Don't let classic Christmas cookies steal all the thunder at the holiday table this year.
A festive cake is the perfect way to wow guests and impress family members this season. One of the best things about cakes is that they're incredibly versatile and thereby fulfill a host of celebratory events from birthdays to Christmas.
So aside from decorating a cake like Santa (and we do have a recipe for that!), what makes a cake Christmasy? Luckily, TODAY Food's host of talented bakers, cooks and celebrity chefs produce an abundance of beautiful cakes fitting for festive occasions. Creamy cheesecakes and dense olive oil cakes, for example, bring a lightness to the dessert table in a way that can balance the palate after a heavy meal. Fruit cakes, spiced Bundts and cinnamon coffee cakes are the ideal holiday desserts that double as dishes for Christmas breakfast or brunch — plus, the appearance fragrant cakes with plump dried fruits and speckled fruit cakes often make their way through Christmas classics, literature and plays. And who doesn't love that?
With the cold weather calling for hot coffee or mulled wine, decadent chocolate cakes can also become a Christmas signature — passed around the table with the molten cocoa frosting oozing from its center. And of course, something simple like red velvet or pistachio invites additional holiday cheer with their merry color schemes.
Whatever you and your guests are craving, there's definitely a creative confection out there that will fit the bill. These cakes are so delicious that even Santa may give up his cookie habit and opt for a slice (or two) of cake instead.
Fruit and spiced cakes
Apple Spice Loaf Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting by Elena Besser
In this fabulous, make-far-ahead recipe, apples folded into a traditional loaf cake batter and swirled together with warming fall spices. The cake is baked and can be cooled, tightly wrapped and frozen as an easy option that will keep for weeks ahead of Christmas or whenever you need it (hello, hostess gifts!).
The Cherpumple by Casey Barber
It's hard to find a dessert that truly has it all, but this multi-layered confection is bursting with plenty of beloved sweet treats. Aptly named after cherry, pumpkin and apple pies, this decadent cake is also a perfect crowd pleaser with the three different pies enveloped by different flavors of cake.
Spiced Apple Walnut Cake with Cream Cheese Icing by Giada De Laurentiis
Giada De Laurentiis' beautifully moist apple cake with cream cheese icing has all the flavors of a classic apple pie — minus the tricky pastry crust!
Wine-Glazed Cake by Elizabeth Heiskell
Sure, this cake has some surprising ingredients — like vanilla pudding, yellow cake mix, white wine and bourbon. But Elizabeth Heiskell swears by it and says it is so good that it will "beckon you in the middle of the night."
Maple Bûche de Noël (Yule Log Cake) by EPCOT Festival Pastry Chefs
The traditional holiday bûche De Noël becomes even more festive at Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays. Gingerbread chiffon cake gets rolled up with sweet maple mouse and tart cranberry jam, then finished with a rich chocolate coating. The stunning spiral and seasonal flavors make this a must-try dessert!
Apple Crumble Cake with Caramel and Apple Icing by Donal Skehan
A crumble is an irresistible dessert no matter what fruit you use, but this elevated apple crumble cake takes that classic and transforms it to a true showstopper and real centerpiece for special occasions.
Martha Stewart's Cranberry Skillet Cake by Martha Stewart
This berry-studded cake is festive enough for the holiday table but comes together so easily, you can mix it up anytime. Pop it in the oven as you're sitting down for dinner. If you have leftovers, no one will judge you for digging in at breakfast the next day.
Ina Garten's Bourbon Honey Cake by Ina Garten
Ina Garten's cake boasts layers and layers of subtle flavor from honey, brown sugar, orange zest, coffee and spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice and ginger. How good does that sound? Oh! And one more thing: bourbon!
Pound Cake with Ricotta Cream, Fresh Berries and Toasted Almonds by Lauren Salkeld
This super simple recipe is a great option for an elegant dessert that doesn't require too much baking. It starts with a store-bought pound cake, which gets dressed up with a smooth ricotta and mascarpone cream topping and vibrant berries.
Roasted Apple-Almond Cake by Amy Chaplin
Roasting the apples before adding them to the cake amplifies their natural sweetness. The fragrant cardamom and crunchy almonds round out the wintry flavor of this warming dessert. It's also gluten-free, but it's so nutty and delicious, nobody would ever guess it.
Pecan Bundt Cake by Vallery Lomas
This beautiful Bundt is full of flavor like a carrot cake, has a tight crumb like a pound cake and it comes together quickly and easily. It's flecked with festive cranberries and has lots of warm spice to pair perfectly with after-dinner coffee.
Cranberry-Orange Upside-Down Cake by Robeisy Sanchez, recreated by Kristen Kish for S.Pellegrino
Kristen Kish re-created this eye-catching upside-down cake from her sous chef, Robeisy Sanchez, which was adapted from Cook's Illustrated. "I felt so proud cooking it. It's a beautiful recipe, very festive. Everything about it," she says. "To watch her, watch me make it: It's a weird warm and fuzzy feeling that's hard to explain."
