One of my favorite things about the holiday season is cranberries. We start seeing them in the stores in late October, and I stock up for all sorts of cooking fun. And those fresh cranberries are very tasty in this lovely cranberry tart, which is a riff on the traditional English fool—a dessert with fruit folded into a custard. This version from the Organic Valley website folds cooked cranberries and oranges into whipped cream, which goes on top of a cream cheese tart crust with orange cranberry filling….
We turned on the Pandora Christmas station last week and began putting up Christmas decorations over the weekend. Yes, it’s time for some festive food and holiday parties, and time to bring on the eggnog in all forms, liquid or dessert. My family always has eggnog during the holidays, and I love to drink it and bake with it. Last year I started thinking about an eggnog cheesecake, but never got around to making one, so I made sure we got the holidays off to a proper start over the weekend….
Making cakes for Christmas is a tradition that goes almost as far back as the holiday itself, and every family has their own favorite for celebrating. Here are some of our favorite types of Christmas cakes, and we hope you’ll share your favorites in the comments, too.
Michael’s family makes prune cake, a moist, dense cake that keeps well for several days and also freezes well. You can make smaller cakes for giving or a larger Bundt cake for family celebrations.
My family makes coconut cake for almost all of our family celebrations any time of the year. The recipe has been in our family for almost 100 years and is still a favorite.
For an easy and festive Christmas cake, eggnog pound cake is as simple as it gets. Dust with a little powdered sugar and you are ready for a holiday party.
Ready to tackle something a little more challenging? The classic buche de noel, yule log cake, is a beautiful cake for Christmas with marzipan mushrooms.
More Holiday Cakes From Around the Blogs
With so many parties and gatherings during the holidays, it’s nice to bring a homemade hostess gift or a little something to share with everyone or something unique to take to the neighborhood cookie swap. These are some of my favorite homemade gifts for the holidays, and I hope you’ll share your favorite homemade Christmas gifts, too. Two of these are very easy, and the other two only require a little practice to become a pro. Trust me, they are worth it.
My mother has been making this peanut brittle for as long as I can remember. It’s crackly, buttery, nutty, and the first thing my dad asks for every Christmas. Look for raw Spanish peanuts to make peanut brittle, or substitute raw cashews for a little something different.
Pralines are one of my very favorite candies, and once you get the technique down, they are easy to make at home. I make mine with cream and a touch of bourbon. You can make small ones like above or the larger size like you see in the shops in New Orleans, either way they make delicious gifts.
I like to give maple cranberry butter in addition to the traditional pepper jelly, which also makes nice gifts. It’s very easy to make, which is great if you are pressed for time, and the flavor is memorable.
And for a different kind of sweet treat, how about jars of homemade dulce de leche? Just open a can of sweetened condensed milk and pour it into a pie dish and bake in the oven, then give it in decorative jars. The caramel lovers will be thrilled.[Disclosure: This blog earns a small commission through affiliate links.]
The week after Thanksgiving, Monkey Boy asked me, “Mommy, is Thanksgiving over?” “Yes,” I answered. He jumped up and down and shouted, “That means it’s Cookie Season!”
A boy after my own heart.
In the spirit of Cookie–ahem–Christmas Season, we’re sharing our top five favorite Christmas cookies (with input from the whole family), and we hope you will share yours, too. Here they are in no particular order just because it would be very hard to choose the top favorite.
It’s a shame that fruitcake has earned such a horrible reputation. When I was growing up I didn’t like them, I think because the flavor seemed strong to my kid-size palette, but now I love a good moist fruitcake with plenty of real dried fruits and a dash of rum or other baking alcohol. Michael’s family has a prune cake recipe that been in the family for a long time, and his mom makes mini prune cakes as gifts at Christmas. It’s dense and moist and spicy, and just plain good. And it’s easy to make, so you have time to whip one up before Christmas Eve….
This is my final cookie in the Saveur Cookies We Love event, a spiced molded cookie from the Netherlands. Molded cookies are common in Europe and the tradition is often passed down through families along with the old wooden cookie molds. If you are fortunate you may even have an heirloom mold that’s been in your family for years. My family doesn’t have that tradition so when I chose these cookies I needed to find a mold or two….
