Easy Gourmet Holiday Desserts – Honestly

By Marsha Fottler –

gourmet-dessertsHoliday baking is a tradition in most families and the season is here. No time to waste. But, twenty-first century home cooks are generally too busy to spend days tending the oven, digging out those favorite recipes and devoting many hours to turning out good looking and good tasting seasonal treats. We crave recipes that are simple, fast, gorgeous and taste scrumptious. Cookbook author Wendy Paul gets all that and she has produced a book called 101 Gourmet Desserts for the Holidays that delivers the goods. I salute her with my wooden spoon and I’m keeping her book and my mixer on the kitchen counter from now until the first of January. Happily the book is spiral-bound and lays flat on the counter. And nice color photos show me how my finished desserts should look.

I especially appreciate the tips Wendy Paul gives for easy baking. She advises to line your baking sheets and cake pans with parchment paper for faster clean up. Make your cookie dough, cakes and cupcakes ahead of time and freeze. Don’t forget to label the freezer bags. Refrigerate cookie dough (covered) for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Cookies won’t flatten out when baked. To get your cupcakes a uniform size, use a ¼ cup measure. You’ll get equally round tops every time. Also, most cupcake recipes average closer to 18 cupcakes rather than 24.

Here are a few recipes from 101 Gourmet Desserts to get you started before you can get the book. Once you do, you won’t let it out of your sight. Holiday baking just got easier. And that equates to Merry and Bright!


Autumn Pumpkin Cookies

1 cup canned pumpkin

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

3 cups quick oats

1 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix together pumpkin, applesauce, sugar and spice. Combine with dry ingredients and mix until combined. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and cool completely.


Cranberry Cherry Cobbler

cobbler3 cups sweet cherries, pitted and cut

3 cups fresh cranberries

1 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

pinch of salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

2 ½ cups flour

1 cup butter, melted

½ cup milk

1 cup sugar

Toss together the cherries and cranberries with the brown sugar, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon. Pour into a lightly greased 9 x 13 cake pan. In a separate bowl, combine flour, butter, milk and sugar, forming a thick batter. Scoop batter on top of cherry/cranberry layer, covering most. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, until hot and bubbly and the top is slightly golden. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream.


Southern Apple Cake

appleck1 ½ cups vegetable oil

1 ½ cups sugar

3 eggs

2 ¾ cups whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3-4 Granny Smith, chopped with skins

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 recipe Butterscotch Sauce

Beat oil, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Add flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda to the oil mixture and beat on low until combined. Add apple chunks. Add vanilla and mix all until combined. Pour into a 12-cup Bundt pan that has been buttered and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cut the cake and pour sauce over.


Butterscotch Sauce

(great on ice cream too)

½ cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup evaporated milk

pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk together all ingredients. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Pour over warm Southern Apple Cake before serving.


Almond Jelly Thumbprints

ajelly1 ½ cups butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 ½ cups ground almonds

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch salt

2 ¾ – 3 cups flour

1 cup raspberry or strawberry preserves

powdered sugar for dusting

Cream together butter and sugar. Add ground almonds, vanilla, salt and flour. Stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least one hour. This is important. Roll into 1-inch balls. Place a thumbprint in  the middle of each ball and bak on a parchment-lined cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cookies   to cool completely. Place a small spoonful of preserves in the middle of each cookie. Dust with powdered sugar.

(101 Gourmet Desserts for The Holidays by Wendy Paul. Front Table Books, $18.99).


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