Flex Your Holiday Baking Muscle with These 16 Knockout Recipes

These recipes for pastries, breads and sweet treats might not be in your year-after-year repertoire yet, but after making them, we’re sure they’ll make the list.

Flex our holiday muscle

Simply Recipes

We are all familiar with the traditional holiday foods, but there might be a few that aren’t in your year-after-year repertoire—yet. Take a peek at our list of classic breads, pastries, and cake and you’re certain to come across something new, fun, and delicious to set on your holiday table. Hey, there’s even a Gingerbread House!

A typical theme throughout many of the recipes include soaking dried fruit in alcohol, as well as some manner of candied citrus folded within the various doughs. As far as spices, cardamom shows up often, and white pepper makes a surprise appearance, as well.

If you can imagine how wonderful it would be to see your table full of a towering Panettone, a swirled Chocolate Babka, and glazed Pfeffernüsse Spice Cookies then engage that holiday spirit and make it happen. Better yet, allow us to lend you a hand in creating a fun and glorious holiday spread of baked goods.


  • Panettone

    A loaf of homemade panettone in a paper mold with a slice cut out with a wreath around the base.
    Sally Vargas

    You needn’t live in Italy or near a big-city Little Italy to enjoy a true-to-form Panettone. Panettone is a sweet bread that is the epitome of an Italian holiday that gets dotted with rum-soaked dried fruits and candied peels like little gemstones. It does take a little planning, but it doesn’t rush you—it allows you to take your time, while it does all the work for you. Who knows, it just might be a nice little gift to make for friends, too?

  • Stollen

    Stollen Christmas Bread filled with rum-soaked dried fruit coated with powdered sugar and sliced on a platter with a fine mesh sieve with powdered sugar in it nearby.
    Sally Vargas

    This German fruit bread gets better after a week or so. Seriously, it does. The flavors disperse throughout the loaf and may be my favorite holiday baking recipe. Except for my Mom’s Apple Pie (just in case she’s reading this). It’s shaped and then baked straight onto a baking sheet. The dough needs to rise a couple times, so just build a little time into your day, in between returning to it. And make your own cold brew coffee to have with your Stollen for breakfast or even after dinner.

  • Eggnog French Toast

    French Toast Recipe with Eggnog
    Irvin Lin

    A perfect morning-after-the-day-of treat for you and any stray overnight holiday guests. Use either leftover store-bought eggnog, adding a touch of rum to the batter, or you may have already tried your hand at making your own Eggnog. Either way, it’s a quick and fulfilling start to clearing your fridge of the holiday excess.

  • Swedish Coffee Bread

    Swedish Tea Ring
    Elise Bauer

    A stunning “wreath” on the table, this Swedish coffee bread is equally tasty in its mix of spices, like cardamom and cinnamon, and dried fruit and nuts. Add a sugar frosting and lemon zest over top, and you may have just brought a new tradition to your baking repertoire.

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  • Pfeffernüsse Spice Cookies

    Pfeffernüsse Spice Cookies
    Irvin Lin

    Ginger, white pepper, and cardamom are amongst the standout spices in these traditional German Christmas cookies. Add dark molasses and honey, and the aroma of these base note flavors will have you mixing and sipping a classic Manhattan cocktail by the time you pull the cookies from the oven.

  • Best Holiday Fruitcake

    Best fruit cake on a serving platter
    Elise Bauer

    A traditional fruitcake, yet with the richness of sour cream and the sly sweetness of brandy, if you’d like. It’s quite easy and quick to prepare and bake. It will last at least one week, and up to one month. And over a holiday brunch, sit down with a slice of fruitcake and shake-up a cocktail of Milk Punch to go along with it.

  • Gingerbread House

    Side view of the front of a house made of gingerbread.
    Claudia Cash

    A gingerbread house takes a few days of planning and assembling, but it really is all about the building of the house, and not necessarily the eating of it. It creates a tradition the family will plan on year after year. And it’s as adaptable and far-reaching as your imagination (and space) allows—are you kidding, a whole Gingerbread Village?!?! There is no wrong way to decorate a gingerbread house. It’s a moment to play, so make it as richly colored as you like.

