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75 Christmas dessert recipes for a sweet holiday

End your feast on a sweet, festive note.
/ Source: TODAY

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And that means lots and lots of sugar. Cakes, cookies, bars, pies, puddings, candied everything and more — if it’s sweet, it’s in season. From chocolate and peppermint to gingerbread and eggnog, these popular holiday flavors can be used in so many recipes, both nostalgic and contemporary. Even better, many of these recipes don’t start completely from scratch, making holiday baking easier than ever. Instead, utilizing a box of instant pudding or cake mix can go far in creating a simple homemade treat with plenty of charm and flavor.

Holiday baking doesn’t have to be complicated and it certainly doesn’t have to be traditional. In addition to time-tested family recipes, new spins on classics and riffs on beloved ancestral traditions can sweeten your December with just a little bit of time and effort in the kitchen. Share these sweets at cookie parties, potlucks, holiday celebrations and beyond — or just bake these treats at home to consistently have a sweet snack on hand at all times this winter. A little extra sugar on a cold night is never a bad idea to boost coziness levels.

Sourced from baking experts – Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, Lidia Bastianich and many more – these Christmas dessert menus will have you baking and hosting like a pro in no time. These dessert recipes also hail from around the world, to infuse some Indian, Italian, Middle Eastern and Mexican flavors into any holiday sweet spread.

Whether you’re looking for an immersive project or a quick treat to share with loved ones, indulge your sweet tooth with these festive treats.

Christmas Tiramisu

Panettone meets tiramisu in this luscious Italian-inspired dessert. Italian ladyfingers soaked in an orange-rum syrup adorn the cake, then are stuck together with homemade custard. It’s an extravagant dessert that’s totally worth the effort.

Chocolate S'Mores Pudding

No campfire necessary to create this s’mores-flavored pudding. The made-from-scratch chocolate pudding is worth the extra effort. Brûlée the marshmallows on top for a few minutes under the broiler, then enjoy this treat fireside.


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Dr. Jessica B. Harris

This classic Southern treat dates back to the pre-Civil War era when Black women would make these pecan candies and sell them for extra income. Nowadays, they’re a must-bake holiday confection. A candy thermometer is helpful to ensure that the sugar doesn’t burn and everything comes together smoothly. Wrap these up for a DIY food gift to share with friends and family.

Chocolate Peppermint Dessert Pizza

Pizza may not be a traditional holiday dessert, but with a few sweet topics, it fits right in. This festive treat uses pre-made pizza dough, which is covered in melted chocolate chips, cream and crushed peppermint candies. Dress it up with fresh mint for a pop of color just before slicing.

A yule log is always a festive holiday dessert, but few home bakers feel up to the task of making one themselves! Follow this recipe to create a maple-flavored cake that you won’t be able to resist trying your hand at. Rolling the cooked cake can take some practice, so go slow — and don’t be afraid to hide your missteps with frosting.

What’s better than holiday baking? Not baking. You don’t even need to turn the oven on to create these family favorite no-bake cheesecake bars.

Joy Bauer's Mini Cheesecakes

The holidays are a decadent time of year, and sometimes micro-desserts are the best type. These bite-sized cheesecakes featuring part-skim ricotta are easy to enjoy after a big meal and can be topped however you like. Freeze extras for a sweet treat come January.

Dylan's Pistachio Cake

This bright green cake recipe dates back to the 1970s, and its retro appearance is all part of the charm. The recipe comes together with a few basic store-bought ingredients — namely, boxed cake mix and instant pistachio pudding. Add some crushed pistachios to the batter or frosting for a crunchy flare and more flavor.

The Ina Garten Holiday Special Cake

A holiday invite to Ina’s isn’t likely, so go ahead and fake it. This special cake is festive enough to be served as your main Christmas dessert, thanks to its creamy mint chip layers. The from-scratch vanilla cake is so worth the extra work.

Is it magic or is it whipped egg whites? Really, it’s chemistry, but you don’t need a science lab to make this supremely fluffy cake. Garnish with celebratory sprinkles for a fun finish on this crowd-friendly Christmas dessert.

