Bûche de Noël at Floriole Cafe & Bakery
Even without knowing that Bûche de Noël translates to “yule log” in French, the whole log with decorative shrub and meringue mushroom should be a dead giveaway about intent. We loved the spongy, moist cake at Floriole, which comes in two varieties: vanilla mascarpone cream with vanilla buttercream or dark chestnut with chocolate ganache. Impress guests with the whole shebang for $25-48, or grab a slice to-go for $5.50.
Dinkel’s Stollen at the Christkindlmarket
For those of us without German grandmothers, the Christkindlmarket is the one time of year worth trudging through hoards of tourists for a fresh slice of the traditional Christmas cake called stollen. Packed with dried fruits or poppy seeds and dusted with powdered sugar, stollen has been the staple Christmas dessert of Dresden for over 500 years—now available for $3 a slice at the Dinkel’s booth. Given that the cake is pretty dry, we were thrilled to see that the booth is conveniently located across from the booze tent for a little gluhwein to wash it all down.
Bibingka at Merla’s Kitchen
We had to scour the city to find this traditional Filipino Christmas dessert, which is made by special order at Irving Park restaurant Merla’s Kitchen for $17.50 (or $8.75 for a half order that can easily feed more than four). Unlike the heavier clove and spice-infused desserts most commonly found in Europe, this dense rice cake is all coconut with the unexpected consistency of mochi. An acquired taste, for sure—but also an excellent conversation piece.
Panettone at D’amatos Bakery
There’s something a little unnerving about eating a processed cake in a box. But that’s just how the Italian Christmas cake known as panettone is most commonly sold. There are about a dozen varieties in Chicago, but we’re fans of the Brazilian-Italian brand Bauducco, available in two varieties (chocolate and raisin) at D’amato’s Bakery for $6.50. Want to make a tasting out of it? Head next door to Bari Grocer to pick up the handful of other brands they carry to see which your guests like the best.
D'Amato's Bakery, 1124 West Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60642 (map); 312-733-5456
Glögg at Tre Kronor
To be fair, the pungent, gelatinous whitefish known as lutefisk will probably score you more Swedish cultural cred points simply for being able to take it down. For everyone else who prefers food without a healthy dose of masochism, the warm spiciness of homemade glögg (mulled wine) spiked with almonds and raisins at Tre Kronor is much more enjoyable. Try it with the restaurant’s full holiday Julbord buffet for $55 per person ($60 on Friday and Saturday nights).