Festive recipes: Three desserts with flavours of almonds, citrus and coconut milk

All these sweet treats will last for between three and five days after preparation

Serve this pudding cold for a taste akin to a Sicilian ice-cream cake. Photo: Nicole Barua
Powered by automated translation

December seems to be the only month where my penchant for the savoury battles with a predilection for the sweet. I find myself tucking into beautifully heavy, custardy desserts in celebration for a year well experienced.

The three dessert recipes offered should appeal even to those averse to sugar. Tuck into the blueberry crumble that has a healthy helping of oats, almonds and Greek yoghurt. Or seek out the panettone bread pudding, which is an ingenious way to use up the panettone one inevitably gets gifted or is procured during a supermarket trip aboard a Christmas emotion wave. The custard, abundantly fragrant with citrus and almond notes, tastes like a dreamy Sicilian ice cream cake when served cold.

Finally, I present my rendition of a classic with the tropical tres leches, a reminder of a vacation on balmy beaches. This cake is deeply drenched in coconut milk and feels light as a cloud on the tongue. It can be whipped up well in advance to feed a whole party for guaranteed hosting success.

Panettone almond and orange bread pudding

8-10 servings


420g panettone (with almonds/dry fruit)

6 large eggs

120g fine sugar

500ml whipping cream

420ml milk

20g butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 tsp almond essence

Zest of one orange


Butter the baking dish lightly. Slice the panettone and arrange as shown in the image, filling the ends with offcuts of the panettone.

In a mixing bowl, add eggs, sugar, cream, milk and cooled melted butter. Whisk well, then add the essences and orange zest.

Pour the mix over the panettone and leave to soak for a minimum of one hour. All parts of the cake must be drenched with the custard liquid.

Preheat the oven to 180°C with the broiler on halfway. Place the baking dish on a middle rack and make sure there is substantial space above for it to rise.

Bake for 40-45 minutes. The pudding will still have a generous wobble when moved, so remove from the oven and set the baking dish on a cooling rack to allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.

Note: This can be enjoyed warm or cold, and can be store for up to 5 days covered in the refrigerator.

Naughty & nice blueberry crumble

6 servings


45g oats

40g almonds flakes

70g + 1 tbsp plain flour

60g cold butter

50g + 30g sugar

550g blueberries

Zest of one lime


Toast the oats lightly on a pan and set aside.

In a blender, blitz the flaked almonds to a gritty powder.

In a mixing bowl, add the cubed cold butter to 70g of flour and 30g of sugar. Begin mixing the ingredients into each other using your fingertips.

Once lightly combined, add the almonds and oats, then continue mixing to get a medium-sized crumb. Set in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C with the broiler turned on. In a small, shallow baking dish, lay out the blueberries, sprinkle with 50g of sugar and mix.

Add the lime zest and 1 tablespoon of flour, and mix setting in an even layer.

Top with the crumble mix all over in a nice layer, reaching the edges properly. Place the dish on the topmost rack close to the broiler. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the crumble turns golden.

Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Note: This can be served with Greek yoghurt or vanilla ice cream, and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days using a microwave to reheat.

Tropical tres leches

15 servings


200g sugar

6 eggs

1 vanilla pod

200g flour

20g baking powder

Pinch of salt

300ml coconut milk

300ml evaporated milk

300ml condensed milk

300g pineapple jam

350ml whipping cream

2 tbsp icing sugar

Tropical fruit, to decorate


In a stand mixer, add the sugar, eggs and insides of the vanilla pod. Mix on medium to fast, until the mixture has tripled in volume.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and flour a 38cm-wide baking sheet.

In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt, and combine them lightly.

Once the cake batter has tripled in volume, remove from the stand mixer and add the flour mix in batches while folding in gently by hand or with a spatula.

Go around the sides of the bowl, then gently cut through the middle and fold again. Check the bottom of the batter for unmixed flour.

Pour the batter into the baking tray, in an even layer. Bake for up to 20 minutes (check with a skewer at 15 minutes).

While the cake is baking, combine the three kinds of milk.

Once the cake is baked, remove from the oven and while it is still warm, poke holes with a skewer or chopstick (keep the cake in the baking tray itself).

Pour the milk mix on to the cake all over evenly, including the corners. Refrigerate for a minimum of four hours or overnight.

For the next layer, heat the jam for a few seconds in the microwave to loosen, then spread a thin even layer on the cake. Let it set in the fridge for 30 minutes. Whip the cream to soft peaks with the icing sugar, then spread in a swirly but thick layer over the pineapple jam.

Allow to set for an hour before serving. Top with tropical fruit of choice. Divide and cut into 15 square slices to serve.

Note: For a cake that’s more saturated, serve the extra milk mix on the side. The cake keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days, and can be assembled a day before. Top with the fruit just before serving and if using passion fruit, add two tablespoons of icing sugar to it.

Updated: December 23, 2023, 9:50 AM