12 Bright and Spring-y Easter Desserts

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik, Nila Jones]

Easter offers no shortage of opportunities for eating sweets, between all the Cadbury eggs and chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and marshmallow Peeps. There's nothing wrong with store-bought candy—what kid doesn't love an Easter basket?—but a fancy holiday meal may call for a sweet ending that's a little more adult. We've got you covered with 12 dessert recipes that are perfect for Easter, from sophisticated chocolate cherry layer cake and airy meringue "nests" housing chocolate eggs to beloved spring-appropriate favorites, such as tart lemon bars and brown butter carrot cake.

Spiced Vanilla Hot Cross Buns

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten for breakfast on Good Friday, but they're delicious enough to serve again a couple of days later. We use Greek yogurt to keep the dough soft and pliable. Candied orange peel, dried cherries and apricot, and warm baking spices lend the buns plenty of fruity chew and heady fragrance.

Get the recipe for Spiced Vanilla Hot Cross Buns »

Chocolate Marshmallow Peeps

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[Photograph: Yvonne Ruperti]

These adorable homemade Peeps, flavored with rich cocoa and dabbed with semisweet chocolate for eyes, have the festive look of the mass-produced originals, with a more subdued sweetness. Piping them is easy as long as you let the marshmallow set first.

Get the recipe for Chocolate Marshmallow Peeps »

Brown Butter Pecan Carrot Cake

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[Photograph: María del Mar Sacasa]

This dark, dense carrot cake is wonderfully rich and nutty, thanks to both brown butter and toasted pecans. Cinnamon, allspice, and ginger add a spicy wallop, while fresh orange juice and zest brighten it up. No carrot cake is complete without cream cheese icing—we cut ours with tangy sour cream and sweeten it with honey.

Get the recipe for Brown Butter Pecan Carrot Cake »

Effortless Angel Food Cake

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

This cloud-like angel food cake is shockingly easy to prepare. Making the meringue is as simple as whipping up egg whites, sugar, and vanilla, plus a bit of lemon juice and salt, in a stand mixer. After that, just stir in cake flour and scrape it all into an aluminum tube pan. We like to serve the cake with a light Lemon Chantilly and sweet berries tossed in Fresh Lemon Syrup. If you're baking for the gluten-intolerant (or just the gluten-averse), this version might be even fluffier and more tender than the original recipe.

Get the recipe for Effortless Angel Food Cake »

No-Bake Chocolate-Nutella "Cheesecake" Verrines

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[Photograph: Nila Jones]

These parfait-style individual desserts look highly sophisticated, but they're a snap to make. Just layer an Oreo crumb crust, dark chocolate and Nutella cheesecake fillings, and homemade whipped cream in a little glass, then sprinkle on more crushed Oreos and toasted hazelnuts—no baking necessary.

Get the recipe for No-Bake Chocolate-Nutella "Cheesecake" Verrines »

Chocolate Meringue Cake With Whipped Cream and Raspberries

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[Photograph: Nila Jones]

This elegant dessert's beautiful layers of rich chocolate cake, airy meringue, and fluffy whipped cream make for a show-stopping centerpiece. The layers sandwich a sweet-tart sauce made with fresh raspberries. If you have your hands full with the rest of your Easter menu, the cake, meringue, and filling can all be made ahead of time, then assembled right before serving.

Get the recipe for Chocolate Meringue Cake With Whipped Cream and Raspberries »

Meringue Nests With Orange Curd Cream and Easter Eggs

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[Photograph: Nila Jones]

In this delightful spring treat, each delicate meringue "nest" holds a swirl of tangy, bright orange curd and cradles a pair of store-bought candy-covered chocolate eggs. The nests and curd can both be made several days ahead of time—just don't combine them until right before serving, or else the meringue will get soggy.

Get the recipe for Meringue Nests With Orange Curd Cream and Easter Eggs »

Chocolate Cherry Layer Cake

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Inspired by the classic combination of cherries and chocolate, this rich cake features high-quality cocoa powder and just enough tart cherry juice to bring out the chocolate's fruity side. The whole thing is slathered in a lovely pastel-pink frosting, made with whipped cream and freeze-dried cherries.

Get the recipe for Chocolate Cherry Layer Cake »

Tangy Strawberry Fools

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[Photograph: Yvonne Ruperti]

A classic English fool layers custard with stewed fruit. For a lighter, more summery version, we swap a blend of whipped cream and yogurt for the rich custard, and both fresh and macerated strawberries for the traditional cooked fruit. You can also try the same dessert in versions with lemon and blueberry or pineapple, mango, and coconut.

Get the recipe for Tangy Strawberry Fools »

Light and Easy 5-Minute Fruit Mousse

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[Photograph: Nila Jones]

Desserts don't get much simpler than this refreshing fruit mousse—all you need are three ingredients, five minutes, and a food processor. Mixing an egg white with frozen fruit (any kind you'd like) and sugar turns what would otherwise be a plain fruit purée into a fluffy treat.

Get the recipe for Light and Easy 5-Minute Fruit Mousse »

Sunny Lemon Bars

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

These velvety, rich lemon bars get a double dose of citrus: Lemon zest flavors the tender crust, while juice brightens the curd. Making the tart curd with equal parts whole eggs and egg yolks (as opposed to whole eggs alone) thickens it up without the addition of cornstarch.

Get the recipe for Sunny Lemon Bars »

Lemon Meltaways

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

A hybrid of lemon shortbread and cotton candy, these meltaways are almost impossibly delicate. Here, some of the flour that you'd find in a typical cookie dough gets replaced with powdered sugar and cornstarch—with less flour, these cookies really do melt when they hit your tongue.

Get the recipe for Lemon Meltaways »