23 Festive Christmas Cakes to Fill the Season with Joy (& Treats!)

From an eggnog poke cake to a peppermint hot cocoa number, these recipes are sure to make you extra jolly.

November 27, 2020
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Arguably one of the best parts of the holidays are the sweet treats that come along with the crisp, cold weather. As Christmas quickly approaches, plan out your dessert spread with these 23 rich and delicious Christmas-inspired cakes to make for your loved ones this year.

From a light and airy angel food cake to a hot cocoa cake with peppermint-marshmallow frosting to a three-tiered gingerbread cake with a luscious eggnog glaze and candied cranberries to garnish, you’re sure to find something to fill the season—and your belly—with joy and happiness.

1. Dario’s Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Pine Nuts

This Italian-inspired olive oil cake is a recreation of chef Dario Cecchini’s recipe used at his restaurants in Panzano, a town in Tuscany. This recipe relies on good quality, extra-virgin olive oil to give the cake rich moisture without any dairy. Mixed into the batter are wine-soaked raisins and fresh orange peel to add freshness and citrus to balance out the olive oil fatty richness. A generous handful of pine nuts, roasted to golden perfection, coat the surface to add extra nuttiness and texture to every bite.

2. Torta Caprese (Chocolate and Almond Flourless Cake)

Make this foolproof flourless cake with just six simple ingredients in under two hours. Whether you have last-minute guests coming over or simply want to indulge in a rich, fudgy chocolate cake, this recipe is the ideal, low-lift solution to your chocolate cravings.

3. Ginger Apple Torte

A hybrid between gingerbread and apple cake, this spicy, sweet, and warming torte is perfect for a cold winter night. If you’ve outgrown gingerbread house decorating but still want to indulge in the zestiness of ginger and warmth of spices like clove, allspice, and cinnamon, this cake will do the trick.

4. Rum Apple Cake

Have an abundance of apples leftover from this season’s harvest? Whip up this light and fluffy rum apple cake that is equal parts comforting and delicious. Add a splash of rum, calvados, or brandy to give the batter a boozy kick to help you get through the holiday madness.

5. Eggnog Poke Cake

Convert any eggnog skeptic into a believer with this rich and creamy poke cake that resembles a classic tres leches recipe. Douse the spongy cake with your favorite eggnog beverage, instead of the traditional milk combination used in a tres leches cake. This variation is perfect for the holidays, especially if you bought too many bottles of eggnog yet again.

6. 3-Tiered Gingerbread Bundt Cake With Eggnog Glaze & Candied Cranberries

Now, if you’re looking to steal the show with a grandiose Christmas cake, this recipe is for you. Three tiers of gingerbread bundt cake are coated with a river of dripping eggnog glaze that is topped with candied cranberries. Instantly get into the holiday spirit with this cake that is sure to get the festivities going.

7. Gingerbread Beer Bundt Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Gingerbread, chocolate, and beer, what more can you possibly need? Well, this recipe also includes unexpected ingredients like dry mustard and sorghum to add complexity and depth to this bundt cake recipe. Though the ingredient list may seem a little daunting, the final result is well worth it.

8. Vegan Chocolate Cake With Creamy Chocolate Filling

You don’t always need dairy and eggs to make a rich and creamy chocolate cake. This recipe proves just that. With vegan-friendly ingredients like pumpkin puree, coconut milk, and maple syrup, this photo-worthy cake is sure to make your plant-based friends very happy. The author suggests making the cake ahead of time and drizzling the chocolate ganache just before serving for best results.

9. Chocolate Bundt Cake

Winner of “The Best Chocolate Cake” contest, this bundt cake definitely does not disappoint. Further intensify the flavor of cocoa powder with a cup of freshly brewed, strong black coffee to create a simple, yet rich chocolate cake that may just become your new go-to recipe. Best of all, you can make this cake in just under an hour from start to finish.

10. Chocolate Roulade

Erin Jeanne McDowell reminisces on her grandmother’s classic roulade cakes served “cold right from the fridge with a glass of milk,” that she would eat as a child. Unlike a traditional, horizontal roulade, McDowell flips it vertically to create an interesting zebra-like pattern exposed once cut into. Pair this simple chocolate and whipped cream cake with a mugful of eggnog or hot chocolate for a full on holiday experience.

11. Hot Cocoa Cake with Peppermint-Marshmallow Frosting

Arguably, one of the best parts of the holiday season is the endless amounts of hot cocoa consumed. Turn your Christmas drink into a dessert with this hot cocoa cake topped with a heaping mound of peppermint-marshmallow frosting. When ready to serve, drizzle warm chocolate ganache, and watch as the layers melt together.