Hummingbird Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting by Ryan Scott
Ryan Scott's banana-pineapple spice cake made with dark rum, raisins and drizzled frosting will please any guest this holiday season.
Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting by Casey Barber
Whether you like your carrot cake plain or with all the mix-ins, this recipe has you covered. Serve this sweetly spiced dessert with walnuts, raisins, coconut, and pineapple — or keep it simple with only shredded carrots in the batter. Either way, it's a guaranteed treat, especially when each slice gets a luxurious layer of cream cheese frosting.
Pumpkin Spice Latte Bundt Cake by Shay Shull
"I have 101 Bundt cake recipes, but this one is my very favorite," says Shay Shull. "It's always moist, it's always delicious and it always tastes just like fall."
Pineapple Upside Down Cake by Jocelyn Delk Adams
Growing up eating this classic Southern dessert countless times in her home, Jocelyn Delk Adams has it mastered. Juicy and golden, it might be a retro recipe but it'll never be outdated.
Pumpkin (Calabaza en Tacha) Cheesecake by Marcela Valladolid
The filling in this cheesecake is made with butternut squash with cinnamon, brown sugar and mascarpone cheese. The shards of pumpkin-brown sugar brittle not only add an attractive decoration on top, they also provide crunchy contrast to the creamy cake.
No-Bake Cheesecake with Sweetened Condensed Milk by Carrie Parente
This simple cheesecake requires no baking and uses sweetened condensed milk for a smooth and decadent texture. It is delicious on its own or served with any topping of choice, from fresh berries to chocolate chips or even toasted coconut.
Triple Threat Chocolate Cheesecake by Donatella Arpaia
This luscious chocolate cheesecake from Donatella Arpaia will have everyone going back for seconds (and thirds). Just don't wait until the very last minute, as it ideally needs to be chilled in the fridge overnight before you add the topping.
Joy Bauer's Mini Cheesecakes by Joy Bauer
These mini (but mighty) treats are rich, creamy and oh-so-satisfying when a cheesecake craving strikes. Feel free to get creative with tasty toppings, such as festive, fresh strawberries and a sprinkle of crushed graham cracker or aerated whipped cream and dark chocolate chips.
Churro Cheesecake by Alejandra Tapia
This is a super simple recipe but tastes as if it was made at a fancy restaurant. You will definitely impress your loved ones using this recipe for the holidays.
Valerie Bertinelli's Sugar-Free Cheesecake by Valerie Bertinelli
This cheesecake has all the sweet creaminess of the classic version but with no added sugar. It makes it a nice cake to balance out the dessert table with a lighter option alongside the cookies and pies.
Basque Burnt Cheesecake by Buttermilk Pantry
With no crust and a soft, gooey center, it pretty much seems like the anti-cheesecake cheesecake. While vastly different from the classic New York-style recipe, this dessert is truly something to love. It's light, delicate and not overly sweet.
Hummingbird Cheesecake by Chris Ryan
This cheesecake is inspired by classic Southern hummingbird cake. It's a great recipe that you can prepare ahead of time, so there can be one less thing to worry about when cooking an extravagant Christmas dinner.
Duff Goldman's Bomb Cheesecake by Duff Goldman
The "bomb" refers to how awesome this cheesecake is, not to the old-school French domed cake called a "bombe." It's super easy to make and it's great for getting creative. You can customize this easily, topping it with everything from chocolate to nuts to spices or just keeping it clean and simple.
Coconut Bliss Cake by Seton Rossini
The classic combination of chocolate and coconut is always a welcome treat. The dark chocolate coating on this beautiful cake looks totally glamorous as it drips down the snow-white Swiss meringue frosting. Baker Seton Rossini calls this little beauty a "deconstruction of the Almond Joy."
Who says dessert can't also be a little good for you? This chocolate confection uses almond butter and coconut oil but the real secret is that it stays incredibly moist because it's made with zucchini.
Mexican Chocolate Cake by Nathan Turner
This chocolate cake uses spices like cinnamon and cayenne pepper to make one decadent dessert that will also warm you heart, just like the holidays.
Santa Cake by Anna Helm Baxter
Show off your holiday spirit at the dessert table with this festive and easy-to-make chocolate cake. It's a real showstopper and fun to spend some time decorating.
Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Raspberries by Chloe Coscarelli
This rich and seductive chocolate cake is fudgy on the inside with a hint of red wine. Top it with wine-soaked "drunken" raspberries and a dollop of coconut whipped cream for the ultimate lovers' dessert!
Chocolate Cake by Craig Strong
Coffee is the secret ingredient for making chocolate cake super moist and flavorful. This recipe is easy to make — and the jolt of caffeine will help keep the holiday party going.
Flourless Chocolate Cake by Caroline Choe
This truly is one of the easiest cakes in the world to make and — dare I say it — one of the sexiest! The simplest and most classic of ingredients create this decadent dessert.
