These ethereal holiday confections take a cue from winter’s loveliest moments—waking up to a shimmery dusting of new snow, decking the halls for fizzy festivities, sitting by a crackling fire. They’re also grounded in simple, straightforward techniques, so you can wow your crowd without leaving wonderland.
Raspberry and Chocolate-Hazelnut Crêpe Cake
A cake that doesn’t require an oven—that’s just one brilliant aspect of this architectural feat. Another plus: With some planning and patience, even non-engineers can construct it. The raspberry and chocolate-hazelnut fillings require just a few ingredients each, and the crêpes can be made ahead (and even frozen, well wrapped, for up to a month). Just build in enough time to refrigerate the assembled dessert. That way, the layers set and won’t go slip-sliding off one another when you pile on berries and serve it.
When you want a refreshing coda to a special dinner, this swirl of sunshine in the winter hits the perfect notes, combining a crisp meringue shell with a plush, marshmallowy center; a tart curd that balances the meringue’s sweetness; and whipped cream infused with a few drops of orange-blossom water to bring out the juicy citrus toppings.
String-Light Christmas-Tree Cookies
Decorating these crunchy conifers is like winding lights around a real tree without a single tangle, darkening the room, and plugging them in. Ta-da! We squiggled on strands of melted white chocolate and illuminated them with sugar-pearl bulbs. For an old-school look, you can swap in multicolored candy-coated sunflower seeds.
This striking, nostalgic-yet-new dessert will bring a smile to everyone’s lips. The bottom layer is pomegranate gelatin, the next one a silky coconut custard, and the third a delicate coconut-water gelatin studded with pomegranate seeds. (We used Harmless Harvest coconut water, which has a pale-pink tint.) Each layer is separated by ladyfingers, and the whole thing is topped with whipped cream. When serving it, dig deep, so everyone gets a bit of everything.
Coffee-Caramel Swiss Roll
If the thought of making a bûche de Noël has you quaking in your snow boots, breathe easy. This cake is lighter than the traditional genoise—it’s a modified spongecake recipe, airy with beaten egg whites, that is much less likely to crack when you roll it. (Word to the wise: Do this while it’s still warm.) The whole thing is covered in a seven-minute frosting that you finish with a kitchen torch for a faux-bois effect; better still, the caramelization adds a campfire-marshmallow flavor.
You can’t always judge a cookie by its coating. These powdery pom-poms look like nutty Mexican wedding or Russian tea cookies, but a mix of warming spices and Darjeeling tea makes them taste like a steaming mug of hot chai. Using almond flour (aka almond meal) instead of grinding nuts in the food processor provides a finer texture, and the snowy exterior comes from double-coating the balls in confectioners’ sugar: once while still warm, to absorb loose crumbs, then again when they’re completely cool.