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  • Toby Kramer


Christmas pudding is one of the biggest family dividers every single year – a close second being Brussel sprouts (cook them like this for a dish everyone will love). Some people can’t wait to dive into the dense and fruity, booze-filled cake, drenched in custard or cream – probably all laced with further brandy. Others can’t stand the rich pud and long for something a little lighter but just as fulfilling.

Giving a festive edge to some of the nation’s favourite desserts is actually quite simple, all you have to do is spike them with spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, or add fruits such as orange and cranberry – a little brandy or whiskey wouldn’t hurt either.

Everyone loves a crumble. Give it a Christmassy edge but combine a little mincemeat with the apple, and serve it with brandy cream or thick vanilla custard. Trifle is quite a common Christmas pudding, but over time it’s got a slightly bad rep and lost its appeal. Switch up the vanilla sponge for ginger sponge, and sandwich it with layers of caramel, cream, and crunchy ginger biscuits or gingerbread men. Or why not give it a peanut butter chocolate or banoffee pie twist? If you dare to mess with the traditional Tiramisu recipe, there are some great swaps you can make, like using panettone instead of sponge fingers and adding a little brandy or Tia Maria.

Ready to get cooking? Give these alternative Christmas pudding desserts a try.


Serves 6-8, though you could place it in individual pots or glasses for easy plating.


  • 4 shots of espresso or a cup of strong black coffee

  • 2 tbsp caster sugar

  • 50ml amaretto liqueur, or to taste (you could swap for Tia Maria or brandy)

  • 1 ready-made panettone, cut into 1cm thick slices

  • 500g mascarpone

  • 1 vanilla pod, split, seeds scraped out

  • 150g icing sugar

  • 200ml double cream, whipped into soft peaks

  • cocoa powder, for dusting

  • dark chocolate, grated, for the garnish (You could use fresh mint and red berries too)


  1. Mix the espresso, caster sugar and amaretto (or liquor of choice), in a large bowl.

  2. Add the panettone slices to the coffee mixture and set aside.

  3. Place the mascarpone, vanilla seeds and icing sugar into a separate bowl and mix together.

  4. Whip the double cream to soft peaks and fold into the mascarpone mixture.

  5. Line the bottom of your dish with soaked pieces of panettone.

  6. Spread half the mascarpone and cream mixture across the soaked panettone slices, then place another layer of panettone slices on top.

  7. Spoon more cream over the top and sprinkle with the cocoa powder.

  8. Transfer to the fridge to chill.

  9. To serve, sprinkle with gratings of dark chocolate, a few red berries and fresh mint leaves.


Ingredients: Serves 6-8 (or make in individual ramekins)

  • 850g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 2cm chunks

  • ½ lemon, juice only

  • 250g mincemeat

  • 75g caster sugar

  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon

  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

  • 300g oats

  • 100g caster sugar

  • 200g melted butter

  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon

  • 50g crushed pecans


  1. Add your chunks of prepared apple to a bowl with the lemon juice and coat well.

  2. Add the mincemeat, caster sugar, ground cinnamon and nutmeg to the apple and combine.

  3. For the crumble, tip the oats into a large mixing bowl, add melted butter and a pinch of salt, cinnamon and the crushed pecans, and combine well.

  4. Place your fruit mix into an ovenproof dish then scatter the oat crumble on top.

  5. Place in a 180 degree oven and cook for 45 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the crumble is golden-brown.

  6. Serve with custard or brandy cream.


Ingredients: Makes 16-18 square depending on size

The cake:

  • 200g soft unsalted butter

  • 200g caster sugar

  • 200g ground almonds

  • 50g fine polenta

  • 50g gluten-free flour mix

  • 1½ teaspoons gf baking powder

  • 3 large free-range eggs

  • zest of 2 blood oranges – save the juice for the syrup (use normal if you can’t find these)

The syrup:

  • The juice of 2 blood oranges

  • 75g icing sugar


  1. Line the base of a 30cm x 20cm baking tray with baking parchment and grease with a little butter.

  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C

  3. With a wooden spoon or mixer, beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamed together well.

  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the almonds, polenta and baking powder.

