Williamsburg Gingerbread Cut-Outs

I found this recipe in a historical cookbook more than twenty years ago and I’ve never bothered trying another one: the cookies are spicy and soft and they keep well. The dough is sticky, however, so you need to roll it out on a day when you’re feeling patient!

1/2 C. softened butter (no substitutes)
1 C. sugar
2 T. cinnamon
2 tsp. ground cloves
2 T. ground ginger
1 T. lemon flavoring
3/4 C. evaporated milk
1 C. molasses
5 C. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the flavorings and evaporated milk and blend well. Add the molasses, and then the dry ingredients until the dough is thoroughly mixed. Wrap in wax paper and chill overnight (or it’ll keep in the fridge for a few days).

Preheat the oven to 350º. Working with about a fourth of the dough at a time, roll out to ¼” thickness on a well-floured surface, rubbing flour on the rolling pin as needed (patience, remember!) and cut out with cookie cutters. Bake 7-8 minutes on pans lined with parchment paper—don’t let them brown!—and allow to cool for a minute on the pan before removing them to a wire rack. Frost/decorate with the buttercream recipe included here for Sugar Cookies, and allow the frosting to dry/set up. Store between sheets of wax paper. Freezes well. 7-8 dozen.

Sugar Cookies

I used this recipe in WINTER OF WISHES, but it bears repeating here: this is the cookie that turns an ordinary cookie tray into a fabulous display of Christmas cookies! I usually make five to six batches of this dough, adding paste coloring and flavored gelatin (see note below). I make and chill the dough one day, bake the cookies another day and store them in a covered container, and then decorate them the next day because it takes that long to finish about 13 dozen of these!

1/2 C. butter, softened (no substitutes)
1 C. sugar
1 egg
1 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg, lemon juice, and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients and gradually add them to the dough until it’s well blended. Tint with paste food coloring, if desired. Wrap dough in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours (it will keep for several days, until you have time to bake).

Preheat oven to 350º. Work with half a batch at a time: roll to about 1/4” thickness on a floured surface, then cut with cookie cutters. Place 1” apart on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, and bake 7-8 minutes for softer, chewier cookies and 9-10 minutes or until lightly browned for crisp cookies. Cool on the pan for a minute and then remove with a spatula to a cooling rack. Makes 2-3 dozen.

Kitchen Hint: For flavored sugar cookies, add a 3 oz. package of sugar free gelatin to the dough! I make green dough with lime, yellow dough with peach or orange, and dark pink dough with cherry gelatin. If you use regular sugar gelatin, reduce the sugar in your recipe by a couple of tablespoons.

Buttercream Frosting

This is the recipe I learned long ago in a cake decorating class. I love it because it doesn’t taste like shortening, and it dries firmly when you decorate cookies or cake. It also freezes well in a covered container if you have any left over.

1/2 C. milk
1/2 C. softened butter (no substitutes)
1/2 C. shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon flavoring
6-8 C. (about a pound) confectioners sugar

In a mixing bowl, blend the milk, butter, shortening, and flavorings. Blend in the sugar a cup or two at a time, scraping the bowl, until the frosting is thick and forms peaks.
For colored frosting, use paste coloring to maintain a thickness that will hold its shape during decorating. Makes enough to decorate/frost 6 batches of sugar cookies, or a cake.

Kitchen Hint: I divide my frosting into 4 or 5 plastic containers and color one batch with deep pink, one batch with yellow, one with green, one with sky blue and I leave some white. Then I get out my pastry bag and decorating tips, the sanding sugars, jimmies, and miniature M&Ms, and I play! Let the decorated cookies dry/set up before you store or freeze them.

Mini-Chip Cut-Outs

Here’s the perfect Christmas combination: a chocolate chip cookie you roll and cut into shapes! This came from a Nestle’s ad, years ago, and is still one of my favorites.

1 C. butter, softened
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 C. flour
2 C./one bag mini chocolate chips, divided

Cream butter, the sugars, and the vanilla. Beat in the egg yolk and gradually add the flour. Stir in 1 1/2 C. of the mini chips. Wrap dough in wax paper and chill at least a couple of hours (overnight or longer is fine, too).

Preheat oven to 350º. Allow the dough to warm for a few minutes. On a floured surface, working with one chunk of dough at a time, carefully roll to 1/4″ thickness and cut into shapes, pressing the dough together again if it separates around the chips. Use a metal spatula to transfer cookies to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake about 9 minutes, until just beginning to brown. Cool on pan for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Frost/decorate with chocolate buttercream: melt the remaining 1/2 C. chips in a microwave safe bowl and stir in 1 C. of already-made buttercream (or store-bought) frosting. Pipe it on with a pastry bag.

Kitchen Hint: I have dumped the entire bag of mini chips into the dough, but discovered that more is not better! You can have too many chips in this dough!

Mocha Brownies

Wow, but these are the most fabulous, dense brownies! And who can refuse that extra little jolt of java? No frosting required, but if you want to dust them with powdered sugar while they’re still warm, it’ll add a snowy effect.

