Gingerbread-Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Trifle

You guys get to see the amazing dishes I make on a daily basis, but what you don’t get to see are the epic fails. Those are swept under the rug and hidden from your vision because no one needs to see the apocalyptic catastrophes that occur in my poor kitchen.

For example, I had it in my head to make a pumpkin spice latte tiramisu. It was a totally delicious idea with all the best intentions, but when I actually went to execute it, I ran into trouble. I purchased craptastic-quality gingersnaps to soak in the coffee (in lieu of traditional ladyfingers), and they literally disintegrated when I added the liquid. No exaggeration, there was not a crumb or chunk to be seen; it became pure liquid.

Needless to say, I had to toss it. But then I was left with a bowlful of wonderful pumpkin mousse, and I sure as sugar cookies wasn’t going to waste that. So, with that luscious filling, I skipped the tiramisu and instead stacked my trifle dish high with this Gingerbread-Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Trifle.

Hello, layers and layers of heaven!

Encompassed in this trifle dish are layers of smooth, creamy spiced pumpkin mousse, soft chunks of gingerbread, and gobs of rich, velvety chocolate ganache. It’s pure decadence, yet the mousse and cake are so light. Plus, the whole thing is chilled, making it just as refreshing as it is sweet tooth-satisfying.

Every spoonful tastes like the holidays; it’s all the flavors of Christmas and Thanksgiving in one. You get those great soulful fall spices, the classic Christmas treat that is gingerbread, and good old fall & winter-friendly pumpkin. Everything melts together in a perfect harmony of flavors. You won’t believe how well the spices, gingerbread, pumpkin, and chocolate taste together. It’s a dynamic, all-encompassing experience.

My sister really captured the essence of this dessert when she said, “You never know what you’re going to get in each bite.” There’s so many wonderful flavors and textures to experience! Plus, this is a super easy dessert that can be made ahead, but yields a beautiful presentation, making it perfect for your Thanksgiving dessert.

Be prepared; you’re going to need a big spoon for this!

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. The gingerbread can be replaced with store-bought gingersnaps, which will soften up beautifully when layered, to make this a no-bake dessert.
  2. Make this up to 24-hours ahead. The longer it chills, the better and more flavorful it tastes!
  3. If you don’t want to make your own ganache, by good-quality chocolate sauce at the store.
  4. No trifle dish? Make these as parfaits and serve in glasses instead.

Gingerbread-Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Trifle
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – 10 – 12 servings

*Note: this needs to chill at least 6 hours.


For the cake

  • 1 8×8 pan gingerbread cake or spice cake, store-bought or homemade

For the Mousse

  • 1 15-oz. can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. clove
  • 1/8 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

For the Ganache

  • 3 1.5-oz. milk chocolate bars, chopped
  • 3 4-oz. semisweet milk chocolate bars, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream


  1. Bake the gingerbread according the box/recipe’s directions. Let cool completely then remove from pan and chop into chunks.
  2. Make the ganache: Put chopped chocolate into a large heat-proof bowl. Pour the heavy cream into another small microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 second intervals until hot and simmering. Pour over chocolate and whisk until completely smooth. Allow to cool so that it is still slightly warm and liquid, but not hot.
  3. Make the mousse: Beat the mascarpone, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, ginger, and salt until fluffy and well-combined. In a separate bowl, beat heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold into pumpkin mixture until well-combined.
  4. In a trifle dish or large bowl, spread one-third of the pumpkin mousse on the bottom. Sprinkle with half the gingerbread chunks then drizzle with half of the ganache. Top with another third of the pumpkin mousse, the rest of the gingerbread, and almost all of the remaining ganache, reserving about 1/4 cup. Top with the remaining pumpkin mousse and spread into a smooth, even layer. Finish with a drizzle of the remaining ganache. To repeat: pumpkin, gingerbread, ganache; pumpkin, gingerbread, ganache; pumpkin & final drizzle of ganache.
  5. Chill for at least 6 hours or up to 24 before serving. Store covered in fridge for up to a week.

