Light and Sweet Holiday Desserts
For a festive holiday dessert, you can't go wrong with velvety red cupcakes topped with creamy white swirled frosting.
To make a stylish swirl: Dot the thick frosting with a few drops of red food color paste, and stir gently to give it a swirled appearance. Carefully spoon into a zip-top bag, and pipe out.
Chocolate Yule Log
We've managed to transform naughty into nice with this rich dark-chocolate sponge cake filled with a delicate, yogurt-lightened whipped cream. We cut the amount of sugar in half, letting the intensity of the chocolate in the sponge cake shine—go ahead and splurge on a higher-quality bar. The thick, creamy texture of Greek yogurt complements the whipped cream quite perfectly, with a fraction of the sat fat and calories. Skip the powdered sugar dusting, and use fresh raspberries, mini pinecones, fresh pine needles, or even fresh mint to decorate. Add 1⁄4 teaspoon peppermint extract to the whipped cream filling for a cool, minty kick.
Roasted Grape and Pear Kuchen
Get creative with the toppings for this classic yeast cake: Try tart Granny Smith apples or sweet pineapple in place of pears, or a dollop of tangy Greek yogurt instead of whipped topping.
Mini Raspberry Cheesecakes
We had the greatest success using a pan with 2 1/2-ounce cups, such as Chicago Metallic's 12-Well Mini Cheesecake Pan ($25). This pan has removable bottoms (similar to a tart pan) so that you simply push each cheesecake up to remove it. You can also bake them in a standard muffin tin; line it with foil liners for easier removal.
These traditional German Christmas cookies are made with chopped nuts, citrus, and a variety of warm spices, including the pepper that gives the cookies their name. Greenspan provides ingredient weights in grams, an approach we love because it's more precise than using ounces; a scale is key here.
Mile-High Coconut Cupcakes
The simple act of sharing something sweet that's been made with care brings such tremendous joy. Good desserts conjure good times and cheerful celebrations—and it's not only the taste but the shared memories that are integral to our appreciation. So go ahead and show off with these Mile-High Coconut Cupcakes.
Iced Whole-Wheat Sugar Cookies
Whole-wheat flour adds a layer of complexity to these cookies that all-purpose flour can't achieve; the wheat in the whole grain actually enhances the flavors of butter and vanilla. Unlike classic royal icing, which starts with a pound of powdered sugar, we use just 1/2 cup and thicken it with Greek yogurt. Looking for festive colors without the chemicals? Try naturally colored sparkling sugars (such as those from India Tree), which use colorants derived from plants.
Double-Crust Apple Pie
A double crust seals in the apples' natural juices as the pie bakes for full-on apple flavor. Tossing the apples with apple juice keeps them from browning as you peel and slice them, and it adds a boost of apple flavor.
Fresh Gingerbread Squares
Teff flour is a soft, almost-fluffy whole-grain flour with an intense nuttiness that makes it excellent for baking. But the beauty of fresh gingerbread is finding the perfect texture—delicate yet dense—so we add a bit of hearty whole-wheat flour to give this treat a heftier, more winter-worthy base. Stout beers adds a pleasantly earthy bitterness that complements the molasses, fresh finger, and cinnamon; any frothy leftovers will pair nicely with a still-warm baked square. If you don't have any stout on hand, simply use 1/4 cup additional buttermilk instead.
Extreme Lemon and Chocolate Roulade
Lemon and chocolate are a lovely and lively pair in this roulade. If you prefer milder lemon flavor, you can omit the rind from the filling. Or, if you are a bold lemon lover, don't strain the rind out of the filling—enjoy the tartness and texture it provides.
Think of these tasty little tassies as your own personal pecan pie. They're both salty and sweet, with a hit of oaky bourbon. Whole-grain rye flour adds the perfect touch of sour to the shortbread-like crust, while toasted pecans do double duty in the crust and in the maple-splashed filling. As if that weren't enough to jingle your bell, we drizzle warm bittersweet chocolate over each bite to ensure maximum satisfaction.
