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44 Easy Desserts for a Crowd (Because Everyone Loves a Sweet Treat)

Cookie lovers to the front

easy desserts for a crowd uni
Katherine Gillen

As much as you may occasionally want to devour an entire cake by yourself, desserts tend to taste better when they’re shared. Baking for a group may feel daunting, but with these easy, impressive potluck dessert recipes designed to feed the masses, you won’t be overwhelmed—even if you’re a beginner. These foolproof cookies, pies, crisps and more take all the stress out of serving treats to your squad and are totally worth the sugary results (and compliments). Read on for 44 desserts for a crowd they’ll love, from cherry skillet cake to chocolate-peanut butter fudge.

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1. Easy Cherry Skillet Cake

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, one pan, beginner-friendly

Not only is skillet cake delicious, it’s also rustic and cute. Top each slice with some French vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce for an extra-decadent finish. 

2. Ombré Citrus Upside-Down Cake

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy, make ahead

If you can slice oranges, you can make this impressive-looking cake. (Plus, it's full of vitamin C, so it's practically a fruit salad, right?) To nail the ombré effect, PureWow's recipe developer recommends using  an assortment of Meyer lemons and navel, cara cara and blood oranges.

3. Checkerboard Cake

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, <10 ingredients

This gorgeous cake is deceptively easy. Just mix up two packages of the best cake mix you can find and follow the simple instructions to combine them into an Insta-worthy checkerboard pattern. 

4. Giant Cinnamon Roll

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why I Love It: special occasion-worthy, kid-friendly beginner-friendly

The only thing better than a freshly baked cinnamon roll? A giant freshly baked cinnamon roll. Pizza dough acts as the base for a quick and easy crowd-pleaser that leaves your house smelling next-level delicious.

5. Slow Cooker Salted Caramel Rice Pudding

  • Time Commitment: 4 hours and 5 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, slow cooker recipe, <10 ingredients

This decadent dessert practically cooks itself and serves eight people. The pudding is great warm, at room temperature or chilled and lasts up to five days in the fridge.

6. Avocado Chocolate Mousse

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, vegan

If you can use a blender, you can whip up this restaurant-quality, healthy-ish chocolate dessert. (Note: The recipe serves four, so double or triple it for a crowd.)

7. Atlantic Beach Pie

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes (plus chilling time)
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, special occasion-worthy

"The sweet-and-salty riff on North Carolina lemon pie rose to prominence after chef Bill Smith’s rendition was featured on NPR," explains PureWow senior food editor Katherine Gillen. "The crust is made from crushed saltine crackers, which balance the sweet-tart filling, and the pie takes almost no time to assemble and bake, making it ideal for beginner bakers."

8. Cheesecake-Stuffed Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly

There's no need to wait until December to whip up these decadent cookies. "A simple, three-ingredient cheesecake filling is just the tangy contrast this ultra-rich cookie needs to keep it from tasting too sweet," explains recipe creator Candace Davison. "Freezing the dough balls before baking prevents them from spreading too much."

9. Apple Cider Blondies with Caramel Drizzle

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, special occasion-worthy, beginner-friendly

The recipe calls for making a brown sugar-apple cider caramel sauce from scratch, but Davison has a shortcut up her sleeve. "Combine a cup of unwrapped, soft caramels with two tablespoons of heavy cream, microwaving in 30-second intervals and stirring in between until it's all melted and easy to drizzle."

10. Orange Creamsicle Granita

  • Time Commitment: 5 hours and 10 minutes (includes freezing)
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, <10 ingredients, special occasion-worthy

In case you're not convinced fresh-squeezed OJ blows the store-bought kind away, this gem will change your mind. "It’s like Hawaiian shave ice meets grown-up snow cone," writes Gillen, "and the recipe couldn’t be easier to make—after all, there are only four ingredients."

11. 7-Layer Bars

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly, make ahead, <10 ingredients

These bars boast everything but the kitchen sink—and they never get old. "Whether you know them as 7-layer bars, magic bars or Hello Dolly bars, there’s no denying the deliciousness of this cookie-like 1960s recipe," asserts Gillen.

12. White Chocolate Cranberry Oat Cookies

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why I Love It: special occasion-worthy, make ahead, beginner-friendly

Do you love Starbucks's Cranberry Bliss Bars? Consider these a cookie version of them. "Scoop the dough into balls and freeze them for up to a month before thawing and baking," suggests Gillen. "Or, if you’re on a roll, you could bake the cookies and freeze them up to a month before serving."

13. Key Lime Pie Ice Pops

  • Time Commitment: 4 hours and 5 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, <10 ingredients

As far as sweetened condensed milk recipes go, this is one of the easiest (and tastiest) you can make. "You don’t even need an ice pop mold, although it adds to the effect," says Gillen. "Disposable cups or even Champagne flutes make excellent substitutes."

