32 Vintage Christmas Desserts We'll Never Stop Making

Peppermint Divinity
Photo: Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Tradition is something Southerners love to keep around, no matter how much everything else changes, and many of our dearest memories are tied to time-honored traditions we share with our family during the Christmas season. It's all about spending time together, whether you're singing carols with your neighbors, going Black Friday holiday shopping with your mother and sister, volunteering at the soup kitchen on Christmas Eve, or picking out the ugliest Christmas tree on the lot. (Don't get us started on "A Charlie Brown Christmas!") But mostly Southerners love to spend time together in the kitchen.

We're making batches and batches of Christmas cookies, spiced pound cakes that are sometimes soaked in rum, old-fashioned candies like divinity and pralines, and even a congealed salad or two—really, who doesn't love that come-hither jiggle? These vintage desserts bring all the traditional Christmas flavors, and they make an appearance year after year, decade after decade. Because when the kitchen smells like these pecan-studded, cinnamon-swirled, powdered sugar-covered treats, we know it's finally Christmastime in the South.

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Buche De Noel

Buche De Noel
Photographer: Jennifer Causey Food Stylist: Ana Kelly Prop Stylist: Kay Clarke

Recipe: Buche De Noel

The name of this recipe translates to "yule log." It's flavored with rich chocolate and coffee and topped with candied cherries. Hint: That's how you know this recipe is really, really old-fashioned.

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Buttermilk-Pecan Pralines

Buttermilk-Pecan Pralines
Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Recipe: Buttermilk-Pecan Pralines

Thanks to a super creamy finishing touch (buttermilk really is something!), these classic Southern candies stand out from your basic recipe.

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Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls

Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls Recipe
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Prop Styling: Karin Olsen; Food Styling: Kellie Gerber Kelley

Recipe: Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls

These bite-sized bourbon-soaked treats might be the ultimate holiday treat. This recipe is extra fudgy, super nutty, and totally delicious.

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Cassandra's "Light" Fruitcake

Cassandra’s “Light” Fruitcake
Caitlin Bensel; Prop Styling: Mary Clayton Carl; Food Styling: Anna Hampton

Recipe: Cassandra's "Light" Fruitcake

Fruitcake might be an acquired taste, but this recipe is as close as it gets to universally beloved. It'll turn even the staunchest of fruitcake-hating folks.

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Potato Candy

Citrus Mints
Photo: Alison Miksch

Recipe: Potato Candy

One of the most nostalgic of Southern confections, potato candy is a real-deal vintage recipe worth making at least once.

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Ambrosia Pudding Pie

Ambrosia Pudding Pie
Alison Miksch

Recipe: Ambrosia Pudding Pie

Ambrosia makes for a delicious take on the classic Christmas dessert.

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Auntie's Apple Cake

Aunties Apple Cake
Photographer: Jennifer Causey Food Stylist: Ana Kelly Prop Stylist: Kay Clarke

Recipe: Auntie's Apple Cake

Would you look at that thing? It's practically dripping with cozy, comforting caramel flavor.

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Rum Balls

Rum Balls Recipe
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Rum Balls

It's not a Christmas party in the South without some form of tipsy treat, and rum balls just happen to be Aunt Birdie's favorite. Originally from our December 1993 issue, this boozy confection recipe is Christmas food gift-material.

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Japanese Fruitcake with Lemon-Coconut Frosting

Japanese Fruitcake Recipe
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Japanese Fruitcake with Lemon-Coconut Frosting

"It was the signal that Christmas really was coming when this heavenly smell filled the kitchen," said Susan Houston of Tucker, Georgia. She submitted this family recipe almost 30 years ago, and we just couldn't resist the fluffy (and more crowd-pleasing!) take on holiday fruitcake.

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Christmas Butter Mints

Christmas Buttermints
Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Recipe: Christmas Butter Mints

Expect this homemade recipe to deliver crisp, buttery richness and a refreshing minty flavor. Use whichever holiday colors you please.

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Hot Cranberry Bake

Hot Cranberry Bake Recipe
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Hot Cranberry Bake

Put that bowl of decorative Christmas cranberries to work! This simple, crisp-like dessert was sent to us by Sue-Sue Harstern of Louisville, Kentucky, over 25 years ago.

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Molasses Crinkles

Molasses Crinkles Recipe
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Recipe: Molasses Crinkles

You couldn't fit more Christmas spirit into these cookies if you tried. The recipe is loaded with classic holiday spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Definitely cookie swap-worthy!

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Christmas Snow Salad

Christmas Snow Salad
Jennifer Causey

Recipe: Christmas Snow Salad

We pulled this colorful, gelatinous recipe from our November 1982 issue. The more maraschino cherries, the better, right?

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Cornbread Pudding with Whiskey Caramel

Cornbread Pudding with Whiskey Caramel
Photo: Brian Woodcock

Recipe: Cornbread Pudding with Whiskey Caramel

In the South, it's been a long-held tradition to use leftover cornbread for recipes like cornbread pudding and cornbread with sweet milk. This recipe makes it decadent enough to serve at the holiday party or Christmas feast. Tip: Drizzle leftover Whiskey Caramel over pies and ice cream.

