Check out 14 Stunning Holiday Desserts
by Julie Ruble at Foodie.com
Thanks, Foodie, for sponsoring this post.
If you’re sad because you keep scrolling through photos of homes decorated for Christmas and beautiful cookies and homemade gifts and holiday parties and hot chocolate breaks and meticulous Christmas lights and PERFECT FAMILIES, come here and let me give you a dysfunctional hug. You are so not alone.
Super Fancy Chocolate Cheesecake Cake
Just remember that everyone picks out the bright spots to share. Almost no one posts their struggles, especially not the ugly struggles. And if they do, their friends give them the side-eye and they become That Messy Girl Who Shares Too Much. So no one does. Instead we all sit in our messy houses staring at stacks of unaddressed Christmas cards and and feel like we belong on the island of misfit toys.
I’m going to be That Messy Girl today, because I’m not willing to let you feel that way. Or I’m not willing to let you hang out on the island alone, anyway.
This year my apartment is a mess. There’s nowhere to put a tree and no time to sort through things to make space. I can’t get my head above water to buy pre-printed Christmas cards and mail them to people, much less to get a cute photo one printed up. We haven’t found a night to watch Christmas movies and drink hot chocolate like I’d planned to. Instead Mike and I both sit at our computers each evening working, working, working. I don’t get home from my day job until the sun is going down. Then my “day job” turns into a night job too, as any teacher will tell you. Some of my siblings had a conflict earlier in the year that created hurt feelings, so we aren’t really gathering. My grandmother passed away on Wednesday. She is mercifully not in pain anymore, but it is hard not to have her in this world.
I can’t make this Christmas thing work. I can’t get myself into the right mental space.
Sitting in the Raleigh airport on Friday before traveling my grandmother’s funeral, I was thinking something very similar: “I’m not in the right mental space for this. If this is my final goodbye, I have to be ready. What will I say? What special spaces must I visit to remember her? How will I make my final goodbye count?”
But time didn’t stop for me. The agents announced that it was time to board the plane. It whisked me off to Charlotte to meet my parents and then off to St. Louis. The rental car carried us to Piedmont. To the church. To the moment all the moments before had been unwittingly leading up to, standing by her side in the front of the sanctuary. I felt the familiar fear of regret: if I didn’t make this moment count, how would I feel later? But more than that, now that I was looking down at her, I felt resolution. Waves and waves of time had brought me to this moment, and the waves were still pushing ahead. I was being carried. There was no wrong way to be carried. My heart just told her, “Thank you.”
Christmas will come and I don’t have to make it happen. In a way, greeting it with dysfunction and brokenness makes sense to me. This is the season when we celebrate the birth of Someone who said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” I am being carried. If I find myself in that moment on Christmas day wondering how to make things meaningful or perfect, I will find a quiet spot to settle into the waves. My heart will just say, “Thank you.”
* * *
Someone from my church just shared this quote, and it is so perfect. I’ll leave you with this (and cake. Always cake.):
“I believe deeply that God does his best work in our lives during times of great heartbreak and loss, and I believe that much of that rich work is done by the hands of people who love us, who dive into the wreckage with us and show us who God is, over and over and over. There are years when the Christmas spirit is hard to come by, and it’s in those seasons when I’m so thankful for Advent. Consider it a less flashy but still very beautiful way of being present to this season. Give up for a while your false and failing attempts at merriment, and thank God for thin places, and for Advent, for a season that understands longing and loneliness and long nights. Let yourself fall open to Advent, to anticipation, to the belief that what is empty will be filled, what is broken will be repaired, and what is lost can always be found, no matter how many times it’s been lost.” Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way
One year ago: Spiked Mocha Mousse Bars
Two years ago: Moist Fluffy Coconut Cake
Three years ago: Sticky Toffee Pudding Cheesecake
Four years ago: Magic Bars
Five years ago: Cinnamon Roll Cookies
Super Fancy Chocolate Cheesecake Cake
Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, using Beatty’s Chocolate Cake and frosting from Martha Stewart
Yield: 10-12 servings
This recipes combines a moist, rich layer cake with a tangy chocolate cheesecake to make a super fancy, super delicious holiday masterpiece. If you love chocolate, this is your dessert!
