These recipes originally appeared in the December 2021 issue of HomeLife Magazine.
These edible gifts will have them coming back for more.
“Merry Christmas, this is for you!” It’s a phrase we all love to hear. However, when your gift comes from the kitchen it’s always followed by holiday goodness. Edible gifts offer a little something extra and often mean someone took time to hand-prepare a special treat — most likely pulled from a family tradition.
Spread a little joy this month by giving to those who touch your life: your children’s teachers, your running partners, the gang at the dog park, or the neighbors you wave to and say hi. This is the season for giving, and while it’s fun to receive something tasty, you’ll find yourself more excited to give something tasty to others.
Sure, you’re busy during the holidays, but take the time to clear an evening — because it’s about to get fun!
To set the mood, turn on the twinkling Christmas lights, put on some treasured holiday music, and light the fire. Now that everything’s cozy, you’ve set the perfect stage to create these heart-felt gifts. Then, when your edible treats are complete, get creative with their presentation, which is a big part of the joy! I’ve selected three easy and delicious recipes for this gift-giving season.
Last Christmas, a dear new friend, Claire Fromke, delivered a homemade warm pumpkin bread to our home. It was hands-down the best I had ever tasted. Claire said whipping up a batch with her mother every year was their family tradition. Although far from home, she continued that tradition, sans mom, which in turn, I imagine, made her feel a little closer to home during the holidays and made us feel closer to Claire.
As far back as I can remember, my mother’s best friend, Gerri Smith, has kindly gifted our family sugared walnuts in a round holiday tin. Starting out as neighbors around the corner, their friendship has endured 45 years and distances as far as 1,200 miles. Yet they always found time to be together for the holidays — sugared walnuts in tow.
My cousin, Kim Elias, comes up with the most creative ideas. While this gift is tasty, it’s the presentation and simplicity that caught my eye prompting me to share it with you. Imagine this: layers of red velvet cake between green icing in a clear Mason jar. Cover the lid with holiday fabric, tie on a little spoon with ribbon, and you have the perfect office or teacher gift.
Merry Christmas and happy gifting!
The Best-Ever Pumpkin Bread ▶ Makes 2 loaves
3-1/3 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 – 15 oz. can solid packed pumpkin
1 c. vegetable oil
4 eggs (lightly beaten)
2/3 c. water
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. whipping cream
2/3 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the first six dry ingredients. Add the next four wet ingredients. Stir until well combined, then add the chopped pecans. Grease two 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans. Spoon the mixture into loaf pans by using a spatula, scraping the sides, and dividing the mixture evenly. Bake for 60 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. For the glaze, combine butter, first two sugars, and cream in a saucepan. Cook on low until sugar is dissolved. Stir in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth. Drizzle over cooled loaves.
Tip from Laura: Wrap pumpkin bread in holiday foil and slip into a weaved basket with a kitchen towel or new loaf pan.
A Nutty Christmas Tradition ▶ Makes 2 servings
2-1/2 c. walnuts
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread walnuts in a thin layer on a sheet pan and heat in the oven for 10-15 minutes. With a metal spatula, turn nuts two-to-three times. Take walnuts out of the oven at the moment they start to brown. Your goal is to heat them, not brown them. Meanwhile, in a saucepan on medium heat, add sugar, water, cinnamon, and salt. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla. Add the nuts and start stirring them gently, coating the nuts with the sugar mixture. When nuts are completely coated, place them on parchment paper and start separating any clumped nuts with two forks. They should dry in about 10 minutes and are ready for packaging.
You Take the Cake ▶ Makes 12 – 16 oz. Mason jars
1-15.25 oz. Duncan Hines Red Velvet cake mix
1-1/4 c. water
1/3 c. vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. shortening
6 Tbsp. butter
4-1/2 c. sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/4 c. milk
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla
Green food coloring (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, add boxed mix along with eggs, water, and oil. Beat at low speed until combined, then at medium speed for two minutes. Grease and then generously flour a jelly roll pan. Pour batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 14 minutes, then allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add half the confectioners’ sugar, beating well. Beat in the milk and vanilla. Gradually add the rest of the confectioners’ sugar and additional milk if necessary to make frosting of spreadable consistency. With a biscuit cutter, cut 36 circles out of the cake. Layer circles in the bottom of the Mason jar, then add the frosting. Make three layers by altering the cake and frosting. Screw lid on tight and then decorate.
Tip from Laura: Cut and place decorative fabric over the lid and secure it with a rubber band. Place ribbon around the rubber band. Tie a knot and place a spoon in it, then complete the bow.
Laura Schupp is the author of Our Newlywed Kitchen: The Art of Cooking, Gathering & Creating Traditions. Learn more about Laura at OurNewlywedKitchen.com.