It’s the perfect decadent fall dessert.
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Martha Stewart on a designed background
Credit: Getty Images / Monica Schipper / StockArtRoom

Speaking as someone who treats Thanksgiving as if it were my own personal Olympic Games, there is literally nothing more important in my life than what I serve on that holiest of food holidays: Turkey Day. For the next week or so, I will dedicate at least 50% of my brain power to the cooking schedule, my refrigerator capacity and the odds and ends still on my Thanksgiving grocery list.

And, because Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate our blessings and go way too hard at the dessert table, I will be spending a lot of time thinking about this year's dessert menu. (Don't worry, we have some tips on how to recover after a day of sweet indulgence.) Some things are absolute musts—my mom's layer bars and my grandmother's favorite cinnamon-sugar conchas, for example—but others will be newcomers this year. That includes Martha Stewart's Apple Layer Cake with Cream-Cheese Frosting, a recipe so fruity, caramelly and rich, just one bite of it will send you into a higher plane of existence.

layer cake and bowl of frosting on granite counter
assembled layer cake and slice of cake on checked plate against granite countertop
Left: Credit: Leah Goggins
Right: Credit: Leah Goggins

The recipe relies on a mixture of grated and diced Granny Smith apples for a fresh, intense apple flavor that also makes the cake moist and gives it amazing texture. When you take the cake out of the oven, it will be a shiny, beautiful dark brown color, with lots of brown sugar-apple caramelization at the edges of the pan. Trust me when I say this cake will make your house smell like a million-dollar candle. The accompanying cream-cheese frosting is also pretty tasty, as it offers a tanginess that cuts through the sweet cake.

I'll actually skip the frosting when I make the cake this time around—instead, for a more cold weather-appropriate serving style, I'm going to bake the cake in a 9-by-13 baking pan while everyone sits down to dinner. That way, I can serve up slices while they're still warm. This recipe pairs exceptionally well with just about any of the classic dessert drinks—from a cold glass of milk to a steaming shot of espresso. 

For a lighter take on an apple-packed baked good, you might want to try this gorgeous Brown Sugar-Glazed Apple Cake or our top-rated Apple-Pie Bread. No matter which option you include at the Thanksgiving table this year, you can't go wrong with relying on the natural sweetness of one of fall's best fruits.

If you're still figuring out the rest of your Thanksgiving menu, we have a few suggestions for you. You could take inspiration from Ina Garten's holiday menu or swap in her brilliant trick for a make-ahead Thanksgiving turkey. Or develop a lineup of dishes to fit whatever budget you have this year with our ultimate budget-friendly menu.