These Showstopping Christmas Desserts Are Guaranteed to Be the Star of Your Holiday Table
When you're planning a special holiday feast it's always nice to imagine guests sitting around the table after dinner, all of them very relaxed and happy. The British are the originators of the Christmas dinner as we know it; in the cultural tradition, after the roast and the classic side dishes have been eaten, a delicious final course is their finest hour. A Christmas pudding, having been doused with brandy and with a sprig of holly on top, is traditionally carried, flaming, to the table. Over coffee, brandy, or port, Christmas crackers are pulled, spilling their paper crowns and little toys onto the table. And so, family and friends linger at the table, talking and swapping jokes.
This festive spirit can be created with other desserts, whether smooth and rich like our No-Bake Chocolate-Eggnog Crème Brûlée or a more traditional pudding like our steamed persimmon one. There's even one recipe made using Medjool dates, which provide deep sweetness, that would fit the festive bill. Using fruits in holiday desserts once symbolized prosperity, because dried fruits were a luxury. So too were spices, which became available to upper class English households during the 16th century.
If you feel like a less traditional route, we have all manner of exciting sweets to consider. How about a Christmas dessert that's a piece of cake—literally! The four-layer chocolate confection shown here comes together from a one-bowl batter and three-ingredient frosting. You could also whip up our fantastic version of Sicilian cannoli, or a large, free-form meringue, which could be fun to crush into with child-like glee. There are other holiday desserts here, which are crowned with a glorious meringue layer, too, from a bûche de noël made from a simple cake roll to a Christmas tree-shaped ice-cream cake—a sort of baked Alaska. Get into meringue making by consulting our helpful primer on the different types of meringues used in these and many other festive desserts.
Using this collection of fabulous recipes should ensure your holiday dessert is not only absolutely delicious, but also an event family and friends will remember long after the mistletoe is gone and the ornaments have been taken down.
Puff-Pastry Cannoli Cake
Candied orange peel, chocolate, and creamy ricotta are the flavors of Italian cannoli, and a green pistachio dusting all around the cake is just the right way to turn it into a Christmas dessert. This fun creation is simple to make.
Coffee-Caramel Swiss Roll
A perfect Christmas dessert that's simple to make, this semifreddo is not the chewy Italian confection it appears to be; it's actually a freezer cake with the flavors and look of torrone. Of course, it needs to be made-ahead, which is actually a great thing during the busy holiday season—dessert is in the freezer.
No-Bake Chocolate-Eggnog Creme Brulee
Sometimes a smooth spoonful of chilled custard is the perfect ending to a big meal. This one has all the holiday flavors.
Baked Alaska Tree
To make this spectacular centerpiece dessert, you'll need to plan ahead a bit, but the rest is a piece of cake! You'll find the effort put into it is a fraction of the finished effect. Just be sure to clear space in your freezer for this one.
Using dried fruits and spices for Christmas cakes and puddings is a long-held holiday tradition. Here, they are steeped in tea rather than booze, and their flavors heightened by the Moroccan spice merchants' mixture called ras-el-hanout.
Pastry Wreath with Orange-Rum Cream
Make our take on a classic patisserie recipe, Paris Brest, for a truly showstopping dessert. It's made from a pâte à choux batter which is piped into a circle rather than the usual individual puffs. Decorate with candied citrus peel and serve with a glass of dessert wine.
Date Malva-Pudding Cakes
These toffee-like puddings have a date-sweetened cream poured into their centers just before serving and make a wonderful, warm ending to a festive dinner.
Sherry Trifle with Brandy Custard
With its luscious layers, soft and boozy, a trifle is a true gift to any table. This one marries the flavors of Spain: almonds, sherry, and brandy, with crisp, Italian amaretti cookies.
Coffee Meringue-Ice Cream Cake
This casual dessert just might be the perfect ending to a holiday meal. An ice cream cake brings out the kid in each of us, but this one has flavors that are sophisticated enough to satisfy adult palates.
Steamed Persimmon Pudding
Fresh and bright, this contemporary trifle has contrasting textures of gelatin and creamy custard without the usual booze; everyone can dig into this one.