Fun and Festive Desserts for Hanukkah!

These desserts combine fall flavors with Hanukkah traditional treats. I like to add a few new treats to my repertoire each year. The Fried Ice Cream was a big hit last year and the Sweet and Savory Applesauce has become a staple that we make in large batches. Pumpkin donuts are my husband’s favorite while my other kids prefer I stick to the more typical freshly fried zepelli style. Undoubtedly, these treats are perfect to eat while admiring the Hanukkah lights.

Baked Pumpkin Donuts

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Serves 6

Baked donuts are a little healthier. These smell divine coming out of the oven. I like to serve them warm.

Recipe adapted by:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) margarine, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons margarine melted

For the doughnuts: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.

In an electric mixer, beat the pumpkin puree, sugar, vegetable oil, margarine, vanilla and eggs together until smooth.

Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and beat until just combined.

Fill three 6-cup nonstick doughnut pans with the batter so that each mold is almost full. Smooth the tops with a moistened finger. I sometimes use a spray bottle and spritz with water, it adds moisture to them.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Invert the doughnuts onto a cooling rack.

For the topping: Stir the sugar and cinnamon together in a shallow bowl. Working one at a time, brush the doughnuts all over with margarine, then dip them in the cinnamon sugar to coat. These are best served warm.

Italian Olive Oil Apple Cake

Recipe and image adapted by:

Serves 10

Olive oil cakes have been on-trend for a few years now. I don’t think the Jewish market has easily jumped on this trend as it’s a flavor profile that does not feel as comfortable as regular yellow cake recipes. Olive oil cakes are super moist, fruity, dense, and sophisticated. They are truly a cake that can be a breakfast, a snack or a twist on traditional dessert. Olive oil is fruity and rich and yields super moist cakes.

  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped small
  • Orange juice to soak apples in
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup pure extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅔ cup golden raisins, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes and then drained well
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chopped apples in a bowl and add orange juice; just enough juice to toss and coat apples. This adds a little moisture, flavor, and prevents them from oxidizing.

In a large mixing bowl sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, add sugar and extra virgin olive oil. Mix on low for 2 minutes until well-combined While the mixer is on, add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to mix another 2 minutes until mixture increases in volume (it should be thicker but still runny).

In the large bowl with the dry ingredients, make a well in the middle of the flour mixture. Add the wet mixture (the sugar and olive oil mixture) into the well. Using a wooden spoon, stir until just blended; it will be a thick batter (do not add anything to loosen it) and do not overmix.

Drain raisins and apples(which have been soaking in water) completely. Add raisins and apples to the batter and mix with a spoon until combined.

Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper. Spoon thick batter into the pan, and level the top..

Bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted tester comes out clean.

Cool completely in the pan. Transfer to a cake plate. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Fried Ice Cream

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Serves 6

Amazing umami here. Crunchy, warm coating and filled with sweet cream. This can only be made right before serving but all the prep can be done a day or two before. It’s a super fun dessert! I buy donuts and stack the fried ice cream on top, add whipped cream and WOW! It’s a Chanukah fried fun festival.

  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream or soy creamy
  • 3 cups crushed cornflakes cereal
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, or coconut flakes, or finely chopped nuts, optional
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 quarts oil for frying

Scoop ice cream into 8 – 1/2 cup sized balls. Place on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

In a shallow dish, combine cornflakes, cinnamon, brown sugar or any other addition. In another dish, beat egg whites until foamy. Roll ice cream balls in egg whites, then in cornflakes, covering ice cream completely. Repeat if necessary. Freeze again until firm, 3 hours.

In a deep fryer or large, heavy saucepan, heat oil to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Using a basket or slotted spoon, fry ice cream balls 1 or 2 at a time, for 10 to 15 seconds, until golden. Drain quickly on paper towels and serve immediately.

Serve atop store-bought or homemade donuts for extra decadence.

Sweet Apple Sauce with Caramel and Cumin

Makes 1½ cups

This interesting flavor combination makes a wonderful latke topping, donut topping, ice cream topping or any pound cake drizzle. It’s a special recipe and a little unusual.

  • 2 Granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted margarine
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin (optional)

In a large bowl, toss all the apples with lemon juice and set aside. Melt margarine in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sugar and cook until the sugar begins to brown. Add apples, and cook until they are soft enough to mash for about 8 minutes. Stir in cinnamon, cumin and salt. Remove from heat.

Mash with a food processor or by hand. Serve warm or at room temperature

Mixed Berry Cheesecake Squares

Image by the pioneer woman

Serves 10

At a dairy meal, these make a wonderful dessert.

Rustic, delicious and easy to make. You can cheat and spread a prepared pie filling over the top but the homemade version is thinner and less sweet. These keep well for days in the refrigerator.


  • One 11-ounce box vanilla wafers
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted


  • Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • Topping:
  • 4 cups mixed berries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust: Line a 9-by- 13-inch rectangular baking pan with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse vanilla wafers and pecans into crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse again until combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan.

For the filling:

Beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the sour cream and mix again.

Pour the filling into the crust, smooth the top and bake for 50 minutes. Turn off the oven, open the oven door and allow the pan to sit in the open oven for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

For the topping: In a medium pot, heat berries, sugar and 1/4 cup water to a saucepan or skillet. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the juices thicken slightly, 4 to 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water until smooth. Add to the berries, return to boil and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and cool the mixture.

Pour the blackberries over the cheesecake and place the pan into the fridge to cool and set for at least 4 hours or more. When ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the pan by lifting the edges of the foil. Slice into 15 pieces with a long serrated knife.

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