I Baked Christmas Cookies for 9 Days Straight. Here’s How I Did It.

...and I'd do it again in a snowy Christmas minute!

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I come from a year-round baking household, but things really kicked into high gear at Christmastime. I took up the mantle myself more than 20 years ago when, after a particularly stressful season at work, I decided to take a week off in December to make cookies and hibernate.

It became an annual tradition for me. Even on years when I haven’t been able to arrange a whole week off, I manage to schedule some sweet “me time.” In 2020, for the first time in a while, I had the whole nine days and I baked up a storm! Here’s how I managed to keep organized and on-task baking (and how you can do it too whether you have nine days or just a weekend).

Choosing the Cookie Recipes

Like any big project, the planning started long before the event. I started choosing my cookies in October—a combination of recipes from the new Taste of Home cookie book, some favorites from my endless pile of recipes and a few family classics.

book with markersCathy Jakicic for Taste of Home

As soon as I had my cookie choices set, I made a master ingredient list so I could catch sales on butter and other essentials. I make the list early and check it twice. The last thing I want to do is break my baking rhythm by running out for more cinnamon.

Then I schedule the cookies for each day (and the accompanying mood-setting background Christmas specials) to make the best use of my time. This year, I scheduled two cookies for each day, knowing I may throw in a simple fudge recipe to fill out my cookie gift packages.

Before it all starts, I make sure the oven is clean and I check the temperature. Catherine Ward of the Taste of Home Test Kitchen advises investing in an oven thermometer like this to check the oven temp before a baking marathon.

Then the fun begins!

Day 1: Traditional Baking

For tradition’s sake, I start with my mom’s spritz recipe. I followed up with Key Lime Butter Cookies, which I’ve made before and fell in love with their bright flavor. Since I had an abundance of first-day energy, I also whipped up some simple microwave 5-Ingredient Fudge while the cookies baked. Once the cookies were cool, I sampled one of each type and stored them in separate airtight containers in my chest freezer.

I learned: I need to set out the day’s ingredients first thing in the morning. It guarantees I have all my ingredients for the day—and makes sure I won’t forget to leave the butter out to soften.

I watched: Home Alone and Nightmare Before Christmas on the first day of baking.

Day 2: Taste of Home Cookies

size optionsCathy Jakicic for Taste of Home

I tested out two recipes from my new Taste of Home Christmas Cookies book—Lemon Snowflakes (I added lemon zest to the recipe because I think I felt guilty that they were so easy) and Carrot Cake Shortbread.

I learned: For the snowflakes (and all my drop cookies) I use a melon baller to scoop out the dough. I like smaller cookies, especially when giving away cookie packages as gifts. They’re easier to pack up and it encourages people to sample multiple cookies. For the smaller cookies, I start checking them five minutes before the bake time called for in the recipe.

I watched: the Rankin-Bass classics from my childhood: Rudolph, Frosty and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. (I’ve seen them about a million times, so it’s really more listening than watching.)

Day 3: Pecans & Walnuts

I made Tender Pecan Logs and Norwegian Cookies.

I learned: If either of a day’s cookies have dough that needs to be chilled, I make that one first and let it chill while I make the second cookie. Since both these cookies needed chilling, I made both doughs in the morning and then went on to the shaping and baking. According to Catherine from the Test Kitchen, chilling helps develop the flavor and also keeps the cookies from excess spreading.

I watched: both the original 1957 How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Jim Carrey’s 2000 version.

Day 4: Ice Box Cookies & Shortbread

Today I baked Cranberry Icebox Cookies (from the Taste of Home book) and Lemon & Rosemary Shortbread. Someone on my cookie list is not fond of walnuts, so I substituted dried cranberries for the nuts for an extra fruity cranberry cookie.

I learned: Since both recipes call for softened butter, I left it out the night before. If only one did, I’d schedule it second and let the butter soften while I worked on the first cookie. Softened butter is key when you’re creaming together butter and sugar.

It’s important to cream the butter and sugar for about five minutes to get it light and fluffy, Catherine says. The result will be cookies with a light texture from the trapped air during the creaming process. If your butter is cold, it can be microwaved at 50% power for a few seconds until it’s just softened.

