Special desserts and sweet treats have been a staple of Christmas holiday meals for centuries.
Whether it’s Baked Alaska, spiced fruitcake, or Gingerbread Men cookies, or the English traditions of Christmas pudding, we have many tempting sweets and desserts to choose from during this holiday season.
Many of our more “traditional” ideas of Christmas sweets find their roots in well-loved literary sources. Perhaps one of the best known is Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol, in which we are given a glimpse of his vision of a right proper English holiday dinner.
As one article describes it,
“In 1843, Dickens published A Christmas Carol, which contained the famous scene of the Cratchits contentedly gathered round the crackling fire with their goose, apples and oranges, chestnuts and the “speckled cannon ball” pudding.”
The story goes on to point out that until the publication of A Christmas Carol, Christmas pudding was known only as plum pudding – but after that, plum pudding was afterwards always referred to as Christmas pudding.
From visions of sugar plums in Clement Clark Moore’s famous 1823 poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, or The Night Before Christmas, as most of us know it, to Treacle tarts and Harry Potter to the hot chocolate from The Polar Express – the literary world definitely knows how to do Christmas sweets!
Here in Napa Valley and the “original” wine country, we have a few holiday traditions of our own and are certainly no slackers when it comes to Christmas sweets!
Napa Valley: A Sweet Holiday Destination for Desserts and Wine
Of course, Napa Valley with it’s fabulous communities like Calistoga, is widely known for its wines.
And the holidays are a great time to experience both the fruits of the Napa Valley harvests past as well as the beautiful wineries. In fact, the 13th Annual Winter in the Wineries Passport program kicks off December 3, 2022, featuring 16 wineries giving participants the opportunity to explore our magnificent wine-growing areas.
These locations will be fully decked out in all their holiday finery and there is much more to see and do throughout the Valley, as well.
For example, this year will see performances of The Nutcracker at Lincoln Theater, while visitors can enjoy the charms of the Jingle All the Way in St. Helena well past Christmas itself. In addition, the charms of the Napa Valley in the holiday season will be on full display for the Napa Valley Wine Trolley Holiday Lights tour. There will also be opportunity for singing traditional Christmas songs and tasting the candy canes.
Speaking of sweets, if you are keen on making some of your own Christmas sweets, the Silverado Cooking School will be presenting their Holiday Cookies – Bake & Take! featuring a cookie baking workshop that can include delectables such as Pecan Snowballs, Brown Butter Almond Tuiles, and Soft Gingerbread Tiles glazed with Rum Butter Glaze.
And right here in our favorite community, visitors and locals can gather for “an evening of community performances, warm hospitality, delicious food, and local wines” at the Calistoga Holiday Village And Christmas Faire. And the fun doesn’t stop there as the celebration also includes the 51st Calistoga Christmas Faire & Tractor Parade After Party!
Irresistible Ideas for Your Own Christmas Sweets
When we speak of Christmas sweets, many of us think of popular or traditional sweets such as red velvet cake, candy canes, rum balls, fruitcake, and – of course – cookies!
But many of us also think of sweet concoctions like a chocolate yule log cake. A yule log cake, also called a Buche de Noel, is a rolled sponge cake shaped and decorated to resemble a wooden log. This holiday dessert is baking tradition that originated in 19th century France.
This is a version from Bernadette Colvin and published at Taste of Home.
4 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons 2% milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Place egg whites in large bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Line a greased 15x10x1-in. baking pan with parchment paper; grease the paper and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and lemon colored. Gradually beat in 1/3 cup sugar. Sift flour, baking cocoa, baking powder and salt together twice; gradually add to yolk mixture and mix well (batter will be very thick).
- With clean beaters, beat egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, on high until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold into batter. Spread evenly into prepared pan.
- Bake until cake springs back when lightly touched, 10-12 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes. Turn cake onto a kitchen towel dusted with cocoa powder. Gently peel off waxed paper. Roll up cake in towel, jelly-roll style, starting with a short side, cool completely on a wire rack.
