Tom Kitchin: Classic Christmas desserts

NO CHRISTMAS meal would be complete without indulging in a decadent dessert. Classic Christmas desserts come in many forms, but the beauty is that you can plan carefully and cleverly when it comes to the finale of the meal.

Tom Kitchin gives his Christmas dessert recipes. Picture: TSPL
Tom Kitchin gives his Christmas dessert recipes. Picture: TSPL

Often, you can prepare a lot of recipes well in advance, giving you more time to enjoy Christmas Day as it should be spent – having fun with family and friends.

Even if you haven’t been organised enough to bake your Christmas pudding a month in advance on what is traditionally known as Stir Up Sunday, you can still plan ahead to avoid any last minute panics.

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In our house, we like to make a few different desserts. Really it’s an excuse to have a bit of fun, and the leftovers never, ever go to waste. You can gather some helping hands, pop on some Christmas music and make the baking a celebration in itself. Even just the smell of seasonal baking can get you in the Christmas spirit.

A good traditional Christmas pudding is pretty hard to beat, but because we’re going for traditional turkey this year, I’m shaking things up with the desserts and opting for a warm, comforting sticky toffee pudding, and a lighter fruity option of plum fool for anyone who’s overindulged in the turkey and stuffing.

One tradition that can’t be broken in the Kitchin household, however, is a show-stopping trifle. My mum always makes a delicious traditional trifle, using my Granny’s famous recipe that’s been enjoyed by our family every Christmas since as long as I can remember. The special ingredient in our family recipe is the sherry – my Granny’s favourite! Trifle always looks amazing as the centrepiece, but sometimes we also like to serve it in individual glasses just to add to the surprise.

This year, we’re also serving little plum fools in a similar way. It’s a great recipe, not just for Christmas Day, but also if you’re celebrating with friends over the festive period. They’re really very simple to prepare yet they always look light, delicious and seasonal and are absolutely wonderful served with a little almond biscuit or shortbread too if you have the time. The recipe can be adapted to use most other seasonal fruits and is a great way to use up anything from the fruit bowl that you have leftover. A little hint of cinnamon and spice brings this dessert to life and gives it a Christmas twist.

There’s something so incredibly devilish about eating sticky toffee pudding. The sweet, treacle smell, the indulgent way the spoon just sinks into the soft sponge – for me, that’s everything a Christmas dinner should be: decadent, comforting and memorable. A good sticky toffee pudding should have texture, spice and just the right amount of sweetness. I always add juicy prunes. They really bring this dish to life and add that extra rich, stickiness, but without the heaviness. You can serve it however you like too – with cream, custard or with smooth, cooling ice-cream. It’s a dish that brings back fond memories, and for me, that’s a really important part of Christmas – it’s all about remembering good times, and creating new memories that will last year after year.

Plum Fool

Serves four

For the plum compote

375ml red wine

3 cloves

1 orange (peel and juice)

½ tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp honey

25 plums

40g sugar

20g pectin

For the custard

150ml double cream

150ml milk

2 egg yolks

30g caster sugar

For the compote

Bring everything except the plums, pectin and sugar to the boil. Continue to simmer until reduced by half. Dice the plums. Whisk 20g of pectin mixed with 40g of sugar into the wine mixture till thickened. Add the plums to the pan and continue cooking until they are tender. Chill before serving.

To make the plum fool

In a heavy-bottomed pan, bring the double cream and milk to the boil. Whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar in a bowl, then add the hot milk and cream. Return all the ingredients back into the pan and, gently heating, stir constantly. When the mixture starts to thicken enough to coat the back of the spoon, it’s ready. Strain into a clean bowl and set aside to cool.

To serve

Spoon the compote into individual glasses. Layer over the fool mix on top and serve with almond biscuits or shortbread.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Serves 8

For the pudding

515g dates

675ml water

2½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

112g butter

515g sugar

515g flour

2 tsp baking powder

4 eggs

For the caramel sauce

1kg brown sugar

1l light cream

250g butter (diced)

For the pudding

Pre-heat the oven to 160C/Gas 3, and grease and flour 8 individual pudding moulds. Cook down the dates into a paste with water. Add bicarbonate of soda, then turn off the heat and mix together. Cream the butter and sugar, add the date paste, the eggs and finally the flour and baking powder. Place the mix in pudding moulds and cook at 160C/Gas 3 until a skewer or knife comes out clean.

For the caramel sauce

Bring the cream and sugar to the boil. Whisk in the butter. Simmer until reduced and thick.

To serve

Remove the puddings from the moulds. Pour over caramel sauce and serve with cream, custard or ice cream.


Trifle sponge

100g plain flour, sifted

125g caster sugar

25g cornflour

4 eggs

25g melted butter

1 jar of raspberry jam

100ml sherry (optional)


100ml milk

100ml cream

40g sugar

1 vanilla pod, split

2 egg yolks

1 whole egg

Whipped cream

500ml whipping cream

2 tbsp crème fraiche

2 tbsp caster sugar

chocolate shavings for garnish

To make the sponge

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 and line a 23cm cake tin with baking parchment. Mix together the flour, sugar and cornflour in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and slowly pour in the melted butter. Fold the flour mixture into the whisked eggs and stir until there are no lumps.

Pour the sponge batter into the lined tin and bake until golden – 25-30 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes and then turn out the cake and cool on a wire rack.

To make the custard

Bring the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla to a simmer over medium heat. Warm through until the sugar is dissolved and then take off the heat.

Whisk the yolks and whole egg together in a separate bowl and slowly pour in the milk mixture while still whisking. Pour into a clean pan and place on the heat, stirring constantly until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Pour the custard into a bowl and leave to cool to room temperature.

Assembling the trifle

Whip the cream, crème fraiche and sugar together until light and fluffy. Set aside in the fridge until needed.

Using a breadknife, slice the sponge into 5 layers, spreading jam on each layer. Take a medium-sized (3 litre) glass bowl, or some individual glasses or bowls, and begin to layer the ingredients. Start by spreading some custard on the bottom and add some whipped cream.

Then put in a round of sponge, cut to fit the sides of the bowl, and drizzle with sherry if you like. Don’t worry if the sponge breaks, as long as it fills the spaces.

Top with more custard and cream. Repeat the layers until all the cake, custard and cream is used up, finishing with cream on top. Leave to set in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.

To serve

Garnish the trifle with some chocolate shavings and slices of fresh fruit.