I always love hearing about different families' Thanksgiving traditions. My family is small and scattered around the country, so it's usually just my brother, parents and me at their home in Connecticut. I'm tempted to say that the holiday is low-key for us, because the day starts out with a road race, sweat pants and football watching time and involves lots of time for reading, napping, and lounging, before we gather around the dining room table and feast. I realize, though that most people wouldn't consider a full day of cooking, including two desserts for only four people to be "low-key."
We're dessert people, and I'm in charge of picking and making the desserts we'll have each year. This year, my mom requested a red velvet cake after seeing the recipe in November's Veranda magazine, and I decided that even though I have a family of pumpkin pie-haters, I had to do something Fall-ish for the occasion, and...well, who doesn't like cheesecake? I made this pumpkin cheesecake with ginger-graham crust from the Joy of Baking.
When I bake dessert for myself alone, I'm kind of haphazard, I rush through any measurements involving the word "spoon" and I make round desserts in square pans. Since my parents have an amazing kitchen with all the proper-shaped pans, I tried to hold myself to higher standards and produce something that would look as good as it tasted.
Both desserts definitely looked homemade (HOW do bakeries get frosting to so thoroughly cover the sides of layer cakes? HOW, I ask?!) and I was a little disappointed with how short the pumpkin cheesecake was, but both tasted good enough for me to go way beyond comfortably full and try finish a slice of each.
The red velvet cake recipe caught me off guard, because it uses vegetable oil rather than butter as fat--TWO CUPS of olive oil went into it (and 1/4 cup of red food coloring comes out to two entire bottles!) and the batter looked really thin going into the pans. It baked out dense and moist, though, and I'll be happy to use vast quantities of vegetable oil in any and all desserts I make in the future.