There are no gingerbread houses here. If you want something decorated with gum drops, this dessert selection is not for you. Instead I've gathered some of my favorite homemade desserts to serve for holiday dinners. And yes, Christmas cookies definitely make the list!
Profiteroles are a gorgeous dessert of small cream puffs filled with either custard or ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce. They are my go-to dessert for festive occasions because they look great, can be mostly made ahead of time, and I've never met a person who didn't like them. You do need to stuff them just before serving, but I find there is always a willing guest to help with this task and it makes for a lovely little break for the two of us in the kitchen before dessert. Get the recipe for Profiteroles.
Bright and cheery with brilliant red cranberries, but also easier than pie to make, this Cranberry Clafoutis riffs on the French classic (usually made with cherries) to fabulous seasonal effect. The dusting of powdered sugar adds a lovely snowy element.
3. Oeufs a la Neige
Delicately poached dumplings of meringue swimming in a pool of custard make a beautiful, if slightly unusual, holiday dessert. This dish is sometimes served as Ile Flottante, a single raft of a meringue island floating in the custard lake, but I prefer the smaller meringues and find they are easier to cook through without anything falling apart than the larger version. Make the custard element ahead of time so it has time to chill. The sheer egginess of this dessert calls for using the very best eggs you can find (I look for pastured eggs for their supremely bouncy whites). See how to make Oeufs a la Neige.
4. Walnut Date Cake With Maple Hard Sauce
This cake is insanely moist and packed with flavor from fresh walnuts and dried dates. With its whole wheat pastry flour it may sound a bit on the healthful side for a celebration, I assure you it is plenty decadent seeming. It is a dense cake that holds its own against the hard sauce. You can also serve it with eggnog or other hefty Christmas cheer with confidence, and if you're lucky enough to have any leftovers a slice on the 26th with a cup of strong coffee is a treat too. Get the recipe for Walnut Date Cake and Maple Hard Sauce.
5. Homemade Pie
While the phrases are "Thanksgiving pie" and "Christmas cake" or "Christmas cookies," there is no reason not to whip up a pie for Christmas. Winter squash are still around to make Roasted Squash Pie or, for another tasty twist on Classic Pumpkin Pie, try this Cardamom Pumpkin Pie. What's more, the fall nut harvest means fresh specimens to fill up Bourbon Pecan Pie or Chocolate Walnut Pie.
Easy to make, you can have it all done ahead of time, rich tasting, and everyone loves it. There aren't reasons not to make Chocolate Mousse for Christmas dessert!
7. Christmas Cookies
It's sort of obvious, but Christmas cookies — especially a selection of them — really do make a perfect Christmas dessert. People can have as many as their appetite and sweet tooth demand, and they look so pretty and tempting on any table. If making a selection, think about the final presentation and choose cookies that end up being different colors, shapes, and sizes. A rolled cookie, a drop cookie, and a sliced cookie, for example, are a nice trio. Some lighter powdered sugar-dusted offerings add a snowy element, while chocolate treats add deeper flavor and a pretty contrast color-wise. Find my favorite Christmas Cookies here or check out Christmas Cookies from Around the World.