RYAN LIEBE
Recipes

42 Showstopping Holiday Dessert Recipes to End Your Meal With a Bang

The prettiest tarts, cookie plates, cakes, and pies for every sweet tooth

By SAVEUR Editors


Published on December 19, 2016

For a showstopping sweet finish to your special holiday meal, go all-out with a sticky English toffee pudding, classic croquembouche, baked Alaska, or any one of these seasonal centerpiece desserts. They're the best way to follow up our go-to holiday roasts and pair nicely with a hot cocktail. Want to dig deeper? See our recent comprehensive guide to baking the perfect tart.

For even more inspiration, check out our Holiday Guide.

almond frangipane tart
Almond Frangipane Tart with Cranberries and Honeyed Pistachios

Almond Frangipane Tart with Cranberries and Honeyed Pistachios

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Sea Salt Espresso Beans
Chocolate Ganache Tart with Sea Salt and Espresso Beans

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Sea Salt Espresso Beans

Orange and Ginger Brownie Cookies
Orange and Ginger Brownie Cookies

Orange and Ginger Brownie Cookies

Syrup-Soaked Pastries with Hazelnuts, Pistachios, and Pine Nuts (Deblah)
Syrup-Soaked Pastries with Hazelnuts, Pistachios, and Pine Nuts (Deblah)

Syrup-Soaked Pastries with Hazelnuts, Pistachios, and Pine Nuts (Deblah)

Layered Strudel Cake (Prekmurska Gibanica)
Layered Strudel Cake (Prekmurska Gibanica)

Able to be assembled up to 2 days prior to baking, this multilayered pastry cake is stuffed with poppy seed, walnut, cottage cheese, and tart apple fillings. Get the recipe for Layered Strudel Cake (Prekmurska Gibanica) »

swedish visiting cake bars for New Year's Recipes
Lemon Meringue Tarts
Lemon Meringue Tarts

Lemon Meringue Tarts

Apple and Cranberry Upside-Down Cakes
Apple and Cranberry Upside-Down Cakes

This recipe, from Fore Street restaurant in Portland, Maine, calls for using six 4″ steel blini pans. But you can make a single cake in an 8″ cast-iron skillet, if you prefer. If fresh or frozen cranberries aren’t available, use reconstituted dried berries. Get the recipe for Apple and Cranberry Upside-Down Cakes »

Cherry-Frangelico Mincemeat
Cherry-Frangelico Mincemeat Pie

Fresh and dried fruits steep in hazelnut liqueur for three days to make the filling for this holiday pie. Suet, a traditional mincemeat ingredient, adds moisture and richness, but vegetable shortening works just as well.

Pear and Ginger Pie
Pear and Ginger Pie with Streusel Topping

Fresh ginger gives the filling of this pear pie a warming kick of spice, balanced by the buttery crumble of sweet streusel.

Butter Saffron Cake
Butter Saffron Cake

Steeping the saffron in vodka helps boost the flavor of the spice throughout the cake.

Vanilla-Rum Custard (La Tart)
Vanilla-Rum Custard (La Tarte)

The creaminess of this classic vanilla custard gains an edge with the addition of light rum.

Brown Butter Walnut Pie with Sour Whipped Cream
Brown Butter Walnut Pie with Sour Whipped Cream

Browned butter accentuates the flavor of earthy walnuts and a sour cream topping offsets the richness of the filling for a balanced, delectable dessert.

Corsican Lemon Mousse
Corsican Lemon Mousse

This rich, silky mousse brightened with tangy lemons makes an elegant end to a meal.

White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Bananas and Rum Sauce
White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Bananas and Rum Sauce

This decadent take on an iconic dessert, from Mat & Naddie’s Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana, gilds the lily, pan-frying white chocolate-enriched bread pudding, and plating it with satiny caramel and sweet bananas.

Baked Walnut-Stuffed Apples with White Wine
Bratapfel mit Walnusseis (Baked Walnut-Stuffed Apples with White Wine)

Apples are roasted in wine and butter for this sweet and spicy dessert, a staple of holiday markets throughout Germany.

