The Thanksgivings of my formative years belonged to my parents’ parents in upstate New York, the holiday itself the purview of my paternal grandmother, while my maternal grandmother had final say over how we spent the bookending days. The feast—pies included—was just reward for the long, long drive from Virginia, but only for three of the four members of my immediate family.
Although pie is the undisputed star of the Thanksgiving dessert world, my mother, in a show of downright contrariness, has always staunchly refused to eat the stuff—even her mother-in-law’s—and the aversion seems to run in that side of the family: her sister, my aunt, doesn’t like it either. Luckily for the two of them, their mother provided an alternative, and it’s one that has had a supporting role on our table ever since.
Gram’s Thanksgiving cake appeases the seasonal craving for pumpkin, but in such a mild manner that even folks who don’t like those normally strongly spiced autumnal flavors inevitably go back for seconds—it contains no cloves, no allspice, just cinnamon and pumpkin. Studded with chocolate chips, simultaneously moist, rich, and light, it’s perfect with coffee, either post-dinner or pre-breakfast. And the recipe’s a cinch, the antithesis of everything I’ve been making recently: ten ingredients, three steps, and, boom, cake.
Even if three-fourths of your guests prefer pie, you’ll have something for that one-fourth that doesn’t. Of course, you’ll have to have a piece of each dessert, which—today only— counts as half the calories: Everyone knows that acts of baking-kindness halve the effects of the final product. In keeping with the spirit of the holiday, emotional gains outweigh caloric ones, and there’s always room for that.
Gram’s Thanksgiving Cake
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 small can pumpkin
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease bundt pan with oil and sprinkle with flour.
2. Combine all ingredients and beat together. Pour into pan and bake 1 hour 15 minutes.
3. Cool in pan on rack.