Festive Desserts That Make Merry

‘Tis the season for sweet treats . If you’re searching for a new recipe to share with your loved ones this holiday season (or for yourself, we won’t judge), these options from Scouted culinary experts are sure to become festive staples for years to come. It’s time to don that apron!

Vegan Twix Bars

Photography courtesy of Allianna’s Kitchen.

“This healthier candy bar makes for a perfect holiday treat,” Allianna Schneider Moximchalk, owner of Allianna’s Kitchen in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, says. “You can make this recipe ahead of time during this holiday season so you can have it prepped and ready to go for your holiday gatherings. Dairy free, gluten free and soy free as always, yet no one will know it is a better for you option.”

Yields 8 servings


For the crust

  • Coconut oil
  • Maple syrup
  • Vanilla
  • Almond flour

For the caramel

  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut sugar
  • Arrowroot powder

For the chocolate sauce

  • Dairy free chocolate
  • Almond milk or coconut milk

For measurements, visit Alianna’s Kitchen.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the shortbread ingredients in a bowl and mix. Either line an 8 by 8 casserole dish with wax paper or use bar molds. Divide up the shortbread into the bar molds or spread evenly in the casserole dish and bake for 10 minutes. Place all ingredients for the caramel sauce in a sauce pan and bring to a boil on medium heat-once it comes to a boil, turn down to simmer while constantly whisking. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat. Allow the shortbread to cool for 10 minutes, then pour the caramel sauce on top. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Once the 25 minute mark approaches, make the ganache sauce. Add the milk to the stove top in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling remove from the heat and add in the chocolate, whisk until smooth. Pour the chocolate on top of the caramel layer and place the bars back in the freezer for at least 5 hours. Cut into bars. Store in the fridge.

Recipe courtesy of Allianna Schneider Moximchalk of Allianna’s Kitchen. Allianna’s Kitchen appears in The Scout Guide Pittsburgh.

Snowflake Coconut Cake

Photography courtesy of Caramelized.

“I adore a coconut garnish year-round, but especially when it mimics a wintry mix! This classic cake recipe evokes extra sweet memories with family during the holidays,” Cara Greenstein, owner of Caramelized in Memphis, Tennessee, shares.

Yields one cake, 12 to 16 servings


  • 1 15 ounce can crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup 7Up
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounce package flaked coconut
  • Sugared cranberries, for garnish

For the pineapple filling

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup reserved drained crushed pineapple in juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extra
  • 1 cup water

For the cream cheese frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1-pound box powdered sugar, sifted
  • Splash of reserved pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Grease three 9-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with waxed paper, then grease and flour the wax paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drain pineapple, reserving 1/2 cup of juice for batter and 1 heaping cup of pineapple for the filling. Add a splash to the frosting, if desired. Beat butter at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating well, followed by one egg at a time. Combine 1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice and 7Up. Alternate adding flour and juice mixtures to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla and then pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove and allow cakes to cool on wire racks. After 10 minutes, remove cakes from pans and continue to cool. While cakes are baking and cooling, prepare pineapple filling and cream cheese frosting. Spread 3/4 cup pineapple filling between cake layers, spreading any remaining filling on top of the cake or thickening the layers in between. Spread frosting over the entire cake. Sprinkle with coconut. Garnish with cranberries, if desired.

For the pineapple filling

Stir sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Add pineapple and water, cooking over low heat for about 15 minutes, or until very thick. Stir in vanilla and allow to cool.

For the cream cheese frosting

Beat butter, cream cheese, and sour cream at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended. Gradually add sugar, juice, and vanilla until incorporated.

Recipe courtesy of Cara Greenstein of Caramelized. Caramelized appears in The Scout Guide Memphis.

Chocolate Pecan Tart

Photography by Randy Schmidt.

“This tart is our take on one of the most traditional desserts in the South: the pecan pie. While keeping that same ooey gooey pecan filling that we all know and love, the addition of dark chocolate and a touch of cayenne take it to the next level in terms ofcomplexity of flavors and balancing the dish with a touch of bitterness,” Shelby Fallman, pastry chef at La Petite Grocery in New Orleans, Louisiana, explains. “In the restaurant we like to finish the tart with a smoked cinnamon ice cream to compliment the slight heat and nuttiness of the tart and bring all of the flavors together in harmony with one bite.”

