By Paige Rhodes

Hosting Thanksgiving is stressful enough without having to worry about making everything the day of. Save yourself a ton of trouble by prepping and cooking foods such as vegetables, desserts, and baked goods ahead of time. These recipes can be started even a couple of days before Thanksgiving to give yourself ample time to deal with that turkey and dressing.

Apple Layer Cake With Bourbon Butterscotch Buttercream

Ingredients For the Cake:
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cloves
1½ cups unsalted butter,
cut into small cubes,
at room temperature
2½ cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 cup packed, shredded apple

Ingredients for the Buttercream:
9 ounces Butterscotch Sauce (store-bought or homemade)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup egg whites
4 sticks unsalted butter
at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp bourbon

Instructions for the Cake:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper, grease the parchment, then flour the pans, tapping out any excess.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until combined.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl in three parts, alternating with the applesauce, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and fold in shredded apple until well combined. (Don’t overmix.) Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment, and allow to cool completely.

Trim off the top to create flat surfaces. Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread 1/3 of the frosting on top. Add the next layer and top with another 1/3 of the frosting. Add the third layer on top and spread a very thin layer of frosting over the sides and top of the cake. I wanted mine to look more “naked,” but you can adjust as you like. Decorate the top of the cake with mini apples or a drizzle of additional butterscotch sauce, if desired. The cake can be kept in an airtight cake stand at room temperature for up to three days.

Instructions for the Bourbon Butterscotch Buttercream: Whisk Butterscotch Sauce, sugars, and egg whites together in a steel bowl. Over medium heat, simmer a couple inches of water in a similarly sized pot. Make sure that your bowl fits well over the top and doesn’t touch the water. Continuously whisk the mixture until the sugars have dissolved and everything is well combined. Transfer to the fridge and chill in the freezer for 15-20 minutes until it is cooled. Meanwhile, beat the butter in a mixer for 2 minutes on high until it is lighter in color and fluffy. Add in the cooled syrup in two additions, beating 1 minute after each addition. Add the vanilla and bourbon and beat 30 seconds until smooth.

What is your favorite holiday dessert? Oh, and here’s a yummy side dish to try if you love brussels sprouts.

Photo by Paige Rhodes