Christmas Desserts That Dazzle
Deck the dessert table this Christmas with our Double Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake, a classic figgy pudding, easy eggnog fudge, gingerbread whoopie pies, and more fabulous Christmas desserts
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Double Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake; photograph by Olga Ivanova
(Want more Christmas recipes and tips? Check out our big Yummly Christmas page!)
Even though Christmas dinner is no light affair, there's always room for the final course: Christmas dessert! Maybe it requires switching from your fancy attire into stretchy (red velvet) pants, or planning out your dinner strategy ahead of time and not indulging in a second helping of potatoes au gratin. But with gingerbread, eggnog, peppermint, chocolate fudge, mousse, and more to consider, you can be sure dessert is a priority at many a Christmas gathering.
But Christmas dessert means different things to different people. There are the showstoppers that deserve to be on a silver cake pedestal, or the cute gingerbread cookies that show off the kids' artistic skills. Some homes have an entire separate dessert table with multiple sweet options, whereas others bring the singular dessert to the main dining table. From timeless treasures to the unconventionally clever (see Christmas Tree Meringue Cookies below), there's a whole universe of yuletide desserts. Whether you're a beginner baker or a capable culinarian, there's something on our list that's sure to spark sweet inspiration.
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Traditional Christmas dessert recipes
These treats are truly synonymous with Christmas
Add some jolly to your jelly roll pan with a Bûche de Noël — which is French for "yule log," making it a traditional dessert on both sides of the Atlantic. This one looks like it was put together by an accomplished sculptor, but you, too, can shape your sponge cake into a faux log. It's all in the soft and impressionable mocha frosting. Just roll up the frosted cake, slather on more frosting with a knife, then make streaks with a fork for authentic-looking bark. The end result is almost too cute to cut!
American tradition dictates we serve Grandma's fruitcake, but perhaps you'd like an Italian departure from the holiday staple? Panettone is not exactly like fruitcake, but there is a lot of fruit in it — oranges, lemons, raisins. The cake part is not cake at all but a soft brioche. That's good news for breakfast enthusiasts — the leftovers can be transformed into Panettone Bread Pudding.
If you really want to spread joy to the world, let it be with rum balls. They are adult treats, and these little spheres of sweet satisfaction are from a no-bake mix of rum, vanilla wafers, cocoa powder, and corn syrup bedazzled in whatever embellishment you choose (sprinkles, cocoa, powdered sugar). They don't take long to make, but if you want the flavors of the season to pop, let them sit in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days before serving.
This time-honored tradition is more than a dessert; it's a show for your guests when you flambé it at the dining table. Dried figs and dates are boiled, pureed into a paste, and added to the batter for a perfectly moist cake, baked in a bundt pan that's set in a hot water bath. Serve with an easy homemade caramel-y toffee sauce. And most importantly, douse with rum and light it on fire — very carefully!
Not all fruitcakes are created equal. But this one is worth taking a chance on. It features sour cream to create a moist crumb, is chock full of dried fruit and walnuts, and is spiked with brandy, though you could absolutely leave out the alcohol. It would be beautiful wrapped in cellophane and delivered to your neighbors. It also makes delicious toast with butter.
This sweet yeast bread is loaded with rum-soaked dried fruit and lightly flavored with almond extract. The dough is folded in three parts so it resembles a letter fit for an envelope. When the loaf is done baking, it's brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with powdered sugar, not once, but twice!
Pies for Christmas
Pies are no stranger to the Christmas dessert table. In fact, making a homemade crust and rolling out the dough is often a family activity. The recipes in this section offer seasonal flavors in pie form.
Sure, pumpkin pie season starts before Thanksgiving, but the creamy, dreamy, warm-spiced dessert makes an appearance on many Christmas tables. In this frozen version, the crust is made with crushed gingersnap cookies to give it that holiday flair. The filling is combined and then chilled, but never baked. It's a fantastic dessert candidate for making ahead.
This ooey-gooey, nutty pie is a classic Christmas dessert. Save time by purchasing your favorite pre-made pie shell, or go all in on your favorite homemade crust. Either way, the filling for this holiday treat — with pecans, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and bourbon — is perfectly spiced and easy to put together.
This beautiful twist on apple pie includes cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to warm up the flavors, and adds cranberries for a pop of color. A mix of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples gives the pie its tart-sweet taste. A dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of cinnamon ice cream completes this special holiday dessert.
A chocolate cookie crust provides the base for this heavenly chocolate peanut butter pie. The filling is an easy peanut butter cream cheese mixture. You'll spend a bit more time on the top layer and it will be so worth it: Make meringue, fold in melted chocolate, then incorporate whipped cream. Hello, mousse!
Candy canes are probably the most famous source of peppermint flavor at Christmastime, but that doesn't mean you can't get your peppermint fix in other Christmassy desserts. The recipes in this section celebrate the minty.
This stunning cheesecake features a chocolate cookie crust, a peppermint-flavored cream cheese filling, and a ganache topping that drips off the sides. Crushed candy canes are folded into the filling and sprinkled on top as garnish, for a truly festive holiday dessert.
This kid-friendly holiday cake is festive without being fussy. Baked in a rectangular baking pan, it can be frosted and served straight from the pan for ultra convenience. Red food gel swirls add a special touch to a simple buttery yellow cake batter. And for even more reasons to be merry, you top off the baked cake with a heavenly peppermint frosting and crushed candy canes.
Don't be confused by the title of the recipe; it's not really three desserts blended into one, it's just two desserts, but it takes the shape of a third. Regardless of how many desserts it represents, it's not for the faint of (sweet)heart. Peppermint Bark Sugar Cookie Pie is cookie dough and crushed candy canes pressed into a pie plate and baked. After it's cooled, the chocolate chips are melted and poured over the cookie pie and sprinkled with more candy cane pieces. After one slice of this, your chocolate-peppermint craving will be satisfied until next year!
An easy dark chocolate cake batter is poured into cupcake pans, baked, then topped with a pretty-in-pink candy cane buttercream. Have fun with the kids decorating the frosting mounds with holiday toothpicks, red and white sprinkles, or crushed candy cane pieces.
Recipes with eggnog
The spiced, rich, egg-based beverage is sometimes spiked with alcohol, sometimes used in place of milk in morning coffee, and lately, readily available in non-dairy or even vegan form. And while it's great as a drink, it's also a fabulous ingredient in desserts.
After all the dangerously indulgent desserts the holiday season parcels out, this Eggnog Pound Cake is strikingly simple without losing the lively, sweet style of the season. The recipe plays with the ratios a bit to accommodate the egg and milk from the 'nog, but don't let that throw you off. The result is a moist and cakey adult dessert. If you want to take "adult" a step further, feel free to add a splash of rum to the cake and the glaze. This makes a lovely bundt cake, but it works as a classic loaf cake as well.
If you're rarin' to really indulge, try this rich concoction that convincingly combines two holiday treats in one: eggnog and creme brulee. Just so we don't totally blow your mind, this is a basic egg yolk-based custard that uses eggnog for holiday flavor and is topped with that crunchy sugar shell you get with creme brulee. Another fantastic adult dessert. #winning
Following two sophisticated desserts, we're diving into a Christmas dessert recipe that's geared toward those who have sweet-and-simple leanings. Eggnog, white chocolate, and marshmallow creme unite to make one spectacularly sweet fudge. A few words of warning: Don't eat these before noon, and do take small bites.
Gingerbread isn’t just for decorating houses and cookies. The spice-filled molasses flavor shows up beautifully in a variety of desserts.
This recipe sits at the intersection of classic holiday treat and Italian ambrosia. It uses gingerbread cookies as the base instead of ladyfingers, and instead of a boozy zabaglione, it calls for eggnog to whip into the cream and mascarpone. It's a festive interpretation of a dessert that has a murky origin, so feel free to make it your own — add some rum for a boozy variation or play with the filling.
This one will definitely give you something to whoop about! If you've never had a whoopie pie, they're like two small cakes divided by a layer of frosting, resembling an ice cream sandwich. What makes this recipe interesting is that it uses blackstrap molasses, which means it's a little bit more bitter than your typical gingerbread, but it's balanced out by the marshmallow frosting. Children and adults alike will enjoy this festive dessert.
It just wouldn't be Christmas without fudge or gingerbread. But you can make this Christmas merry by marrying the two recipes to make one dizzying dessert. Sounds peculiar, but this recipe kind of boils down (figuratively speaking) all the gingerbread spices with white chocolate into a dense, creamy, bite-sized version of the classic confection. It's also a no-bake recipe, so if you've overstayed your welcome in the kitchen this season, this recipe puts you on the fast track out!
Don't be intimidated by the ingredients list; gingerbread flavor just requires a lot of spices! This pretty cake uses buttermilk to give it a moist crumb, and molasses and dark brown sugar to give it a deep, earthy foundation for the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Enjoy a slice with a cup of tea — dare we say, ginger tea?
Perhaps gingerbread cookies belong on a list of Christmas cookies instead of in this Christmas desserts roundup, but we simply can't imagine a Christmas dessert table without them. Make a family activity out of decorating the cookies with icing and candy pieces.
Giftable and kid-friendly
From candy bark to cereal wreaths and edible lumps of coal, these Christmas treats are fun to make with kids and offer plenty of holiday cheer without spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Plus, they make great gifts!
These boughs of holly are botanical bites made of the OG breakfast cereal, plus candy fluff, and embellished with cinnamon candies (if you prefer chocolate, you can use red M&Ms). The no-bake brilliance of the recipe makes them an ideal project for kids on a wintry afternoon. They also look great on the holiday dessert table. Disclaimer: Hanging on your front door not recommended.
This is the kind of coal kids want to find in their stockings. These tongue-in-cheek treats are similar in composition to cornflake wreaths (no-bake!), but instead of cornflakes, the recipe calls for crisp rice cereal mixed with crushed Oreo cookies and cream cheese, shaped into lumps of coal, then rolled into more cookie crumbs.
Bark! The herald angels sing! This festive bark recipe is easy to make in large quantities, and fun to decorate. The possibilities are endless. Break up the bark and package in pretty tins or cellophane to gift to loved ones, neighbors, or coworkers.
If you can whip up egg whites, you can make these adorable Christmas tree meringues. And if you're a little nervous about whipping egg whites, the cream of tartar in the recipe is added insurance that you'll have success. Delicate cookies like these are best eaten the day they are made, though they will still be delicious — albeit crumbly — for a few more days.
More Christmas sweets await
Check out these related Yummly articles for more holiday dessert table inspiration.