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?



26 comments:

  1. What great tips. Your pictures are beautiful. You have done a lot of baking! Those cookies and cupcakes look yummy! I wish I could reach in and grab one.

    Have a good night!

    Jen

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  2. Ashley, everything looks very yummy and almost too beautiful to eat. I love all the tips and tricks, but I have to say ,I love your cupcake stand the most!

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  3. yummy! I gained some weight just lookin at all those adorable sweets!

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  4. Yummmmm! I LOVE sugar cookies!!!

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  5. Oh they look soooo yummy! And festive!! Thanks for the eye candy! :)

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  6. Everything looks yummy!!!! Thanks for the tips! You have some great ideas and you have great supplies!

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  7. Wow! You did some serious baking my friend! Was that all in one day? You're a baking champ. I love the idea of using white chips as frosting. I'm gonna try that. My family has always been big fans of Cherry chip Cake, but I don't think they make it anymore...so sad!

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  8. Fun tips, thanks! We just decorated sugar cookies last night and my kids had sooooo much fun. Even my little baby (who is allergic to most things) dipped marshmallows into frosting and had fun with that! I love you cookies. anyone would be thrilled to get a plate of those!

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  9. Can I just say that I love that you mention considering your attention span when you bake. Very important in my kitchen. Hehe. In my cupcakes I plopped a cream cheese and chocolate chip mix in the middle (cream cheese, eggs, sugar, pinch of salt, choc chips). They taste GOOD.

    I love your baking tins!! It did not occur to me to go to the craft store and use my cupon! I want Wiltons Giant Cupcake pan.

    Ok, I want cookies now. Good thing my attention span for baking is over today after a day of cupcakes. (Sick kiddos in the house, not much time in the day to get things done). Your cookies are so cute!!!

    Thank you for the valentines baking tutorial!

    Blessings,
    Megan

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  10. i think i may have gained five pounds from just looking at the beautiful pictures of all your goodies... they look so delicious!

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  11. I'll have to take pictures of my holiday projects (not technically "baking") and post tonight or tomorrow. :)

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  12. Psst - by the way, love your projects and the cupcake stand!

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  13. I love your X and O cookies adn the little heart shaped pans!

    I need to find more people to share my goodies with so Ben will let me bake again! His diet is killing me!

    I moved! Come visit me at www.aduckinherpond.com.

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  14. Your XOXO cookies are great! I need some of those great pans.
    Before you "run off" and make xoxo like I have at my blog, I got them at JoAnns on clearance for .50 a piece. That's a time saver.
    Have fun eating all your yummy food. I bet your neighbors love you. I'm baking Thursday. Won't look near as good as yours.
    Sandra
    p.s. mailing scarf tomorrow!

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  15. Whoo hoo!!!! Love those x and o cookie cutters! I've got to find some!

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  16. Yum!! I just gained 5 pounds looking at them!

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  17. Those cupcakes and cookies look so delicious! I like the idea to add food coloring to them! You got such a deep red!

    Thanks for the tips on the bakeware!

    As for the ranch dressing, I bet you could add soy milk to it. I haven't tried it but you'll have to let me know what you think!

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  18. What fun! Everything looks beautiful. Love it.

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  19. Oh my God you baked all that? Wow! That is so great and everything looks SO ADORABLE!! Now I'm in the baking mood again because of you. I noticed my jeans are fitting a little tighter these days. :( You're such a wonderful artist whether it's baking or crafting! The tips are great!

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  20. oh dear, sond some my way girl!!!
    xoxo

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  21. My Weight Watcher's self so is not loving your right now. But my sweet tooth sure is!! Yum-o! I am hoping to make some heart sugar cookies this Thursday - gotta get some butter first. I love the idea about adding the red food coloring to your dough to make the cookie red. I may do that to some - bc we all know the frosting (Though it is the best part!) can add the calories that I just don't need. THanks chick!! Great post!

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  22. I LOVE sprinkles. And I too have a LARGE variety. I like fresh cookies but honestly don't have a ton of time. So I will freeze my cookies. Esp at Christmas when I am making trays for the neighbors/boys teachers/coworkers. Then when I am plating up my cookie trays, I just make a line and start piling on the cookies. I will frost my sugar cookies frozen or thawed. And usually no one can tell that they weren't baked that day.
    I LOVE cellophane. When you wrap up your treats in that, I think it makes it look extra special. And try to make an ornament or something fun to add a little extra to the gift.
    I hope to post some of my V-day stuff tomorrow, come and check it out!

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  23. It all looked very tasty! I like to bake...but I have not been in the V-day spirit this year. I will live vicariously through you!

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  24. All your creations look amazing and delicious!! I have no cooking or baking talents so I just have to drool over others peoples' sweets. I wish I was your neighbor :)

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  25. wow, i'm drooling. i bought those heart shaped silicone pans from the dollar spot at target. but I don't know what to bake in them! suggestions?

    again, i wanted to do lots of baking for valentines day and it just didn't happen. i did make chocolate covered strawberries and coffee spoons, but that is it so far.

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