Holiday Sweets Everyone Will Love

Mango Parfaits
Photo: John Kernick

Holiday Sweets Everyone Will Love

01 of 10
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We asked Kelsey Nixon, chef and star of Kelsey's Essentials on Cooking Channel, to share her favorite festive confections to sweeten up your next holiday celebration. "One thing that makes the holidays so special-and that everyone looks forward to-is they give you permission to be a little bit indulgent," Nixon says. "It's liberating to know that you can have that piece (or 2 or 3!) of pie, or 8 cookies on Christmas." Whip up some of these must-try treats at your next holiday party for a perfect end to the evening.

02 of 10

S'mores Pudding Pie

S'mores Pudding Pie

Graham Cracker Crust Ingredients:

*1 ½ cups crushed graham crackers (about 10 crackers)
*7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
*2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Cook's Note: You can always buy a pre-made graham cracker crust at your grocery store.

Chocolate Pudding Ingredients:
*2 cups whole milk
*1 cup heavy cream
* ½ cup sugar
*¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
*Pinch salt
*¼ cup cornstarch
*4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
*1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
*10 large marshmallows, halved on the diagonal

Crust Diretions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Break up the graham crackers by hand and add to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process the crackers until ground. Add the butter and sugar and pulse until the mixture looks like wet sand.
3. Transfer the graham crackers to a 9-inch pie plate and, using your hands, press to form a crust. You just want the crust to be of even thickness around the pie plate. Bake until crisp and the crust begins to brown, about 15 minutes. Cool completely before filling.

Pudding Directions:
1. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the milk, cream, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Over medium heat bring the mixture to a simmer. Once the milk and cream are simmering, gradually whisk in the cornstarch and continue to whisk until the pudding thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the bittersweet chocolate and vanilla.
2. Pour into the cooled pie shell and chill, covering pudding surface with plastic wrap or wax paper to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to allow the pudding to set.
3. Just before serving, preheat your broiler. Top the pudding pie with the large marshmallows, covering the entire pie surface. Transfer the pie to a baking sheet. Broil the marshmallows 4 inches under the broiler until the tops are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Keep a close eye on this, it goes fast! Alternatively, use a kitchen torch to brown the marshmallow topping. Serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy

03 of 10

Spiced Caramel Lady Apples

Spiced Caramel Lady Apples


*18 lady apples (about 2 lbs)
*½ cup corn syrup
*1 cup packed brown sugar
*4 tablespoons butter
*7 ounces sweetened condensed milk (or, (½) 14 oz. can)
*½ teaspoon cinnamon
*1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
*¼ teaspoon vanilla

1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan bring corn syrup and brown sugar to a boil, stirring constantly. Whisk in butter, cooking until completely melted.
2. Add sweetened condensed milk and bring to a boil. Continue cooking until the temperature registers 245 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 6 to 8 minutes. Immediately remove the saucepan from direct heat and stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Pour into a separate bowl. Let the caramel cool slightly for five minutes.
3. Working quickly, dip the lady apples into the caramel, letting any excess drip back into the bowl. Set the apples on the prepared baking sheet or cooling rack lined with wax paper. If the caramel becomes too thick, gently rewarm it over low heat. Let the caramel apples cool for 1 hour before serving.

Recipe courtesy

04 of 10

Peppermint Fudge Crinkle Cookies

Peppermint Fudge Crinkle Cookies


*8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped, melted and cooled
*2 ½ cups granulated sugar
*½ cup canola oil
*1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
*½ teaspoon peppermint extract
*4 large eggs
*2 cups all-purpose flour
*2 teaspoons baking powder
*½ teaspoon salt
*3/4 cup powdered sugar

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the melted chocolate, 2 cups granulated sugar, ½ cup canola oil, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract.
2. Stir in the eggs, one at a time until combined.
3. In a separate mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt until thoroughly combined.
4. Add the mixed dry ingredients to the wet ingredients; mix just until combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or place in your freezer for 45 minutes until the dough is chilled. Cook's Note: This will make the dough easier to work with.
5. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper or coat with nonstick cooking spray.
6. Working with ¼ of the dough at a time, begin rolling the cold dough into portions about the size of a tablespoon or portion using a 2-ounce ice cream scoop.
7. In 2 separate bowls, separate the remaining ½ cup of granulated sugar and 3/4 cup powdered sugar. Roll each ball of dough first in the granulated sugar followed by a generous amount of powdered sugar. Place about 2-inches apart on prepared cookie sheets.
8. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until the center of the cookie is set. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on cooling racks.