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
4 packages (8 ounces each) of cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
4 ounces or about 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, melted and cooled (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
24 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled (plus more for drizzle if desired)
flaked sea salt
Make cheesecake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch springform pans (I use Wilton’s Cake Release) and also place a greased parchment round in the bottom of each. Mix cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar in a large bowl until well blended and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing between each, and continue mixing until combined. Add the chocolate and continue mixing until combined. Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake these for 35-45 minutes or until center of cake is almost set (the cake will puff up and brown on top, but don’t worry. You’re looking for a slight wiggle in the center, but not so much that it seems like the batter is liquid inside). Let the cheesecake cool. When almost completely cool, place it in refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours.
Make cake: While your cheesecakes are baking, you can mix up your cakes to stick in the oven, too. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans (I use Wilton’s Cake Release) and also place a greased parchment round in the bottom of each. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. While whisking or beating on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. While still whisking or beating on low, add the coffee and stir until just combined. Give it a last turn with a spatula to make sure all the ingredients are combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes before turning the cakes out onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper, cooling completely, and then wrapping and freezing them until your cheesecakes are done chilling (I freeze cake layers to make them easier to handle when I frost them, but you then need to make sure you frost early enough for them to thaw before serving.)
Make frosting and assemble: In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa and warm water. In a separate bowl, beat together butter, confectioners’ sugar, and a generous pinch of coarse salt until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the melted chocolate and the cocoa mixture (I kind of alternate adding a bit of each as I stir; otherwise, the frosting will harden instead of staying smooth and awesome. It still tastes good, but it’s a little sad). Let this sit for exactly 30 minutes before you use it.
Assemble the cake by placing a layer of chocolate cake on a pedestal with its flat side up and topping with frosting. Place a cheesecake layer on and top it with frosting. Continue with the last layer of cake and cheesecake. Frost the top and sides with a thick, even layer of frosting. Top with a melted chocolate drizzle if desired.
Amy J.December 15, 2014 at 3:04 pm (8 years ago)
OMG this looks sooooooo good. I wish I had it right now.
MelissaDecember 15, 2014 at 5:55 pm (8 years ago)
Oh, thank you for this. I looked around as I readied for work this morning, wrapping paper and shoes and coats and an empty bag of chips on the floor. And I felt disappointed in myself. Reading this reminded me that my life is more than a perfect time and place of an Instagrammed holiday post. Just remembering to buy stamps is a win 🙂 thinking of you and yours this holiday season; Byrd will be happy to have you and Mike near!
Lauren at Keep It SweetDecember 15, 2014 at 6:07 pm (8 years ago)
I’m so sorry about the loss of your grandmother, Julie!
And you are very right about what we share and what we don’t share. Everyone has problems and struggles with their families in some way, we just try to paint a nice rosy picture for everyone else to see.
Oh and this cake… seriously, there are no words.
Alanna KelloggDecember 15, 2014 at 6:10 pm (8 years ago)
I am sorry for your loss, it always hurts but at Christmas, I think it always hurts just a little bit more. And I’m adopting your fellow church member’s thinking about Advent, giving myself room and time to gather up the spirit for when Christmas descends …
PS And if life brings you to St. Louis again under happier circumstances, it would be nice to meet. We could even do a little gathering of the St. Louis food bloggers…
LeAndraDecember 15, 2014 at 8:34 pm (8 years ago)
Sorry to hear about your loss, Julie. I love the quote you shared. Thank you too for trusting us enough to share your feelings about saying goodbye to someone you love.
Jane SDecember 15, 2014 at 11:52 pm (8 years ago)
I am so sorry for your loss, Julie. It is so generous of you to write a post that will no doubt be very comforting to many, during this incredibly difficult time. I will be hoping that you are able to find joy and peace during this holiday season.
dawn jDecember 16, 2014 at 1:25 am (8 years ago)
awww – sweet – thank you for the love – and cake –
pennyDecember 16, 2014 at 6:57 am (8 years ago)
So sorry for your loss.
That is a beautiful quote.
JanetDecember 16, 2014 at 7:02 am (8 years ago)
I am so sorry for the loss of your Grandmother. It is good for her and painful for those left behind. Years ago along with my cousin I gave the eulogy at my Grandmother’s funeral. It was a blessing to me because it helped me to have memories written down to honor her and when I come across the words in my desk I often read them again.
