It’s hard not to love autumn. It’s filled with delights, from the feeling of a warm, comfy sweater on a crisp morning to the glorious blaze of color from the late leaves. Another favorite fall pleasure is holiday baking – especially pumpkin pie! While a traditional pie is always wonderful, you might find yourself looking for ways to make yours different this year. If that’s you, try one of these easy but impressive pumpkin pie variations.
Make ‘Em Pop
Pumpkin cheesecake is a well-established alternative to pumpkin pie, so just making the cheesecake won’t win you any points for originality. So why not make pumpkin cheesecake pops? They’re easy and eye-catching and let your guests fine-tune the quantity of dessert they’re comfortable eating. You’ll need a finished pumpkin cheesecake as your starting point, either store-bought or leftover from an earlier meal. So whip out your favorite apron and get started.
Use a spoon or a small ice cream scoop to portion the cheesecake into roughly tablespoon-sized mounds, then roll each one gently to make a ball. Transfer your cheesecake spheres to a parchment-lined sheet pan and insert a lollipop stick into each one. Freeze the pops for an hour or so, until they’re hard enough to dip successfully without the soft cheesecake falling apart.
You can dip the finished pops in melted chocolate or white chocolate for a finished appearance but remember that the frozen pops make it set very quickly. A simple flat icing of powdered sugar whisked with water or milk works just as well and is easier. Dip each pop into your icing or chocolate and then coat it in graham cracker crumbs to complete the cheesecake effect. Alternatively, use crushed gingersnaps or pecan meal for their more distinctive flavors.
Trifle With Them
Cheesecake isn’t the only way to take the classic pie to a new level. A pumpkin trifle, layered into Mason jars as serving dishes, makes a show-stopper of a dessert. Best of all, it’s ridiculously easy. The main ingredients are cake and a version of your pumpkin pie filling. You can do that from scratch by simmering your usual recipe over a double boiler or simply combine pumpkin puree with an instant pudding mix.
You’ll also need a cake to serve as the base for your trifle. Gingerbread or spice cake are especially appropriate, whichever is your favorite. If it happens to come in the form of a box, that’s fine too. No one will tell if you don’t. Slice the cake thinly or break it into pieces, as you wish. You’ll also need something creamy and lighter-tasting as your third layer, such as whipped cream, custard sauce or prepared pudding.
Line the bottom of each Mason jar with cake pieces, then spoon in a layer of pumpkin filling and tap it gently on the counter to spread the pumpkin without splattering. Spoon in your creamy layer the same way, then repeat. Top each jar with whipped cream and then garnish with halved or crumbled gingersnap cookies. Line up the jars on an attractive serving tray and then start working on your modest “it was nothing” expression, because you’ll need it.
Glazed and Infused
Pumpkin bread doesn’t taste exactly like pumpkin pie, but it’s a whole lot less messy to eat with your cup of tea or coffee. Transform it easily from an everyday snacking cake to a holiday treat by topping your pumpkin bread with an easy-to-make festive glaze. These don’t need to be time-consuming. You can make a simple version by whisking 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 ounces of milk or cream into a cup of confectioner’s (powdered) sugar, then flavoring it with ginger, maple extract or a few melted caramels.
Before the glaze sets, decorate the pumpkin bread further with a sprinkling of miniature chocolate chips or pecan pieces. Dressed up so nicely for the holidays, your pumpkin bread can serve as a charmingly homemade gift for your hosts at the holiday feast. Raise your game by shunning a gift bag or tissue paper and wrap the boxed cake with a personalized kitchen towel instead.
Shake, Shake, Shake
Autumn is often considered a time for hot beverages, but on warm fall days — or in the evening, around a fire — a cold treat can still be fun, especially if it includes your favorite fall flavors. Pumpkin pie milkshakes fit the bill perfectly and couldn’t be easier to make. You just need milk, ice cream, pumpkin puree (or leftover pie) and spices. Process them in your blender, with a bit of sugar or honey if you feel the need for added sweetness.
The same thick mugs that keep your coffee hot also keep your shakes cold. Chill a set of large mugs in your refrigerator or freezer, then pour in your shakes. Garnish with a drizzle of caramel, a sprinkle of pumpkin-pie spice or a rosette of whipped cream and serve them with spoons so you can get every drop of that rich, pumpkiny goodness. Insulated thermal tumblers are the alternative option if you’re heading out for some autumnal fun
Take It and Run
Of course, these are just a few variations on the theme, and there are thousands more. How do you reinterpret the classic pie for your family? Don’t be shy, step up and share your favorite inspirations in the comments section. Feel free to apply your imagination to these personalized options, as well. Names and monograms are all well and good, but nicknames, family catchphrases and in-jokes bring a more personal touch to gifts and decorative items.