16 Easy Holiday Desserts

Make these quick holiday dessert recipes in 30 minutes or less.

Chocolate Raspberry Icebox Cake
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Thom Driver

Preparing a holiday meal can be stressful for anyone, so we like to slot in simple recipes when we can. Opt for a quick baking project when you are hosting a holiday celebration to give yourself a break (of course, while still impressing your guests with presentation and flavor). These easy holiday desserts are even sweeter for their simplicity and range from an amazing air-fried Basque cheesecake to ice cream bonbons. Here are more than a dozen festive dessert recipes that require less than 30 minutes of active work and are worthy of a spot at any holiday table.  

01 of 16

Air Fryer Basque Cheesecake

Air Fryer Basque Cheesecake
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Prop Styling by Julia Bayless / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn

Air fryers can be used to make everything from crispy coconut shrimp to fudgy brownies; here, we're using one to whip up a quick version of a Basque cheesecake. Evenly browned with a creamy, silky, smooth center, this cheesecake boasts just the right amount of sweetness to contrast the bitter burnt top. Drizzling honey on top of the cake after baking adds an extra layer of warm sweetness, making this dessert feel that much more decadent.

02 of 16

Chocolate-Peppermint Brownies

Chocolate-Peppermint Brownies
© Kristin Perers

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.

03 of 16

Chocolate-Raspberry Icebox Cake

Chocolate Raspberry Icebox Cake
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Thom Driver

This Chocolate-Raspberry Icebox Cake is creamy, it's dreamy, and it's so simple to make. Crushed cookies, fresh raspberries, and layers of tart raspberry sorbet and vanilla ice cream transform into a gorgeous marbled layer cake in about 15 minutes — no frosting required. The raspberries sink into the milky, sweet layers of ice cream, adding a tart flavor and pops of color to the cake, and crunchy chocolate cookie crumble layers are the perfect sweet and salty counterpoint, adding satisfying texture and a hint of bittersweet flavor. Finally, after a deep chill in the freezer, the cake is topped with whipped cream and more raspberries. 

04 of 16

Jacques Pépin's Favorite Pound Cake

Jacques Pépin's Favorite Pound Cake
© Edward Pond

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 each have their versions. For his take on the classic dessert, Pépin likes to fold in candied citrus peels to make a French fruit cake, but he also loves plain slices dipped in espresso.

05 of 16

Salted-Caramel Squares

Salted-Caramel Squares
© Lucy Schaeffer

Zoe Nathan has the zany, freewheeling air of a person on a permanent sugar high. "It's a huge pastry playground," she boasts of her bakery. Her salted-caramel squares are just as bold, with tender caramel atop a dense, buttery crust. "I've always loved salt and sugar," she says. "As a kid, I'd dip my fries in milkshakes."

06 of 16

Almond Cake

© Emily Farris

This is one cake that doesn't require any icing and takes just 45 minutes to make. Enjoy it with a cup of coffee or dessert wine.

07 of 16

Slow-Cooker Sour Cream Cheesecake

Slow-Cooker Sour Cream Cheesecake
© Ellie Miller

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.

08 of 16

Dark Chocolate Bark with Walnuts and Dried Cherries

Dark-Chocolate Bark with Walnuts and Dried Cherries

In this highly rated and quick recipe, bittersweet chocolate comes together with walnuts and dried cherries to make an excellent stress-free dessert. 

09 of 16

Vegan Brownie Bites

Brownie Bites
© Lucy Schaeffer

These wheat-free, no-butter brownies are decadent and dense. "It's really, really hard to make a good vegan brownie," says chef Erin McKenna. Her first efforts using applesauce and vegetable oil were cakey or fluffy. It took her six months of making small adjustments to perfect these ones, which can be made in less than 30 minutes.

10 of 16

​​Cardamom Thumbprints

Cardamom Thumbprints Cookies
© Chris Court

Adding cardamom to these crispy cookies gives them a subtle spiced flavor. Get creative and fill the thumb print with any kind of jam, melted chocolate and chopped nuts, or nut butter.

11 of 16

Vanilla and Cider Panna Cotta with Spiced Ginger Cookies

Vanilla-and-Cider Panna Cottas with Spiced-Ginger Cookies
© John Kernick

Chef Shawn McClain tops his cinnamon-and-vanilla-flavored panna cotta with an elegant apple cider gelée. He likens the dessert to a Creamsicle because it successfully combines creamy and tangy flavors.

12 of 16

Salted Caramel Pie

Salted Caramel Pie
Dana Gallagher

This super-easy caramel lovers' dream pie is from Simplethings Sandwich & Pie Shop in Los Angeles. The filling is made with sweetened condensed milk sprinkled lightly with sea salt and baked until thick and gooey, then chilled in a simple graham cracker crust.

13 of 16

Ice Cream Bonbons

Ice Cream Bonbons. Photo © Tina Rupp
© Tina Rupp

At the Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz, California, Kendra Baker uses caramel ice cream in her bonbons, which have a silky chocolate shell and flaky sea salt on top. Feel free to swap in your favorite flavor.

14 of 16

Almond Crescents

Almond Crescents
© Christina Holmes

The perfect balance of nutty, buttery, and sugary, Dorie Greenspan's Eastern European kipfel, or almond crescent cookies, aim to please with their perfect buttery crumb and the nutty bite they get from the almond flour.

15 of 16

Chocolate Pretzel Crinkle Cookies

Chocolate Pretzel Crinkle Cookies
Greg DuPree

F&W culinary director at large Justin Chapple uses gluten-free pretzels to make these festive, chewy cookies.

16 of 16

Dark Chocolate Pudding with Candied Ginger

Dark-Chocolate Pudding with Candied Ginger
© Michael Turek

"For me, ginger should be everywhere," says Jean-Georges Vongerichten. "It's as good in marinades and vinaigrettes as it is in dessert." In this quick 15-minute recipe, he uses candied ginger to garnish dark chocolate pudding. 

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