20 Best Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Desserts from Carrot Cake to Cookies

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It’s almost Thanksgiving! Have you signed up for our newsletter yet? Leading up to the big day, get all the best tips from Food52 editors right to your inbox. Today, we’re helping you get ahead with the one part of the meal that almost ASKS that you make it in advance: dessert.

While it may be news that you can freeze baked pies, it’s certainly not news that checking off elements of your meal—especially a big meal like, say, Thanksgivingahead of time is a really really good idea.

Dessert, in particular, lends itself to be making a week in advance. A spectacular failure in the twelfth hour (when guests are at the table, expecting something onto which to plop whipped cream), cakes, cookies, and cheesecakes come together with greater success when there’s less immediate pressure. You’ll have better desserts—and more energy (and oven space) to devote to more pressing matters.

Here are 20 desserts to make right now and pull out of your freezer the day before Thanksgiving (or Christmas!). Be sure to consult Alice Medrich’s Guide to Freezing Baked Goods for more specifics on freezing.

Make the entire cake ahead of time, but be sure to wrap it very well in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn.

Assemble the sandwiches, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and wrap in several layers of plastic wrap. Thaw for a few minutes at room temperature before serving.

Bake the cake and let it cool completely, then wrap it in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. Defrost in the bag, at room temperature.

Shape the dough into a log as usual, wrap it well, and seal in a freezer bag. Thaw it in the fridge (in the bag) then let the dough warm up at room temperature for a few minutes until pliable enough to slice without cracking. Slice and bake as usual.

Make the cakes ahead and cool them completely. Wrap them in plastic wrap, then place in a freezer bag. Thaw the cakes in the bag, at room temperature. When you’re ready to serve, make the filling and ganache and assemble the cake.

Make the cake layers ahead of time, let them cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and seal in freezer bags. Whip up the cream cheese frosting when you’re ready to serve.

Bake, let cool completely, wrap in plastic wrap…you know the drill.

This three-ingredient dessert is meant to be frozen. Just be sure to thaw it for 10 minutes before serving to prevent brain freeze.

Once the cheesecake has cooled completely, unmold the sides of the springform pan. Wrap the whole cake, along with the base of the pan, with several layers of plastic wrap, then cover with aluminum foil. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. 

Not only can you make this cheesecake in advance—it almost asks that you make it in advance so the creamy PB filling can set. Also, since this is an Instant Pot cheesecake, it helps to not have to use the oven during the busy baking season, especially when you don’t have to. Win, win.

This may be ice cream, but that doesn’t mean you should reserve it for summer. For recipe author EmilyC, it’s an all-year dessert. “We compare all other desserts against it,” she says, “and nothing, ever, has measured up.”

This Big Little recipe from Emma Laperruque doesn’t ask you to turn on the oven—and it’s perfect for making ahead, as the gelatin-set pumpkin mousse filling needs time in the fridge to come to texture and temperature.

This ice cream couldn’t be easier to make, and is exactly what you need atop all your other pies and cakes and cookies. There isn’t a single egg in the custard, which is actually what makes it creamy as can be.

Or maybe pumpkin’s more your speed?

Whip up this original take on a seasonal loaf cake, cool completely, then wrap in plastic and place in a freezer bag. Make the glaze the day before or day of (while the cake is defrosting), and drizzle generously just before serving. 

brown butter butternut loaf cake

Ginger is thought to aid digestion, which makes this perfect for the end of a big Thanksgiving meal. Bake the cake, cool completely and wrap snugly in a few layers of plastic wrap, then wrap in a final layer of foil and stash in the freezer until the big day. Defrost at room temperature and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

ginger apple torte

Favorite fall flavors Guinness and pear cider join forces to add flavor and moisture to this cocktail-inspired cake. Bake, cool, wrap in plastic frap, and freeze in a freezer bag, and make the cream cheese frosting the day before or day of. 

snake bite cake

Introduce guests to this seasonal variation on a beloved classic by making it ahead of time (minus the demerara sugar on top), cooling completely, wrapping the dish tightly in plastic wrap with a final foil layer, freezing, defrosting thoroughly, sprinkling with sugar, and finishing in then oven to get that irresistable sweet, crispy crust.  

persimmon bread pudding

Swap in rich, earthy walnuts for the almond flour in these delicious fall-inspired financiers infused with a hint of Thanksgiving-friendly sage. Cool the financiers, then store in an airtight container overnight before transferring to freezer bags. Defrost completely at room temperature, and reheat briefly before deserving (if desired). 

The basic formula for carrot cake translates wonderfully to fellow fall root vegetable parsnips. Cool the cake completely, then wrap in plastic and place in a freezer bag. The simple maple glaze comes together in no time at all—drizzle after thawing and bring your meal to a memorable end. 

What desserts will you be making ahead of Thanksgiving? Share with us in the comments!



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