30 Easy Holiday Desserts
Cranberry Apple Raisin Crisp
This homey dessert is delicious warm with vanilla ice cream. If you prefer it straight, reduce the amount of ground cloves to one-eighth teaspoon, or the flavor may be overwhelming.
These rich peppermint brownies toppped with crushed candy canes are from London’s cult-favorite bakery Violet. If you can’t find candy canes, use striped peppermint candies.
Black Pepper-Raspberry Sorbet with Prosecco
Chef James Holmes topped raw oysters with this sweet-savory sorbet before deciding it would make an excellent cocktail with Prosecco. A good-quality, store-bought raspberry sorbet is a fine shortcut.
Mini Cassata Cakes
Pastry chef Ghaya Oliveira makes a version of cassata, the ornate Sicilian dessert with layers of sponge cake, sweetened ricotta, candied fruit, dark chocolate and marzipan. The easy recipe here is Grace Parisi’s own interpretation.
Dulce de Leche Crispies
For a grown-up twist on the classic Rice Krispies Treats, Marcia Kiesel ingeniously swaps out marshmallows for the Latin American dessert sauce dulce de leche, then adds even more crunch with toasted, sliced almonds. This dessert is caramelly, nutty and amazingly crispy.
Caramelized-Pineapple Baked Alaskas
Baked Alaska is a layer of cake covered with ice cream and meringue and broiled. In this version, Grace Parisi skips the cake: Instead, she tops ice cream (preferably coconut) with pineapple chunks that have been sautéed with store-bought dulce de leche, then spoons a quick meringue over the fruit and broils until golden.
Jacques Pépin’s Favorite Pound Cake
The French call pound cake quatre-quarts (“four-fourths”) because it is made with equal parts flour, sugar, eggs and butter. Jacques Pépin’s mother, aunt and cousin all have their versions. He likes to fold in candied citrus peels to make a French fruit cake; he also loves plain slices dipped in espresso.
Apple-Butter Ice Cream with Ginger-Chocolate Ganache
Folding apple butter into vanilla ice cream is a great way to add elegance. Adam Erace also adds grated ginger to melted chocolate to make a fast sundae topping; for a more caramel-like sauce, substitute dulce de leche for the melted chocolate.
Slow-Cooker Sour Cream Cheesecake
Cheesecake cooked in a slow cooker has an unbelievably silky texture because the machine steams the cake as it bakes. The toughest part about making it is resisting the urge to peek inside the slow cooker—the lid must stay closed to retain heat.
Buttery Vanilla Shortbread
Holiday Make-Ahead Tip: The shortbread can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Apple Crisp with Sweet Ginger and Macadamia Nuts
To make chopping macadamia nuts easy, Greg Patent suggests putting them in a resealable plastic bag and breaking them up with a rolling pin.
Peanut Butter Pound Cake S'mores
In this takeoff on the campfire classic, Grace Parisi replaces crunchy graham crackers with buttery store-bought pound cake, sandwiched with marshmallow fluff and peanut butter and served alongside a cup of warm melted chocolate for dipping.
Bittersweet Chocolate-Truffle Tart with Candied Oranges
Bittersweet chocolate and orange make a heavenly combination in this decadent and divine tart.
This is one cake that doesn't require any icing. Enjoy it with a cup of coffee or dessert wine.
Gingerbread Pear Loaf Cake
This super moist loaf spiked with candied ginger is the perfect tea cake.
At her new Chicago restaurant, Monteverde, chef Sarah Grueneberg uses egg yolks in her exceptional pasta, then transforms the whites into these delicious classic Southern cookies that are barely baked, then left in the oven overnight to develop their wonderful crispy-chewy texture.
Golden Delicious apples are perfect in this classic version of tarte tatin from chef Jonathan Waxman because they get perfectly tender while they bake but never lose their shape.
Pastry chef Melissa Weller of Sadelle's in New York City swirls this light and buttery babka with a golden raisin puree, studs it with dark raisins and walnuts and tops it with a luscious cinnamon glaze.
Cranberry and Orange Pavlovas
This Pavlova has a secret: The whipped cream on top of the crisp meringue shell tastes a lot like a Creamsicle. Pastry chef Wendy Boys of Vancouver's Lumiere unconventionally flavors the Australian dessert with vanilla and fresh oranges, and then--in another break from tradition--tops it with cranberries and mint.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Ginger Cupcakes
These supermoist, gluten-free cupcakes have terrific pumpkin flavor and an irresistible topping of fluffy, creamy frosting and golden caramel sauce.
Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce
At Christmas, Elizabeth Katz of B.R. Guest Restaurants 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.
Gluten-Free Buckwheat Gingerbread Cookies
These soft cookies are based on hermits, a traditional American cookie made with molasses and spices. Baker Mani Niall uses buckwheat flour to add an earthy flavor and hearty texture--and to make them gluten-free.