gingerbread chicken coops + white house scenes

seven things i learned about the white house!

1. it is way smaller than i thought it would be. i envisioned a huge building with millions of hallways to get lost in and a state dining room the size of alaska, but that’s not the case! it’s like polly pocket. with a kitchen that is only about twice the size of mine (but then again they do have a separate pastry kitchen and meat room…). 

2. they make 25,000 cookies every holiday season and some of their most popular ones are in the shape of bo and sunny, the white house pups.

3. bo walked by. eggboy saw him. i did not. i was too busy giggling and cookie decorating with joy and ashley, and eggboy didn’t get the memo that you’re supposed to tell everyone else in the room when a white house pup walks by. eggboy is fired.*** 

4. the walls of the white house gingerbread house get baked for eight hours at a very low temperature. this helps them get super duper sturdy and allows them to remain completely flat and not curvy. otherwise the humidity could make them warp. 

5. susie, the white house pastry chef, has been there for 21 years and is a wizard of sugar! the bottom of the white house gingerbread houses are reinforced with a layer of melty sugar that hardens and looks like glass. and all of the trees around the house are also made of sugar. no green frosted ice cream cones in sight.

6. The security men in the little security house that you have to go through to get onto the grounds burn sugar cookie scented candles. idk if this is the norm but when we walked in all of the lights were off and it smelled of cookies and the big beefy security men who were ushering us through the metal detectors seemed to really appreciate it when we complimented them on their candle.

7. the news briefing room is exactly what it looks like on veep and designated survivor

***eggboy edit: he wants you to know that he is 99.9% sure that is was bo and is reserving .1% for the possibility that this could have been a bo decoy and eggboy doesn’t want to get arrested if this was classified information. hiiii white house! 

even though we spent less than 48 hours in d.c., we had the gosh darn loveliest time! aside from spending an afternoon at the white house, we hung out with the super awesome ladies of pineapple d.c. at on rye (which is the most insanely delicious new jewish deli (they have babka ice cream sandwiches!!!)), poked around the smithsonian and saw julia child’s old kitchen and got a tour from our new friend jessica, met our congressman who we learned is also a musician, and saw some extremely wonderful old friends!! everybody we saw had so much pride in d.c., and i certainly saw why. it is such a beautiful city with so many cool historical things, which i guess is exactly what you want in a capitol. that’s all i have to say about that, i wish i could say more, we tried to extend our trip because at the end of it we still had a list of people to see and things to eat, but then eggboy got food poisoning and barfed his brains out so we had to leave. he was officially forgiven for not telling me about his bo sighting. 

all of susie’s gingerbread got me inspired to come home and make my own gingerbread houses! it was the first time i’d had any desire to do that since i burnt myself out on making our gingerbread farm. i figured i should ease into it with something on the smaller, simpler side, so here are some gingerbread chicken coops! i searched high and low for chicken cookie cutters but couldn’t find a small enough one, so the official story here is that all of our chickens are dressed up as other animals. 

gingerbread chicken coops

makes 4 small houses


for the gingerbread:

1 c dark corn syrup, molasses, or a mix of the two (corn syrup for lighter colored walls, molasses for darker walls)

3/4 c dark brown sugar

3/4 c margarine or butter

4 c all-purpose flour

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

for the gingerbread house glue:

3 large egg whites

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

4 c powdered sugar

for decoration:

candy, sprinkles, shredded coconut, marzipan, chocolate, or other edible things you can find around your kitchen


for the gingerbread:

In a medium saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, combine corn syrup or molasses, brown sugar, and margarine or butter. Heat over medium heat on the stove or in the microwave for 1-minute increments, stirring in between each, until the margarine or butter is melted and the sugar has completely dissolved.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Stir in the sugar mixture until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350° F and get your stencils ready. You can either make them or find them onlinethe coops pictured are about 2 3/4" wide and 4 1/4" tall at the tallest point.

Roll your dough out onto a piece of parchment paper that will fit on your cookie sheet. Lightly flour the dough and place your stencils on top (leaving 1 inch in between them) and use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to trace around them. Remove excess dough, slide the parchment onto your cookie sheet, and then bake until the edges just start to brown. Begin checking for doneness at 15 minutes. If you'd like a darker brown color, you can leave them in there for up to 45 minutes. You can re-roll your dough scraps a few times. If it starts to feel dry, microwave it for 30 seconds or so.

allows the walls to cool and then assemble using gingerbread house glue...

for the gingerbread house glue:

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Beat on medium high for 7 to 10 minutes, until very fluffy.

