Visions of Sugarplums Danced in ONE Head
November 26, 2021 7:53 PM   Subscribe

Help me plan out an elaborate assortment of Christmas Day desserts and sweets - for only one person.

Every other year I am solo on Christmas Day proper (not for sad reasons - my brother's with his in-laws those years, and my parents and I have our own "Christmas" with them the following weekend and chill out on Christmas Day itself). Sometimes I travel, and sometimes I stay home - and when I stay home I like to go indulgent on the food. I'm pulling this year's menu together; and I've got all the main meals sorted, and even some snacks (I have an unusually large quantity of popping corn and I'm already planning on picking up a charcuterie-and-cheese pack from Wegmans' or something).

I've decided that this year I want a really really lavish dessert-and-sweet-stuff spread; kind of like what I've read that they would have in the 18th Century at fancy balls, where they would have 3 different cakes and 8 different tarts and little bonbons and puddings and jellies in single-serving sized cut glass dishes and ice cream and cookies, just like umpty-three different types of things all laid out for people to pick and choose from as they pleased. And I love to bake and make sweet stuff so this would be something I'd love to bake/make/cook as much of as I can. The only trouble is - as with most recipes, I'm mostly finding things in the "serves twelve" size. And my freezer is too small to freeze even just ONE small cake, let alone the leftovers from eight.

Anyone have any good recipes for sweet baking or dessert making that would make fancy-ass stuff for just one person? Cakes I have under control, and I could probably hack some kind of apple-tart-for-one thing, but the more variety I have going on the better.
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Dessert for two has a lot (I mean a lot) of small batch recipes.
Also, if you have a sous vide setup, these cheesecakes in jars last forever sealed in the fridge (they say a week, but I've found them delicious after a couple of months).
posted by Superilla at 8:09 PM on November 26, 2021 [3 favorites]

Mini baklava!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 8:16 PM on November 26, 2021

Best answer: An elaborate trifle should be relatively simple to downsize. Use some different jams, spiced whipped cream, crumble a few different kinds of cookies, and use store bought sponge cake since you have a wegman’s nearby. Find the fanciest clear vessel you have and fill it up in colorful layers. Soak the cake in either a boozy syrup or something like a sweetened milk (my favorite is just honey and some cinnamon in warm milk). Spice the whipped cream with a complementary flavor (cardamom whipped cream is amazing) and alternate it with colorful layers of jam. If you have small amounts of fruit you could cook down your own compote, too. For texture you can sprinkle on nuts, a pistachio and raspberry trifle would be quite christmassy, for example, or you could do hazelnuts and coffee whipped cream for a cappuccino trifle, or even sesame brittle with ginger snaps and matcha cream.
posted by Mizu at 8:23 PM on November 26, 2021 [3 favorites]

Don’t forget some kind of sickeningly sweet dessert cocktail with Baileys!
posted by kapers at 9:19 PM on November 26, 2021

Response by poster: Coming in to follow-up in response about the dessert cocktail but also to share because this sounds AMAZING:

The cocktail is probably going to be something I've just discovered, involving champagne and tea-and-citrus infused gin with fun cubes of orange gelatin in them, which I can also eat as a dessert on its own too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:03 AM on November 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Since you have popping corn, might I suggest a small dish of kettle corn?
There'a definite learning curve for not burning it all the time, so if you go with this, I'd suggest you start practicing now. Or you could make caramel corn, which is easier. My recipe for that is in a cookbook, but there are tons online.
posted by FencingGal at 5:39 AM on November 27, 2021

Might be worth browsing through this site dedicated to scaled-down recipes.
posted by superfluousm at 7:05 AM on November 27, 2021

I have some lovely little single serving pie pans. They're like 2.5" diameter, so cute. I don't bake much these days but I certainly used to, and it's all about collapsing the volume of a recipe.

Pie? Fill up a regular size pie pan with water and measure the volume, fill up your tiny pie pan (or cake pan, or dish, whatever you're making) and measure the volume, then get your divisor. Then go at the recipe with your ratio. You can do the same thing with cookies. Recipe says it makes about 30 cookies? Divide it by 15.

It gets weird with things like 1/8 of an egg yolk, but just measure and divide. A graduated cylinder is your friend here. Recipes that are already ingrediented out by weight obviously make this a ton easier, but if you're an experienced baker there's a lot can be done in the squinting and eyeballing stage to correct stuff.
posted by phunniemee at 7:09 AM on November 27, 2021

Response by poster: Small note, since I've now seen the site recommended twice:

I already have perused the Desserts For Two web site, and found most of what she has on offer is various scaled-down cakes - her site is in fact the reason why I've said that I'm already set for cakes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:23 AM on November 27, 2021

Best answer: Do you live near a fancy chocolate store? A lot of them will let you buy individual pieces.

Godiva does sell a box of just six chocolate-covered strawberries. That's really pricey though, and you could do your own "stuff covered in chocolate." This recipe just uses melted chocolate chips, so you could reduce it as much as you wanted to.
posted by FencingGal at 7:57 AM on November 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've been enjoying experimenting with silken tofu desserts lately. One twelve-and-a-half ounce package of silken tofu fills four little creme brulee dishes, and you could do radically different flavorings and toppings for each one--say one chocolate, one lemon, one brandied fruit, and one mint--or layer different fruit flavors in a parfait glass.

