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Holiday Desserts

Close your eyes and anticipate the sights, the sounds, and the aromas of the winter holiday season. How far did you get before food entered the scene? Were you baking sugar cookies with the kids, or serving cranberry bars to the carolers? Did you attend a community potluck, with its high dessert ratio, or an open house rich with the aroma of gingerbread? There’s good reason we center much of our celebrating around food—especially lavish, almost sinfully indulgent desserts. Holiday baking warms our hearts along with our kitchens, heightens our senses, and encourages the spirit of sharing and celebration. It’s a perfect opportunity to express the festive extravagance that marks the season.

The dessert recipes we’ve chosen meet the requirements for holiday hospitality. They’re festive, a bit extravagant (or so they seem), and extraordinarily delicious. Some, like plum pudding to grace the center of your Christmas table, and Buche de Noel (a chocolate yule log) to present at meal’s end, are rich and traditional. While the list of ingredients for plum pudding is extensive, the method is quite simple—just mix it all up and cook in a pudding steamer. Buche de Noel does take some time and careful handling, but if you enjoy baking, this is the time to do it! The cream cheese wreath cake, dripping with maple glaze, might inspire some fancy decorating, while the cookies—orange cardamom bells with walnut or gumdrop clappers, and pecan snowballs rolled in confectioner’s sugar—are sure to attract little helpers. And if you don’t have any time to bake, in just 20 minutes you can still create a dessert elegant enough to serve special holiday guests—coconut rum truffles. Now close your eyes and plan what desserts you’ll be whipping up this season.

Buche de Noel
The yule log is the center of many European Christmas celebrations; Buche de Noel is the traditional French dessert yule log. our version uses a light chocolate cake, whipped cream filling, and buttercream chocolate frosting.

Plum Pudding
While the ingredient list looks daunting, plum pudding is easy to make—much like mixing up a batch of stuffing. Once it’s in the steamer, you don’t even have to check on it for a few hours. For a truly traditional pudding, substitute suet for the butter in this recipe. Serve with a hard sauce (rum for adults, orange for the kids).

Coconut Rum Truffles
These rum delicacies are an adult dessert! They are surprisingly simple—though messy—to make and perfect for prepare-ahead entertaining. To give as a gift, pack each in paper candy cups, then place in a pretty tin.

Cream Cheese Wreath Cake with Maple Glaze
Cream cheese, maple glaze and holiday decorations put a new twist on old-fashioned pound cake, whose recipe once read: 1# butter, 1# sugar, 1# flour, 1# eggs and flavoring.

Pecan Snowballs
Pecans are found in holiday pies, cakes, cookies, even main and side dish recipes. These cookies are rolled in confectioner’s sugar, and melt in your mouth, like pure snow.

Orange Cardamom Bells
Kids love making these bell shapes (no cookie cutters needed) and adding the clappers. try this recipe in place of your regular sugar cookie recipe for other shapes, too.

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