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TheTaste Christmas Baking Guide 2021

Tis the season to be laden down with delectable choices for your hourly indulgence and you deserve so much more than a handful of Roses. In the weeks leading up to the big day and the twilight period between Christmas and New Year, you have the perfect excuse to go baking mad and ensure your kitchen has a steady supply of homemade sweet treats at all times, “for visitors” you see. 

Add to that the fact that homemade baked goods make for the loveliest of gifts and you have every reason to bake up a storm in the coming weeks.

For Christmas Day itself, in addition to the old reliables on standby, I love the idea of having your own traditional family Christmas dessert, branching out from the classics in favour of those favourites you’ll look forward to making and serving year after year. For example, my family would never forgive me if Christmas Day didn’t include two pavlovas, one white and one chocolate, and you can experiment with your favourite toppings and get creative.

Staples for the House

If you missed the Stir Up Sunday memo, it is not too late to whip up a Christmas Cake and Pudding to be proud of. I love the warming addition of ginger in Catherine Fulvio’s Ginger and Orange Christmas Pudding recipe, or go classic with this traditional Christmas Pudding Recipe with plenty of brandy butter. Don’t forget to fry up a few thick cut wedges of this in said boozy butter for a serious leftovers treat, or crumble some pudding into this No-Churn Ice Cream base recipe for the most festive of frozen delights.

On the Christmas cake front, Darina Allen is surely the expert you want to guide you through, and her mother’s favourite Light Christmas Cake requires no feeding if you are ever so slightly late to the traditional cake party. 

Mince pies are of course absolutely non-negotiable and an entirely legitimate Christmas food at any time of the day.  Try this classic recipe including pastry and mincemeat guidance from Ballymaloe’s own pastry pro JR Ryall with a dollop of divine Irish whiskey cream, or go for a twist by making yours into frangipane and meringue topped beauties or chunky bars with excellent recipes from Niamh Mannion.

Unpopular opinion: Panettone is in most cases better than Christmas Cake…If you’re with me on this and love the Italian seasonal staple, this Pandolce recipe from Eileen Dunne-Crescenzi is a more homely take with all the spiced, candied fruit and nut goodness you love from Panettone without having to fiddle with yeast and proving times.

This Wreath Cake recipe from the brilliant Catherine Fulvio is a little bit of Christmas genius if you have leftover Prosecco that has gone a little flat. Make Catherine’s cranberry Prosecco syrup (I’d double the batch because what wouldn’t be improved with a drizzle of this?) to create perfect little frosted cranberries to top this festive bake that everyone will love. 

In a similar boozy bake vein, these Champagne Cupcakes by Carmel Hall scream celebration, or you can keep it kiddie friendly with a batch of Catherine’s gorgeous Gingerbread Cupcakes. All of these fun bakes are perfect for wowing afternoon visitors with a big pot of tea or even some delightful Christmassy spiced hot chocolate from the experts at Bean and Goose.

For hours upon hours of fun in the kitchen with the little ones, Louise Lennox has the perfect Gingerbread House recipe to win you Christmas baking brownie points all round. Speaking of brownies, a great brownie recipe is a Christmas staple in my house for one reason: transforming the dregs of the chocolate box into something far more exciting than shovelling six Bounty bites into your mouth at once. Swap out the caramel bars in this Gill’s Bakes and Cakes brownie recipe for your favourite caramel sweets or swap the pistachio, raspberry and white chocolate in my favourite brownie recipe for a little bit of everything (I love adding anything hazelnut based) for a divine chocoholic treat.

Desserts for Christmas Day

This Classic Sherry Trifle recipe from Avoca is all you need for a bowlful of boozy festive nostalgia, but if you’re more of a chocolate fiend and fancy shaking up tradition, this Chocolate Clementine Trifle from dessert king Shane Smith will be the perfect addition to your Christmas spread.

This Eton Mess Christmas Bombe recipe from Chef Adrian is easier than pie to whip up, and there’s a good chance you’ll have picked up some of the ingredients (like chocolate Swiss roll) in a festive food hamper. If you want to go all out, use Shane Smith’s Swiss Roll recipe from the trifle above and whip up your own meringues with this guide from Siúcra. 

While you’re on a roll, why not try this Christmas Chocolate Meringue Roulade from Simon Delaney or go for full on deck the halls decadence with this incredible Hazelnut Praline Bûche de Noël recipe from Edd Kimber.  

If you want to create a Michelin-star worthy dessert at home and wow your dinner guests, this magical Mont Blanc recipe from Chapter One by MV’s own Darren Hogarty is the showstopper you need in your repertoire, making the best of festive favourite chestnuts.

Panettone reaches delicious new heights when combined with a brandy butter spiked custard and lashings of clementine chocolate sauce in my ultra indulgent Christmas Bread and Butter Pudding recipe, one which definitely necessitates a little breather break between your Christmas dinner and dessert. 

Homemade Sweet Gifts

For hours of kid-friendly fun in the kitchen in the days leading up to Christmas, break out your best cookie cutters and make this simple Christmas Shortbread recipe from Imelda Rose, or go one better with these stunning Stained Glass Window Gingerbread Cookies from Neven Maguire. 

Of course, you don’t need to turn the oven on to whip up sweet handmade treats for your loved ones. One of my favourite homemade Christmas gifts to date came from a lovely young neighbour who had spent a fun and festive afternoon preparing chocolate biscuit cake-based Christmas puddings. This Chocolate Bombe recipe from Avoca makes the perfect slightly dark chocolate base, with honeycomb and malted balls in addition to traditional biscuits. You can add whatever mix ins you love, ginger nut biscuits and pistachios would add a bit of seasonal cheer and you can crown it with holly and cranberries for extra jazz. Wrap loosely in cellophane and tie with a bow for a thoughtful and scrumptious gift.

Give the gift of crunchy happiness with these Chocolate Dipped Honeycomb nuggets from Catherine Buggy. Just be sure to make extra to keep for yourself as these are addictive. While you are filling jars with goodies, this Spiced Hot Chocolate Mix by Shane Smith would be welcomed by all as a little Christmas gift that keeps on giving.

Finally, I have yet to meet anyone who could resist a homemade chocolate truffle, so depending on the recipient, magic up some boozy Coole Swan and Orange Truffles courtesy of Neven Maguire or get creative with Jane’s Patisserie Cheesecake Truffles and add a spiced and seasonal flourish with lotus/biscoff biscuits.

WRITTEN BY DARINA COFFEY