Valerie Bertinelli's Sicilian Love Cake by Valerie Bertinelli
Store-bought chocolate cake mix and chocolate pudding mix are the secrets behind this easy cake from Valerie Bertinelli. It has a rich mascarpone-ricotta filling and luscious cocoa-mascarpone frosting that make it a perfect end to an Italian holiday feast.
Vanilla Magic Cake with Chocolate Ganache by Casey Barber
This deceptively simple recipe uses everyday ingredients to make an otherworldly, magical dessert. As it bakes, the cake batter magically transforms into three layers: a luxurious custard crust, a creamy center, and a light, delicate angel food cake all topped with rich, chocolate ganache and festive sprinkles.
Martha Stewart's Mile High Salted-Caramel Chocolate Cake by Martha Stewart
Truly, madly and deeply chocolate: Pools of rich salted caramel separate layers of chocolate cake, which are then swathed with dark chocolate frosting and sprinkled with flaky salt. Prep the wondrous cake layers and caramel up to three days before assembling (chilling actually improves the texture for stacking), so you can make it look effortless.
Top-Secret Chocolate Cake by Ree Drummond
"As a middle-aged woman of the world, it is no secret to me that you can doctor up boxed cake mix to create a heavenly dessert," says Ree Drummond. "This trend took hold in the nineties and it gave masses of people permission to forgo the measuring and mess of a from-scratch cake. But just in case your generation hid this eternal cake mix truth from you your whole life, I'm here to lift the veil."
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cake by Erica Chayes Wida
The combination of smooth peanut butter and rich chocolate make this five-ingredient dessert incredibly decadent and irresistible to any peanut butter cup fan. It's longstanding family recipe that uses boxed cake mix as a base: As simple as it is delicious.
Olive oil cakes
Olive Oil Cake with Lambrusco-Poached Pears by Stefano Secchi
This cake from Stefano Secchi is so fragrant and fruity that the smell alone will make your mouth water. "Fresh citrus zests perk up the rich olive oil cake while warm cinnamon and red wine add depth to the juicy pears," he says. "It's absolutely irresistible!"
One-Bowl Olive Oil Cake by Lidia Bastianich
"This is a recipe that my grandmother used to make. It's simple, delicious and can be dressed up in any number of ways — including with poached or sautéed fruit," says Lidia Bastianich.
Lemon and Olive Oil Cake with Limoncello Glaze by Anthony Contrino
The lemon and olive oil create such a moist but not overly sweet dessert that's completed by the fragrant limoncello glaze. You might as well be enjoying a forkful of sunshine in this fabulous Bundt cake.
Anne Burrell's Olive Oil Cake with Blueberry Sauce and Peaches by Anne Burrell
If you don't like your cake super sweet, this one is for you. The beautiful green grassy olive oil flavor perfectly complements the vibrant, juicy fruit.
More irresistible cakes
Red Velvet Layer Cake by Christina Tosi
"I love the bold color contrast of rich, ruby-red velvet cake layers and cool white cream cheese frosting. It's as appealing to look at as it is to eat," say's Milk Bar's Christina Tosi.
Dylan's Pistachio Cake by Dylan Dreyer
Pistachio is in the name, but it's a totally light and sweet cake-like dessert that tastes refreshing and not too heavy after a big meal.
Make Christmas morning special by passing around this super easy and incredibly moist coffee cake. The secret behind this festive treat? Its base is made with yellow cake mix, so you won't have to spend hours putting this tasty treat together.
Sweet Potato Coffee Cake by Jocelyn Delk Adams
This coffee cake is a lovely switch-up from pumpkin flavor for those who tapped out after Thanksgiving. It is so comforting with warm spices throughout. It's perfect for any holiday dessert, breakfast or brunch.
Ooey Gooey Butter Cake by Jocelyn Delk Adams
This authentic gooey butter cake has a chewy blondie texture bottom topped with a custardy cream cheese layer of perfection. It is the true, original St. Louis classic.
Chocolate-Mint Icebox Cake by Andrea Lynn
This seven-ingredient dessert is made from layers of thin, store-bought cookies and fresh whipped cream. After the cake sits in the fridge for 24 hours, the cookies absorb the moisture from the whipped cream, turning the whole dish into a luscious delight.
Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting by Gesine Bullock-Prado
This recipe doesn't add any unexpected extras or fancy new flavors. It's a traditional, straightforward red velvet cake that shows off the unbeatable flavors and textures of this iconic classic.
Lemon Velvet Cake by April Anderson and Shirley Madison
A dense, lemony confection, this cake reminds us of twinkling lights in a snowy winter. It's easy to throw together and make fancy with swirls of icing and twirly lemon rinds.
Caramel Cake by Gesine Bullock-Prado
Gesine Bullock-Prado shares how to make homemade caramel for this gorgeous cake. "That simple act of heating sugar to the point that it changes from brilliant white to slightly golden to coppery brown is my weakness," she says.
Pancake Layer Cake by Christina Tosi
This breakfast-inspired cake looks and tastes like a tall stack of pancakes. Fluffy buttermilk cake layers and sweet maple frosting pack all the flavors of the morning favorite into an impressive dessert.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com