Immediately spoon into a piping bag and use. Any frosting that's not being used should remain under plastic wrap (the plastic wrap should touch the surface of the frosting), so that it doesn't dry out.

to assemble the coops:

use the glue like mortar, pasting together the walls. reinforce every corner on the inside with more glue. prop them up to dry before gluing on the roof.

once all of the coops are assembled, let them dry for about 15 to 20 minutes. then, use your remaining glue to decorate! 


macadamia marzipan balls

alana says that it was my idea, i'm pretty sure that it was hers, but at some point in malta we were inspired by some poolside chewy marzipan cookies to throw a blogged out marzipan kiki for christmas. (what's a kiki?)

unselfishly, our marzipan party is a reminder to listen to or see or play the air tambourine along with the nutcracker at least once this christmas week. the sugar plums! the pirouettes! the behind the scenes at the city ballet instagrams that were a highlight of the internet! and of course the marzipans. you should eat many marzipans.

selfishly, i really just wanted more marzipan content spewed onto the internet because marzipan is easily the best part of the holidays. marzipan, dumplingsthe santa clause. and stoop traipsing around the house announcing that her pup has pooped with christmas confidence. (don't ask.) 

and the kiki hath delivered! look at the marzipan wizardry that has arrived to you today: lily’s pistachio marzipan ice cream, stephanie’s marzipan chocolate chip cookies, beau’s cardamom marzipan rolls, michelle’s marzipan semlor, betty’s sesame (!) marzipan rose cakes, and alana’s remake of those chewy malta cookies. i am really excited about all of these, i think this marzipan party should become a tradition. 

my contribution is macadamia marzipan! which can be made with two (2!) ingredients if you play your cards right. typically, basic marzipan ingredients include nuts, sugar, and some type of binder, like egg whites or corn syrup. but because macadamia nuts are so fatty, marzipaning them doesn't require an additional binder. it's a lot lighter and fluffier than your typical almond marzipan, so it's not necessarily something that would hold up to, say, cutting out a moose shape and sticking it on a cake, but when it's balled up and rolled around in a dish of sparkly sprinkles, it is a painfully easy and amazingly tasty way to add bling to your holiday table. pretty pretty princess-style bling. 

macadamia marzipan balls

makes 12


1 1/2 cups roasted macadamias (if unsalted, add a pinch of salt)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Sprinkles, optional


blend the macadamias in a food processor just until crumbly. don’t over blend or you’ll end up with macadamia butter. add the confectioners’ sugar (and salt, if your nuts were unsalted) and blend for a wee bit longer, until combined and clumpy. it’s ready when it sticks together if you squeeze a bit in your hand.

pile it all together on a work surface and then divide it into 12 small balls. serve them naked like that or roll them in sprinkles. enjoy!


pictured: knife / slab / dish / board

sugar cookie mini cakes

and a little guide to fixing holiday dessert fails!

have we ever had a real honest discussion about bundt cakes and how i've never made a successful one and how it was even once a dark joke with yossy and sarah and me? and how all i ever wanted for my wedding was a gaggle of mini bundts on my dessert table and even though that is a gross exaggeration, i tried so hard to have red velvet mini bundts and failed miserably and had to reroute those suckers at the very last minute before saying my vows? the bundt struggle is real, as is the struggle with so many other holiday desserts and i've been doing some thinking: it's time we did some good old fashioned mental preparation for the holidays. 

sure, dessert fails aren't totally specific to the holidays, but any time you're making a dessert for a special occasion, you have the added pressure of *time*, and the challenge gets worse. like, just last month, i got an email about a failed batch of halloween cookies and by the time i could sit down and write a reply, i realized that halloween was half over and knew my advice probably wouldn't do much good at that point. so because the holidays are upon us and because i'm expecting all of you to do a bunch of baking this season, i've put together a little list of tricks that will help you save and repurpose any desserts that have gone south. it's my little way of keeping it together during the holidays, or as the good folks at hallmark say, #keepsakeit together.

if your bundt cake or any other cake breaks while it's coming out of the pan: crumble it all up, distribute the crumbles into individual jars and top them with a dollop of frosting and sprinkles (this is what i did with my wedding bundts!) or you can make cake truffles.

if your gingerbread walls fall apart: you can do what i did during the great gingerbread house catastrophe of 1997, in which we accidentally bought the fluffy flimsy frosting instead of the holds-like-glue frosting: use cardboard for the walls and glue them together with a hot glue gun. decorate with candy as if nothing happened... not even a monstrous tantrum...

if your cheesecake cracks down the middle: happens to me all the time. ugh! do what eva does and dump a bunch of berries on it! or cover the top in frosting or caramel. yum.

if your pie fails in any of the million ways that pies do: chop it up and fold it into some ice cream for a pie sundae or a pie milkshake. you were planning on serving it with ice cream anyway, right?

if your meringues deflate in the oven: break all of them up to make an eton mess!

if your cookies break or burn or you spend your afternoon building sugar cookie mini cakes and then a storm (or cat?) blows through and they all fall down: ok, i made you this sugar cookie mini cake recipe so that i could demonstrate what to do! these little guys are inspired by this cute ornament (seriously with all of the mini cakes that i've made why have i not made cookie mini cakes?? thank you, cookie ornament, for inspiring me to do this!) and for the record, no, a kitty did not come and tip all of these over. we're just talking theoretically here... see below for the recipe and my solution for fixing cookies gone wrong:

sugar cookie mini cakes

makes 6



3 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 c unsalted butter, softened
1 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 large egg
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


1 c unsalted butter, softened
2 c confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
A pinch of kosher salt

Sprinkles, for decorating



Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium high until pale and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the extracts and egg and mix to combine.  Reduce the speed to low and then gradually add the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Pour the dough out onto a clean work surface and give it a few kneads to bring it all together. Divide it in half, wrap half of it plastic wrap, and refrigerate it while you roll out the first half. (Alternatively, you can make the dough in advance, wrap all of it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight.)

