Whole-Grain Holiday Desserts
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.
Apple Spice Bundt Cake With Cider Glaze
Don’t be afraid to go 100% whole-grain with desserts; we use all spelt flour here with amazing results. The nutty flour boosts the taste of the butter, spices, and vanilla, unlike all-purpose flour, whose bland nature would dilute those flavors. Be sure to weigh the flour for accuracy; using too much will make the cake dry.
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 ginger, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Double-Chocolate Cereal Treats
These decadent chocolate-on-chocolate cookies boast full satisfaction and a dose of whole-grain goodness. And they’re ready to eat in a fraction of the time needed to prepare typical sweet treats. For added protein and a fun flavor variation, replace ½ cup cereal with ½ cup chopped toasted nuts.
Crunchy-Chewy Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies
This has been Pittman's go-to "house" cookie for years—when she tells the kids she's making cookies, it's these guys, made with no-frills, good ol' whole-wheat flour. The good news is that they work with other flours, too (like brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, white whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pastry flour). They're wonderfully crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle; that soft center comes from using all brown sugar (no granulated) and a drizzle of honey.
Whole-Grain Apple Cake With Yogurt Cream
Apple cake has delicious versatility: It's a fall family favorite that not only satisfies that between-the-meal and post-dinner sweet spot but also works wonders in the wee hours of the morning with a warm cup of coffee.
Deep Dark Chocolate Biscotti
This decadent-seeming chocolate biscotti recipe is actually pretty healthy and features good-for-you ingredients like whole-wheat flour, flaxseed, and unsalted almonds.
In this cobbler, whole-wheat flour does double duty. We've used it as the basis of a truly tender "cobbled" topping and as a thickener for the juicy fruit filling.
Rich and chewy on the inside and golden crisp around the edges, blondies are the seductive cousins of the more aggressive chocolate brownie. Though lighter in color, they're still heavy-weights in calories—285 in one square, plus nearly 9g saturated fat. That fair complexion comes from way too much light brown sugar and melted butter. With nearly half the fat and calories of the original, these lightened whole-grain treats are easy to make and fun to eat.
Mini Hazelnut Tarts
There are many make-ahead opportunities for preparing this dessert, so you can have it on hand whenever you want. The hazelnut dough can be made and frozen for up to 3 months. Form it into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap for added protection against freezer burn, and slip the wrapped dough into a zip-top plastic freezer bag. Thaw the dough, still wrapped, in the refrigerator. You can also form and bake the tart shells a day ahead, and store them at room temperature; or you can cool them completely, wrap in aluminum foil, transfer to a zip-top plastic freezer bag, and freeze for up to 1 month. The filling comes together in minutes, but you can mix it 2 days ahead and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the tarts. Bring the filling back to room temperature before spooning it into the tart shells.
Chocolate-Swirled Pumpkin Bundt
The earliest ways of preparing pumpkin were savory, but sweetened recipes, like the first pumpkin pies—baked in the pumpkin shell rather than in a pie crust. We've come a long way since then. In this recipe, we mix pumpkin with bittersweet chocolate for a flavor that is decidedly fall and perfect for seasonal entertaining. (We think it's great for breakfast too!)
Carrot-Zucchini Cake with Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting
Zucchini makes a brilliant addition to carrot cake, adding a verdant note to the sweet carrot.
Citrus Upside-Down Cake with Sour Whipped Cream
Like salt, sour's contrasting flavor keeps sweetness in check, ultimately boosting it to its sweetest potential.
Super-Fudgy Teff Brownies
These rich treats are such a game-changer that you may never go back to traditional brownies again. Why would you, when they deliver exactly what you're looking for: dense texture, incredibly fudgy interior, amazing sugar crust on top. It’s that superfine teff flour that makes the magic happen; it becomes slightly gelatinous when cooked—which makes for a moist and fudgy brownie. These decadent sweets are 100% whole grain, no refined flour in sight. Did we mention that they’re gluten free, too?
Fudgy Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies
When a soft, fudgy cookie meets crunchy candy cane shards, it's a match made in heaven. These rich cookies pack all the signature flavors of the holidays into one glorious, minty cookie. Clocking in at a shy 101 calories, this is a dessert that your holiday guests will love, and it's one that you can feel good about serving them.
Raspberry-Swirl Mini Bundt Cakes
It's best to make one batch of cakes at a time (don't double the batter), though you can easily double the raspberry mixture. If you don't have a minibundtlette pan, you can make one large Bundt cake instead. If you have an 8-cup Bundt pan, that's ideal, but a 10-cup pan will work, too (the cake just won't be as tall). Bake at 350° for 25 to 28 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Spreading the batter evenly in minibundtlette cups can be a little tricky. Try spooning the batter into a large zip-top plastic bag; then snip off one bottom corner of the bag, and pipe batter into cups.
Pretty Packaging: To keep cakes looking their best, make sure the glaze is fully set before packaging. For individual treats, place one cake on a tissue paper square, place into a cellophane bag, and tie with ribbon.
Chocolate Stout Brownies
The typical brownie has nearly 20 grams of sugar, masking the rich flavor of cocoa in an overwhelming wave of sweetness. Here, we cut sugar in half for a richer, denser brownie that truly satisfies.
Tangy Lemon Cheesecake Bars
Classic lemon squares can contain up to 36 grams of sugar per piece. By putting a tangy cheesecake spin on ours, we’ve cut the sugar down to only 6 grams per pop. Your sweet tooth will agree that these bars are good enough to enjoy year-round.
Whole-Grain Pecan Blondies
Blondies are simply brownies without the chocolate. A light-colored metal pan is your best bet for even baking and cakey, moist blondies.
Lighter Lava Cakes
Quite possibly the sexiest item on the dessert menu, the now-classic chocolate lava cake is all about decadence. A dense batter of chocolate, butter, sugar, and eggs is slightly underbaked to create a gooey, liquid center. These indulgent flavor bombs come in single servings, but even one little cake may contain more than 600 calories and a day's worth of saturated fat. Our plan: Keep the portion-savvy, chocolate-filled simplicity of the original, but cut the calories in half.
631 calories per cake
39.5 grams total fat
23 grams sat fat
249 calories per cake
11.8 grams total fat
5.1 grams sat fat