10 Instagram-Worthy Desserts You Need to Try

We all love the brownies that come from a boxed mix. And we adore recipes that use boxed muffin mix or chocolate chip cookies that take just 15 minutes to whip up. But sometimes, you might find yourself craving something a little more sophisticated. Perhaps you’re hosting a party. Maybe you’re trying to find the perfect coda to the meal you’re cooking for friends and family. Or perhaps you just want to put your baking skills to the test. That’s when you need a pastry or dessert that’s sophisticated and pretty. Something that — dare we say — is Instagram-worthy.

Finding the perfect recipe involves a lot more than just flipping through your most beloved cookbook or sorting through the index cards on which your mother and grandmother wrote their most genius recipes. All of those recipes will be delicious, of course. But even the most accomplished amateur bakers need a little bit of guidance to create a dessert that’s not only scrumptious, but photogenic, too.

Fortunately, the best baking bloggers have your back. If you know where to look, you’ll find plenty of delicious pastries and desserts that not only will delight your friends and family but also will spice up your Instagram feed. To give you a head start, we’ve collected some of our favorite recipes.

1. Blood Orange Cake

blood oranges sliced on a cutting board

Blood oranges make for a delicious and gorgeous layered cake | iStock.com

Lauren Kelp calls this beautiful blood orange cake “the perfect cake for a party.” We have to agree — especially if you and your party guests love blood oranges as much as we do. You’ll mix blood orange juice and zest into the cake batter. And once the cake is baked (preferably in three 6-inch cake tins), you’ll mix up a decadent honey-mascarpone frosting. Then, top the cake with extra blood orange slices and even some leaves if you have them. The result is a gorgeous cake both you and your guests are going to want to photograph before it’s cut. 

2. Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries and Herbs

Panna cotta prepared with crème fraîche and berries

Panna cotta prepared with crème fraîche is a decadent dessert |  iStock.com

Panna cotta is an Italian dessert that everybody should try at least once. And we haven’t found a better recipe than this Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta shared by EmilyC at Food52. The recipe author notes she combined her favorite elements of multiple panna cotta recipes to try to re-create the crème fraîche panna cotta at Gramercy Tavern. And as a nod to the New York City restaurant, this version is served straight from the ramekins. You can choose your favorite mix of fruit and herbs as a topping. A few suggestions: strawberries and tarragon; blackberries and basil; raspberries and mint; blueberries and lemon thyme; or grapefruit and tarragon, just like Gramercy Tavern uses.

3. Fresh Fig Tart

figs cut in half

Fresh figs are the perfect centerpiece for a photogenic and delicious tart | iStock.com

The New York Times’ Martha Rose Shulman promises this “photogenic” fresh fig tart “will make you look like a pastry chef, though it’s no more difficult than baking a pie.” You’ll just assemble this delicious dessert in layers: first the tart crust, then almond cream, next fig jam, and finally fresh figs. Shulman writes that “the key to success is superb figs.” You want sweet and ripe figs that are firm enough to hold their shape when cut into fourths or sixths. If you succeed in finding them, you won’t be disappointed.

4. Fruit Tart Cheesecakes

strawberries on cheesecake on the table

Mini fruit tart cheesecakes are as adorable as they are delicious  | iStock.com/jakkapop_dusiyamee

If you prefer your tarts in individual portions, you need to try these mini fruit tart cheesecakes by Dorothy at Crazy for Crust. One important tip to keep in mind before you start baking is cheesecakes are best made with ingredients at room temperature. It’s important to take out your cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs from the refrigerator in plenty of time for them to warm up. That way, you’ll minimize the number of lumps in your batter. Top these mini cheesecakes with the berries of your choice. Any mix of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and sliced strawberries will look gorgeous on your table (and in an Instagram shot).

5. Meringue Kisses

Meringue cookies

Meringue kisses are a cute — and surprisingly vegan — option for a party | iStock.com/funkybg

Want a photo-worthy vegan dessert for certain dietary needs? You’ve got plenty of options, but one of our favorites is this Lauren Caris Cooks recipe for vegan meringue kisses. Caris writes that “baking and veganism aren’t exactly two things that go together very well” if you stick with traditional ingredients. But if you expand your horizons, you’ll discover that ingredients — such as aquafaba, the water in which legume seeds have been cooked — make it possible to bake vegan meringue that looks and tastes exactly like regular meringues. (Those use egg whites.) You’ll need just three ingredients to make these meringues. And you can decorate them with food coloring, dark chocolate, nuts, or cocoa powder.

6. Mint Julep Milkshakes

mint chocolate chip ice cream

Mint julep milkshakes are a creamy, boozy take on a favorite drink |  iStock.com

Want to combine your drinks and dessert? Try these mint julep milkshakes from Emma Chapman at A Beautiful Mess. Chapman writes that this boozy milkshake “is like a mint julep meets after dinner mint plus ice cream.” You’ll blend together mint ice cream, ice, and bourbon. The recipe goes light on the alcohol content, but depending on your taste for bourbon — and the bourbon you choose — you can adjust as desired. Serve the milkshakes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Then, garnish with mint leaves on top. 

7. Nectarine (or Peach) and Blackberry Galette

nectarines on a wooden surface

You can use nectarines or peaches in this rustic galette |  iStock.com

Can you tell we love the way fruity desserts look in our Instagram feeds? Martha Rose Shulman reports for the New York Times that nectarines and peaches work equally well in this nectarine or peach and blackberry galette. You want to select fruit that’s ripe and sweet. You might need to head to a store that specializes in baking supplies to find the almond flour, but it’s definitely worth the trouble. That’s because the thin layer that goes under the fruit will absorb juice and prevent the crust from becoming soggy. You’ll need to freeze the galette for an hour before baking, so make sure to factor that in to your prep plans. 

8. Rhubarb and Gin Sorbet with Rose Cream

rhubarb in a jar

Rhubarb and gin combine for a light, delicious sorbet, topped with rose cream |  iStock.com

Especially in the warmer months, a cold (but photogenic) dessert might be exactly what you need. In that case, try this rhubarb and gin sorbet Yossy Arefi shared at Food52. Arefi notes though this sorbet and the accompanying cream are both easy to assemble, the combination of the two “tastes surprisingly complex. It is cool and tart, floral and herbal, creamy and sweet, all in one.” That’s definitely a dessert we can get behind.

9. Parisian Macarons

macarons on a plate

Macarons might take some serious preparation, but they’re definitely worth it |  iStock.com

Macarons are famously time-consuming to make. But there are few desserts that look as adorable on the table or in an Instagram shot. For the perfect recipe, we like Dorie Greenspan’s Parisian macarons at Food52. Macarons aren’t a dessert you can make without planning. You’ll need to leave your egg whites out overnight (or at least in the refrigerator for a couple of days). Plus, you’ll have to sift or press the almond flour. It’s a good idea to use a stand mixer and silicone baking mats. Filled macarons need to soften in the refrigerator for at least a day.

10. Peaches and Cream Sundae

close-up of grilled peaches on a plate

It doesn’t get much better than a simple peaches and cream sundae | iStock.com

Peaches and cream are a time-tested flavor combination — one you definitely don’t want to miss out on. One of our favorite iterations is Wit & Delight’s peaches and cream sundae. You’ll grill ripe peaches. Next, top them with vanilla bean ice cream, which is completely different from regular, artificially flavored vanilla ice cream. Then, add a drizzle of honey and sprinkle of cinnamon. We promise this sundae will be a hit at your next party — and will definitely appear in at least a few Instagram shots, too.