Beautiful Desserts

Ginger and Pear Upside-Down Cake

These gorgeous recipes include rich chocolate truffle layer cake and delicate cream puffs with chocolate sauce.

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Triple-Cheese Cheesecake with Amaretti Crust

Triple-Cheese Cheesecake with Amaretti Crust
Johnny Miller

This killer cheesecake has an ethereally light, creamy texture and fantastic crunchy crust made from honey graham crackers and amaretti cookies.

02 of 28

Hazelnut-and-Chocolate Meringue Cake

Hazelnut-and-chocolate meringue cake
© Stephanie Foley

This extraordinary dessert, made with crisp chocolate-hazelnut meringue and whipped cream, is simple to make. But pastry chef Daniel Jasso has nicknamed it “the beast,” because slicing it can be tricky—the meringue tends to crumble. The solution: Freeze the cake, cut it with a serrated knife and let it return to room temperature before serving.

03 of 28

Nectarine Pavlovas

Nectarine Pavlovas

Pastry chef Caitlin Freeman arranges thin slices of nectarine on a meringue shell filled with pastry cream to create a stunning dessert inspired by a Modigliani portrait.

04 of 28

Petits Pots à l'Absinthe

Petits Pots à l'Absinthe

Absinthe adds a subtle anise flavor to these puddings, which are delicious with berries.

05 of 28

Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce

Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce
© Anna Williams

Pastry chef Elizabeth Katz likes to create a tower of fluffy, chocolate-covered cream puffs. The dessert harkens back to her time as a pastry chef in the French kitchen at New York City’s Daniel, where a croquembouche (a pyramid of custard-filled profiteroles draped in caramel and wrapped in spun sugar) was de rigueur at holiday dinners.

06 of 28

Frozen Crème Caramel

Frozen Creme Caramel
© Christina Holmes

To make her crème caramel more refreshing, chef Amanda Hallowell serves it partially frozen, like a semifreddo.

07 of 28

Lemon, Poppy and Chèvre Cheesecakes with Rhubarb

Lemon, Poppy and Chèvre Cheesecakes with Rhubarb

“I am obsessed with the chèvre from Texas’s Pure Luck Farm,” says Laura Sawicki. “I love how well it pairs with the cooked rhubarb in my cheesecakes.”

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Icebox Chocolate Cheesecake

Icebox Chocolate Cheesecake
© CON POULOS

Grace Parisi brilliantly layers chocolate cookies with a quick mix of cream cheese, chocolate syrup and a little water. The cookies soften as the cake chills overnight for a perfectly moist, chocolaty “cheater’s” cheesecake.

09 of 28

Mini Cheesecakes with Wine Gelées

Mini Cheesecakes with Wine Gelées

Kate Zuckerman thinks most cheesecakes are too heavy and sweet. Her recipe uses goat cheese to lighten the texture and tangy crème fraîche to cut the sweetness. Here, she tops mini cheesecakes with wine gelées—a new kind of wine-and-cheese pairing.

10 of 28

Banana and Chocolate Cream Pie Parfaits

Banana and Chocolate Cream Pie Parfaits
© Con Poulos

To make her outstanding deconstructed banana cream pie, pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka, of Honolulu’s MW Restaurant, layers eggless chocolate pudding with cinnamon-flavored graham cracker crumbs, ice cream, bananas and banana whipped cream.

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Key Lime Pie with Chocolate-Almond Crust

Key Lime Pie with Chocolate-Almond Crust
© JOHN KERNICK

“I’ve learned how to bake without proper tools but nothing replaces the Microplane for doing things like grating lime zest,” says teen blogger and dessert aficionado, Elissa Bernstein.

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Bittersweet-Chocolate Tart

Bittersweet-Chocolate Tart
© Con Poulos

This outrageously elegant tart is from star chef Alain Ducasse.

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Lemon-Curd Cakes with Poppy Seeds

Lemon-Curd Cakes with Poppy Seeds
© John Kernick

“The lemon-poppy seed combo is classic,” says Vinny Dotolo. “When I was a kid, I ate lemon-poppy seed muffins for breakfast and with ice cream for dessert.” Now he turns the pairing into lovely cakes: They have a tender cakey layer on the bottom, a luscious curd-like layer on top and poppy-seed crème fraîche to finish the whole thing off.

