Make the Holidays Sweet
Food and Drink

Make the Holidays Sweet

Time to break out your inner Martha Stewart or Betty Crocker! Here’s a few festive desserts to get your sweet tooth grooving and in the holiday spirit!

Five Minute Chocolate Mousse

Recipe and photo courtesy of Chef Sally Cameron,

"Chocolatey, rich and super easy! This delightful treat will serve a crowd. Easily cut it in half for smaller gatherings!"

Serves: about 16 large 4-oz. servings


48 oz. (3 pints) cold heavy whipping cream (the higher the fat the better)

1 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

8 oz. whipping cream, whipped, for garnish

Raspberries or strawberries, for garnish

Chocolate sprinkles, for garnish, optional

Mint leaves, for garnish, optional

2-18″ disposable piping bags and wide star tips, optional

Place cold heavy whipping cream in a standing mixer fitted with the whip attachment. On a piece of wax paper or parchment, sift the cocoa powder and powdered sugar together to eliminate any lumps. Using parchment as a funnel, pour cocoa powder-sugar mix into the mixer. 

On low speed, begin to mix the mousse. Start on low or you will be wearing the cocoa powder. Whip the cream until powder starts to incorporate, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. As the mousse starts to smooth out, add the vanilla and increase speed to high. Whip the mousse until stiff. 

Place mousse in 18″ disposable bags fitted with a wide star tip. Twist top and close with a rubber band. Refrigerate until serving time. 

When ready to serve, snip off point of piping bag and pipe into vessel of choice. Garnish with plain or sweetened whipped cream and berries.

To serve, spoon or pipe the mousse into martini glasses, brandy snifters or stemmed wine glasses. For an over-the-top presentation that your guests will delight over, pipe the mousse into purchased chocolate shells. From bite-sized to small bowl sized, they make an elegant presentation. Garnish with berries, whipped cream and fresh mint for more flavor and color; a treat for the eye as well as the palate.  

Coffee Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

Recipe and photo courtesy of Diane Williams (

"A wonderful coffee overtone topped off with a delicious hint of salted caramel in a beautiful and rich frosting."

Prep: 40 minutes Cook: 20 minutes Serves: 12


3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chilled strong coffee (I brewed French roast)

12 chocolate-covered espresso beans (garnish)



1/2 cup salted butter, room temperature

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup salted caramel sauce + enough to drizzle over the top

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the softened butter and granulated sugar until thoroughly combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating between each until mixed. Add the vanilla extract and mix thoroughly.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and 1/8 of the chilled coffee to the liquid mixture, mixing well. Continue alternating the flour and the coffee, until everything is mixed well. Taste the batter and add more coffee, depending on how strong you would like your cupcakes to taste.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full of the batter. Place them in the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove and let cool.

For the FrostingCream the softened butter for 3 to 5 minutes until it is light and fluffy. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, mixing well between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the salted caramel and thoroughly blend. The frosting should be thick, but light and airy. Place the frosting in a piping bag, and pipe frosting onto the cooled cupcakes. Place the remaining salted caramel sauce in a piping bag with a small circle tip, and drizzle slowly over the frosting. Top each with a chocolate-covered espresso bean.

Caramelized Garlic & Ricotta Custard

Excerpted from VANILLA TABLE, The essence of exquisite cooking from the world’s best chefs by Natasha MacAller (Jacqui Small LLP). Text © Natasha MacAller 2013, Photography © Manja Wachsmuth, 2013.

"Some of the most memorable moments of the LA production of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ happened backstage. Long before ‘Food TV,’ the cast, crew and orchestra often held cooking competitions, one of which produced a cookbook, Fun With Garlic! I created a garlic, ricotta and vanilla custard that is surprisingly easy to make. Delicate and savory, this custard can be made ahead of time and is sublime paired with a glass of creamy Champagne."

Natasha MacAller
Serves: 6


Caramelized Garlic:

6 caramelized cloves of garlic

2 teaspoons oil 


Custard Cups:

Butter to grease cups, about 1 teaspoon

1 vanilla pod

1 tablespoon applesauce or ¼ apple, peeled and grated

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

3 large eggs

1/2 cup ricotta

1/4 cup Parmesan, finely grated

Pinch of ground nutmeg

To Caramelize the Garlic: preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut top of garlic head to expose cloves. Peel away just the outer layer of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves. Wrap loosely in foil and drizzle over the oil. Pinch the foil closed at the top, place in a baking pan and cook in oven for 30 – 35 minutes until squishy, caramelized and golden brown.

For the Custard Cups: butter 6 small, 4-ounce custard cups. Set inside a baking dish large enough to hold the cups. Cut the vanilla pod in half but don’t split and scrape it, to keep the custard ivory colored. Squeeze 6 caramelized garlic cloves into a saucepan and add applesauce, vanilla pod, cream, milk, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring just to a simmer, turn off heat and cool about 20 minutes.

Turn the oven to 325°F.

In a large pitcher, whisk the eggs well, add the ricotta. Place a strainer over the pitcher and strain the milk mixture into the eggs, pressing the garlic through with the back of a spoon. Discard the vanilla pod or rinse, dry and save for another use. Add Parmesan, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and whisk together.

