Three alternative Christmas desserts

Fancy a change from traditional Christmas pud this year? Here are three lighter Christmas dessert recipes and ideas that will still add a special finishing flourish to your big dinner.

Take inspiration from other festive food traditions around the world, with these delicious desserts that look great and don’t take too much time to get ready once the main course is finished.

Cranberry, pear and walnut torte

christmas cake

Why not try this spicy treat? A sweet-course favourite in Australia at this time of year.

Ingredients (serves 10 people)

  • 300g walnuts, chopped
  • 250g flour
  • 125g breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 large eggs
  • 250g sugar
  • 125g golden brown sugar
  • 250g butter, warmed
  • 2 ripe pears, cored and sliced

For the topping:

  • 125g cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 75g cranberry jelly

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease a 28cm cake tin. Line the bottom with baking paper and grease again.

2. Grind the walnuts in a food processor. Add the flour and blitz until fine. Then add the breadcrumbs, orange zest and spices.

3. Beat eggs in a large bowl until frothy. Gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is thick and triples in volume. Beat in the warm butter then stir in the flour mixture.

4. Arrange slices of pears on the bottom of the tin and cover this with the batter. Smooth the top, then bake until golden – about 35 minutes.

5. Leave it to cool for five or ten minutes then carefully remove the sponge from the tin and cool it completely on a wire rack.

6. Combine the cream cheese and the orange zest and juice, then mix well.

7. Soak the cranberries in a little water until they plump up, heat them in a pan with the jelly and stir well.

8. To serve: remove the wax paper on the bottom of the sponge and top it with a layer of the cream cheese, then the cranberry mix. Dust with icing sugar.

Pecan pie

christmas cake

How about this healthy take on the all-American classic?

Ingredients (serves 10 people)

  • 225g wheatflour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 175g butter, softened

For the filling:

  • 125g dates
  • 150g syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 60g butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 200g pecan nuts (half-whole, half-chopped)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease a pie dish.

2. In a mixer, combine the flour, butter, sugar, eggs and salt to form a soft dough. Wrap this and leave it to rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

3. Prepare the filling: heat the dates, syrup, water and butter and mash the ingredients until they form a puree. Leave to cool.

4. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to the size of the pie dish. Using the rolling pin, transfer the dough to the pie dish, pressing it into the corners. Blind bake for 15 minutes.

5. Stir the eggs into the cooled date puree and then add the chopped pecan nuts before pouring into the baked pie case.

6. Arrange the whole pecans on the top, then bake for 25 minutes, or until set.

7. Serve hot or at room temperature with cream or ice cream.

Christmas fruitcake

christmas cake

This light and fragrant cake is so delicious you’ll be baking it throughout the year.

Ingredients (serves 6 people)

  • 125g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 110ml orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 100g dried peaches
  • 1 star anise
  • 200g flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 50g almonds, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • strawberries to garnish

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 20cm baking tin.

2. Put the butter, caster sugar, orange juice, brandy, vanilla extract, cranberries, peaches and star anise in a small pan and warm over a low heat.
Allow the butter and sugar to melt. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool. Remove the star anise and pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl.

4. Sift the dry ingredients together, add the almonds and stir this into the fruit mixture. Add the eggs and stir.

5. Pour the mixture into the cake tin, bake for 40 minutes or until cooked through (when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean).

6. Turn out, garnish with strawberries, dust with icing sugar and serve.

Have a delicious Christmas with a difference

Here are more recipes for treats and savouries to cook up a storm over the holidays.