The cake looks delicious. Pinned 🙂
I am ready for Christmas but it is a simple one and I like it that way. My tree is a foot tall with just small lights and it is pleasant and no furniture needed to be moved 🙂 The gifts will be simple as well. The food will be delicious and the Yule Log will be on after church. There are lights inside and out whether it is by battery, electric or candle. So beautiful.
It is a hard year for you but it will get better each year that passes. Take it from one who knows.
Blessings to you this day!
EmilyDecember 16, 2014 at 8:43 am (8 years ago)
What a beautiful decadent cake!
KarenDecember 16, 2014 at 8:50 am (8 years ago)
So sorry to hear about your Grandmother. She will always hold a special place in your heart. And …… Thank You!! for not leaving me on the island alone. I have only been a follower for a short time, but I have come to love the life lessons more than the recipes.
Have a Blessed Day!
Nutmeg NannyDecember 16, 2014 at 9:09 am (8 years ago)
This cake is so gorgeous! I seriously wish I could I have a slice for breakfast.
heather @french pressDecember 16, 2014 at 10:40 am (8 years ago)
while your cake is beautiful, your words are more so, and somehow exactly what I needed to hear this morning. Thank you for that!
Mary@SiftingFocusDecember 16, 2014 at 2:02 pm (8 years ago)
Thanks Julie for having the courage to ‘be real’ with your readers. How easy it is for all of us to get caught up in ‘perfection’. Since my daughter was a young girl, I have been encouraging her to strive for contentment and not perfection. I often fail at taking my own advice. With age, I’m learning.
The quote you shared is timely. Less for me, but more for my brother who is going through a very difficult time. I will pay it forward.
The cake looks and sounds like a heavenly treat. I’ve pinned it for an upcoming special event.
Wishing you a peaceful, calm, and stress-free Holiday!
Lynn @ Order in the KitchenDecember 16, 2014 at 2:51 pm (8 years ago)
I’m so so sorry for your loss. Losing a grandmother can be one of the hardest ordeals and having it happen around the holidays is a big struggle. I think you did a lovely job honoring her with this post and if you need a hug (or a coffee and croissant) when you get back to Charlotte just hit me up and we can make it happen 🙂
KathyDecember 16, 2014 at 4:00 pm (8 years ago)
Praying for you. How refreshing to actually hear someone being real thru their pain. I too experienced great loss in my life and I more than wholeheartedly agree w/ Shauna. It brought me to a place that I didn’t want to go but yet I wouldn’t be where I am today without it and for that I am truly grateful to Him.
CindyDecember 16, 2014 at 7:08 pm (8 years ago)
KellyDecember 16, 2014 at 7:22 pm (8 years ago)
Beautiful post. I am so sorry for your loss.
BrunettepetDecember 16, 2014 at 8:04 pm (8 years ago)
As I sit here in my messy house lacking the energy to write falsely cheery notes in cards to send to far off friends I want to thank you for reminding me I’m not alone. Also, thank you for making me want cake.
Sarah @ bonjoursucreDecember 16, 2014 at 11:59 pm (8 years ago)
I am drooling! That looks gorgeous and decadent – I am a serious chocaholic! Thanks for sharing the recipe – it would make a great Christmas dessert.
I am so sorry for your loss, it must be hard this time of year.
moDecember 19, 2014 at 12:28 pm (8 years ago)
you are a blessing. thank you for sharing your successes and your struggles.
FloraDecember 31, 2014 at 12:06 pm (8 years ago)
I’m sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing and for the recipe. I can’t wait to make this for my sister.
NatJanuary 17, 2015 at 11:15 pm (8 years ago)
Wow! This post would have really lifted me up during my own less than perfect Christmas prep. I felt the same way that time didn’t stop for me to fulfill all the elaborate plans I’d made and instead just carried me with it unheeded and undaunted by the anxiety and helplessness of not accomplishing holiday kitchen feats. Thank you for coming out and saying what all of us go through at some point during Christmas. And that cake, that cake wow!!!
June BurnsJanuary 20, 2015 at 6:43 pm (8 years ago)
I know this is an old post but I saw it and thought I’d comment…hope you remember that things like this don’t make us dysfunctional but they make us human 🙂
lolaMarch 24, 2015 at 6:01 am (8 years ago)
Julie – I just KNEW GOD & CHOCOLATE went together! Seriously – your Sharing was a REAL BLESSING to me today. I hope I remember to share this next December!