You’ll never believe this cake is plant-based! Vegan chef Chloe Coscarelli’s chocolate cake is what dreams are made of — and it’s 100% dairy-free. Red wine adds a nice depth of flavor and raspberries offer a juicy pop.

Skillet cake is perfect for the holidays because it can bake while you’re dining, chill while you chill and be served right out of the skillet. Prep the batter in advance so all you have to do is bake it once guests arrive. The cranberries on top make it super festive and photogenic to boot.

No-Bake Cannoli Cheesecake

Cannoli are delicious but can be arduous to make for a crowd. This easy cheesecake recipe allows you to enjoy the flavor of cannoli in one sliceable dessert. Better yet, the buttery wafer crust doesn’t need any time in the oven.

Valerie Bertinelli's Sugar-Free Cheesecake

No sugar? No problem. No taste is sacrificed in this sugar-free dessert, which relies on a replacement sweetener to make this dessert worthy of being served on Christmas Day. Add extra fruit on top if you want more sweetness.

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

Gingerbread cake is always welcome, any time of day. It pairs nicely with morning coffee or an end of night refreshing treat. Plus, fresh ginger helps settle your stomach, so really, it’s worth indulging in after a holiday meal. This Bundt looks super festive with its snow-like glaze and edible snowflake garnish.

These soft chocolate cooks are a gift from Lidia herself, and families can have so much fun making and decorating them. Any cookie cutter shape works — or just use the top of a glass to cut rounds that are ready for icing. Add some edible glitter on top for an extra sheen.

Maple Cheesecake Bars

Anything with a graham cracker base is welcome at Christmas — or frankly, any occasion. And these maple bars are no exception. Sour cream and cream cheese add a tanginess to balance out the sweet maple syrup, which creates a nice stickiness infused throughout the treat.

Red Velvet Layer Cake

If anyone’s celebrating a Christmas birthday, this is the cake for them! Milk Bar’s cakes always hit, and the no-frosting look is elegant and easy. Feel free to dye the white icing green for an extra holiday twist with the red cake.

Apple Tarte Tatin with Cranberry Caramel

Christmas in France? Tastes like it! This apple tarte is so beautiful, thanks to a crown of cranberries and gooey caramel drizzled throughout.

Fudgy Brownie Pie

Why choose between brownies and pie for dessert when you can have both in one? This creation combines pre-made pie dough with brownie batter for an easy to execute, and even easier to enjoy Christmas dessert. Don’t be shy with a scoop of ice cream on top of each slice.

This red velvet cake is as classic as it gets. Buttermilk keeps the cake layers moist and a splash of white vinegar balances everything out. If you’re not into artificial red dye, use beet juice to add color.

Chocolate Reindeer Crackers

These chocolate-covered pretzels are so cute! Just warm chocolate in the microwave until melted and get to decorating these tiny reindeer. They’re fun to snack on and fantastic to gift.

Pistachio Icebox Cake

Instant pistachio pudding is the ultimate ingredient for Christmas baking. It’s so verdant, nutty and sweet, and can be used in so many ways. Mixed with Cool Whip, the pudding creates the ideal green icebox cake for the season.

These multi-colored cookies are a project that’s well worth the laborious undertaking. Start by making the cake layers, which are dyed red and green. Then, the cakes are layered with jams to form a cookie and drizzled with chocolate to hold everything together.

Pretzel Kisses

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Pretzel Kisses

Checka Ciammaichelli

They’re super cute, crunchy and have a surprise inside. Any shape of pretzel works for this holiday-ready dessert, and you can swap in your favorite flavor of Hershey’s kiss for variety. Chocolate covered caramels add the extra chewy twist that we can’t get enough of.

It’s festive and it’s fruity! This homemade Dole whip-inspired dessert includes strawberries, raspberries, banana and pineapple for a burst of tropical flavor and swirls of red and white — just like a candy cane. Be sure to have clear cups ready to serve this frozen dessert.

Vanilla Cheesecake Panna Cotta

Panna cotta looks beautiful on a dessert spread, and they’re made in advance, so all the stress is off for the day of serving. The cheesecake-flavored custard is quick and easy to make, and most of the work happens while the small cups are set in the fridge. Top with pomegranate arils or other fruit just before eating,

This multi-purpose cookie dough starts the traditional way — with basic ingredients including mixing butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, all-purpose flour and baking soda. Then, the dough is split into quadrants to create four types of Christmas cookies including spicy hot cocoa and M&M explosion. It’s efficient, thrifty and delicious.

