Last updateWed, 13 Dec 2017 8am


Festive Holiday Baking Ideas to Get Into the Spirit

Holiday Gift IdeasTie on your apron and let’s get to baking! It’s time to start talking holiday sweets. The holidays are approaching very quickly and before you know it you’ll be in the kitchen on the 23rd scratching your head and wondering what on earth you are going to bring to your family holiday party.

You want to be unique, but maybe you make a pretty horrible artist, so gingerbread men are out of the question. That’s okay! Honestly, the key to holiday baking is simplicity—leave it to your crazy aunt to make the elaborate croquembouche tree complete with the eight different dipping sauces.

You can still look like you spent a lot of time on something super cute and delicious. One trick I like to share is that if you want to do something more artsy, don’t do it from scratch. Making a fabulously decorated cake? Use a boxed cake mix. This way, if the cake ends up being a major Pinterest fail, at least it still tastes good!

Madelyn Arecchi, a junior english and education student, says, “Since I’m a pretty busy person, I say you can’t go wrong with the Pillsbury Christmas Tree Shape Cookies...everyone loves them and all you have to do is throw them in the oven!” Sometimes, especially during the holidays you just don’t have time to bake things from scratch. And, Madelyn is right, who doesn’t love a good Pillsbury cookie? Just be sure with those cookies not to over bake them; if anything, take them out before they look completely done and then while they are cooling they will finish baking on the still hot pan.

One idea I personally love and have executed myself with a friend is the “gift cake.” Okay, she made the cake, I just helped decorate (…and eat half of the decorations!).


1 Square Pan

1 Boxed Cake Mix

1 Store-bought Frosting

5 Strawberry Fruit By The Foot (give or take a few in case you cut one too short!)

1/4-1/2 Cup M&Ms


1.Bake your cake according to the instructions on the box in a square pan.

2. Let the cake cool and ice with frosting.

3. Once the cake is set, take out your fruit rollups and M&Ms.

4. Measure and cut a fruit by the foot to be the length of the cake, leaving enough to also lie over the sides. Repeat this step for the other side, making a cross shape on the cake. This is your “gift ribbon.”

5. Cut a triangle at the bottom of two substantially shorter pieces of fruit by the foot to put in the middle of your “gift ribbon.”

6. With the remainder of the fruit by the foot, fold over two small pieces and lay them crisscrossed on top of the middle of the ribbon.

7. Fold another, smaller piece of fruit by the foot and put that in the middle of the crisscrossed ones.

8. The last piece of fruit by the foot will be rolled in the manner it was packaged and placed on top of the other folded pieces in the center of the cake.

9. The last step here is the polka dot the cake with M&Ms (preferably the holiday themed ones).

While the steps may seem confusing, it truly is very easy to execute and it looks like you spent hours on it! It is a very thoughtful dessert to bring to any holiday party or gathering. Another great thing about this holiday gift cake idea is that you can alter it to fit any occasion. Celebrating Hanukkah? Use blue fruit by the foot and the Hanukkah themed M&Ms! Furthermore, you can even use this cake idea for birthdays!

The biggest takeaway about holiday baking is to keep it simple and keep it delicious. Sometimes we get caught up in the festivities and try to do too much for holiday baking (I’m totally guilty, too!). But, I think what people really appreciate most is the taste and how much love was really put into it.

Not artistic? That’s fine! Make some simple chocolate chip cookies; there is a stellar recipe right on the back of the bag of Nestle chocolate chips! If you’re trying to get fancy, substitute the chocolate chips with M&Ms and maybe add a mini marshmallow or Hershey Kiss to the middle of the cookies straight after they come out of the oven.

Another simple and delicious holiday treat is Peppermint Bark. Dr. Sue Starke, associate professor of English, shares her recipe:

1. Melt a bag of white chocolate chips in the microwave.

2. Put a package of candy canes in a Ziploc and crush with a rolling pin or a heavy book.

3. Combine the melted chips and the crushed candy canes.

4. Spread on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

5. Break into pieces and you have your peppermint bark.

6. Store in an airtight container.

Another holiday baking tip is to really consider your presentation. You could make a very simple cookie, but it all has to do with how you present it. A festive and smaller platter does best for cookies and other sweets. Rather have a smaller platter that you can stack cookies and sweets on; this makes it look like there is an endless supply of delightful goodies to dive into!

Keep it simple and keep it tasty. If you keep it simple, you’ll be able to make more sweets, which is another great tip. Ally Afanador, sophomore English student, says, “Start baking early and make tons, more than you normally would, so that they last a while.” Another added bonus to making more than you need, as Afanador states, is that they “make great holiday, or last minute, gifts for friends, family, and acquaintances!”

Now, hike up those sleeves, blast your holiday music, and get in that kitchen. Happy baking!

PHOTO COURTESY of Christina Goumas

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