Classic French Desserts and Pastries for Christmas

Holiday Sweets

These French holiday dessert recipes are the impressive icing on the cake, so to speak, for an already wonderful holiday menu. These classic favorites range from simple sweets and easy baked goods to elaborate traditional French fare. There's something here to fit every winter holiday menu.

The 13 desserts of Christmas, or Les Treize Desserts de Noël, are enjoyed after Gros Souper in Provence. The 13 desserts are in reference to Jesus and his twelve apostles at the Last Supper. As tradition...MORE goes, there must be at least 13 sweets available, they are all served at once, and each guest must have at least a small bit of each dessert.  Not every dish served has to be a full-blown dessert, small pastries, and sweets are included.

Enjoy these recipes during the holiday, served singly or as part of the 13 desserts.

  • 01 of 18
    Buche de Noel. Clive Bozzard-Hill - Getty Images

    The first Christmas yule log cake or Buche de Noel recipe was cleverly created in the late 1800s by a French pastry chef. This chocolate Buche de Noel recipe showcases a light-as-air, vanilla Genoise cake rolled into a cylinder with the richest, homemade chocolate buttercream frosting.

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    Madeleines. Getty Images

    Madeleines are a classic French small bake. The delightful little cakes deserve to be at every celebration. Include them with a little chocolate and you hit the jackpot.

  • 03 of 18
    French Macarons. sodapix sodapix - Getty Images

    There is no better way to truly celebrate than with a plate of delicious Almond macarons. They are one of the prettiest confections and also utterly delicious. What is not to like?

  • 04 of 18
    Palmiers. James And James

    These warm, buttery, and flaky little morsels are so lovely with a glass of something at Christmas. 

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  • 05 of 18
    French Quince Pate. Santiago Urquijo

    This quince paste recipe is in the classic style of Cotignac D'Orleans. A specialty of the French city of Orleans since the 15th century, this quince paste is notably less sweet than similarly prepared pates de fruits, or fruit paste candy. The paste is known in other countries as a quince cheese, and in Spain as Membrillo. Serve slices of the prepared quince paste with a selection of cheese, nuts, and fruit on a cheese board. The paste is also delicious with cold game meats such as venison.

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    Calissons Recipe. Laurent Giraudou Getty Images

    Most of the world’s supply of Calissons—a unique almond paste candy—comes from Aix en Provence. Most visitors to Aix come away with a penchant for the distinctive candy. They’re hard to find, but taking the time to make them from scratch is worth the effort.

  • 07 of 18
    Fougasse. Owen Franken Getty Images

    Fougasse or pompe à l'Huile, an olive oil flatbread, is eaten with grape jam made during the last harvest season. The tradition is to break the bread into individual servings with the fingers, rather than cut the bread with a knife.  The legend goes that this protects your wealth from bankruptcy in the coming year.

    The "four beggars" portion of lez treize stands for four monastic communities: Augustinians, Carmelites, Dominicans, and Franciscans. Walnuts stand for the Augustinians,...MORE almonds for the Carmelites, raisins for the Dominicans, and figs for the Franciscans. A platter of fresh fruit usually counts as one dessert, and is always served after Gros Souper. It can be a selection of oranges, apples, pears, and grapes. Any combination of seasonal fruit is welcome, and fresh berries rarely make the list, although they would be considered acceptable, as well.

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    Stunning Croquembouche. Brian Hagiwara - Getty Images

    Croquembouche is a traditional French wedding cake. It is also served for special occasions and for the holidays. The traditional croquembouche recipe is made with vanilla pastry cream and decorated with sugared almonds. Modern croquembouches are made with creative pastry cream flavors and decorated with flowers, sugar art, and even melted chocolate.

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  • 09 of 18
    Classic French Opera Cake. Riou, Jean-Christophe - Getty Images

    This opera cake recipe is well worth the time investment. Layers of light almond sponge cake, coffee buttercream, and dark chocolate ganache make it the showstopping dessert.

  • 10 of 18
    Christmas Spiced Cookies
    Christmas Spiced Cookies - Speculaas. Getty Images

    Irresistibly fragrant, this speculaas recipe makes a crispy, not-too-sweet cookie that begs to be dipped in coffee. The varied blend of aromatic spices in this recipe creates the signature flavor by which Belgian speculaas cookies have been known for centuries.

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    Creme Caramel
    Classic French Creme Caramel. svariophoto - Getty Images

    Creme au caramel, also known as creme caramel, is a wonderful dessert recipe for dinner parties. Not only is the flavor mellow, sophisticated, and versatile; this bistro classic can be made up to one day in advance. Served in an impressive pool of homemade caramel, it needs no garnish other than an attractive plate.

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    Dark Chocolate Truffles
    Classic French Dark Chocolate Truffles. Vladimir Shulevsky - Getty Images

    Soft melting dark chocolate ganache lavishly dusted with cocoa powder is a treat like no other. These French dark chocolate truffles are so delicious, so flavorful, that they require eating slowly.

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  • 13 of 18
    Lemon Tart
    Tarte au Citron. Getty Images

    This is the quintessential French tart, found at patisseries and cafes year-round and is especially good for holiday times. Cool, sharp lemon filling contrasts nicely with the flaky, slightly sweet pastry. A little dollop of Chantilly cream served with the dessert makes the ideal treat.

  • 14 of 18

    Candied Chestnuts Recipe

    candied chestnuts
    Candied Chestnuts. Jose A. Bernat Bacete - Getty Images

    If chestnuts roasting over a crackling fire are evocative of happy times and holidays, then candied chestnuts are their luxurious cousins, served only as the most indulgent of treats. So beloved is the flavor in France, that the Berthillon Glacier in Paris usually sells out of their dreamy marron glacé within hours. 

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    Apple Cider Bundt Cake
    Apple Cider Pound Cake. Paul Poplis - Getty Images

    Take one bite of this apple cider pound cake recipe and you'll be transported to the orchard country of Normandy. This deliciously spiced quatre quarts cake was, in fact,  inspired by a drive on La Route des Cidres in Quebec which, like Normandy, is dotted with apple orchards, cider houses, and picturesque inns. 

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    Chocolate Souffle. Diana Miller

    The best first French recipes to learn must be a simple chocolate soufflé. The soufflé is a magical, airy, delicious, and complex confection that perfectly rounds out any meal. Served fresh out of the oven, they delight and impress your family and dinner guests.

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  • 17 of 18
    Ruby Red Poached Pears
    Ruby Red Poached Pears. beyhan yazar - Getty Images

    Poached pears make for an exceptional, appealing dessert. This recipe showcases fresh pears poached in wine syrup until they turn buttery soft and a gorgeous, ruby red color.

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    oeufs a la neige
    Eggs on Snow - Oeufs a la Neige - Ile Flottantes. Dr. Heinz Linke - Getty Images

    Oeufs a la neige, or eggs in snow, makes an elegant presentation for your holiday festivities yet are not overly heavy after a full meal.