The 411 on Festive Holiday Desserts

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The joy of the holidays would not be complete without the addition of tasty treats. Instead of whipping up the same old batch of cookies, add some creative elements to your holiday table. Chef and cookbook author Steven Siler shares some ideas on how to spruce up your celebrations with festive desserts that look and taste like the joy of the season.

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Reindeer Delights

Get the kids excited about those reindeer in the sky with a festive dessert complete with eyes and a red nose. Use graham crackers and pretzels dipped in chocolate before decorating with jelly beans and edible eyes. "To keep the graham crackers and pretzels from breaking in the wrong place, brush both with melted butter before you frost or dip in chocolate," said Siler. Cool in the freezer for 10 minutes before serving.

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Cookie Surprise

Sugar cookies are a staple around the holidays. Spruce up a simple recipe by decorating with icing and creating a customized festive message for your guests. To make the process simpler and less messy, Siler recommends decorating with a squeeze bottle instead of a decorating bag once the cookies have cooked completely.

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Gingerbread Family Decor

The main feature of festive desserts is their scrumptious factor, but they can also add a splash of holiday spirit to your home's decor. Whip up gingerbread cookies with cutouts and decorate. "If you are making this recipe, add an extra egg to the mix to make them more pliable and less likely to break," suggested Siler. "Also, use a drink straw to punch the string before they go into the oven."

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Spirited Chocolate Cake

Deck out a chocolate cake for the holidays with some snow-like drizzle. Bake the cake, drizzle it in white icing and top with red candies or jelly beans. "If icing gets too thick to drizzle, beat in a few drops of hot water," Siler said. "Use cooling racks, with wax paper underneath, to set cakes on after dipping. You will need to dip the cakes at least twice."

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Ornamented Goodies

Dress up the Christmas tree with some tasty treats that sparkle. Bake your own sugar cookie rounds or decorate store-bought treats for an ornamental finish. "If using colored sugars to decorate, sprinkle with sugars before baking," said Siler. Also, avoid leaving edible treats on the tree for an extended period of time. These treats work perfectly as gift ornaments when wrapped in plastic.

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Pumpkin Pie With a Twist

Pumpkin pie is a holiday tradition. Add some flair to it with cut-out cookie toppers to make this a tasty treat and a festive table topper. Siler recommends using kitchen shears to cut out the dough. Score lightly with a knife to prevent bubbles. "Sparkling sugar and an egg wash make these perfect," he said.

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Festive Cupcakes

For a visually appealing festive dessert, dress up everyday cupcakes with the holiday spirit. Add a couple of drops of peppermint flavoring to the frosting to make the flavor festive, Siler suggests, and for the leaves, use plunger cutters (shaped cutting tools). "These cut out the leaves and indent the veins onto them at the same time," he said. "When they are dry, spray them with green color mist food spray and leave out overnight."

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Peanut Butter Cupcake Delight

Add a creative touch for peanut butter lovers in decked-out holiday cupcakes. Siler recommends freezing peanut butter cup toppers for 10 minutes before removing the wrapper and then baking pretzels for the top for a few minutes before pushing them into the chocolate. "If you are not ready to decorate, hang the sticks on a rod to cool," Siler said. "A spatula suspended between two cans of soup works great."