A Make-Ahead Christmas Brunch for 25

A Make-Ahead Christmas Brunch for 25

A cold Northern California morning. A warm house that smells like spiced ham. Friends with kids dressed up in red velvet dresses. A three hour brunch with our nearest and dearest.  Babies on fruitless but never-ending quests to chew on Christmas tree ornaments. Hostess gift of homemade fudge. I love so many things about our particular tradition of holiday entertaining!

Our Christmas brunch is the largest party we host each year, and also one of the easiest to assemble. Rob and I host about 20-30 people every December on a Sunday morning. I rely on the same reliable menu of easy make-ahead dishes that make this party so delicious and a breeze to prepare.

Christmas Brunch

  • A 20lb locally-smoked deli (boneless) ham from Robert’s Corned Meats – a 100-year old local shop
  • Savory bread pudding with kale, shallots and gruyere
  • Citrus salad with amaretto cinnamon whipped cream
  • Party butters: garlic herb and brown sugar lime
  • Truffle mustard
  • Assorted capers and pickles
  • Acme pain epi rolls
  • Assorted cookies
  • Coffee with eggnog
  • Cranberry punch

Holiday brunch buffet party


Two days before the party is time time to pick up supplies. Rob and I swung by Robert’s to buy the ham and stopped at the market for so much heavy cream, cheese, bread and fruit. Altogether, food for this decadent party runs about $200, or just $8 a guest. And, you’re usually left with enough ham to freeze and use until Memorial Day.


First thing in the morning, Margaret and I went to the SF Flower Mart to pick up some extra greenery for the party. And, really, to get pancakes at the great diner next to the wholesaler’s warehouse. Wired cedar garland is only $1/foot from the growers there.

Holiday Flower Market

Back at home it was time to prep all the food for the next day. I unwrapped the ham, studded with cloves and coated it with a cinnamon, brown sugar and mustard glaze. Into its pan covered in foil to bake in the early morning the next day.

Materials for the bread pudding came next. I cubed three rustic loves of bread while shallots, garlic and kale cook down on the stove. The bread cubes were covered and left out. The kale mix went in fridge. In an empty milk-carton I mixed the egg and cream foundation for the pudding to be ready for the next day.

Brunch savory bread pudding

Final step for Saturday was preparing materials for the citrus salad. I’ve gotten fast at cutting the oranges and grapefruits into “supremes” which is an elegant (but  unnecessary) option if you have the time. Seeded a pomegranate. Mixed cinnamon and a dash of amaretto into the whipping cream to have ready for the morning.

Cutting grapefruit slices

Finally, I made a few “party butters” and wrapped them in wax paper to cool overnight in the refrigerator. All that was left was to set the table, arrange some flowers and polish a few pieces of silver before heading out to that night’s holiday parties.


The only thing you can’t cheat on is setting alarm for 3:30 am to put the covered ham in the oven at 350 degrees. It has to bake for 6 hours and rest for an hour before being served. I’m usually able to convince Rob to do this terrible task.

In the morning, we woke up about 8:00 to prepare for the guests to arrive at 10:00. It was pouring rain outside and poor Rob had to take on one more chore of braving the storm to pick up four loaves of pain epi from the bakery.

Morning brunch preparations

While Rob was on that erranded, I needed to assemble the bread pudding and citrus salad to get those ready to serve. After being mixed with the cooked kale, egg custard and cheese, the bread pudding bakes for 30 minutes. I usually prep two pans, with the second to go in the oven an hour into the event. For the citrus salad, I whipped the spiced cream prepared Saturday and doled it out with fruit on top as small compotes. Citrus supremes salad

Party butters and pickles went out, the ham was set aside to rest, the first batch of coffee was brewed and Rob and I even had a half hour to relax before guests started arriving.

Party butters

Guests arrived in waves from about 10:00 to 1:00 pm. Batches of warm roles and bread pudding were served across the morning. This year’s ham was especially nice!

Cooking a deli ham

I always forget to take many pictures of the crowd during the brunch. I’m more excited to sit back with a plate of ham and some eggnog and enjoy it!

Christmas brunch

Happy holidays everyone!

Christmas brunch

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This article was written by
Website: EmilyStyle

I'm an adventurer and founder of a brand strategy studio. I'm so lucky to work abroad for a couple months each year. Weekly dinner parties and picking what to wear when I'm at home in San Francisco. I love a tough challenge, email [email protected] to reach me.

There are 8 comments for this article
  1. Kate F at 7:38 am

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of your kitchen before–that little crow’s nest surrounded by windows is a dream, and I love your garland! (You make parties look so easy–practice makes perfect, I suppose!)

    • MrsEm Author at 10:04 am

      It is a dreamy looking kitchen, isn’t it? The downside is all those single-pane windows make it FREEZING in there in the winter unless the oven is on high. Need a parka to make breakfast 😉

      • Kate F at 10:47 am

        Oh man, that’s how the leaded glass “conservatory” windows in our living room are. It’s actually breezy on the couch. (And Cambridge gets COLD!) We had acrylic storm windows made; they stick to magnetic strips attached around the windows for a fairly low-impact insulating factor and, more important, screens in the summer. Might be worth looking into! It’s not a perfect solution but it did improve our windy living room problem.

        • MrsEm Author at 9:04 am

          So smart! Our whole apartment is basically exposed to the elements with drafty victorian windows that don’t close all the way. Thankfully it doesn’t get that cold here 🙂

  2. Renee at 6:21 pm

    Oh my goodness, this spread is just perfection. You really have this party down, Emily! Thanks for sharing your behind-the-scenes. Where did you get those dishes for the party butters? They’re the perfect shape and length!

    • MrsEm Author at 9:05 am

      Those lovely plates are from Japantown here in San Francisco. The pattern is fairly common, but I don’t run across the shape that often. Thanks for the nice note!

  3. Heather at 5:29 am

    Oh, I always love this holiday brunch post. I nabbed that bread pudding recipe from you years back and have loved it since.

    Another thing I’d like to nab is that tablecloth! Details? Merry Christmas, Emily!

    • MrsEm Author at 2:22 pm

      So glad you like it, Heather! The bread pudding is such an easy recipe. The tablecloth is from Ikea a few years ago. It’s my favorite 🙂