Our 15 Hardest Dessert Recipes to Overcome for a Taste of Sweet Victory

Move over, boxing gloves. Oven mitts are the hand-wear of champions today.

By SAVEUR Editors

Published on May 10, 2018

Fancy yourself an expert in all-things sugar? Why not challenge your kitchen chops with some of our hardest recipes for desserts? While you could opt for the simple, no-bake treats, some of the best classic desserts out there require some technical prowess, patience, and a good palate.

Take from-scratch eclairs, for example: there’s something magical about piping in your own homemade fillings and wolfing down one of those babies fresh, or khanom chan, the traditional Thai dessert of coconut milk that benefit greatly from the use of homemade pandan extract.

Ready your oven mitts and bust out the baking tools: from classic kugelhopf to a frozen mocha dacquoise cake, our hardest dessert recipes don’t come easy.

Sour Cherry and Pistachio Danish

Layers of buttery, flaky laminated pastry are swirled around a lightly spiced, pleasantly gooey cherry compote, then brushed with orange liqueur and sprinkled with pulverized pistachios after baking. For an alcohol-free alternative, swap out the liqueur for a mixture of honey and fresh orange juice. Get the recipe for Sour Cherry and Pistachio Danish »

BraveTart’s Classic White Layer Cake with Marshmallow Buttercream

Forget everything you know about "white cake," this recipe's a game changer: rich and velvety to the point of creaminess, heady with vanilla, and almost as fluffy as angel's food cake. The secret is virgin coconut oil, which amplifies the aroma of butter and vanilla while creaming up lighter (and whiter) than butter alone. I top it all off with silky Marshmallow Buttercream, for a cake that's beguilingly complex despite its apparent simplicity. Get the recipe for BraveTart's Classic White Layer Cake with Marshmallow Buttercream »

Get seasonal recipes, methods and techniques sent right to your inbox—sign up here to receive Saveur newsletters. And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram at @SaveurMag.

Canelés de Bordeau

Pastry expert Niko Triantafillou of Dessert Buzz has made creating the perfect canelé one of his life quests. His recipe is the real deal: crunchy and caramelized to a deep mahogany brown on the outside, moist and custardy within, and deeply perfumed with dark rum and vanilla bean. Get the recipe for Canelés de Bordeaux »

Baked Alaska

With three colorful layers of ice cream domed atop a fudgy, flourless chocolate cake, our version of this retro dessert is a project perfect for celebrations. Get the recipe for Baked Alaska »

Bûche de Noël (Yule Log)

This traditional recipe was inspired by the celebrated Parisian pastry shop Ladurée. Get the recipe for Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) »


Literally named "crunch in the mouth," croquembouche is an edible monument of caramelized pastry. Get the recipe for Croquembouche »

Pain au Chocolat

Beautiful homemade croissants, each containing a bar of high-quality dark chocolate, make for an impressive and indulgent addition to a breakfast spread. Get the recipe for Pain au Chocolat »

Mocha Dacquoise

This multilayered French dessert of baked almond meringue, buttercream, and rum-spiked whipped cream tastes best doused in a dark chocolate sauce and served with strong coffee to offset some of the sweetness of the cream layers. Not cutting the cake immediately after it's assembled helps to prevent the meringues from cracking while slicing through. This recipe is adapted from the cake at Buck's in Louisville, Kentucky. Get the recipe for Mocha Dacquoise »

Thai Steamed Coconut-Pandan Cake (Khanom Chan)

Think of these silky, chewy, coconutty gummies as richer, more flavorful Jello jigglers, made with a steamed batter of coconut milk with sticky rice flour and tapioca and arrowroot starches. It's a labor of love: to form the neat layers, you have to let the previous layer steam enough until set but still a little tacky before adding the next. The cake also benefits enormously from making your own pandan extract; though you can buy pre-made extract in Thai groceries, it won't compare to the unique sweet herbal fragrance of the fresh leaves. (You can buy fresh or frozen pandan leaves online or in well-stocked Thai groceries.) Get the recipe for Thai Steamed Coconut-Pandan Cake (Khanom Chan) »


Pastry chef Christine Ferber's not-too-sweet kugelhopf, an Alsatian cake baked in a distinctive ring mold, has just a few choice raisins per slice. Enjoy with a sweet Alsatian wine, like gewürztraminer or muscat. Get the recipe for Kugelhopf »

Spicy Pineapple Linzer Cookies

These sandwich cookies, adapted from chef Frederico Ribeiro of New York's Te Company, are an homage to the classic Taiwanese pineapple cake. Here a super-buttery vanilla bean shortbread gets a nutty dose of hazelnut flour, and sweet pineapple-rosemary jam gets balanced by the spicy, fermented, and grassy flavor of Japanese yuzu kosho paste. Be sure to let the cookies rest overnight (or at least a few hours) after assembling so the jam sets in place, and don't skip the lime zest and flaky salt topping for a sweet and savory cookie that has a nice habit of electrifying your taste buds. Get the recipe for Spicy Pineapple Linzer Cookies »

Classic Eclairs

When it comes to eclairs, homemade is always better. Bakeries have to chill their filled eclairs, which makes for soggy centers and mushy crusts; you can freshly fill yours at home and eat them right away. This recipe is adapted from pastry chef Scott Cioe from Park Hyatt New York. Get the recipe for Classic Eclairs »

New Orleans Doberge Cake

This version of the classic NOLA dessert combines a rich buttermilk cake with both lemon curd and chocolate fillings, surrounded by a vanilla German buttercream and ganache. Get the recipe for New Orleans Doberge Cake »

Strawberry Lemon Cake

At New York's Milk Bar, Christina Tosi makes this towering cake every spring, when sweet and tiny tristar strawberries are in season. This is by no means an everyday cake, but it's worth the work that you'll put in, and worthy of a special occasion. Get the recipe for Strawberry Lemon Cake »

Want more SAVEUR?

Get our favorite recipes, stories, and more delivered to your inbox.