Washington, DC

Vivi Mazarakis is the author of Forking DC. She previously wrote about Greek Chicken Soup here.

With Thanksgiving Day only a week away, I’m reminded of a rather obscure “historical” fact. Did you know that at the first Thanksgiving the Pilgrims fought over cranberry sauce? In fact, the argument sadly divided the group into two camps: those that believed in homemade, chunky cranberry sauce versus those that insisted on cranberry jelly from a can. Because I like you, I’ll share with you a deep, dark secret. My foodie-self loves cranberry sauce from a can. Nothing makes me smile more on T-Day than seeing the gelatinous, cranberry-flavored cylinder slowly shimmy its way out of the can.

Recently, I asked friends for their favorite T-day dishes. Sadly, no one said cranberry sauce from a can. I got some expected responses like macaroni and cheese, potatoes (mashed or gratin-style), sweet potatoes (casserole, candied, or with marshmallows), and dressing (in all its varied forms). I also received some unexpected ones as well. A vegetarian friend piped in with brussels sprouts made with smoked salt instead of bacon. Intriguing. The funniest response came from a dear friend who offered up wine as her favorite dish. It’s funny cuz it’s true. The most unusual response was Jell-O. It came from a Utah friend that said it’s a “Utah thing.” Is it? Anyone want to pipe in on this?

Sides dishes aside, today’s post focuses on dessert. I’m always looking for a good twist to the usual cast of T-day desserts. That’s precisely the reason I turned to my trifle bowl. I bought it many years ago at Marshall’s not really knowing what it was at the time — other than “on sale.” (To this day, its principal use in my home is a fruit and lemon bowl.) A few years ago – while watching the Food Network — a light bulb went off, and a trifle was born.

Readers, I bring you my easy and delicious solution for T-day dessert this year! I call it Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle with Bourbon-Maple Whipped Cream. The recipe is inspired by the queen of butter, the vixen of Southern cuisine, and the woman that was recently named Maxim’s Sexiest TV chef: Ms. Paula Deen. I’ve put my own twist on Deen’s recipe by tweaking the ingredients and adding homemade bourbon-maple whipped cream. You’re welcome.

It can be made ahead. In fact, it should be made ahead in order to allow the flavors to fully develop. Trust me, this dessert will be a huge hit with your guests. My friends love it so much that they’ve requested that I make it again this year. If you don’t have a trifle bowl, don’t fret. You can use a punch bowl; a large, pretty serving bowl; or make individual servings in big wine glasses or sundae glassware. Part of the trifle’s charm comes from guests seeing the individual layers before diving in. Therefore, glass serving dishes work best.

Continues after the jump.

Ingredients (serves 15)
1 14 oz package gingerbread mix
1 3.4 oz box cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¾ cup gingersnap cookies, crushed slightly

Whipped topping
1 qt heavy cream (very cold)
2 tbsp vanilla extract
¼ cup maple syrup (or powdered sugar)
¼ to ½ cup bourbon (skip this for a kid-friendly version!)

Prepare the gingerbread mix and vanilla pudding according to the instructions on their respective packages.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cooled vanilla pudding, pumpkin puree, brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream using a whisk or an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Brief aside here – please whip your own cream. Do not buy the stuff in a tub. I know it’s easier to just buy whipped topping, but a little extra work really pays off. Add the maple syrup (or powdered sugar), vanilla extract, and bourbon to the whipped cream. Whisk until incorporated. At this point, you should give it a taste to make sure the flavors are right. If you’re new to bourbon, I’d start with a ¼ cup and add more as it suits your taste. Obviously, skip the bourbon if you’re serving this dessert to kids.

Now comes the layering. The idea is to create even layers of gingerbread, pudding mixture, and whipped cream. The instructions below are suggested portions for each layer in a 120 oz trifle bowl. You should adjust the proportions accordingly, depending on the size of your serving dish.

Crumble ½ of the cooled gingerbread into the bottom of a trifle dish (or equivalent). Pour ½ of the pumpkin-pudding mixture over the gingerbread, and then sprinkle with ¼ cup crushed gingersnaps. Add a layer of the bourbon-maple whipped cream. Repeat with the remaining gingerbread, ¼ cup crushed gingersnaps, remaining pumpkin-pudding mixture, and whipped topping. Sprinkle the remaining (¼ cup) crushed gingersnaps over the top. Refrigerate overnight if possible.

I prefer to set this big boy out as a centerpiece or somewhere where people can openly admire it before dinner. Some friends have even posed for pictures with it. I find that it also serves as a motivational tool to help folks pace themselves during dinner because they know I will be force-feeding them trifle later. The last thing I need is too much trifle left over. I’ll be “forced” to eat it for breakfast for a week. How horrible . . .

So there you have it — one of my favorite T-day recipes. I’d love to hear about your favorites. Until next time, I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving. Remember to be safe, have fun, and nap!


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