Iced Gingerbread Biscotti
Be sure to let the cookie logs cool after the first bake so they slice cleanly and don't crumble.
Red Velvet Beet Cupcakes
Elegant and rich, this supermoist pillow of chocolate cake gets its color and texture from the vibrant-red, naturally sweet beet. There’s nothing artificial about this dramatically hued holiday treat coated in a dense cloud of creamy white frosting. We purée the tender beet root with buttermilk and vanilla to create a luscious cream that not only adds a light, velvety texture to the cupcake but also allows us to use less sugar, oil, and butter in the batter, saving fat and hundreds of calories. You simply can’t “beet” it.
Pecan Sticky Wedges
The yeasted dough for this heavenly take on sticky buns develops even more flavor when refrigerated overnight. All you have to do the next day is pop the pan in the oven.
New Classic Red Velvet Cake
Just the name "red velvet cake" suggests something elegant and rich—dramatic, supermoist layers of tinted chocolate cake coated in a dense, creamy white frosting. 'Tis the season for such decadent pleasures, right? Although it may be the time of year to splurge, it's hard to justify an 880-calorie, 57g-of-fat piece of cake. Ho-ho-holy cow! We had to find a better way to bake this favorite holiday cake and feel better about eating it, too.
Our secret weapon: red beets. Cooking the vibrant-red, naturally sweet vegetables with nonfat buttermilk and vanilla, and then pureeing them into a luscious cream adds an ultramoist, velvety texture to the cake that also allows us to use less oil and butter—a savings of 255 calories and 22g fat. Double bonus: The red beet color eliminates any need for artificial dye.
Chocolate Chip Cream Puffs
Stir the chocolate chips into the warm dough by hand because the power of the mixer would forcefully combine the melting chips into the dough, making it brown chocolate dough instead of dough studded with chocolate chips.
Maple-Walnut Cranberry Pie
While the buttery, maple-scented filling is inspired by classic pecan pie, we swap in toasted walnuts and add chopped fresh cranberries for a beautiful pop of color and tart flavor contrast that cuts the sweetness.
Mocha Pie with Coffee Whipped Cream
This pie comes together quickly and won't hog oven space as it chills and sets in the fridge (a great make-ahead option). You can use decaf instant coffee granules instead of regular, or leave them out entirely for a silky-smooth chocolate pie with vanilla topping.
Port-Glazed Pear Tart with Rosemary-Cornmeal Crust
The shortbread-like crust stands up well to a luscious ricotta filling that's topped with pretty port-stained pears. Larger pear wedges (as shown) are stunning; you can also cut the pears into thin slices and arrange spokelike on top. Prepare the crust and pears up to 1 day ahead and refrigerate. Assemble just before serving.
The name may make you giggle, but these cookies are seriously good. A basic butter cookie is filled with preserves (you can use apricot, cherry, or any other fruit if you want), baked, and drizzled with a lemon-almond glaze. The recipe is really versatile; you can use the same dough to make thumbprint or other shapes of cookies, or use the glaze on a different cookie or another dessert like a pound cake.
Pear-Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Streusel
This pie's strength lies in the amalgamation of many different textures and flavors. Crisp pear and tart cranberries are held in an ooey-gooey brown-sugar filling, topped with a crunchy, nutty streusel. Using a premade crust means there's almost no work involved. Assembly takes maybe five minutes―throw it in the oven, and you're done.
Chocolate-Dipped Almond Meringues
These sweet, crispy treats are light as air, but are kept grounded with a generous coating of chocolate. The meringues themselves are flavored with a subtle blend of almond and chocolate that perfectly matches their texture.
Pumpkin Pie Pudding
No time to make pumpkin pie? Try this pudding instead—a faster, easier, and healthier alternative.
Sweet Potato Pie with Spiced Cream Topping
Tangy cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk combine for a creamy contrast to the sweet potato layer. You can prepare this pie up to two days ahead and refrigerate.