  5. Add a little of your dry ingredients (almonds, polenta and baking powder) into the butter and sugar mix and combine.

  6. Add one egg, whisked.

  7. Now continue to add the rest of your dry ingredients, stirring well.

  8. Finally, add in the lemon zest.

  9. Spoon the mixture into your prepared tray.

  10. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

  11. Once cooked, set aside (still in the tin), and make the syrup.

  12. Boil together the orange juice and icing sugar until the sugar has melted.

  13. Peirce the top of your cake with a thin skewer or cocktail stick and then pour over the warm syrup.

  14. Serve just warm with brandy cream and a slice of candied orange.


Ingredients: Makes 36

The choux pastry buns:

  • 150g plain flour

  • 100g unsalted butter

  • 1 tsp caster sugar

  • 5 large eggs

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 2-3 tbsp milk (if needed)

The filling:

  • 450ml double cream

  • Thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, finely grated

  • Zest of one orange

  • 3 tbsp icing sugar

The topping

  • 200g of dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa)

  • 50g crystallised ginger, finely chopped

  • Extra orange zest


  1. To make the choux pastry buns, place the butter and 150ml water in a saucepan set over a medium heat.

  2. When the butter has melted turn up the heat and bring to a boil.

  3. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt then pour it into the boiling butter/water mixture.

  4. Beat strongly with a wooden spoon until the mix clumps together to form a ball that fully comes away from the sides of the pan.

  5. Tip the dough into a mixing bowl and use the spoon to spread it up the sides (to help it cool).

  6. Leave to cool to room temperature and set your oven to 200°C (fan).

  7. Once the dough has cooled, add four of the large eggs, beaten, little by little.

  8. The mix will look as though it’s about to split but it will come back together after beating.

  9. You might not need all the eggs or you might have to add an extra splash of milk to reach dropping consistency (this is when the mix drops easily from the end of a wooden spoon).

  10. Transfer the choux mixture to the piping bag fitted with a 1cm nozzle, then pipe 18 buns, each a little larger than a 50p coin with a depth of roughly 3cm, onto each of the prepared baking sheets, spaced at least 3cm apart, repeat this on the second tray so you have 36 in total.

  11. Beat another egg, and using your finger, brush a little of the beaten egg over each one to smooth out any peaks.

  12. Bake for 20 minutes, then lift up the profiteroles and use a skewer to poke a small hole in the bottom of each one to let out the steam. Bake for 2-3 minutes more until golden and crisp.

  13. Cool on a wire rack.

  14. To make the filling, place the double cream, grated ginger and orange zest in a large mixing bowl, sift over the icing sugar, then whisk to soft peaks using an electric hand mixer.

  15. Put the cream into the piping bag fitted with the small nozzle, then fill each choux bun.

  16. Just before serving, melt the dark chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.

  17. Stack your profiteroles on a serving dish (3-5 per portion) then drizzle over the chocolate, add a little crystallised ginger and a little orange zest.


If you have time to make the custard yourself, go for it. Otherwise, use our pre-made one.

Ingredients: Makes 4

  • 1 tbsp caster sugar, plus extra for dusting

  • 4 medium egg whites

  • 150ml custard

  • 85g fruitcake – Christmas cake or pudding, crumbled

  • Butter – for greasing

  • Caramel sauce / fresh cranberries to serve


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C and place in your baking tray to heat up.

  2. Grease 4 x 150ml ramekins, then add some sugar to each and shake to coat before tipping out the excess.

  3. Whisk the egg whites into stiff peaks, then add the sugar and continue whisking until stiff again.

  4. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the custard and crumbled Christmas cake.

  5. Stir in a quarter of the egg whites, and very gently fold in the rest using a big metal spoon.

  6. Divide the mixture between the ramekins – make sure there’s a 1cm gap at least at the very top for it to rise.

  7. Bake for 12-15 mins until risen and golden.

  8. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar, fresh cranberries and cream – a warm caramel sauce also goes brilliantly.

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