“With candy canes and silver lanes aglow,” something about the holidays seems to wake up people’s cravings for sweet treats, and there are no shortage of classic desserts to choose from. Ramp up your holiday dessert menu by riffing on the classics, and you’ll keep your guests happy while boosting sales.
A yule log, or bûche de Noël, is a traditional French Christmas dessert that begins with a genoise sponge cake, which is baked in a Swiss roll pan, frosted, rolled in a cylinder, and then iced again on the outside to resemble a log, often with meringue mushrooms and other edible decorations.
But really, this dessert is a blank canvas wide open for interpretation. Interesting flavor combinations like dark chocolate and cassis or raspberry and pistachio can be smart updates on the classic. Consider adding spirits and spices to add another layer of flavor, and don’t forget the cute edible garnishes to make your yule log stand out.
Oft-maligned, though perhaps unfairly, fruit cake is a rich, dense cake studded with candied fruit and nuts, typically soaked in spirits. Fruit cake has ties to many cultures all over the world, so one way to update this holiday classic would be to lean into international inspiration. Ideally, this means finding your own cultural connection to fruit cake and playing up those elements. Some ideas include incorporating figs, dates, and sultanas for a Middle Eastern-inspired fruit cake; using warming Indian spices like cardamom and chai masala; or opting for a lighter, tropical-flavored fruit cake like the ones found in the Philippines.
A true Italian panettone is a labor of love, requiring several days to properly cure the dough and resulting in a lofty, fluffy sweet bread shot through with citrus zest, raisins, and occasionally chocolate. Think about ways to switch up those three elements to create a new take on the panettone—maybe it’s all about the marriage of chocolate and orange flavors, or perhaps you can find a way to incorporate trending citrus like yuzu, blood orange, or grapefruit.
Whether they’re figgy, plum, or sticky toffee, English puddings aren’t what we think of pudding (a custardy, spoonable dessert), but rather a steamed cake, usually laced with warming spices and dried fruit and served with a sauce, in the case of figgy pudding a brandy butter sauce. These can be a multi-day process to make, often requiring hours of time to steam them, but if you prepare them in individual molds, they can be a quick pick-up for service.
Get creative with the flavor combinations here, pulling together different spices and spirits to create a unique interpretation on the theme. Work with your bar staff to identify alternative spirits that might sub well for the traditional ingredients.
Mincemeat, or mince pies, are essential to a proper English holiday, and they’ve got quite a following here in the states as well. The filling in a mince pie isn’t actually meat (at least not anymore), but rather a combination of raisins, citrus peels, and other dried fruit cooked and soaked in brandy. To update this traditional dessert, liven up the filling with a different spirit or a unique combination of dried fruit.