Baking For Others: Overly Obsessive Christmas Cookies

EVENT: The Kenner Family Christmas Party
VENUE: Kate’s Parents’ Apartment, Upper East Side
TYPE: Large-Scale Holiday Dinner Buffet
MENU: Beef Bourguignon; Scalloped Potatoes; Corn Pudding; Roasted Brussels Sprouts; Just Salad Fixings; Lemon Bars; Pecan Bars; Chocolate Fudge; Christmas Cookies; Cranberry Punch; Spiked Cider

The holiday season is an especially busy time for us Quarter-Life Cooks. Among our twenty-something friends, our expertise is in high demand for planning, prepping, and decorating all sorts of festive gatherings. But one particular grown-up event we always look forward to attending is the Kenner holiday party. Last year we were rather delinquent helpers for Kate and her family—Cara had just flown back from Spain and could barely keep her eyes open, and I was busy all afternoon running around the city in a Santa suit. But this year, we were honored to be brought on board early in the process to decide what dishes would make it to the large banquet table for 100 of their closest friends.

As can be imagined, a meal for so many people is quite an impressive undertaking, especially with the high expectation for quality that Kate’s mother, Barb, has upheld for the gathering year after year. Over Indian food sometime in November, Cara and I talked about the menu with Barb and Kate. There was a universal consensus that the famed corn pudding, scalloped potatoes, and spiked cider were must-have staples. Some newer additions: beef bourguignon for the main course, and lemon bars for the dessert spread. And as always, there were to be dozens of decorated Christmas cookies, the centerpiece of the table.

Friday evening, Cara and I showed up at the Kenners’ to offer our helpful hands. We thought, perhaps, the tasks ahead of us might involve browning 30 pounds of beef, peeling a large bag full of potatoes, or juicing lemon upon lemon for the squares, and we came prepared for blisters and exhaustion. Unsurprisingly though, given her all-powerful planning genius, complete with shopping lists from the last ten years, Barb had done almost all the work before we got there. The stew was simmering in the oven, the lemon bars were sitting on a beautiful glass platter, and all that was left for us to do was decorate the Christmas cookies.

Cara was elated by this news, but I, on the other hand, was a little worried. As my baking days have slipped away from me, I’ve become a little rusty when it comes to multiple icing shades, colored sugar, and snowflake shaped sprinkles. Summoning my artistry from 15 years ago, I got to work sprinkling green sugar on my Christmas trees, and haphazardly pasting candy cane morsels on the green shading. Cara looked over at my work, and looked at me with slight disappointment in her eyes. “Maybe try to make them a little fancier?” she said. Horrified by my apparent failure, I ate two cookies and started over.

Little did Cara know: she created a monster. For three hours, I obsessed over my cookies, picking out all the red colored balls to line stripes on my stockings, stringing ornaments in perfect bowing lines on my trees, and striping my candy canes in perfectly measured patches of color. The result was more beautiful than my seven-year-old memories, if involving way more patience and attention than should ever be imparted on a single cookie. Kate, holiday cheer master, was more than pleased with the results, as were we, until she plucked up one of my stockings and took a bite, and I suddenly felt like I had lost my best friend.

From our kitchen, where we’re like obsessive cookie elves, to yours,



Martha’s Icing

Ices about 2 dozen of your favorite sugar cookies

1 egg white
2 cups powdered sugar
a few drops of lemon juice

food coloring
lots of sprinkles

Whisk ingredients together. Separate into bowls and add food coloring to create your desired scheme. Use knifes or offset spatulas for decorating. If you’re ambitious, use icing bags with tips.

Posted in: Baking For Others
  • shayma

    phoebe what an utterly fantastic job, they look like illustrations out of a children's book. so worth the three hours. x

  • Jordana @ Menu Maniac

    fabulous! it's cliche but they look too good to eat.

  • Lea Ann

    Wow, those cookies are impressive! Great post.

  • Sara

    So beautiful! Love all your decorations! :)

  • Kelsey B.

    LOL! I am not a good cookie decorator, my patience wears thin wayyy too quickly. However, I love bake – as you know – so brava to the well made cookies AND awesome decorations. If you ever need a sous-decorator let me know, my 2yo fancies herself a frosting expert (!)

  • The Healthy Apple

    Wow; these are the most adorable cookies. Happy Holidays! Keep up the great blogging…I'm looking forward to seeing your fabulous posts in 2010!
    The Healthy Apple

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