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Vanilla Semifreddo and Orange Sorbet Terrine

Vanilla Semifreddo and Orange Sorbet Terrine

Reminiscent of a Creamsicle, this creamy, tangy terrine can be made with a shortcut: store-bought orange sorbet.

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Raspberry Tart with a Pistachio Crust

Raspberry Tart with a Pistachio Crust

Pastry chef Jennifer McCoy often brings this raspberry tart to parties, with its creamy filling and pistachio-studded crust. She packs the components separately and assembles the tart just before serving.

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White Peach Tart

White Peach Tart
© John Kernick

"This crust is not what you'd expect," Marco Canora says. "Instead of being crunchy, it's puffy and cakey." The dough is terrific for impromptu baking, because it doesn't need to be chilled before it's rolled out. For the filling, Canora recommends using peaches that are ripe but still firm, as drippy fruit will make the soft crust soggy.

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Chocolate Cookies 'n' Cream Towers

Chocolate Cookies 'n' Cream Towers

At Baked in Brooklyn, co-owner Matt Lewis and his head baker, Blair Vansant, specialize in homey desserts with a modern twist, like this little tower of crispy chocolaty cookies sandwiched with chocolate pastry cream and whipped cream. When it comes time to assemble the parts, Lewis says, they never seem to have enough cookies—a result of excessive employee snacking.

18 of 28

Chocolate Truffle Layer Cake

Chocolate Truffle Layer Cake
© Anna Williams

This outrageous chocolate cake was born from a lucky mistake. Pastry chef Kimberly Sklar was baking a crème fraîche-spiked chocolate cake and, by accident, took the pan out of the oven early. Discovering that the cake was superfudgy, she layered it with dark chocolate and white chocolate ganache, then covered it in dark chocolate frosting.

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Italian Trifle with Marsala Syrup

Italian Trifle with Marsala Syrup
© John Kernick

In Italy, Fabio Trabocchi makes this dessert with Alchermes, a bright-red cinnamon-scented liqueur rarely seen in the States. The Sicilian fortified wine Marsala is a good substitute: It has a subtler color but a similarly spiced flavor, perfect for drenching squares of layered with vanilla-infused pastry cream.

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Riesling Gelée with Strawberry Conserve

Riesling Gelée with Strawberry Conserve
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Lemon Curd Macarons

Lemon Curd Macarons

These elegant cookies have pink peppercorns that are not only pretty, but great counterpoints to the sweet cookies and tangy lemon filling.

22 of 28

Lemon Cake with Crackly Caramel Glaze and Lime-Yogurt Mousse

Lemon Cake with Crackly Caramel Glaze and Lime-Yogurt Mousse

Pastry chef Lynn Moulton aims for intriguing textural contrasts in her desserts. Her moist lemon cake, for instance, is wonderful on its own; what pushes it over the top into extreme deliciousness is its crackly caramel glaze. “Once they taste it, people can’t stop talking about it,” Moulton says.

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Chocolate Panna Cotta with Spiced Pepita Brittle

Chocolate Panna Cotta with Spiced Pepita Brittle. Photo © Con Poulos
© Con Poulos

This light, silky panna cotta tastes a lot like hot cocoa in custard form. The brittle is easy to make; heat sugar and water on the stove, swirl in butter and spiced pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), then let cool.

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Pavlovas with Passion Fruit Curd

Pavlovas with Passion Fruit Curd

Farmstead eggs are at their best in late summer, when the chickens are “on pasture,” eating grass. Here, egg whites form a sweet meringue holding passion fruit curd.

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Pumpkin Cake with Caramel-Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Cake with Caramel-Cream Cheese Frosting

In this fun variation on traditional pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake spiced with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves gets frosted with a slightly tangy, super-caramelly frosting. It’s delicious served cold or at room temperature.

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Frozen Maple-Mousse Pie with Candied Cranberries

Frozen Maple-Mousse Pie with Candied Cranberries

Kathleen Callahan makes delicious desserts like this frozen pie topped with slow-simmered cranberries.

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Chocolate-Raspberry Swiss Roll

Chocolate-Raspberry Swiss Roll
© Frances Janisch

Maria Helm Sinskey created this delicious cake as an homage to the classic European princess cake; her simpler version substitutes whipped cream for pastry cream and a luscious chocolate glaze for marzipan.

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Ginger and Pear Upside-Down Cake

Ginger and Pear Upside-Down Cake
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