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ASD Sensory-Friendly Thanksgiving Recipe

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

As a parent of a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, you may experience challenges when it comes to mealtime. Many children on the spectrum struggle with sensory and food sensitivities, making it difficult to find foods that they prefer. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, you may be wondering if there are any recipes that your child may enjoy for the holiday. Well good news- you are in the right place! For this month’s blog, I will be sharing an easy, delicious Thanksgiving recipe that you and your child will both enjoy- Pumpkin Dump Cake! This recipe is a great twist on the classic pumpkin pie.

This recipe is super easy to follow, and the best part is that your child can help you! Being able to help prepare their food often makes it more enticing for them to eat. It also teaches your child fundamental life skills, such as how to cook, make decisions, and how to follow directions, as well as strengthening their fine motor skills. Giving your child the opportunity to help you with this recipe can make it more enjoyable for the both of you!

For this recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

  • ½ cup of whole milk

  • 1 cup of melted unsalted butter

  • 12 oz evaporated milk

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature

  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

  • (2) 15 oz cans of pumpkin puree

  • 15.25 oz spice cake mix

  • 2 tsp cinnamon

  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice

  • 1 ½ cup of granulated sugar

  • Optional- 1 ½ cup pecans or walnuts (nuts may be non-preferred for some children, so it’s okay to leave this out)

How to make Pumpkin Dump Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13-inch cake pan with baking spray and set aside.

  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, evaporated milk, and sugar. Do this by hand, not with a mixer.

  • Add in the vanilla extract, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon. Mix until well combined.

  • Pour the pumpkin mixture into the cake pan and spread evenly.

  • In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the dry cake mix and nuts (nuts optional).

  • Sprinkle the cake mix evenly over the top of the pumpkin mixture.

  • In a medium bowl, stir together the melted butter and whole milk.

  • Slowly pour the butter and milk mixture over the top of the dry cake mix layer.

  • For best results, make sure as much as the cake mix is submerged under the butter as possible, do not leave large pockets of the cake mix showing.

  • Bake for one hour or until the top is golden and the center has set.

How to best enjoy your cake:

Once the cake has been removed from the oven and is warm (not hot!), you are ready to enjoy it! This recipe is best served with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or Cool Whip on top. Feel free to add caramel drizzle and sprinkle some cinnamon on top as well!


If you have any leftovers, they can be stored for up to 4 days in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.

This recipe is simple, easy, and delicious! We hope that you encourage your child to help you prepare the cake and have a great time while doing it. Enjoy!

For more information on aba therapy services offered by AIA or to book your free consultation, visit us at, contact us at (480)-707-2195, or email If you are looking for more applied behavioral analysis and asd diagnosis tips, check out AIA’s clinical director, Rula Diab, monthly blog posts!


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