You’ve started with a smidgen of smoked salmon, worked through a mound of mince pies and tucked away the turkey – now, who’s for afters? If a slab of Christmas pudding is more stodge than your waistband can stand, try these sweet treats for the Christmas table instead.
1. Aldi Specially Selected Croquembouche: £4.99, Aldi
Now this really is a Christmas party piece for the family. It’s frozen but the choux pastry balls only take about an hour to defrost. Younger family members will enjoy helping to fix the plain and chocolate profiteroles onto the cardboard tower, with a squirt of caramel sauce in-between. Drizzle over the included warm chocolate sauce, sprinkle with roasted nuts and gloat over the stupendous bargain you’ve bagged as everyone tucks in.
2. Marks and Spencer Chocolate and Passion Fruit Star, 530g: £15, Marks and Spencer
By the time it gets to dessert, some hosts are practically face-down in the pudding plate with exhaustion. So it’s nice of Marks and Sparks to pre-serve this gorgeous dessert in individual sections that when pieced together make a gold-flecked Christmas star to serve six or more. Just leave your guests to help themselves to each glittering section of chocolate sponge, tangy passion fruit compote filling and white chocolate mousse. The tart fruitiness and a combo of quality chocolate elements makes for a creamy taste sensation.
3. Morrisons The Best Chocolate Christmas Tree, 410g: £9, Morrisons
Chocolate crunch, sponge, mousse in both dark and white chocolate and a glorious bauble-decorated glossy top - what a combination. This dessert looks like it has come from a high-end patisserie rather than your local Morrisons and it scored top marks for taste with our appreciative pudding fans who loved how rich and indulgent the mousse was. A cut above the usual chocolate cake, this served eight.
4. Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Belgian Chocolate Noel Tiffin Cake, 600g: £12, Sainsbury’s
Spell out your love for Christmas (or Mr Edmonds, if you fancy) with this individual NOEL-shaped tiffin cake packed with fruit and nuts. The set of chunky Belgian chocolate letters come ready to serve on a faux-slate board and could easily serve eight to 10. If you fancy something more creative, use them as a central display on a buffet dessert table.
5. Lidl Lemon and Raspberry Semifreddo, 329g: £3.99, Lidl
The lightest dessert we tried, this creamy Italian classic is zesty and refreshing. The raspberry and salted pistachio topping complements the lemon flavour of the semifreddo and there’s an added swirl of berry coulis throughout. This will provide four small but flavour-packed portions. Buy two if you like a serious semifreddo blowout.
6. Chococo Purbeck Marble Cake Wreath, 1kg: £29.95, Chococo
If you’ve been tasked with taking the pudding along to a family gathering, this top-quality showstopper looks impressive on its be-ribboned presentation tray. It’s also a great choice for those who’d rather have a dessert that will last longer than Christmas lunch, as there’s a kilo of densely-packed tiffin here which will comfortably serve 10-12 guests. This egg-free choice features pistachio and cranberry-scattered milk chocolate, encasing a concoction of cherries, raisins and rich tea biscuits. Pop it on a raised cake stand for maximum Christmas cheer.
7. Donald Russell Patisserie Selection: £24, Donald Russell
With more sweet showstoppers than a Bake Off tent, you can please everyone with this brilliant patisserie selection. Each individual treat is a generous single portion size and the frozen puds can be ready for the table within two hours. From lemon tart and opera cake, to sweet potato and marshmallow tart and sticky toffee pud, there’s a dozen different confections to choose from and every one’s a winner.
8. Cole’s Triple Chocolate Pudding, 300g: £6.19, British Corner Shop
This is a top-quality chocolate and fudge steam pudding that’s indulgent enough to feel like a real treat rather than a store-cupboard standby. If you don’t get round to eating this one, a shelf life of six months means you can get back to it well after the January diet has been forgotten. If you do use it on Christmas day, it’s doesn’t lose anything in being cooked in the microwave so is pretty stress-free, prep wise. This rich pud will serve three to four people, as a little goes a long way.
9. Carluccio’s Panettone with a Prosecco Flavoured Filling, 900g: £19.95, Carluccio’s
When you’re going for a boxed panettone make sure it’s a good one. Carluccio’s has taken a classic Italian fruit sponge and piped a prosecco-laced custard into it. This makes for a buttery, moist cake that is delicious just as it comes and will easily serve 8 -10 with a side of whipped cream. Belissimo.
10. Tesco Finest Reveal Dessert, 580g: £12, Tesco
This Belgian chocolate dome serves eight and is sprinkled with gold stars, so looks impressive on the table. But when it’s time to serve, it’s the pouring of the hot caramel sauce that will get the real “oohs” and “aahs”. As the choc melts away, a rich brownie base with nuts and popping candy is revealed underneath. Delicious and very rich.
11. Waitrose Kir Royale Blackcurrant and Prosecco Meringue Stack, 519g: £7.99, Waitrose
Thick layers of sweet meringue with just the right hint of chewiness are sandwiched with whipped prosecco cream and a touch of cassis sauce, then topped with blackcurrants and chocolate swirls. If you consider the usual fruit Pavlova-style dessert practically health food, this is a perfect Christmas indulgence. Serves six.
The Verdict: Alternative desserts
Aldi’s Croquembouche is an absolute stunner. The ingredients are top-quality, the presentation is genius and the price is extremely reasonable. If there’s a down side, it’s that the box is huge at a time when freezer space is tight, so remove the bags of sauce and buns and store that way. Morrison’s Christmas Tree cake also scored highly with our testers –the richness of a quality chocolate dessert but with a light sponge and mousse was a winner.
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