The holidays came early this year when readers submitted their homemade sweets for LN’s Holiday Dessert Recipe Contest. Four Seasons pastry chef Mary Boehne, LN Cooks’ chef John Johnson and Spicy Bits writer Matt Sorrell helped judge the tight, but oh-so-delicious race, and Ladue Florist decked the festive holiday table.

Served in ribbon-bowed martini glasses and sprinkled with fresh raspberries and crushed peppermint, Maureen Riffle’s Chocolate Mousse took top honors. For her efforts, she gets a wine dinner for two at Balaban’s Wine Cellar and Tapas Bar, a five-course pairing with selections from a featured winemaker. Thank you for participating in this year’s contest, and congratulations to the winners!

First place: Chocolate Mousse by Maureen Riffle

4 oz. Baker’s German sweet or semi-sweet baking chocolate bar

1/3 C milk

2 T sugar

3 oz. cream cheese, softened

12 to 19 oz. thawed Cool Whip

Melt chocolate with 2 tablespoons of milk in the microwave. In a separate mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar. Add remaining milk and chocolate mixture until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip and refrigerate. Serve alone, over cheesecake or brownies, in a cookie or chocolate mini-tart. Can be made ahead of time and frozen.

Second Place: Gingerbread Orange Spice Buttercream Cupcakes by Madaline Ross

Makes 12 cupcakes

Gingerbread cupcake:

1 C flour

1 1/4 t ginger

1/4 t ground cloves

2/3 C molasses

1/3 C sugar

1 t baking soda

1/2 t cinnamon

2/3 C hot water

1/3 C unsalted butter

2 1/2 t egg beaters

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin tin cups with paper cupcake liners. Sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and cloves together in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the hot water and molasses. In an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, before gradually adding the sugar, mixing well. Beat in the egg beaters until well blended. Reducing speed to low, add flour mixture and molasses mixture alternately in three batches to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Pour the batter into the lined cupcake pan, distributing the batter equally. Bake for 8 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for 8 more minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely.

Orange spice buttercream:

1/2 C unsalted butter

2 C confectioners sugar

1/8 t nutmeg

1 1/2 t vanilla extract

1/2 C vegetable shortening

1 t cinnamon

1/8 t ground cloves

1 T natural orange flavor

Orange rind for garnish

In an electric mixer, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until creamy. Add the confectioners sugar and spices to the butter mixture on low speed. Add the vanilla extract and orange flavor, and beat at medium speed until fully incorporated. Top the cupcakes with the buttercream, and garnish with orange rind.

Third place: Baba Torta by Ramona Richardson


5 eggs

1 c flour

1 c sugar

1/2 t baking soda

Dash of vanilla

Beat eggs and sugar until smooth. Gradually add flour. Add the remaining ingredients until blended completely. Grease and dust 12-by-18-inch baking sheet with flour. Pour batter onto sheet and bake at 375 degrees until golden. Check with a toothpick to make sure cake is done on the inside. Allow cake to cool for 30 minutes.


2 sticks of butter at room temperature

1 C sugar until blended

8 oz. sour cream

Dash of vanilla

Whip the butter and sugar until blended. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla. Cut the cake layer into nine, 2-inch strips and roll the strips. You can make mini cake rolls or continue to roll additional strips into one large cake.


2 C water

3/4 C sugar

1/2 t cinnamon

Boil water and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add cinnamon. Pour syrup mixture evenly over the rolled cake. Use remaining frosting to completely coat the cake. Drizzle with melted milk chocolate and/or chocolate shavings.

Honorable Mention: Gooey Butter Cake by Sarah Connelly


1 box of yellow cake mix (devil’s food, chocolate and French vanilla also work)

1 egg

1 stick of butter, preferably salted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake mix with melted butter and egg using dough hook attachment for the KitchenAid Mixmaster, or just use a bowl and spoon. Pat mixture in a parchment paper-lined 13-by-9-inch pan.


8 oz. cream cheese

2 eggs

1 T vanilla

1 stick of butter, preferably salted

1 bag chocolate chips

2 C powdered sugar (granulated also works, but changes the texture)

For the goo, soften cream cheese and melt butter by microwaving for 20 seconds, or letting sit out for a half hour. Beat the cream cheese and butter. Add eggs and beat until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla and powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Pour goo on top of prepared cake. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top of goo. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. The cake will still be somewhat jiggly when it comes out of the oven, but that’s what will ensure the gooey butter is just that—gooey. When cake is cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy. This is the Clayton Police Department’s favorite snack!

Honorable Mention: Scotcheroos (Jerkwater Crunchies) by Savanna Smith

Makes approximately 48 bars

1 t vanilla extract

1 C light corn syrup

1 C sugar

1 C crunchy peanut butter

6 C Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal

1 C semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1 C butterscotch morsels

Vegetable cooking spray

Place corn syrup and sugar into large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla. Mix well. Add cereal. Stir until coated. Press into 13-by-9-by-2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Set aside. Melt chocolate and butterscotch morsels together in small pan over low heat, stirring constantly. You may also melt the morsels in the microwave for approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Spread evenly over cereal mixture. Let stand until firm, or refrigerate for 15 minutes. Cut into 2-by-1-inch bars when cool.

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