How to cook Christmas: Spectacular desserts
Christmas Dinner Part 4: Tiramisu cake, trifles, roulades, meringues, iced soufflé – and a tart to die for
White chocolate tiramisu cake. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
It’s now time to turn our thoughts to what desserts to make to bring Christmas lunch or dinner to a suitably show-stopping conclusion.
We’ll take it for granted that you made your plum pudding back on Stir-up Sunday, and that it is maturing nicely. But for most households, an additional dessert, or two, is called for on December 25th.
Aoife Noonan’s white chocolate tiramisu cake would make a stunning centrepiece for your Christmas dessert table. Her recipe transforms the traditional Italian dessert into a cake that can be sliced. “Try to source a good quality white chocolate, which will give this tiramisu a beautiful milky taste,” she says.
“Orange zest is also lovely added to this cake if you’d like a little more of a diverse flavour. The eggs are kept raw in this recipe, something to note if serving to pregnant, younger or elderly guests. This is best made a day in advance to allow it to set completely, and will keep for up to three days in the fridge.”
Aoife Noonan's white chocolate tiramisu cake
For the base:
3 gelatine leaves
200ml strong coffee
30g caster sugar
20 sponge fingers
For the filling:
90g icing sugar
4 egg yolks
400g cream, lightly whipped, plus 50ml extra
3 leaves gelatine
350g white chocolate, finely chopped and melted
25g white chocolate, grated
Cocoa powder, for dusting
1 Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for five minutes. Heat the coffee in a saucepan with the sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Remove 75ml of the coffee and set aside for use later.
2 Squeeze the water out of the gelatine and add to the remaining 125ml coffee. Whisk well to ensure all of the gelatine has dissolved.
3 Dip a sponge finger into the warm coffee, soaking well, and place in the base of a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Continue with three-quarters of the sponge fingers, breaking them up to fit the base snugly. Pour any remaining coffee syrup over the top of the sponges, and put the tin in the fridge to set while making the filling.
4 Whisk the egg yolks with the icing sugar until pale and creamy. Add the mascarpone and beat until fully combined. Heat the 50ml cream in a small pan and soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until soft. Squeeze out the excess water and dissolve the gelatine into the hot cream.
5 Add the melted chocolate to the mascarpone and mix well to combine. Mix in the warm cream, and finally fold in the whipped cream. Mix well until completely combined.
6 Pour half the mix on top of the set sponges. Dip the remaining sponges in the 75ml coffee that was set aside and arrange in the tin. Pour the remaining white chocolate mix into the tin and place in the fridge to set completely, at least four hours or overnight.
7 When ready to serve, remove the cake from the tin. Dust with cocoa powder and grated white chocolate to serve.
Trifle is the most popular alternative, or addition, to the traditional steamed pud. Nothing wrong with the classic sponge, jelly, custard and cream affair, with or without a liberal glug of sweet sherry, but here are a few alternatives.
Eunice Power’s mandarin orange, mascarpone and whiskey trifle is a stunner. Lighter and fresher than the traditional strawberry, custard and cream confection, this one makes great use of a seasonal citrus fruit.
If you can track down some of the brightly coloured “forced” or hothouse rhubarb that makes its annual appearance in late December, you might like to try Lilly Higgins’s rhubarb trifle with a praline crunch topping.
Meringue is another light, sweet option, and Vanessa Greenwood’s roulade with mixed berry coulis comes with just enough wow factor to put the flaming plum pudding in the shade. There is a video alongside her recipe, just in case you are put off by the technical demands of rolling the fluffy confection. Her coffee cream meringue roulade is another option.
Staying with meringue, we’re back with Eunice Power for her redcurrant pavola, another stunning centrepiece using seasonal berries. Three layers of billowy meringue sandwiched with cream and drizzled with redcurrant jelly need only a garnish of fresh redcurrants.
Chef JP McMahon has revealed that he prefers the Italian classic, tiramisu, to all other Christmas pudding offerings. It’s not traditional, but it is light, and very tasty. The caffeine in the espresso coffee the sponge fingers are dipped in might be just the thing to offset post-feast fatigue too.
For something quite different, Rory O’Connell’s Medjool date and vanilla tart, from his award winning book, Cool Well, Eat Well (Gill Books), is a grown up option.
A frozen dessert would be a cool way to go, and Carmel Somers’s iced fruit soufflés will sit happily in the freezer, waiting to be taken out 20 minutes before serving.
Or perhaps you’ll go the way of the minimalists – who have already ditched starters in favour of pre-dinner nibbles handed round with drinks – and skip dessert entirely.
In that case, a few treats to pass around with coffee might be an appropriate ending to the big feast. Donal Skehan’s chocolate dipped candied oranges with sea salt, and Eunice Power’s cranberry truffles with white and dark chocolate will satisfy those for whom no meal is complete without a little something sweet.