Pumpkin Graham Cracker Ice Cream Sandwiches

Remember a little bitty while back when I made those fantastic Pumpkin Spice Graham Crackers? Well, you know me; I can’t leave well-enough alone. So, I took those homemade gems and stuffed them up good with a heaping pile of creamy pumpkin ice cream.

Hello, Pumpkin Graham Cracker Ice Cream Sandwiches. Mind if stuff my face with you?

What really makes these ice cream sammies special are the homemade pumpkin spice graham crackers cradling the ice cream. They’re chewy and tender, not hard and dry like store-bought. Plus they have those warm and sweet spices to compliment the flavor of the smooth pumpkin ice cream.

This is an ice cream sandwich on steroids. I guarantee you’ve never had a sammie like this from a store. You just can’t compete with soft, delicious homemade graham crackers, which better resemble cookies than crackers, and cool, creamy ice cream to help wash it down.

What a beautiful pair!

These are great for you Thanksgiving dessert if you’re having a bunch of people over. Everyone gets their own sandwich, and they’re MUCH easier to make than a pie!

The best part is, you can make the dough ahead of time, so you’re a step ahead of the game. Save yourself some stress with this simple but pretty dessert. When you serve these to whomever is lucky enough to get a sammy, they’ll be beyond impressed that you made your own graham crackers. You go, you fancy little baker!

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Don’t like pumpkin? You can use any flavor ice cream you like in theses sammies.
  2. You don’t have to make all the crackers into sandwiches. Save a few to snack on, or make double batch and freeze half.
  3. These would also be great sandwiched with vanilla buttercream or crumbled into a homemade graham cracker pie crust.
  4. These crackers go from done to overdone in a split second, so make sure you watch ’em.

Pumpkin Graham Cracker Ice Cream Sandwiches
Graham crackers from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures who adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones


  • Heaping 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups graham flour
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. clove
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3/4 cup cinnamon-sugar
  • 1 1.5-qt carton pumpkin ice cream, softened


  1. Whisk both flours, the baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar and honey on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes (scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary). With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and beat just until the dough comes together.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or up to 5 days). Remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before proceeding.
  3. To make the cookies: Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  4. Unwrap the chilled dough, and on a lightly floured surface, roll it out into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Using a pumpkin cookie cutter (or a ruler and a pastry cutter or a sharp knife), cut the dough into your desired shapes; use a spatula to transfer the rectangles to the prepared baking sheets as you go, leaving about 3/4-inch space between them. Reroll the scraps of dough, and cut out more cookies.
  5. Using a fork, gently poke dotted lines onto the graham crackers. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Bake the graham crackers, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until they are golden brown and firm to the touch, about 8 – 10 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and allow the cookies to cool for a minute or two before removing them to the racks to cool completely. The cookies will crisp up as they cool.
  6. Once completely cool, spread about 1/4-1/2 cup of ice cream on to the bottom of a cracker. Place another one on top with the sugared side facing up, pressing down lightly to make your sandwich. use a knife to smooth the edges of the ice cream. Repeat with remaining crackers and immediately transfer sandwiches to freezer until firm, about 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Pumpkin S’mores Bars

I don’t know about you, but I just can’t get enough pumpkin. I can’t imagine what October through December is like for people who don’t like it, not necessarily because they’re missing out, but because they must be so annoyed by pumpkin everything persistently popping up in every aspect of their lives. I have a friend who’s allergic to pumpkin, as well as all other squashes, and I truly pity her during this time of year.

I guess the one good thing about pumpkin haters is that it means more for me. And with amazing pumpkin treats like these Pumpkin S’mores Bars, why would I ever want to share? These are like the love child of good old-fashioned pumpkin pie and s’mores, taking the best qualities from each. The filling is creamy and studded with all those warm fall spices. It tastes almost identical to the custard that fills pumpkin pie. Then, the filling is layered atop tender, chewy graham cracker cookie, and buried beneath melty milk chocolate and gooey toasted marshmallows. All these magnificent flavors act as a team. They work together, each bringing something delicious to the table, and creating an entity that’s even better together than individually.

