Once the gifts are purchased and the cards are made, all that's left to complete the ultimate Mother's Day celebration is the food — which, let's face it, may really be the most important thing of all.
Whether the mama bear in your life is all for a serious breakfast in bed spread, prefers sitting around a beautiful table with loved ones for brunch or wants all the attention on a lavish dinner, dessert is key. And honestly, this special occasion is about spoiling, so no one is judging if the family makes cake for breakfast. It is, after all, the most important meal of the day.
Now, finding the right dessert for Mother's Day is an important task. And if you, dear reader, have been tasked with it, it's necessary to first choose the approach. Is Mom someone who appreciates an elaborate cake or does she want something simple and nostalgic? Does she love chocolate? Caramel? Delicate fruits? Warm seasonings? Something sweet and milky? All of the above? Whichever her preference, we've got you covered.
Ready to impress mom to pieces? Take a scroll through our list of decadent, delicious and delightful desserts in honor of the people who are sweet enough to give us life.
Pies, puddings and parfaits
Salty caramel sauce made from heavenly ingredients like brown sugar, cream and vanilla seep into this smooth, gooey pie. With cocoa, espresso, buttermilk and other sweet notes, this pie has a flavor combination no one can resist.
Rhubarb thrives in springtime and adds the perfect sweet, colorful touch to berry crisps. With its vibrant pink stalks cooked into the warm juices of strawberries and a sugary topping, it's a perfect Mother's Day dessert.
This will become a go-to dessert when you have very little time to make anything, but still want to give everyone a treat. These take just 15 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to chill, and you can make them a day ahead.
Straight out of the 1960s, this gelatin dish was a staple at Dylan Dreyer's childhood table, served as a side dish to savory mains. It's ideal for a special occasion and can certainly stand alone as a dessert for moms craving a dose of nostalgia.
This recipe is so easy to assemble, uses any fruit in season and you can flavor it with any liquor you like. It's a light, bright, perfectly portioned way to end a meal.
"This is a Southern staple. Who doesn't like something sweet at the end of the meal? It reminds me of the first time I had it with my mom and sister in New Orleans," says Millie Peartree. "Whether served with pound cake and ice cream or frozen yogurt, it is the perfect closer to any meal."
This torte happily lives up to its billing as one of The New York Times archives' most requested recipes. It's crusty and light, with deep wells of slackened, sugar-glazed plums. It may very well be a nearly perfect recipe. There are only eight ingredients, all of which, except for the plums, you probably already have in your kitchen.
"This recipe just reminds me of family getting together. My grandma makes this, and we eat it as a salad and as a dessert 'cause it's so yummy," says Sheinelle Jones. "The sweet strawberries, tropical pineapple, tangy sour cream and crunchy nuts cover all the flavor and texture bases you want in a great dish."
Key lime pies are an iconic American dessert. But they're not always so easy to make. They've got to be decadent but light, cool and creamy … and this one has it all!
This pudding is incredibly easy and perfect for any event, from an Easter brunch to a summertime cookout. It looks stunning when presented in a footed-glass trifle dish, so everyone can see the lovely layers. The best part? It can be made ahead and refrigerated — and it may be even more delicious the next day.
Mother's Day cakes
Turn a simple box mix into an elegant tiramisu-inspired cake with hints of espresso, chocolate and rum. This cake is frosted naked-style for a trendy rustic dessert that requires no special decorating skills. A finish of chocolate shavings or a dusting of cocoa powder gives it an effortlessly elegant look.
The combination of tart lemon and sweet, dark berries coupled with the rich buttercream frosting make this a refreshing yet decadent dessert. Black currents may not always be easy to get hold of, but blackberries (or frozen mixed berries) will work just was well to get the bright color. When you slice into it, everyone will undoubtedly be impressed.
This is a recipe that Lidia Bastianich's grandmother used to make. It's simple, delicious and can be dressed up in any number of ways — including with poached or sautéed fruit.
Accommodate everyone's dietary needs with this gluten-free carrot cake that's just lightly sweetened and has the perfect amount of spice. To make the recipe vegan, use a blend of chia seeds and flaxseeds instead of eggs to make the batter. For the best appearance and texture, wait to make the frosting until a few hours before serving and frost the cake no more than an hour before serving.
The bold color contrast of rich, deep-red velvet cake layers and frosting make this cake as appealing to look at as it is to eat. Red velvet frosting and chocolate cheesecake frosting make this one of the most indulgent cakes ever. Up the ante even more with chocolate cookie crumbs on top.
This recipe is a deconstruction of the Almond Joy, reassembled in the best possible way. One bite of this cake, coated in a decadent chocolate fudge sauce and adorned in almonds, and you’ll be hooked. It’s the fabulous little candy all grown up.
Coffee is Craig Stone's secret ingredient for making chocolate cake super moist and flavorful. It makes the chocolate taste even more deep and rich. It's also surprisingly easy to prepare and is sure to make a big impression.
Spumoni is an Italian layered dessert that consists of a few flavors of ice cream (often pistachio, strawberry and vanilla to represent the colors of the Italian flag). This version made with sorbet is festive, colorful and above all, tasty and refreshing. It's a good, no-bake cake with some dramatic flair for special occasions in spring and summer.