Leftover tofu pudding also makes a very good breakfast!
posted by yarntheory at 9:14 AM on November 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Fruit crumbles are excellently scalable - as much fruit as is nice for you, sautéed with appropriate spices, sugar, butter, a dash of lemon juice/nice white wine/brandy as appropriate, topped with streusel and baked. A great excuse to buy yourself a couple of gorgeous ramekins, too!
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 9:36 AM on November 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Make up half this recipe so that it only takes one egg. Or just make a batch of shortbread. Shortbread can be rolled so it will be the more versatile option. Divide dough into cookies sized portions and come up with something different to do with each one of them. Most of your cookies should be baked plain and then dressed up lavishly with melted dark or white chocolate. Roll and cut some into different shapes. The tops of glasses and medicine bottles can be used as cookie cutters to give you more options in shapes if you don't have the cutters.

Add cocoa powder to some of the dough to turn it into chocolate.
Make a bow from cut up candied cherry to decorate a plain cookie. You can bake it with this on top so that it sticks
Take a pre-baked cookie finger and dip into molten chocolate and when the melted choclate is almost cool dust with cocoa. Leave un-dipped end bare by covering with plastic wrap or waxed paper when you dust. When using cocoa to dust put it through a sieve so it can't clump. A wire mesh tea strainer works well.
Two cookies turned into a sandwich with white chocolate and then covered in regular melted chocolate.
Turn into a thumbprint cookie and fill with jam.
Find something to mould the top of a shortbread cookie so it has an imprint - ornate jewelry such as a medallion or anything with an embossed pattern works. Check your Christmas decorations.
Use instant coffee powder as an alternative flavouring for dough, custard or melted white chocolate but don't try to dust it on anything.
Crushed candy canes work nicely for a festive colour and distinct flavour.
Slivered almonds will also look good decorating cake, custard or cookies.

Get one of those cheap chocolate advent calendars and take the chocolates out. You will have twenty four tiny ornamental squares of chocolate, each with a Christmas motif. Ice cookie with icing sugar icing and add a chocolate square. Reserve additional squares for decorating cakes or garnishing dishes.

Look for inspiration on the internet that has views of fancy cookies on how to decorate them all.

Buy very small quantities of fresh fancy fruit and make a fruit platter - cherries, strawberries, grapes and a sliced kiki fruit will look nice.

Buy a box of plain frozen profiteroles with real whipped cream and dress them up, some with icing sugar, some with cocoa powder, some with melted dark chocolate, some with melted white chocolate.

Think of someone who would like a gift package of leftovers you can deliver on Boxing Day to help with storage issues.

Make up marzipan and mould into shapes, or dip into chocolate.

Look for frozen, pasturized liquid whole egg. This makes recipes that require one quarter of an egg much easier to handle, and will enable you to make the marzipan with raw egg in it safely. Have any left over egg scrambled for Christmas breakfast.

Go to a bulk buy store so that you can get the smallest possible quantity of things.

For puddings make up a batch of custard and then divide, dressing it with different things. Take a three of your strawberries left over from the fruit platter and slice and add sugar and microwave briefly until soft enough to mash with a fork. Stir into one cup of custard to make strawberry pudding and leave to set. Garnish one cup of plain custard with half a perfect strawberry and otherwise leave plain. Combine cocoa powder, a dab of butter and a little sugar, microwave to make it into a chocolate syrup and mix into another cup of the custard. Open a can of peaches, puree four of them and mix with another cup of custard, arrange slices of peach on the top. Try brandy or some other liqueur for another cup of custard. Creme de menthe might work nicely and then sprinkle crushed candy cane on top. Another one of the custards could be garnished with two of your tiny chocolate squares, inserted back to back. Drizzle liquid caramel on another cup of custard. Reserve the remainder of the tub of store bought caramel to spread on toast for winter breakfasts or get one of those little tubs they sell for dipping apples.

Use mugs for mixing up or microwaving small quantities of things.

Try and get paper doilies to put under the non-wet items as they can expand the space the the spread takes without making it look thin on the ground, and disguise boring ordinary glassware and plates.

Get some artificial Christmas flowers, like poinsettia sprays at the dollar store and tuck them into any larger bare corners between plates.

Look for a cookie exchange you might go to and swap cookies to get more variety. See if you can get the stuff like lemon squares there.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:41 AM on November 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

With the caveat that I haven't made these, what about cheesecake bites with different toppings?
posted by current resident at 10:50 AM on November 27, 2021

I do love a good menu planning session!!

I suggest adding some candied items - very easy to scale recipes down and perfect for both nibbling & garnishing.
Citrus Peel of your choosing
Sparkling Cranberries - lots of recipes out there. I always follow the sugar advice here.
Candied Nuts - I just did a batch of pecans. Bloom ground cinnamon/cardamom/ras al hanout in a bit of hot oil, then add maple syrup and reduce it by half. Toss the pecans in the syrup and bake them at 300F until toasty. Sprinkle with kosher or flaky salt when you take them out of the oven. They will be sticky when hot but crunchy when dry.

To round things out or to make an especially lush trifle, have you tried Petit Pot? They are doing a couple of holiday flavors like pumpkin spice and eggnog.

If you need help scaling any recipes, feel free to MeMail.
posted by jenquat at 5:15 PM on November 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Jenquat - didn't really need recipe scaling help, but have MeMailed you more for nerding-out purposes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:59 AM on November 30, 2021

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