Snow is snowing, wind is blowing, but you can weather the baking storm this holiday season. The key: reinforcements. Instead of wasting away in the kitchen with nothing but a rolling pin and a year's-worth of flour to keep you company, invite friends and loved ones over for a stylish cookie-swap party, in which you cut, bake, and decorate all the sweets and sugar-plum treats you'll need to serve, gift, and get this December. Here's how to pull off a festive fête with the perfect amount of cheer.
Enlist 6-10 people with similar baking agendas—and, ideally, some culinary skill—to join you for an elegant evening shindig. Online stationery site Minted recently introduced digital invitation suites that are affordable and easy to create. Simply choose a template design, add your details, and hit send. The correspondence will arrive in your guests' inboxes in no time, keeping you miles from the nearest the post office—and ensuring your sanity stays in tact.
You know what they say about sweets before dinner: never been sicker. Bait guests with a holiday tablescape that's good enough to eat. Here, mix-and-match china topped with individual cocottes and jolly leaf-and-berry boutonnieres pair with assorted plaid and candy cane–striped linens for a holly, jolly arrangement. Serve up something warm and comforting family-style—a Le Creuset dutch oven is pretty enough to go from the stovetop to the table just so.
OH, CHRistmas tree
Post dinner, leave the baking for the main event and opt instead for a dessert that comes together in mere minutes. Transform a classic Bauli Pandoro cake, which you can purchase at your local supermarket or Italian specialty store, into a Christmas tree in just a few quick steps. To start, lay the cake flat on its side on a cutting board; cut into 5-7 equal slices. Next, layer whipped cream between each slice as you reassemble the cake, rotating the slices slightly to create small ledges where the points of each slice meet. Add a dollop of whipped cream on each ledge. The finishing touch? As many cherries as you can muster, plus a little bit of confectioners sugar to create the illusion of a snow-topped tannenbaum.
Feeling ambitious? Make your own peppermint ice cream to sandwich between cookies or serve alongside your Pandoro tree stunner. If you don't have a Cuisinart handy, simply crush up some candy canes, blend them with your favorite vanilla ice cream, freeze, and voilà—Christmas in a bowl. We took the concept one step further by adding a scoop into Martini sparkling rosé for a minty champagne cocktail that's entirely in keeping with the season.
the main event
To ease flow and create an assembly line of sorts, set up a separate decorating station for your fellow bakers that includes icing, sprinkles, metallic balls, and any other embellishments you desire. Let your cookies cool completely before decorating to avoid running, and allow them to rest afterward to prevent sticking and smudging. If you wish, Minted can also create custom gift tags, so you can send guests home with a personalized stocking stuffer in addition to their baked bounty.
End the evening with a holiday tipple: a classic hot chocolate topped with marshmallow snowflakes—and spiked with the liqueur of your choice. Happy holidays!