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CANNOLI FOR Christmas? Who needs fruitcake!

And why not try something new? Part of the excitement of the holidays for me is mixing flavors and customs. Sweets from another culture, such as Italian cannoli, can add whimsy and novelty to traditional menus. And lucky for us, local bakeries are turning out a tempting array of artful desserts.

Adrienne Bandlow, owner of Holy Cannoli in Belltown, has whipped up enticing pastries including Buttered Rum, Coconut Snowball, Egg Nog and Gingerbread. These cream-filled sensations are sure to thrill hosts and guests alike ($28 for a dozen small cannoli).

For a French delicacy, you can’t beat the Canelé de Bordeaux ($3) from London Plane (also found at Bar Ferd’nand in Melrose Market), a flan-like custard wrapped in a caramel shell, flavored with vanilla and rum. Crumble & Flake on Capitol Hill also sells 3-inch bourbon plum ginger cakes ($2.25 each) and pecan chocolate croissants ($4.50 each, minimum of six, available weekdays), for a decadent brunch, or anytime for that matter.

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Of course, the classic French dessert is Buche de Noel. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make a log cake decorated with candy mushrooms, order one from Bakery Nouveau ($38-$42, Capitol Hill and West Seattle). Layers of berry mouse, vanilla cream and chocolate mousse are rolled in sponge cake and covered with coffee butter cream. It’s sure to be a centerpiece.

For a Japanese flair, hit Fuji Bakery (International District and Interbay) for citrusy Panettone ($3 for a small loaf) or Azuki doughnuts ($2.50) filled with red bean paste. One of these colorful treats is a delightful and perhaps unexpected choice at holiday meals.

On Christmas Eve, I always make a gingerbread cake, studded with crystallized ginger and topped with whipped cream. This year, however, I’m tempted to turn to a pro. Leslie Mackie, owner of Macrina Bakery, recommends Egg Nog Cheesecake ($33 for a 9-inch cake; $4.75 for 2½-inch minis) with candied kumquats and pomegranate seeds. “Fruit, brandy and spices balance the richness of the cream and eggs,” Mackie says. Who wants gingerbread cake?

As a child, Mackie would start to make holiday cookies with her mother the day after Thanksgiving, following family recipes from Norway. Today at Macrina, she sells a Christmas Cookie Box that is lovely for any occasion or host gift (24 assorted shortbread for $18).

Arguably one of the best cookies in town — and a taste of Seattle’s culture — is the Mackles’more from Hello Robin, a combination that is downright dangerous: marshmallow-cinnamon cookie dough baked on a graham cracker, pressed with a chunk of Theo chocolate ($2). A friend of mine brought a box of these as a hostess gift recently, and I plan to replicate that brilliant idea.

Hello Robin owner Robin Wehl Martin also recommends frozen cookie dough (a $6 bag yields six cookies) to ease holiday baking or give as a gift. “People don’t want stuff,” she says. “Bringing food instead is an awesome idea.”

Then there’s the all-American cupcake. Cupcake Royale’s seasonal flavors include Boozy Eggnog, Stout Gingerbread and Peppermint Hot Chocolate ($41.25 for a dozen). And as much as we try, there is no escaping fruitcake after all. The cupcake of the month is called Royale Fruitcake, which the bakery promises is “not your grandma’s” version. Cranberries, currents, candied ginger and orange peel are poached in brandy overnight.

With all these innovative desserts, traditional favorites and playful riffs on classics, it shouldn’t be hard to find one to suit your purpose.

Adrienne Bandlow at Holy Cannoli has even been asked to come up with — you guessed it — a fruitcake cannoli.

Catherine M. Allchin is a Seattle freelance writer. John Lok is a Seattle Times staff photographer.