Rather than get presents for family members, my mother and I decided to make everyone goody boxes filled with sweet treats.
Because my mom’s family is mostly German, I picked out a few German specialties for the boxes.
We baked the first items, Lebkuchen, a week ago, because the cookies need to “set” for a couple of weeks. The word Lebkuchen means “cake of life” auf Deutsch. They’re basically Christmas sugar cookies from Nuremburg. They take ground almonds, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom, and are made with an icing of rum, sugar and egg whites. I thought the icing had a weak rum taste when it was fresh, but a glance at the cookies last night showed me just how much the alcohol has set in — woo.
Yesterday was basic Pillsbury sugar cookie-decorating day, an excuse for my cousins, my aunts, my mother, my grandmother and I to go nuts with icing and sprinkles. We opened up English Christmas poppers and wore the tissue-paper hats all day. Thumbs up. As I type this, a plate of fresh fudge is sitting in the kitchen.
Tomorrow we’re making Berlin Kranzer, which roughly translates to “Berlin wreaths.” They’re little shortbread-like cookies twisted into wreath shapes and garnished with red and green peppermint candies. Tuesday is amaretto brownie day. I didn’t feel like springing for the actual liquer, seeing as I don’t generally care for the stuff, so we’re just using almond extract instead in the brownies and frosting.
I’m excited for Wednesday, even though the cake that day is going to be a challenge. I’m making Aegean cheesecake, using Greek thyme honey and riccotta in place of the more expensive mizithra cheese. We’re also doing the crust from scratch, which could be tricky. Thursday, right before we finally pack up the boxes (we’re also including baggies of chocolate-covered almonds that my dad makes at work), we’re making my piece de resistance: Black Forest cake.
It’s chocolate cake with Kirsch (German cherry brandy) mixed in, between layers of whipped cream and stoned black cherries. I’m going to shave Lindt truffles on top of it and garnish each slice with a fresh cherry. Mmm.
I’ll see what kind of mental shape I’m in by the time Christmas rolls around. I may not want to make anything else, ever. Last night, while talking to one of my overseas friends, I told him all that I was making. His response was something like, “How much cake do you NEED?!”
How much, indeed.