Recipe courtesy

05 of 10

Gingerbread Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Gingerbread Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Gingerbread Brownie Ingredients:

*1 ½ cups flour
*½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
*1 teaspoon baking soda
*2 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
*½ teaspoon cinnamon
*¼ teaspoon nutmeg
*¼ teaspoon allspice
*1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
*1 cup packed light brown sugar
*½ cup molasses
*2 large eggs
*½ cup sour cream
*cream cheese frosting, recipe follows

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
*2, 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
*½ cup unsalted butter, softened
*½ teaspoon vanilla extract
*pinch of salt
*2 cups powdered sugar

Gingerbread Brownie Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Line with parchment paper with excess overhang on both sides for easy removal of brownies.
2. In mixing bowl, whisk to combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and spices.
3. In a separate mixing bowl whisk to combine melted butter, brown sugar, molasses, eggs, and sour cream. Slowly whisk in flour mixture, a little at a time, stirring just until it comes together; avoid over mixing. Pour batter into prepared baking dish.
4. Bake for 30 -35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow brownies to cool 5-10 minutes before removing by pulling up both sides of parchment paper. Finish cooling on wire rack. Once cool, frost with cream cheese frosting. Cut into squares before serving or gifting for the holidays. Store in airtight container for up 5 days.

Cream Cheese Frosting Directions:
1. In a mixing bowl, cream together softened cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.
2. Add vanilla and salt, followed by adding the powdered sugar a little at a time until fully incorporated.
3. Store extra frosting in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Recipe courtesy

06 of 10

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Bread Pudding Ingredients:

*2 cups whole milk
*2 cups heavy cream
*9 large egg yolks
*3/4 cup light brown sugar
*1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1 teaspoon cinnamon
*1 teaspoon salt
*1 loaf challa bread, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces (preferably stale*)
*3 ½ cups Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
*3/4 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
*Caramel Dessert Sauce, recipe follows
*vanilla ice cream, for serving

Caramel Sauce Ingredients:
*½ cup butter
*3/4 cup sugar
*1 tablespoon light corn syrup
*½ cup buttermilk
*1 teaspoon baking soda
*½ teaspoon cinnamon
*1 teaspoon vanilla
*pinch of salt

Bread Pudding Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together whole milk, heavy cream, egg yolks, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.
3. Add cubed bread, apples, and pecans to prepared baking dish; toss to combine. Pour custard over bread and apple pieces. Carefully toss to coat making sure that the cubed bread is submerged in the custard; let stand for 10-15 minutes allowing the bread to soak up the custard.
4. Bake for 45 minutes or until the center has set; let cool for 5 minutes. Drizzle caramel sauce over bread pudding. Serve with extra sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Caramel Sauce Directions:
1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan combine butter, sugar, corn syrup, and buttermilk; bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook for 1 minute.
2. Remove from heat and slowly add baking soda (it will foam up), followed by the cinnamon and vanilla. Sauce will thicken as it cools.

Recipe courtesy

07 of 10

Roasted Pears with Pomegranate Sauce

Roasted Pears with Pomegranate Sauce

Pear Ingredients:

*4 Bosc pears, halved and cored
*¼ cup orange juice
*¼ cup honey or brown sugar
*¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Pomegranate Sauce Ingredients:
*1 cup pomegranate juice
*¼ cup honey
*1 cinnamon stick or ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
*2 teaspoons grated orange peel
*Pomegranate seeds, garnish (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, honey, and cinnamon.
2. In a roasting pan or oven-proof baking dish, arrange pears cut side up. Pour orange juice, honey, and cinnamon over the pears. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pears are fork tender.
3. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over high heat add pomegranate juice, honey, cinnamon, and orange peel. Simmer until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly.
4. Spoon sauce over pears. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream, if desired. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

(Can be made up to 4 hours ahead. Let sauce and pears stand at room temperature. Rewarm sauce just before serving. Yield: 8 servings)

Recipe courtesy

08 of 10

Spiced Pumpkin Crumb Cake

Spiced Pumpkin Crumb Cake

Cake Ingredients:

*1 cup unsalted butter, softened
*1 cup granulated sugar
*4 large eggs
*1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
*2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
*3/4 teaspoon salt
*1 tablespoon baking powder

Pumpkin Filling Ingredients:
*1, 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
*3 large eggs, beaten
*1 cup light brown sugar
*1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
*½ teaspoon ground ginger

Crumb Topping Ingredients:
*1 cup all-purpose flour
*½ cup light brown sugar
*1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
*3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
*½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
*¼ teaspoon ground ginger
*1 cup unsalted butter, chilled & cubed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour one 9-inch spring form pan.
2. Make cake batter: In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, & baking powder. Stir dry ingredients into butter and egg mixture. Mix just until combined- batter will be thick. Set aside.
3. Make filling: In a separate large mixing bowl, add the pumpkin puree, eggs, brown sugar & spices. Set aside.
4. Make Crumb Topping: In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, & spices. Cut in chilled butter with pastry cutter or two forks until mixture is crumbly.
5. Evenly spread the thick cake batter on the bottom of the prepared pan. Next, pour the pumpkin filling over the top of the cake batter,and sprinkle the crumb topping on top of the filling. Bake for 1 ½ - 2 hours or until the filling is set and topping is golden brown. Cool before slicing. Serve with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.

Recipe courtesy

09 of 10

Graham Cracker Whoopie Pies

Graham Cracker Whoopie Pies
Nigel Cox

1½ cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 12 crackers)
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp baking powder
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup buttermilk
¼ tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp honey
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 egg whites
Nonstick cooking spray

1. Preheat whoopie pie maker.
2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. Whisk together wet ingredients except egg whites in a small bowl; whisk wet and dry together until smooth.
4. With a mixer, whip egg whites to medium peaks and fold into graham mixture.5. Lightly mist pie maker with cooking spray.
6. Spoon 1 heaping tbsp of batter into each circle and close maker. Allow 2 minutes to bake fully, being careful not to overbake.
7. Carefully remove round cakes; let cool.

With a spoon, measure 1?2 tbsp filling, then layer between two round cakes to assemble each pie.

2 medium carrots (to yield 1/3 cup carrot purée) Whole milk to help purée, if needed (optional)
4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup confectioners' sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
½ cup Marshmallow Fluff
2 tbsp candied ginger, minced
1. Wrap carrots in foil and roast at 350°F for 30?45 minutes, until extremely tender. Remove and let cool in foil.
2. Purée carrots in a food processor, adding a bit of milk, 1 tsp at a time, to help purée (if necessary).
3. Using a mixer, cream butter, sugar, and salt; then add purée and mix for 1 more minute, until incorporated.
4. Add Fluff and mix on medium until incorporated.
5. Fold in candied ginger. Chill 30 minutes to firm.

4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup confectioners' sugar
¼ tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp fresh key lime juice (about 1 lime)
2?3 drops green food coloring
½ cup Marshmallow Fluff

1. Use a mixer to cream butter, sugar, and salt on medium speed, 1?2 minutes.
2. Lower speed and slowly stream in lime juice and coloring; mix on high 1?2 minutes.
3. Add Fluff; mix on medium until incorporated. Chill 30 minutes to firm.

1 tbsp pomegranate juice concentrate (try R.W. Knudsen Family, sold at Whole Foods)
2?3 drops red food coloring
Swap in these 2 ingredients as a substitute for juice and coloring, and follow key lime recipe above.

THE GADGET: Babycakes Whoopie Pie Maker, $30;

10 of 10

Mango Parfaits

Mango Parfaits
John Kernick

3 medium mangoes, peeled and cubed3 medium mangoes, peeled and cubed3 medium mangoes, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp honey, or to taste
¼ tsp ground cinnamon, or to taste
3 cups vanilla yogurt
Fresh mint leaves, diced kiwi, or mango for garnish (optional)

1. In a food processor or blender, purée mangoes until smooth and transfer to a bowl. Add lime juice, honey, and cinnamon to the mango purée and stir to combine. Chill until ready to assemble parfaits.
2. To assemble: In parfait or stemmed glasses, spoon in a 1-inch-thick layer of yogurt, top with a layer of purée, and repeat layering to the top. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with fresh mint leaves, diced kiwi, or mango, if desired.

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