From candy canes to pumpkin chocolate cheesecake, the holidays bring an ongoing buffet for the sweet tooth. Decadent December delicacies range greatly, but many include chocolate, fruit, gingerbread and sometimes, booze.
"During the holidays people are celebrating more, so desserts with alcohol or liqueur in them are more popular," says Annie Ghobrial, pastry chef at Lake Park Bistro. "They make the dessert just a little more festive."
Ghobrial says she also creates a lot of lighter, fruit-based desserts this time of year because some people, after a big holiday meal, don't want to eat a heavy final course.
"I like to make holiday desserts with pears or cranberries because their tartness cuts the richness of a meal," she says. "Some people are looking for just a little something, but not something really decadent."
Whether you want a holiday dessert to go or one to enjoy at a festive Milwaukee restaurant, here are some of the city's best options.
925 E. Wells St., (414) 765-1166
The Bacchus dessert menu is spruced up for the season with a spiced pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting, molasses ice cream and a red wine poached pear torte with ginger ice cream. Plus, Vanda Braun's sticky toffee pudding is on the menu for the entire year, but peaks in popularity during the holidays. Chef Nicholas Wirth says he's working on an interpretation of a s'mores dessert that he hopes to soon unveil, too. "It has a graham cracker crust with homemade, bruleed marshmallows and chocolate ganache filling," he says.
1417 N. Wauwatosa Ave., (414) 453-0330
8820 N. Port Washington Rd., (414) 352-1020
Baskin Robbins offers a yule log ice cream cake made from rolled chocolate cake, the customer's choice of ice cream (Daiquiri Ice or bubblegum not recommended, but hey, it's your dessert) and drenched in fudge or white frosting. Finally, it's topped with green frosting leaves and can be adorned with a message. It's a festive, cold, creamy alternative to other holiday treats.
Beans & Barley
1901 E. North Ave., (414) 278-7878
From Thanksgiving through the New Year, Beans sells "old fashioned" holiday cookies individually or by the pound in festive gold foiled window boxes. According to co-owner Pat Sturgis, "These are handmade cookies made with lots of butter and the all other 'terrible' ingredients you want in a sugar cookie." The decadent selection includes classic cut-out cookies along with thumb prints, rugelach ("little twists"), chocolate pepper, Mexican wedding cakes and more.
2643 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (414) 489-7437
Gingerbread cupcakes, chocolate mint cream pie, pumpkin streusel, apple cranberry pie and pecan, walnut and bourbon pies are all on Honey Pie's menu for December. "We try to focus on seasonal ingredients, so this time of year that means pumpkins, pecan and cranberries," says co-owner and head baker Valeri Lucks.
Lake Park Bistro
3133 E. Newberry Blvd., (414) 962-6300
Pastry chef Annie Ghobrial created a popular pumpkin bread pudding for the Thanksgiving season and is about to add a gingerbread cake to Lake Park's dessert menu, along with a crepe filled with cranberries and poached pears. She also likes to bake with seasonal spices. "Including warm spices really gives a dessert a holiday feel, like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger," she says.
1307 E. Brady St., (414) 271-7337
Many of Mimma's desserts already lend themselves to the holidays, including tiramisu and cannoli, but owner and chef Mimma Megna creates a few signature holiday desserts, as well. Panettone torte is similar to a light sweet bread that's cut and layered with pistachio cream and butter cream, creating a seasonal look and taste. Megna's zuccotto is a dome-shaped cake filled with chocolate, hazelnut and vanilla mousse as well as chocolate chips. "It is a very light dessert that's shaped like a dome because it was traditionally made for The Pope," says Megna.
1818 N. Hubbard St., (414) 374-8480
Roots restaurant is in the midst of a "winter world tour" which focuses on a different ethnic cuisine each month. Because December entrees revolved around German cuisine, so do the desserts. Hence, chef Lisa Kirkpatrick created numerous holiday desserts that are variations of classic German recipes for black forest chocolate cake, German coffee cake, apple strudel, crepes, cardamom ice cream, cookie plates and more. "I have some really good preserved dark cherries to play with this year," says Kirkpatrick. "I am creating a number of desserts from chocolates, winter fruits and nuts."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.