Basically, these Pumpkin S’mores Bars are the definition of ooey and gooey. There’s really no better way to describe them. They’re pure messy, gooey goodness in the best possible way. Be prepared to get your hands messy when eating these spiced pumpkin stuffed s’mores. All that good stickiness is well worth it.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Mini marshmallows make cutting the bars much easier and less messy.
  2. Prefer dark chocolate over milk? Go for it!
  3. The graham cracker cookie base is the same recipe for my Homemade Brown Sugar Graham Crackers and slightly adapted Pumpkin Pie Spice Graham Crackers, a must-make!
  4. These are great warmed up in the microwave and topped with ice cream.
  5. Telling when these are done is a bit tricky, because if you use the toothpick test, you’re going to get goo from the chocolate and pumpkin, and won’t be able to tell if the cookie is done. Trust your instincts. You can tell by how a knife feels sinking into the cookie layer.
  6. You will have extra dough. This isn’t a bad thing because you can make it into graham crackers!

Pumpkin S’mores Bars
Graham Cracker Cookie Base adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures who adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones; rest of recipe by The Smart Cookie Cook


For the Graham Cracker base

  • Heaping 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups graham flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey

For the topping & filling

  • 5 1.55-oz. milk chocolate bars (like Hersheys)
  • 1 1/2 cups pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Half a 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows


  1. Whisk both flours, the baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar and honey on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes (scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary). With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and beat just until the dough comes together.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper so that it hangs over the sides.
  3. Reserve 1/3 of the dough. Form the remaining dough into a disk and place in baking dish. Flatten out into an even layer. Lay the candy bars over top in an even layer, breaking them apart as necessary so they fit the whole pan and cover the pumpkin completely.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, granulated sugar, and sweetened condensed milk. Pour over top the graham cracker layer and smooth out. Bake for 20 minutes then sprinkle marshmallows over top and bake for another 10 minutes, or until marshmallows are browned and a knife inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs.
  5. Let cool on wire rack for 20 minutes then use the parchment paper to lift out the bars and let cool completely. Slice and enjoy.
  6. With the extra dough, you can roll it out, cut it out, and bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes for homemade graham crackers; or, you can freeze it for later use.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Topped Brownie

Sorry for the late post today, folks. One of the many reasons I hate college is that it consumes my every waking hour (and every hour I should be sleeping). Unfortunately, the post just didn’t happen last night. I really hate doing that to you guys because, quite honestly, I care about/love this website way more than I do college. In fact, college is kind of like the rude, overbearing step-mother getting in the way of my relationship with her son. Or you could liken college to the soggy green beans I have to eat at dinner before I enjoy dessert. However you spin it, college is a big freakin’ pain in the butt.

The fact that I’ve still got 2 1/2 years of this misery makes me less than thrilled, but I can at the very least eat away my troubles. As has been the trend around Smart Cookie, I’m pumping out as many pumpkin recipes as I can before the flavor season comes to a depressing end. Today, I made use of some leftover dough from my Warm Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae, and baked it atop a thick slab of rich and fudgy brownies. This is a simple recipe, but you won’t be able to keep your paws off of it. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself!

A few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Getting the timing right on adding the cookie dough is tricky. You don’t want to add it until the end because they’ll brown before the brownies are finished.
  2. This concept works with any cookie dough flavor you’d like. Check out my Peanut Butter Cookie Brownies for proof!
  3. Make these brownies a la mode with some pumpkin ice cream.
  4. Lining the pan with parchment paper lets you lift the brownies out effortlessly as if in a makeshift sling. No mess and no fuss!
  5. If you bake this in an 8×8, you’ll have extra dough. Bake it into regular cookies or freeze for later use.
  6. I’m a big believer in going all homemade or at least semi-homemade. So as long as you make the cookie dough, go ahead and use boxed brownie mix.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Topped Brownies

Cookie dough adapted from Baking Illustrated


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 4.4-oz. milk or dark chocolate bar, chopped into chunks (equals about 1 cup of chunks)
  • 1/2 cup additional milk, dark, or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 batch brownie batter, prepared as directed by recipe or box instructions, homemade or store-bought (I used a boxed mix)


1. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the pumpkin, egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients while beating at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips and chunks to taste. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least an hour before continuing.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8×8 pan with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper so that it hangs over the edges. Pour prepared brownie batter into pan and bake for 10 minutes less than the box or recipe you’re using states (so if it says bake for 30 minutes, then bake for 20). It should be almost done, but just a bit fudgy in the center still. Drop flattened tablespoons on top of the brownies so that it’s entirely covered and bake for the remaining time until cookies start to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a bit of crumb. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes then use the overhang of parchment paper to lift the brownies out of the pan and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. slice into squares and enjoy.

