26 Festive Christmas Desserts to Make This Season

Sour Cherry-Cheesecake Trifle with Black Pepper and Saba
Photo: Christopher Testani

From rich peppermint brownies to a stunning Chocolate-and-Citrus Cassata, these Christmas dessert recipes are sure to bring a little extra holiday cheer to your menu. We've gathered 26 so that you can find the perfect dish to round out your dinner, be it Sticky Toffee Pudding, bright green Putri Salju Pandan, or a slice of simple lemon cake. Looking for a gingerbread recipe? We've got cookies you can try, and a gingerbread trifle recipe, too. Read on for even more Christmas dessert recipes to enjoy.

01 of 26

Gingerbread and White Chocolate Mousse Trifle

Gingerbread and White Chocolate Mousse Trifle

This trifle is three desserts in one: mousse, gingerbread, and caramel. Each part is delicious on its own, too.

02 of 26

Salted Caramel Pie

Salted Caramel Pie
Dana Gallagher

There are only seven ingredients in this luscious pie. The caramel filling is rich and thick and delicious with a sprinkle of flaky fleur de sel.

03 of 26

Cherry-and-Chocolate Bûche de Noël

Cherry-and-Chocolate Bûche de Noël
© Michael Turek

Pastry chef Dominique Ansel's version of bûche de noël is lighter than many, thanks to the beaten egg whites in the batter and the use of whipped cream in place of buttercream as frosting.

04 of 26

Chocolate-Peppermint Brownies

Chocolate-Peppermint Brownies
© Kristin Perers

These rich peppermint brownies topped with crushed candy canes are from London's cult-favorite bakery Violet. If you can't find candy canes, use striped peppermint candies.

05 of 26

Triple-Ginger Rye Cookies

Triple Ginger Cookies
Greg DuPree

Hearty rye flour paired with three types of ginger—powdered, candied, and fresh—lends an earthy, lightly spicy flavor to these holiday cookies.

06 of 26

S'mores Linzer Cookies

S'mores Linzer Cookie
Greg DuPree

Swapping graham flour and hazelnut meal for the all-purpose flour and almond meal gives these linzer-inspired cookies the flavor of s'mores. With marshmallow creme sandwiched between them and a drizzle of melted bittersweet chocolate on top, they're a festive reminder of the campfire classic.

07 of 26

Orange-Anise Croquembouche with White Chocolate

Orange-Anise Croquembouche with White Chocolate
Christopher Testani

Wow your loved ones with this stunning tower of cream puffs, which seems more challenging to make than it actually is (seriously—only one hour of active time on your part).

08 of 26

Sour Cherry–Cheesecake Trifle with Black Pepper and Saba

Sour Cherry-Cheesecake Trifle with Black Pepper and Saba
Christopher Testani

Pichet Ong's riff on a proper British trifle retains the classic form while reinventing the components. Cheesecake stands in for egg custard; pound cake replaces ladyfingers. Rather than sherry, Ong's trifle uses saba, a syrup made from cooking down grape must, which has a flavor similar to balsamic vinegar.

09 of 26

Spiced Gingerbread Cookies

Spiced Gingerbread Cookies
© Christina Holmes

These gingerbread cookies have a tender and cakey texture, yet they're sturdy enough to decorate. The recipe yields about two dozen large cookies—you can keep them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days.

10 of 26

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Photo by Andrew Bui / Food Styling by Caitlin Haught Brown

These luscious sticky toffee puddings are all about the honeyed sweetness of plump dates and creamy caramel. A touch of corn syrup ensures that the caramel stays silky smooth, while a bit of vanilla in the cake complements its richness. Serve them with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream for contrast.

