The Main Menu: November is the time to get a head start on holiday baking

Brown sugar shortbread is among the holiday recipes Jan Main has for bakers who want to get an early start.


Get a head start on the holiday season by baking now.

The colder days of November are perfect for “stirring up” your favourite recipes with friends and family, or try these tried and true favourites of mine.

It is a fun activity, especially done with a friend or grandchild.

Baking freezes well, usually for at least six months and when prettily wrapped, they make great gifts too!

White Chocolate Cranberry Poundcake

This is a non-traditional “fruitcake” made with white chocolate and cranberries sure to please the most “modern” taste buds.

It keeps well refrigerated for a week if well wrapped. For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap and over-wrap in foil then freeze for up to six months.

It is great for a party because it serves a crowd, 16 to 20. It can also be made into small loaf pans. If prettily wrapped, it can be given as a gift.

1 ½ cups (375 mL)                          butter, softened

¾ cup (175 mL)                               granulated sugar

¾ cup (175 mL)                               packed brown sugar

1 tbsp (15 mL)                                 grated orange rind (rind from 1 orange)

1 tsp (5 mL)                                      vanilla

4                                                          eggs

2 ¼ cups (550 mL)                          all-purpose flour

2 tsp (10 mL)                                   baking powder

½ tsp (2 mL)                                     salt

1 ½ cup (475 mL)                            fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup (250 mL)                                white chocolate chips


1 cup (250 mL)                                white chocolate chips

1/3-1/2 cup (75-125 mL)             orange juice

Orange slices as garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F (180).  Spray a 9-inch bundt pan or tube pan with baking spray or line 2 (6 ½ inch x3 inch) loaf pans with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl using electric mixer, beat butter and sugars together until fluffy.  Beat in orange rind and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time until thick and smooth. In separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually beat in flour mixture into creamed mixture. Fold in cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into prepared pan(s). Bake about 1 hour for large cake or 30-35 minutes for smaller loaf pans or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool on rack. Unmold onto serving plate if desired.

To make glaze: Melt chocolate chips in a mixing bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Gradually stir in orange juice to desired consistency. Drizzle over poundcake(s). Garnish with thinly cut orange slices. Makes about 16-20 slices.


If you enjoy the rich flavour of almonds, you will love these dainty squares suitable for any special occasion.

Individual pieces may be decorated with sugar paste rosebuds or use green fondant to cut out individual holly leaves for a wintry celebration.


1 cup (250 mL)                                all-purpose flour

¼ tsp (1 m)                                       salt

½ cup (125 mL)                               butter, softened

1 tbsp (15 mL)                                water

Jam Layer

¼ cup (50 mL)                                  seedless raspberry jam


½ cup (125 mL)                               butter

2/3 cup (175 mL)                            granulated sugar

2                                                          eggs

2/3 cups (175 mL)                          rice flour

¼ tsp (1 mL)                                     salt

Red and green food colouring

Almond Flavoured Frosting:

1 ½ cups (375 mL)                          sifted icing sugar

¼ cup (50 mL)                                  soft butter

1 tsp (5 mL)                                      almond flavouring

1 tbsp (15 mL)                                 milk

Pastry: In mixing bowl, stir together flour and salt. Using pastry blender cut butter into flour until there are fine crumbs. Stir in water. Form into ball. Using a rolling pin, roll dough between 2 layers of parchment paper to fit a 9- inch (23 cm) pan previously. For easy removal of square, spray pan with baking spray; gently remove one layer of parchment from pastry and invert the square pan over top of the pastry; with one hand on top of pastry, quickly turn pan right side up and gently ease pastry down into prepared pan.

Spread pastry layer evenly with jam.

Filling: In mixing bowl using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in eggs until fluffy. Stir in rice flour and salt. Divide dough in half. Tint half dough pale pink and half pale green (you will only need a small dab of colouring). Spoon equal sized spoonful of coloured dough on top of raspberry layer to create checkerboard effect.

Bake at 375 F (190 C) for 30-35 minutes or until top is pale brown. Cool on rack.

Frosting: in mixing bowl using electric mixer beat butter until creamy, gradually beat in icing sugar, almond extract, milk and a small amount green food colouring to create a pale green frosting. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Spread evenly on cooled cake. Decorate. Cut into 25 squares.

Brown Sugar Shortbread

Celebrations would not be complete without this melt-in-the-mouth cookie.

For easy preparation, leave the butter out to soften the night before you make shortbread. To measure flour accurately, spoon flour into a dry cup measure and level off with the flat edge of a knife.

1 cup (250 mL)                                butter, softened

2 cups (500 mL)                              all-purpose flour

½ cup (125 mL)                               packed brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F (180C). Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In mixing bowl, measure out butter. Using electric mixer beat butter until fluffy then gradually beat in flour spoonful by spoonful, then gradually beat in brown sugar until well combined.

Roll dough out between 2 pieces of parchment paper to about 1/4 inch (.5 cm) thickness. Cut out with cookie cutters and arrange in neat rows on baking sheet. Bake about 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Cool on rack.

Pack shortbread carefully in cookie tin in single layers separated by parchment paper and store for up to 1 week. Freeze for longer storage. Makes about 2 dozen medium sized cookies.

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