14. Birthday Cake Rice Cereal Treats

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <30 minutes, make ahead, kid-friendly

Even picky eaters are no match for the nostalgic magic of these sprinkle-dappled treats. "They’re festive and fun, but way easier to make than a triple-tiered masterpiece," raves Gillen. "Plus, they’re easy to slip in a lunchbox or send with your kid for a class celebration."

15. Raspberry Tiramisu

  • Time Commitment: 4 hours and 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, beginner-friendly, crowd-pleaser

It's totally coffee-free, but take a bite and you won't miss the caffeine one bit. "The striking pink topping is just a dusting freeze-dried raspberries that have been powdered in a food processor...but a smattering of fresh berries or a touch of lemon zest would be equally delicious and elegant," recommends Gillen.

16. Fluffernutter Fudge

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes (plus chilling)
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, <10 ingredients, kid-friendly

Your favorite childhood sammie, elevated and giftable. "Shortcutting homemade fudge with marshmallow creme is one of the oldest candy tricks in the book," says Gillen. "Just be sure to slice it into small pieces; this stuff is capital-S sweet."

17. Bourbon Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 15 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, special occasion-worthy, beginner-friendly

Crunchy nuts, brown butter and a splash of booze bring these otherwise standard chocolate chippers to a whole new level. "You can refrigerate the dough for a day before scooping, or freeze the dough balls up to a month in advance to eliminate your stress entirely," says Gillen.

18. Animal Cookie Blondies

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why I Love It: kid-friendly, beginner-friendly, make ahead

"Give me a nostalgic dessert that reminds us of the best part of our middle school lunches, and, well…I’ll probably try to eat the whole recipe," admits Gillen. These adorable handhelds are only eight ingredients away, rainbow nonpareils included.

19. Lemon Curd Thumbprint Cookies

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, special occasion-worthy, <10 ingredients

Any cookie recipe that starts with two sticks of butter is one worth baking. "You can totally wing it with just your hands and a spatula, but I’ve found that a small cookie scoop (about one tablespoon) makes portioning fast and flawless," says Gillen.

20. Banana Pudding Cheesecake

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours and 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, special occasion-worthy

All the pudding-inspired, vanilla wafer-dappled flavor of the O.G., only in a much more sophisticated package. "With a Nilla wafer crust and slightly tangy whipped topping, it’s sweet and rich without being cloying," explains Gillen. "Oh, and the best part? No water bath."

21. Strawberry Half-Moon Cookies

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, beginner-friendly

Like black and white cookies? This colorful spin is just as drool-worthy, promise. "They’re a fruity take on the classic chocolate and vanilla treat, and they get their dreamy blush color from powdered freeze-dried berries instead of dye," writes Gillen.

22. Coquito Macaroons

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 5 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, gluten free

Even your hard-to-please tía will have a hard time turning these coquito-inspired goodies down. "A generous dose of rum extract and warm spices honor the drink’s boozy, wintry flavor," explains recipe creator and PureWow food editor Taryn Pire.

23. Brown Butter Marble Cake

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 5 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, special occasion-worthy, kid-friendly

Dollops of each batter bake into an asymmetrical pattern reminiscent of cow spots. Slice and serve the cake with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, a smear of berry jam, a drizzle of mocha glaze or nothing at all. (Your guests will request a second slice no matter what.)

24. Nutty Chocolate Ganache Tart

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 40 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy, gluten free

The nut-based crust is the key to this gluten-free dessert for a crowd, and the ganache only calls for three ingredients. In the words of Ina Garten, how easy is that? (Spoiler: very.)

25. Chocolate Fondue Board

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <30 minutes, crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly

File this under Most Low-Lift Potluck Desserts of all time. Once you make the chocolate and white chocolate dips, the rest is totally riffable: Fill the board with fresh fruit, sliced cake, cookies, pretzels, marshmallows and beyond.

26. Coffee-Glazed Molasses Bars

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, special occasion-worthy

Sure, the bars are the true star. But you'll want to make a double (or triple) batch of the four-ingredient espresso glaze. It'll taste divine drizzled on banana bread, vanilla ice cream, brownies and everything in between.

27. Malted Sugar Cookies

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: kid-friendly, beginner-friendly, make ahead, <10 ingredients

“The nutty toastiness of the malted milk powder in this recipe gives these cookies an edge over your average sugar cookies that makes them worth seeking out,” writes Snacking Bakes cookbook author Yossy Arefi. “Only some of the butter in this recipe is melted, which helps keep the dough cool and thick enough to scoop and bake right away.” The more you know.

28. Spicy Tahini Cream Cheese-Swirled Brownies

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, special occasion-worthy

Boxed brownie mix for the win. This dessert for a crowd includes a homemade chili crisp recipe that's loaded with chopped nuts for texture, but we won't tell if you use your favorite store-bought chili crisp instead to make the sweet twice as convenient.

