3 Easy Shortcuts for Impressive Holiday Desserts

Whip up party-ready treats in a flash using shortcut ingredients from the grocery store. Each idea starts with a ready-made base — such as frozen pound cake or puff pastry — and quickly transforms it into something you’d be proud to serve to guests. That means less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the holidays. Cheers!

Quick Tiramisu

Quick Tiramisu | Photo by Meredith

1. Pound Cake

Start with a simple frozen pound cake, or pick one up from the grocery store bakery. Then add a little of this and a little of that, and you’ll have gorgeous desserts in minutes.

Quick Tiramisu
Slice pound cake into 1-inch thick slices. Line a large glass bowl with half of the cake. Combine ¾ cup espresso and ½ cup coffee liquor; drizzle half over cake. Combine eight ounces mascarpone cheese, ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, and one pint whipped cream. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over cake and repeat layering, finish with the mascarpone. Dust with cocoa powder.

Pound Cake a la Mode
Heat three peeled and sliced apples in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in three tablespoons butter, ¼ cup brown sugar, two tablespoons lemon juice, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 cup apple cider; cook until reduced by half. Layer 2 slices of cake on dessert plates and top with a scoop of rum raisin ice cream and warm apple topping.

Chocolate Fondue
Cut half of a frozen pound cake into bite-sized cubes. You’ll also need 24 strawberries, four sliced bananas, and two sectioned oranges. Divide fruit and cake onto plates. Place two bowls of warmed chocolate sauce on the table and dip in!


Find the perfect Pound Cake Recipe


2. Frozen Puff Pastry

Frozen puff pastry shells or cups are an absolute must for super-quick desserts that look like a million bucks. Begin by baking the pastry according to the package directions, then try these ideas.

No-bake Cheesecake

Whip together 16 ounces cream cheese, one teaspoon vanilla, and ¼ cup sugar until creamy. Warm 1 cup raspberry preserves. Fill each pastry with cheese mixture, then top with preserves.

Mock Chocolate Macadamia Pie

Prepare one package instant chocolate pudding and fold in ¾ cup chopped macadamia nuts. Fill pastry with pudding. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and remaining nuts.

Fruit Tarts

Fill each pastry with your favorite fruit pie filling, top with a dollop of whipped cream, and dust with confectioners’ sugar.


Get easy tips for working with frozen puff pastry.


3. Cookies and Ice Cream

These super-simple desserts combine cookies and ice creams or sorbet to make creamy, satisfying treats.

Sorbet Parfait

Layer three scoops of different flavored sorbet in parfait glasses. Splash one tablespoon Grand Marnier or other liqueur over each serving and top with a cookie.

Soften one pint of French vanilla ice cream. Fill large wine glasses with ¾ cup frozen mixed berries. Finely crush enough vanilla wafers to make one cup. Top berries with ice cream and crushed cookies and serve.

Ice Cream Sandwich Sundaes

Place a chocolate chip cookie in a small dessert bowl. Top with one scoop of ice cream and another cookie. Drizzle with chocolate sauce and top with whipped cream, chopped nuts, and a cherry.

Cookies and Sundae

Photo by Meredith

Bonus Tip: Lots of baked goods can be prepared and tucked away in the freezer. Make ’em ahead, and you’ll never be short of treats for last-minute holiday guests.


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