5 Classic Christmas Desserts

By: Emilie Sennebogen

Every holiday meal needs at least one (but preferably several) desserts to complete it. See more pictures of holiday desserts.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are well-known for the extravagant meals that are the centerpiece of holiday family time. While the turkey and its trimmings may get most of the press, the sweet treats you indulge in afterward are just as much a part of holiday traditions. Each family has its own favorites, but everybody has something special they look forward to each year on the holiday dessert tray. Indeed, this is the time of year that even the most calorie-conscious usually allow themselves a little indulgence. Here are five classic Christmas desserts that the whole family will enjoy.


5: Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread creations of all shapes and sizes can be found decking the halls around the holidays. Here is a recipe for delicious gingerbread that can be made into cookies or even a festive gingerbread house.



  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup light or dark corn syrup
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius)
  • In a saucepan, combine brown sugar, shortening and corn syrup and heat on medium. Stir constantly until shortening is melted completely.
  • Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and then pour in the sugar mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are blended. The dough should have a crumbly texture, but still hold together.
  • On a floured surface, roll out the dough until it's about 1/8" thick.
  • Cut out cookies with cutters of your desired shapes, and place on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil
  • Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Decorate and eat.

4: Fruitcake

Love it or hate it, fruitcake is a staple of Christmas.
Love it or hate it, fruitcake is a staple of Christmas.

Take it or leave it, fruitcake is a holiday regular that has been around for generations. This recipe is alcohol-free, but you can always add 1/4 cup of brandy or rum to spice things up a bit.



  • 1 1/2 cups raisins
  • 1 1/4 cups dried currants
  • 4 oz pitted and chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup halved maraschino cherries
  • 1/2 cup chopped citron
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 5/8 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup red currant jelly
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup orange juice


  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit (135 degrees Celsius)
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine raisins, currants, dates, cherries, citron, walnuts and pecans.
  • In a different mixing bowl, combine and sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
  • In a third bowl, combine butter and 1 cup sugar until fluffy. Beat in light corn syrup and currant jelly. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each egg.
  • Add dry ingredients and orange juice, alternately and a little at a time, beating well on a low speed after each addition.
  • Pour the batter over the fruit and nut mixture and mix with a wooden spoon.
  • Grease a 10-inch tube pan and spread batter evenly.
  • Bake for 2 hours or until a wooden toothpick placed in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool for 10 minutes and remove from pan.

3: Mincemeat pies

Mincemeat pies are such a holiday tradition in England that they are also known as Christmas pies. These pies are a combination of meat, usually mutton, and fruit and spices. Also called mince pies, they're now traditionally consumed as a dessert, but they used to be the main course. Mincemeat pies are housed in puff pastries, so here are recipes for the dough and the pies.

Puff pastry dough ingredients:


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups cold butter
  • 1 1/4 cups ice water


  • Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir.
  • Cut cold butter into small slices and add to flour mixture and toss until butter is coated with flour.
  • Pour ice water slowly over the mixture, mixing with a spoon as you pour.
  • Put dough on a lightly floured surface and knead into a ball.

Mincemeat pie Ingredients:

  • Puff pastry dough
  • 1 pound mincemeat
  • 1 egg
  • 2 oz caster or superfine sugar
  • 2 oz milk


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius)
  • Cut dough into 3-inch circles with a pastry cutter and shape into a bowl. You can use a muffin tin as a guide.
  • Fill each puff pastry with 2 teaspoons mincemeat and then brush a little milk on the edges.
  • Cut out 2 1/2-inch lids out of the pastry dough and place over the mincemeat. Using your fingers, seal the lids to the edges of the base.
  • Beat the egg and add a pinch of salt, then brush the egg wash over the pies.
  • Sprinkle with sugar.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm or cool.

2: Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is to the holidays as Rudolph is to Santa. You can buy a frozen pie shell for the crust, and for that matter readymade pumpkin pie filling, making it an easy dish that will satisfy many a dessert lover. But if you want to bask in holiday baking, here's a recipe for a flaky, doughy crust and pumpkin pie from scratch. Well, almost from scratch.

Crust ingredients:


  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 2 tablespoon ice water

Crust directions:

  • Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Cut shortening into small pieces and add to dry ingredients. Add 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time and mix, until the mixture sticks together. (This will require a little elbow grease and a lot of patience.)
  • Once you can make the mixture into a ball, place on a floured surface and roll the dough out to a circumference approximately 1/4 larger than your pie tin.
  • Put sheet of dough in tin and crimp the edges so that it just comes up to the top of the pie tin.

Pumpkin pie filling recipe:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree or 1 15-oz can pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Pumpkin filling directions:

  • Crack eggs into a large bowl and whisk.
  • Add pumpkin, cream, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt, and stir.
  • Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake until the filling is cooked and the crust is browned, about 45 to 55 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean
  • Cool on wire rack and serve with copious amounts of whipped topping.

1: Figgy Pudding

Figgy pudding is such a holiday dessert staple that it has its own verse in a popular Christmas carol. Despite its name, figgy pudding is actually more of a creamy cake. And once you try it, we guarantee you won't go until you get some.



  • 2 cups mission figs
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lemon rind
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups brandy
  • cheesecloth


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (163 degrees Celsius) and grease a 9-inch tube pan.
  • Using a hand mixer, beat butter until it's soft, then add the eggs and molasses and beat until the mixture is fluffy.
  • Add chopped figs, grated lemon rind and buttermilk.
  • Combine the rest of the dry ingredients in a different mixing bowl, then pour into fig mixture and stir until everything is combined.
  • Pour into pan and cook for about 1 hour. Toothpick inserted in middle should come out clean.
  • Let cake cook for 15 minutes, then finish cooling on a baking rack.
  • Cut a strip of cheesecloth that's big enough to wrap around the cake twice. Soak it in the brandy.
  • Once cake is completely cool, wrap it in the cheesecloth and let it soak for 24 hours.
  • Serve and enjoy.

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


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  • "History of Mincemeat Pie." Whatscookingamerica.net, 2009.http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/PieHistory/MincemeatPie.htm
  • Jaworski, Stephanie. "Pumpkin Pie." Joyofbaking.com, 2009.http://www.joyofbaking.com/pumpkinpie.html
  • "Mince Pies." Bbc.co.uk, 2009.http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/mincepies_2508.shtml
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