14 Classic French Christmas Desserts

Recipes for Holiday Treats From Traditional to Trendy

Madeleines

Howard Shooter / Getty Images

Christmas menus call for a memorable dessert. And no one does dessert with quite the aplomb of the French, with their macarons and their soufflés and their tartes. These classic recipes range from simple sweets and easy baked goods to elaborate showstoppers sure to wow your guests.

  • 01 of 14

    Classic French Croquembouche

    Croquembouche

    Brian Hagiwara / Getty Images

    Croquembouche, a traditional French wedding cake, also makes an impressive dessert table centerpiece for special occasions and the holidays. The classic recipe stacks profiteroles into a tree-shaped tower that's secured with caramel and decorated with sugared almonds and spun sugar. Modern croquembouches add variety with creative pastry cream flavors and decorations, from flowers to sugar art and even melted chocolate.

  • 02 of 14

    Opera Cake

    French Opera Cake

    The Spruce

    Called gâteau opéra in French, this cake stacks light almond sponge cake with coffee buttercream and dark chocolate ganache, giving it distinctive layers. While it's an investment in time and effort, it's well worth it for such a striking dessert.

  • 03 of 14

    Classic French Madeleines

    Classic French Madelines

     Howard Shooter / Getty Images

    Madeleines, a classic French pastry sized like a cookie but with the texture of a small cake, deserves a place at every celebration, including, of course, Christmas. Pair these buttery treats with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or even a glass of wine.

  • 04 of 14

    Easy Macarons

    Easy Macarons

    The Spruce

    French macarons practically define holiday indulgence. These ethereal meringue cookies sandwich flavorful fillings such as fruit preserves, chocolate, buttercream, and nut butters. Almond flour adds a faint taste of marzipan. Food coloring turns the meringues into subdued or vivid colors that often, but not always, mimic the flavor of the filling and make them particularly attractive packaged in see-through containers.

    Continue to 5 of 14 below.
  • 05 of 14

    Chocolate Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) Cake

    Chocolate Bûche de Noël

    The Spruce

    Once baked as a tribute to (and replacement for) the yule log, Bûche de Noël cakes have become a Christmas mainstay in France and around the world. Made of rolled sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and decorated to look like a log, desserts don't get more traditional than this.

  • 06 of 14

    Traditional Speculaas

    Christmas Spiced Cookies
    Getty Images

    While technically native to Belgium and Germany, speculaas are beloved by the French as well. Irresistibly fragrant, this crispy, slightly sweet cookie begs to be dipped in coffee. The blend of aromatic spices, including cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom, makes them an ideal holiday treat.

  • 07 of 14

    French Crème au Caramel

    Classic French Crème au Caramel

    svariophoto / Getty Images

    Crème au caramel, also known as crème caramel, makes a great dessert choice for dinner parties. With a mellow and sophisticated flavor, this bistro classic can be prepared up to one day in advance, making it especially holiday friendly.

  • 08 of 14

    Dark Chocolate Truffles

    Classic French Dark Chocolate Truffles

    Vladimir Shulevsky / Getty Images

    Soft dark chocolate ganache lavishly dusted with cocoa powder yields a treat unlike any other. These rich French dark chocolate truffles make a satisfying but small after-dinner sweet and wonderful holiday gifts.

    Continue to 9 of 14 below.
  • 09 of 14

    Classic French Lemon Tart

    Lemon Tart

    The Spruce 

    This quintessential French tarte, found at patisseries and cafés year-round, makes a refreshing addition to the holiday menu. The cool, sharp lemon filling contrasts nicely with the flaky, slightly sweet pastry. A little dollop of Chantilly cream served with the dessert elevates it to an extra-special level.

  • 10 of 14

    Marrons Glacés (Candied Chestnuts)

    Marron glace candied chestnuts recipe

    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

    Chestnuts roasting on an open fire signify Christmastime like few things can, but in France, candied chestnuts get even more attention. Popular confectioners in Paris sell out quickly, but you can make this lavish sweet at home with only sugar, water, and vanilla, in addition to the nuts. The process takes a few days but only a few minutes of hands-on time.

  • 11 of 14

    Apple Cider Pound Cake

    Apple Cider Pound Cake

    Paul Poplis / Getty Images

    Take a bite of this apple cider pound cake to be instantly transported to the orchards of Normandy. The warm spices make for a nice ending to your holiday meal, and you can make the cake ahead of time.

  • 12 of 14

    Individual Chocolate Soufflés

    Individual Chocolate Soufflé

     

    zeleno / Getty Images

    Beginner French cooks often tackle a simple soufflé when they first start out in the kitchen. This surprisingly easy recipe yields an airy and delicious chocolate version with complex flavors. Serve the individually sized soufflés warm from the oven with a dusting of powdered sugar or cocoa.

    Continue to 13 of 14 below.
  • 13 of 14

    Poached Pears in Red Wine

    Poached Pears

    Carlo A / Getty Images

    A classic French dish that originated in the wine regions of Burgundy and Lyon, poires à la beaujolaise (poached pears) is a simple but sophisticated dessert. Peeled whole pears poached in red wine and spices results in a gorgeous, ruby red dessert.

  • 14 of 14

    Oeufs à la Neige (Snow Eggs)

    Oeufs à la neige

    The Spruce / Molly Watson

    Oeufs à la neige, or snow eggs, is a traditional French dessert of poached meringues floating in a homemade custard sauce. It's a light dessert that's fun to eat and makes a light ending to a heavy Christmas meal.