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Favorite dessert recipes from The Perfect Pantry

Still working on your holiday menu? I've finished mine. Almost. All this week, we're bringing you our favorite mains, sides and desserts, made with ingredients in The Perfect Pantry.

Rum raisin pear pie

Dessert intimidates me.

No matter what you put on the holiday table, no matter how perfect the appetizers, how bronzed the turkey, how luscious and over-the-top and just plain numerous the side dishes, what people remember is what they ate last.

Dessert. My nemesis.

If it were up to me, my guests would be dipping grapes into bowls of ice water, in the Italian fashion, or enjoying a cheese plate, in the French style. But I'm a realist. I know that, however counterintuitive it seems, people expect a rich dessert at the end of a rich meal.

I'm determined to make that happen, with help from ingredients in my pantry.

Lemon cake

I always have a bowl of lemons sitting on the counter, and to me, nothing puts a meal in balance like lemon. This lemon tea cake can be baked and frozen well in advance. A variation on the lemon theme, Barefoot Contessa's lemon yogurt cake also is a make-ahead treat.

Lemon lime cupcakes

Equally easy to make, these miniature whole wheat lemon-lime cupcakes are a perfect tangy two bites each.

For some families, only pie will do. Rum raisin pear pie (in the top photo), which also can be made with apples, is one of our favorites. Classic pecan pie or pumpkin pie make appearances on many holiday tables, too. Use refrigerated pie crust to make any of these pies quick-and-easy.

Apple spice cake

And then, there are apples. I live in Apple Valley, a part of Rhode Island that used to be all planted in apple orchards, so it would be unthinkable not to have at least one apple dessert on the holiday menu.

Apple spice cake, baked in a loaf, tops the list. Bake it ahead (there's whole wheat flour in your pantry, isn't there?) and hide it deep in the freezer; this cake is so good that you'll want to nibble the whole thing away before it ever gets to the table!

Real estate agents tell you that if you want to sell your house, you should seduce prospective buyers with the aroma of baking cookies or apples, but even if you're not selling, you'll want to bake this apple-pear-cranberry crisp, with a rolled oats topping.

Baked apple

Another delicious apple dessert, granola-filled baked apples, drizzled with agave nectar, can be prepared in advance and baked right before serving. Add some dried cranberries to the granola filling for a real Thanksgiving flair.

Sugar free chocolate cupcakes

Desserts can be sweet without being sugar-filled, so how about a few sugar-free options for your holiday menu?

Sugar-free apple crisp is so good that you'll have a hard time saving leftovers for breakfast the next morning, though you surely will want to set a bit aside. Chocolate is never out of fashion, nor are these sugar-free chocolate cupcakes, made with unsweetened cocoa and Splenda®.

Sweet and salty peanut chocolate chunk cookies

If baking cakes and pies isn't your thing, how about presenting your guests with an assortment of cookies on a gigantic platter? Start with these sweet and salty peanut chocolate chunk cookies; in fact, make a double batch. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

Espresso nut cookies

Then, add some espresso nut cookies, made with instant espresso from the pantry, and a few honey gingerbread cookies. A few chocolate spice cookies, some chewy amaretti cookies, maybe some lemon lavender cookies... well, you get the idea.

Enjoy your holiday dinner!

Previously: favorite turkey and vegetarian main dishes, favorite side dishes.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


These look utterly delicious. I love the photos .. very professional and the sweet and salty chocolate cookies are making me salivate just thinking about them!

Awesome recipes. The lemon-lime cupcakes and the chocolate chunk cookies a must do!!!

Thanks for sharing such wonderful recipes.

Have a blessed day :)

If desserts intimidate you, one would never know it from this terrific assortment. They all look fantastic!

OMG, I should not have looked at this before I'd had breakfast. It doesn't look like making desserts is a problem for you at all. All the desserts are drool-worthy!

For someone who is intimidated by desserts, you do a darn sweet job!

I'm with you, Lydia. I'd rather cook two turkey dinners than tackle any more pies. Let's be rebels and serves grapes instead this year! ;)

Dessert is my favourite! I love making anything sweet. The dishes are so much easier to present and have looking delicious than a main.

I have absolutely no flair when it comes to making mains look spectacular :(

I love the sound of your "rum and raisin pear pie" delicious and the "lemon and lavender cookies" what great flavour combinations.

I'm with you on the desserts. I always feel that if the meal was good enough, who would have room for dessert?

But then you show us this amazing assortment of desserts, and I'm ready to lick the screen!

Vanessa, I'm making those cookies for Thanksgiving, but I can't make them ahead because my husband and I will eat them all. Yes, they are that good.

Mari, I love those little lemon-lime cupcakes. It's just the right amount of palate-cleansing lemon at the end of the meal.

Susan, you're a peach. I could never attempt most of the desserts you make!

Kalyn, I agonize any time I have to make dessert, so I promise that all of these are easy to make.

TW, I'd trade all of these for one of your gorgeous cakes.

Susan, we are on the same wave length. Give me fruit for dessert any time, and I will make the rest of the meal with glee.

Gourmet, I learned that rum raisin pear pie from a man who makes pies every year to deliver to homebound elders. He helped me get over my fear of pies!

Toni, same here. I never have room for dessert, unless it's fruit. And yet, for Thanksgiving, there's no getting around dessert. We all go out for a walk after the main part of the meal, just to make room!

YUM! I now have a sweet tooth! My personal favorite are "lemon-y" things. But of course I never turn down anything with chocolate!

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