15 Fancy-Looking Desserts That Are Secretly Easy to Make

Strawberry Torte
Photo: Yoon Lim

In this Age of Instagram, desserts with stunning visual appeal are a popular pursuit for home cooks looking for a delicious challenge. Unfortunately, those photogenic treats can prove time-consuming and difficult. That's why dessert recipes that deliver top-notch flavors and plenty of wow factor while still being easy to execute deserve a prominent place in your collection. We've rounded up 15 dessert recipes that combine great flavor, lots of stage presence, and simple instructions complete with shortcuts. Scroll through to find easy-to-make eye candy like bite-size cheesecakes, no-cook chocolate mousse, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and more

01 of 16

Cinnamon Palmiers

Ready-made sheets of puff pastry are spread with a mixture of butter, sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom, then rolled, sliced, and baked to make these easy but impressive pastries. "So simple, and they look like you picked them up at the bakery," says Jeri. MissMichele26 adds, "Super simple. I put the entire fold back in fridge for 15-30 minutes before cutting, made it a lot easier."

02 of 16

No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Cake

This rich and decadent dessert doesn't require any baking, and it also makes use of accessible ingredients like instant pudding mix, frozen whipped topping, and storebought graham crackers. The easy chocolate glaze topping adds an extra air of sophistication to this foolproof dessert.

03 of 16

Mini Cheesecakes I

Mini Cheesecakes I recipe topped with fresh raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and cherry pie filling displayed on a tiered dessert tray

These chic little cheesecakes include pre-made pie filling and a crust made with packaged vanilla wafers, resulting in individually-sized desserts that are highly customizable. Reviewers give them a solid 5-star rating, and change up the toppings to create different variations.

04 of 16

The Best Banana Pudding

a glass trifle bowl showing layers of banana pudding and Nilla wafers

In spite of its rustic reputation, banana pudding can often prove more complicated than home cooks assume. Luckily, this recipe, which features instant pudding, storebought vanilla wafers, and frozen whipped topping, comes together easily, with attractive and tasty results.

05 of 16

Easy Decadent Truffles

With semisweet chocolate shells and sweet-and-tangy cream cheese fillings, these truffles can be easily shaped into balls with a small cookie scoop. Once dipped and shaped, they're ready to roll in your topping of choice (chocolate chips, sprinkles, nuts, and so on) and be placed in the fridge to solidify.

06 of 16

Lemon Blueberry Pavlova

Lemon Blueberry Pavlova recipe filled with lemon curd, blueberries, and blueberry sauce, and garnished with a sprig of fresh mint.
Chef John

"My favorite way to enjoy lemon meringue is with pavlova. The meringue base cools and dries out slowly, creating a crispy, crunchy crust on the outside which contrasts beautifully with a soft, sticky center. Topped with an intense lemon curd filling, fresh blueberries, and a homemade blueberry sauce, this dessert takes a little bit of time to make but is also simple and easy to pull off," says recipe creator Chef John. Reviewer Sue Moss adds, "Delicious and easier than it looks. It tastes like what lemon meringue pie wishes it could." To save a little time and effort, you could use ready-made lemon curd instead of making it from scratch.

07 of 16

Chocolate Mousse with Cocoa Powder

In a speedy 20 minutes you can whip up (literally) this impressive looking chocolate mousse. "No cooking involved, and it just doesn't get much easier than this for an elegant dessert," says recipe creator lutzflcat. "I like to pipe the mousse into small shooter glasses for a lovely presentation. Everybody has room for a mini dessert! Chilling the bowl and beaters will result in a better whipped cream."

08 of 16

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

A square white plate of chocolate-coated strawberries drizzled with white chocolate
Cathy Van de Moortele

Fancy-looking chocolate-dipped strawberries are much easier to make than you might think — as well as much cheaper — but you do have to keep one key step in mind: Pat dry your strawberries so that absolutely no water touches the melted chocolate.

09 of 16

Simple Crème Brulée Dessert

"This crème brûlée was super fast and easy and turned out to be so good without double broiling or straining!" says reviewer Casablancaise of this 5-ingredient spin on a classic French dessert.

10 of 16

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake V

Two shortcut ingredients — yellow cake mix and canned pineapple — make this crowd-pleasing cake extra easy to assemble. Home cooks have baked this top-rated cake in a 9x13 pan, round cake pans, and even in a Bundt pan.

11 of 16

Lemon Curd Tarts

"These lemon curd tarts are a staple dessert at my tea parties. I can make them quickly without even measuring the ingredients using a pastry bag to fill the small shells. The crust remains crunchy for several hours, so I make them early the morning of the tea and then refrigerate them. I also serve these at wedding and baby showers. For variation, you can place ¼ teaspoon raspberry spread underneath the lemon curd and garnish with a fresh raspberry, omitting the cinnamon. Another variation is to use lime curd instead of lemon, both of which can be found in the baking aisle of the grocery store." — Paula

12 of 16

Grandma's Iron Skillet Apple Pie

close up of Grandma's Iron Skillet Apple Pie in a cast iron skillet

Everyone's going to ooh and aah when you bring this multi-layered apple pie to the table, cast iron skillet and all. Fresh apples are tossed with cinnamon sugar and layered between ready-made pie crusts before baking to a golden brown. "This is such an outstanding recipe, thanks so much to the cook who shared it. Over the past 45 years I have probably made hundreds of apple pies but this one is just a treat! I made it as written. The process and the iron skillet is the key to the finished product being so good," says reviewer Grandma Lizzy

13 of 16

Death By Chocolate III

You'll need only four ingredients to make this showstopping 5-star dessert with layers upon layers of decadent chocolaty goodness. "Every time we have a church supper, I have to make this. It's a favorite," says recipe creator LaNita.

14 of 16

Hasselback Pear Tart

This stunning dessert is simply thinly sliced pears baked on a bed of sweetened cream cheese in a frozen puff pastry base, but it's how the pears are sliced that gives it that wow factor. The technique is borrowed from prepping Hasselback potatoes (the tart recipe tells you exactly how to do it), and you'll need a sharp knife to get all the slices uniformly thin for the best presentation. The finished tart is well worth that little bit of effort; the rest is an absolute breeze.

15 of 16

Strawberry Torte

Strawberry Torte
Yoon Lim

Lined with ladyfingers, filled with a creamy mousse, and coated in sweet strawberry sauce, this "torte" feels and tastes very elegant. However, the recipe calls for store-bought ladyfingers and pre-sliced frozen strawberries, which cuts down on the prep time without compromising on flavor. Home cook Yoon Lim fancied up the presentation even more by tying a ribbon around the lady fingers and dotting the finished torte with fresh strawberries and whipped cream rosettes topped with mini chocolate chips, as shown.

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