25 delectable holiday desserts

These festive favorites and elegant show-stoppers create holiday cheer with every bite

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Adeena Sussman

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

If you can manage to wait, chief baking officer Arnold Eric Wong of Raison d’Être bakery in South San Francisco recommends serving his moist brownies a day after baking because they develop an even fudgier texture and mintier flavor.

Recipe: Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

Just-right desserts snow cake

Leigh Beisch

Cranberry Obsession Snow Cake 

The party: The big Christmas feast

The appeal: With its jewel-like filling, this cake is a snowy white showstopper

Baker's tip: To make a pure white cake, use your fingers to rub off the browned surface of each layer before assembling.

Recipe:  Cranberry Obsession Snow Cake

White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake

Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Adeena Sussman

White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake

This party-size, extravagantly dense and creamy cheesecake comes from chef Peter Birk at Boka restaurant in Seattle. He infuses cream with fresh mint; we used extract for simplicity.

Recipe: White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake

Desserts banana pecan dacquoise

Leigh Beisch

Banana Pecan Dacquoise

The party: Dinner with good friends

The appeal: Silky caramel, ripe bananas, creamy vanilla custard, all oozing from a stack of crunchy meringue layers: You want only certain people to see you get this messy

Baker's tip: Dacquoise ― a cake made of crisp meringue layers ― works best if you pair it with soft, fluffy, or creamy fillings. This dessert is all about contrasts in texture.

Recipe:  Banana Pecan Dacquoise

Orange trifle with Grand Marnier cream

Leigh Beisch

Orange Trifle with Grand Marnier Cream

The party: New Year’s Eve bash

The appeal: A super-refreshing way to usher in the new year, and great with Champagne

Baker's tip: Segmenting citrus fruit (removing the membranes so just fruit is left) makes it seem juicier and more tender.

Recipe:  Orange Trifle with Grand Marnier Cream

Eggnog cheesecake

Leigh Beisch

Eggnog Cheesecake

The party: Lunch or afternoon tea

The appeal: It’s so rich that even a small slice is satisfying

Baker's tip: Run a spatula around the inside of the pan just after baking to help the cheesecake firm up without cracking

Recipe: Eggnog Cheesecake

Desserts ice cream bon bons

Leigh Beisch

Peppermint Ice Cream Bon Bons

The party: Cocktails with lots of finger food

The appeal: Dessert version of cocktail snacks; cute and tasty

Baker's tip: When you dip the ice cream balls in chocolate, make sure you coat some of the skewer too ― this keeps the ice cream from sliding off as it melts.

Recipe:  Peppermint Ice Cream Bon Bons

Cardamom brown-sugar palmiers

Leigh Beisch

Cardamom Brown-Sugar Palmiers

The party: The office get-together

The appeal: They look impressively hard to make (actually, the opposite is true); easy to pack

Baker's tip: As with any super-buttery dough, chilling it makes it much easier to slice

Recipe: Cardamom Brown-Sugar Palmiers

Clementine Sorbetto

Photography by Lisa Romerein

Clementine Sorbetto

Clementines create a pure, intense sorbetto (sorbet) that practically explodes with flavor. Serve with chocolate biscotti for a little decadence.

Recipe:  Clementine Sorbetto

Peppermint-Topped Brownies

Photo by Leigh Beisch

Peppermint-Topped Brownies

These rich chocolate brownies are topped with a delicate layer of peppermint candy. They're perfect for the holidays.

Recipe:  Peppermint-topped Brownies

Candy Cane Cake

Leigh Beisch

Candy Cane Cake

Our whipped cream cake sprinkled with crushed peppermint might just become your next holiday tradition.

Recipe:  Candy Cane Cake

A holiday dessert of Spice Cake with Coffee Toffee Crunch.

Annabelle Breakey

Spice Cake with Coffee Toffee Crunch

This towering cake, garnished with chunks of coffee-flavored toffee, makes a luscious centerpiece for the holiday dessert table.

