Forget pumpkin pie for turkey day |

Forget pumpkin pie for turkey day

Vera Dawson
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.

A crowd pleaser … that’s what this is. Young, old, gourmands and fast-foodies, even people who don’t like pumpkin like this torte. It’s a great ending to a Thanksgiving meal; the ice cream makes it refreshing and light and the chocolate and caramel provide a satisfying richness. In my opinion, it trumps the traditional pumpkin pie, hands down.

Put away your rolling pin, no technical expertise is required. In fact, making this pumpkin ice cream torte is close to foolproof … really a matter of assembling and layering ingredients more than baking them. It’s hard to imagine anything that could really ruin it.

It’s a docile little dessert that can be prepared days in advance and will wait patiently in the freezer until it’s time to be served. You can also spread its preparation out over several days, making the crust one day and filling it the next. What more could you ask for?

Make in a 9-inch springform pan


8 ounces of crisp gingersnap cookies (about 36 round, one-and-three-fourth-inch cookies)

3 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter

2 tablespoons of sugar


1 15-or 16-ounce can of pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

2/3 cup of light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves

3/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1 quart of vanilla ice cream, softened


About 1 1/4 cups of commercial caramel ice cream topping

About 1 1/4 cups of commercial chocolate ice cream topping

About 3/4 cup of crushed chocolate covered toffee (I used about five Heath bars)

Make the crust. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease the springform pan. Pulverize the gingersnaps in a food processor or by enclosing them in a plastic bag and smashing them with something heavy. Thoroughly mix the cookie crumbs with the sugar and melted butter and press about two-thirds of the mixture over the bottom of the springform pan. Save the rest. Bake the crust until it is dry and set, about 6 to 8 minutes. Let it cool completely. If you aren’t going to make the rest of the torte immediately, cover the pan with plastic wrap.

Make the pumpkin ice cream filling. Combine the pumpkin, brown sugar and spices in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved and some of the water evaporates from the pumpkin puree making it thicken slightly. This takes about 5 minutes on my stovetop. Remove the mixture from the heat, put it a large bowl, and refrigerate until cool. While it is cooling, let the ice cream soften.

Combine the cooled pumpkin mixture and softened ice cream and beat until smooth. An electric mixer, on a low speed, does the fastest job, but you can also do it by hand. Freeze the mixture until you are ready to assemble the torte.

Assemble the torte. If necessary, heat the caramel and chocolate ice cream toppings until they are easy to spoon and spread. (Don’t let them get too warm or they will melt the ice cream filling.) Spread one-third of the pumpkin ice cream filling over the crust. Return the rest to the freezer. Spread or dab a generous fourth of a cup of the chocolate topping over it. Do the same with the caramel topping. Sprinkle half of the crushed toffee and one-third of the remaining gingersnap crust mixture on next. If the ice cream is softening, return the torte to the freezer until it is set enough to continue. Repeat this one more time and then spread a final layer of the pumpkin ice cream mixture on top. Smooth the top layer prettily. You will have three layers of ice cream, separated by two layers of flavorings. Some of the crushed gingersnap mixture will remain unused to decorate the top of the torte when you are ready to serve it. Freeze the torte for up to four days. Once the top layer is frozen hard, cover it with plastic wrap.

Serve the torte. To release the torte from the springform pan, remove it from the freezer and let it rest for ten to fifteen minutes. Slide a knife around the inside of the pan, pressing towards the pan sides, and reaching all the way to the pan bottom. If the torte doesn’t release easily, briefly wrap the outside of the pan with a kitchen towel dipped in warm water. I take the torte from the pan about an hour before guests arrive and place it on a serving plate and return it to the freezer. Either after removing it from the pan or right before serving, decorate the edge of the torte with the remaining gingersnap mixture. Cut the torte with a thin, sharp knife, dipping it in warm water before each cut and cleaning it after each cut. Drizzle the torte slices with more of the chocolate and caramel toppings (warmed slightly) and serve.

Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at

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