Pour custard into cups. Lift pan into the oven, then fill with very hot water to come halfway up the outside of the cups. Bake for 20 minutes until custard has browned and set but is still jiggly in the center. Serve warm.

Grasshopper Pie

Excerpted from COOK’S COUNTRY EATS LOCAL: 150 Regional Recipes You Should Be Making No Matter Where You Live. Copyright 2015 by the Editors at America’s Test Kitchen.

"Some of the most memorable moments of the LA production of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ happened backstage. Long before ‘Food TV,’ the cast, crew and orchestra often held cooking competitions, one of which produced a cookbook, Fun With Garlic! I created a garlic, ricotta and vanilla custard that is surprisingly easy to make. Delicate and savory, this custard can be made ahead of time and is sublime paired with a glass of creamy Champagne."

Natasha MacAller
Serves: 8


For the crust:

16 Mint Creme Oreo cookies (with filling), broken into rough pieces

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled


For the filling:

3 large egg yolks

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch salt

2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

1/4 cup green crème de menthe

1/4 cup white crème de cacao

Shaved chocolate curls, optional

For the Crust:  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F. Process cookies in food processor to fine crumbs, about 45 seconds. Transfer to bowl, drizzle with butter, and toss. Press crumbs evenly into bottom and sides of 9-inch pie plate and refrigerate crust until firm, about 20 minutes. Bake until set, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely on wire rack.

For the Filling:  Beat egg yolks in medium bowl. Combine ½ cup cream, sugar, and salt in medium saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin over cream mixture and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Cook over medium heat until gelatin dissolves and mixture is very hot but not boiling, about 2 minutes. Whisking vigorously, slowly add gelatin mixture to egg yolks. Return mixture to saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add crème de menthe and crème de cacao. Pour into clean bowl and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until filling is wobbly but not set, about 20 minutes.

Using a stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip remaining 1½ cups cream until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. Whisk 1 cup whipped cream into gelatin mixture until completely incorporated. Using rubber spatula, fold gelatin mixture into remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Scrape mixture into cooled pie shell, smooth top, and refrigerate until firm, at least 6 hours or preferably overnight. (Pie will keep tightly wrapped in refrigerator for up to 2 days.) Serve, topped with chocolate curls if using.

Mess-Free Crumb Crust

While it’s easier to put together a crumb crust than to roll out traditional pie dough, that doesn’t mean that crumb crusts are problem-free. The crust can be crumbly and loose, and it often sticks to everything but the pie plate. Here’s how to make even, mess-free crumb crusts every time.

Distribute and press: Use hands to distribute crumbs in even layer over bottom and up sides of pie plate. Press down lightly.

Smooth into pan: Place plastic wrap on top of crust then run back of spoon over crumbs, smoothing them into bottom, curves, and sides of pan.

Chocolate curls: You’ll need a block (not bar) of chocolate—semisweet and bittersweet both work well—that’s at least 1 inch thick. Soften chocolate by microwaving on lowest power setting for 1 minute.  It should soften, not melt. Run blade of vegetable peeler along width of the softened chocolate, creating curl.

Kringle Danish Pastry

Excerpted from COOK’S COUNTRY EATS LOCAL: 150 Regional Recipes You Should Be Making No Matter Where You Live. Copyright 2015 by the Editors at America’s Test Kitchen; Photo: © Keller + Keller 2015

"Wisconsin’s prized beers and dairy are no secret, but in the city of Racine, kringle–a buttery, flaky, oval-shaped Danish pastry–is king. There, bakers follow traditional kringle-making to the letter, spending three days folding, refolding, chilling, and relaxing the delicate dough. "

—The Editors at American’s Test Kitchen
Makes: 2 Serves: 16


For the filling:

1 cup pecans, toasted

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled


For the dough:

4 cups all-purpose flour

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups sour cream

1–2 tablespoons ice water (optional)

1 large egg, lightly beaten


For the glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons whole or low-fat milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling: Process pecans, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in food processor until pecans are coarsely ground, about 5 seconds. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 9 pulses. Transfer to bowl.

For the dough: Add flour, butter, shortening, sugar, yeast and salt to now-empty food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, 15 to 20 pulses. Transfer to bowl and stir in sour cream until dough forms. (If dough appears shaggy and dry, stir in up to 2 tablespoons ice water as needed.) Turn out dough onto lightly floured counter and divide in half. Pat each piece of dough into 7 by 3-inch rectangle and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes, then freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll 1 piece of dough into 28 by 5-inch rectangle on lightly floured counter, about ¼-inch thick. Leaving ½-inch border around bottom and side edges, cover bottom half of strip with half of filling. Brush edge of uncovered dough with water, fold dough over filling, and pinch seams closed. Shape folded dough into oval, tuck 1 end inside other, and pinch to seal. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Transfer to prepared sheets, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours.

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350°F. Remove plastic, brush kringles with egg, and bake until golden brown, 40 to 50 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Transfer kringles to wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes.

For the glaze: Whisk sugar, milk and vanilla in bowl until smooth. Drizzle glaze over kringles and let set for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Kringles can be stored at room temperature for 2 days.)