Friday, December 20, 2019

Our Christmas Cookie Box and a Gingerbread House Cake

Shortbread Cookies, Shortbread Recipes, Mini Gingerbread House, Gingerbread House, Gingerbread Cookies, Christmas Cookies, Christmas Cookie Box, Christmas Baking, Chocolate and Peppermint Cookies, Chocolate Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Shortbread Cookies, Almond Shortbread Cookies, Maple Shortbread Cookies, Maple Cookies, Almond Cookies, Christmas Cake, Gingerbread House Cake, Peppermint Buttercream, Royal Icing, English Toffee Recipe, Cakes with Macarons, Christmas Cookies with Royal IcingIt's been such a busy week of cookie baking.  I wanted so much to create a really beautiful cookie box with a variety of tempting sweets, and my goal of making and decorating this many different cookies in just a few days was maybe a little overly ambitious.  But I'm not one to back down from a baking project once I've begun, so on the first day, I made all the dough, one batch right after the other, so I would only have to wash my food processor once when all the dough was done, wrapped, labeled and chilling in the fridge.

I love shortbread, so I decided to do a variety of shortbread flavors, in addition to a few other cookies and treats.  There was vanilla bean shortbread, which I made into tiny little houses.  I'm so in love with those.  Then there was almond shortbread, with almond icing and crushed almonds on top - this was probably my favorite to eat, because I love almond extract in baked goods.  Maple pecan shortbread with maple icing, crushed pecans and toffee bits - my husband's favorite.  Chocolate shortbread trees, with snickerdoodle buttercream tinted a deep woodsy green.  Some of the chocolate trees just got a simple dusting of powdered sugar.


Then there were peanut butter chocolate chip blondies.  And soft chocolate sugar cookies filled with pink peppermint buttercream.  And, last but not least, homemade English toffee, which I only make once a year for Christmas.

We sampled some of the cookies, gave some away as gifts, and froze the rest for later, so we'll be able to enjoy homemade cookies for a while.  All of the recipes are linked at the bottom of this post...

After making and chilling the dough, I set to work rolling and cutting the cookies, which is my three-year-old's favorite part.  He absolutely loves rolling out dough (and eating it) and using my cookie cutters.  The cut cookies need to be chilled for a while (which helps prevent spreading), so I layered all the cookies on a big cutting board separated by sheets of wax paper and put them away in the fridge until I had time to come back later that evening and bake them.

Once the cookies were baked and cooled, I put them in tupperware until the next day, when I would start the most fun part, the decorating.  So while making this many different cookies may seem like a daunting task, if it's broken up into different phases, it becomes much more manageable.

Those little houses were definitely my favorite to decorate.  I was so excited to use my new cutter, and I had the dough all ready to go as soon as the cutter arrived on my doorstop.  And I just loved how they turned out.  Pretty and sweet, and so little and delicate.




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My husband had asked me if I would make a cake for him to take to his department's work party, and of course I love any excuse to make a Christmas cake.  I already had an extra six-inch, three-layer chocolate cake tucked away in the freezer, so I made a batch of fluffy buttercream flavored with vanilla and orange extracts to give it a pretty white coat.  I had in mind a design for a gingerbread house cake, and it was just so much fun to add cookies and sprinkles and sugar pearls here and there.

Besides the vanilla shortbread house and homemade gingerbread cookies, I used a few white chocolate Oreos and some macarons that I found in the freezer section next to the puff pastry at our grocery store.  The frozen macarons tasted so much better than some others I'd found recently at Home Goods.

The cake was so cute and whimsical, and I just love how it turned out.  When I was finished decorating it, my three-year-old (who had been observing the process quite intently), exclaimed, "It's beautiful!  I'm ready to taste it!"




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Cookie Recipes:
  • Vanilla Bean Shortbread (Mini Houses): A double batch of the vanilla bean shortbread makes enough dough for 12 mini houses.  Use a stiff royal icing for assembling the pieces.  This is the cutter I bought on Amazon.
  • Chocolate Shortbread (Trees):  Substitute 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder for 1/2 cup of flour in the vanilla shortbread recipe.  Note that the chocolate shortbread is a bit more delicate than the vanilla, and the cookies should be handled gently.  The chocolate dough also bakes a little quicker.  The green buttercream is a Snickerdoodle Buttercream.  To achieve the deep, woodsy green color, I used a few drops each of "Forest Green", "Electric Green", and "Super Black" Americolor gel colors until I got the color I wanted.
  • Almond Shortbread: Make the vanilla shortbread recipe, using 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon almond extract.  Make a basic royal icing recipe, flavored with almond extract, thin enough for flooding, then pipe or spoon it onto the cookies.  Immediately press the iced top of the cookie into crushed almonds and sprinkle with a small amount of coarse finishing salt.
  • Maple Pecan Toffee Shortbread:  Make the vanilla shortbread recipe, using 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon maple extract, and adding 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans to the dough.  Make a basic royal icing recipe, flavored with maple extract, thin enough for flooding, then pipe or spoon it onto the cookies.  Immediately press the iced top of the cookie into crushed pecans and toffee bits and sprinkle with a small amount of coarse finishing salt.
  • English Toffee Recipe
  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Blondies: This recipe is from Half-Baked Harvest.  I didn't do the peanut butter swirl throughout the batter, though.  These are probably the best, most moist cookie bars I've ever had.
  • Soft Chocolate Sugar Cookie Sandwiches with Peppermint Buttercream: I used this recipe for soft-baked Homemade Oreos.  For the filling, add peppermint extract and red or pink food coloring to the buttercream.
  • Soft Gingerbread Cookies with Lemon Icing (these cutout cookies are on top of the cake)


2 comments :

  1. He must beam with pride carrying in your gorgeous confections.
    Cheers to you all.
    And cheers to you and all your talents!

    ReplyDelete
  2. You, my friend, are amazing! To receive a box of treats such as the one pictured above would be like winning the million dollar lottery.
    Wishing you happiness in 2020.

    ReplyDelete

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