Traditional Holiday Recipes

Jenni Young, Staff Writer

Every year, individuals all over the world bake a variety of different goodies to share with others and spread holiday cheer. According to writer Rebecca Morris, all good holiday recipes share one common trait: “Their ability to bring a smile to your friends and families faces.” Whether celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, another religious holiday, or simply time off of work and school, people love to commemorate these events with baked goods that are often tied to tradition and culture. As long as you follow a simple recipe, you can delve into the joys of holiday baking no matter your skill level. Below are some of Issaquah High students’ favorite festive treats, along with other ideas to kick off winter break. 

Because the IHS student body is extremely diverse in backgrounds of religion, culture, and ethnicity; favorite holiday confections amongst the students vary greatly. Sophomore Hayden Rogers shared that some of his favorite holiday treats are chocolate chip cookies and pancakes, while freshman Lyla Cohen lists brownies and chocolate chip cookies as hers. You can find hundreds of recipes for these beloved desserts anywhere online if you choose to make them this holiday season! Senior Esther Sneath says her favorite holiday treats are “hot cocoa bombs, a chocolate yule log, and gingerbread cookies. They’re easy to make, tasty, and I have them every holiday season, so they remind me of Christmas.” Sneath goes on to say, “I used to make yule logs with my Grandma every Christmas in England.” Years of family memories and traditions make this dessert, and gingerbread cookies her favorite. Although she has not been able to always spend the holidays with her grandparents, the gingerbread cookies she makes yearly remind her of home. Below is that family gingerbread cookie recipe:


  • 8oz plain flour
  • 2 level teaspoon ground ginger or less if you like it less strong
  • 1/2 level teaspoon bicarbonate
  • 3 ozs butter
  • 4 ozs soft brown sugar or caster sugar
  • 5ozs golden syrup


  1. Set oven to gas 4 or 180 C/350 F
  2. Sieve dry ingredients.
  3. Melt syrup and butter together.
  4. Stir in sugar and add melted butter and no syrup.
  5. Knead together lightly till it is no longer sticky.
  6. Roll out thinly on a floured surface and stamp out with cutters.
  7. Place on baking sheets.
  8. Bake in the centre of the oven for 12 – 15 mins until cooked.
  9. Cool on a wire rack.
  10. These keep in an airtight tin for 1 – 2 weeks. Enjoy!

Likewise, junior JP Johnson has his own special holiday baking traditions. He says every year, “My family always makes Dr. Pepper chocolate cake. We have to go way out in the countryside of Texas to find the cake mix.” Although he does not have the specific recipe to share, his intriguing comments have led me to include a similar recipe:

 Dr. Pepper Cake Recipe


  •  1 1/2 cup Dr. Pepper soda
  •  1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  •  1 stick salted butter (8 tablespoons)
  •  4 tablespoons cocoa powder (again, I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder)
  •  2 cups sugar
  •  2 cups flour
  •  1 teaspoon baking soda
  •  2 eggs
  •  1/2 cup buttermilk


  •  1 stick salted butter (8 tablespoons)
  •  4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  •  8 tablespoons milk
  •  4 cups confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)


For cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F and grease or spray with cooking spray a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
  2. Begin by combining the Dr. Pepper, oil, butter and cocoa powder in a saucepan over medium heat. When it comes to a simmer, mix well and turn the stove off.
  3. Mix dry ingredients together (sugar, flour and baking soda), add to mixture in saucepan and mix well by hand, being extra careful to not overbeat the batter.
  4. In a separate small bowl, lightly beat the eggs and buttermilk together, then add them to the saucepan and combine batter well by hand. But again, do not over beat.
  5. Pour into a greased baking pan and bake at 350-degrees F for approx. 23-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake.

For the frosting:

  1. In a saucepan, combine butter, cocoa powder and milk together over medium heat, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth.
  2. Add in the powdered sugar a little at a time, combining after each addition until smooth.
  3. Pour over the warm cake. Enjoy.

Some winter baking ideas on the internet included, but are not limited to sugar cookies, caramels, old fashioned gingerbread, creme brulee, Christmas pinwheel cookies, homemade Hanukkah gelt, holiday sticky buns, apple spice cake, figgy pudding, and holiday biscotti. The Martha Stewart Website, Food Network, and Allrecipes contain the recipes for each of these desserts for those that are interested. 

All in all, it is exciting to try new recipes and examine the depth of culture and tradition behind every holiday confection. As the weather gets colder and you spend more time indoors, perhaps you will consider baking one of these winter desserts that will warm your holiday season.