7 Sweet Symbols of the Holiday Season

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Fragrant pine branches layered with ribbon and candy canes, a freshly cut yule log smoldering in the fireplace, winter-white landscapes come to life with merry snow people: These are the season’s defining emblems, and you can always rely on them to set a festive scene at your holiday party. Even better is when they’re manifested in sweet, edible form. Here are seven of winter’s familiar symbols transformed into whimsical desserts, including delicate snowflake cookies, classic French yule log cake and a tower of cupcakes fastened in the shape of a Christmas tree.

Cupcake Christmas Tree (pictured above)

Transform basic chocolate cupcakes into a stunning centerpiece for your Christmas dessert spread by generously coating the frosted tops with green sprinkles or jimmies and fastening them onto a Styrofoam cone using toothpicks.

Strawberry Santas

Giada De Laurentiis recommends these delicate treats for a holiday brunch or a light dessert. For assembly, simply pipe rich mascarpone frosting onto cut strawberries, reserving each strawberry tip for Santa’s hat.

Brown Sugar Cookies

These delicate snowflakes have a leg up on basic sugar cookies thanks to the brown sugar, which lends a warm toffee note that’s so desirable for a December cookie swap. Play with different flavor variations by adding spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

Candy Cane Cookies

If actual candy canes are too sharp for your palate, these tender cookies with just a hint of peppermint flavor are the perfect alternative. Sandra Lee uses cream cheese for rich texture, boxed sugar-cookie mix for convenience and just a little bit of peppermint extract for a nod to the classic holiday flavor.

Gingerbread Cookies for the Holidays

Alex Guarnaschelli’s crisp gingerbread men are fragrant with winter spices like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Once they’ve cooled, dress the little merrymakers with spiked orange frosting to complete the look. If you have tree-shaped cookie cutters, use them on your second batch of dough to add some variety to your holiday cookie plate.

Holiday Cupcakes

For a sweet and celebratory Christmas treat, Sandra tops moist peppermint-cranberry cupcakes with white icing and colorful candies. Follow her easy steps for creating festive Santa and reindeer toppers using marshmallows, pretzel sticks, jelly beans and more.

Buche de Noel

This traditional French yule log cake will transform your holiday dessert spread into a whimsical fantasyland. Rich chocolate genoise (sponge cake) is rolled in a coffee- and brandy-flavored buttercream, then decorated with marzipan berries, pinecones and mushrooms. The look of awe on your guests’ faces will be well worth the time and effort.