Friends, family, and food: If you ask us, these are the hallmarks of the holidays. Whether you’re hosting loved ones at home or have been tasked with bringing dessert to your in-laws, how you end your meal matters… which means picking up a pre-made cake from the grocery store simply won’t cut it.
So, that leaves you with two options: Pay an arm and a leg for a confection from a professional pastry chef, or whip up something yourself. And while baking does come with its own set of complexities, with the right recipe—aka, one you can actually pull off—you can flex your festive culinary chops and impress the hell out of fellow party-goers.
Spiced, poached pears radiate elegance, while an orange-cranberry tart is always a crowd pleaser. And vegan guests will go wild for a decadent chocolate cake that might even convince skeptics that butter doesn’t always make everything better.
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding… but in this case, it’s also in the cake, cobbler, and cannolis.
So, without further ado, ahead are 11 elegant desserts that will wow on Christmas. And did we happen to mention that they all taste as good as they look?
Malabi with Salted Rosemary Caramel
If you haven’t heard of malabi, you’re seriously missing out. This seasonal riff on traditional Middle Eastern milk pudding is scented with rosewater and topped with rosemary-infused salted caramel, pomegranate arils, and slivered almonds.
Get the recipe on What Jew Wanna Eat.
Gingerbread Bundt Cake
Gingerbread men are great for your annual cookie exchange, but when it comes to a more formal fete, we’d recommend trading your baking sheets for a bundt pan. This moist, fluffy, and fragrant cake is drizzled with a sweet maple syrup glaze that’ll have you dreaming about it long after dessert is over.
Get the recipe on Salt & Baker.
Spiced Red Wine Poached Pears with Vanilla Mascarpone Whipped Cream
Tender, juicy, and not overly sweet, red wine poached pears are one of the sexiest desserts. The addition of cloves and cinnamon give this recipe a warm, wintery quality, and a dollop of vanilla mascarpone whipped cream just makes it all the more luscious.
Get the recipe on From a Chef’s Kitchen.
Vegan Chocolate Orange Cake
Dark chocolate and orange is a winning combination. This triple chocolate cake is so indulgent and gorgeous, your guests won’t guess that it’s vegan and gluten-free.
Get the recipe on Nirvana Cakery.
White Chocolate Cranberry Cannolis
A timely twist on Sicily’s signature pastry, crunchy cannoli shells are filled with a sweet cream cheese mixture. Dried cranberries and white chocolate chips add another depth of flavor, but you could also sprinkle in some chopped walnuts or pecans for a bit more texture.
Get the recipe on No Plate Like Home.
Spiced Layer Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting and Sugared Cranberries
Talk about a display-worthy dessert: This confection flaunts alternating layers of spiced cake and cinnamon buttercream frosting. The finishing touch? Festive sugared cranberries.
Get the recipe on The Beach House Kitchen.
Apple, Pomegranate, and Ginger Cobbler
If you’re anything like us, you’re not ready to give up apples once fall ends. And why should you? They’re delicious—especially when paired with tart pomegranate, zesty ginger, and a crunchy crust. Planning a seated dinner? We love the idea of serving each guest an individual skillet.
Get the recipe on Climbing Grier Mountain.
Vegan Chocolate Biscuit Pudding
Another delight that everyone—including non-dairy eaters—can enjoy, this biscuit pudding has a rich chocolate flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture. And did we mention that it comes together in just 10 minutes? Now that’s a Christmas miracle.
Get the recipe on Love Is In My Tummy.
Gingersnap Icebox Cake with Cranberry Mascarpone Whipped Cream
Looking for the perfect centerpiece for your holiday dessert table? Gingersnap cookies are smothered with homemade cranberry mascarpone whipped cream and topped with sugared cranberries.
Get the recipe on The Every Kitchen.
Sticky Toffee Pudding Poke Cake
Inspired by the classic British dessert, this moist, date-dotted cake is drenched in thick toffee sauce and served with vanilla ice cream. One bite, and you’ll be hooked.
Get the recipe on The Cookie Rookie.
Orange Cranberry Tart
There’s a reason certain recipes remain on holiday menus year after year. Case in point? This orange cranberry tart brings together a number of seasonal flavors. Not to mention, it’s also a total show stopper.
Get the recipe on The Life Jolie.
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