Spectacular Holiday Desserts for Special Occasions
Amidst all the tips and tricks for quick and easy holiday recipes, sometimes (as they say on the Great British Baking Show) you really want to push the boat out. Special occasions call for special desserts—the kind that your guests will be talking about for years to come—and elbowing each other for the best angle to document your sweet showpiece, as would be the case if you make something like this Mile-High Triple-Chocolate-Espresso Mousse Pie, on Instagram stories.
There are some holiday classics that are feats of construction, like a bûche de Noël (otherwise known as a yule log), with its fanciful forest-inspired adornments, and croquembouche, the epic tower of cream puffs dipped in a crunchy shell of caramel. There are also the time-honored favorites that capture the essence of traditional Christmas baking, such as trifle, steamed puddings, soufflés, and billowy meringue creations like pavlova and baked Alaska.
Other ways to take a holiday dessert from simple to spectacular can simply be a matter of dialing up the decoration on standard desserts. Layer cakes become lavish when you stack on a few extra layers and finish with some beautiful decorative touches. Cheesecakes are extra-special with swirled fillings, a ganache glaze, or a nest of spun sugar on top. And pies are positively party-ready with some festive pastry cut-outs on top.
Whether you decide to go with a classic Christmas dessert or dabble in more modern creations, the number-one secret to success is simply to plan ahead: Give yourself enough time to thoroughly read the entire recipe start to finish, assemble all your ingredients before you start, and be sure there's enough room in the refrigerator (or freezer) for your masterpiece.
Peruse our collection of spectacular holiday desserts to find inspiration for this year's gathering. Then, get ready to become a local legend.
Creamy coconut custard peeks out from between layers of pomegranate gelatin, store-bought ladyfingers, and billows of whipped cream in this modern update of a holiday trifle.
Oh, Christmas tree! Your frosty meringue boughs give way to a luscious center of peppermint and chocolate ice creams. Get ready to become the most popular person at the party when you bring this spectacular dessert out after dinner.
Eggnog Semifreddo Genoise Cake with Meringue Frosting
Rum and nutmeg bring the essence of eggnog to the ice cream-like filling between delicate layers of chocolate genoise cake.
Snowy swirls of meringue form a dazzling wreath decorated with pomegranate and sparkly sugared cranberries.
Woodland Stump Cake
Martha modernized her bûche de Noël with an elaborate upright tree stump boasting hand-sculpted chocolate bark, meringue mushrooms, and pistachio "moss."
Raspberry and Chocolate-Hazelnut Crepe Cake
This showstopping cake doesn't require any baking! You can make the crepes in advance before you stack them with alternating layers of raspberry-white chocolate and Nutella mousses.
Steamed Cranberry Pudding
Inspired by traditional English Christmas puddings, this rich, kirsch-spiked masterpiece is studded with dried cranberries and crowned with homemade cranberry compote.
Brûléed Vanilla-Bean Cheesecake
Silky-smooth cheesecake fragrant with vanilla bean goes over the top with a crunchy brûléed topping and an elaborate nest of spun caramel.
A towering tree of blushing pink cream puffs filled with strawberry buttercream is decked with macarons and meringue drops. This is a dessert for the ages!
Coffee-Caramel Swiss Roll
In this elegant iteration of a bûche de Noël, espresso-soaked sponge cake is bundled up with fluffy caramel filling and frosted in snowy swirls of toasted meringue.
Cinnamon-Swirl Apple Slab Pie
You don't need to be an artist to elicit oohs and aahs with your baked creations. This pie-for-a-crowd is takes some time but is super simple to make and decorate.
Sometimes, chocolate is the answer. Rich and silky chocolate Bavarian cream is lavishly layered inside a ring of rum-soaked cocoa ladyfingers.