Pacifica Senior Living Blog

Sweets of the Season: Pacifica's Holiday Dessert Competition

Dec 15, 2023 12:19:39 PM / by Carly Dodd, Pacifica Senior Living

This past month we asked our culinary teams and chefs from across all our communities to recreate their favorite holiday dessert. From cookies to chocolate truffles, bread pudding to trifle, we received so many delicious sweet dishes. It was wonderful to see the stories and traditions that inspire the dishes and desserts our chefs create, and even more special to have them share these stories with us and the residents in their communities.

The holidays are a great time to both celebrate the traditions and stories from our families, but also to share the joy and excitement of the things we love with others.


tropical Spanish bread pudding recipe from pacifica senior living Bakersfield

The Story Behind the Dish:

"My great grandmother started this bread pudding and would make it in the winter. It has changed a bit over time because she never wrote it down. The recipe was passed down to my grandmother, then my mother, and now I’m making it for our residents for our Christmas Dessert night. The story goes that my great grandmother would make it for my great grandfather when he would return from his journeys to Spain. My great grandfather was a merchant that would travel to Spain and back to Mexico. He would always bring back sweet bread from Spain and fresh pineapple from an ocean port in Mexico. With these ingredients my great grandmother would make Spanish Bread Pudding."
- Chef Alex Sedano of Pacifica Senior Living Bakersfield

Baking instructions fro Chef Alex: 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease a sizable baking dish.

  2. In a big mixing bowl, toss together the diced Hawaiian bread, pineapple topping, raisins, and those cute mini marshmallows. Mix it up, but be gentle!

  3. In another bowl, whip together the tres leches, eggs, and a splash of vanilla extract. Pour this milky goodness over the bread mix. Let it soak for about 15 minutes.

  4. Shift your bread concoction into the greased baking dish. Make it even. Now, let's get saucy! Drizzle that caramel sauce over the top.

  5. Into the oven it goes for about 45-50 minutes. Keep an eye on it; you want a nice golden top and a set pudding.

  6. Once it's out, cool it off a bit or let it sit in the fridge overnight before digging in. Feel free to add more caramel sauce on each serving for that extra sweetness.

  7.  For the most moist bread pudding, cover with plastic film and foil then bake.

pumpkin flan recipe card from pacifica senior living Victoria court

The Story Behind the Dish:

"This is a recipe that was based on a recipe for vanilla flan, taught to me by my Puerto Rican godmother. I decided many years ago to put my twist on it with pumpkin when I prepared my first Christmas dinner in my very first apartment at the age of 18. I hope you all enjoy it as much as my family does. Happy Holidays!"
- Chef Courtney Pepper of Pacifica Senior Living Victoria Court

Baking Instructions From Chef Courtney 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°

  2. To make the caramel sauce, pour sugar into a heavy bottomed pan over low-medium heat. Once the sugar is almost liquefied, stir occasionally until all lumps are gone and you have a beautiful amber colored liquid.

  3. Quickly pour caramel into a 2 quart baking dish and carefully and quickly turn the pan around to evenly coat the bottom with caramel.

  4. Prepare a water bath using a larger pan or dish. Place the caramel coated dish in the center and fill the larger pan with water until the water reaches halfway up the caramel coated dish.
  5. Place all the other ingredients into a blender and blend into smooth.

  6. Place a mesh strainer over the caramel coated pan and pour the custard filling through the strainer into the caramel coated dish.

  7. Bake in the oven between 45 and 50 minutes until the mixture is set but still jiggly in the center. Remove from the oven and remove flan from the water bath.

  8. Cool to room temp and then refrigerate at least 5 to 8 hours or overnight. When you are ready to serve, rim the flan, place a large dish over it and flip it over onto the plate or dish. Tap the top of the dish and the flan should release easily. Enjoy!

hummingbird cake recipe card from pacifica senior living Palm Beach

The Story Behind the Dish:

"The dessert I prepared is called Hummingbird Cake, also known as the Doctor Bird Cake. My grandmother was a baker and she loved every minute of it. She was so talented that when it came to my mother's and her sister's weddings, she made both cakes. One of her favorite cakes to make was the Hummingbird cake. It’s a fruity and tangy cake that is made in Jamaica. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2014 from cancer, so my family and I now make this cake in remembrance of how sweet she was. This cake is often made during holidays and special occasions throughout the year in Jamaica."
- Chef Josh Wright of Pacifica Senior Living Palm Beach

Baking Instructions From Chef Josh:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F  and grease and line the base of a 9½ inch round cake tin. 

  2. Put the nuts and pineapple in a blender or food processor and pulse briefly until finely chopped.

  3. Sift all the dry ingredients, up to and including the salt, into a mixing bowl, then stir until combined and set aside.

  4.  In a separate bowl, add the bananas, coconut oil or butter, reserved pineapple juice, vanilla, vinegar, and egg, if using. Whisk until combined, then add to the dry ingredients with the pecan and pineapple mix. Briefly stir until combined, but do not over-mix the cake batter.

  5. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and level the top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then turn out of the tin onto a rack to cool completely.


1¾ sticks unsalted butter, softened

175g full-fat cream cheese

¼ tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

250g (2 cups, plus 2 Tbsp.) icing (powdered) sugar, sifted


  1. Beat the butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy.

  2. Add the salt and vanilla, then stir in the icing sugar, a little at a time, to make a thick, spreadable icing.

  3. Spread the frosting over the top of the cake (or half over each cake if making 2). Sprinkle with the coconut flakes and pecans.

Try these delicious holiday dessert at home, and share some of the festive spirit with your loved ones and friends, or come visit your local Pacifica Senior Living community this holiday season. Our culinary teams are always serving up something special, every day of the year. schedule a personalized tour, and  enjoy a meal on us! 

Come visit us!

Tags: Dining, Recipes & Nutrition