11 of 26

Putri Salju Pandan (Pandan-Flavored Indonesian "Snow White" Cookies)

Putri Salju Pandan (Pandan- Flavored “Snow White” Cookies)
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

To League of Kitchens cooking instructor Shandra Woworuntu, baking comes naturally. Her grandmother owned a baking supply and snack company in East Java, Indonesia, and Woworuntu and her mother ran a homemade cookie business in Jakarta in the late 1980s. Traditionally in Indonesia, Putri Salju ("Snow White" or "Snow Princess") cookies are made with almonds, peanuts, or cashews inside and are popular during the holidays, including Christmas, Ramadan, and Chinese New Year. Her mother's version, and now the recipe Woworuntu makes, adds pandan flavoring and omits the nuts, making them more cakey than crispy. Pandan, a tropical plant with fragrant leaves that's a popular flavoring in Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia, imparts a vanilla-citrusy flavor and a naturally vivid green color to these cookies.

12 of 26

Tropical Mendiants

Tropical Mendiants
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Pastry chef Paola Velez's stunning mendiants are surprisingly easy to make with her simple method for tempering chocolate in the microwave. Piped into rounds, the chocolates are topped with a colorful mix of tropical fruit, toasted nuts, and seeds. Like mini, open-faced chocolate candy bars, the mendiants can be made ahead and served right from the fridge.

13 of 26

Goat Cheese Cake with Wine-Poached Cranberries

Goat cheese cake with red wine poached cranberries
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, pastry chef Claudia Fleming's holiday cheesecake is extra creamy thanks to a combination of tangy goat cheese and mascarpone. Be sure to beat in the mascarpone at low speed to preserve its extra-smooth texture. Don't skip straining the cranberry mixture after adding the gelatin; removing the foam is key to a clear, glossy gelée.

14 of 26

Spiced Pavlovas with Oranges and Mulled Wine Caramel

Spiced Pavlovas with Oranges and Mulled Wine Caramel
Photo by Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Prissy Lee

The first Christmas Food & Wine editor Melanie Hansche celebrated in Bavaria with her Australian husband, he made her family a classic Australian pavlova. Even though Bavarians don't tend to eat dessert at the end of a Christmas meal, the lightness and freshness of the fruit and meringue in the pavlova, which balanced the rich, savory dinner that had come before, was a winner. These individual pavlovas represent a mash-up of Hansche's Bavarian and Australian upbringing. In it, the aromas and ingredients of a Bavarian Christmas market—glühwein, toasted almonds, spiced cookies—are infused into the components of the classic Australian dessert: a base of sweet, cinnamon-spiced meringue is topped with fresh, tangy quark, and crowned with bright citrus and intense mulled wine caramel.

15 of 26

Butterscotch Pudding Parfait with Gingersnap Crumble

Joanne Chang's Butterscotch Pudding Parfait
Tara Donne

Classic butterscotch pudding is enhanced with tangy whipped crème fraîche and warm, spicy gingersnap crumble to make a beautiful parfait.

16 of 26

Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Layers of delicate flavors from lemon, honey, and extra-virgin olive oi­l—which helps keep the cake moist and imparts mild fruitiness—come together in this one-bowl batter. Stacked with a fluffy and rich lemon-cream cheese frosting, this easy layer cake is a keeper.

17 of 26

Chocolate Cardamom Cream Tart with Pistachio-Sesame Brittle

Chocolate Cardamom Tart with Pistachio Sesame Brittle
Anna Stockwell

This elegant tart gets complex depth from a combination of bittersweet and milk chocolate, and plenty of richness from heavy cream. A touch of cardamom in the custard and the whipped-cream topping, plus the contrasting crunch of homemade nut brittle, takes this dessert to the next-level.

18 of 26

Basque Cheesecake

Basque Cheesecake Recipe
Cedric Angeles

2020 Best New Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph bakes a perfectly creamy cheesecake, minus a water bath or risk of a cracked or sunken top, by incorporating whipped cream cheese with heavy cream to make the batter.

