A fruity cheese salad, Danish-inspired smørrebrød bread, and a delicious ginger carrot cake add a splash of fun, color, and flavor to your festive table. If you’re scratching your head about what to cook for the holiday season, give these three recipes a try!
AS DELIGHTFUL as holiday dining can be, it can also be a bit challenging at times. Family recipes are guarded like secret treasures, and either no new recipes are allowed on the table, or only one fortunate novelty might be selected.
These recipes are for those occasions when you need something a bit different—perhaps a bit lighter and fresher—or something festive, even if you don't want to prepare a traditional Christmas dinner. Perhaps this time you cook a salad to bring to relatives, bake a sweet cake for the holiday movie marathon, or make sandwiches to enjoy while lounging around in your pyjamas.
The festive salad combines different types of flavors: the tangy sweetness of fruits, lightly bitter chicory, caramelized nuts, and salty cheese. It can be served as a side dish on Christmas Eve, as a buffet-style at a holiday gathering, or as a delightful starter on New Year's Eve. Choose your favorite cheese or try Italian gorgonzola, English stilton, or French Roquefort.
Pro tip: salad leaves are often left large and visually striking. While beautiful, it's much more enjoyable to eat a salad that fits into your mouth with a single forkful!
Christmas breads are a modern version of the famous Danish smørrebrød. Easy to prepare, they are perfect for a post-Christmas breakfast or an early Christmas Eve lunch. The thought of a double dose of potatoes on a sandwich might sound a bit unusual, but trust us: creamy boiled potatoes and crispy chips make an excellent pair!
The traditional choice is to combine horseradish cream cheese and sea-salted chips, while the more adventurous can mix truffle chips with garlic cream cheese. Slice the bread and potatoes thinly for a balanced mouthfeel, as the bread itself is so dense.
In this ginger carrot cake, oil is used instead of butter. The oil-based cake lasts longer in the refrigerator and the cake also stays moist. The traditional way to frost a carrot cake is to casually spread the frosting over the entire cake, but if you want to be on-trend, pipe the frosting onto pre-cut pieces with a round-tipped pastry bag. If you don't want to frost the whole cake at once, you can freeze a portion for later.
Ingredients (for 4 people as an appetizer):
1 red salad*
1 box of grapes
150 g blue cheese
2–3 ripe persimmons
100 g pecans
2 tbsp water
3 tbsp cane sugar
1 tsp salt
1 dl olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and black pepper
Prepare nuts and vinaigrette before the salad. Add pecans, water, salt, and sugar to a frying pan. Heat while stirring until the mixture starts to bubble and the water begins to evaporate from the pan. Be careful not to burn the sugar. Pour the sticky nuts onto a plate to wait. Whisk the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a tall glass or shake them together in a lidded jar.
Rinse and tear the red salad into pieces on a serving plate. Rinse the grapes and halve them if necessary. Rinse the persimmons and cut them into wedges (remove the stem and white core). Mix the grapes and persimmons with the salad and spoon vinaigrette over them. Finish with crumbled or sliced blue cheese and pecans.
*If you can't find a red salad, you can also use a mix of chicory and frisée or endive.
Smørrebrød or Christmas breads
Ingredients (for 4 people):
1 archipelago bread
250 g boiled potatoes
salt and black pepper
1 box of cream cheese (e.g., garlic or horseradish flavored)
1 jar of roe/seaweed caviar
1/2 bunch of finely chopped chives
Boil the potatoes until they are tender. Let the potatoes cool and peel them. Slice the potatoes thinly and season them with salt, black pepper, and lemon juice. Cut archipelago bread into thin slices and spread cream cheese on them. Layer on the seasoned potato slices, chips, chopped chives, and roe or seaweed caviar.
Ginger carrot cake
Ingredients (for 8–10 people):
4 dl grated carrots (200 g)
2.5 dl cane sugar (225 g)
4 dl all-purpose flour (260 g)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp dried ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1.5 dl olive oil or vegetable oil (150 ml)
400 g cream cheese
3–6 tbsp powdered sugar
juice and zest of 1 orange
crystallized ginger for decoration
Cover the base of a springform pan (⌀ 24 cm*) with parchment paper and oil the sides. Peel and grate the carrots using the coarse side of a grater. Measure all the dry ingredients except for sugar into a bowl and mix well. Preheat the oven to 175°C. Mix the sugar and oil together with an electric mixer. Add the eggs to the mixture and continue whipping until the batter is light and fluffy. Stir in the grated carrot and then gently fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula.
Pour the batter into the springform pan and bake for about 40 minutes. Test by placing a wooden stick (or a piece of spaghetti) into the cake – the cake is ready when the stick comes out clean without raw batter. Allow the cake to cool and then run a knife around the edges before removing the pan.
For the frosting, mix cream cheese, orange juice, and zest. Add powdered sugar to taste, one spoonful at a time, until the frosting reaches the desired sweetness. Spread the frosting with a knife into an even layer or pipe it onto individual slices. Optionally, decorate the slices with crystallized ginger.
*You can also use a smaller springform pan for a taller cake. In that case, bake the cake at a slightly lower temperature for a longer time to ensure the center of the cake is baked through.
Design Stories contributor Suvi Kesäläinen is a photographer, who loves to create dishes that are not only delicious but also fast and easy to make. She’s passionate about the best seasonal ingredients, local food, and intriguing culinary trends.
Text and photos: Suvi Kesäläinen