Dust your work surface and a rolling pin with confectioners’ sugar and roll out the dough to 1/4” thickness. Cut out five increasing sizes of circles, 1 1/2"-3" (i use these biscuit cutters) and use a small offset spatula to transfer them to a baking sheet, 1" apart. Re-roll scraps and repeat with the remaining half of the dough. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly browned. Let the cookies cool on the pans for 5 minutes and then transfer them a wire rack to cool completely.


In a large bowl with an electric mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until soft and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and mix to combine. Mix in the extracts and salt. Add food coloring, if desired.


Transfer the frosting to a piping bag. Stack up the circles, largest on bottom, with a thin layer of frosting between them and decorate with sprinkles.

...ok so now you're la-dee-da going about your day after you spent hours building these and this happens:

never fear, make a good old northern midwest cookie salad! crunch up your cookies, fold them into whipped cream, add some fruit if you'd like, top with sprinkles (important!) and make some obscure fargo reference while you serve it in cute trifle cups. and hint: if your cookies failed by way of over baking, let your salad sit in the fridge for a good few hours (or overnight) before serving to allow the cookies to soften in the whipped cream. boom! cookie failure has been reversed. 

congratulations, you are now a holiday dessert resuscitator! now go forth and bake and enjoy your holiday season. 


thank you, hallmark! for sponsoring this post!! check out hallmark's microsite to see how others #keepsakeit together for the holidays! 


halva rugelach

i am stressing out right now because there isn't enough snow on the ground. i came here for the snow. i bought the last pair of bean boots for the snow. i'm having my wedding here for the snow. i ate a lot of bread and cheese this past month so that i could plump up for the snow. where is all the snow!!!!!

i've been checking the weather forecast like a farmer and there is not one unit of snow in the next 10 days. not even a subzero temperature. it will be in the 40s on saturdayi hate it. h8 it. 

all i want to do is sit by a frosty window with eggboy and a peppermint mocha as we watch herds of snow come twinkling into our lives by the foot. and then in two and a half weeks when we get married, i want to be this and this and i want to make rosemary syrup and pour it over a cone of snow served in one of the 500 snowcone cones that i just ordered from the internet restaurant store. 

does anybody know a snow dance? or perhaps a shredded coconut company that will come and sprinkle coconut everywhere? can you people in new york place some in a box and send it to me????

*at least there are cookies*

rugelach has always provided warm fuzzy comfort to me, even when it's not cold, mostly because it's one of mum's specialties. she sent me packages of it all the time when i was in college and my friends went gaga over "jody's rugelach." she usually fills it with chocolate or cinnamon sugar, but this version is filled with a pimped out version of halva spread. they are best straight out of the oven with a nice hot beverage. 

halva rugelach

makes 20-24



1 c unsalted butter, softened

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1/4 c sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 c all-purpose flour


3/4 c tahini

1/4 c honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

a pinch of kosher salt

a pinch of ground cinnamon

egg wash + topping:

1 large egg

1 tb honey

a splash of water

toasted sesame seeds

sprinkles, optional

powdered sugar, optional


in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese. add the sugar, and then add the egg yolks, one at a time. beat in the extracts, sprinkle in the salt, and then add the flour. dough will be quite sticky. divide it into two parts, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and then refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

prepare the filling by mixing together all of the filling ingredients until smooth.

preheat oven to 375. working with one half of the dough at a time, roll it out on a floured surface into a rectangle (about 9 inches by 13 inches). spread half of the filling in a thin even layer all over the rectangle, leaving a 1-inch wide space along the long edge furthest from you. roll the dough up like a jelly roll, beginning from the edge that's closest to you. cut it into 1 1/2-inch pieces and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment, 1 inch apart. repeat with remaining dough.

beat together the egg, honey, and a splash of water, and brush it onto the tops of the rugelach. sprinkle on toasted sesame seeds and sprinkles, if using.

bake until slightly browned, begin checking for doneness at 18 minutes.

dust with powdered sugar if you'd like and enjoy!

this is part of honestly yum's virtual cookie swap!! check out these amazinggggg cookies that i wish we were actually real-life swapping:

buckwheat + oat flour christmas cutouts from a brown table

salted white chocolate oatmeal cookies from honestly yum

spiced cocoa polvorones from the bojon gourmet

pine nut cookies from shutterbean

matcha coconut macaroons from i am a food blog

gingerbread madeleines with molasses glaze from the kitchy kitchen

white chocolate and cranberry biscotti from what's gaby cooking

peppermint hot chocolate cookies from bakers royale