35 Best Holiday Desserts
Creamy cheesecakes, decadent pies, moist cakes and mouthwatering cookies are among our best holiday dessert recipes.
Fabulous Red Velvet Cake
We gussied up chocolate cake mix with sour cream and red food coloring for this festive cake. Then, we crowned the holiday dessert with a white chocolate-cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut.
Sugar Cookies Like You Remember
Nutmeg lends unmistakable holiday flavor to these puffy, old-fashioned cut-out cookies. They do spread a bit, so don't use this recipe for delicate shapes. It's best-suited for circles, bells and the like.
In Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland, Shauna Sever describes this kitschy, candy-like classic as "the unicorn of the cookie tin" — irresistible, elusive, and mysterious.
White Chocolate Christmas Fudge
This five-ingredient fudge is simplicity, squared: Just melt, stir, spread, cool and cut. We love seeing festive flecks of orange zest in the fudge, but substituting orange-flavored dried cranberries will have a similar taste.
Chocolate Cream Pie
The filling of this chocolate-crust pie is luscious, but not too rich. (Think old-fashioned chocolate pudding.) A bit of sour cream in the whipped topping balances the chocolate perfectly.
Frozen Raspberry Pistachio Terrine
Don't be fooled by appearances. This dessert couldn't be easier. Vanilla ice cream, pistachios and crisp purchased meringues match wits with a triple threat of raspberry sorbet, jam and fresh fruit. Such an effortlessly glamorous dessert shouldn't taste this good.
Sandbakkels means "sand tarts" because the cookies (which, flipped over, can double as tiny shells to hold cream and fruit) have such a fine, crisp texture. Find them in Shauna Sever's book Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland.
Using an easy method from Pete's Chocolate Co. in Detroit, you can make a dazzling array of rich, creamy chocolate truffles. (Note: The yield varies depending if you use bittersweet, milk or white chocolate, so read the recipe carefully before starting. And know that you can double it if desired.)
White Christmas Peppermint Layer Cake
Red Velvet Cheesecake
We took the red velvet cake that we love and gave it a creamy twist. Don't let the red color fool you: The flavor of this holiday dessert is all chocolate.
Nutella Cherry Hazelnut Fudge
Chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella) gives this fudge a smooth texture and luscious nutty flavor. The recipe comes from Annie Marshall of the Indianapolis-based blog Everyday Annie.
These five-ingredient truffles come together in a snap. Blending jam into the chocolate makes for a subtle fruit flavor perfectly balancing the rich, smooth chocolate. The recipe comes from Indianapolis blogger Annie Marshall.
Cafe Latte's Turtle Cake
In 1985, Cafe Latte in Saint Paul created the Turtle Cake that's still on the menu today. It's a moist, rich, three-layer wonder. The cake layers are dark chocolate frosted with rich fudge and caramel and topped with a generous garnish of giant pecans.
Eggnog Cheesecake Bars
A spiced graham cracker crust and bourbon-infused egg nog filling give these simple bars a delicious holiday twist. The recipe comes from Annie Marshall of the Indianapolis-based blog Everyday Annie.
This shortcut fudge—from Shauna Sever's cookbook Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland—gets a 21st-centery boost with bittersweet chocolate and flaky sea salt. If you want to streamline a little, use high-quality chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli.
Peppermint Brownie Pie
This rich blend of two favorite holiday flavors-chocolate and mint-might start a new dessert tradition in your house. Can't find the mint-flavored pieces? Use regular chocolate chips and add 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract to the batter.
"Anisettes feel so Italian because it's about abundance," says Chicago food writer Shauna Sever, of these deliciously soft, cakey cookies with a licorice flavor. "Small bites, but a huge yield."
Baby Citrus Cheesecakes
These cupcake-size treats are a fantastically simple alternative to a full-size cheesecake. You could also garnish them with fresh raspberries or blueberries.