Recipe:  Spice Cake with Coffee Toffee Crunch

A holiday dessert of Apple Oven Cake

Leo Gong

Apple Oven Cake

This pancake-like cake is great for after dinner or as a breakfast treat. And it comes together in less than 30 minutes.

Recipe:  Apple Oven Cake

A holiday dessert of Cranberry-Orange Bread with Grand Marnier Glaze.

Photography by Leigh Beisch

Cranberry-Orange Bread with Grand Marnier Glaze

This bread is a versatile, easy-to-make crowd-pleaser, delicately laced with Grand Marnier and studded with tart dried cranberries and orange zest. It's good for breakfast or as a gift.

Recipe:  Cranberry-Orange Bread with Grand Marnier Glaze

A holiday dessert of Cholly's World-Famous Gingerbread Cake

Photography by James Carrier

Cholly's World-Famous Gingerbread Cake

This dark, moist cake is a favorite of guests at the Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where it's cut into rounds and set on a pool of custard sauce.

Recipe:  Cholly's World-Famous Gingerbread Cake

A holiday dessert of Crushed Peppermint Cheesecake

Christina Schmidhofer

Crushed Peppermint Cheesecake

Peppermint's cool bite gets smoothed out when paired with creamy cheesecake. 

Recipe:  Crushed Peppermint Cheesecake

A holiday dessert of Sparkling Oranges.

Photography by James Carrier

Sparkling Oranges

This delightfully clean and colorful dessert is ideal to serve after a rich main course.

Recipe:  Sparkling Oranges

A holiday dessert of Caramel-cloaked Chocolate-Hazelnut Torte.

James Carrier

Caramel-cloaked Chocolate-Hazelnut Torte

This show-stopping dessert is both elegant and delicious–just the thing for capping off your holiday in style.

Recipe:  Caramel-cloaked Chocolate-Hazelnut Torte

A holiday dessert of Cranberry Jam Tart.

Photography by James Carrier

Cranberry Jam Tart

You can make the jam mixture and dough for this elegant tart up to three days ahead of time.

Recipe:  Cranberry Jam Tart

A holiday dessert of Caramelized Pears with Toasted Hazelnuts and Chocolate Sorbet.

Photography by James Baigrie; styling by Karen Shinto

Caramelized Pears with Toasted Hazelnuts and Chocolate Sorbet

These golden-brown pears make a stunning finale, and they can be made well ahead of time. Chocolate sorbet adds a deep, rich flavor note.

Recipe:  Caramelized Pears with Toasted Hazelnuts and Chocolate Sorbet

A holiday dessert of Gingerbread Pear Trifle.

Photography by Annabelle Breakey

Gingerbread Pear Trifle

A spicy, molasses-rich gingerbread is the base of a wonderfully festive dessert.

Recipe:  Gingerbread Pear Trifle

A holiday dessert of Tres Leches Cake with Raspberries.

Photography by Leo Gong; styling by Karen Shinto

Tres Leches Cake with Raspberries

We love this cake from Doña Tomás restaurant in Oakland, California; it's rich with a sauce like dulce de leche.

Recipe:  Tres Leches Cake with Raspberries

A holiday dessert of Florentine Bars.

Photography by Leigh Beisch

Florentine Bars

The colorful mixture of fruit and nuts makes for a festive presentation atop rich shortbread.

Recipe:  Florentine Bars

A holiday dessert of Guinness Stout Gingerbread Cake.

Photography by James Carrier

Guinness Stout Gingerbread Cake

Dark beer, molasses, and crystallized ginger give this cake uncommon depth of flavor. Candied-ginger whipped cream gilds the lily.

Recipe:  Guinness Stout Gingerbread Cake

A holiday dessert of Sticky Toffee Trifle with Cranberries

Photography by James Carrier

Sticky Toffee Trifle with Cranberries

This dessert has several components that can be made ahead of time, making for easy assembly after dinner is finished.

Recipe:  Sticky Toffee Trifle with Cranberries

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