Stunning Holiday Dessert Recipes

From pumpkin cheesecake to bûche de Noël, beautiful desserts to make this holiday season.

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Mocha Yule Log

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A bûche de Noël--a cake decorated like a yule log--is a traditional dessert served around Christmastime in France, Belgium, Canada and some other French-speaking countries. Our recipe, which is just as tasty served cold as it is at room temperature, is lighter than air. The chocolate brown-butter génoise cake made with whole-grain flour is easy to roll up and it's covered with a billowy espresso-spiked 7-minute frosting. We've substituted agave nectar for white sugar in the frosting. It's pretty garnished with meringue mushrooms and sugared rosemary.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap-Walnut Crust

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We pulled out a few of our favorite EatingWell tricks to achieve plenty of creaminess in our pumpkin cheesecake without all the saturated fat of a typical recipe: nutrient-packed canned pumpkin and pureed nonfat cottage cheese replace some of the cream cheese. A touch of pumpkin pie spice warms up the flavor. For the crust, shop the natural-foods section for gingersnaps without any hydrogenated oil. Simple toasted walnuts are an elegant garnish. Or try making candied walnuts. Just be careful not to eat all of them before they make it to the cake!

Chocolate Decadence

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Inspired by the old-school, ultra-rich, mousselike chocolate cake that usually called for a whole pound of chocolate, half a dozen eggs and lots of butter, this enlightened rendition has deep bittersweet chocolate flavor and dense melt-in-your-mouth texture. No one will guess it's healthier. The secret is excellent natural cocoa powder and good-quality bittersweet chocolate, preferably with 70% cacao. Although the cake can be eaten once it's completely cool, it comes out of the pan much easier and even tastes better if it has been chilled at least overnight.

Lemon Pavlova

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This show-stopping dessert is a New Zealand (and Australian) classic reportedly created in honor of the famous ballerina Anna Pavlova when she visited the Southern Hemisphere. Our version delivers a wonderful combination of sweet meringue crunch and velvety tart lemon curd. The meringue is somewhat fragile--expect it to crack and crumble a bit as you slice it into individual servings. For the best results, avoid making the meringue on a humid or rainy day. The extra moisture in the air may prevent it from drying and crisping properly.