These cookies are like edible hot chocolate, in the best way possible. Melted marshmallows on top add the perfect gooeyness. And to add holiday flavor, crushed peppermint candies can be sprinkled on the marshmallows.

Marbled Peppermint Bark

Peppermint bark is surprisingly easy to master, and makes the best snack, dessert and gift throughout the holiday season. All it takes is melting white chocolate and dark chocolate chips separately, adding some peppermint extract, and then layering the melted chocolates with crushed peppermint candy. The white chocolate can also be dyed for more festive colors.

Once you’ve had homemade marshmallows, you may never go back. And these marshmallows are the perfect use for leftover candy canes, which are always somehow lying around. Eat them solo, top of a hot cocoa or smash this chocolate-covered treat between two cookies.

Homemade cinnamon rolls are a multi-hour project, but the results are well worth it. Not to mention the warm, fragrant aroma that fills the house as they bake. Be patient as the rolls cool slightly before icing, or else it will melt too much.

No-Bake Grasshopper Pie

Mint chip anything is always a good idea, and this pie fits the bill. Chocolate sandwich cookies are crushed and mixed with melted butter to create the crust for the pie. Fill with a fluffy mint cream made with cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and chopped chocolate, then top with a few dollops of whipped cream.

These truffles are better than a box of store-bought chocolates! They start with a homemade red velvet sheet cake, which is then rolled into balls in red velvet “sand” and coated with melted white chocolate for a festive bite-sized treat.

Mississippi Mud Brownies

These brownies are made completely from scratch and level up with a range of fillings and toppings. Pecans in the batter add crunch and mini marshmallows add sweet softness. On top, a decadent cocoa frosting pulls it all together.

Easy Chocolate Mousse Pie

Erin Jeanne McDowell is a pie queen, and if she says this easy recipe is worth making, do it. This chocolate pie only takes about 20 minutes to prep and uses cream cheese in the filling for richness. Whipped cream on top, and maybe some maraschino cherries, give this fluffy pie a nostalgic spin.

Stale croissants and cinnamon raisin bread live their best life in this dessert. Chocolate syrup is drizzled through the entire dish, which is topped with crisp pecan crumble. The bourbon whipped cream isn’t boozy, but has a distinct oaky flavor to tie each bite together.

Made on special occasions like Diwali, this Indian dessert is just as suitable for Christmas, too. The method is simple: Soaked coconut is cooked with condensed milk and topped with pistachio to form a soft bark. It looks festive and keeps well in the fridge for days.

French Silk Pie

Is it French? Non. But it’s smooth as silk and an American classic all year round. Homemade mousse isn’t too sweet, which is why we love it. Of course, it’s not complete without whipped cream and extra shaved chocolate on top.


Named after polvo, the Spanish word for dust, these polvorones are coated in a layer of powdered sugar that help them earn their name. Just like little snowballs on a plate, these crumbly cookies are made with ground nuts for earthiness and crunch. Shaking the baked cookies in powdered sugar is the best part and definitely a kid-friendly technique.

Buttery, flaky croissants create the base for a decadent bread pudding that can be served for brunch or dessert. Heavy cream melds everything together, and chopped pecans add crunch. Extra chocolate is always a good idea so don’t be shy as you mix it into this baked dessert.

Candy Cane Cookies

They look like candy canes but they taste like cookies! These fun twisty sugar cookies can be a fun wintery afternoon project, and look adorable in any cookie box or table scape. Skip the powdered sugar coating for a slightly less sweet indulgence.

Cornflakes aren’t just for breakfast. And they certainly belong in these soft viral cookies created by Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi. Chocolate chips and peppermint add a festive flare to these cookies that are very hard to stop snacking on. You’ve been warned.

No shortcuts here — these scratch-made chocolate brownies and icing will earn you brownie points among your loved ones and they’re not too tricky to perfect. Coconut flakes add a snowy ambiance to each slice, while a red-tinted peppermint buttercream piped on top makes this dessert decidedly Christmas.

