With Christmas nearly upon us, it is no harm to start planning ahead and deciding what exactly you are going to eat for Christmas Day dinner. For some people it’s the same thing every year, so planning is easy. There’s a lot to be said for that, in fairness. But for others, like my own family, although we love our traditions, we seem to change it up quite often, beef one year, turkey and ham the next… There is always Christmas pudding, so the assumption is that- dessert is sorted- no need to worry about that. Still, every year it is a last-minute rush to whip up something else to accompany the pudding, I mean there has to be at least two desserts on Christmas day!!
On the day, nobody wants to be in the kitchen after the dinner trying make a dessert, when there is so much more to do! Here are a few of my favourites, some are twists on traditional classics, but all are simple recipes that can be made ahead and can magically appear on the Christmas table without stress, leaving you to enjoy the festivities!
Black Cherry and Amaretto Trifle
A simple twist on the classic, but with black cherry and amaretto, this is such a Christmassy combination!
- 200 g trifle sponge
- 60 ml amaretto liqueur
- 300 g fresh or frozen cherries (keep a few to garnish)
- 150 g caster sugar
- ¼ tsp almond essence
- 2 tbsp kirsch
- 2 sheets platinum gelatine
- 8 medium egg yolks
- 225 ml milk
- 500 ml cream
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- Seeds from 1 vanilla pod or 2 tsp of vanilla extract
- 10-15 Amaretti biscuits
Make the Cherry Jam:
- Heat the cherries, 50 g of the caster sugar, almond essence and kirsch in a saucepan over a medium heat until the cherries reach a jam like consistency.
- In a bowl of cold water, soak the gelatine leaves until they are soft. Squeeze the water from them and add to the hot cherry jam. Mix well and leave to cool.
Make the custard:
- In a bowl mix the egg yolks, cornflour and 100 g of the caster sugar.
- Heat the milk, 225 ml of the cream and the vanilla pod over a medium heat until bubbles start to appear at the side.
- Whisk the heated cream into the egg mixture, and when fully combined, add it back to the saucepan and stir continuously over a low heat until the mixture thickens. Leave to cool.
- Depending on what kind of trifle sponges you have, some are thick, some are flatter, spread the cherry jam on to one side of the trifle sponges or roll them up in to mini swiss rolls and cut them into slices.
- Either way, cover the bottom of a trifle bowl with sponge to about 1/3 of the way up the bowl.
- Soak the sponges in the amaretto. Spread another layer of cherry jam over the top of the sponge layer and add the custard.
- Leave this to set in the fridge for 3 hours.
- Whip the remainder of the cream and spread it over the custard.
- Garnish with plenty of crushed amaretti biscuits and some cherries.
Cranberry, Orange and Pistachio Meringue Roulade
Soft pillowy meringue, tangy orange andcranberry,and a nutty texture from the pistachios. This is a perfect after dinner treat.
- 4 medium egg whites
- 200 g caster sugar
- 100g pistachios (chopped)
- 200 ml cream
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 200 g fresh or frozen cranberries
- 150 g sugar
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
- 50 ml water
- 1 star anise
Make the Cranberry Compote:
- Place all the ingredients in a saucepan over a medium heat until the cranberries have burst, and you have a jam like consistency.
- Leave to cool. The compote can be made several days in advance and kept in the fridge.
Make the Meringue Roulade:
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line a 32cm x 23cm swiss roll tin with baking parchment.
- In a spotlessly clean mixing bowl whisk the egg whites on a medium to high speed until they are thick and glossy, about 5 minutes.
- Add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time while still mixing. Continue to mix until the meringue has reached stiff peaks.
- Fold the chopped pistachios through the meringue and spoon the mixture into the prepared lined tin. Smooth the mixture out evenly and bake for 25-30 minutes.
- Leave to cool for about 5 minutes before turning it out onto a piece of parchment paper dusted with icing sugar. Peel off the parchment paper the meringue was cooked in and leave to cool fully.
- Whip the cream and add the finely zested orange.
- To assemble – spread an even layer of cream across the roulade. Spoon over half of the cranberry compote. Starting at the narrower end and using the parchment underneath as an aid, roll the roulade.
- Carefully transfer to a serving plate. Serve with extra cranberry compote and chopped pistachios.
Burnt Basque Cheesecake, Caramelised Clementine Sauce
New York baked cheesecake meets crème brûlée, this cheesecake is so smooth and lush, the caramelised clementines are the perfect flavour to cut through the richness of the cheesecake. A great dessert for all year round.
- 750 g cream cheese
- 200 g caster sugar
- 5 eggs
- 380 ml cream
- 40 g flour
- 1 vanilla pod or 2 tsp vanilla extract
Caramelised Clementine Sauce:
- 200 g caster sugar
- 100 ml orange juice
- 5 tbsp water
- 3 tbsp Brandy or Cointreau
- 6 clementines
- Pomegranate seeds (optional, for garnish)
Make the Sauce:
- Peel the clementines and remove as much of the pith as you can. Cut in slices or segments.
