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Holiday Style

Prepare to impress at your next holiday party with these 5 recipes for sweet treats

Just in time for party season, Christopher Kimball and the cooks at Milk Street deliver cakes, hermits, rugelach, and more designed to please.

LamingtonsPhotographs by Adam Detour/Food styling by Kelly Upson


Makes 16 individual cakes

The inspiration for these Lamingtons — small, chocolate-coated, coconut-covered cakes from Australia — came from Le Petit Grain boulangerie in Paris. We skip the customary jam filling, but these treats are so delicious we don’t think you’ll notice. We bake a simple butter cake in a square pan, then cut the cooled cake into two-bite cubes. Freezing the cubes before coating them with the chocolate glaze allows for easy handling, and helps the coating firm up quickly. The cake can be cut and frozen up to two days in advance, but if you freeze it for more than just an hour or so, be sure to wrap it well to protect it from drying out.


The finished Lamingtons will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for one day or in the freezer for several days (if frozen, let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving).

150 grams (1¼ cups) cake flour, plus more for pan

3 large egg whites, room temperature

½ cup whole milk, room temperature

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

214 grams (1 cup) white sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon table salt

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) salted butter, cut into 6 pieces, room temperature

For the glaze:

¾ cup whole milk, room temperature

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

¼ cup refined coconut oil

124 grams (1 cup) powdered sugar

Pinch teaspoon table salt

225 grams (2½ cups) unsweetened shredded coconut

To make the cake, heat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Mist the interior of an 8-inch-square baking pan with cooking spray, dust with flour, then tap out the excess. Line the pan with kitchen parchment. In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the egg whites, milk, and vanilla; set aside.


In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, then mix on low until combined, about 10 seconds. With the mixer running, add the butter one piece at a time. Once all the butter has been added, continue mixing until sandy and no large butter pieces remain, 2 to 3 minutes. With the mixer still running, pour in all but ¼ cup of the egg-milk mixture and mix until combined. Increase to medium-high speed and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce to medium speed, then slowly add the remaining egg mixture, scraping the bowl once or twice.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a paring knife around the edges to loosen. Invert the cake onto a large plate, lift off the pan, and remove and discard the parchment. Re-invert the cake onto the rack to be right side up and cool completely, about 2 hours.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment. Using a serrated knife, trim off the edges of the cake, then cut the cake into 16 even squares. Place the squares on the prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

To make the glaze, in a medium saucepan set over high heat, bring 1 inch of water to a boil, then reduce to medium-low. In a medium heat-proof bowl that fits on top of the saucepan, combine the milk, chocolate, and coconut oil. Set the bowl on the saucepan, over the simmering water, and warm the mixture, whisking gently and occasionally, until melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan, then whisk in the powdered sugar and salt; reserve the saucepan and warm water. Place the coconut in a small bowl.


Remove the cake squares from the freezer. Using your fingers, dip 1 cake square into the chocolate and turn to coat each side, then scrape off any excess against the edge of the bowl. Toss in the coconut to coat on all sides, then return to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining cake squares, chocolate glaze, and coconut. If the glaze cools and becomes too thick, return the bowl to the saucepan and gently rewarm the glaze. Let the coated cakes stand until the glaze sets slightly, about 30 minutes.

Maple-Glazed HermitsPhotographs by Adam Detour/Food styling by Kelly Upson

Maple-Glazed Hermits

Makes 24 cookies

Hermits are quintessential New England cookies, and there are many variations. Some are heavy with molasses while others, like ours, are richly spiced. But all hermits are moist and chewy. They’re often baked as bar cookies, but we like ours shaped into rounds and drizzled with a simple maple glaze. The finished cookies keep well in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

293 grams (2¼ cups) all-purpose flour


1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon table salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, room temperature

297 grams (1½ cups) packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup sweetened dried cranberries

For the glaze:

93 grams (¾ cup) powdered sugar

5 tablespoons pure maple syrup

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, and salt. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each and scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the flour mixture in 2 additions, mixing on low after each until only a few streaks of flour remain. Fold in the cranberries with a rubber spatula.