12. Peppermint Hi-Hat Cake

Head to the North Pole with this extra-minty, chocolate cake that features rich devil’s food cake topped with an equally tall coat of peppermint frosting, and is finished with a crunchy, thin layer of milk chocolate to coat the surface. The author recommends garnishing the sides of the cake with bits of crushed peppermint to hint at the fun that is to come on the inside of this dessert.

13. Angel Food Cake

Keep things simple with this tender and ethereal angel food cake perfect for concluding a decadent Christmas dinner. With just a handful of pantry staple ingredients, make this crowd-pleasing dessert in a few simple steps. Make sure to finish it off with a generous spoonful of fresh whipped cream and your favorite seasonal fruit.

14. Mami’s Rum Cake (Bizcocho de Ron)

This rum-infused bundt cake recipe transforms a simple boxed cake mix into a spiked, festive dessert ready to get the party started. The creator of the recipe tells the story that their mother—the original creator of this recipe—made the bizcocho with a boxed cake mix due to their modest upbringing. Despite using simple ingredients, this no-fuss cake became a beloved, must-have staple of the author’s family gatherings.

15. Mini Chocolate Layer Cakes with Whipped Ganache & White Chocolate Glaze

Petite and individually portioned, these mini chocolate layer cakes guarantee you won’t have to share your dessert with anyone else. Layered with whipped ganache and topped with a luxurious coat of white chocolate glaze, this dessert is perfect for a holiday get together. Make things even more festive by adding Christmas-inspired decorations like candied fruit or sugar-crusted cranberries to personalize these adorable mini cakes.

16. Squidgy White Chocolate Cake (Kladdkaka)

The author notes that much like a “good brownie” this cake is “fudgy and moist on the inside and crackly on the outside.” A traditional Swedish dessert, this squidgy chocolate cake is made using eight simple ingredients like butter, very good-quality white chocolate, eggs, and sugar. If you find yourself with some leftovers, enjoy this cake for breakfast alongside a warm cup of Joe.

17. Mary Lincoln’s White Almond Cake

According to the author of this recipe, it is believed that Mary Todd Lincoln baked this cake for President Abraham Lincoln when they courted, and even while she was the First Lady. Growing up in Lexington Kentucky, Mary learned to make this cake that went on to become a symbolic tradition to pay homage to the late Abraham Lincoln. Simple and supremely comforting, enjoy this easy-to-make cake with a cup of hot tea on a cold winter day.

18. Malted White Chocolate Sheet Cake

Let white chocolate take center stage with this vanilla almond sheet cake, smothered with a layer of malted white chocolate, and finished with a rich cream cheese frosting. You may need to make an extra sheet pan or two of this dessert to guarantee there’s enough for seconds.

19. Panetón & Hot Chocolate Bread Pudding

Similar to Italian panettone, this recipe calls for the South American version called panetón that is much cheaper and easier to find. Instead of eating the holiday cake-like bread on its own, it is transformed into a hot chocolate bread pudding any chocolate aficionado would find irresistibly tempting.

20. My Fruitcake

A holiday speciality, this fruitcake is made with ingredients like dried apricots, dried figs, blanched nuts—like almonds or macadamias—and ground spices. It is believed that fruitcakes gained popularity as people learned how to preserve fruit, creating an excess of this ingredient that needed to be consumed in different ways. This recipe lends itself to any substitutions desired—the apricots or figs can be replaced by your dried fruit of choice.

21. Christmas King's Cake - Bolo Rei (Portugal)

This Portuguese-inspired king’s cake has two hidden surprises: a small gift wrapped in parchment paper (normally a little metal saint or a coin), and a dry broad bean. The person that finds the parchment paper gets to keep the prize, meanwhile the person that finds the dry bean must pay for the following year’s cake. The author of the recipe suggests making several loaves, as the whole family will likely eat slice after slice in search of the hidden items.

22. Snowy Christmas Cake

Create a picture-worthy, snowy Christmas scene to top your favorite cake with these tips on making miniature gingerbread houses and edible Christmas trees to decorate your holiday dessert. Let your creativity run free with the inspiration for your design.

23. Traditional Panforte (Spicy Tuscan Christmas Cake)

Add a special touch to your holiday gifts this year with this homemade Tuscan Christmas cake your friends and family will appreciate. Made with candied fruit, warm spices, and nuts this sweet treat pairs well with a hot beverage any time of day.

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Maki Yazawa

Written by: Maki Yazawa

Food Writer & Recipe Developer