  • Eggnog Pound Cake

    Eggnog Pound Cake
    Elise Bauer

    With all of the holiday cooking, you’re bound to find that you most likely have the ingredients for the cake on-hand. Brandy, check. Dried cranberries, yup. That last bit of eggnog in the carton, gotcha. Why not turn about 30 minutes of preparation into several days of mid-morning snack enjoyment? And if you decide to snack later in the day, a glass of Irish Coffee will be a nice pairing.

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  • Chocolate Babka

    Semi-sweet chocolate babka on a wooden serving platter and three slices cut and laid in front.
    Cambrea Gordon

    It’s gorgeous, it’s super-rich, and worth your patience in making this traditional Jewish bread. Most of your patience is in the time it takes for the dough to rise, so it’s doing the bulk of the work for you. If you prefer, swap the chocolate for a favorite jam or add chopped nuts to the filling. Make this once, and babka will be a regular in your holiday backing rotation.

  • Snowman Chocolate Icebox Cake

    Snowman Chocolate Icebox Cake
    Sally Vargas

    It’s likely you’ll need a break from the kitchen, and this dessert is one the kids can have fun putting together themselves. And they should be able to manage the clean-up, too. You can make the cake as big, or as small, as you like, depending on the amount of cookies and cream you use. There’s loads of fun in assembling and decorating a cake, and if you or the kids want to put together a treat while the cake sets up in the freezer, some homemade hot chocolate is just what you’ll need.

  • St. Lucia Saffron Buns

    St. Lucia Buns
    Elise Bauer

    A vibrant saffron-yellow crust contrasts with its golden-browned top, and inside is a buttery and slightly sweet crumb you’ll crave from this traditional Swedish sweet bread. Couple a bun with a mug of Homemade Chai for breakfast or a short break in the afternoon.

  • Best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

    The best cinnamon rolls frosted with cream cheese frosting.
    Cindy Rahe

    You’re not only making a sweet treat here (Bakery Style Cinnamon Rolls), but you’ll be pairing it with Turkey Chili.

    If you’re from the Midwest, you get it. But if you’re not a Midwesterner like me, the combination of cinnamon rolls and chili is one worth trying. The brown sugar and cinnamon in the rolls complement the chili. It’s a stick-to-your-bones recipe, even though the cinnamon rolls are quite light and fluffy with a buttery rich dough.

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  • Chocolate Peppermint Swiss Roll

    Chocolate Peppermint Swiss Roll
    Elizabeth Stark

    A proper Swiss Roll looks beautiful on the table and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to prepare and decorate. Peppermint in the frosting, the crunch of a candied peppermint, combined with a rich chocolate ganache and cake, make peppermint and chocolate a top-tier holiday flavor duo.

  • Applesauce Spice Cake

    Applesauce cake, frosted and with a piece removed.
    Sally Vargas

    Need another quick-to-prepare dessert? Of course, you do! This cake has the usual baking spices, but it’s the clove that gives it a flavor and aroma that make it special. As an option, you could soak the raisins in an apple brandy or the bourbon that’s part of an Apple Cider Hot Toddy, too. Truly, a sitting-by-the-fire recipe.

  • Chocolate Cranberry Rugelach

    Chocolate Rugelach with Cranberry
    Sally Vargas

    A cream cheese enriched dough, a sweetened and textured filling, and crisp, golden edges make this traditional Jewish pastry one that won’t last long on the counter. By the time you’ve had a cup of coffee or two, you’ve likely had enough rugelach that cooking yourself breakfast may have to wait until the next morning.

  • Triple Ginger Gingerbread Cake

    Single Piece of Gingerbread Cake on Decorative Plate
    Elise Bauer

    Candied, fresh, and ground ginger sets this cake apart from most gingerbreads you’ve come across. It’s a tiny bit sticky, slightly sweet, and all kinds of flavorful. And since you’ve gone this far, why not have even more ginger in your life with your own homemade ginger ale.