywords:: apple, cake, cranberry, easy thanksgiving desserts, holiday
Servings: 8 people as a layer cake, more if baked as loaves


  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, diced small
  • 1 cup cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 recipe vanilla buttercream (recipe follows)


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease and line two 9-inch cake pans. Soak the raisins in hot water to soften them up while you mix the cake.
  • In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the oil, sugar, vanilla, eggs, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and salt until mixed and lightened. Scrape the bowl.
  • Add the flour and baking soda. Stir until about 3/4 mixed, then add the apples, cranberries, nuts, and drained, softened raisins. Stir until fully mixed.
  • Divide the batter into the two cake pans. The batter will be thick and chunky, so use a spatula to spread it evenly in the pans.
  • Bake until a cake tester comes out clean from the center, about 40 minutes. If you are baking these in loaf pans, each loaf will take about 1 hour.
  • Cool fully. Frost with vanilla buttercream and decorate as you like, and serve.


I love this Thanksgiving cake recipe. It's moist, easy to make, and full of lots of goodness like apples and nuts. Make the cake layers a day or two in advance. Store at room temperature, wrapped, until ready to frost and decorate. 


  • Maureen D

    5 stars
    This is our new tradition for Christmas Eve dessert. Was a huge hit by everyone. Moist and tasty. Made ahead of time and froze (without frosting). Simply delicious.

    • Unpeeled

      So glad you like it as well! What a sweet new tradition.

  • 5 stars
    FANTASTIC!!! moist, full of good stuff. Everyone RAVED.

  • 5 stars
    The Thanksgiving cake is outstanding!! It will also now be my Christmas cake with Christmas coming up. It is so moist , delicious and the spices are a perfect balance. Lasts a few days also and can I say, even tastes better ??
    Thx again for the great recipe!!

  • 5 stars
    This was an exceptional cake. It was so good, and I am going to make it for Christmas as well!

5 from 8 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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