Yields two 8” tarts


For the pâte sucrée

  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 356 grams all-purpose flour
  • 100 grams sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces cold, cubed butter

For the tart filling

  • 165 grams sugar
  • 200 grams corn syrup
  • 80 grams cane syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 35 grams browned butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 200 grams chopped dark chocolate
  • 150 grams chopped pecans

For the pecan praline

  • One quart of toasted pecans
  • 250 grams sugar
  • Salt

For the sugar cane whip

  • 450 grams heavy cream
  • 30 grams cane syrup
  • 10 grams powdered sugar


For the pâte sucrée

Whisk together the egg yolks and heavy cream. Pulse the flour, sugar, salt, and butter in a food processor until the mixture looks like sand. Add dry ingredients to a large bowl, and stream in the yolks and cream mixture. Work together until dough forms. Divide into two disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least one hour. These two disks will be enough to line two tart pans. Once chilled, roll out the dough to ¼ inch thick, and line your tart tin with it. Prick holes in the bottom with a fork, line with parchment, fill with any kind of pie weights (we use dried rice), and par bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes (until edge is light golden brown).

For the pecan tart filling

Beat the first 7 ingredients in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until well combined. Add eggs and beat again for at least 5 minutes at medium-high speed. Fold in chopped chocolate and pecans. Add filling to par-baked tart crust and add back into the oven at 300 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until the filling is just set (doesn’t jiggle). Let cool completely before slicing.

For the pecan praline

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, make a dry caramel. Once caramel has reached a dark amber color, cut the heat, stir in the pecans, and lay out on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper (be careful not to burn yourself on the hot caramel). Sprinkle generously with salt, and cool. Once cooled, add candied pecans to a food processor, and blend for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides periodically, until the mixture resembles a loose nut butter. Salt to taste.

For the cane whip

Bring heavy cream to soft peaks in a mixer with a whisk attachment (you can whisk by hand if you prefer). Add in powdered sugar and cane syrup and continue to whisk until incorporated (be careful not to over whisk, or your whip will not be the desired smooth texture).

Recipe courtesy of Pastry Chef Shelby Fallman of La Petite Grocery. La Petite Grocery appears in The Scout Guide New Orleans.

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

Photography by Joe Milenkovic.

“I love this cake because of the classic combination of rich chocolate and orange,” Issac Behr executive sous chef at Easy Bistro & Bar in Chattanooga, Tennessee, says. “The creme fraiche and buttermilk give it a fudge-like texture while adding to the complexity of its flavor.”

Yields one 9” cake


  • 125 grams brown sugar
  • 125 grams granulated sugar 
  • 170 grams egg
  • 3 oranges, zested and juiced
  • 270 grams buttermilk 
  • 200 grams extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 grams vanilla extract 
  • 100 grams melted chocolate 
  • 50 grams creme fraiche
  • 10 grams ground espresso 
  • 10 grams salt 
  • 250 grams all purpose flour 
  • 2 grams baking powder
  • 2 grams baking soda 
  • 50 grams cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoons all purpose flour 
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with the rack in the center. Prepare one 9 inch springform pan with a thin coating of room temperature butter and one tablespoon of flour to coat. In a stand mixer, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, and egg. Whip on high speed until fluffy. Then lower the speed and slowly incorporate olive oil, buttermilk, vanilla, melted chocolate, and creme fraiche. Mix until combined. Add salt, ground espresso, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder. Then sift in the flour and mix on a very low speed until fully combined (be very careful not to overwork the flour). Once combined, pour the batter in your prepared spring form, and give the pan a spin to flatten the batter, so it cooks more evenly. Take 2 tablespoons of sugar and sprinkle on top. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the spring form for 30 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

Recipe courtesy of Issac Behr of Easy Bistro & Bar. Easy Bistro & Bar appears in The Scout Guide Chattanooga.