Our 12 best Christmas cakes make gorgeous holiday centerpieces.

By Carl Hanson

On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

You can keep the partridges in pear trees, the leaping lords, all those drummers drumming, we'll take these 12 Christmas cakes instead.

The first cake of Christmas starts things off with a kick. It's a rich chocolate cake, soaked in Kirsch liquor, and layered with a cherry filling. Send it to your true love if you like, or just be sweet to yourself.

Black Forest Cake | Photo by Mike Dieter

If you dare, swap in rum for the Kirschwasser. But be warned, you'll be running afoul of a German statute stipulating Kirschwasser as a required ingredient in Black Forest Cake. You see, Kirschwasser in Black Forest cake isn't just a good idea, it's the law. Add rum in its place, and legally you won't be able to call your cake Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. When you outlaw rum from Black Forest cake, only outlaws enjoy delicious, rum-bathed Black Forest cake. One more fun fact about Black Forest Cake. It's not actually named after the forest at all. "Black Forest" here refers to the cake's key ingredient: the aforementioned sour-cherry brandy from southwestern Germany, whose full name is "Schwarzwälder Kirsch." Which helps explain why the German authorities insist Black Forest cake isn't Black Forest cake without the Black Forest Kirsch.

The second cake of Christmas crosses the Alps into Italy. And then gets on a boat and comes to the American South, which is, reportedly, where Italian Cream Cake originates. But no matter its origin, this moist buttermilk cake is a delicious and beautiful Christmas cake. One for the coconut and pecan lovers.

Italian Cream Cake II | Photo by Chibi Chef

With the third cake of Christmas we enter into dried fruit and nut territory. Such a classic Christmas combo. Here, chopped dates and walnuts are fashioned into a simple quick bread and served with a warm brown sugar sauce.

Date Nut Loaf Cake | Photo by Meredith

The recipe submitter, Laura, says of our fourth cake of Christmas, "I got this cake from my mom. When she makes it, we all fight over it. It's delicious and easy to make." Christmas being a holiday of peace, we can't recommend cake-related family rumbles. But the cake itself is 5-stars all the way; a simple, wonderfully moist creation that starts with mixes of yellow cake and vanilla pudding plus a healthy portion of rum and pecans.

Rum Cake | Photo by Meredith

The word "pudding" may give you the wrong impression. This particular pudding is actually a dense, moist cake flavored with nutmeg and cinnamon, orange marmalade, and of course lots of figs. Taste it, and you'll understand why Christmas carolers famously shout: "We won't go until we get some! We won't go until we get some!"

Figgy Pudding | Photo by Meredith

This fifth cake of Christmas goes old school. The original figgy puddings go back to 16th century England. Once upon a time, Christmas puddings were soaked in booze and aged, sometimes for months on end. Not this figgy pudding. It's alcohol-free and is ready right away, once it cools from the oven.

Here's another Christmas pudding cake. No figs here, but plenty of dates, and it's crowned with a wonderful homemade caramel sauce.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake | Photo by Meredith

Interesting tidbit about Christmas pudding. They're also called Plum Pudding. But hold onto your Christmas stockings because there are no plums in plum pudding. In merry Old England, the word "plum" meant those little dried fruits that we call raisins.

The seventh cake of Christmas gives a shout-out to the vegetable kingdom, which is just so under-represented in the dessert category. Topped with cream cheese and pecans, it's a moist, marvelous cake.

Carrot Cake III | Photo by Sarah

Who thought of adding carrots to cakes? The tradition goes back to medieval times. In those lean times, sugar was not cheap -- or easily procured. Carrots, on the other hand, were relatively abundant, inexpensive, and, as veggies go, actually quite sweet. In fact, the only vegetable that's sweeter is the appropriately named sugar beet. More on sugar beets later.

This eight cake of Christmas is one for the arts-and-crafts crowd. The yule log is truly one of the quintessential Christmas cakes. You may also know it as "bûche de Noël." The recipe submitter describes it as "a classic holiday cake that is so rich, it makes you feel absolutely decadent! You roll it up jelly-roll style, and then decorate it to look like a log."

Yule Log | Photo by Meredith

Some Tips on How to Roll and Decorate a Yule Log

"To prevent the cake from breaking/cracking, you need to roll it up in the cloth IMMEDIATELY after taking it out of the oven!" -- Ducky "I made this for our Christmas Day dinner, and it knocked people out! Chocolaty and creamy, truly decadent! I garnished with the Meringue Mushrooms." -- DLA In Bethany "The mistake I made was to roll the cake too late, making it crack. For an easy to make and use frosting recipe, the Sturdy Whipped Cream Frosting is perfect with cocoa added to your taste one tablespoon at a time. It fixed all of the cracks and the cake looked and tasted great." -- Katie "I used chocolate ganache for the frosting because I like the bark look better." -- Snowyclouds "I also frosted it with chocolate icing, raking a fork through it, to make it resemble bark, and used meringue mushrooms to decorate it. It is not as difficult to pull off as it might seem." -- Dinner Date

Cheesecake is a holiday classic. Any holiday. This rich and creamy cheesecake goes all out with white chocolate and a homemade raspberry sauce. Some reviewers have skipped the from-scratch sauce, replacing it with seedless raspberry jam. Watch the short video below for the scoop on how to make this popular recipe.

Interestingly, cheesecake is a Christmas classic that actually pre-dates Christmas. The ancient Greeks made a kind of cheesecake. And a Roman statesman, Cato the Elder, included not one, but two recipes for cheesecake in his De Agri Cultura, which he completed in 160 BC.

Our tenth cake of Christmas needs no introduction. The recipe submitter, Charles, calls it "everyone's holiday favorite -- even the busy cooks, because it's so easy to make." That about sums it up.

Old Fashioned Gingerbread Cake | Photo by Meredith

Here's a fun fact about gingerbread. An Armenian monk, Gregory of Nicopolis, introduced Europe to gingerbread way back in the late 10th century. Monk, baker, and, as it turns out, baking teacher, Gregory of Nicopolis taught French students how to bake gingerbread in his spare time.

The holidays give us permission to indulge, and this rich, dense, utterly elegant gluten-free chocolate cake offers itself as tribute.

You know the joke: There's really only one fruitcake in the world, and every year it's passed from family to family. Good stuff. But truly, there's just no reason that fruitcakes should suffer such seasonal mockery. Delicious candied fruits and nuts and a cake soaked in rum or brandy? Yes, please. Be warned, however, this particular cake must age for 10 weeks. If you have the time, it's worth the wait.

Christmas Fruit Cake | Photo by Meredith

If the 10 week window-of-opportunity for making this cake has already passed you by, there are many mass-produced fruitcakes available. However, many of them are not soaked in booze. This may be a plus or minus, depending on your outlook. If you seek the booze-aged varieties, ask around at your local bakers; they're becoming increasingly popular. And that's a good thing. Fruitcakes are a Christmas tradition that must endure! Fruitcakes forever!

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