Eggs are best at room temp too, according to the Test Kitchen. If you forgot to remove the eggs from the fridge, place them in a bowl of warm water. They’ll be room temperature in minutes.

I watched: the 1992 Muppet Christmas Carol and the 2009 Jim Carrey animated version.

Day 5: Year-Round Classics

Mexican Chocolate Crinkles and Oatmeal Molasses Crisps—both classics that I make all year.

I learned: I am a big believer in using real vanilla extract, but for a cookie (like the crinkles) with a strong non-vanilla flavor, I sometimes make an exception and use the artificial kind, just to give the budget a break.

I watched: Two underappreciated favorites, Arthur Christmas (2011) and Angela Lansbury’s Mrs. Santa Claus (1996).

Day 6: Melomakarona

Mom's spritz, fudge, and melakaronasCathy Jakicic for Taste of Home

The first recipe was Apple Peanut Butter Cookies. I added a cup of bacon pieces just because—and it was amazing. The next recipe was one of my family favorites: a melomakarona recipe from an old neighbor of my mom’s.

I learned: If I’m making a cookie that takes a few extra steps to put together, (the melomakarona, in this case) I usually pair them with something super-simple, like peanut butter cookies.

I watched: A trio of sentimental of classics, The Bishop’s Wife (1947), The Little Drummer Boy (1968) and A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).

Day 7: Spritz Recipes

no parchment spritz cookiesCathy Jakicic for Taste of Home

The spritz press returns for two more new cookies—Cardamom Spritz and Peanut Butter Spritz Fingers. (Both of these all-star recipes are in the Taste of Home cookbook, too.) Doing them together broke my rule of not doing two putzy cookies in one day, but it’s Day 7 and all bets are off!

I learned: I normally use parchment paper to keep my cookie sheets clean, but I skip this step with spritz cookies because they need something to stick to when they separate from the press.

I watched: Polar Express (2004) and Elf (2003).

Day 8: Simple Recipes

I followed my spritz day with two simple recipes: Whipped Shortbread and Sinterklaas. The Sinterklaas cookies call for 3/4-inch slices, but I sliced them at about 1/4 inch and adjusted the time accordingly. I also kept Day 8 simple because one of the Day 9 doughs (Ginger Thins) needs to chill overnight, so I started it on Day 8.

I learned: Even with tasting only one cookie per, I end up eating way more cookies than I normally would in nine days. So, at the beginning of the week, I made a batch of healthy soup, like Tortilla Vegetable Chicken, to eat throughout the baking marathon. When I’m shopping for ingredients, I also make sure to include other light, easy-to-prepare foods.

I watched: Bing Crosby, starting with Holiday Inn (1942) and White Christmas (1947).

Day 9: Cardamom & Ginger

I finished my adventure with another one from my own recipe file, Cardamom Caramel Crunches, and Ginger Thins from the book. They’re my final cookies because by the end, I’m a bit tired—but I can make the Crunches in my sleep.

I learned: The Ginger Thins are dipped in chocolate. They’re easier to pack if I give the chocolate time to set before I put them in an airtight container. I arranged them on cookie sheets and put them in my chilly foyer for a bit to cool.

I watched: Bing Crosby again, Going My Way (1944) and Bells of St. Mary’s (1945). That’s as Christmas-y as it gets!

How to Package Christmas Cookies

packing all of the christmas cookies upCathy Jakicic for Taste of Home

I set aside a few hours after my baking marathon to put together the gift packs. I’m always looking for a more efficient way to do this. I spread out all the containers from the chest freezer on the dining room table and packed up foil to-go boxes from a local restaurant supply store, while watching It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)—and planning for next year!

Learn more about how to pack and ship Christmas cookies.

Brand-New Christmas Cookies to Bake This Year
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Cathryn Jakicic
Cathy Jakicic has written about everything from business and bacteria to beads and baking in her career —but she greatly prefers the last two. She is a baker and a crafter and loves to try new recipes for both.