Make It, Don't Fake It: The 10 Holiday Recipes that are Actually Worth Cooking from Scratch
Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, baby.
I think Marvin Gaye said it best. The real deal just tastes better than posers. Especially when it comes to homemade holiday favorites versus store-bought versions.
Sure, you can buy cinnamon rolls in a can or a boxed gingerbread cookie kit, and you could make fudge using a can of evaportated milk and packaged marshmallows, but if you haven’t tried true from-scratch versions of these items, you don’t know what you’re missing. Some homemade holiday dishes are just worth the time and effort for the authentic, rich flavors and irresistible texture that just can’t be packaged. And look, yes, I understand... some of these treats can be intimidating to make, and no one has time or ingredient money to waste this time of year. Fear not.
You don’t have to go to culinary school to master the classics, you simply need a killer recipe that you can trust. That's why we’ve developed a collection of foolproof recipes for the favorites that are legitimately worth the homemade effort, so that you know you’re going to have a final product that comes with major bragging rights.
Make one (or all) of these awesome and festive holiday staples to make your celebrations even merrier and brighter. Once you accomplish one, you'll find yourself asking "Why buy something that I can do better myself?" more often.
All-Purpose Entertaining Cracker image Photo: Sheri Giblin; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling: Amy Stone
Every cocktail party needs appetizers, and most appetizers need crackers. These simple delicious crackers are great with, well, everything. Get that satisfying salty-crunch with this recipe. Keep the crackers all-purpose plain or add your own flavored flair before baking, with grated Parmesan, various herbs, cracked pepper, etc.
Orange-Rosemary Cashew Brittle image Photo: Sheri Giblin; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling: Amy Stone
The brightness of winter citrus and earthy essence of rosemary make a combination that trumps any ordinary, one-dimensional peanut brittle. This recipe is perfect for gift-giving because it makes about 50 pieces of candy (which is a lot) and it's easily multiplied. Just package the brittle in a festive tin or air tight bag and it will last for 2 weeks. While we loved cashews for a great textured, budget-friendly option, feel free to use hazelnuts, almonds, or your own favorite nut instead.
Chocolate and Peppermint Snowflake Roulade image Photo: Sheri Giblin; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling: Amy Stone
If Christmas morning was a cake, this is what it would look like. Don't be intimidated by the intricate design--it's not as hard to make as it might seem. Just print your design of choice, tape it underneath parchment paper, and trace the design as you pipe out the "Snowflake" batter. While gorgeous in presentation, this rolled cake also captures all of the delicious elements of a great holiday dessert: chocolate, a creamy filling, and plenty of peppermint
Dark Chocolate Walnut Fudge image Photo: Sheri Giblin; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling: Amy Stone
OK this is important--you may think that you have had real fudge, but the recipe on the side of the Carnation milk can is not the real deal. Seriously, you have to experience truly homemade oh-so-fudgy fudge at some point in life. And this ridiculously rich and nutty fudge is a game changer, for sure. Use high quality chocolate for best results and remember to make it a day before you really want to devour it.
Easiest Cinnamon Rolls Ever image Photo: Sheri Giblin; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling: Amy Stone
Make the dough tonight, bake them in the morning. What's better than coffee or cocoa and a big, gooey-glazed cinnamon roll? Not very many things. The cake crumbs called for in this recipe are a signature of one of our queen baking experts in the test kitchen. It's a trick she picked up early in her career from a pastry chef during an internship and swears by them for adding an extra layer of tender goodness to her cinnamon roll dough. If you don't happen to have any cake lying around, you can pick up a couple of slices from your grocery store bakery, scrape away the frosting, and crumble into crumbs
Classic Gingerbread Cookies image Photo: Sheri Giblin; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling: Amy Stone
Use this dough to make gingerbread people and/or their house. Our classic gingerbread cookies aren't too gingery, but certainly capture the spiced gingerbread charm that you crave when chilly weather comes. Keep this gem of a recipe in your back pocket for a cookie decorating party or holiday potluck.
Maybe it's breakfast, maybe it's a snack, or maybe it's dessert. Any way you serve it, it's delicious. Everyone needs a go-to coffee cake recipe, and this one has it all--tangy raspberry, rich and creamy filling, and a crunchy streusel topping. If you're gonna do it, this is how you do it right. Serve with coffee, tea, or hot cocoa.
Foolproof Fruit Cake image Photo: Sheri Giblin; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling: Amy Stone
Think you hate fruitcake? That's probably only because you haven't had a good one; you haven't had this one. Fruit cake takes time to make, but this Christmastime icon is well worth the investment. Our Foolproof Fruitcake incorporates citrus that has been candied and soaked in rum all night, yielding a dense and incredibly dynamic cake. Heads up--this recipe makes 4 loaves, so be prepared to share. Gift some to your friends; they can eat on it for months (yes, it lasts up to 2 months) and it only gets better with time.
Vanilla Marshmallows image Photo: Sheri Giblin; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling: Amy Stone
These impossibly fluffy marshmallows are surprisingly easy to make and are worlds apart from the pagged mallows you're used to. Give them as a gift with homemade hot cocoa mix or keep a batch a home for the perfect sweet treat and drink topper. Their sweet, airy, vanilla goodness is some kind of wonderful.
Golden Raisin and Honey Challah image Photo: Sheri Giblin; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling: Amy Stone
This gorgeous and rich bread is a holiday must-make. And don't worry, the braiding isn't as difficult as it looks once you get started. If you don't like raisins, make the recipe your own with dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots, or leave the fruit out completely. Either way, this bread is wonderful dressed in jam or butter, and even better repurposed into French toast.