1 1/3 C. butter (no substitutes)
2/3 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 T. instant coffee crystals or espresso powder
2 C. sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 C. flour
1 C. semisweet or dark chocolate chips
2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350º and spray a 9 x 13” pan. Melt/microwave butter and stir in cocoa powder and coffee. Stir in the sugar, then stir in the eggs one at a time and add vanilla—stir this mixture until well blended. Stir in the flour and then the chocolate chips and cinnamon. Spread the batter in the pan and bake for about 25 minutes or just until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan. Cut into bars or triangles. 4 dozen.

Kitchen Hint: Use a mixer on low speed if you don’t want to do all this hand stirring.

Orange Date Bars

Light, fruity, and very easy to make!

2 orange cake mixes
1 box (3.4 oz.) of orange or lemon instant pudding
1 c. oil
4 eggs
1 8 oz. box of chopped dates
1 1/2 C. chopped pecans or sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350º. Mix the above ingredients, except for the nuts, and spread the dough in two 9 x 13” pans or in a 10 x 17” pan that have been sprayed. Sprinkle nuts over the batter and lightly press them in. Bake for about 20 minutes, just until the center is firm. Cool in the pans.

Drizzle: Mix 1 C. powdered sugar with enough milk to make it pourable, and add a shake of salt, and vanilla, lemon extract or almond extract to taste. Drizzle over top of the cooled cookies and cut into bars.

Turtle Brownies

Who can resist the classic combination of moist chocolate, gooey caramel, and pecans?

1 brownie mix (9 x 13” size)
1 pkg. of caramel bits (Kraft makes them)
1/3 C. whipping cream
2 C. coarsely chopped pecans, divided

Preheat the oven to 350º. Line the pan with foil so it extends up the sides and over the ends, then spray the foil. Mix the brownies according to package directions, then spread half of it in the prepared pan and bake it for 20 minutes or until just firm to the touch.

Meanwhile, microwave the caramel bits and whipping cream in a microwavable bowl on high for 2 minutes, stirring after the first minute. When bits are mostly melted, keep stirring until the mixture is smooth. Stir in 1 C. of the pecans. Spread this mixture evenly over the partly baked brownie crust, then crumble the remaining brownie dough evenly over this (caramel mixture will show through) and sprinkle on the remaining pecans. Press lightly. Return to the oven for an additional 25 minutes or until the top is firm. Cool completely in the pan. Lift the brownies by the foil “handles” and then peel away the foil before cutting to serve. 2 dozen large or 4 dozen smaller brownies.


These drop cookies are best described as a lot of “stuff” held together with a little dough. I bake them year-round, but for Christmas I use red and green M&M’s.

1 stick butter or margarine
1/2 C. sugar
1/4 C. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 C. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 C. M&M’s (mini baking chips OR regular-size candies)
1 C. raisins
1 C. chopped peanuts

Preheat the oven to 350º. Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper. Cream the butter and sugars until fluffy, then mix in the egg. Add the dry ingredients and then stir in the candies, raisins, and peanuts. Drop by rounded tablespoons, about 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until firm. Cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack. Makes about 30.

Hidden Treasure Cookies

This has become one of my favorite recipes over the years because I never tire of biting into one of these frosted cookies to discover that hidden chocolate mintiness inside. I triple the ingredients to make about 8 dozen, so I don’t run short. If you tint the frosting bright pink, yellow, or green before pressing them into jimmies or sanding sugar, they’ll really stand out on a cookie tray.

1/2 C. sugar
1/4 C. packed brown sugar
1/4 C. shortening (Crisco, for instance)
1/4 C. butter or margarine, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 2/3 C. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
About 2 1/2 doz. Andes mints, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 350º. Mix the sugars, shortening, butter, vanilla and egg in large bowl. Add the flour and soda. Shape a tablespoon of dough around each mint, covering the corners and pressing together any cracks in the dough (be patient! It’s worth it!) Place the cookies about 2” apart on baking sheets covered with parchment paper. Bake 8-9 minutes or until barely golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Frosting: 1 C. powdered sugar, 1 T. plus 1 or 2 tsp. milk, 1/4 tsp. vanilla or almond extract, plus food color, if you want. (You can also use the buttercream recipe included in this section.) Frost the centers of the cookies and press into jimmies, sanding sugar, etc. to decorate them. 1 batch makes about 2 dozen.


I love to bite into a cookie and have it bite me back, spice-wise! These soft, chewy molasses cookies are easy to mix ahead and then chill until you have time to bake.

3/4 C. butter
1 C. sugar
1 egg
1/4 C. molasses
2 C. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ginger
extra sugar

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg and molasses. Mix in the dry ingredients and spices until well blended, wrap the dough in wax paper, and chill until you’re ready to bake. Preheat the oven to 375º. Roll the dough into 1¼ -inch balls and then roll in sugar. Place 2” apart on the cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes for a soft cookie, slightly longer for a crisp cookie. Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.

Kitchen Hint: for a sophisticated presentation, I like to roll one edge of a cooled cookie in melted white chocolate and then quickly roll it in raw sugar or holly-berry jimmies. Let dry on wax paper.

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