Holiday Baking

O ne of my favorite ways to spend the holidays is baking. Something about colorful sprinkles and the smell of fresh baked cookies keeps me coming back. Not only are they tasty, but I love the joy that these sweet treats bring to people. Children grin ear to ear with their big ol' eyes in excitement of such a pretty dessert and adults are allowed to enjoy the nostalgia of their childhood by licking the batter out of the bowl.
In preparation for Valentine's day I made some delicious little treats to share with my friends and family that I wanted to share with you, along with some tips and pointers of making holiday baking a success!

Make Your Holiday Baking Stand Out

Whether you have flour in your hair on a daily basis or you don't remember how to preheat the oven, in order to make your holiday baking stand out from the rest--it is the little details that will get you child-like squeals.

Add a twist

Add a little something that will make your loved ones stop and think to themselves "what is that?" (Hopefully in a good way! I am sure we all have experienced the opposite...oops I used salt not sugar!) For my sugar cookies I used vanilla chips instead of frosting. I made a double broiler (metal bowl sitting over a small pot of simmering water) to melt the chips and lathered it on the cookies like I would frosting. You can also do this with white chocolate or chocolate.
Add food color--I wanted my unfrosted cookies to stand out a bit so I added a generous helping of red food dye to my dough...and out came ruby red sugar cookies!
Love me some sprinkles...I have multiple colors and shapes always on hand.
For the cupcakes I used strawberry cake batter so they would come out pink. I have also used cherry chip which was fun as it is white with little dots of pink. You can also add food dye to your batter to gain a specific color. For St. Patrick's day I like to die the cake batter green. Another unexpected twist is to add candy to your batter. My favorite is chocolate chips but you could also do Valentine M&M's or whatever your fav candy is.
And don't forget to embellish! I chose to go with some simple sprinkles and conversation hearts.
But sometimes I go all out and try to make each one a little art masterpiece!

Make Baking Easy and Fun

I am usually pretty pooped by the time I am done baking for a couple hours. Through time I have learned what short cuts to take and how much my attention span will last. When using some simple short cuts I am usually successful enough to come back to the rolling pin come the next holiday!

Use premade

If I know I am going to get all artsy with my baking, let it be known I am going after the box and can! Boxed cake is delicious and makes the whole process so much easier! I always have some on hand for when I need to whip up a quick dessert or if I am having a serious craving for chocolate! It saves time and some sanity when you are making the kitchen a mess with flour and frosting. Plus no one will know the difference when your cookies are gloriously embellished and the cupcakes have little sweet surprises. And for those who can tell the difference, well they should be the one making cupcakes for you then! ;)I love these giant boxes! No excuse to not have fresh baked cookies all the time!

Use fun bake ware

I have collected, over time, various bake ware to go with all the major holidays. Having a mold makes things so much easier and can easily be thrown together or lavished upon to make something extravagant!
My favorite brand is Wilton because they have so many choices for every holiday plus they are quality made and can be found at a reasonable price. I am a big fan of their molds...fill with cake, cookie dough, chocolate, whatever you want! I also love the cookie cutter presses shown above. They cut out your cookie dough in a shape and then press a design. You can add piping of frosting to make them a little prettier or let the pressed picture stand out on its own.
Almost all of my bake ware was not purchased full price. Craft stores like Michael's and Joann's carry Wilton and I will use my coupon. I have also found a lot of my pieces at places like Ross, Marshal's, TJ MAxx, and thrift stores. Wilton has become so popular that you can pretty much guarantee finding it at a discounted price. There are also a lot of other companies that make fantastic pieces as well. Find what fits your budget and what looks pretty!

Share your baking

Invite a friend over or let the kids decorate the cookies. Sharing in making something sweet can turn into fun memories and become well loved traditions.
And when you are done don't forget to take a plate to your neighbors, co-workers, family, or kid's classmates. You will be more popular and your waist line will thank you! Because well, we would all love to eat the whole batch by ourselves!

What are your baking secrets and tips? What do you do for your loved ones around the holidays?