29. Rainbow Cookie Icebox Cake

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why I Love It: no bake, crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly

For the uninitiated, an icebox cake is a no-bake treat consisting of layered wafers, creams and other ingredients that sets in the refrigerator. If you can’t find thin, crispy chocolate wafers, substitute chocolate wafer sandwich cookies or split Oreos.

30. Crispy Peanut Butter Cups

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, <10 ingredients

These poppables are like a cross between Reese’s peanut butter cups and Krackel chocolate bars. Use dairy-free chocoloate chips and maple syrup instead of honey to make these candies vegan-friendly.

31. Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake with Whipped Cream and Salty Nuts

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy, beginner-friendly

“This buttery cake will absorb a good deal of the rhubarb’s cooking juices,” writes recipe developer Abra Berens. “But expect it to be a bit juicer than a traditional pineapple upside-down cake. The addition of a bit of cornstarch helps keep it from being a complete and total mess.” We'll meet you at the farmers market.

32. Apple Cider Doughnut Cake with Brown Butter Icing

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours and 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy, beginner-friendly

Come fall and winter, you'll want to bake this potluck dessert on repeat. "It’s like an oversize version of the moist, fluffy farmstand doughnut, with a tender, softly spiced crumb and a brown butter icing to gild the lily," explains Gillen.

33. Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Pie

  • Time Commitment: 2 hours and 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, special occasion-worthy

This intensely vanilla-y dessert for a crowd comes from Kardea Brown’s cookbook, The Way Home, a collection of Lowcountry Southern recipes inspired by her family’s Gullah and Geechee heritage. It features a custard-y filling, and if you're looking for a shortcut, you can sub the homemade crust for store-bought.

34. S’mores Rice Cereal Treats

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 20 minutes (includes cooling time)
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, <10 ingredients

Craving a taste of summer without having to deal with the whole fire pit thing? Enter this simple, picky eater-proof recipe that comes together in a single pan with seven ingredients.

35. Perfect Instant Pot New York Cheesecake

  • Time Commitment: 8 hours
  • Why I Love It: Instant Pot recipe, crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy

A beautiful cheesecake is great for every occasion, and honestly, a group setting is best for this easy-to-make dessert, because the leftovers are dangerous. Jam and fresh berries are combined for the brag-worthy topping.

36. Deep-Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie with Caramel and Sea Salt

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why I Love It: kid-friendly, beginner-friendly, make ahead

Remember those incredible cookie cakes your family would order every year for your birthday? Well, now it can be your birthday whenever you're in the mood (and in 40 minutes flat to boot).

37. Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 15 minutes
  • Why I Love It: kid-friendly, make ahead, beginner-friendly

How long has it been since you’ve had a homemade Rice Krispie treat? Probably way too long. Let’s change that. You're only five ingredients away...

38. Crinkle-Top Brownies

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why I Love It: kid-friendly, beginner-friendly, make ahead

Every group get-together is better by a tray of brownies, especially when they’re homemade. Dust them with confectioners’ sugar right before the group is ready to dig in.

39. The Best Apple Crisp

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <30 minutes, beginner-friendly, kid-friendly

It takes only 20 minutes to whip up an apple crisp, and your picky eaters will devour it even quicker. Have ice cream, whipped cream or blue cheese crumbles (yes, really) at the ready to top this treat.

40. Chocolate-Peanut Butter Freezer Fudge

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes (plus chilling)
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, special occasion-worthy, <10 ingredients

You’ll be inviting friends over just to have an excuse to make a big batch of this super-easy, four-ingredient vegan fudge. It stars dates, peanut butter and cacao powder.

41. Five-Ingredient Burnt Basque Cheesecake

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <10 ingredients, special occasion-worthy, crowd-pleaser

This crust-free cheesecake, hailing from Spain’s Basque Country, is sophisticated and European, but also ridiculously easy to make. Slice it at room temp for a lava cake-like texture in the center.

42. Browned Butter Salted-Caramel Chocolate Chunk Blondies

  • Time Commitment: 3 hours and 35 minutes
  • Why I Love It: make ahead, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly

Salty, sweet, gooey and ready to eat with your hands, no other dessert needs to exist after you make a big batch of these bars. (Well, except ice cream to top it off.)

43. Chocolate Pecan Cobbler

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why I Love It: beginner-friendly, kid-friendly, make ahead

Appearance isn’t the most important part of this decadent chocolate cobbler, which is ideal for newbie bakers. (Thanks, boxed brownie mix). Serve it warm and your book club will be asking for the recipe—and a repeat invitation.

44. Chocolate-Cherry ‘Nice Cream’

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes (plus chilling time)
  • Why I Love It: beginner-friendly, vegan, <10 ingredients

Yay, a frozen dessert that’s paleo, vegan and delicious. The recipe serves two, so just scale it to accommodate your crowd (plus leftovers), who will be blown away by your healthy ice cream alternative. 


taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...

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