We all know that Christmas is the time for giving, remembering and thanking our family and friends by way of a small gift. But, lots of small gifts can soon add up to cost a lot of money very fast, on what is already a tight family budget.

Whether it is your Nana or Grandad, neighbour, work colleague, or your child’s teacher you just want say thank you to, nothing beats a delightfully yummy tasting gift, created from your own kitchen, and children get a great sense of achievement when they have been involved in helping create a wonderful gift.

The ideas are limitless these days as to what you can create with a few good ideas and recipes. Presentation is also a key factor in giving your edible gift the wow factor.

A few ideas you may like to try this festive season are the traditional gingerbread men, home-made chocolates, truffles, Christmas decorated cupcakes, vanilla cookies, fudge, shortbread, gingerbread houses or trees, chocolate trees or mini Christmas cakes.

Home-made chocolatesCupcakes : Gingerbread men and houses : Sugar cookies : Chocolate Christmas Trees : Fudge truffles and rum balls

Home-made chocolates

Chocolate making can be daunting for those who have never tried it before, but it is actually very easy and only takes a few minutes. A variety of Christmas chocolate moulds are available these days very cheaply from most cake decorating supplies stores.

Start by melting the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl over a pot of hot water on the stove (ensure you supervise young children or do this part for them). It is essential to ensure no water gets into the chocolate, as this will cause the chocolate to lumpy and it will not set properly.

Stir the chocolate until completely melted, and then remove from the stove. Spoon the chocolate into the individual cavities on the mould, making sure you push the chocolate to the outside edge of the design, and fill it right to the top.

Gently tap the mould on the bench top to release any trapped air bubbles, then level off any excess chocolate with a spatula or knife.

Then simply place the mould into the freezer for 10 minutes to set. Once set take from the freezer, gently turn the mould over onto the bench top and tap gently – the chocolates simply fall from the mould then. Wipe the mould down with a dry cloth and you are ready for the next round.

Chocolate can also be flavoured with oil based flavours and coloured with powdered or oil based food colourings.

For variations instead of using a chocolate mould, try stirring hokey pokey pieces, dried apricots, coconut or peanuts into your chocolate and spoon onto baking paper then freeze to set.

There is a great selection of Christmas themed bags and boxes available to present the chocolates in – try your local cake decorating shop, $2 shop or knick knack shop and you will be sure to find something you like.

Cupcakes

Cupcakes are the “in” gift at the moment and can look and taste simply divine. A beautiful cupcake paper is the trick, along with a good recipe, great tasting icing and a beautiful edible decoration to finish it off.

We get a lot of people ask how they can keep their pretty cupcake papers looking clean, crisp and pretty looking after baking, as they tend to lose their colour when baked in. Well the trick is actually double layering your cupcake paper. Try putting a plain white paper inside the patterned paper. This way the white paper absorbs the oil and grease from the batter and leaves your pretty paper clean and crisp.

A great swirl of beautiful icing on the top, with a sprinkle of edible glitter and an edible decoration, and you have a batch of beautiful looking cupcakes ready to give.

The ideal way to present your cupcakes is in a cupcake or cake box, and top with a nice piece of ribbon or bow and a hand – made card. Most cake decorating stores and some supermarkets will have edible glitter, Christmas themed cupcake papers, icing decorations and cake boxes available.

Chocolate cupcakes

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence 6 oz melted butter

1 cup milk

6 Tablespoons cocoa

2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

Put all in a bowl and beat for 3 mins. Bake at 160 degrees for approx 12 mins or until cooked.

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

6 Tablespoons golden syrup 150 grams caster sugar

2 Tablespoons water

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons mixed spice

3 teaspoons ground ginger 150 grams butter

1 teaspoon baking soda 450 grams flour

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Gently boil syrup, water, sugar and spices in a large saucepan.

Bring to the boil, stirring well.

Remove from heat and stir in butter and baking soda.

Add enough sifted flour to make firm dough.

Sit aside and leave to cool.

Roll out when cool on flour dusted bench and cut into shapes with cutters dipped in flour. Bake for approx 12 minutes or until golden and crisp.

Decorate as desired when cool.

Gingerbread men and houses

 gingerbread-house

Gingerbread men and gingerbread houses have always been a NZ tradition at Christmas time, and gingerbread houses make a wonderful table centrepiece. These are a great activity to get the kids involved with, and can create many lifetime memories to treasure.

The trick is colour and lots of it. Pick your lollies with the kids from your local supermarket, pebbles, wine gums, jellybeans, liquorice allsorts and jubes are all great to decorate your gingerbread house with.

There is a range of gingerbread house cutter sets available these days, or create your own template with some stiff cardboard. Gingerbread houses look irrestible when presented on a cake board, decorated with royal icing to look like a “village” theme. You could then go a step further and wrap with cellophane and curling ribbon for the extra finishing touch.

Sugar cookies

Sugar cookies are easy and fun to make – with a wonderful selection of cookie cutters available from knick knack shops, cake decorating and kitchen accessories shops. Simply ice and decorate as desired, and can be presented in cake boxes tied with a themed Christmas ribbon.

Vanilla Rolled Cookie Recipe

This is the cookie recipe you need when wanting to make cookies using your cookie cutters. It doesn’t spread like a lot of other recipes out there and does not need to be chilled. It tastes delicious and you can take out the vanilla and almond essence and add in a different oil flavor if you so wish – I love adding strawberry or raspberry to mine for a nice change.

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla essence 1/2 teaspoon almond essence 2 3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Beat butter and sugar.

Add egg and essences.

Add flour and baking powder.

Do Not Chill mixture !

Roll out mixture on a flour dusted bench top. Cut into shapes with cutters dipped in flour. Cook at 190 degrees until cooked – approx 6-7 minutes.

Cool and then decorate as desired.

Chocolate Christmas Trees

A chocolate Christmas tree would definitely have to be one of my favourite gifts to give at Christmas time, and is easily made when you know how. Start by using a stiff piece of card board, wrapped into a cone shape and fastened with strong cello tape. Wrap the cone with silver foil wrapping paper.

Choose some wrapped chocolates or lollies from the supermarket pick n mix section. (I prefer to use Cadbury Roses, and colour theme my trees – red, green and gold wrapped chocolates, or silver, blue and purple wrapped chocolates look stunning colour combinations together) then simply start at the bottom of the cone and work your way around the base, hot gluing the top end of the twisted wrapped chocolates or lollies onto the cone vertically.

Once you have done the first base row, move up and continue this process until you have the entire cone covered in chocolates or lollies. Then simply glue a star decoration onto the top of the cone, and glue the bottom base of the cone on a silver foil covered board. You will be amazed at how stunning this looks when finished, and how easy it is to make.

Fudge Truffles and Rum balls

Fudge, truffles and rum balls are also great tasting special gifts that can be presented easily in noodle boxes decorated with Christmas ribbon and stickers. Try some of the recipes below on edible gifts this festive season and watch the smiles of joy they will bring to the lucky recipient.

Merry Christmas to all and happy holidays.

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Donna Kyle runs www.cakestuff.co.nz. She is a font of knowledge about sweet treats and loves creating fabulous, tasty gifts.

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