CoreenMay 25, 2015 at 6:12 pm (8 years ago)
Tried this recipe for Easter, hoping I could make it for a Mother Daughter Banquet for 75 that I was planning. While all my guests thought it was wonderful, the frosting was a problem. The taste is divine, but chilling it made it harden and it would not cut without cracking. I added some heavy whipping cream to the frosting for the banquet version and it was terrific.
Julie RubleMay 25, 2015 at 6:25 pm (8 years ago)
Hi Coreen! That has happened to me before too — typically when I don’t carefully alternate adding the melted chocolate and cocoa mixture while mixing. The frosting should end up with a smooth, velvety texture instead of hard like a chocolate bar. Glad the whipping cream helped you and that you enjoyed the cake!
HannahMay 21, 2016 at 6:35 am (7 years ago)
I know this is an old post…I found the recipe on Pinterest and then started browsing your blog. I just wanted to say that I was really encouraged by your perspective and reminding me to rest in Jesus (no matter what season). I’m so thankful that he was willing to enter into all of the mess we made down here to make a way for us to enter into all of His beauty up There. I can’t wait to celebrate the new Christmas, when He comes back. <3
Julie RubleMay 21, 2016 at 7:41 am (7 years ago)
Thanks Hannah! Merry Christmas all year long ❤️
WhitneyAugust 28, 2016 at 12:17 am (7 years ago)
Thanks so much for posting this amazing recipe and sharing a bit about your holidays two years ago. I hope your siblings have made up and that time has healed the hurt of the loss of your grandmother and strengthened your memories of her. I made your recipe earlier this week and it has been a big hit! Although I must say it is guaranteed to make me much heavier if I ever make it again :-). I took lots of photos as I made it, so if those would be helpful, I’d be happy to share/post them.
Thanks again for posting this,
Danielle KenyonOctober 15, 2016 at 8:46 pm (7 years ago)
I love the cake recipe, but your post is even better. It spoke to my heart and I thank you for your honesty. I love how your words can be used at any time. I hope and pray there has been healing in your family and that this holiday season, you will be able to celebrate together.
And I agree with Hannah, this will do until we celebrate in Heaven.
HannahSeptember 25, 2017 at 4:18 am (6 years ago)
Hi just wondering if an American cup is the same as an Australian cup? Would like to make this but need to convert the ingredients to Australian measurements.
Julie RubleSeptember 25, 2017 at 6:21 am (6 years ago)
Hi Hannah, I found this that might be helpful: http://www.traditionaloven.com/culinary-arts/volume/convert-cup-us-to-cup-au.html
Janice CampbellOctober 21, 2017 at 11:13 am (6 years ago)
Hi Julie, Janice from UK. Would like to make your cake. I need to convert to UK measurements. Is all purposer flour what we call plain flour (asssuming so as you are adding baking soda/baking powder) – are they different? What is the Uk equivelent in grams for 3 sticks of butter? What is the Uk version of confectioners sugar? Can I use slab dark chocolate instead of choc chips?
Julie RubleOctober 21, 2017 at 4:13 pm (6 years ago)
Yes, plain flour should work the same in this recipe! The 3 sticks of butter are 12 ounces of butter or about 339 grams. Confectioners’ sugar is called icing sugar there, I think. And yes, the slab chocolate should work just fine. Enjoy!
LalaDecember 24, 2018 at 12:11 am (4 years ago)
This must be a joke? 24oz of bitter sweet chocolate chips, 1/2 dutch process cocoa powder and ONLY 3/4 cup confectioners sugar to sweeten all that bitterness ?? ???? Am I missing something???
Julie RubleDecember 24, 2018 at 1:37 am (4 years ago)
Lisa BeboutMay 29, 2019 at 1:31 pm (4 years ago)
Best response I’ve ever seen on a blog! Love it and thanks for the decadent recipe!
DonnaDecember 27, 2018 at 8:45 pm (4 years ago)
Not only are you missing your manners, but there are 2 cups of sugar in the cake and 1 cup in the cheesecake! The ratios are just fine ! I don’t understand your green face with also saying the cake would be bitter? Do you bake?