Lots of sweet holiday cookies! Winter holidays are the perfect time to bake with friends and family. Illustration by Hannah Nellen

When it comes to holiday desserts, it can be hard to find the perfect recipe. Whether that be a random recipe found online, or the dessert that your family has been enjoying for generations, deciding what to bake during the holiday season can be challenging. Winter desserts are some of my favorites. From festive holiday cakes to the most basic sugar cookies, there is so much to be enjoyed and discovered. Personally, holiday cookies are one of my favorite things to bake, not only because of their simplicity, but mainly because of the memories I have of making them with my family. Here are five of my family’s holiday cookie recipes that are bound to make the holidays a whole lot sweeter. 

Pecan Tassies:

Pecan Tassies look and taste like mini pecan pies, with crisp, caramelized crust edges and a sweet brown sugar, nutty filling. I highly recommend topping each tassie with whipped cream.

Crust-   1-3 oz. cream cheese

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

Filling- 1 beaten egg

¾ cup brown sugar

1 T butter

1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

¾ cup broken pecans (measurements vary with how many nuts are needed)

Mix cream cheese and six tablespoons of butter together until smooth and blended, then stir in flour. After the dough is made, shape dough into walnut sized balls, then place into mini-muffin pans (don’t grease pans). Once all the dough-balls have been put into the mini-muffin pans, shape dough around the pans to create mini-pie crusts (use flour on hands, or utensils used to shape dough to decrease sticking of dough). Place crushed pecans into the mini-pie crusts. Beat one egg, and the rest of the filling ingredients. Pour filling on top of the crushed pecans, leaving some pastry crust showing at the top (like a pie). Bake at 325° for 25-30 minutes.

Note: This recipe should make about 24 Pecan Tassies. Recipe doesn’t double well, but you can freeze them if necessary.

Coconut Cookies:

1 c. butter

3 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 c. flour

1 c. Angel Flake coconut (can substitute with other forms of shredded coconut if needed)

Mix all ingredients together, then make into rolls of dough to chill overnight. Once chilled, slice dough ¼ inches thick (not thin slices). Place slices of dough onto a baking sheet and bake at 275° for 45 minutes. Once cookies are baked, roll in powdered sugar while still warm.

Note: Cookies’ flavor improve with age, serve/eat a couple days after baking. I find that my cookies bake in about 35 minutes. Recipe makes about 4 ½ dozen cookies, which don’t need to be made all at once; dough can stay chilled, or even frozen until ready to bake. If dough is frozen, make sure to thaw it out before baking to ensure cookies are evenly baked.

Cream Wafers (Swedish Pariserawafeer):

Cream Wafers are by far my favorite cookies. With a sugary and flaky cookie, and colorful frosted center, they pair perfectly with a cup of hot chocolate. Although these cookies can be time consuming to make, in the end they are worth the time and effort.

Cookies- 1 c. softened butter

⅓ c. cream

2 c. flour

Filling- 1 stick soft butter

2 c. powdered sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 Tbsp. cream

Pink and green food coloring (colors can be substituted)

Mix butter, cream, and flour together well, then chill. Heat oven to 375°. Roll only ⅓ of the dough at a time, roll out dough ⅛ inches thick on a floured surface. Cut cookies into 1 ½ inch circles (a sharp shot glass or small cup will work). Keep the rest of the dough in the refrigerator while working on one portion. Transfer dough circles onto wax paper heavily covered in granulated sugar. Flip cookies over so that both sides are coated with sugar. After sugaring the dough circles, prick each circle with a fork four times. Bake cookies for 7-9 minutes on a separate non-sugared baking tray. Blend filling ingredients together, then separate into two bowls: one pink, and one green (colors can be changed to your liking). After the cookies have cooled, it is time to assemble! Put two cookies together with filling in the center (like an ice cream sandwich). 

Note: Recipe makes about 5 dozen cookies.


Although Pizelles are such an easy cookie to make, they are delicious. I personally eat Pizelles with a cup of hot chocolate or to cleanse the palate after eating a super sugary cookie or dessert.

½ c. butter

⅔ c. sugar

3 eggs

1 ¾ c. flour

1 tsp. Baking powder

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Optional – A pinch of salt and a few drops of anise oil

Mix ingredients together and then bake in a Pizzelle waffle iron. 

Date Pinwheel Cookies:

Date pinwheel cookies are one of my family’s favorites. With a soft and chewy filling that caramelizes around the cookie, they are savory and sweet at the same time. And although the filling is dates and walnuts, you can easily substitute with any other nuts or dried fruits.

Dough- 1 c. butter (room temperature)

1 c. lightly-packed brown sugar

1 c. granulated sugar

2 eggs

4 c. all purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

Filling- 16 oz pitted dates (chopped)

⅔ c. water

½ c. granulated sugar

½ c. chopped walnuts (can be substituted with any other nuts)

Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly grease cookie sheets or silicone baking mats. Prepare Filling, keep at room temperature, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, using a kitchen mixer at medium speed, combine butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until smooth and blended. Add eggs and mix together again until combined. In a separate bowl, sift flour, salt, and baking soda together. Add the dry ingredient mixture into the wet mixture, incorporating a little at a time until both mixtures are blended. On a lightly floured surface and using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 9×13 inch shape or larger (dough should be about ⅛ thick). If you have refrigerated the dough, bring it to room temperature before rolling. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add chopped dates, water, sugar, and walnuts. Cook until sugar is melted and mixture is hot. Remove from heat and let stand until mixture cools to a lukewarm heat before spreading on the dough. When the filling is cooled, carefully spread onto the top of the dough. Try to cover the entire surface, especially out to the edges. Starting at the longer side of the dough, roll it into a cylinder. Wrap the dough in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, until firm. When ready to bake, remove chilled dough from the refrigerator and, using a knife, cut into ¼ inch cookie slices. Place cookie slices about one inch apart on prepared cookie sheets, and bake approximately 7-10 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove from oven and place cookies onto wire cooling racks. 

Note: In between baking, extra dough should be returned to the refrigerator to stay firm. Also, dipping the knife in flour can make slicing the dough smoother. Recipe makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

Although these cookies are usually made around winter holidays, they can still be made any time of the year. Each cookie is very unique, but when together can create an amazing array of desserts. I hope these recipes bring a little more holiday cheer throughout the cold winter season!

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