Baked Alaska
Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska first made its way into print in Fannie Farmer’s 1896_ Boston Cooking-School Cook Book,_ but the idea of baking ice cream inside cake and meringue had been around for much of the century. The way was paved in the early 1800s by that genius of thermodynamics Benjamin Thompson, with his work on the resistance of egg whites to heat.

White Chocolate-Cardamom Panna Cotta
White Chocolate-Cardamom Panna Cotta

Sweetened with white chocolate only, this rich, Middle Eastern-inspired panna cotta gets its distinctive floral aroma from an infusion of blistered cardamom.

Yule Log Cake
Buche de Noel (Yule Log Cake with Coffee Buttercream and Ganache)

This version of the traditional French Christmas cake is filled with coffee buttercream and covered in chocolate ganache. See the recipe for Buche de Noel »

Chocolate Mousse
Chocolate Mousse

This simple yet sophisticated, airy yet intense concoction has been a hit with home cooks in America at least since the New York Times published its first recipe for the dessert in 1955. Get the recipe for Chocolate Mousse »

White Chocolate Christmas Tree

This delicious and decorative holiday confection demonstrates the key to cooking with white chocolate: adding in a touch of water helps it keep its shape after cooling. See the recipe for White Chocolate Christmas Tree »

Decadent Trifle
Decadent Trifle

The trifle is a very old concoction—by some accounts, more than 300 years old—but twentieth century variations have turned it into a classic, occasion-ready centerpiece. Drenched in sherry and kirsch, our version features layer upon layer of ginger cake, custard, berries, chocolate, and cream.

Rum Bundt Cake
Rum Bundt Cake

A supremely moist, boozy Southern bundt cake fitting for any holiday spread.

Macerated Fruit Conserve (Rumtopf)
Macerated Fruit Conserve (Rumtopf)

This sweet-tart conserve is a luscious accompaniment to ice cream. It also adds a fruity dimension when stirred into champagne.

White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Mousse
White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Mousse

In this updated take on a classic French dessert, cream cheese adds stability and a pleasing tang, which balances the sweet white chocolate without overpowering it.

Apricot Tarts with Pistachios
Apricot Tarts with Pistachios

Lightly sweetened apricots are baked quickly in a simple short-bread crust for these rustic tarts, which are garnished with vibrant green pistachios and fleur de sel. Other stone fruits, like plums and peaches, will work just as well.

Polish Bow Tie Fritters
Krisciki (Polish Bow Tie Fritters)

Also referred to as angel wings, these sugar-dusted fritters are both crunchy and pillowy. See the recipe for Krisciki »

Apple Tart
Torta di Sant'Antonio (Sant'Antonio Apple Tart)

Cooks in the Italian Alpine village of Oulx flavor this tart with red wine and cinnamon to honor the town’s patron saint, Sant’Antonio. Get the recipe for Torta di Sant’Antonio (Sant’Antonio Apple Tart) »

Nutmeg Ice Cream
Nutmeg Ice Cream

Serve this spiced ice cream on its own or scooped on top of warm fruit crisps, cobblers, or pies, particularly apple.

Nutmeg Custard Tarts
Nutmeg Custard Tarts

Creamy and spicy, these classic English custard tarts boast all the hallmarks of our favorite eggnogs.

Nutmeg Cake
Nutmeg Cake

While nutmeg adds a subtle note to many desserts, it claims center stage in this traditional spiced Armenian cake. See the recipe for Nutmeg Cake »

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Dates
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Dates

Although certainly sweet, the cake becomes less so thanks to the fruit, some heavy cream, and a hint each of ground cinnamon and nutmeg. While not necessarily traditional in this pudding, coffee extract available online adds some delicious roasty flavors. If desired, you can rewarm the pudding in a low oven before topping and serving. It’s just as good for breakfast as it is for dessert. Get the recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding with Dates »

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