19 of 26

Alfajores de Maizena (Sandwich Cookies Filled with Dulce de Leche)

Alfajores de Maizena (Sandwich Cookies Filled with Dulce de Leche)
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Extra-thick dulce de leche between two buttery cookies rolled in shredded coconut all add up to the perfect bite in these alfajores de maizena. Argentinian League of Kitchens instructor Mirta Rinaldi learned how to make these melt-in-your-mouth sandwich cookies from her mom. Because of the generous amount of cornstarch in the dough, the cookies remain tender and soft after baking. Seek out dulce de leche repostero, which is made for pastry and baking, for this recipe; it's extra thick, with a firm body that won't squeeze out past the edges of the cookies in between bites.

20 of 26

Coconut Arroz con Leche Tamales

Coconut Arroz Con Lecha Tamales

Lightly sweetened coconut rice pudding provides a custardy contrast to the tender masa in these dreamy dessert tamales. Drizzled with sweet and buttery goat's milk caramel, they also make a festive holiday breakfast.

21 of 26

Cocoa Cola Bundt Cake

Coca Cola Bundt Cake with Amarena Cherries
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Micah Morton / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Traditional Coca-Cola cake, a staple of the American South, usually comes in the form of a chocolate sheet cake that's doused in a gooey glaze. The batter is splashed with a bit of cola, sometimes for flavor but mostly for fluff; the soda's carbonation acts as a leavening agent, similar to baking soda or baking powder, helping the cake rise and come out light and airy. In her modern-day version, cookbook author Vallery Lomas flips tradition on its head by making a cola-flavored cake with cola-flavored icing. The key to Lomas' Cocoa Cola Bundt Cake is in the Coca-Cola syrup. Lomas concentrates the cola by reducing it with sugar and adding a bit of lemon juice, and then she mixes the resulting syrup into both the cake and the icing for a more concentrated taste.

22 of 26

Chocolate-and-Citrus Cassata

Chocolate and Citrus Cassata
Victor Protasio

To decorate this spectacular holiday dessert, use an offset spatula, a bench scraper, and a cake turntable for the smoothest cake with straight sides. Prevent air bubbles from forming in the dark chocolate ganache glaze by using a spatula to stir the melting chocolate.

23 of 26

Vegan Coconut-Ginger Caramels

Vegan Coconut Ginger Caramels
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

For these ginger- and chile-spiked caramels, plant-based fat from coconut replaces the typical butter, resulting in creamy, chewy caramels that are perfect for anyone on your gift list. Thai chile brings complex, fruity heat to these fragrant caramels; substitute a pinch of crushed red pepper, if desired. To package them to give as gifts, individually wrap caramels in parchment paper.

24 of 26

Kourampiedes (Greek Christmas Cookies)

Kourampiedes (Toasted Almond Crescent Cookies)
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Blanched and toasted almond pieces bring a lovely crunch to these crumbly, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth Greek Christmas cookies. Some versions of kourampiedes add orange zest, but League of Kitchens Greek cooking instructor Despina Economou prefers the simple flavors of butter, sugar, almonds, and vanilla. This recipe can easily be doubled.

25 of 26

Bûche de Noël with Mascarpone Cream and Dark Chocolate Ganache

Buche de Noel
Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Kay Clarke

A few smart moves make this Bûche de Noël a cut above the rest. Allowing the cake to cool while still rolled helps prevent cracking. Mascarpone stabilizes the whipped cream filling so that it can be chilled overnight without weeping. Butter and corn syrup in the ganache keep it smooth and glossy. And stirring slivered toasted almonds into the ganache frosting gives it a "tree bark" look and adds contrasting texture to the silky filling and tender cake. If you'd like to make Meringue Mushrooms to decorate the cake, feel free to bake them up to three days ahead.

26 of 26

Chestnut Pavlova

Chestnut Pavlova
Photo by Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Thom Driver

Nigella Lawson's chestnut pavlova recipe is fabulously festive: an exuberant, rich, and luxurious treat for the holidays. The meringue base is crisp on the outside with a soft marshmallowy interior, topped with sweetened chestnut puree followed by swaths of softly whipped cream and splinters of bitter chocolate.

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