We’re back with more Cookies We Love from Saveur, and I have to say that these are one of our favorites. I’ve had alfajores before and just love them, but this is my first time making them, a task I relished. The butter cookies are flavored with apple brandy and lemon zest, and then stuck together with a spoonful of homemade dulce de leche. Top Gun and Monkey Boy both went for these immediately and talked about the sticky dulce de leche filling, which they really liked and constantly wanted to run their fingers through. It seems I now have competition for the dulce de leche….
In the autumn, my dad used to go hunting with his dad and brothers. They would set off before daylight and spend a day out in the woods hoping to bring home a deer to help feed the family for winter. Grandma packed a little breakfast and lunch for them, and she always included pieces of this applesauce cake. She wrapped it up and Dad and Grandpa kept it in the pocket of their coat until they were ready for a little something sweet, then they would nibble on it while waiting and watching….
My two younger boys will eat anything with sprinkles on it, whether it’s cookies, donuts, or ice cream, and they would probably even eat their spinach if I sprinkled some colorful jimmies on top. When they saw the photo of these colorful galletas con chochitos on the Saveur website, they immediately asked to make them. Later they giggled and stuck their green tongues out at each other as they nibbled, and of course asked for more sprinkles. If you need a cookie for a children’s holiday party, this is it. These simple Mexican butter cookies are pretty easy to make, just allow enough time for the dough to chill for an hour before baking….
As soon as Thanksgiving is over we start decorating for Christmas and baking cookies. For us Black Friday is more about decorating and baking than shopping as we’ve often finished our Christmas shopping by then. This year we had family visiting so the decorating and baking was put off, but we are catching up.
Two years ago a few baking bloggers got together to celebrate Christmas cookies by baking our way through a selection of Gourmet magazine’s favorite cookies from the last 40 years, and we repeated the event last year though my schedule didn’t permit me to participate. We’re back again and this time baking some of Saveur’s favorite international cookies. We have each chosen four cookies to bake, one for each week between now and Christmas and we hope you enjoy the cookies along with us….
One of our holiday traditions was dashed this year when we couldn’t find Turkey Hill Eggnog Ice Cream. We always buy eggnog ice cream in December and Michael was quite dejected when I came home without the prize, so I set out to help him recover from his eggnog ice cream funk. I promised him an eggnog gelato and set off to create a recipe….
Making gingerbread houses is a father-son event in our home, with the boys crowded around the table as Michael assembles the house, a task that is not always easy. Some years the walls fall over and we’ve even resorted to using a glue gun to make the walls stand up. Each boy has a mini muffin tin filled with little candies in each cup that they put on the house. Some years the boys cooperate and the effort is pretty organized, but certainly not every year. Someone usually bumps into the house or spills the candy decorations or sticks their fingers where they don’t belong, but in the end that’s all part of the fun….
Last year a small group of bakers joined together to do a The 12 Days of Cookies extravaganza using recipes from a Gourmet magazine feature of their favorite cookies from 1941 to 2008. This year a few more people have joined us and today is the first day of 12 Days of Cookies 2009. Each baker chooses 12 cookies to make but doesn’t tell anyone else what they chose, so it’s a fun little surprise for us to see what everyone else made. Due to family obligations I cannot participate on all 12 days this year but I wanted to join in for at least one day and try some of the cookies, and if I can sneak it in I might be able to do one or two more hopefully….
When I made pizzelles for the first time last Christmas, Michael immediately suggested I come up with a chocolate version. We really liked the krumkake recipe we tried from Gourmet this year, so I decided to base my chocolate pizzelles on that recipe. The orange zest is optional and adds a nice hint of citrus with the chocolate….
Day 12, the final day of our 12 Days of Cookies extravaganza thing, and I have had a ball making all of these. A few late nights, to be sure, but it’s been a wonderful experiment forcing myself to tackle a dozen new things for 12 days in a row. And it was even more fun because I had some great company along the way. Kelly, Courtney, Judy, Sandy, Claire, and Jerry, thanks for joining me and for keeping your spirits up even when we hit a few stumbling blocks with some of these cookies! To the folks at Gourmet, thanks for putting up your favorite cookies feature and inspiring us to tackle this project….
Day 11 of our 12 Days of Cookies extravaganza thing, and I can’t believe it’s almost over. I had my eye on these mocha toffee bars because I adore chocolate and coffee together, and after making and enjoying them I’ve converted Michael as well. He even asked if we could add these to our annual Christmas cookie list along with the Cajun macaroons, so we have found a couple new favorites….
