Festive desserts for every holiday guest

We whisk you a merry Christmas

Story By Bailey Gilliam

Sweets are simply part of the holidays. But are you tired of making the same desserts year after year? Switch it up this year with these holiday dessert recipes from local chefs and restaurants. We’ve included a wide variety of sweets to satisfy every sweet tooth. These recipes are so delicious, you’ll want to make them all year long. 

Brownie points 

For chocoholics, Christmas brownies are a must at the dessert table. Cassandra’s Kitchen shared this five-star recipe from Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa). Keep your stress at bay with a brownie each day. Cut them out with Christmas cookie cutters for an extra-festive treat.

Cassandra’s Kitchen 

Ina’s Outrageous Brownies


1 pound unsalted butter

1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

6 ounces bitter chocolate

6 extra-large eggs

3 tablespoons instant coffee granules

2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups chopped walnuts

Directions [1] Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12x18x1-inch baking sheet.  [2] Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the bitter chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, and allow to cool to room temperature. [3] In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet. [4] Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not over bake. Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares. 

One smart cookie 

Oatmeal cookies are the perfect blank-canvas treat, a great opportunity to get creative for the holiday season. Add more quality to your holiday cookie jar with this interesting cherry-chai twist from Odd Birds Cafe. Mix and match the add-ins to make them your own.

Odd Birds Cafe 

Cherry-Chai Oatmeal Cookies


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon chai spice

12 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped

Directions [1] In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside. [2] Place 4 tablespoons of the butter and the chai spice in the bowl of a stand mixer or large heat-proof bowl. Melt the other 8 tablespoons of butter in a skillet until the milk solids begin to brown and the butter is golden and nutty. Pour the hot butter into the mixer bowl and swirl to combine with the spices. Add the sugars into the bowl and mix on medium with the paddle until well combined. On low, mix in egg, yolk and vanilla until combined. Add in flour mixture until no dry streaks remain. Add in oats and cherries to combine evenly. [3] Scoop cookies into 3-4 tablespoon portions, about 12-14 cookies, and chill until ready to bake. [4] Heat oven to 325 and bake for about 15 minutes or until the edges are brown but the centers are still soft (they will finish cooking on the pan).

Mix-in options
Dried fruit: Apricots, cranberries, golden raisins, rum-soaked raisins, apples, blueberries, candied ginger

Nuts: Pecans, pistachios, slivered almonds, walnuts, pepitas, hazelnuts

Chips: Dark or milk chocolate, butterscotch, white chocolate, peanut butter, cocoa nibs, toffee bits

Spices: Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, espresso powder

Apple of my pie

Cinnamon, apple and gingersnaps offer perfect holiday flavor. Brad Keenan, the executive sous chef of Black Marlin Bayside Grill, provided this interesting take on a holiday classic.

Black Marlin Bayside Grill 

Cinnamon Apple and Gingersnap Crumble  

Ingredients (apple filling) 

6 Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored and sliced 

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 cup brown sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted at room temperature

Ingredients (crumble topping)

1 box gingersnap cookies

3/4 cup old-fashioned oats 

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted 

Directions [1] Make the apple filling. In a medium-sized sauce pot, combine all ingredients over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once all ingredients have reached an apple pie-like consistency, remove from heat and set aside.  [2] Make the crumble topping. Heat oven to 350. Crush cookies by hand or in a food processor. Put all other ingredients except butter in a bowl and mix. Last, add the butter and gently knead by hand. It should be a bit clumpy.  [3] In your dish of choice, butter the bottom and sprinkle 1/4 of the crumble topping on the bottom, (enough to coat). Spoon in apple filling and give it a good shake to level filling out for even baking. Sprinkle the remaining crumble topping across the top evenly and bake in the oven until golden brown. Tip: This recipe can be made ahead for events or parties. Add a scoop of ice cream for fun. 

Have a berry Christmas 

Nothing says Christmas like cranberries. Try this holiday twist on the classic crumb cake by Madison Fleener, sous chef at Nectar Farm Kitchen Bluffton.

Nectar Farm Kitchen 

Cran-Blackberry Crumb Cake 

Ingredients (fruit topping)

4 ounces dried cranberries

1 pint blackberries

1 tablespoon honey or sugar 

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Pinch of salt 

6 ounces Prosecco or dry sparkling wine 

Ingredients (cake)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt 

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda 

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup butter, melted 

Ingredients (crumb topping)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar 

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup melted butter

Directions [1] Place all fruit topping ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer until the fruit is soft and the wine is reduced.  [2] Mix the crumb topping dry ingredients together and slowly add butter until it makes small pearl-sized crumbs. Set aside. [3] Heat oven to 350. Mix all the cake ingredients in a large bowl until fully mixed. In a 13×9-inch cake pan, spray with nonstick spray and pour the cake mix into the pan. The mix will be sticky and may need to be spread out.  [4] Cook for about 15 minutes or until the cake has begun to set, then pour the fruit topping over the cake and spread evenly. Crumble the crumb topping over the whole cake and place it back in the oven. Cook for another 10-15 minutes until the cake is fully cooked or a toothpick comes out clean. [5] Serve with ice cream or a dusting of powdered sugar.

Be mallow-dramatic 

We can’t all roast marshmallows over a fire, but making festive marshmallow treats is easy with this recipe from Hope Fedun, executive sous chef of Nectar Farm Kitchen Hilton Head.

Nectar Farm Kitchen 

Homemade Marshmallows


3/4 ounce unflavored gelatin 

1 cup cold water

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

2 teaspoons extract of choice (recommended 1 vanilla, 1 peppermint)

1/8 teaspoon salt 

1 cup powdered sugar

Directions [1] Grease a 9×13-inch pan with butter and add half the powdered sugar to the bottom to coat evenly.  [2] In the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water to soften; set aside. [3] In a 2-quart saucepan, heat granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Heat to boiling; cook without stirring about 30 minutes to 240 degrees on a candy thermometer or until a small amount of mixture dropped into a cup of very cold water forms a ball that holds its shape but is pliable; remove from heat.  [4] Slowly pour syrup into softened gelatin while beating on low speed. Increase speed to high; beat 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture is white and has almost tripled in volume. Add vanilla and peppermint extract; beat on high speed for 1 minute. Pour into the baking dish, patting lightly with wet hands. Drop food color randomly onto top of marshmallow mixture. Pull table knife through food color to create swirl pattern over top. Let it stand uncovered for at least 8 hours or overnight.  [5] Dust cutting board with about 1 tablespoon powdered sugar. Place remaining powdered sugar in a small bowl. To remove marshmallow mixture, loosen sides from dish and gently lift in one piece onto cutting board. Using a sharp knife greased with butter, cut into 1-inch squares (11 rows by 7 rows). Dust bottom and sides of each marshmallow by dipping it into a bowl of powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 weeks.

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