Gail Simmons' Favorite Desserts
Towering Coconut Layer Cake
Because Tyler Florence wanted his Wayfare Tavern to feel like a century-old San Francisco institution, he researched menus dating all the way back to the Gold Rush. This cake couldn't be more traditional: four layers of rum-brushed yellow cake filled and frosted with a light and airy, coconut-scented meringue-buttercream.
Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse
Ad Hoc's chef de cuisine Dave Cruz created this rich chocolate mousse as a refined homage to the pudding he loved as a child. At the restaurant he serves it simply, but it's also wonderful garnished with giant curls of bittersweet chocolate made with a vegetable peeler.
Rich and Creamy Butterscotch Pudding
One good store-bought caramel sauce is the Burnt Caramel Sauce from Recchiuti Confections.
Frozen Maple-Mousse Pie with Candied Cranberries
Kathleen Callahan of Seattle’s Emmer & Rye started her career studying marine biology, then segued into cooking fish in restaurants. Her latest move was to the pastry kitchen; she decided it would be much more pleasant to "smell like vanilla at the end of my shift." Today she makes delicious desserts like this frozen pie topped with slow-simmered cranberries.
Lemon Ice Box Pie
This silken frozen pie is adapted from Clancy’s, one of David Guas’s favorite New Orleans neighborhood restaurants.
Fudgy Chocolate-Walnut Cookies
New York pastry chef François Payard’s divinely gooey chocolate cookies are flourless.
Honeyed Fig Crostatas
Pair with a subtly sweet sparkling wine.
Butterscotch Pots de Crème with Caramel Sauce
"I have a lot of guys from Oaxaca in my kitchen, and they put salt on everything," says Travis Lett. "When I saw one of them add salt to this dessert, I thought, Hey, that’s a great idea."
Chocolate–Peanut Butter Moon Pies
Moon pies are classic Southern cookies filled with marshmallow and coated with chocolate. Rebekah Turshen, the pastry chef at Nashville’s City House, models hers on the classic, but also on the excellently named Goo-Goo Clusters, a peanut candy invented in Nashville in 1912. She spreads crispy sugar cookies with chocolate and peanut butter, then sandwiches them around a marshmallow filling.
Yigit Pura perfected this crisp-creamy French dessert while working at restaurant Daniel in New York City. His updated version combines little lime meringue kisses with basil ice cream and sweet mango sorbet.
Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafer Crumble
David Guas remembers this comforting dessert from the buffet spreads at family funerals.
Almond, Elderflower and Lime Travel Cakes
Inspired by French travel cakes (small sweets meant for bringing to parties, picnics and other events), William Werner created these miniature desserts. He calls them "gussied-up pound cakes."
The sesame-flavored ice cream for this sundae is fun and unique, but store-bought vanilla ice cream is delicious, too.
Chilled Grapefruit-Caramel Meringue Pie
Most pastry chefs love lemon and orange. Deborah Snyder of Manhattan's Lever House, however, champions the also-ran of the citrus world: grapefruit. In one cold, creamy dessert, she layers pink grapefruit curd in a crunchy graham-cracker crust with caramel sauce and a delicate topping of fluffy meringue.
Chocolate-Peanut-Butter-Banana Upside-Down Cake
Grace Parisi uses one of the world's great flavor combinations for her unusual marble cake topped with bananas, which caramelize on the bottom of the pan (ideally a glass one).
Butterscotch-Glazed Coffee Shortbread Bars
Flo Braker flavors her ethereally light shortbread with finely ground espresso beans. The best part is the golden, gooey butterscotch glaze, which becomes deliciously fudgy as the bars sit in the cookie jar.
Linzer Cookies with Spiced Jam
Kevin Sbraga credits his father, Harvey Beachem, with creating these linzer torte-inspired cookies at Harvey's Bakery in Willingboro, New Jersey. He takes his father's recipe one step further, adding anise and coriander to the raspberry jam that he spreads between the hazelnut cookies (which are spiced with cinnamon and cloves).
Revelatory Caramel Cake
This amazing cake comes from chef Ann Cashion of Washington, DC, restaurant Johnny's Half Shell.
Coconut Arborio Rice Pudding
Arborio rice is great for Stephanie Prida's pudding, because the plump grains stay perfectly firm and chewy.
Orange-Cardamom Date Bars with a Nutty Crust
The crunchy, almondy topping for these clever bars is loaded with vitamin E. The filling is chewy like caramel and is full of vitamin C from the orange.
Caramel Cream Pie with Crispy Rice Topping
Humble ingredients like puffed rice cereal (transformed into a brilliant topping) and graham crackers (crushed with hazelnuts to yield a tender crust) are the core of this surprisingly luxe dessert.
Minny's Chocolate Pie
The Help’s ending hinges on a secret involving Minny’s famous chocolate pie. Newspaper columnist Lee Ann Flemming, one of the best bakers in Greenwood, made 53 chocolate pies during filming, including 12 vegan and gluten-free versions she prepared in just one day for actress Bryce Dallas Howard. Her fudgy version here is neither vegan nor gluten-free: It’s as classic as it gets. You can make your own crust, but Flemming uses packaged.