pretzel peanut butter chocolate cake

Photo: Joy Wilson

A 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?). The self-taught baker puts a clever twist on the pairing with this showstopping cake. 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
warm chocolate pudding

Photo: Gustavo Andrade/Thinkstock

A Spoonable Treat for When You Need Chocolate...Right. Now.
This pudding—which you can whip up with pantry ingredients including sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, bittersweet chocolate and vanilla extract—is best eaten just five minutes after it comes off the stove, when it's barely set.

Get the recipe: Warm Chocolate Pudding

Photo: Johnny Miller

The Zero-Brainpower Dessert That Only Looks Complex
You can make Jell-O...or you can make Cheesecake Mousse with Blood Orange Gelee. No, really, it's that basic: These individual ramekins filled with creamy cheesecake, an orange slice and blood-orange gelatin make for a stunning presentation, but aren’t complicated to make. Plus, you can prepare them up to three days before serving.

Get the recipe: Cheesecake Mousse with Blood Orange Gelee
unbaked brownies

Photo: Lara Farroni

The Brownies with a Secret Ingredient
If you don't tell anyone that these dark, rich squares are made with dates, they'll probably never know. The truth is, when you puree the pitted, dried fruits in a food processor with cacao powder, walnuts, vanilla extract, water and salt, they turn into a silky and smooth "batter" that's surprisingly brownie-like in texture. A topping made from more cacao and vanilla, plus a little maple syrup, makes an icing-like paste that you spread over the date mixture. There's no cooking necessary; these brownies just need a few hours to chill in the refrigerator.

Get the recipe: The Ultimate Unbaked Brownies
steamed pears


An Unexpected Treatment for a Winter Fruit
We're used to seeing cold-weather fruits, such as apples and plums, roasted, baked and simmered. Steaming, though, is an unexpected way to keep the fruit (in this case, pears) intact while still softening and sweetening it. You cook pears in the steam created by boiling spiced apple cider; once they're tender, you reduce the cider and stir in honey for a sweet sauce.

Get the recipe: Steamed Pears with Asian Flavors
chocolate whirligigs

Photo: Tina Rupp

Cookies with a Delicious Twist
These fun-to-say "whirligig" cookies feature a beloved pairing—peanut butter and chocolate—in the form of a rich, buttery dough slathered with dark chocolate. You roll it up into a log, slice into cookies (so each one has a swirl of chocolate) and bake. They're plenty tasty at room temperature but dangerously addictive when warm.

Get the recipe: Peanut Butter Whirligigs
whiskey walnuts

Photo: Donny Tsang

The Ice-Cream Topper with a Surprise Add-In
Walnuts and maple syrup make a classic, sweet-and-nutty topping that can take any ice cream, from vanilla to cinnamon, to a new level. But we're pretty sure you've never had it with whiskey. The alcohol brings a warm, toasty, honey-like flavor to the sauce that will make you want to spoon it over lots more than just ice cream (for starters: pound cake!).

Get the recipe: Whiskey Walnuts