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Christmas Cookie Decorating

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Every year, for my entire life, I have had a Christmas cookie decorating party, even in college!  Over the past 8 years, since we moved here, I’ve invited all of my nieces, nephews, and little friends to come and help us.  Every year it is a different bunch of friends and family, and we always make fantastic memories… and lots of cookies!

The tradition for us began with my mom, who passed away 9 years ago.  She insisted that every year we follow the family protocol and make “Honey Cakes”, which had been made in my family for generations.  The recipe is insane!  I know its hard to read, but humor me here.

“Honey Cakes” (top recipe)

Honey Cakes
Just in case you can’t read it, here are in the ingredients:

  • 3lbs sugar
  • 1 lb of lard
  • 1 lb honey
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 qt water
  • 7 tsp baking soda
  • 7 lbs of flour (maybe more) or 28 cups sifted flour
  • 8 tsp of each: cinnamon, allspice, anise seed

“Mix and let stand a day or two”  Was this really necessary?  We always kept in a giant metal bowl in the garage, with a flour sack fowl draped over it.

The mixing was the hardest part!  One time my cousin got into trouble, and my mom told her, “I’ll wipe the slate clean, you just have to mix up the Honey Cakes!”  Holy Punishment!  You could seriously blow out all the muscles in your arms.  Not only is this recipe incredible expensive and difficult to mix, you have to spend an entire day rolling, cutting, baking and decorating several hundred cookies!  Who can eat that many cookies, really?  We’d always have them around through Labor Day.  If I’m going to be honest, I don’t even really like them.

So, about 3 years ago, Joel and I decided to let go of the family tradition (and most of the guilt) and just make sugar cookies.  Nice and simple.

Sugar Cookies and Icing
Recipe type: Dessert
  • For the Cookies
  • 3 cups flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbs milk
  • For the Icing
  • 1lb of powdered sugar
  • Powdered Meringue (measure powder and water according to package directions)
  • tsp lemon juice or vanilla
  1. For the Cookies
  2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Cream butter and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy
  4. Slowly add egg, vanilla and milk, mix until combined
  5. Gradually add flour, mix until combined
  6. Divide in ½, wrap in plastic and chill 2 hours
  7. Preheat the oven to 375F
  8. Sprinkle work surface with flour, roll out ¼ inch thick, cut shapes.
  9. Bake 8-12 minutes
  10. Frost when cooled.
  11. For the Icing
  12. Combine all the ingredients and mix on high with an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, until it reaches desired consistency.
This year was really sweet, we finally got to have the cookie decorating party with our kids, they were old enough!  My sister and all of her children were sick with some nasty and highly contagious bug, so they stayed home. We invited three of the kid’s closest friends, all ages 2-4 years old, and had a delightful  afternoon.

Cookie Decorating

I let the kids pick the colors of the frosting they want, and we always have a million different kinds of sprinkles, colored sugars, nonpareils, and some coconut shavings.

Decorated Cookies

The cookies turned out beautifully, once again!  I love sending them home with the decorators, giving them to the neighbors and passing them around at holiday parties.

My heart tugs a little when I think of my mom, and the enormous effort we always went through to keep the Honey Cake tradition alive.  I think maybe next year I’ll try to find an easier recipe, and pretend I scaled it back (any ideas?).  As much fun as it is finally being able to build these memories with my children, there is a little part of Christmas that seems to be missing.  I felt that she was with us, giggling at how the children smeared the frosting and spilled the colored sugars, just like we used to.  She’d be delighted and proud that I let the mess happen, and would laugh and praise the beautiful work of the grandchildren she never got to meet.

Merry Christmas, Mom.

Take a peek into my world of Eating, Gardening, Making and Mothering, authentically and with meaning. Thanks for visiting!
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