- Put sugar and water in a pan on a medium heat and cook until caramel forms, remove from the heat just before it gets too dark to avoid burning the caramel. Be careful not to stir the caramel at any stage with a spoon, just swirl the pot around every couple of minutes to keep it moving.
- Off the heat slowly add the orange juice and the brandy, be careful as the mixture is very hot and may splash. Stir to combine, add the clementines and leave the mixture to cool.
Make the Cheesecake:
- Heat oven to 220 degrees. Using a 20cm spring form tin with high sides, brush the tin with melted butter and line it with overlapping sheets of baking parchment. Make sure the parchment hangs over the sides to help with removing the cheesecake later.
- Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer.
- Pour the mixture into the lined tin. Bake for 40 minutes.
- 10 minutes before the end, turn down the oven to 180 degrees.
- The cheesecake is done when the top is a dark brown ‘burnt’ colour, the sides are cooked, and the middle is still wobbling.
- Chill overnight in the tin, remove a couple of hours before serving using the excess baking parchment to lift the cheesecake out.
- Serve at room temperature with the caramelised clementine sauce and garnish with pomegranate seeds.
Eggnog Crème Brûlée
All the Christmas spices, with the warmth of the brandy and bourbon, make this brûlée the perfect way to finish off a festive feast!
- 800 g cream
- 150 g sugar (plus extra for caramelising)
- 10 medium egg yolks
- 1 vanilla pod (seeds from) or 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- 1 star anise
- 1 tbsp brandy
- 1 tbsp bourbon whiskey
- Heat oven to 150 degrees. Put 8 shallow brûlée dishes or ramekins in 2 roasting trays and bring a kettle of water to the boil.
- In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with the sugar.
- Combine cream, vanilla seeds, 2 tsp of nutmeg and all the rest of the spices in a pot and heat slowly until you see bubbles starting to appear around the sides. Pass the cream through a sieve to remove the spices.
- Add the cream to the egg mixture and whisk until fully combined. Then add the brandy and bourbon.
- Pour the boiling water into the trays, making sure the level of water is halfway up the brûlée dishes or ramekins. Then fill the dishes with the combined egg and cream mixture. Sprinkle some more nutmeg on top of each one.
- Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, but check after 30, the brûlée should have a little wobble in the middle when cooked. Keep a close eye on the cooking of your brûlées, as they can overcook quite easily.
- Chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Sprinkle some caster sugar on top of each one, try to evenly coat each brûlée by tapping the side of the dish to spread the sugar around.
- Using a cook’s blowtorch, caramelise the sugar, or you can use the grill to do this, just watch the process to make sure the sugar does not burn.
Chocolate, Whiskey and Coffee Bundt Cake
This is more dessert than cake, it is so moist and rich, and tastes just like an Irish coffee! A real showstopper to rival any yule log or Christmas pudding.
- 255 g butter
- 120 g cocoa
- 225 ml espresso or strong coffee
- 75 ml whiskey
- 500 g brown sugar
- 360 g flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- ½ tsp ground clove
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 5 medium eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 100 g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp cold espresso or strong coffee
- 1 tsp coffee essence
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Brush melted butter, then lightly flour the inside of a 23 cm (9 inch) bundt tin. You could also use a 20 cm (8 inch) regular cake tin, with high sides, but the cooking time would take longer, add on 15 minutes.
- In a saucepan combine the butter, coffee, whiskey and cocoa. Heat until the butter is melted, and the mixture is combined.
- Once the mixture has cooled, whisk in the sugar.
- In a separate bowl whisk up the eggs with the vanilla, add to the chocolate mix and fold in the dry ingredients.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the mixture.
- Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then flip it over on to a wire tray. Carefully remove the tin. Once the cake is cold and chilled, you can trim the bottom, by flipping it over. This will ensure that the bundt cake is even and level.
- To make the icing, mix the icing sugar with the cold coffee and coffee essence. The mixture should be quite thick, use a spoon to nudge it down the cake to create drips.
- Once you are happy with the icing, put the cake in the fridge to set it.
- Decorate with spiced biscuits, sprinkles, cranberries or berries and some upside down, sugar-coated rosemary sprigs.
Kate O Hora – Bio
With over 25 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, Kate O Hora has worked both front and back of house in many of Dublin’s top restaurants including La Stampa, The Unicorn and Aqua. She set up The Cake Table during the first lockdown, after years of baking for friends and family. She left her full-time cheffing position in 2021 to concentrate on her cake business which has gone from strength to strength.
Having a huge passion for food she commenced a masters in Gastronomy and Food Studies in 2019 at TU Dublin, graduated in 2021 and has since been working in other areas of the food industry, including food styling, recipe development and restaurant consultation.