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3 Citrus Desserts to Make Your Holiday Table Sparkle

This is citrus’ time to shine.

Published Dec. 18, 2023.

A holiday meal is not complete without a showstopping dessert. Cookies and candies are fine, but a cake or tart really shines on the holiday table.

Rich, creamy cheesecake or desserts featuring peppermint and chocolate or gingerbread or spice are all good options. But when it’s cold (and dark) outside, light, bright citrus can be especially appealing. A glistening grapefruit tart, a simple but colorful orange upside-down cake, and a three-layer orange–olive oil cake with cranberry curd are all vibrant options.

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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

Grapefruit Tart

Ideal for the holidays or any winter dinner party, our Grapefruit Tart is both stunning and sophisticated and easy to prepare. It starts with a stir-together press-in-the-pan tart dough. This means there’s no need for a food processor or a rolling pin to make a crust with flaky layers. Simply press the dough into and up the sides of the pan and then bake it.

While the crust is cooling, you can make the sweet-tart grapefruit curd filling. For a curd that’s packed with grapefruit flavor, we found that we needed to incorporate a whole cup of fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice plus a full tablespoon of zest (which we saved to stir into the finished curd). 

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Pour the curd into the crust and bake the two together to set the curd. Then, let the tart cool and refrigerate it for 2 hours until it’s sliceable but still silky. (This built-in make-ahead time is key during the holidays, and the whole tart can actually be made up to three days ahead.)

When it’s time to serve the tart, simply whip some cream with a little granulated sugar and pipe it decoratively over the tart. We like to do some stars and rosettes.


Grapefruit Tart

Fragrant, floral grapefruit shines in this ultrasimple tart.
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Orange Upside-Down Cake

Inspired by classic upside-down cakes, such as pineapple upside-down cake, our Orange Upside-Down Cake is a simple but stunning buttery cake with a colorful glazy orange topping. A little orange zest in the cake reinforces the flavor of the topping.

Start by coating a cake pan with melted butter. Then, mix some granulated sugar, cornstarch, and a little salt together, and sprinkle it over the butter. Arrange orange slices over the sugar. Even though you are building this layer in the bottom of the pan, you’ll want to arrange carefully, as this will be the top of the cake when it’s turned out of the pan.

Using a variety of oranges, such as navel, Cara Cara, and blood oranges, results in a gorgeous stained-glass appearance, popping with reds, oranges, and yellows. And peeling the fruit by hand (instead of using a knife) ensures perfect rounds.

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Then it’s as simple as whisking together the cake batter, pouring it over the fruit, and baking. Once the cake is baked to golden brown and then cooled slightly, you can turn it out of the pan and let it cool for an hour.

To drive home the orange flavor and give the cake a sheen, brush a little warmed orange marmalade over top. The resulting cake is festive, fun, and packed with citrus.


Orange Upside-Down Cake

This easy, vibrant cake brings a burst of sunshine to your table.
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Cranberry-Orange Olive Oil Cake

If you really want to dazzle your guests, our Cranberry-Orange Olive Oil Cake should be on your menu. It starts with three plush layers of olive oil cake that get brushed with a Grand Marnier–flavored syrup. The syrup moistens the cake layers in addition to flavoring them.

Then, a simple cranberry curd, cooked on the stovetop, is sandwiched between the cake layers. It adds sweetness and brightness to the cake as well as a gorgeous crimson color. (And in the spirit of the holidays, it can be made ahead, so there’s less day-of work.)

Vanilla buttercream pulls the cake layers and curd together. We simply scrape a thin veil of it over the sides of the cake so the layers show through.

The crowning touch is a pile of glittery sugared cranberries and rosemary, which are delightfully easy to make and especially fitting for the holidays. 


Cranberry-Orange Olive Oil Cake

Bring the magic of snow inside with this dazzling and delightful cake.
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