Healthy Holiday Desserts
Our 100% whole-grain pie shaves more than one-third of the sugar and calories off the classic, and it cuts saturated fat in half. Toasting the pecans intensifies their flavor and adds notes of caramel.
Parsnip Spice Cake with Caramel Icing
We took a look at the original recipe published in 2003 and decided to update it with less sugar and more whole grains. Instead of boiling the parsnips, we roast them to concentrate their sweetness; this allows us to use less added sugar. We also switched from refined all-purpose flour to whole-wheat pastry flour, and simplified the format to a sheet cake. A few tweaks later, we had a moist, tender, tastier spice cake capped with an indulgent caramel-flavored cream cheese icing.
Molasses Crinkle Cookies
These soft, chewy, beautifully spiced gingerbread cookies look like they just took a romp in fresh snow—a holiday look that saves you the trouble of having to ice each one. A dual coat of granulated and powdered sugar will help the slightly sticky dough balls hold their shape and get that crinkled texture.
Salted Caramel Apple Pie
A quick homemade caramel sauce that’s folded into fresh apple slices and baked in a whole-grain crust takes this classic holiday pie to the next level. A hint of salt in the sauce intensifies the apple flavor and balances the sweetness. Apples contain a natural thickener called pectin; grating some of the fruit will ensure a gooey, cohesive mixture once baked. Crisp, sweet Fuji apples bake beautifully and will contrast the salty caramel. You can also use Cripps Pink or Honeycrisp apples.
This flavor-packed apple pie proves just how next-level store-bought crust, smart touches of fat and flavoring, and a trio of apples fit together fabulously.
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.
Lemon Meringue Pie
With satisfying layers of smooth curd and marshmallowy meringue nestled inside a tender, whole-grain crust, our puckery pie is perfection.
Orange-Walnut Coffee Cake
To build a better breakfast cake that won’t send you into midmorning nap mode, we start by building a whole-grain base bolstered with warm spices and brightened up with citrus juice and zest. The savory notes of olive oil lend complexity, while the oil’s characteristic fruitiness is accentuated by the citrus zest. The finished product: a bakery-quality coffee cake with a fraction of the sat fat and only 333 calories.
Pumpkin Spice Fudge
We turned the classic pumpkin pie (and the trendiest of fall spice blends) into a tasty confection. Fudge doesn't require the tempering, rolling, and shaping of other made-from-scratch candies. If you don't have a candy thermometer, do the cold water test: Drop a small amount of the cooked sugar mixture in cold water. If it forms a soft ball, the mixture is ready for pouring into the prepared pan.
Baby Chocolate Cakes
Looking for a fun and easy baking project? Make a batch of these chocolaty, bite-size tea cakes. They taste like elegant brownies, but won't weigh you down.
Brown Butter Cake with Cocoa
This impressive-looking dessert takes only 15 minutes to throw together, making it a great last-minute dessert for entertaining. There's no need to pull out the stand mixer either. A whisk is all you'll need to mix ingredients. A good bit of salt enhances all the flavors here.
If you can’t decide between pecan and pumpkin pie, this dessert will give you a taste of both in one slice. A quick brown sugar–pecan streusel tops the pie after it bakes; the topping will set into a crunchy layer as the pie cools. Be sure to use a standard 9-inch pie plate rather than a deep-dish one to ensure an evenly baked crust.
Coconut Milk Panna Cotta
Sublimely creamy, this is the perfect make-ahead dessert that you can dish out to each guest in individual servings at any holiday party.
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.
Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
Rhubarb, which looks like crimson celery, has a short season, so stock up while you can. While technically a vegetable, rhubarb is often treated like a fruit. Tart to the taste and most commonly used in pies and other desserts, rhubarb can also be used as the base for an elegant sauce over meat dishes. It's a sturdy stalk, so it holds well in long bakes or braises, but it's naturally versatile in flavor, which allows it to easily transition from a pie to a pizza.
This stunning Rhubarb Upside-down Cake to sure to wow your guests. A hint of fresh thyme gives this rustic cake a faint herbaceous quality that complements the warmth of cardamom and ginger and the tang of rhubarb. The surprise ingredient in the batter (mayonnaise) is an old-school trick for creating a supermoist cake. A dollop of Greek yogurt cuts through the richness of the cake—but you can omit it if you’d like.
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.
The rich nuttiness of the tahini is amplified in the blondie and matched by the whole-wheat flour. We like Soom brand tahini; it's unctuous and creamy with no oil slick on top (perfect for stirring into batters). Pecans contribute natural sweetness and indulgent crunch, but feel free to sub in an equal amount of another nut or a few chocolate or butterscotch chips.
Easy Peach Hand Pies
With just five ingredients, these summer fruit snacks come together in a snap. Store-bought pie dough cuts down on prep work—simply roll it out, add the fillings, seal, then bake. Best of all, one hand pie is just 43 calories.
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.
Pavlova Layer Cake with Raspberries and Peaches
This show-stopping peach and raspberry pavlova cake is just 158 calories per slice. This classic meringue-based dessert with a crisp outer texture and soft, creamy inside will blow guests away at brunches, showers, and teas. We stay seasonal by topping it with fresh peaches and raspberries, but any assortment of berries and stone fruit would work.
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 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.
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.
Surprisingly moist, light, and springy, this almond cake is a delicious departure from the dense, rustic ones you might be accustomed to.
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.
Spicy Dark Chocolate and Tahini Bark
This decadently swirled bark will keep you from raiding your kids’ stash of Halloween candy.
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.
Butterscotch Crispy Rice Bars
Treat your guests to these whole-grain rice bars. Nut butter gives the low-sugar, festively decorated treats 2g protein per serving.