25 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Desserts You Can Whip Up the Night Before

Pumpkin Spice-Heath Cake
Photo: Alison Miksch

Thanksgiving is a holiday of epic preparation. You have to get your menu organized and assigned, prep the many creamy casseroles, set out the china, decorate the table, and make sure that turkey is thawed and ready. Oh wait—and then there's dessert!

As the finishing touch on the Thanksgiving meal, dessert is often looked forward to by our families as much as the turkey and stuffing; but if you're the one cooking, it's not always your first priority. So, if you've ever been down to the wire on picking a dessert to make or if you're just looking for an easy bake-and-take option, you'll be more than pleased with these quick desserts that don't require nearly as much hands-on time as your family will think after taking a taste.

You can whip these desserts up the night before, and they'll taste freshly made at your Thanksgiving meal the next day. When it comes to Thanksgiving, store-bought pie crusts, easily frosted sheet and Bundt cakes, and overnight-chilled cheesecakes are sometimes the trick to waking up (a little) more stress-free on Thanksgiving morning.

01 of 25

Hummingbird Bundt Cake

Hummingbird Bundt Cake
Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Hummingbird Bundt Cake

A Bundt cake is such a great way to go for an easy, make-ahead dessert—it'll stay moist and doesn't require laborious frosting like a layer cake. This twist on a traditional Hummingbird Cake is a surefire winner any holiday, and it takes only 20 minutes of hands-on time.

02 of 25

Pumpkin Spice-Heath Cake

Pumpkin Spice-Heath Cake
Alison Miksch

Recipe: Pumpkin Spice-Heath Cake

Toffee bits take this pumpkin spice cake to this next level, and you make and serve this dessert in a baking sheet pan for ultimate ease. A simple spiced cream cheese frosting can be spread on the night before or day-of—whatever works best for you!

03 of 25

Fresh Apple Cake

Fresh Apple Cake
Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Amy Burke

Recipe: Fresh Apple Cake

Toasted pecans and thinly sliced apples speckle this sheet cake throughout, and you can top this with any quick frosting of your choice (we love it with cream cheese frosting or browned butter frosting).

04 of 25

Salted Caramel-Chocolate Pecan Pie

Salted Caramel-Chocolate Pecan Pie
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie

This twist on the traditional pecan pie is even more decadent. The salted caramel topping complements the nutty, sweet pie perfectly.

05 of 25

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Pie

Brown Butter Sweet Potato Pie
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Brown Butter Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet potatoes are the conundrum of Thanksgiving—whether served with the meal as a side or after as a dessert can rely upon very small deviations in recipes. This pie makes it into the dessert category thanks to its browned, spiced butter component.

06 of 25

Lemon-Almond Bars

Lemon-Almond Bars
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Lemon-Almond Bars

These yummy bars are made of three delicious layers: a buttery crust, zesty ginger-lemon filling, and warm nutty top. For even easier serving and cleanup, line the pan with foil before beginning with the dough.

07 of 25

Chocolate-Coconut Pavlova Cake

Chocolate-Coconut Pavlova Cake
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Tina Bell Stamos

Recipe: Chocolate-Coconut Pavlova Cake

Coconut cake is a favorite at holiday gatherings, and this recipe is next-level. It can be made in advance—plus it's gluten and dairy-free!

08 of 25

Banana Pudding Poke Cake

Banana Pudding Poke Cake
Greg DuPree

Recipe: Banana Pudding Poke Cake

Lean into the Southern deliciousness of banana pudding, but make it in cake form with this poke cake recipe. It features additional flavors like cinnamon and vanilla bean, making it perfect for an upgraded party dessert.

09 of 25

Spiced Pecan Pie Bars

Spiced Pecan Pie Bars
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Recipe: Spiced Pecan Pie Bars

This easy recipe stands out thanks to staples you likely already have in your pantry: ground cinnamon and ginger! Simply take those ingredients, throw them in with pecans, flour, and all the fixings in a baking pan, and you have delicious, gooey, honey-filled pecan pie bars.

10 of 25

Mini Pecan Pies

Mini Pecan Pies
Lee Harrelson; Styling: Jan Gautro, Laura Zapalowski

Recipe: Mini Pecan Pies

Pecan pies, but make them mini. To make, fill frozen tart shells with the pecan filling, bake for 25-30 minutes, then store in an air-tight container for up to three days.