For chocolate-loving mamas, this cake from Martha Stewart is truly, madly and deeply chocolaty. Pools of rich salted caramel separate layers of chocolate cake, and are then swathed with dark chocolate frosting and sprinkled with flaky salt. Prep the wondrous cake layers and caramel up to three days before assembling (chilling actually improves the texture for stacking), which makes it look effortless.
This one bowl, one-layer carrot cake is the perfect mix-and-bake dessert for novices and skilled bakers alike. It's packed full of flavor from cozy spices like cinnamon and vanilla, and it's also got texture from toasty nuts.
The trick to an utterly delicious macaroon base is to combine the coconut with melted marshmallows before baking. Since marshmallows are a great setting agent, you can use them for the filling, too, so there is no need to bake it again. The zesty lime curd adds just the right amount of tanginess to create a perfectly balanced dessert.
Trisha Yearwood is a big fan of salty and sweet mixed together. "My grandmother Lizzie Paulk often used biscuits in place of pastry in her recipes," she says. "Nowadays, most people use angel food cake or pound cake for this dessert, but I like the old-fashioned mix of the not-so-sweet biscuit with the sweetness of the strawberries and the whipped cream. I serve this dessert in the summer with fresh-picked berries from our local strawberry farm."
This sunny cake takes red velvet from fall to spring with a lemony makeover. It's great for celebrating the warming weather and end of winter. Instead of a stately layer cake this recipe can be turned into 24 cute, individual cupcakes, too.
When you want to capture all the vibrant colors and fresh flavors of spring in every sweet bite, this is the cake to make for Mom. The festive flowers and lemon-scented cake and frosting make it bright, citrusy and delicious.
This cake is a tribute to good ol’-fashioned gooey rolls, soft and full like fluffy pillows, piping hot out of the oven, entwined with ribbons of spiced cinnamon sugar, sticky with dripping cream cheese icing. Imagine a moist pound cake with a buttery cinnamon swirl dancing through the batter like a ballerina. Then, top that with the notorious cream cheese icing cinnamon rolls are known for.
This vanilla-based cake is packed with Greek yogurt to create a moist texture, granola to add texture, and a hint of cinnamon for warm flavor. The cake is most delicious enjoyed warm out of the oven, topped with your favorite fruits and additional yogurt and granola to create a balanced, light cake perfect for breakfast or dessert.
Cookies, bars and other confections
"My husband's favorite way to eat biscuits is with jam and gravy, but mine is in strawberry shortcake," says Joanna Gaines. "This classic doesn't need much of an introduction, but if you've never had sweetened ripe strawberries spooned over soft, buttery biscuits with homemade whipped cream, you're in for a real treat."
During spring and summer, you can bet on an abundance of fresh fruit. Instead of letting extra stone fruits and berries go to waste, put them to use in this delicious tart. The flavors will blend together seamlessly and mom will definitely be impressed.
Meringue clouds are light as air and adding raspberry takes them to another level, both aesthetically and flavor-wise. The berries help balance the meringue, which is basically like crispy sugar, from being too sweet, too.
These soft cookie sandwiches are packed with all the same flavors as a slice of cream cheese-frosted carrot cake in an easy handheld package that's perfect for serving mom as she reclines in bed or on the porch.
With one delicious formula — crunchy cookie base, layered with a flavor center (caramel, peanut butter, jam, marshmallows — you name it!), a crunchy/sandy layer (like small crackers, mini pretzels, anything delicious and crumbly/broken up), chocolate coating and a textural topping (like crushed nuts, candies, etc.) — you can get super creative and dream up a snap that has a personalized flavor story.
If ever there was a day to indulge and be spoiled, it's Mother's Day! Help Mom enjoy the irresistible combination of salty, crunchy chips and bacon pieces and rich, luscious chocolate. Sliced up into brownie bars, these will make the whole family feel grateful to be alive!
Jocelyn Delk Adams loves serving these flowerpot brownies. They can be tailored to any spring gathering, from Easter to birthdays, and are also perfect for Mother's Day, gifted with a pretty plant or adorned with personalized notes of love and gratitude.
Duff Goldman swears by this versatile recipe and it's the one he uses for the blondies at all of his bakeries. They're buttery, sweet and made from just seven easy-to-find ingredients.
These bars are rich, creamy, satisfying and taste better than any store-bought peanut butter cup we've ever had. You can use crushed pretzels instead of graham crackers, if you like. Serve 'em straight from the fridge so they don't get too soft.
"Sure, spending time with family and friends is great, but we all know that one of the best parts of the holidays is eating sweet, butter-laden treats," says Hoda Kotb. "My mom, Sami, always made flaky, nutty, syrupy baklava for special occasions and it remains one of my all-time favorite indulgences."
These uniquely flavored, elegant cookies are astonishingly simple to make and taste truly special. And you can make the dough well in advance and freeze it. Even the baked cookies freeze well. We love a recipe that can be prepped ahead.
Here's a tip: Make a big batch of honey butter biscuits, then use some of them to make egg sandwiches for Mother's Day brunch, and the rest to make strawberry shortcake for dessert. Cook once, eat twice. Genius.