Star Gingerbread Cookie Tree

Baking date: December 9, Assembly date: December 16, 2018

I had seen this video tutorial on YouTube and immediately purchased the Wilton Star Christmas Tree cookie cutter set because I wanted to try it. It took me a year, but in 2018 I finally got around it.

Baker’s note: I followed the instructions in the video of cutting out the center for the larger stars. But a note of caution – I thought all the stars with centers cut out were the largest and should be stacked in reverse size order. Turns out, one of the full size cut outs is actually bigger than the cutouts with hollow centers. You need to stack the cookies in size order prior to using the royal icing to build your tree.

I used pre-made white cookie icing instead of making royal icing from scratch. The cookie icing was a bit runny for this task. I would recommend making a royal icing from scratch that is a bit thick. It will still drip over the edges and will be less messy. My arm was covered in icing once I was done.

I made the cookies out of gingerbread, from a family recipe. Here’s the tree completely assembled and with white, blue and silver decorations.


I let the cake “set” overnight. I took this with me to the office to share with co-workers. It was my co-pilot on the hour and a half drive in. It traveled just fine in the top of my turkey roasting pan, because it was too tall for my normal cake holder.


People were wow’d. At first, no one wanted to break off a piece. But once they started, it was quickly gobbled up.

It was pretty and it tasted great – the perfect combo!

Football Player Zombie Gingerbread Cookies

Baking date: October 28, 2018

As  member of the Athletic Boosters for my sons’ high school, I do a lot of picture taking (in addition to managing both the Facebook and Twitter feeds). I take pictures for the JV football team, as we have another football mom with a MUCH better camera/lens than mine who takes pictures of varsity games.

The JV team had a game originally scheduled on Halloween, but due to weather, it got moved to November 1. Unfortunately, the move meant I would not be able to attend the game. But that didn’t stop me from preparing a fun post-game snack for their final contest of the season.

I decided to make Zombie football helmet gingerbread cookies. I used a recipe from the Mary Meade’s Country Cook Book:

Ingredients: 1 cup softened butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 beaten egg, 2 cups molasses, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 8 cups flour (yes, 8  cups!), 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 tablespoons ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 3 teaspoons baking soda, 1 cup boiling water

Directions: Sift flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg – set aside (for amounts this large, I place all the ingredients in a bowl and use a whisk to “sift” them). Beat egg in small bowl; set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, molasses and vinegar.  Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water (it will fizz up!). Add water alternately with flour mixture. Chill at least one hour prior to rolling out.  Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes (time may vary, depending on your oven and the size of your cut out cookie. The gingerbread man cut out I used was 14 minutes).

I used a drinking glass with a wide mouth for the round cut out. I flooded the cookies with white royal icing, and then added the eye section with black royal icing, red royal icing and candy eyeballs, following the basic tutorial video I found on Nicki Lee Bake’s channel. I used royal blue cookie icing to make the helmets, and more of the white royal icing dyed golden yellow to make the helmet stripes and facemask.

Here are the cookies in various states of the decoration process:


And here are the cookies in their final format. I didn’t personalize them since I wouldn’t be there to help hand them out. There were enough for coaches, as well as the players. Some of the other team moms were gracious enough to take the cookies to the game and hand them out.


Great season, JV. I look forward to seeing a number of you move up to varsity next year, joining my son Alex as he plays in his senior year.


Christmas Cookies and Mini-breads for Our Baseball Family

Baking dates: December 21, 22, and 23, 2017

Each year at Christmas, I bake goodies for our Summer rec baseball family and deliver them on Christmas Eve. Six of the players have gone on to play with elite teams, but we still see them for high school games. And some of them we see at football and basketball during the rest of the year.

These are the people who welcomed us into the community when we first moved here in 2004. They are the people I have spent many weeknights and weekends with as our boys practiced, played games and competed in tournaments. I have watched their sons grow into fine young men.

This year, there were 24 families with 110 family members to personalize cookies for. In addition, I make mini breads. Some are from scratch – snickerdoodlebanana and sour cream chocolate. Some are from a box mix gingerbread, pumpkin, and cranberry.

