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’Tis the season to say yes to dessert. Time to rid yourself of restrictions and savor the sweetness of the myriad of holiday confections swirling by on dessert trays. Did you ever wonder what bakers and pastry chefs fancy for their holiday treats? We did and rounded up a few of the top bakers from the North Shore to tell us their sweet secrets.

Lauren Moran, Chef and Owner, Honeycomb, Hamilton

Black-bottomed pecan pie

Black-bottomed pecan pie is the dessert of choice for Lauren Moran of Honeycomb, the bakery she owns with her husband Billy. She adores the sweet-and-salty-and-bitter notes created by a rich layer of ganache sandwiched between a layer of pecan pie filling and an all-butter crust.  “This pie is a holiday staple for me,” she says. “I love how it takes the sweetness down on a traditional pecan pie by adding high-quality dark chocolate.” 

Julie Ganong and Alan Mons, Chococoa Baking Company & Cafe, Newburyport

Whoopie pies and chocolate cream pie

“Growing up in Maine of course my favorite dessert was whoopie pies. That warm smell right out of the oven, with lots of gooey filling brings back fond memories of my mother and grandmother plus all the neighborhood moms baking these cherished delights,” says Julie Ganong, co-owner of Chococoa Baking Company & Cafe in Newburyport.

Her husband and business partner Alan Mons fancies chocolate cream pie made by his mom. “It is my sweetest memory – always for my birthday and always with real whipped cream with chocolate shavings and walnuts. To do this day cannot resist one,” says Mons.

Staff, Market Square Bakehouse, Amesbury

Cherry and apple-filled Kouign Amanns

“Our favorite holiday dessert is our cherry and apple-filled Kouign Amanns,” says Patrick Phelan of Market Square Bakehouse, speaking on behalf of his team. “They are made with laminated dough and filled with apples and cherries. We favor it because it takes time and effort to make the dough and we view it as a reflection of the time and care we put into all of our offerings.”

Rachel Cohen, Owner and Pastry Chef at The Bakers Rack Baking Company, Haverhill 

Gingerbread cake with salted caramel toffee buttercream

“The holiday season is such a joyous time for me and my family. It is truly the beginning of my baking passion,” says Rachel Cohen, owner and pastry chef at The Baker’s Rack Baking Company in Haverhill. :For as long as I can remember, my mom and I spent hours in the kitchen baking up a storm every December. Throughout the years, I fell in love with every aspect of baking. The ingredients, the time spent with my family, and the smiles that eating baked goods always brought to people’s faces,”

Her current holiday dessert obsession is a gingerbread cake with salted caramel toffee buttercream. “The layers of gingerbread cake bring back warm memories of the holiday season, and the salted caramel toffee buttercream is the perfect touch to make it sweet with a hint of salt and crunch,” says Cohen.

Orange blueberry roll-out cookie | Photograph courtesy of Sweet Cheeks by Renee

Renee Terry, owner, Sweet Cheeks by Renee, Amesbury

Orange blueberry roll-out cookie

For Renee Terry, owner and artist at Sweet Cheeks by Renee in Amesbury, an orange blueberry roll-out cookie is her confection of choice. It’s one of the recipes that helped her win last year’s Christmas Cookie Challenge on the Food Network. “I love this cookie because of the way the blueberries and oranges pair with each other. You get the tart acidic taste of the orange zest (the more the better) and the sweetness of the blueberries. The addition of the dark brown sugar also leaves a deep caramelization flavor that leaves you wanting more,” Terry shares.

Ann Steriti, owner, Periwinkles Food Shoppe, Salem

Chocolate cream pie

Ann Steriti, owner of Periwinkles Food Shoppe in Salem, finds that baking relaxes her and evokes memories of her mother and grandmother. “Christmas wouldn’t be the same without my chocolate cream pie in the middle of our family dessert buffet,” she says. “I am a chocolate lover through and through, who can’t refuse fresh whipped cream, slightly sweetened and flavored with real vanilla. The dessert is simple, elegant, and decadent,” says Steriti.  

Andy and Jackie King, owners, A&J King, Salem

Pumpkin spice latte cream pie

It’s got something for everyone during the holidays: classic pumpkin spice for the masses, roasted pumpkin from Brooksby Farm for the locavores, whipped cream for the kids, coffee for the teens and kids home from college, and a beautiful, simple 3-2-1 all-butter crust for the traditionalists,” says Andy King of A&J King in Salem. “It goes fast!”