Buttermilk Pie

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Buttermilk Pie

B.J. Chester-Tamayo

Everything about this pie is rich and buttery, from the crust to the buttermilk filling. Freshly squeezed lemon juice cuts through the creamy custard. It’s an old-fashioned recipe that still belongs on the table today.

Christmas desserts don’t have to be too heavy or arduous to make. These lemon cookies are light and refreshing, and the wreath decoration is so beautiful. Sugared rosemary or thyme looks so nice on these cookies, so don’t be surprised when your friends start calling you Martha.

This dessert is so packed with seasonal fruit including fresh or frozen cranberries and Granny Smith apples, plus plenty of warm spices. . Served warm, this crumble is even better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. It’s also perfectly acceptable as a breakfast during the holiday season.

Holiday Pie Trifle

Unlike Rachel Greene’s infamous trifle, this stacked holiday pie dessert is delicious (no peas necessary). It’s a genius way to reimagine leftover pie too. You’ll layer pie pieces with pieces of other desserts such as brownies or cookies with whipped cream layers between. Easy as pie!

These homemade chocolate bars will make your whole holiday table shimmer. Freeze dried strawberries and crushed pistachios add a festive bejeweled element to the chocolatey treat. Salted pretzels add an extra crunch and offset some of the sweetness.

Peppermint-Hot Cocoa Cookies

Dip these cocoa cookies into a steamy mug of hot cocoa for double the chocolate flavor. Peppermint extract is added to the cookie dough, and crushed candy canes are sprinkled on top for extra minty flavor. The melted marshmallows on top add a fun twist that is reminiscent of the staple winter drink. .

Best Chocolate Mousse

Now’s the time to make chocolate mousse from scratch. It’s not hard to make as you might think, and makes a sweet addition to the dessert table at holiday celebrations. Instant espresso powder mellows out all the sweetness and boosts the cocoa flavor.

Classic Chess Pie

This Southern custard pie known as chess pie is a year-round staple. Pre-made crust is totally acceptable with this one, since it’s all about the filling (but if you want to make your own, we’ve got a recipe). Sugar, butter, eggs and milk come together with a few more ingredients to create a bouncy, creamy custard.

Gingerbread Spiced Popcorn

Holiday movie night just got better. Adding gingerbread spice to freshly popped popcorn is a quick and easy way to make this snack more festive. Keep some extra gingerbread spice blend on hand for more holiday kitchen projects such as pancakes and muffins.

Apple Galette

Think of this rustic French-style dessert as a hack to making impressive homemade apple pie. A simple crust is filled with sliced apples, plus a bit of cinnamon and butter, and then baked open faced for about an hour. Low mess, low stress, completely delicious.

Fruit can simultaneously be a healthy and indulgent dessert. And pears look so festive and pretty with minimal effort. Make sure to use firm pears for recipe success.

Apple Cider Doughnuts

There isn’t much better than a warm apple cider doughnut — that is, unless it's a homemade apple cider doughnut. These autumnal treats fill kitchens with a rich cinnamon sugar flavor. Enjoy them for dessert, breakfast or any time of day.

Store-bought white cake mix and sugar cookie mix are the workhorses in this dessert that’s a mash-up of two classic Christmas desserts. A homemade cream cheese frosting is piped on top for an elegant finish.Donut Snowballs snowballs melt in your mouth. They’re essentially deep fried hot chocolate, rolled in powdered sugar. Perfect for a snow day!

Leftover apple cider doughnuts don’t exist, so make or buy a double batch so that you can prepare this bread pudding. Cubed doughnuts soak up cream with cinnamon and more spices, then bake together to create a rich, custardy pudding. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.


Bomboloni — aka Italian doughnuts — are a year-round treat that are perfect for serving during Christmastime. A variety of fillings such as fruit jam and nutella can be piped in the fried dough for a plump, sweet bite. These filled doughnuts can also double as sufganiyot for Hanukkah!

Pear and Brie Tarts

These tarts are so beautiful and can be served as an anytime treat alongside a savory charcuterie board. Sharp cheeses, like cheddar and funky bleu, also pair well with pear and brie. This recipe can also be baked in individual ramekins or small bowls for a fun serving.