Cut a 20-inch length of plastic wrap and lay it on the counter with the long side nearest you. Scrape half of the dough onto the center of the wrap and use the spatula to shape it into a rough log. Starting with the long edge nearest you, use the plastic to lift and roll the dough into a 1-by-12-inch log, compressing as you go to remove air. Wrap the log in the plastic wrap and tightly twist the ends to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough. Set the wrapped logs on a rimmed baking sheet and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour or up to overnight.


Heat the oven to 350 degrees with racks in the upper- and lower-middle positions. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with kitchen parchment. Unwrap each dough log and cut it into 1-inch rounds. Arrange 12 rounds on each baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and slightly domed, rotating the sheets and switching racks halfway through, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze, in a small bowl whisk the powdered sugar and maple syrup until smooth and thick. Using a small spoon, drizzle the glaze over the cookies and let stand until dry, 30 to 40 minutes.

Spiced Orange ShortbreadPhotographs by Adam Detour/Food styling by Kelly Upson

Spiced Orange Shortbread

Makes 20 cookies

This fresh take on classic shortbread is made with ground coriander and freshly grated orange zest, flavors that pair beautifully with butter and sugar and give these cookies an alluring fragrance. The recipe is simple to prepare, but you will need a ruler and metal bench scraper for shaping the dough into a rectangle before baking. Baking on a double layer of kitchen parchment ensures the cookies will not get too brown on the bottom.

292 grams (2¼ cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground coriander, divided

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature

61 grams (½ cup) powdered sugar

2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

1 tablespoon white sugar

Heat the oven to 300 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 tablespoon of the coriander, and the salt.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the orange zest and beat until incorporated, about 10 seconds. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture and beat until incorporated and the dough begins to form a ball, about 1 minute.

Lightly dust the counter with flour. Scrape the dough onto the counter and knead by hand for 1 minute. Set the dough on a sheet of kitchen parchment and form it into a 10-by-6-inch rectangle about a scant ½-inch thick, using a rolling pin to even out the thickness and a bench scraper to square the edges. Slide the parchment with the dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheet (double-lining the pan) and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the white sugar and remaining 2 teaspoons coriander. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the dough. With the tines of a fork, poke the dough in rows spaced about ½ inch apart. Using a paring knife, score the rectangle in half lengthwise, then crosswise into tenths, dividing the rectangle into 20 3-by-1-inch cookies.

Bake until the shortbread is lightly browned, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then cut completely through the score marks to separate into 20 cookies. Let cool completely.

Sour Cherry RugelachPhotographs by Adam Detour/Food styling by Kelly Upson

Sour Cherry Rugelach

Makes 24 cookies

Rugelach are pastry-like cookies that feature a rich, tender dough wrapped around a dried fruit filling.

Our dough is spiced with cardamom and “folded” three times, similar to a puff pastry, to give the baked cookies a delicate flakiness. Additional spices add warm flavor and fragrance to the sweet-tart filling. We prefer the chunky texture of apricot preserves, but smoother-textured apricot jam works well, too.

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) salted butter, cut into 16 pieces, chilled

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, cut into 16 pieces, chilled

3 tablespoons white sugar

2 teaspoons ground cardamom, divided

½ teaspoon table salt, divided

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

260 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1¼ cups dried sour cherries, finely chopped