Day 10 of our 12 Days of Cookies extravaganza thing, and I have to say that I almost didn’t make these bourbon balls because they seemed more like a confection than a cookie to me, except for the fact that they start with a whole bag of Oreos. Yes, crushed chocolate Oreos make the base for these decadent little treats, and the other taste treat is the bourbon soaked raisins….
Day 9 of our 12 Days of Cookies extravaganza thing, and I was craving biscotti, one of my very favorite cookies. These beauties combine cranberries and pistachios for a red and green festive look and taste. These are like traditional Italian biscotti which don’t use butter and they are not soft and crumbly. They are true dunkers, ready for your coffee, tea, or milk. If you want to feel Italian, try them with some Vin Santo or other dessert wine….
Day 8 of our 12 Days of Cookies extravaganza thing, and I decided to try something brand new. I felt fairly certain that I had not had kourambiedes before, though I’ve had many variations on the butter cookie, so gave these a go. The discussions on Gourmet regarding this recipe are quite lively, and it seems apparent that these are a beloved cookie and each Greek family probably has its own secret version….
Day 7 of our 12 Days of Cookies extravaganza thing, and the cookie of the day is pecan treats from Cloudt’s in Atlanta. Pecan bars are a Southern delicacy, kind of like eating pecan pie on a shortbread crust, and these are absolutely to die for. Michael kept mumbling “wow” with a mouthful of pecan bar and we understand why they are so popular….
We are halfway through our 12 Days of Cookies extravaganza thing, and I chose something familiar, the coconut bars from 1953. I had these many times while growing up, but I’ve never made them myself and I felt it was high time to do so. They made me feel so very retro I wanted to burst into renditions of old standards like That’s Amore or Rags to Riches, both #1 songs from that year.
Is it cheating to make bar cookies? Seriously, these are so easy to make and they have a wonderful gooeyness about them that is incredibly rich, and we said the pieces need to be small because it is so rich. It’s a small recipe for an 8-inch square pan, but often that’s all you need for an afternoon tea or an easy dessert.
Be sure to visit all our friends in the cookie clan to see what cookies they chose as well as the Gourmet website to see all their favorite cookies from 1941-2008.
The Rest of the Cookie Baking Clan
- Courtney of Coco Cooks
- Jerry of Cooking By the Seat of My Pants
- Judy of No Fear Entertaining
- Sandy of The Bakers Bench
- Claire of The Barefoot Kitchen
- Kelly of Sass & Veracity
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- powdered sugar, for sprinkling on top
- Preheat the oven to 375° F/190° C.
- In the bowl of the stand mixer, cream the butter. Gradually add the brown sugar and beat until smooth. Stir in the flour until the mixture is smooth. Press the dough into the bottom of the square pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
- While the crust bakes, clean the bowl and paddle. In the small bowl, toss the shredded coconut with the flour. In the bowl of the stand mixer, beat the eggs and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the vanilla, chopped walnuts, and the shredded coconut mixture.
- Spread the batter over the baked crust and bake for 20 minutes longer. Cool completely. To serve, sprinkle with powered sugar and cut into 24 squares or bars.
stand mixer with paddle attachment (or hand mixer and mixing bowl)
8-inch square baking pan
[Disclosure: This blog earns a small commission through affiliate links.]
Day 5 of our 12 Days of Cookies extravaganza thing, and I chose to make fig shortbread cookies from 1964. They don’t look like much, but I think they have a perfect shortbread texture, slightly dry and crumbly, and they have pecans, one of my favorite nuts. The figs are ground up in the food processor and added with the flour, and I was very pleased with the flavor of the pecans and figs together. Plus they get bonus points for being easy, so I count these as a winner. Top Gun helped me make the dough, and for his effort he was allowed to swipe a few dried figs, which he promptly devoured….
Day 3 of the 12 Days of Cookies extravaganza thing, and I’m still doing crispy cookies. It wasn’t intentional, just kind of happened that way. These particular cookies caught my eye because of the beautiful designs. Gourmet says these Scandinavian inspired krumkake were originally made with an iron held over a hot stove, but they used a pizzelle maker and got wonderful results, and immediately I knew I needed to break out our pizzelle maker….