Pumpkin Pesto Grilled Cheese

Oh grilled cheese, you can do no wrong.

No matter what kind of bread encompasses your cheesy center, no matter what variety of cheese comes oozing from your innards, no matter what extras I slip into the mix, you are always so good.

Even when a particular grilled cheese pales in comparison to other ones that I’ve sampled, it’s still pretty damn delectable. Unless there’s mold growing on the sandwich, it’s nearly impossible to go wrong with bread and cheese. If you know your Smart Cookie here well, then you know I have a special infatuation with bread (and all-things starch). Give me a good hunk of bread, and I can chomp on it plain, no butter or toppings required. Of course, those make it all the better.

So when you slather my beloved bread in butter, stuff it with gobs of gooey cheese, and fry it until it reaches golden, melted perfection, I can’t help but swoon. It’s nature’s perfect pairing, a match so comforting and delicious that you just can’t go wrong. I’ve tried endless variations, and just when I was looking for something new, Mother Cookie came home with a jar of pumpkin pesto.

Of course, the idea for a Pumpkin Pesto Grilled Cheese followed naturally. I paired the sweet and savory spread with fresh mozzarella, which is quite possibly the gooiest kind of cheese in existence, and melty Muenster. Muenster is a seriously under-appreciated cheese. If you’ve never tried it, it’s mild, but still has a little bit of tang and flavor, so it’s far from dull or boring.

I’ve got to tell you, nothing is more gratifying than to tear these Pumpkin Pesto Grilled Cheeses in half and watch the cheese come oozing out in all its melted glory. The first bite of a grilled cheese, I believe, is always the best. Your teeth chomp through the golden brown, buttery bread, from the crispy exterior to the tender interior, and then into the mound of melty cheese that I know you’ll have piled on thick. The mellow mozzarella and slightly tangy Muenster are just perfect with the sweet and zesty pesto. And if you’re a smart cookie like me, you’ll use a good quality garlic bread from your grocery store’s bakery to really amp up the flavor.

Oh wow.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Parmesan would be delicious in place of the Muenster.
  2. The better quality bread you buy, the better your grilled cheese will be. You want something crusty & sturdy outside but soft inside. And I highly recommend going the garlic route!
  3. If you can’t find garlic bread but still want garlic flavor, rub the slices of bread with fresh garlic.
  4. Fresh mozzarella and the shredded stuff in the bags are NOT the same thing. Fresh is a whole different world, and much better if you ask me. Find it in the specialty cheese section.
  5. Sage would add great flavor to these sammies.
  6. If your bread browns before the center of the sandwich gets hot and gooey, you can pop the sandwich in the oven for a few minutes.
  7. I found pumpkin pesto at William-Sonoma. If you can’t find any, mix 1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix) with salt, garlic, pepper, a pinch of sugar, and 2 tbsp. olive oil.

Pumpkin Pesto Grilled Cheese
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – 4 sandwiches


  • 8 thick slices good-quality, fresh garlic bread (I used Tuscan Garlic Bread from Wegmans)
  • 4-6 tbsp. butter, softened
  • 4-6 tbsp. pumpkin pesto
  • 10 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups shredded muenster cheese


  1. Bring a skillet or grill pan to medium heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place bread butter side-down and spread 4 slices with about 1 tbsp. of pumpkin pesto. Cover with a generous amount of mozzarella and muenster (about 3 slices of mozzarella and 1/4 cup of muenster) and top with a plain slice of bread, butter side-up.
  2. Cook one or two sandwiches at a time until golden brown and cheese is melted, flipping so that each side gets good and brown. Serve immediately. If you’d like to keep finished sandwiches warm while you cook the others, place in an oven at 200 degrees F.