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Help for Christmas dessert for in-laws, please?

My mother-in-law and step-father-in-law are likely coming to visit for Christmas. We had originally planned to visit them, but I broke my foot over the summer and need to work more around the holidays than I thought I would.

I am good with the rest of the Christmas menu, but would really appreciate some help with a showstopping dessert.

I work in retail, so the days before Christmas will be extremely busy for me. I will have some time to do things ahead of time, but not a lot of time. I sadly won't have long afternoons to spend doing super elaborate things. That being said, I really want to have a dessert that is beautiful and can be done ahead of time. There will be enough cooking with the dinner that I won't want to make dessert on Christmas Day as well.

On Christmas Eve I'll do a nod to my in-laws' tradition of having appetizers for dinner. My husband makes this great ham, and I'll have make yeast rolls ahead, which I'll parbake and freeze and then bake off and serve with the ham for sandwiches. I'll also have veggies, dip, a really good shrimp cocktail, spiced nuts, and maybe one other little bite of something.

On Christmas morning we'll have donut muffins (we did them last Christmas and they were amazing!), fruit, and bacon. After breakfast and presents, we'll go sightseeing a little.

When we get back I'll make dinner. We'll have leftover ham, cornbread dressing, sweet potatoes, and maybe two other sides. I have made all those things a hundred times and I can make lots of the components ahead.

I need a really decadent, gorgeous dessert to serve after Christmas dinner that can be made ahead and stored in my fridge. I am hoping to have something with lots of rich chocolate, since that's my mother-in-law's favorite flavor. I am open to other flavors, though.

Can y'all help? Thank you so much!

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  1. This Sticky Toffee Pudding is my showstopping Christmas dessert. I always get asked for the recipe, and although it is not chocolate it is so delicious that you won't miss the chocolate. There is no reason the cake (it's really a cake, but called pudding in the British way of calling desserts) can't be made a day or so ahead, and brought to room temperature for serving. Even the toffee sauce could be made ahead and reheated. I received this recipe from an Irish country house where we stayed and where I had it for the first time, which accounts for some of the terms in the recipe, eg. vanilla essence is vanilla extract.


    For the cake
8 ounces (225g/generous 1 cup) chopped dates

    ½ pint (300ml/1¼ cups) brewed tea

    4 ozs. (110g/1 stick) unsalted butter

    6 ozs. (170g/scant 1 cup) castor (superfine) sugar

    3 eggs

    8 ozs. (225g/scant 1½ cups) self-rising flour

    1 rounded teaspoon bread soda (baking soda)

    1 teaspoon vanilla essence

    1 teaspoon Espresso coffee or 2-3 teaspoons instant espresso
    Hot toffee sauce

    4 ozs. (100g/1 stick) butter

    6 ozs. (170g/3/4 cup) dark brown sugar

    4 ozs. (110g/generous ½ cup) granulated sugar

    10 ozs (285g/3/4 cup) golden syrup

    8 fl. ozs. (225 ml/1 cup) heavy cream

    ½ teaspoon vanilla essence

    8-inch (20.5cm) spring form tin with removable base.
Set the oven to 350 degrees.
    Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes. Brush the cake tin with oil, flour, then put oiled parchment on the base.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, and then mix in the sifted flour. Add the baking soda, vanilla essence and coffee to the date tea and stir this into the flour mixture. Pour into prepared pan, and cook for 1-1½ hours or until a cake tester comes out clean.
To make the sauce, put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a heavy bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from heat, and gradually stir in the cream and vanilla. Put back on

    1. I've made this Black Forest Boule de Neige for Christmas before, and think it satisfies your requirements. It has to be made a day ahead so you're covered there (it also keeps very well, so you could make it two days ahead); all you'd need to do the day of is add the whipped cream icing. It definitely fulfills the "lots of rich chocolate" brief.

      If it will just be the four of you, I would make a half recipe, baked in a smaller bowl, which is what I did. This is a cake to eat in very small slices. The negative reviews are mostly from people who thought it was too rich and chocolaty or didn't fully follow the instructions, I see. It was a hit when I made it; we had small servings and enjoyed the leftovers.


      1. Those both look great so far! Thanks!

        1. I LOVE Ina's orange chocolate cake. As written here, it's mini bundts, but I make it as a full bundt. I really think the orange will work well with your ham and cornbread, too.

          3 Replies
          1. re: katecm

            What size bundt pan do you use, Kate?

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              Ah, I knew i was following a recipe when I made it. Here it is, from Smitten Kitchen.

              1. re: katecm

                Okay, looks like she just doubled the recipe, which makes sense, volume-wise.

          2. triple chocolate cheesecake can be made and stored in the fridge

            1. This weekend I made a pumpkin cheesecake with maple pecan topping that I saw on food network's "Dessert First" show. I don't remember the name of the chef. It definitely is make ahead and very simple. The topping only has 3 ingredients and I could've just eaten it by the spoonful. I took it to a family gathering and everyone loved it. Not even one negative comment.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ChrisKC

                I'm a chocoholic myself and two desserts came to mind:

                Smitten Kitchen's chocolate tart with the gingersnap crust (the gingersnap says Christmas to me) - I've made it once before though I had leftover peanut butter cookies and used those for the crust instead. Not sure about the make-ahead - the blog says one day ahead and refrigerate but perhaps you could do it more than one day? I would serve with homemade whipped cream which takes no time, maybe spiked with bourbon or with a little cinnamon or something to give it a little something else. http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/11/dar...

                The other one I thought of was Martha's chocolate bread pudding. Made this one last year for Thanksgiving and it was delicious...with a store brand of bar chocolate you can get here in Canada, not anything too pricey. We served it with homemade vanilla ice cream but no reason why you couldn't do your favourite store bought or again some whipped cream or cream fraiche. It's not the prettiest of desserts when served, more homey, but you could do them in individual ramekins and then I think they'd be pretty show-stoppery. I think you could make the custard a day ahead and let them soak in the fridge then put them in the oven to bake while you are eating dinner. Here's the link for that one: http://www.marthastewart.com/340336/c...

                Good luck and do report back! I love Christmas desserts!

                1. re: 16crab

                  That chocolate bread pudding looks SO good. Definitely on my must-try list!

              2. I haven't made it yet, but CI's triple chocolate mousse cake is on my list for such an event:

                It looks a bit time consuming but all the components can be done in advance and it can hold for a while once assembled.

                1 Reply
                1. re: biondanonima

                  Oooh, yeah. That's been on my list, too. Thanks for the reminder!

                2. Now I really want to make ALL of these! Thanks so much for everyone's input so far!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: alysonlaurel

                    and for the show stopping effect, garnish with some candied flowers.

                  2. I make a Buche de Noel/ Yule Log every Christmas. As a result, I collect recipes. Years ago, Yankee Mag had a recipe and a way of storing the Buche so it can be made in advance. They suggested lining a shoe box with aluminum foil, making the cake, layering the filling and rolling it in advance, wrapping with wax paper or plastic wrap and placing in the foil lined shoe box and freezing it. Perhaps they also suggested frosting the outside but I don't think I would do that. You would have to use a buttercream or 7 minute frosting as the filling rather than a whipped cream one. I have never done this but I thought it was a great idea and would protect your fragile cake. All you have to do is make the frosting and decorate the cake the last day or two.