- Meanwhile, for the filling, beat cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and almond extract, beating until stiff peaks form. Unroll cake; spread filling to within 1 in. of edges. Roll up again.
- In a large bowl, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in chocolate, milk and vanilla until smooth. Frost the cake, using a metal spatula to create a bark-like effect.
Part of the fun of a yule log cake is the opportunity to be artistically creative as well as in the culinary sense!
Nothing Says “Christmas” Like Sugar Cookies
Another traditional Christmas sweet comes from Norway by way of The Spruce Eats and are called Berlinerkranser, or Norwegian Butter Cookies.
As their website notes,
“Despite the name, most people agree that Berlinerkranser (“Berlin wreaths”) are Norwegian cookies. It is hard to find a traditional Norwegian or Norwegian-American cookbook that doesn’t have a recipe for these buttery Christmas favorites.”
- Prep: 75 mins
- Cook: 10 mins
- Total: 85 mins
- Servings: 15 servings
- Yield: 30 cookies
2 large, hard-boiled eggs
1 cup sugar, superfine or granulated
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (8 ounces) European-style unsalted butter, such as Plugra or Kerrygold, chilled
1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup sugar, sparkling or pearl sugar
Candied fruit, for garnish, optional
- Separate the egg whites from the yolks of the hard-boiled eggs and discard the whites.
- Crumble the egg yolks into a large mixing bowl.
- Separate the yolks from the whites of the 2 fresh eggs. Reserve the whites for an egg wash.
- Beat the raw yolks into the hard-boiled yolks.
- Vigorously whisk the sugar and the vanilla sugar into the combined yolks.
- Stir the flour into the yolks to form a soft dough.
- Cut the chilled butter into 1/2-inch chunks. Use a pastry cutter or 2 knives to cut it into the dough, as you would for a pastry crust.
- Pat the dough into a ball and cover it completely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F and place 2 uninsulated baking sheets in your freezer to chill for 15 minutes.
- Pinch off walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll them into 6-inch long “snakes” about the thickness of a pencil. Fold the ends over one another into a wreath shape.
- Line the chilled baking sheets with parchment paper and place the wreaths on them, leaving at least an inch of space around each cookie.
- Beat the reserved egg whites with a tablespoon of water. Brush each wreath evenly with the egg wash.
- Sprinkle generously with sparkling or pearl sugar.
- Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake the cookies for 10 minutes, or until they turn golden. Watch closely to make sure they don’t burn, as oven temperatures can vary.
- Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack.
- Gently press candied fruit into the top of the cookies for decoration, if desired.
- Cool cookies completely and serve or store in an airtight container.
Whether you’re in Napa Valley or the Bay Area, Christmas sweets always include cakes, cookies, and candies. And making your own is a great way to add a gratifying dash of holiday magic to your festivities.
Cal Mart: For All Your Napa Valley Christmas Sweets Inspiration
Napa Valley and the little town of Calistoga is a great place to visit during the holiday season, and you’ll find Cal Mart conveniently located in the merry heart of downtown Calistoga.
Cal Mart’s has been a shopping destination for holiday feasting preparations for over five decades years and is a Napa Valley tradition.
A family-owned and independent grocery store, Cal Mart continues to offer a unique, enjoyable, and memorable shopping experience for our customers after half a century. Our employees proudly offer up a large variety and wide selection to our loyal customers. And it is because of them that Cal Mart has been the go-to local destination for fine Napa Valley wines, meats, cheeses, and specialty food items all these years.
And for over 50 years our customers have enjoyed a unique and memorable shopping experience during the holidays – and throughout the year.
This is one of the many reasons why we are known as “Napa Valley’s Finest Grocery.”
So, this holiday season, take some time to come and explore all that we have to offer.
And while you’re here, please feel free to talk with our knowledgeable staff and then treat yourself to a cup of hot chocolate, coffee, or tea from our Coffee Bar.
Remember: at Cal Mart, you will always find something that is unexpected, unusual, and uncommon!