These easy candies look elegant but are simple to make. This holiday dessert recipe comes from the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls in Logan, Ohio.
Peppermint Stick Brownies
A creamy, peppermint-flavor cheesecake layer adds holiday flair to classic chocolate brownies.
Orange-Ginger Cookie Sandwiches
A round cookie cutter with scalloped edges makes a nice shape for these cookies, but bell, tree or star cutters would also be good choices for the holidays.
Roasted Pears with Lemon Cream and Candied Pine Nuts
This grand finale of a dessert features maple-burnished pears, drifts of lemony whipped cream and a sprinkling of candied pine nuts. It's all about contrasts-warm and cool, creamy and crunchy, sweet and tart. And best of all, all three components can be made ahead of time.
Fantasy Chocolate Pie
Dream about all the ingredients you'd like to see in a dessert, and you'll see why we named this Fantasy Chocolate Pie. This holiday dessert recipe includes three kinds of chocolate pieces (milk chocolate, semisweet and semisweet-and-white-chocolate swirled)-plus coconut, pecans and almonds. For extra indulgence, top with whipped cream and chocolate curls.
Holiday Seven-Layer Bars
Chocolate, nuts, coconut and more fill our easy-to-make bar cookies. Mixed dried fruit bits and candy-coated milk chocolate pieces are among the layers that make this bar cookie distinctive.
Golden Toffee Nuggets
Dipping toffee pieces halfway in chocolate is way tidier and easier than fully coating them-and the result is more striking, visually. (We recommend melting chopped good-quality chocolate bars for dipping-chips have additives that affect their consistency.) For undeniable holiday wow, brush on some edible gold luster dust. It's a splurge, but applying it thinly with a paintbrush helps avoid waste.
Eggnog Sugar Cookies
The eggnog flavor in these buttery cutouts comes from nutmeg and rum extract; it's subtle enough to be a pleasant twist on classic holiday sugar cookies without being overpowering.
Poppy Seed Torte
The recipe for this four-layer cake-with a puddinglike filling, unmistakable poppy seed flavor and soft whipped cream frosting-comes from Wisconsin's White Gull Inn.
Graham crackers form the base for this bar cookie with layers of marshmallows, brown sugar, almonds and coconut. "They're one of my family's favorites," says Georgine Simmonds of Genesee, Michigan.
Coffee Bean Meltaways
If you've ever made butter mints, you'll recognize this no-cook powdered sugar mixture. The coffee flavor comes from instant espresso powder, which is widely available online and at specialty stores. It's richer and better-tasting than ordinary instant coffee.
Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes
Top these gooey-center, intense chocolate desserts with powdered sugar.
Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheels
These cookies are easier than they look -make one batch of dough, divide it in half, and blend cocoa into one portion and crushed candy canes and peppermint extract into the other. The recipe comes from the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago.
Caramel Almond Stars
These playful candies are sort of a mock turtle-all the texture and flavor minus the homemade caramel or fussy dipping. Sprinkle with Wilton's gold star sprinkles (sold online) or coarse sparkling sugar. For a flavor twist, substitute roasted, salted almonds or even smoked almonds.
Sea Salt Caramels
Caramels made in the microwave? Absolutely! And the only gear you need is a candy thermometer. Be sure to use coarse salt so it doesn't melt into the candies.
Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies
These cookies from the Inn at Cedar Falls in Logan, Ohio, make a colorful holiday treat.
This dazzler from Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Missouri, tastes as good as it looks. The dark chocolate cookie crust and ruby red berries add dramatic flair to the orange-flavor filling. Because the cake keeps well for two days, this is a great make-ahead dessert.
Homemade marshmallows are infinitely superior to store-bought-creamy and almost melt-in-your mouth soft. And peppermint is just one variation. In the baking aisle, find extracts like lemon, raspberry and cinnamon to customize your own marshmallows. The power of a stand mixer eases prep of this recipe, though a hand mixer works well.