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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.