My mother refuses to go to a restaurant for brunch or dinner on Mother’s Day. Brunch because she doesn’t eat breakfast, ever, and also because she doesn’t like crowds. We all know that Mother’s Day brunch is the restaurant industry’s busiest, i.e., most crowded, service of the year. And no dinner out because she really prefers the leisure and intimacy of eating at home — not feeling rushed to give the table to whomever is waiting and also having her daughter cook for her. What really rocks her boat is dessert. Give her a hot dog or something equally mundane and she’ll happily take it, so long as there is a fabulous dessert at the end of the meal. If you identify with my mom on any level, read on. These desserts are some of the best in our recipe archives. Any of them will delight a dessert lover.
These rich cream cheese squares are brightened by a generous amount of orange zest.
Time1 hour 10 minutes
YieldsMakes 2 dozen
Sort of like cheesecake but decidedly not cheesecake, you may want to stash a few Butter Cake Squares in a safe place before presenting them to your guests. All that you serve will be eaten, for sure. Yes, they are made with cream cheese but the cheesy portion is lighter and creamier than cheesecake. In place of a graham cracker crust, the creamy, citrus-y upper layer rests on a chewy, buttery cake-like crust that, while baking, creeps up the sides of the pan to cradle the gooey filling. These treats are as much about texture as they are about flavor, both of which exceed expectations every time.
Like a fancy Fig Newton, honey and fig jam fills rye cake layers in this dessert frosted in brown butter icing.
Time2 hours, plus 1 hour chilling
A tribute to both figs and Fig Newtons, this cake is sort of a giant fig bar. It features jammy figs sweetened with honey sandwiched between the cake’s two cake layers (made with rye flour) and some of those same figs, pureed with a generous hit of lemon juice to make a tart sauce that tops the assembled cake. There’s a brown butter frosting in there (beneath said sauce), which adds a nutty flavor to complement both the rye flour in the cake and the honey in the figs. This versatile cake works well for breakfast, as a dessert or as an afternoon snack.
Packed with carrots, this cake is simple to make vegan without sacrificing its original deliciousness.
Time1 hour 20 minutes
YieldsServes 8 to 12
Go ahead, embrace the fantasy that because it is made with vegetables carrot cake is healthy. While you’re at it, consider this one “healthier” than most because it is completely vegan. Bananas are used instead of eggs, oat milk instead of cow milk and shortening in place of butter. It also calls for whole wheat flour instead of some of the all-purpose flour. And, yes, all of that wholesome goodness is quite delicious.
Serve these molten chocolate cakes on date night or Valentine’s Day with vanilla ice cream and, if you’d like, a chocolate wafer to impress.
More than 30 years ago, on a busy night at chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s eponymous restaurant, Jean‑Georges in New York, the chocolate sponge cake wasn’t quite baked all the way through. The diners loved it. While his wasn’t the first molten chocolate cake to hit dessert plates, because it is so easy, the recipe for this one is likely copied more than any other in the United States. With just five ingredients and 30 minutes you can serve it up at your table too. Whoever is there with you will thank you.
Tart, early-season strawberries replace cherries in this creamy, chocolaty pie.
A riff on Black Forest cake, this pie is almost like two or three desserts in one (depending on what you count as dessert). Chocolate pudding is sandwiched between a layer of strawberries beneath and one of cream above (set with cornstarch and gelatin so that it slices neatly with the other two layers). All sit neatly in a chocolate graham cracker crust. It’s almost like deconstructed chocolate-dipped strawberries. Almost. And even more delicious.