Worst Holiday Desserts Ranked, According to an Expert

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Image: Chaloner Woods (Getty Images)

I will probably not see my family this year for the holidays, which is a reality I feel mostly nothing about. There will be plenty of time in my future—I hope—to enjoy anxiously scrambling around the coast of California, trying to fit four separate Thanksgivings and Christmases into an exceedingly small amount of time. One can only wish the rest of the country will similarly abstain from large-scale festivities, considering the mounting second wave of covid-19 cases in most states.

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With the abundance of free time everyone will have, I implore the home-ridden to instead take this moment to consider the holiday desserts their celebrations can do without next year, when things hopefully return to some measure of stability. It will also give me enough time to find some way to strip Big Christmas Dessert of its lobbying power, lest the collective holiday festivities be doomed forever to its less than appetizing offerings.

Below, I have assembled a scientifically accurate ranking of the worst holiday desserts, because I am an expert, and also know everything.

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10. Fancy Fruit, like those gold pears or chocolate oranges

Illustration for article titled Worst Holiday Desserts Ranked, According to an Expert
Illustration: Master artist Joan Summers, Jezebel

Bring me a foil-wrapped pear for Christmas, and not only will I knock it out of your hand, I will consider you my enemy for life. Same goes for chocolate oranges, like the sort you might get in a “Christmas basket” by an uncaring boss, or that one relative who never comes around and cannot remember your age, name, or even parent of origin. Nobody needs “fancy fruit.” Fruit is for the people, it is not supposed to be fancy.

9. Cranberry Sauce Bricks

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Illustration: Master artist Joan Summers, Jezebel
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The internet has debated this endlessly, and me, the holiday expert, is here to tell everyone that yes: cranberry sauce from the can is a wretched experience, especially when paired with other nightmarish food offerings at the Thanksgiving table, like green beans. With cranberry juice sales surging thanks to TikTok, I don’t think Ocean Spray would mind if the world just sat this “treat” out.

8. Popcorn Tins

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Illustration: Master artist Joan Summers, Jezebel
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No sensible person likes popcorn tins. If somebody tells you they like popcorn tins, they are not to be trusted and should be avoided at all costs. They are also probably a thief, who would sneak away in the dead of night to eat all the caramel corn before everyone else woke up, leaving the world at large to throw away whatever horrendous mixture of kettle corn and cheddar corn was left.

7. Candy Canes

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Illustration: Master artist Joan Summers, Jezebel
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I don’t mind if I am literally jumped on the street for this opinion: No one has ever “enjoyed” a candy cane, and if they have, it’s because they did so under duress or threat to their own life. Peppermint? Great! Put it on a chocolate bark, or in an ice cream mixture. But alone, in a stick that becomes a sticky shank after just a few minutes of fervent sucking? No! Outlaw it immediately.

6. Gingerbread Men

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Illustration: Master artist Joan Summers, Jezebel
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Why isn’t it gingerbread WOMEN, huh? Goes to show how sexist and outdated these dry, flavorless biscuits really are. Every year, I am expected to play nice and chomp down a gingerbread man at the holiday party, all while wondering if my teeth are going to crack from the stress of the experience, or if my throat will close up as the cookie travels down my esophagus, sucking up all the moisture with it. Please, text the grandmas of the world: NO! MORE! GINGERBREAD MEN!

5. Ambrosia

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Illustration: Master artist Joan Summers, Jezebel
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More traditional mixtures of Ambrosia include heavy cream, mini marshmallows, oranges, and cherries, making this “dessert” a bane on the tables of holiday celebrations across the country. It is an unholy abomination, prepared by the devil himself at his own Thanksgiving and Christmas table.

4. Jello Salad

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Illustration: Master artist Joan Summers, Jezebel
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If one’s family is especially Midwestern, they might have encountered Jello Salad, the hideous sister-twin to ambrosia’s creamy, mushy horrors. As my own gram prepares it, Jello Salad consists of: Tapioca, jello mix, limes, oranges, marshmallows, rasberries, cherries, and a hefty, hefty portion of cool whip. But that’s not all! It’s also frozen, turning the jello mixture into a fine grit, while the fruit transforms into tiny rocks. It’s a dessert that will leave the teeth numb and the stomach in knots, putting even the most seasoned holiday eaters out of commission for days. Ban it forever!

3. Sugar Cookies

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Illustration: Master artist Joan Summers, Jezebel
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There are many tiers of terror that encapsulate the sugar cookie genre of Christmastime treats. There is the garden variety that anyone can purchase at the local grocery store, featuring a bland icing. Or there is the variety brought around the office by the baking enthusiast, featuring immaculate royal icing and carefully arranged sprinkles. But whatever shape they might take, there is no other cookie-eating experience as genuinely unpleasant as the moment you first bite into a sugar cookie. Why does everyone continue to accept their existence as a fundamental part of a modern society? I might never find the answers to this mystery, but please, don’t bring them around me.

2. Pumpkin Pie

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Illustration: Master artist Joan Summers, Jezebel
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In my very scientific opinion, any dessert whose primary ingredient requires excessive dressing up to taste like anything... is a bad dessert. The most notorious offender of this fact is pumpkin pie, which, when served without necessary accoutrements like pecan, caramel, ice cream, and whipped toppings, tastes like a flavorless bite of nothingness. There are fanatics out there, most definitely, who have worked hard to sell the capitalist fantasy that pumpkin is a necessary staple of the fall season, but they are not to be trusted or seen as scientific authorities, unlike me.

1. Panettone, in all its hideous iterations

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Illustration: Master artist Joan Summers, Jezebel
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Before I was a scientist and holiday food ranker, I was a Trader Joe’s employee. For six Christmases, I suffered as droves of holiday shoppers swarmed the store en-masse, desperate for a sugary fix of peppermint this or chocolate that. But the real horror began in January, when, one by one, shoppers on their Christmas comedown would return the unopened Panettone boxes that had languished in their pantries throughout December. Our dumpsters would slowly fill up with the bright, red boxes, and soon it would become a game, to see how many returns we would get in a day, or a week, or throughout the entire month.

Big Panettone, the secret lobbying group behind this bland fruitcake, has worked tirelessly for centuries to convince the public that it’s a necessary component to any holiday celebration. Not only are they liars, but at their behest, the holiday eaters of the world have stomached down a punishing amount of this throat-clogging, excessively dry not-cake, not-bread. It should be considered a human rights violation, but Big Panettone is too powerful. Already, agents from their global organization of terror have infiltrated the Jezebel newsroom, and are trying to silence me for my incredibly correct and scientific opinions.

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Should they succeed, just know that a better world is possible for humanity, one in which Panettone is a relic of a dark and brutal past.

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DISCUSSION

Pumpkin pie is probably the one dessert exported from the US that I actually really like?!?! I have it with just a tiny bit of cream, it’s lovely.

Dry panettone is indeed horrid. My Sicilian partner insists we buy a big one, because he likes it with coffee, so I have found a way to make it amazing, and that is... Panettone bread and butter pudding made with marsala, crunchy sugar crust, and mixed spice. It’s so so so good.