Holiday Recipes Spread Cheer


These colorfully decorated Christmas cookies are sure to bring sweetness to your holiday festivities. (photo by Parker Gunn)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Everyone is preparing for the upcoming holiday season. Schools are holding fundraisers to teach their children about the season of giving, parents are rushing to find their children the perfect gifts, and bakeries are doing what everyone loves the most, creating holiday sweets.

Each holiday dessert now holds a sacred tradition in the hearts of families everywhere around the world. Even though some go to bakeries to find these delicious desserts, you can’t deny that anything homemade by you will always be better, or will at least become a happy memory. Here is a take on pastries and desserts created around the world for the holidays.

Christmas cookies:

Like many Christmas traditions, the origin of the Christmas cookie dates back to the middle ages. Back then, the majority of the traditions revolved around plentiful food and sweets for everyone to share. The ingredients to make cookies were expensive, so they would save all year to make a special dessert for Christmas. Often, this dessert would be cookies because they are easier to share through a community, unlike a cake.

Today, Christmas cookies are baked everywhere to celebrate the holiday season. Throughout the ages, new traditions have emerged that celebrate Christmas cookies. This includes putting out cookies and milk for Santa Clause to eat on his travels across the world.

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter softened
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Buttercream frosting:

  • 2 sticks salted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 or 4 tablespoons of heavy cream


  1. To make the cookies, cream the butter, sugar, vanilla bean, and vanilla extract in a large bowl or mixer until light and fluffy. It should take 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the eggs and mix until evenly combined. Add half the flour, baking soda and salt, beating until combined. Add the remaining flour and beat until the dough forms a ball.
  3. Place half the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place in the fridge for at least one hour or up to three days. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  4. Remove one roll of dough at a time from the fridge. Unwrap the dough and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, turning the dough a quarter turn after each slice to help keep the cookies round. Place 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. If your cookies aren’t as round as you want them to be, shape the dough with your fingers.
  5. Bake 8 minutes for soft cookies. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining roll of dough, if desired.
  6. To make the frosting, in the bowl of a mixer, beat together the butter and powdered sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Add the heavy cream and beat another 3 minutes or until the frosting is light and fluffy, add more cream to your liking.
  7. Finally decorate to your liking. You should have plenty of Christmas cookies to go around for everyone.

Finnish joulutortut pastries:

In Finnish homes, joulutortut and other Christmas specialties are made and served for the first time at a celebration called pikkujoulu. The pikkujoulu, or “little Christmas,” are gatherings and parties held for friends, family, and the local community. These yummy pastries are easy and fun to make.


  • 1 box puff pastry, thawed (14-17 ounce package)
  • 25 whole prunes, pitted
  • ½ cups water
  • ¼ cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 dash nutmeg
  • powdered sugar, optional, for sprinkling



Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F).

  1. To make the filling, combine prunes with water, sugar and spices and in a medium-sized pot, then simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and mash prunes with fork or small masher.
  2. While mixture is heating, open up thawed pastry sheets and cut each sheet into nine squares (18 squares total). Make cuts from each corner of the squares, halfway to the middle. Create pinwheels by taking each corner of pastry and pressing it in the middle, repeating with each corner until a pinwheel forms. Place dollop of prune mixture on top of pinwheel (this makes for a prettier star). Alternatively, place dollop of mixture in middle of the square and create pinwheel by wrapping the dough over the filling.
  3. Put the stars on cookie sheets (will probably take two sheets) and put in oven for 15 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown.
  4. Cool on cookie rack and top with powdered sugar.

French chocolate buche de noel:

In France, pastry chefs make buche de noel which is a spongy cake that resembles a miniature yule log. The tradition of the yule log dates back to medieval times, when a member of the family would place a log at the center of the home. The log wood then be lit on Christmas Eve and would have to stay burning until the New Year in order to receive good luck for the new year. Slowly this tradition turned into a wonderful dessert that you could eat rather than burn.


Sponge Cake:

  • 4 eggs (room temperature)
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cake flour

Chocolate Buttercream:

  • 7 egg whites
  • 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate (melted and cooled)
  • ½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter (softened)



Preheat the oven to 400 F.

  1. Butter a 10-inch by 15-inch baking pan with a 1-inch lip (jelly-roll pan) and line it with parchment paper. Butter the parchment or spray it with cooking spray. Set the pan aside.
  2. Beat the eggs for 5 minutes, until they turn thick and foamy. Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and salt to the eggs and continue beating for 2 minutes.
  3. Carefully fold the flour, a few tablespoons at a time, into the whipped egg mixture. Once the flour is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. Do not over-mix or the cake will bake up into a tough texture.
  4. Gently spread the batter into the pan.There will be peaks of batter; gently smooth over them, but do not press the batter down. Bake the cake for 10 minutes, until the cake is just set.
  5. Invert the baked cake onto a clean, dry kitchen towel and peel off the parchment paper. Wait 3 minutes and then 1-inch in from one of the short side score across the cake taking care not to cut right through.
  6. Fold this piece of cake in towards the center. Then gently roll the cake, still in the towel, starting at the 10-inch end. Let it cool. While you let it cool make the buttercream
  7. In a clean, completely dry bowl, beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks form. Set them aside for a moment. In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and ⅔ cup water to a boil.
  8. Begin beating the egg whites on high speed again, and pour the hot sugar syrup into the eggs in a slow, steady stream. Pour the melted chocolate, espresso powder, and vanilla extract into the egg whites and continue beating them until the meringue has cooled completely, about 5 minutes.
  9. Add the softened butter to the meringue, 2 tablespoons at a time, while beating on high speed, until all of the butter is incorporated into the frosting.
  10. Place the icing on the cake and roll. Decorate the remaining icing on the outside of the rolled cake to give its desired log look.