I use three vacation days prior to Christmas Eve to do all my baking for my baseball family (and my aunts and uncles who we visit on Christmas day). My kitchen typically looks like this for about 4 days:


Cookies – I make the cookies first, since the royal icing takes a while to dry. The cookies are a chocolate sugar cookie. This recipe makes a lot of cut outs, depending on how large your cookie cutter is. This is one batch – it’s a thick cookie batter and clumps around the paddle with lots more still in the bowl:


I made two batches this year. In the past, I have made Santa hats, and stockings, so this year I went with a long fancy plaque cookie cutter and a square plaque cookie cutter. Here they are:


This year, I tried pre-made cookie icing in white, red, green and blue. It worked fine, however once you snip off the tip for the icing, that’s the size that flows out, and you have less control over the squeeze than you do with an icing bag and tip. So I decided to make the opening medium size for the general decorating and made a small batch of royal icing in white, red and green so I could pipe on names using a #1 tip. Baker’s note: this royal icing recipe called for a flavored extract. For a larger batch recipe, I add 1 tablespoon of almond extract in place of one of the tablespoons of water. I find that royal icing with an extract flavor tastes much better than with only water.

Here are the cookies halfway decorated  – there are very few that are exactly the same:


And here are all the personalized cookies, by family (presented in slideshow format):

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Breads: for the pumpkin, I typically add milk chocolate chips on top before I bake the loaves. But this year, I emptied the one bag of milk chocolate chips I had into a batch of snickerdoodle bread and stirred once before realizing my mistake.

Baking Fail

Because of that mistake, I sprinkled white chocolate chips on the pumpkin bread. But those chips don’t hold up as well (they melt much more than the milk chocolate), so the loaves were not as pretty. I also used the white chocolate chips in the chocolate bread, instead of the chocolate chips. Because the chips were mixed into the batter and not sprinkled on top, they fared much better. (Baker’s note: a friend dropped off all the baking supplies she didn’t use this year because she got the flu and wasn’t able to bake. I think there were 4 bags of white chips!).

For the cranberry and gingerbread, I drizzled the leftover white royal icing (from the personalization of the cookies) on top.

Here are some of the banana breads. The bigger loaves are for some of the larger families. IMG_0964

And when it comes to baking mini-breads, I break out the big gun:IMG_0966

Here is the entire final production of baked goods:


Another element I put in the bags is Christmas-themed chocolate candy minis. There is one baseball player with allergies to many ingredients in my baked goods, so I get candies like Sour Patch kids, nerds and Twizzlers for his family’s bag.


For goodie delivery, this year I used plain white bags lined with a sheet of tissue paper, with the Christmas card for the family attached to the outside. I line the bags up for packaging in the order they will be delivered, with the last families we will visit in the front.


Then, I transfer the bags to the back of my car in the reverse order, with the first families we will visit in the front.


Then, my son Alex and I go about our business of delivering the goodies to the families on Christmas Eve. If people aren’t home, we have plastic grocery bags to place the goodies in (that pile of grey and white underneath all the paper bags). If they aren’t home, I text them to let them know we’ve made the delivery.

Everyone is so appreciative (presented in slide show format):

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I hope you were able to share a bit of the holiday spirit with family and friends.

Annual Ladies Luncheon Cookies

Baking date: December 11, 2015

Each year, the women in my husband’s family get together for a lunch during the holiday season. Now that families are flung far and wide, it’s an opportunity to gather as many people who have time for a nice lunch without all the hassle of preparing it, serving it, and cleaning up.

After the lunch, the host invites everyone back to her home for desserts and coffee and/or wine. It’s a wonderful way to chat and catch up with one another.

I always offer to bring desserts for the post-luncheon gathering, and this year was no exception. I made three different kinds of cookies: chewy ginger molasses cookies, gingerbread reindeer, and sugar cookies with royal frosting snowflakes.

The chewy ginger molasses cookie recipe I found on Pinterest. The only change to the recipe was I rolled them in Sugar in the Raw instead of regular sugar.

The gingerbread reindeer were made from a box mix. I used a gingerbread man cookie cutter. I then turned the cookies upside down to decorate them to look like reindeer. The first time I did it two years ago, I hadn’t discovered royal frosting, and I didn’t really ‘nail it’…


Nailed It!

Now that I use royal frosting to outline and flood, the cookies look much better. Here are the trays of reindeer cookies decorated:

And this is the tray of reindeer and chewy ginger molasses cookies at the party. Baker’s note: try to lay the reindeer cookies flat or they may break at the base of the antlers (look close in the photo and you may see one that it happened to — this dish had a very angled side edge):


I also made sugar cookie recipe snowflakes with royal frosting. I tried a new recipe for royal frosting that doesn’t call for meringue power or egg whites. Instead you use almond extract (to improve the taste) and corn syrup. I found that this frosting took a little longer to set fully, but the taste was much improved over regular royal frosting. I now use almond extract in the regular royal frosting recipe that calls for meringue power: 1 lb. [3.75 cups] powdered sugar, 2 tbs meringue powder, 3 tbs water [substitute 1 tbs almond extract for 1 tbs water] or more to get decorating consistency.

I decorated each cookie with a unique snowflake design. I outlined the cookies in white, flooded them with light blue royal frosting and then piped on the snowflakes in white. I used small white sugar pearls, blue sugar sprinkles, and light blue sugar pearls:

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But the true hit of the party were the cupcakes with Grinch buttercream transfers hand-piped by my husband’s cousin’s daughter Kelsie who is a senior in high school. How amazing are these?!:


Whatever your year-end holiday traditions are with family, I hope they always have the capacity to sweeten your day and warm your heart.

Random Acts of Kindness Week Goodies

February 9-15, 2015 was Random Acts of Kindness Week. I decided to participate in flooding social media with good news by sharing goodies throughout the week with others. Here’s how my #RAKWeek2015 took shape:

Monday:  On Sunday evening, I baked Rolo-stuffed snickerdoodle cookies. I was mailing them to a friend’s daughter who had just moved to the University of Maryland to continue her undergraduate education. For two years, I’ve been baking goodies for friends’ kids when they move to college for the first semester. On Monday, I shipped them out via priority mail. First random act of kindness done!

Tuesday: Over the weekend prior to Random Acts of Kindness Week, one of the local moms had asked if I could make lion paw cookies for an event at the high school. I was on business travel and wouldn’t have time to bake and decorate cookies by Tuesday — let alone find a lion paw cookie cutter! However, I do have lion paw candy molds (in small, pops, and large size) because our local grade, middle, high school, and recreation league sports are all blue and gold Lions.

I made about 36 candies of varying shapes using royal blue and yellow candy melts. My friend asked me how much and I said “it’s Random Acts of Kindness Week, so consider this my gift.” She was thrilled and here’s how the candies turned out:

Random sizes of lion paw candies

Random sizes of lion paw candies

She posted this collage of pictures to Facebook with a thank you to me. The candies ended up looking great with her other decorations.

Lion paw candies incorporated into the party decorations

Lion paw candies incorporated into the party decorations

Wednesday: On Wednesday, my colleagues and I had an all-day event taking place. It was a big event, bringing together teams from our department, as well as IT, communications, and an outside vendor. Since it was an all day event, I made gingerbread and pumpkin mini-breads for our “war room” so people had goodies to munch on.  I topped them with Sugar in the Raw before baking, to give them a sweet crunch on top.

Because I had made the breads on a week night, I used box mixes. On weekends, I’ll make breads from scratch, but during the week with limited time, I use box mixes.  The breads were gone by lunch.

Thursday: I telework on Fridays, so Thursday was my last day in the office at work for the week. I decided to make Valentine candy hearts. I have two molds for this, one is more rounded mini-hearts, and the other is a flat, larger heart mold. With the mini-heart mold, I made red, purple (discontinued – now available in lavender), and pink (discontinued – now available in bright pink) vanilla candies. I also made milk chocolate candies with the mini-heart mold:

Mini-heart candies

Mini-heart candies

I also made milk chocolate and peanut butter candies in the flat, larger heart mold:

Milk chocolate and peanut butter candy melt hearts

Milk chocolate and peanut butter candy melt hearts

I then created an image that I shared on social media with the hashtag #RAKWeek2015:

Heart my colleagues

Heart my colleagues

Friday: On Friday, I received this text from my friend’s daughter. Unfortunately, the mailroom hadn’t delivered her packages until Friday, even though they arrived on Tuesday.

Nice way to end the week.

Nice way to end the week.

It was a nice way to end a week of Random Acts of Kindness through baking.

Gingerbread M&M Cookies

Baking Date: December 6, 2013

Have you seen the variety of holiday-themed/flavored M&Ms? The most recent is gingerbread M&Ms. It’s not easy to find them, but I was able to get a few bags at Walmart.

In a coupon circular in the Sunday paper, I found a recipe using the gingerbread M&Ms. I’ve tried to find the recipe online so I can post a link to it, but I haven’t been able to, so here it is (click on the photo to see the recipe clearly):

Recipe. And Nutrition information. Just ignore that part.

Recipe. And Nutrition information. Just ignore that part.

The recipe is pretty easy.  The cookies turned out soft and chewy – quite yummy!

Gingerbread M&M cookies

Gingerbread M&M cookies

A different take on a gingerbread-flavored cookie for the holidays.