The Ultimate Cookie Swap
Nothing says the holidays like a traditional treat—and we’re always looking to add new sweets to our cookie swap repertoire. Below, tastemakers, experts, and friends of J.Mc share their go-to recipes—from candies topped with powdered sugar to sparkling chai shortbread cookies.
Martha Washington Candies
Martha Washington Candies topped with powdered sugar on Jaimie’s grandmother’s silver platter that was passed down.
The Martha Washington candies are a cherished family recipe that has been passed down from my Nana and mom. I have the fondest childhood memories of walking into my Nana’s kitchen, Christmas music playing, and Martha Washington candies spread out on the countertops… she would always make extra to take to neighbors and friends at church and throughout the community.
2 boxes of confectioner’s sugar
1 can Eagle Brand milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 large can coconut (7 oz)
2 cups chopped nuts – (I use pecans)
2 sticks melted butter
1 large (12 oz) package chocolate chips
1 block paraffin
Combine sugar, milk, vanilla, coconut, chopped nuts & melted butter.
Roll into balls.
Melt chocolate chips and paraffin in a double boiler.
Dip candy in the chocolate mixture – then in ice water to set the chocolate.
Then freeze well!
When needed, just set out until thawed.
Old-Fashioned Ginger Spice Cookies
Table For Treats: A heart-shaped ginger spice cookie on Elizabeth Lake linens
There’s a certain nostalgia about cookies during the holidays, whether it’s the act of decorating them with family or the familiar smell you look forward to year after year. I gravitate towards anything with cinnamon and ginger, so ginger spice cookies are an easy favorite in my house. If I’m not eating them, I’m probably incorporating them into my tablescape!
-Lily Lanahan from Elizabeth Lake
2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses, such as Grandma's Original
1/2 cup raw sugar
Sugar Cookie Place Card Holly Cookies
Deck the halls with holly sugar cookies
Icing with my daughter Sophia is a serious annual holiday tradition. Within our family, we compete for the best Gingerbread house design and make enough cookies for Santa and a fleet of reindeer!
I cannot share our trade secret company sugar cookie recipe. However, I must confess I use America’s Test Kitchen for almost everything at home. Their recipes are thoroughly tested, instructions excellent, and results delicious. Use ATC Easy Holiday Sugar Cookie recipe and Royal Icing to make holly shaped place card cookies.
-Eleni of Eleni’s New York
Holly Decorating Instructions:
24 cookies, Prepare about 4-5 cups of Royal Icing.
Use Chefmaster Liqua-Gel Food colors, available on Amazon.
Place two cups of Royal icing in a bowl. Add 22 tiny drops of lemon yellow Liqua-Gel and mix with 18 tiny drops of royal blue Liqua-Gel to achieve holly green. Separate into two bowls, cover one bowl with plastic wrap to stay fresh. In another bowl, make stiff green icing by adding 1 tablespoon of confectionary sugar at a time to the loose royal icing until an upside-down spoonful of icing does not drop off.
Place one cup of Royal Icing in a bowl. Add 15 tiny drops of red Liqua-Gel and mix with 11 drops of tulip red to make the holly berry red color.
Place stiff green frosting in a pastry bag with a #2 pastry tip. Outline the shape of the holly cookie. Continue outlining all 24 cookies so the frosting on the first cookie has been set by the time you outline the last.
Place the loose green frosting into a pastry bag with a #2 tip. Pipe the entire cookie and use an offset pastry knife to spread frosting smooth.
Let frosting set for approximately five hours until very firm to the touch. Using stiff green royal icing, outline the shape of the holly cookie again. Immediately sprinkle the stiff green outline with white coarse sanding sugar. Continue to outline each holly cookie and sprinkle with sugar. The frosting must be wet for the sprinkles to adhere, it is recommended to decorate one cookie at a time.
Add a tablespoon of confectionary sugar to the red icing. It should not be loose, nor stiff, somewhere in between. Use just enough confectionary sugar so when piping a significant holly berry, it can hold its shape. Pipe the 3 dots on each cookie. Decorate about 5 cookies and then go back and sprinkle each red holly berry dot, with either coarse white sanding sugar or red sanding sugar. If you apply sprinkles to the berry dots right after it is piped, it will not hold their shape. It is better if the icing has had just a few minutes to set up.
Make the stiff white frosting. Depending on your skill strength, use a #1 or 1.5 tip to write each guest's name on the cookie. Do not make the icing too stiff nor use a tip so small, that you cannot easily pipe a guest name.
Brownies & Peppermint Stick Ice Cream
Peppermint Patty: The perfect holiday tray of treats by Mimi Van Wyck
Graeter’s peppermint stick ice cream is the perfect holiday dessert. It’s festive & refreshing! A simple gem that we always have stockpiled in the freezer from November thru February. It always pairs well with gingerbread cookies or brownies. Enjoy!
