3 Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes from Northern Michigan Chefs

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Local chefs share their favorite Thanksgiving dessert recipes, including a healthy cake (yes, it exists) and a sugar-free scone. Plus, a crowd-favorite chocolate cake recipe. Thanks to Munson Healthcare, Shetler’s Family Dairy and Planted Cuisine.

Red Grape, Polenta & Olive Oil Cake

Last holiday season, we asked Chef Laura McCain, RD, and Munson Outpatient Nutritionist, for tips on healthy holiday baking. This year, she’s back to share a delicious dessert recipe just in time for Thanksgiving.

This rustic Italian-style cake, excerpted from the cookbook Cake Keeper Cakes, is fragrant from olive oil and juicy with roasted grapes. Recipe by Lauren Chattman.

Serves 8–10

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2⁄3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 3⁄4 cups (about 10 ounces) red seedless grapes, washed and dried
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Tip: If you add all the grapes at once, they’ll sink to the bottom, so reserve half and scatter them on top of the cake after it’s been in the oven for 10 minutes. They’ll sink slightly but still be visible. Dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar before serving for a pretty presentation.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9-inch round springform pan. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until light in color and increased in volume, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the oil in a slow, steady stream. Turn the mixer to medium speed and beat for 1 minute. Stir in the milk, vanilla, and lemon zest on low speed.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture, 1⁄2 cup at a time, until just incorporated. Stir in half of the grapes. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Scatter the remaining grapes over the top of the partially baked cake and continue to bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes longer.
  5. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Release the sides from the pan and let the cake cool completely before dusting with confectioners’ sugar, cutting into wedges and serving.
Chocolate Cake

Through three generations of family farmers, the Shetler family honors alternative and sustainable farming. Here they share Sally Shetler’s chocolate cake recipe, well known at their farm in Kalkaska.

Remember, you can eat traditional desserts—it’s all about portion size. Here’s how to avoid overeating during the holidays.

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cups of Shetler Butter
  • ½ cup of chocolate powder
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • 1 cup of cold water
  • 2 ½ cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream together sugar, eggs, butter, chocolate powder.
  3. Add boiling and cold water to creamed together ingredients.
  4. Mix and add flour, baking soda, salt, and vanilla to other ingredients.
  5. Bake for 40–50 minutes.
Local Pumpkin Scones

Loghan Call, Grow Benzie Food Truck’s 2018 featured chef and owner of Planted Cuisine, is known for his plant-forward recipes. Today he shares an original healthy recipe featuring the flavors of pumpkin.

This straightforward recipe highlights the flavor profiles of local ingredients. By keeping the sweetness level down, you can enjoy more of the pumpkin, flour, oats and oil. The oats and walnuts add nice texture, while the turmeric root provides added health benefits while bringing a vibrant color profile as well.

“If needed, you can substitute out the hard red wheat spring flour,” Loghan says. “However, I highly encourage using a locally grown and milled flour. The flavor difference is astonishing and will easily elevate your everyday scones to a healthier and tastier level.”

If you want to add a little sweetness, glaze the scones after they’ve baked.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of Grand Traverse Culinary Oil’s Hard Red Wheat Spring Flour (can substitute with another local flour, whole wheat or white spelt flour)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup chopped raw walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon arrowroot
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin or squash puree
  • 1/4 cup locally sourced honey or maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut or cold pressed sunflower oil
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Blend dry and wet ingredients separately then combine.
  3. Very lightly, oil a baking sheet with whatever oil you used in the recipe.
  4. The batter should be wet, but firm enough you can hold and shape in your hand.
  5. Spoon about 1/3 cup of batter onto your baking sheet (you can make them smaller or larger if desired but adjust your baking time).
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.
  7. Transfer scones onto a cooling rack and enjoy as soon as you can!

Written by Courtney Jerome


Shape Up North is a community collaboration dedicated to helping northern Michigan residents benefit from healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle. Living a healthier lifestyle can and should be an enjoyable adventure. Small changes in habits at school, work, and home can have long-lasting, positive effects on your health. With an abundance of great local foods and a four-season playground right outside your door, you and your family can lead a healthy, fit, and fun life.