Ah, autumn. My favorite time of year. As a kid, I loved when the leaves started to turn, and I went back to school. (Yes, I was one of those nerdy kids who actually liked learning.) The One and I met and wooed during autumn thirty years ago. Our fire pit is filled with wood and lit.

And for me, there’s no better season to bake than autumn. In our home, when temperatures drop, the oven goes on. Then, of course, there are all those amazing ingredients spilling out of farm stands: apples, pears, pumpkin, squash, grapes, and more.

A barn with a painted American flag on it; a table of sugar pumpkins.

Local orchards open their gates for families to pick their own fruit. (Our favorite is Averill Farms.) Apple cider (sparkling and still), caramel apples, and apple butter are everywhere.

So below are some of my favorite autumn desserts. I’m partial to the pumpkin cake with maple cream cheese frosting, sour cream apple pie, and the pear and cardamom caramel upside-down cake.

I hope you like them as much as we do.

David Leite's handwritten signature of 'David.'
A slice of frosted pumpkin cake on a plate with the remaining cake on a stand in the background.
David Leite
1 of 7

Pumpkin Cake With Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

This pumpkin cake with maple cream cheese frosting is spiced with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. All the essential pumpkin spice flavors tempered with the creamy coolness of cream cheese frosting. One of my most popular cakes.

This pumpkin cake is amazing! So delicious! I made it for my husband’s birthday 18 months ago with some candied pecans and I am still getting requests from people to make it for them too.

Three fanned pear tarts on puff pastry on white plates with seashells scattered around.
Ken Carlson
2 of 7

Cinnamon Pear Tarts with Puff Pastry

Sweet cinnamon-sugar pears are baked atop puff pastry to make these adorable pear tarts. It's an easy, impressive fall dessert.
A sour cream apple pie with one slice cut out and place on a green plate and a fork resting beside it.
David Leite
3 of 7

Sour Cream Apple Pie

This sour cream apple pie is filled with layers of thinly sliced apples and a sour cream filling and then the whole shebang is smothered with a buttery streusel topping. What’s not to love?!

This apple pie was amazing! My husband said it was the best apple pie he’s ever had. My son took one forkful and then just picked it up with his hands and gobbled the whole thing down! Yum!

Pat t.
Four small crocks of pumpkin pots de creme--pumpkin pudding topped with crumbled cookie and whipped cream.
Colin Price
4 of 7

Pumpkin Pots de Crème

These fancy-sounding pumpkin pots de crème are essentially creamy custards made from half-and-half, brown sugar, pumpkin, eggs, and warm spices, topped with maple whipped cream and crushed amaretti cookies. Perfect for entertaining.
Spiced cider doughnuts and doughnut holes on a square metal tray with one in pieces beside a cup of coffee.
Ray Kachatorian
5 of 7

Spiced Cider Doughnuts

You may wonder if making your own doughnuts is worth the effort. Just one bite of these sugar-glazed, spiced-cider doughnut treats will prove it is. The spicy flavor is sure to bring back memories of crisp autumn mornings and relaxing breakfasts in flannel pajamas. These are also delicious tossed with cinnamon sugar instead of glazed.
A pear and cardamom caramel upside-down cake on a carved wooden plate, on a green wooden table.
Nassima Rothacker
6 of 7

Pear and Cardamom Caramel Upside-Down Cake

I love the flavor balance in this cake: tangy pears, floral cardamom, rich caramel, and, underneath, a moist sponge of orange and almonds. Do try it—your friends and family will think it a triumph.
Caramel apple slab pie in a large metal sheet pan, on a wire rack with a pie knife.
Emulsion Studio
7 of 7

Caramel Apple Slab Pie

Slab pies are perfect for feeding a crowd–or a small group of people who just really, really love pie. My take on the American favorite includes caramel-coated apples and raisins, covered with a nutty crumble topping.

Fall Dessert FAQs

Which foods are most common in fall baking?

Autumn means an abundance of apples, pears, and pumpkins. Combined with warm spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, they make many popular cozy fall desserts, including apple crumble, maple pumpkin pie, and pear bread.

Can you suggest some fall desserts to feed a crowd?

You bet! When you are looking for desserts that will feed plenty, look for large cakes, slab pies, or easy bar recipes that can be cut into bite-size pieces. Our favorites include this apple cake with cream cheese frosting, this towering apple spice cake, and these pumpkin spiced seven-layer bars.

What can I do with an abundance of apples and pears?

The good news is that a lot of apple and pear desserts freeze well. Make up a few classic apple pies or pear-cranberry crumbles and pop them in the freezer for an easy future dessert. If you’ve still got more, whip up some homemade applesauce to have on hand whenever you’ve got a craving for applesauce bread.

If, like me, you’re partial to apple pie, check out this stunning selection of apple pie recipes. If pumpkin is your favorite autumn dessert ingredient, there are plenty of pumpkin pie recipes to choose from, too.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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