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Pumpkin Cake for Thanksgiving Desert


Warm pumpkin cake, with a dollop of fat-free cool whip, and thin slices of fresh sweet ripe persimmon. Photo, ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


1 box yellow cake mix (18 oz)
1 box instant butterscotch pudding (3.4 oz)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
4 eggs
1 cup (salt-free) walnuts, chopped coarsely
1 cup (salt-free) walnuts, chopped very fine (for inside pan & sprinkles)
3 Tablespoons brown sugar substitute
1 container fat-free cool whip (topping)


Cake batter, before adding coarsely chopped walnuts — Photo: ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.




In a large mixing bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Then beat on medium speed for 4 minutes.

When beating is done, add the coarsely chopped walnuts and stir them into the mixture.

Pour into a (canola oil) greased cake pan that you add the very finely chopped walnuts to. Shake the pan so that the walnuts begin to stick to and cover the pan, all over. Bake at 350’F for 50-55 minutes. Test with a tooth pick. Insert near center. When it comes out clean, cake is done.

Before you take the cake out of the oven, in a small bowl add the brown sugar substitute with the finely chopped walnuts and mix together. Now, sprinkle this mixture, slowly, over the top of the cake. Return to oven to brown slightly, for 5 to 8 minutes. Check oven to be sure nothing burns, and remove when done.

Cool cake in pan for 15 minutes. Then move to wire rack to cool completely.


Tame your craving, to top servings with vanilla ice cream and use fat-free cool whip as a topping instead, along with thinly sliced ripe persimmon, in season now.


Just out of oven, after sprinkling walnuts & brown sugar substitute,

on top of pumpkin cake to caramelize a bit. Photo: ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

Here is a Thanksgiving dessert that tastes best served warm. IMO, the no-fat cool whip and thin slices of ripe Persimmon, enhance the flavor of the warm pumpkin cake. Although a slice of this cake is about 275-300 calories, it’s less than pecan pie or pumpkin pie. The pumpkin flavor of this warm cake is full and luscious. A sweet dessert wine would go well, like the Italian dessert wine, Vin Santo.  My own preference for dessert wine, is that the wine be sweeter than the dessert. 

This cake is not too sweet, so could even be served the next morning with coffee, and would be wonderful for brunch, breakfast, and afternoon tea.


A glass of Vin Santo with its characteristic amber color.


Although the style of making wine from dried grapes has been around almost as long as wine has been made, there are many theories on how the particular name Vin Santo or “holy wine“ came to be associated with this style of wine in Italy. The most likely origin was the wine’s historic use in religious Mass, where sweet wine was often preferred.

One of the earliest references to a “vinsanto“ wine come from the Renaissance era sales logs of Florentine wine merchants who widely marketed the strong, sweet wine in Rome and elsewhere. Eventually the term “vinsanto“ became almost an umbrella name for this style of wine produced elsewhere in Italy. When the Greek island of Santorini came under rule of the Ottoman Empire, the ruling Turks encouraged the island’s wine production of a sweet dessert wine made from dried grapes. Over the next few centuries, this wine became known as Vin Santo and was widely exported to Russia where it became a principal wine in the celebration of Mass for the Russian Orthodox Church.

Other, likely apocryphal, stories on the name’s origin attributes its naming to the work of a 14th-century friar from the province of Siena who would use the leftover wine from Mass to cure the sick. The miraculous healing became associated with the santo or “holy“ wine and the name Vin Santo was allegedly born.  Another 14th century story involving John Bessarion, a patriarch of the Greek Eastern Orthodox Church. According to legend at the Ecumenical Council of Florence of 1349 a local Florentine wine called Vin Pretto (pure wine) was served. After trying the wine, Bessarion is said to have liked the wine and remarked that it was like Xanthos, alluding to the famous straw wine of Thrace, (though some sources said he described the wine as Xantho or “yellow“). The Florentine locals thought they heard the patriarch describe the wine as Santo and they accordingly started promoting the wine as a “holy wine“. Another theory for the name association often touted is the tradition of starting fermentation around All Saint’s Day and bottling the wine during Easter week.

Here in New York, we are definitely thankful for all that we have and all that we’re able to do.  We wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving weekend!  And, of course, Bon Appetit!


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