Chocolate Walnut Tart
A riff on the classic pecan pie, this dessert is rich, chocolaty, and a little fancier with its freestanding fluted sides. Of course, you can use a 9-inch pie plate if you don't have a tart pan with a removable bottom.
"Semifreddo" is an Italian term that refers to any number of frozen or chilled desserts. Here we offer a frozen orange-scented mousse made with ricotta cheese. It's worth the effort to search out the best ricotta you can find.
The sweet flavors of fall and winter are found in this dessert. Sweet fuji apples flavored with the fruit's classic spice of choice, cinnnamon, will make for a pleasing after-dinner treat.
Carmelized sugar houses a rich and creamy, custard surprise under its glass-like cover. You and guests will enjoy the body of flavor this sweet treat holds.
Spicy Caramel Brownies
These fudgy brownies have a thick, rich swirl of dulce de leche and a kick from ground red pepper. If you prefer a milder version, omit or reduce the pepper. Allow egg whites to stand at room temperature 15 minutes to take the chill off before using.
Pear Tarte Tatin
This dessert may be just as beautiful as it is delicious. Pears, always a festive holiday fruit, are surrounded by crispy sheets of phyllo dough to create an absolute palate pleaser.
Mocha Chocolate Sauce with Pound Cake
An easy, versatile chocolate sauce dresses up store-bought pound cake for a simple dessert offering. For a festive fondue dessert, substitute an orange-flavored liqueur like Triple Sec for the coffee-flavored one (or omit the liqueur altogether), and dunk fresh orange sections, dried apricots, marshmallows, or pretzel rods into the sauce. Or make this as a topping for reduced-fat ice cream.
Salted Chocolate Ganache Cake
Choose a premium chocolate bar for this simple one-layer cake. Make up to one day ahead, and store in an airtight container.
Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Fudge
Just a pinch of instant coffee granules goes a long way when it comes to intensifying the chocolate flavor in the fudge. A sprinkle of peanuts gives a salty bite.
Pumpkin Ice Cream Torte
Here’s the secret: You can make this pumpkin torte well ahead and freeze it. The Sauce is jarred. The cook will be celebrated.
Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
We love the zingy burst of cranberries, and their crimson hue enlivens a holiday spread. Since they have a short season, available throughout the holidays, freeze a few bags to stock up. Place the fresh fruit on a jelly-roll pan, and freeze. Transfer the frozen berries to zip-top plastic bags.
Satsuma Orange Cheesecake
We love showcasing seasonally abundant satsumas, a relative of the mandarin orange. The tang of cream cheese and sour cream in the filling rounds out the citrusy sweetness. Make up to three days ahead.
Cardamom-Coconut Crème Caramel
A prime make-ahead option, these delicately flavored custards make a light finish to a hearty Thanksgiving feast.
Vanilla-Bourbon Pumpkin Tart
Graham crackers and pecans encrust the spirited, spiced filling. Dollop each serving with sweetened whipped cream.
Get a head start by baking cookies up to four days ahead and storing in an airtight container. Frost one day before serving; after frosting is set, pack cookies in airtight containers between layers of wax paper. This dough also makes fine slice-and-bake cookies. Form the dough in two (8-inch) round logs, and chill; slice the chilled logs into 1/8-inch rounds, and bake at 350° for 8 minutes or just until set and golden.
Caramel Apple Pie
An iconic holiday dessert served with a quick caramel sauce, this pie won’t be on your table for long. Who can resist the crunch topping that blankets the even more irresistible sweet and delicious apple filling?
Pear Pie with Streusel Topping and Caramel Sauce
Bartlett or Anjou pears work best in this pie. Be sure to purchase firm, slightly under-ripe fruit for this pie since the pears soften and give off juice as they cook.
These bar cookies strike a nice flavor balance: not too sweet and not too tart. Be sure to zest the orange before you squeeze the juice.