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Sliced Sweet Potato Pie

Sliced Sweet Potato Pie with Molasses Whipped Cream
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Sliced Sweet Potato Pie with Molasses Whipped Cream

This lost pie of the South was once one of the most popular desserts served in states like Alabama and Georgia. This sliced recipe is a classic version, while our Brown Butter Sweet Potato Pie recipe will look and taste more akin to your Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

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Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Coffee Cake
Antonis Achilleos

Recipe: Cinnamon Coffee Cake

If it's ever appropriate to eat cake at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, it has to be during the holidays. This cinnamon-filled recipe is a crowd-pleaser.

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Classic Gingerbread

Brown Sugar-and-Ginger Whipped Cream
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Classic Gingerbread

Get ready for the most heavenly holiday scent to fill your home when baking this dessert. This might not look like your typical hard-iced gingerbread man cookie, but this traditional recipe will win you over with its perfectly spiced batter, fluffy cake-like texture, and ginger-laced whipped cream topping.

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Green Tomato Mincemeat Pie

Green Tomato Mincemeat Pie
Alison Miksch

Recipe: Green Tomato Mincemeat Pie

This Christmas pie is spiced, boozy, and filled with robust ingredients like green tomatoes, apples, pecans, and cranberries.

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Pecan Snowball Cookies

Pecan Snowball Cookies
Micah A. Leal

Recipe: Pecan Snowball Cookies

Coated in powdered sugar and studded with buttery pecans, these shortbread "snowballs" definitely make the short list for "most Southern Christmas cookie."

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Cream Cheese Christmas Cookies

Cream Cheese Christmas Cookie
Southern Living

Recipe: Cream Cheese Christmas Cookies

Dress up easy cream cheese cookies for the holidays by coating the rolls in festive red or green sugar crystals. In true Southern fashion, a pecan makes the perfect garnish.

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Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding
Micah A. Leal

Recipe: Christmas Pudding

Originally a British holiday favorite, this festive dessert is known for its density. It's packed with Christmas spices, dried fruit, and brandy—and we gave it a Southern touch by brushing it with a bourbon simple syrup.

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Pecan Tassies

Pecan Tassies
Micah A. Leal

Recipe: Pecan Tassies

These well-loved cookies are like a delicious cross between miniature pecan pies and shortbread cookies.

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Spritz Cookies

Spritz Cookies
Micah A. Leal

Recipe: Spritz Cookies

Originating in Germany and Scandinavia in the 16th century, Spritz cookies are crumbly, simple, and iconic in homemade Christmas cookie boxes down South.

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Cornflake Wreath Christmas Cookies

Wreath Cookie
Southern Living

Recipe: Cornflake Wreath Christmas Cookies

These easy and tasty cookies add holiday spirit to the dessert table.

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Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies
Caitlin Bensel

Recipe: Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Just like the ones you used to make with Grandma growing up.

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Cracker Toffee

Cracker Toffee
Abbi Wilt

Recipe: Cracker Toffee

Saltine crackers are layered with toffee and walnuts for a sweet and salty holiday treat.

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Acadian Syrup Cake with Roasted Pears and Caramel Sauce

Acadian Syrup Cake with Roasted Pears and Caramel Sauce
Hector Sanchez; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Recipe: Acadian Syrup Cake with Roasted Pears and Caramel Sauce

This classic dessert is a spice cake that gets its sweet flavor from cane syrup.

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Cranberry Dreamsicle Trifle

Cranberry Dreamsicle Trifle
Iain Bagwell

Recipe: Cranberry Dreamsicle Trifle

A trifle makes the ultimate show-stopping holiday centerpiece. Fresh or frozen cranberries lend a traditional Christmas flair, while sprigs of fresh rosemary make for a festive garnish.

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Belgian Spice Cookies

Belgian Spice Cookies
Photo: Hector Sanchez

Recipe: Belgian Spice Cookies

These cookies, also known as Speculoos, will be a favorite of guests young and old. Switch up the powdered sugar design to suit your holiday mood.

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Molded Cranberry Salad

Molded Cranberry Salad
Hector M Sanchez

Recipe: Molded Cranberry Salad

'Tis true: Once there was a time when Southerners favored their gelatinous cranberry in a mold rather than a can. This delicacy is retro, fruity, and oh-so jiggly.

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Coffee Baba au Rhum

Coffee Baba au Rhum
Photo: Hector Sanchez

Recipe: Coffee Baba au Rhum

It's not Christmas in the South without something that's been decidedly soaked in rum: rum balls, rum cake, rum punch. You get the picture. This coffee-and-rum cake gives a jolt of caffeine with a touch of booze.

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Peppermint Divinity

Peppermint Divinity
Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Recipe: Peppermint Divinity

These airy confections have been showing up at Southern cookie swaps for generations. Akin to meringues, these candies are made with a base of whipped egg whites and then baked into perfection.

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