Good or bad, the holidays are one of the sweetest times of the year. Candy canes, chocolates, and gingerbread are everywhere! Luckily, we’ve found some desserts that are beautiful enough for your guests to give in to temptation (and hopefully not leave too many leftovers).

Gingerbread Trifles

Photo from Delish.com

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 c. heavy cream, very cold
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 boxes vanilla pudding mix, prepared according to package instructions
  • 2 c. caramel sauce
  • 2 c. crushed gingerbread cookies
  • 8 whole gingerbread cookies
DIRECTIONS
  1. Make whipped cream. Combine heavy cream, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a large bowl. Beat on high until stiff peaks form.
  2. Crumble gingerbread into the bottom of a trifle dish. Pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the gingerbread. Drizzle caramel on top then add a layer of whipped topping. Line the sides of the trifle dish with whole gingerbread cookies. Repeat with the remaining gingerbread, pudding, and whipped topping. Sprinkle of the top with crushed gingerbread cookies, if desired.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours or up to overnight.

Cheesecake Cookies

Photo from delish.com

INGREDIENTS
  • Cooking spray, for pan
  • 1 16.5-oz. tube sugar cookie dough
  • 1/2 c. cinnamon sugar
  • 6 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 oz. cool whip
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and grease two 12-cup muffin with cooking spray. Slice the cookie dough into 20 portions, then press each disc of dough into a muffin cup, patting the sides down gently to form a well.
  2. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden.
  3. As soon as they’re out, use a shot glass (sprayed with cooking spray) to gently press down the center of each cookie. Set tray aside to cool for at least 20 minutes. Remove from baking tray to cool completely on wire rack.
  4. Meanwhile, make cheesecake filling. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth. Gently fold in Cool Whip.
  5. Spoon filling into cooled cookie cups, smoothing the top with an offset spatula and serve.

Mini Eggnog Cheesecakes

Photo from The Baker Upstairs

INGREDIENTS
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/3 c. eggnog
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 Pinch salt
  • 12 gingersnap cookies
  • Whipped cream, for serving
  • Caramel sauce, for serving
DIRECTIONS
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin cups with paper liners.
  2. Place a gingersnap cookie at the bottom of each cup.
  3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until evenly combined.
  4. Add eggnog and vanilla. Stir until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until just blended. Spoon into muffin cups.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes or until centers are almost set. They may jiggle slightly in the center. Refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. Remove cheesecakes from muffin pan and discard paper liners.
  6. Dollop whipped cream onto each cheesecake and drizzle with caramel sauce.

Chocolate-Strawberry Thumbprints

Photo from Martha Stewart.com

INGREDIENTS
DIRECTIONS
  • Sift flour, cocoa, and salt into a bowl; set aside. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring until smooth; set aside to cool.
  • Put butter and 1/4 cup granulated sugar into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in yolk, vanilla, and chocolate. Reduce speed to low. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. Refrigerate, covered, 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 6 teaspoons granulated sugar into a small bowl. Form dough into 3/4-inch balls; roll in sugar to coat. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Press center of each ball with your thumb. Bake 10 minutes. Press centers again with end of a wooden spoon, making 3/4-inch indentations. Bake until slightly cracked and set, about 5 minutes more. Cool completely on racks.
  • Stir cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Toss berries with remaining 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar in another bowl. Spoon cream cheese mixture into center of cookies; top with sugared berries, dividing evenly.

Nutella–Brown Butter Crispies

Photo from Bon Appetit.com

INGREDIENTS
  •  ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 2 10.5-ounce bags mini marshmallows
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1¾ cups Nutella
  • 12 cups puffed rice cereal, divided (from one 12-ounce box)
  • 1 1.2-ounce bag freeze-dried strawberries or raspberries (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon red luster dust (optional)
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
RECIPE PREPARATION
  • Lightly butter a 13×9″ baking dish, then line with parchment paper, leaving a 2″ overhang on long sides. Lightly butter parchment. Cook ¾ cup butter in a large pot over medium heat, swirling, until butter foams, then browns (be careful not to let it burn), 5–7 minutes. Add marshmallows and salt. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes. Add Nutella and stir until completely incorporated into marshmallow mixture, about 2 minutes.
  • Remove pot from heat and add half of puffed rice to marshmallow mixture; stir with a non-flexible heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, scraping bottom of pot and folding, until cereal is coated. Add remaining cereal and fold until mixture is homogenous. (It’s a lot of cereal, so you’ll need to exert some effort.) If mixture is too stiff, heat over low while continuing to fold in cereal. Scrape into prepared pan; let cool slightly, then cover with a sheet of parchment paper. Press down firmly to make an even, compact layer (you want the top to be as flat as possible; a smaller pan, like a loaf or an 8×8″ pan, works great for this). Cover crispies loosely with plastic and let sit until cool, about 2 hours.
  • Just before serving, using parchment paper overhang, lift crispies out of pan and place upside down on a cutting board; remove parchment. Using a serrated knife, trim about ½” from all sides to make a squared-off rectangle, then cut into a 6×4 grid to make 24 squares. Place crispies on a wire rack, spacing at least 1″ apart.
  • To make half the crispies red, if desired, pulse freeze-dried strawberries in a food processor until finely ground; add luster dust and pulse just to combine. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust 12 squares with strawberry powder, then, using a dry, clean sieve, dust remaining 12 squares with powdered sugar. Or feel free to dust all 24 squares with powdered sugar instead.
  • Do Ahead: Crispies can be made 1 day ahead. Leave in pan. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature. Cut into squares and coat just before serving.

Lime Custards with Lychees

Photo from Bon Appetit.com

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 limes, zest removed in wide strips, plus finely grated zest for serving
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2½ cups heavy cream, divided
  • ⅓ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 15-ounce can lychees, drained
RECIPE PREPARATION
  • Bring wide strips of lime zest, salt, ½ cup sugar, and 2 cups cream to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, swirling pan occasionally and being careful not to let mixture boil over, until cream is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring glass; divide among 4 small glasses, bowls, or 8-oz. ramekins. Chill until custards are no longer warm, about 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and continue to chill until set, at least 2 hours.
  • Just before serving, whisk remaining ½ cup cream in a small bowl to soft peaks; whisk in remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar.
  • Top each custard with dollops of cream, a few lychees (you may have a few left over), and some finely grated lime zest.
  • Do Ahead: Custards can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.