Yellow Butter Cake with Vanilla Meringue Frosting
You'll find potato starch on the baking aisle at most of your local supermakets and health-food stores. Also known as potato flour, it helps ensure the cake will have a fine crumb and moist texture.
Dark Chocolate Orange Cake
Chocolate and orange is a great flavor combination that's not as popular as it used to be. This dense and fudgy cake gives it a great comeback and makes good use of chocolate's bitter side as well as its sweetness. There's double chocolate flavor with both cocoa powder and and bittersweet chocolate, and double orange flavor with both juice and liqueur.
Peppermint Brownie à la Mode
Candy canes are everywhere this time of year, so put them to use in your cooking. This recipe blends them into chocolate chip ice cream to top a dense and chocolaty brownie. A hint of coffee flavor makes the brownie itself unique, and the minty topping is a sure-fire hit. If you really love peppermint, substitute mint chip ice cream for an extra dose of minty flavor.
Bourbon-Pecan Tart with Chocolate Drizzle
Pecan pie is often purely sweet with no undertones, but the bourbon, molasses, and chocolate in this beautiful centerpiece dessert all add complexity of flavor. It's also somewhat thinner than a pie, meaning you get more buttery, flaky crust in each bite.
Tangy Ice Cream with Cashew Brittle
This brittle is a deliciously festive treat that seems made for our Tangy Ice Cream. But, we are sure you will find many more ways to enjoy it too.
Cinnamon Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Pie
Condensed milk helps create a dense, moist, and creamy filling for this pie. Add the topping of pecans, oats, and spice, and you've got the perfect marriage of luscious and crunchy. Hearty and filling, this pie is a real taste of the season.
Let your creativity run wild with these cute classics. Underneath, there's a tasty and reliable cookie spiced with ginger and other warm flavors, but the real fun is in the decorating. A basic glaze and colored sugar are your palette to create a varied cast of gingerbread people. Get the whole family involved!
Lemon Polenta Cake with Winter Fruit Compote
It's amazing that such a simple recipe can yield such flavor. Adding cornmeal to a basic cake gives it an incredibly unique texture and sweet corn bread flavor. The tart compote of raisins, cranberries, and pear adds more flavor and keeps the cake moist. Just don't let anyone know how easy it was to make.
Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake
A simple swirl on top of the cheesecake gives this holiday dessert an elegant touch. (Learn How to Make a Swirl Cheesecake). If the cranberry mixture gets too thick, add a tablespoon of water and whirl it around in the food processor. You can also make this in an 8-inch springform pan; it'll be very full, so you should cook over a foil-lined baking sheet. Cook time will be the same.
The cranberry steeping liquid clings to the berries and helps the sugar adhere for the sparkling, jewel-like effect shown here. You can use the liquid (which is drained from the cranberries) in cocktails or over ice cream. If you can't find mascarpone cheese, use regular cream cheese for the topping.
Double-Ginger Pumpkin Flans
This is a great weekend recipe that takes some time but produces an elegant and delicious result that's worth the extra effort. Unsweetened pumpkin and fresh ginger add a seasonal and unexpected twist on creamy classic flan (also known as crème caramel). Make them for someone special.
Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
A few easy additions to store-bought ice cream create a custom flavor that simply tastes like Thanksgiving.
No-Bake Cheesecake with Pecan Caramel
Since we've nixed the baking (even of the crust), you save tons of time; you don't have to wait for the cheesecake to cool out of the oven. Make the cheesecake up to 3 days ahead, but prepare the caramel shortly before serving. It hardens quickly to a yummy praline-like texture.
Carrot-Apple Spice Cake with Browned-Butter Glaze
We challenged ourselves to come up with a showstopping dessert that uses boxed cake mix as a starting point--and we succeeded. Fresh carrot and apple plus a splash of bourbon boost the flavor of the layers, while the browned-butter glaze is, well, the wildly delicious icing on the cake.