Cranberry Crackle Tart

Photo: Alan Richardson

The Merry and Bright Showstopper
We know cranberries are the holiday berry, but it's rare to find a dessert in which they truly shine. Enter this stunner from baking guru Dorie Greenspan, whose Baking Chez Moi is one of those cookbooks that will shuttle between your bedside table and your kitchen counter. Even the recipe's name—Cranberry Crackle Tart—is appealing. It starts with a tart crust that you spread with jam. Over that, you heap spoonfuls of marshmallowy meringue (it's just egg whites, salt and sugar) laced with the ruby fruits. Then you bake the tart until the top is light beige and cracked here and there. The combination of buttery crust, sweet jam, pillow-like meringue and tart berries is spectacular.

Get the recipe: Cranberry Crackle Tart
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pretzel Layer Cake

Photo: Joy Wilson

The Cake That Will Make You Never Look at a Pretzel the Same Way Again
Readers of the blog Joy The Baker know that Joy Wilson has a thing for sweet and salty (and really, who doesn't?), but in her book Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence, the self-taught baker puts a clever twist on the pairing. The crunchy salinity of pretzels is just the thing you never knew a rich chocolate cake needed. Salted peanut butter buttercream frosting is more than the icing on the cake—it's the finishing touch that sends this dessert into OMG territory.

Get the recipe: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pretzel Layer Cake
Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake Brownies

Photo: Renee Comet

The Brownie with a Festive Topping That Only Looks Difficult
Even if you've never picked up a pastry bag in your life, you can make the beautiful design atop these cheesecake brownies from the book Extreme Brownies. It's just a raspberry sauce (which consists of the berries, sugar and cornstarch, boiled into a thick puree) that you pour into a resealable plastic sandwich bag and squeeze, in lines, onto the cheesecake layer. Then you pull the tip of a sharp knife through the lines, which creates an impressive-looking rippled effect. Beyond looking great, the sauce also adds a lovely tart edge to the sweet dessert.

Get the recipe: Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake Brownies
Banoffee Pie

Photo: Oof Verschuren

The Dessert That Will Make You a Rock Star
Yvette van Boven, author of the cookbook Home Made Winter, loves to serve this classic English pie—which is actually quite easy to make—to visitors. "It will make them love you even more and you, in turn, will love this recipe even more."

Get the recipe: Banoffee Pie
Pumpkin Mousse with Crunchy Gingersnaps and Maple Creme Fraiche

Photo: Tina Rupp

A Crustless Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin mousse with crunchy gingersnaps is a thrilling departure from the usual pie.

Get the recipe: Pumpkin Mousse with Crunchy Gingersnaps and Maple Crème Fraîche
Old-Fashioned Cranberry Pie

Photo: Alexandra Grablewski

The Apple Pie Alternative
Tart cranberry pie tastes wonderful with a spoonful of plain vanilla ice cream.

Get the recipe: Old-Fashioned Cranberry Pie
Gingerbread with Spiced Honey Butter

Photo: Ditte Isager

A Convincing Argument to Revisit Gingerbread
Even better than the traditional cookies, a slice of gingerbread is a moist, delicious taste of heaven.

Get the recipe: Gingerbread with Spiced Honey Butter
Cream Cheese-Chocolate Chip Cookies


Chocolate Chip Cookies with a Little Something Extra
Salty mix-ins might be all the rage, but for a truly decadent twist on the classic cookie, try cream cheese and a bit of grated orange zest.

Get the recipe: Cream Cheese-Chocolate Chip Cookies
Caramel Cupcakes Recipe

Photo: Kana Okada

The Holiday Cupcakes You Might Make All Year Long
Caramel icing is simple to make, tastes indulgent, and has a gorgeous color. Sprinkle a touch of fleur de sel on top for a delicious salty-sweet counterpoint.

Get the recipe: Caramel Cupcakes
Classic Chocolate Mousse

Photo: Antonis Achilleos

Mousse, Any Way You Like It
You can serve chocolate mousse on its own, or use it to make a soufflé, a cake or a cream-puff filling. And why limit yourself to straight chocolate when you can accent the mousse with mint, orange, coffee or other flavors?

Get the recipe: Classic Chocolate Mousse
Pear Upside-Down Cake

Photo: Luca Trovato

The Back-Pocket Recipe
Upside-down cakes are a cook's secret weapon: easy to make, beautiful to look at and tasty, too boot.

Get the recipe: Pear Upside-Down Cake
Maple Panna Cotta

Photo: Anna Williams

An Autumnal Take on the Italian Classic
This custard dessert requires just four ingredients: buttermilk, unflavored gelatin, heavy cream and maple syrup. Bonus: You can make it a day before serving.

Get the recipe: Maple Panna Cotta
Merlot-Poached Pears with Vanilla-Cinnamon Yogurt

Photo: Anna Williams

The Wow Dessert That's Actually a Cinch to Make
Pears poached in wine are a stunning finale to any holiday meal. Vanilla yogurt with a few shakes of cinnamon swirled in adds visual contrast and tastes delicious, too.

Get the recipe: Merlot-Poached Pears with Vanilla-Cinnamon Yogurt
Bittersweet Chocolate Basil Tart

Photo: Anne Stratton

The "Who-Knew?" Combo
Chocolate and basil work surprisingly well together. Serve this tart with vanilla ice cream or sweet and tangy honey grapefruit sauce.

Get the recipe: Bittersweet Chocolate Basil Tart with Honey Grapefruit Sauce