30 Festive Christmas Desserts
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.
Salted Caramel Pie
There are only 7 ingredients in this luscious pie. The caramel filling is rich and thick and delicious with a sprinkle of flaky fleur de sel.
Seven-Layer Dobos Torte
When this version of the chocolate buttercream layer cake, by pastry chef Matt Danko, went on the Greenhouse Tavern menu, Jonathon Sawyer says the old ladies of Cleveland rejoiced. “Even my grandmother loves it,” he says.
Slow-Cooker Sour Cream Cheesecake
Cheesecake cooked in a slow cooker has an unbelievably silky texture because the machine steams the cake as it bakes. The toughest part about making it is resisting the urge to peek inside the slow cooker—the lid must stay closed to retain heat.
This decadent pear-and-caramel trifle is perfect for a party because it can be made a day ahead and it serves a crowd.
Ginger Puddings with Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce and Ginger
In England, cooks steam their Christmas puddings. But Nick Malgieri bakes his buttery ginger puddings instead, then caps them with warm bittersweet-chocolate sauce and delicious ginger-caramel crunch.
Italian Trifle with Marsala Syrup
In Italy, Fabio Trabocchi makes this dessert with Alchermes, a bright-red cinnamon-scented liqueur rarely seen in the States. The Sicilian fortified wine Marsala is a good substitute: It has a subtler color but a similarly spiced flavor, perfect for drenching squares of soft sponge cake layered with vanilla-infused pastry cream.
Orange-Scented Buttermilk Cake Loaves
Holiday Entertaining Tip: The solution to baking for 20 is to stick with easy desserts like this moist buttermilk cake, which can be made a day in advance.
Marcia Kiesel uses chestnuts to add a sophisticated flavor to a luxe chocolate mousse.
“I love this dessert because it makes me think of eggnog,” says Valerie Gordon. To give the semifreddo its spectacular shape, she freezes it in a silicone kugelhof mold. You can also use any mold or pan that holds at least eight cups.
Vanilla and Cranberry Panna Cotta Parfaits
This dessert is made up of two elements—creamy vanilla panna cotta and a clear cranberry jelly. Alison Attenborough created a graphic look by tilting the plastic glasses at a 45-degree angle as the first two layers are poured and allowed to set.
Gingerbread Roll with Cinnamon Cream
Jennifer Giblin has created elegant desserts at New York City’s Eleven Madison Park and Blue Smoke, but she excels at homespun recipes like this gingerbread roll. A riff on a bûche de Noël, it combines tender ginger cake with a tangy cream-cheese filling.
Lemon-Curd Cakes with Poppy Seeds
“The lemon–poppy seed combo is classic,” says Vinny Dotolo. “When I was a kid, I ate lemon–poppy seed muffins for breakfast and with ice cream for dessert.” Now he turns the pairing into lovely cakes: They have a tender cakey layer on the bottom, a luscious curd-like layer on top and poppy-seed crème fraîche to finish the whole thing off.
Cherry-and-Chocolate Bûche de Noël
Every year during Christmas week, pastry chef Dominique Ansel serves guests complimentary mini bûches de Noël. His version here 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.
Applesauce-Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
Kristin Donnelly is devoted to her mother's one-bowl Bundt cake because of its clove and cinnamon spices and its simplicity. As an exchange student in France, she even paid top dollar for chocolate chips and applesauce at an American market to make it for her host family. Today she adds a kick of black pepper to the batter and serves each slice with a cool-sour dollop of crème fraîche.
Pear and Almond Cream Tart
Semolina Soufflé Cake
This cake has a surprisingly delicate and soufflé-like texture. It needs to be refrigerated overnight, so plan accordingly.
Sticky Toffee Pudding Eggnog
Eben Freeman’s foamy interpretation of eggnog—infused with the sweet, caramelly flavors of sticky toffee pudding, a British favorite—is halfway between a drink and a dessert. “It’s thick enough to eat with a spoon,” he says. “So was classic eggnog.”
Dulce de Leche Layer Cake
The version of Dominican cake that Scott Conant’s friends introduced him to was a white cake layered with dulce de leche filling and frosted with a very sweet meringue. In his adaptation, Conant (along with his pastry chef Gerry Minos) lightens up on the sugar in the meringue and adds a nutty liqueur to the filling and frosting, giving it an Italian flavor. The cake is a knockout, with or without the liqueur, and stellar with either homemade or store-bought dulce de leche.
Almond Cake with Mixed Berries
Tara Stevens bakes berries into this exceptionally nutty cake to add sweetness.
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.
Gingerbread Cookies with Royal Icing
"These cookies are totally a kid thing," says Michael Mina. "When my son Sammy was two, he used to suck on them. Now that he's eight, he helps me decorate them. He's always in the kitchen with me."
Christmas Boiled Fruit Cake
This easy and forgiving recipe is inspired by a boiled fruit cake Andrew Zimmern tasted when visiting Newfoundland. By boiling the dried fruit with rum, molasses, cream and spices the cake turns out deliciously spongy and moist.
Duane Sorenson gets together with his mother and sister to bake these buttery date-studded cookies every year for the holidays.
Raspberry-Hazelnut Macaroons (Haselnussmakronen)
These German raspberry-hazelnut macaroons require just five ingredients and are extremely no-fuss. Says Berlin-based blogger Luisa Weiss, "You just throw the dough together, heat up some jam and you're almost there."