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9 Beautiful Desserts From Baking Legend Claudia Fleming

The longtime Gramercy Tavern pastry chef and James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Pastry Chef elevates ingredients with her signature simple desserts.

Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall
Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall

Claudia Fleming started working at Danny Meyer's Union Square Cafe in the 1980s after launching her culinary career at Jonathan Waxman's Jams and Drew Nieporent’s Montrachet. The pastry chef ultimately made a name for herself at Gramercy Tavern for a decade, where her signature desserts were conceived, earning her the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2000 after nominations in 1998 and 1999. Fleming and her husband, the chef Gerry Hayden, co-owned and operated the North Fork Table & Inn on Long Island from 2005 until his death in 2015, and she eventually sold the enterprise in 2020, to start a new chapter. More than 20 years after leaving Gramercy Tavern, Fleming returned to Union Square Hospitality Group as executive pastry chef for restaurants like Ci Siamo and Daily Provisions. Her groundbreaking style is chronicled in The Last Course: A Cookbook (2001, 2019) — the cult following of which demanded a reprint — and Delectable: Sweet & Savory Baking (2022). Here are a handful of Claudia Fleming's dessert recipes that celebrate simple perfection.

Goat Cheese Cake with Wine-Poached Cranberries

Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Christine Keely
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Crowned with candied pistachios and draped in tart, glistening cranberry gelée, Claudia Fleming's holiday cheesecake is extra creamy thanks to a combination of tangy goat cheese and marscarpone.

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Boozy Frozen Strawberry Lemonade

Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall
Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall

Fleming's frozen lemonade is made with lemon vodka, Prosecco, basil, limoncello, strawberries, and lemon sorbet, and can also double as a dessert. Sweet, zippy, and irresistibly delicious, it's exactly the kind of drink you want on a hot summer afternoon.

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Lemon-Olive Oil Cream Meringue Tart

Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall
Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall

Fleming's luxurious take on lemon meringue pie has a rich lemon-olive oil cream filling in a shortbread-like tart crust with an Italian meringue topping,

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Lemon-Olive Oil Semifreddo with Blueberry Compote

Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall
Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall

Even with rich lemon cream as its base, Fleming's tart, sweet semifreddo retains a light texture and flavor after it is frozen.

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Cornmeal Cake Trifle with Sabayon and Candied Kumquats

Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Christine Keely
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

This stunning collaboration between Fleming and pastry chef Kelly Fields is a feat of technique and flavor. Layers of crumbly cornmeal cake and fresh and candied citrus float on billowy drifts of barely boozy sabayon, topped with sweet, crisp peaks of toasted Italian meringue.

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Lemon Cream

<p>Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Thom Driver</p>

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Ruth Blackburn / Prop Styling by Thom Driver

Fleming adds gelatin and olive oil for a savory, silky upgrade to a classic curd. This bright and creamy treat strikes the perfect balance between sweet and tart.

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Thumbprint Cookies with White Chocolate-Espresso Ganache

Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Christine Keely
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Based on a recipe from Fleming's mother, these melt-in-your mouth cookies owe their texture to the perfect amount of cornstarch, which makes them exquisitely crumbly without being too dry. The buttercream-like filling is light in texture but stable thanks to the white chocolate.

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Chocolate Layer Cake with Peppermint Ganache Frosting

© William Meppem
© William Meppem

Any flavored extract would be equally delicious in the frosting on this 9-inch chocolate layer cake.

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Apple Crostata with Brown Butter Streusel

<p>© Justin Bernhaut</p>

© Justin Bernhaut

Fleming fills this pastry with apples, tops with streusel, bakes until golden brown, and serves with vanilla ice cream and maple syrup.

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