5 Traditional Christmas Desserts You Should Try

Anikona/iStock via Getty Images
Anikona/iStock via Getty Images

This holiday, step away from the candy canes and gingerbread men, and try a traditional Christmas dessert that still has an avid following in the 21st century. From an elaborate chocolate cake to not one, but two puddings, here are five delectable treats Yule love (sorry).

1. German Stollen

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“Dresden is famous for her stollen—long loaves of sweetened bread with raisins and almonds galore; the rolled-up shape is supposed to represent the Holy Infant in its swaddling clothes,” notes a 1915 issue of Table Talk magazine (“the American authority upon culinary topics and fashions of the table”). This rich yet flaky sweet bread comprises wheat flour, yeast, dried fruits, candied citrus, and a lot of butter—about a 1:2 butter-to-flour ratio for a “heavy stollen.” Like Champagne, the label Dresdner Stollen is legally protected and can be applied only to stollen made in Dresden according to strict rules; each loaf has to pass inspection by other bakers before it receives its stamp of approval.

2. Japanese Christmas Cake

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Just 1 percent of Japanese people consider themselves Christian, but practically the whole country of Japan celebrates Christmas with outdoor displays, festive decorations, and a special Christmas cake. The sweet confections are a vestige of the post-World War II years, when American soldiers helping to rebuild Japanese communities handed out sweets to citizens. It also symbolizes prosperity, because the main ingredients—sugar, milk, and eggs—became more widely available after the war. In contrast to the bowling ball-like mass of an English pudding, Japanese Christmas cakes are meant to be light and airy. Two springy sponge-cake layers are coated in sweetened whipped cream, and the top of the cake is decorated with whipped cream flourishes, fresh whole strawberries, and Santa figurines.

3. English Christmas Pudding

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This steamed delicacy emerged in the Middle Ages as a slurry of meat, fruit, and wine. When sugar and spices became more plentiful in England by the 16th century, the dish transformed into a dense, sweet cake made of flour, suet, dried fruit, spices, and brandy. Allegedly, puritanical rebel Oliver Cromwell banned the decadent puddings, along with carol-singing and Yule logs, when he overthrew the English monarchy in the 1650s. Today, Christmas puddings are often made with butter, raisins, nuts, and spices; tightly secured in a pudding tin with foil and steamed for hours until cooked.

4. French Bûche de Noël

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“The bûche de Noël is a Provençal institution, as dear to the inhabitant as the St. Nicholas fête or the Yule log gathering to those of Holland or England,” the Idler magazine wrote in 1906. The traditional French Christmas cake bûche de Noël represents the Yule log before it goes into the fireplace: a rectangular layer of sponge cake is spread with sweet cream filling and rolled up into a cylinder, then coated with delectable chocolate frosting. Creative pâtissières fashion a bark-like pattern in the frosting, add “branches” to the log, and even accessorize with meringue mushrooms, edible flowers, or—as one 1906 recipe suggested—"crushed crystallized violets or rose leaves.”

5. Danish Risalamande

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In Denmark, families traditionally attended afternoon church services on December 24. “After that comes the Christmas dinner, when the goose is put on the table, followed by the traditional rice pudding where lies the hidden treasure: a blanched almond, which means an ‘almond gift’ for the lucky finder,” the American-Scandinavian Review reported in 1917. That rice pudding, called risalamande (derived from the French riz a l’amande, or "rice with almonds") is still a part of Danish Christmas celebrations. Leftover rice pudding is mixed with whipped cream, sugar, vanilla, and chopped almonds, and then topped with a cherry sauce and served cold. A whole blanched almond may be hidden among several servings of the pudding, like the baby in a King Cake, and whoever finds it wins a small prize.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Dress Up Your Guinea Pig for Halloween With Mini Costumes From PetSmart

PetSmart
PetSmart

Guinea pigs love socialization, so make sure to include them in your Halloween festivities this month. They can even dress up for the holiday: As Cosmopolitan reports, PetSmart has a line of cute and funny Halloween costumes designed to fit your tiny pet.

For several years, PetSmart has offered seasonal outfits for guinea pigs, including pumpkin, witch, and superhero costumes. The costumes featured in their Thrills & Chills collection for 2020 include a unicorn, a mermaid, and a hot dog. The ensembles are available to purchase in stores and online, and each one costs $7. You can shop for the perfect costume for your pet today at PetSmart.com.

PetSmart

PetSmart

No matter what kind of furry friend you have at home, there's a Halloween outfit out there for them. The costume options for cats and dogs are almost as diverse as they are for their human owners. From Wonder Woman to Darth Vader, here are some of the most adorable pet costumes to shop for this Halloween.

[h/t Cosmopolitan]

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