11 of 25

Buttermilk-Pecan Pralines

buttermilk pecan pralines
Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Recipe: Buttermilk-Pecan Pralines

These chocolate bites can be stored for up to a week! No matter what day you serve them, guests are sure to love the sweet buttermilk filling and crunch of pecans inside each bite.

12 of 25

Caramel-Pecan-Pumpkin Bread Puddings

Caramel-Pecan-Pumpkin Bread Puddings
Jim Franco; Styling: Lynda White

Recipe: Caramel-Pecan-Pumpkin Bread Puddings

Caramel, pecan, and pumpkin? This recipe is like Thanksgiving in a cup. FYI: Part of this recipe can be made in advance, but it does require some assembly day-of, too.

13 of 25

Salted Butter-Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Salted Butter-Pecan Shortbread Cookies
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Salted Butter-Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Worried about having time on Thanksgiving day? This dough can be made two days in advance and stored in the fridge.

14 of 25

Apple Stack Cake

Apple Stack Cake
Photo: Victor Protasi; Prop Styling: Cindy Barr; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Apple Stack Cake

Some things get better with age—and with this recipe, the sweet spot is three full days. Make this cake ahead of time and store it the cupboard until you're ready to slice.

15 of 25

Rebecca's Black Bottom Icebox Pie

Rebecca's Black Bottom Icebox Pie
Photo: Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Recipe: Rebecca's Black Bottom Icebox Pie

The oven can be busy on holidays, so don't depend on it with this recipe. It starts with chocolate wafers in the processor, freeze, then make the filling in the microwave.

16 of 25

Ultimate Apple Pie

Ultimate Apple Pie from Buxton Hall
Photo: Greg Dupree; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Ultimate Apple Pie

Apple pie is a classic for good reason! This dish can be made in advance, but be sure you leave 4 to 6 hours for cooling.

17 of 25

Glazed Buttermilk Donut Cake

Glazed Buttermilk Donut Cake
Caitlin Bensel, Food Styling: Margaret Dickey, Prop Styling: Kay E Clarke

Recipe: Glazed Buttermilk Donut Cake

Think of this dessert as a large cake donut topped with powdered sugar glaze and flavored with nutmeg and vanilla.

18 of 25

Peach Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel

Peach Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel
Photo: Iain Bagwell; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Peach Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel

This peach bread pudding is proof that, sometimes, the best things take time. It features fresh peaches and caramel flavoring, taking just 15 minutes to make before resting for 8 hours before serving.

19 of 25

Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake

Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake
Micah A. Leal

Recipe: Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake

It doesn't get more "fall" than pumpkin cheesecake. This recipe is a delicious cross between classic cheesecake and pumpkin pie. Our favorite element? The graham cracker crust.

20 of 25

No-Bake Fudgy Toffee Bars

No-Bake Fudgy Toffee Bars
Iain Bagwell

Recipe: No-Bake Fudgy Toffee Bars

No bake, no problem. These no-bake bars are like gooey cookies without the mess. Served chilled for less chocolate on your hands.

21 of 25

Caramel Apple Coffee Cake

Caramel Apple Coffee Cake
Photo: Jennifer Davick

Recipe: Caramel Apple Coffee Cake

This sweet treat can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Best part? It comes together with just 35 minutes of your time.

22 of 25

Almond Thumbprints with Fig Jam

Almond Thumbprints with Fig Jam
Joy Howard

Recipe: Almond Thumbprints with Fig Jam

Looking for a gluten-free dish? Whip up these thumbprint cookies with almond flour and fig jam.

23 of 25

Mini Cranberry-Cheesecake Pies

Mini Cranberry-Cheesecake Pies
David Malosh; Prop Styling: Robyn Glaser; Food Styling: Maggie Ruggiero

Recipe: Mini Cranberry-Cheesecake Pies

Pies, made easy. With this recipe, gingersnap cookies act as a base for creamy cranberry and cheesecake filling.

24 of 25

Simplest Pear Tart

Simplest Pear Tart
Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Christine Keely

Recipe: Simplest Pear Tart

Just as the name suggests, this recipe is one word: Simple. It embraces in-season fruit with fresh pears baked atop pre-made frozen puff pastry sheets.

25 of 25

Southern Sweet Potato Cake

Southern Sweet Potato Cake
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck; Food Styling: Erin Merhar

Recipe: Southern Sweet Potato Cake

Made with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves, this sweet potato cake is decadent. Cut it into squares for easy serving.

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