Easy Christmas Treats By Leigh Riker

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With that scrumptious Thanksgiving turkey and dressing now (ahem) under our belts, and the Christmas shopping done (What? You haven’t started? Well, neither—barely—have I!), it’s time to focus on some of the sweeter treats we’re going to dish up this holiday season. All waistlines, beware.

I won’t even attempt to make this fancy Gingerbread house (I’d be all thumbs and no patience), but I can certainly dream and maybe you’ll try it. Isn’t it gorgeous? Love the pretzel logs and the gumdrops.

And how sweet is this? I don’t mean just the sugar. Simple cookies turned into edible ornaments for young and old. They’re almost too cute to eat. Easy, too, which is what we’re going for here.

I also like this tree made of stacked cookies. Just as simple to do, pretty to look at, and also yummy to eat. I guess the trick is first making the different-sized cookies.

I really miss the annual baking day I used to share with my grandmother at her house each December (my little brother wasn’t invited for this girls-only tradition) to make and decorate Christmas sugar cookies. I still have those copper-colored metal cutout shapes, which she handed on to me, of stars, Santa, reindeer and trees.

Everyone probably has a basic sugar cookie recipe so I won’t include one here, but we also baked what seem now to be called Russian Tea Cakes (I had to search for a picture), though they have different names, including Snowballs.

This is another no-fuss recipe. And quick—to allow time for all that shopping we have yet to do.


1 Cup butter or margarine (softened)
½ Cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ¼ Cups flour
¾ Cup finely chopped nuts
¼ tsp. salt
More powdered sugar


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix butter, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt. Dough should hold together.
  3. Shape dough into balls of about one-inch each. Put on ungreased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake 10-12 minutes or till set but not brown.

This is another no-fuss recipe. And quick—to allow time for all that shopping we have yet to do.


And, of course, Grandma and I made Thumbprint Cookies like these, too. You can use any flavor of jam filling you’d like or even chocolate.


2 Cups flour (sifted)
½ tsp. salt
1 Cup butter
½ Cup sugar (superfine is best)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Sift flour and salt together then set aside. Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract. Mix in flour slowly, ½ Cup at a time, until blended. Chill dough one to two hours.
  3. Shape dough into one-inch balls then space two inches apart on ungreased baking sheet/s. Make a thumbprint in each center then fill with preferred flavor jam (or chocolate).
  4. Bake 15 minutes or till cookies become a pale sandy color. When cookies are cool, you can dust with confectioners’ sugar (if you wish).

This year, however, because of my hubby’s recently acquired gluten sensitivity, I won’t be doing much baking myself, but instead of any cookies I’ve promised him an equally delicious, Gluten-Free Rum Cake that I think tastes better, really, and is more moist than the regular wheat flour version.

Caution: Because of all the rum, this is for Adults Only.

Ingredients for Rum Cake:

1 Cup of pecans, chopped
1 Gluten-free yellow cake mix (not Betty Crocker GF because it doesn’t work)
1 Package of instant vanilla pudding (3.75 ounce size)
4 Eggs
½ Cup of water
½ Cup of cooking oil
½ Cup of dark rum

Ingredients for Glaze:

½ Cup of melted butter
1 Cup of sugar
¼ Cup more of dark rum (!)
¼ Cup of water


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Oil and flour a Bundt pan then spread pecans evenly around the inside.
  3. Mix cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, oil and ½ Cup of the rum for two minutes on medium speed. Increase to high and beat for another minute.
  4. Pour batter over pecans in the Bundt pan.
  5. Bake 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean.

Let cake cool while you prepare the glaze.

For the Glaze:

  1. Mix the four glaze ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a low boil. Once sugar has dissolved, remove pan from heat.
  2. Prick the bottom of the cake (which is at the rim of the pan) and slowly spoon a fourth of the glaze over it. Be sure the glaze doesn’t run over the sides.
  3. Let cake sit, absorbing the glaze for about 30 minutes. After the glaze is absorbed, invert the cake onto a plate.
  4. Pour the rest of the glaze over top of cake (and the now-visible pecans). Before serving, let it sit for at least one hour.

While we’re thinking of cakes (which I often am), these cupcakes with a sweet holly decoration to top things off look ready for someone to take a bite.

I like this idea too of a brownie made into a Christmas tree with a candy cane for its trunk, frosting branches with sprinkles for ornaments and a cherry for the topper. Easy peasy but a real showstopper. I bet kids would love this.

And last but definitely not least, I’d love to see this pancake snowman on my plate for Christmas morning—if someone else would cook! (I’ll be worn out by then from all that last-minute shopping) My dad made wonderful buttermilk pancakes every Sunday for breakfast. His specialty. I can almost see him adding these decorations.

Happy Holidays to all! Best wishes for a healthy, prosperous New Year! And, of course, Happy Reading!

In Heartwarming Holiday Wishes, Leigh Riker contributed Mistletoe and Holly. Her most recent Harlequin Heartwarming release is Last Chance Cowboy.