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For bakers at every level
16 spectacular Christmas desserts
If you’re not covered in multicolored sprinkles… are you even baking for Christmas? This most wonderful time of the year owes its appeal in large part to the copious amounts of butter, sugar, and chocolate we indulge in when the holidays roll around. There’s no better time to let yourself lick the beaters, dirty every dish in the pursuit of deliciousness, and generally make a mess of the kitchen. No baking experience? No worries. Whether your cupboards are stocked solely with cold cereal and snack chips, or your theme song could be “All About That Bake,” we’ve got you covered. Read on for 16 fantastic Christmas dessert recipes that span the spectrum of baking ability, all of which would be the pièce de résistance of any holiday meal.
Are meringue desserts the perfect sweet treat? Quite possibly. Meringue, a lighter-than-air confection made from egg whites and sugar, is low in calories, naturally gluten-free, and endlessly versatile. Making meringue doesn’t require exotic or expensive ingredients, and it provides a great opportunity for a new baker to practice piping skills. basic recipe to get the technique down pat (but trust us; meringue isn’t as intimidating as it might look).
Next, try your hand at some adorable Christmas trees or dress up meringue kisses with dark chocolate and peppermint.
Ready for a challenge? Check out this stunning pavlova with seasonal sugared cranberries, or knock their socks off with an incredible baked alaska yule log.
Try your hand at a holiday pie
Pie is a classic Christmas dessert for good reason. As with pizza, even a not-that-good pie is still a pretty-good pie. These deep-dish delights can be made ahead of time, then travel over the river and through the woods without risk to their appearance or structural integrity, like some sophisticated desserts. (Lookin’ at you, chocolate soufflé.) Perhaps best of all, they make a convenient vehicle for a dollop of delicious whipped cream—or a sidecar scoop of ice cream. Rank beginners can opt for a store-bought crust and a no-bake eggnog cream filling that comes together in a snap; there’s no shame in that game. Or start slow with pecan pie bars that boast a super-easy buttery shortbread as a bottom layer.
More experienced bakers whose crust game is strong can expand their skills with a French silk pie. This decadent dessert marries from-scratch chocolate mousse filling with fresh, homemade whipped cream.
Plaiting a classic lattice atop your pie is another useful skill to master. To truly impress your guests, nothing quite says pro-level pie proficiency like an intricately designed crust.
Puddings from across the pond
Great British Bake Off fans know that “pudding” is the U.K.’s way of saying “dessert.” The Christmas variety, which is usually steamed or boiled, bears no resemblance to the stuff that Americans spoon out of plastic cups. Rather, it is dense, often chock-full of fruit (although plum pudding contains no actual plums, sugar- or other), and usually served with a buttery, booze-infused sauce. For maximum dramatic effect, it can be doused with rum or brandy then carried to the table alight, flambé-fashion. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. For starters, here’s a beginner-friendly bread pudding with old-world appeal. This cozy, comforting dessert starts with prepared panettone, a sweet, fruit-studded yeast bread baked into a beautiful round loaf. The addition of almonds, sweet cherries, and chocolate chips make for delightful pops of flavor.
Many of us grew up singing about figgy pudding, but have you ever tasted a true plum pudding, as they’re also called? Experience authentic taste with a scratch-made version that’s still relatively simple to prepare. Another option that’s totally doable, even for a noob, is a chocolate-on-chocolate pud from the reigning Queen of Cakes herself, Mary Berry.
Bakers who want a challenge can roll up their sleeves and put a traditional English Christmas pudding on the menu. This bake is not for the faint of heart—the ingredients include suet, treacle, and macerated raisins—but the labor you invest in it will pay off in the oohs and ahhs of your holiday party guests.
Classic Christmas cakes
Trifles are among the most impressive Christmas desserts around, especially when they’re served in the traditional glass trifle dish so that all of their glorious layers are on display. Yet they are also one of the easiest, most versatile ways to get your holiday sugar fix. A trifle is made by layering bite-sized morsels of cake with whipped cream and decadent extras such as cookies, crushed candy, fruit, cheesecake filling, chocolate frosting—whatever seasonal ingredients your sweet tooth desires. Peppermint, gingerbread, cranberry, eggnog, or red velvet would all be excellent flavor profiles to trifle with (so to speak). If you don’t have a trifle bowl, individual stemless wine glasses are a fine alternative that also provides built-in portion control. Best of all, you can absolutely sub in store-bought versions of everything for a crazy-fast yet simply stunning dessert.
If you’re down to do some from-scratch baking, how about a batch (or four) of cupcakes? These individual treats definitely bring the cuteness factor, while also allowing for plenty of variety and experimentation. Test out different frosting styles, piping techniques, fillings, and garnishes, or try a time-honored pairing like gingerbread and eggnog.
Lastly, there’s the classic bûche de noël. This holiday bake is a showstopper, to be sure. While making an ordinary Swiss roll isn’t as difficult as many people imagine, the decoration could present a challenge, or at least a significant time commitment. That’s especially true if you choose to go all out with meringue mushrooms, sugared cranberries, and other festive, forest-inspired details. However, if you love nothing better than firing up your stand mixer and your Spotify Christmas playlist for an all-day baking project, don your apron and dive right in.