These cookies look great when they’re decorated uniformly, creating a mesmerizing tree forest. Follow Martha’s quick from-scratch butter cookie recipe, which you’ll then roll out and cut into evergreen tree shapes. Adorn each cookie with melted white chocolate and red sprinkles.

Sheet-Pan Tiramisu

When tiramisu is served, you’re sure to get compliments. Created with premade lady fingers and a mascarpone cream, this boozy treat is all about the layers. Prepare it at least an hour before serving for the best setting and absorption of all ingredients.

The Cherpumple

Kind of a Frankenfood, the newly created Cherpumple will be the talking piece of any holiday table. Stack three pies — cherry, pumpkin and apple — plus three different flavors of cream cheese frosting for a mile-high delight.

Ugly Cupcake Christmas Sweater

Forget wearing an ugly sweater — now’s your chance to create an edible one. More than two dozen decorated cupcakes are laid out in the shape of a sweater, which makes them easy to grab and totally photo-worthy. Use whatever sprinkles and colored buttercream speaks to you for the so-called ugly pattern.

Add some tropical flavor to the holiday dessert spread with coconut and rum. A key to success in this crumble is just gently cooking the pears, so they retain some crunch and texture. Apples or Asian pears also work as the fruit base.

This homemade bark stars pomegranate arils and candied ginger for pops of holiday flavor and flair. The treat not only tastes delicious but is beautiful to look at, so package it up as gifts.

Martha Stewart's Chai Snowballs

Inspired by Mexican wedding cookies, these snowballs start with a homemade blend of crushed tea leaves and chai spices. Then, an almond- and butter-based cookie dough is rolled and baked into balls. Finally, everything is coated in powdered sugar for a wintery sweet and spicy treat.

Mini S'mores Pies

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Mini S'mores Pies

Maya-Camille Broussard

Sometimes a small pie is the best pie, because you can make it all for yourself. These mini pies can be baked individually in ramekins or in a small 6” pie tin for petite serving sizes. Large or mini marshmallows work well to finish off this campfire-reminiscent treat.

Salted Caramel Cannoli Dip

Skip the steps of individually filling a batch of cannoli and make this fun, super shareable dip instead. This ricotta and cream cheese mixture is sweetened and studded with chocolate chips and pistachios, plus homemade salted caramel on top for extra holiday flare. Pretzels, broken cannoli shells, strawberries and more all work well to scoop up the creamy dip.

Pumpkin Bars

Pumpkin certainly doesn’t have to be basic (and if you want it to be, that’s okay too). These pumpkin bars are made with an entire can of pumpkin purée, plus plenty of spices, and are then frosted with homemade cream cheese frosting. Adorn the bars with chopped walnuts for flare.

Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Two desserts meld into one in this treat that follows the theory that everything tastes better in the form of a cheesecake. A basic graham cracker crust is filled with the light whipped cream cheese filling, then everything is topped with gooey, buttery pecans.

Siri Daly's Dark Chocolate-Mint Brownies

These layered brownies combine the best holiday flavors. Start with a homemade brownie layer, then top it off with peppermint icing, chocolate glaze and crushed peppermint candies.

Al's Sticky Toffee Pudding

Somehow, that second dessert stomach always comes out for sticky toffee pudding, even after a hearty feast. The batter is baked in small ramekins for easy individual servings. Drizzle homemade or store-bought caramel sauce top and serve with a glass of eggnog, which echoes the winter spices in this warm pudding.

Desserts made with phyllo dough always look so festive and hardly require any effort. These roll-ups are filled with plenty of wintery spices such as cinnamon, mace, ginger and orange zest, plus diced pears and chopped nuts. The homemade chocolate dip may just be a new staple for everything dippable, from pretzel rods to candy canes.

A few baking hacks help make these simple cookies an easy success. Let the butter soften to room temperature at the same time as the eggs to ensure that they incorporate evenly into the dough. Once the cookies are baked, allow them to cool completely before frosting.

Maple Cream Pie

Crumbled vanilla wafers and gingersnap cookies make the best crust. Sour cream or Greek yogurt add a bit of tang to the maple syrup filling, while extra whipped cream on top brings everything together.