1 cup apricot preserves

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 large egg, beaten

9 tablespoons finely chopped salted roasted cashews, divided

3 teaspoons turbinado sugar, divided

To make the dough, in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese, and white sugar on low until smooth, scraping the bowl as needed, about 2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the cardamom, ¼ teaspoon salt, and the vanilla. Beat until combined. Add the flour and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture comes together in a rough ball, about 30 seconds.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gather it into a cohesive mass. Using your hands and a rolling pin, form it into an 8-by-10-inch rectangle with a short end parallel to the edge of the counter. Starting from a short end, fold the dough into thirds, as you would a letter. Using a metal bench scraper, square the edges, then rotate the rectangle one quarter turn. Repeat the process of rolling out, folding and turning the dough 2 more times, ending with a folded rectangle of dough. Press the seams firmly, wrap the dough with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a medium bowl, stir together the dried cherries, apricot preserves, coriander, cinnamon, the remaining 1 teaspoon cardamom and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until needed; the filling may appear runny but the cherries will absorb the liquid.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, then unwrap and transfer to a lightly floured counter. Using a rolling pin, roll into a 13-by-12-inch rectangle, squaring the edges with a metal bench scraper. Cut the dough into 3 strips, each 4 inches wide and 13 inches long. If the dough pulls back after cutting, gently roll each strip to the correct dimensions.

Working with one strip at a time, with a long side parallel to the edge of the counter, lightly brush the surface with the beaten egg. Mound one-third of the filling (6 tablespoons) in a line down the center of the strip, leaving a 1½-inch margin on each side. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the chopped cashews onto the filling, pressing them in. Starting with the side closest to you, lift the edge of the dough up and over the filling and roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Pinch the seam to seal, turn the cylinder seam side down and gently stretch it into a 16-inch log. Transfer, seam side down, to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, egg, filling, and cashews, spacing the logs evenly on the baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours (if refrigerating for longer than 30 minutes, cover with plastic wrap). Reserve the remaining beaten egg.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Brush each dough log with some of the remaining egg and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the turbinado sugar. Using a knife, score each log at 2-inch intervals, cutting only three-quarters of the way through. Do not cut all the way; the pieces should still hold together. Bake until the logs are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then use the knife to fully cut and separate the cookies. If needed, to neaten the cut edges of the rugelach, turn each cookie, while still warm, onto its side and very gently press the cut side to flatten. Let cool completely on the wire rack.

Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies With Browned Butter IcingPhotographs by Adam Detour/Food styling by Kelly Upson

Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies With Browned Butter Icing

Makes 18 cookies

These generously sized cookies are soft and cake-like. Spiced with cinnamon and ground ginger and made with just 4 tablespoons of butter, their flavor is mostly about the bittersweet, subtly smoky notes of molasses. Use either mild or robust (also known as “full”) molasses, but avoid blackstrap molasses; its potent flavor will overpower the spices and make the cookies taste harsh and bitter. A browned butter icing gives the cookies a rich, elegant finish.

390 grams (3 cups) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

329 grams (1 cup) molasses (see headnote)

66 grams (1/3 cup) packed dark brown sugar

4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, melted

¼ cup buttermilk

2 large eggs, well beat

For the icing:

4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces

248 grams (2 cups) powdered sugar

¼ cup buttermilk, plus more if needed

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To make the cookies, heat the oven to 350 degrees with racks in the upper- and lower-middle positions. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with kitchen parchment. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the molasses, brown sugar, and melted butter. Whisk to combine, then whisk in the buttermilk. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture and fold with a silicone spatula just until no streaks of flour remain; the dough will be thick.

Using a ¼-cup dry measuring cup or a 1½-inch ice cream scoop, drop scant ¼-cup mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, arranging them in 3 rows of 3 and spacing them evenly. Bake until the cookies are domed and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean, 12 to 15 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets about halfway through. Cool completely on the baking sheets on wire racks, about 30 minutes. Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies directly to the racks.

To make the icing, in a 10-inch skillet set over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Cook, swirling the pan frequently, until the milk solids at the bottom are golden brown and the butter has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Whisk in the powdered sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla until smooth. The icing should have the consistency of smooth peanut butter; if it is too thick, whisk in additional buttermilk 1 teaspoon at a time until spreadable.

Using the back of a spoon or a small spatula, spread 1 tablespoon of icing evenly onto each cookie. Let the icing dry for about 30 minutes before serving.

Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.