Nothing melts hearts faster than homemade holiday treats decorated by little hands. Here, some of our favorite local pastry chefs share kid-friendly recipes for festive holiday desserts perfect for gifting or sharing at your own holiday open house.
So crank up the carols, break out the sprinkles and make some holiday memories in the kitchen.
Southern Red & Green Velvet Cupcakes
Yields approximately 2 dozen cupcakes
These cupcakes, created by the chefs at Miss Shirley’s (with locations in Roland Park and the Inner Harbor), are a sweet and festive treat. Kids will love (carefully) squeezing the food coloring and dotting the cream cheese frosting with glittery “ice crystal” sprinkles.
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
1 ½ cups sugar
2 extra-large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon liquid red food coloring
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon liquid green food coloring
1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with 24 paper liners.
2 In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3 In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, vinegar and vanilla.
4 In a large bowl, gently beat together the oil, sugar and buttermilk mixture with a handheld electric mixer.
5 Add the eggs, one at a time, to the liquid mixture and beat until combined.
6 Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
7 Stir with a rubber spatula to make sure the batter is completely mixed.
8 Separate the batter equally into two bowls.
9 To one bowl, add the red food coloring and mix well to incorporate color.
10 To the second bowl, add the green food coloring and mix well to incorporate color.
11 Using a 2 ¼-inch ice-cream scoop or a large spoon, scoop the batter into the muffin cups. Fill each cup about two-thirds full with either red or green batter.
12 Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely in the pans before removing to frost.
The cream cheese frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 ½ cups (3/4 pound) sifted confectioner’s sugar
Optional: 2 teaspoons liquid red or green food coloring, shredded coconut, red and green sprinkles
1 Place the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a bowl.
2 With a handheld electric mixer on medium speed, mix until just combined. Don’t whip!
3 Add the sugar slowly on low speed, and mix until smooth.
4 At this point, you can add the food coloring to the frosting if you wish – or you can leave the frosting white. If you add the food coloring, be sure to mix it well.
5 Using a butter knife or piping bag, frost the cooled cupcakes.
6 If decorating with “snow” (coconut) or sprinkles, add them while the frosting is still soft, so they stick.
Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs
Yields 20 cookies
Kids love to cut and decorate cookies, says Michael Touchet from Touche Touchet in Columbia. His straightforward sugar cookie recipe is the perfect platform for budding pastry chefs. Arm the troops with fun cookie cutters and plenty of sprinkles, and let them get creative.
1 pound unsalted butter, cold
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 Cube cold butter and place in mixing bowl.
2 Add sugar. Cream the butter and sugar together, scraping the bowl frequently, until mixture is smooth and creamy.
3 Crack the eggs in a small bowl. Beat the eggs, and add vanilla.
4 Add the eggs to the sugar and butter mixture. Mix for a few minutes until completely combined.
5 In a separate bowl, combine the salt and flour. Add to the butter mixture, mixing until all the dough comes together.
6 Empty the contents of the bowl onto a floured tabletop and knead until all butter is incorporated.
7 Form a flattened disc about 2 to 3 inches thick. Wrap in plastic wrap.
8 Place in the refrigerator to chill for a minimum of two hours — or overnight.
9 Remove the dough from plastic and place on a floured countertop. Let it sit for about 20 minutes to soften.
10 Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or baking mat.
11 Using a rolling pin, roll dough out until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Rolling it out to this thickness will help prevent the cookies from easily breaking once baked and bagged.
12 Using cookie cutters, cut dough into desired shapes.
13 Place the cookies on baking sheets. Place the sheets in the refrigerator overnight or until very cold before baking (always bake cold dough).
14 When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees.
15 Lightly spritz the cookies with water, then sprinkle with colored sugars (have fun!).
16 Bake for 12 to 18 minutes; cookies are baked when the edges begin to brown.
17 Let the cookies sit on the baking sheet until completely cool. When cool, place in bags and tie with wire ribbon and twist ties.
18 Give the cookies to your family and friends, and watch them smile!
Snowy Coconut Cake
Makes one 9-inch round double layer cake
Ambitious young chefs will love baking and constructing this layered coconut cake, created by the team at La Cakerie in Towson. Pastry cream separates layers of sweet coconut-flecked cake, and painted fondant snowflakes add elegant, grown-up sparkle.
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons softened butter, diced
2 teaspoons coconut extract
½ cup sour cream
½ cup milk
¾ cup shredded coconut
1 Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2 Butter and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
3 In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
4 Add butter, and paddle until butter is incorporated and no bigger than pea-sized pieces remain.
5 Add eggs one at a time and mix, scraping the bowl after each addition.
6 Add coconut extract and mix to incorporate.
7 In a measuring cup, whisk sour cream and milk until smooth.
8 With the mixer on low speed, gradually pour the sour cream and milk mixture into the batter. Mix until just incorporated.
9 Stir in shredded coconut.
10 Divide mixture evenly between two cake pans.
11 Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until cake is lightly golden and springs back to the touch.
The pastry cream:
1 cup milk
½ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
6 egg yolks
4 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 In a saucepan, heat milk on high until steaming.
2 In a separate saucepan, off the heat, whisk sugar, salt and cornstarch until combined. Add egg yolks, whisking until smooth.
3 Gradually whisk in steaming milk.
4 Place the saucepan over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly.
5 Boil for two minutes, or until thick. Remove from heat.
6 Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.
7 Cover with plastic and chill for several hours before using to fill cake.
The buttercream frosting:
1 cup sugar
4 egg whites
2 pounds (8 sticks) butter, cubed
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)
1 Place sugar in a saucepan. Add just enough water to cover the sugar.
2 Over high heat, bring the sugar and water mixture to a boil. Continue boiling until it reaches a soft ball stage (242 degrees on a candy thermometer).
3 As the sugar is coming to a boil, whisk the egg whites in a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
4 When the sugar is ready, slowly pour the sugar mixture into whisked egg whites. Whisk the combination on high until fluffy and glossy.
5 Reduce the speed to low and add one pound of butter in small pieces.
6 When the butter is fully incorporated and frosting is smooth, change the mixer to the paddle attachment.
7 Incorporate the powdered sugar and additional pound of butter, paddling until the frosting is smooth.
8 If desired, add vanilla extract and paddle until incorporated.
Find these ingredients in cake decorating and crafts stores.
Silver luster dust
1 Roll out white fondant to 1/8 inch thickness.
2 Using cookie cutters, cut out about one dozen snowflakes.
3 Allow snowflakes to sit and harden for several hours.
4 When hard, use a small, new paint brush to dust silver luster all over the snowflake. (Other colors can easily be substituted.)
5 Put the snowflakes on the cake, and you’re done!Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun