Holiday baking

Yesterday, Ari and I guest-blogged on Torquere Press’ Romance For the Rest of Us blog, and we both wrote about our holiday traditions. I thought I’d cross-post my contribution here. 😀


Hello! I’m the McKay half of “Ari McKay” (with thanks to Ari for posting this on my behalf), here to share my contribution to the blog. Unlike Ari, I don’t have a significant other, children, or siblings, and my extended family isn’t particularly close, so I don’t have family-oriented traditions per se.

My own personal tradition, however, is holiday baking. We don’t have a big family gathering anymore, so I can’t pull out all the stops like I used to, but I still bake bread and cookies to give to friends and colleagues. It gives me an excuse to pore over my cookbooks (some might say I have too many, but I contend there’s no such thing) and select at least one or two new recipes to try in addition to the old favorites.

Last year, I came across a recipe for Red Velvet Whoopie Pies that I made and took to a gathering at work; the minty-sweet cookies earned major kudos from my colleagues, so they’ve been added permanently to the holiday baking roster.

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1 oz bottle of red food coloring (2 tbsp)

Preheat oven to 375. Beat the 1/2 cup butter with an electric mixer on medium to high for 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Alternately add flour and buttermilk, beating on low after each addition just until mixture are combined. Stir in red food coloring.

Place rounded teaspoons of dough 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes or until edges are set. Cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Spread peppermint cream cheese frosting on bottom half of half of the cookies; top with the remaining half, flat sides down, pressing lightly together.

Peppermint cream cheese frosting:

Combine 2 three ounce packages of cream cheese (softened) with 3 tbsp butter (softened), and 1/2 tsp peppermint extract. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 3 cups powdered sugar. Add milk if necessary to make it spreading consistency.

However, one of my personal favorites is a recipe that’s been on my holiday baking roster for about five years: Peanut Butter Pumpkin Bread. This bread is ridiculously good, and you can eat a slice by itself with a cup of hot tea or cocoa, or you can slather some Nutella and sliced bananas on it to make a sandwich.

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Bread: 

3 cups sugar
1 can (15 oz) solid-pack pumpkin (not pie filling)
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
2/3 cup peanut butter
3 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, and peanut butter; beat well. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Gradually pour into the pumpkin mixture; mix well. Pour into 2 greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire rack.


This year, Ari and I are starting what we hope will become a tradition for us together: writing a holiday story for Torquere Press. “Santa’s Naughty Helper” will be released on December 19, and we had a lot of fun writing it! It’s a light romantic comedy about a man who uses a secret gift exchange as a means of wooing his long-term crush.