Celebrating Nikolaus on December 6th with a Chocolate-Cranberry Tart

by Kirsten on December 6, 2011 · 10 comments

in Cakes, Desserts

Moving to a different country and continent with my family was a very big change. You literally leave everything behind, your family and relatives, your friends, your work and your routine and familiar life. My kids were very little and I didn’t know anybody besides my husband and his parents.

I was extremely lucky to have met my friend Sabine while searching for a preschool for my son just 4 month after the move. Sabine is also German, but had been living in Denver for several years and introduced me to a circle of German women that I am very fortunate to still call my friends. I think that without them, getting accustomed to this new country would have been even harder. You could ask Sabine; she still laughs when she remembers me telling her that I didn’t like living in the U.S. and wanted to go back home as soon as possible. Well, that was several years ago and I am still here. Who would have imagined?

Being so far away from home, holding on to German culture was always very important to me. I wanted my kids to experience their German heritage.  One tradition is celebrating Nikolaus day on the 6th of December. Here you can see Nikolaus visiting our German kids at my house in 2002. I apologize for the bad quality of the picture.

 The tradition comes from honoring the patrons Saint of small children Nicholas of Myra who lived in the 4th century.

Children put a clean boot or shoe called Nikolaus-Stiefel (Nikolaus boot) outside their door on the night of December 5th. St. Nicholas and his companion Knecht Ruprecht fill the boots with small gifts and sweets if the children have been good. If they were not, they will put coal or a tree branch (rute) in their boots instead. Really bad kids used to get a spanking by Knecht Ruprecht and were stuffed in his sack. One of my German friends told me that this actually happened to her once and she was carried out of the house in the sack. She remembered being mortified.

The tradition with my kids is to receive a small chocolate Nikolaus and a pair of PJ’s for Nikolaus day. You should see them hopping out of bed in the morning of Nikolaus day to check what Nikolaus left in their boots.

My Nikolaus day gift to you my reader friends is this gorgeous chocolate-cranberry tart. A chocolate wafer crust filled with sweet vanilla mascarpone cream and topped with a ginger flavored cranberry sauce.

Not only does this chocolate-cranberry tart taste just out of this word it is also a visually very impressive dessert your guest won’t forget that easily. No worries, it looks harder to assemble than it really is.

You can bake a crust, right? You can also mix some mascarpone and heavy cream, right? And for the topping, also, easy as pie, just cook some cranberries. Well, to be honest, there are a few more steps, but they are not hard at all. Believe me, you can do it.

So, don’t miss out on preparing this chocolate-cranberry tart for your guests! It is truly spectacular.

Serves 10-12.

Cranberry Topping:

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) cranberry juice, divided
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 12 oz (340 g) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger


  • 1 1/4 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (made from about 6 1/2 ounces (184 g) cookies, finely ground in processor)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, melted

Mascarpone Filling:

  • 1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) chilled whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • thin strips of crystallized ginger (optional garnish)


For the Topping:

In a small bowl mix gelatin and 1/4 cup of cranberry juice. Set aside for about 15 minutes.

In the meantime add 1/4 cup of cranberry juice, cranberries, sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, ginger and salt into a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. You don’t want the cranberries to pop open! Strain the mixture into a bowl.

Set the fruit aside and mix the hot juice with the gelatin mixture until the gelatin is dissolved. Mix the juice back into the fruit.

Chill the sauce for at least 8 hours or overnight. Mine was done setting after two hours. I just stuck the covered bowl outside on my deck in the snow.

Mix in the crystallized ginger.

For the crust:

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Put rack in the center. Grease a 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Combine all the crust ingredients in a medium sized bow. You want the crumbs to feel moist when pressed together with your fingertips.

Press the crumb mixture firmly on the bottom and up the sides of your prepared tart pan.

Bake for about 14 minutes. Should the crust puff up during the baking, just press it down with a spoon.

Cool completely on wired rack before filling.

For the mascarpone filling:

Using a handheld mixer, beat mascarpone, cream, sugar and vanilla until well combined and thick enough to spread. Don’t over mix!  The filling could curdle.


Spread the filling evenly into the crust and spoon the cranberry sauce on top. Chill for 2 to 6 hours. Decorate with crystallized ginger.

Adapted from my copy of the Bon Appetit magazine, Nov. 2007.

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Andrea @ ForkFingersChopsticks.com December 23, 2011 at 6:15 am

Great post. Thanks for sharing information about this German tradition. And, thank you for such a beautiful dessert. Three of my favorite ingredients – chocolate, cranberries and ginger.

Nuts about food December 16, 2011 at 3:13 pm

We celebrate St. Nickolaus too, we wrote him our letter, stuffed it in the boot and put it out on our window sill (we live in a building). It is hard to keep up all the family traditions living in Italy. Italian ones, American ones and the German ones from my mom. We actually were really lucky this year and went to Germany for our 3d advent and showed the kids the Xmas markets. This is a lovely cake, I made a very similar one with berries and it was a real success.

Cooking Rookie December 9, 2011 at 4:37 am

This must taste amazing – with chocolate, mascarpone and cranberries!!! Love love love this recipe! If Santa does not bring this cake to me, I will have to make it myself 😉

Boulder Locavore December 8, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Moving to a different country is so hard. Fortunately with children there always seems to be connect points that unfold. How wonderful that you can share your customs with people here that might never know of this tradition! We too practice St. Nicholas night mainly due to my son's Godparents who are British (living in England) but the wife has taught German in Middle School there. It keeps them close for us! Beautiful tart and photos!

Pam December 7, 2011 at 9:59 pm

This is beautiful and a great dessert for sure! I can relate to your homesickness—I felt the same when we lived in Germany. I loved it there and all the customs but missed family and friends here, esp. holiday time.

Karen Harris December 6, 2011 at 10:14 pm

This is one of my favorite posts of yours. I can absolutely sympathize with your feelings when you moved here. After the initial excitement wore off of our move to England, I cried to my mother everyday that I wanted to come home. Then I met my first American friend who introduced me to a group of Americans and my life changed so dramatically for the better. I'm so glad you decided to give our country a try. Beautiful recipe.

Sue/the view from great island December 6, 2011 at 9:31 pm

These photos literally made my mouth water. What great contrast of color and texture, I want some right now. It's not often you see cranberries paired with chocolate, but it seems like a natural to me. Can't wait to try this.

Susan December 6, 2011 at 3:54 pm

I am so wishing I lived near you right now! Two of my favorite ingredients…chocolate and cranberries. Happy St. Nikolas Day, dear friend. XOXO

From Beyond My Kitchen Window December 6, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I have been posting on cranberries most of November. I am making this for sure. I live only minutes from a working cranberry bog and I'm fortunate enough to be able to buy the most gorgeous berries. Thanks for the recipe. When I make this I'll post it and give a shout out to you.

manu December 6, 2011 at 10:56 am

Hi, this is so beutiful!! Looks yummy and I love the colours!
Have a great day

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