-Mimi Van Wyck of Van Wyck & Van Wyck
¼ lb butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 or 3 squares of unsweetened chocolate
1 bag of Hershey’s dark chocolate kisses
Melt butter and chocolate over low flame. Pour over sugar and mix.
Add eggs, and flour which has been sifted, as well as vanilla.
Put in a greased pan (~7” x 10”) and sprinkle in the kisses
Bake very slowly for about 30 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.
Cut into squares when taken from the oven. Let cool before removing from pan.
Yield: about 30
Sparkling Chai Shortbread Cookies
Shortbread With A Twist: Kelsey Banfield’s favorite holiday treat
I love this warm, spicy twist on a classic shortbread cookie by flavoring it with a mix of spices commonly found in my favorite chai tea. While not a classic holiday flavor, it is perfect for this time of year. The warm flavors of cardamom and cinnamon beautifully complement a rich glass of eggnog or mulled wine. The cookies even have a festive twinkle thanks to the edging of sparkling sanding sugar.
-Kelsey Banfield, The Naptime Chef
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 large egg white for rolling
3 tablespoons or more of sanding sugar for rolling
In an electric mixer beat the butter until fluffy and light yellow, about 5 minutes. Then beat it in the sugar until very fluffy and pale yellow, almost like a buttercream frosting.
Beat in the vanilla extract until smooth. Then, with the mixer on low, add in the flour, salt, and spices until completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
Remove the finished dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough until two clumps and roll each once into a log about 2-inches in diameter. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for at least 6 hours or up to overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or Silpat.
Lightly brush each log of dough with an egg white that has been lightly beaten with a fork. Then roll the logs in the sanding sugar until they are evenly coated.
Slice the logs into rounds about 1/4-inch thick and place them on the lined cookie sheets 1 inch apart. Return the cookie sheets to the freezer to chill until the oven is preheated. When the oven is ready, bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating them halfway through to ensure even baking. Then remove the cookie sheet from the oven and carefully transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Bite-Sized Chocolate Chip Cookies
Something Sweet: Bite-sized chocolate chip by Chefanie forever
One of our holiday catering signatures is a tray of bite-size, warm chocolate chip cookies after a seated meal.
-Stephanie Nass of Chefanie
Bite-Size Chocolate Chip Cookies Instructions:
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
14 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (moist)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 1 large yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Melt 10 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat (avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown butter). Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly, until butter is dark golden brown, 1-3 minutes. Transfer browned butter to a large heatproof bowl. Add remaining 4 tbsp butter and stir until completely melted.
Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla to melted butter. Whisk until fully incorporated.
Add egg and yolk. Whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.
Let mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat the process of resting and whisking 2 more times until the mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.
Using a rubber spatula, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Give dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.
Working with 3 tablespoons of dough at a time, use a melon baller to scoop dough onto a baking sheet. Place dough balls about 2 inches apart.
Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are golden brown, still puffy, and edges have begun to set but the center is soft, 10-14 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through baking.
Let cookies cool to room temp before serving.
20 minutes active time, 40 minutes total time. Serves 16.
Cornflake Holiday Wreaths
Marshmallow Dreams: Cornflake wreaths that look like the real thing. Photo by Creative Kitchen
I’ve been making these retro cornflake wreaths with my Mom for as long as I can remember—they’re a festive take on a marshmallowy Rice Krispie treat.
-Micaela English, Editorial Director at J.McLaughlin
4 tablespoons salted butter
One 10-ounce package of mini marshmallows
1 teaspoon green food coloring
5 cups cornflakes
Nonstick cooking spray, for your hands
Small red cinnamon candies or red m&ms
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows and cook, stirring, until melted. Add the green food coloring and stir until evenly distributed. Remove from the heat, add the cornflakes and stir until well coated.
Spray your hands with nonstick spray as needed during this step to ease the shaping of the wreaths. Take 1/3 cup of the mixture and form an even log. Join the ends of the log together to form a wreath. Place the wreath onto one of the prepared baking sheets. Continue with the remaining cornflake mixture.
Decorate each wreath with 3 small cinnamon candies.
Let sit to firm before serving
Leave for Santa ;)
All Dressed Up: Arrianna Hart’s gingerbread men
Gingerbread cookies make for a perfect holiday treat!
-Arrianna Hart of BlueBooksPinkPens
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp Baking soda
1/2 cup Brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp Cinnamon, ground
3/4 tsp Cloves, ground
1/2 tsp Nutmeg, ground
Pinch of Salt
1/2 cup of molasses
3/4 cup of unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tbsp of ground ginger