Treat yourself to something sweet this holiday season

The Manitoban staff shares their favourite family recipes for some seriously scrumptious desserts

With the rise of COVID-19 in Manitoba, this year’s holiday season is sure to look a lot different, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate safely with some tasty holiday baking. Satisfy your sweet tooth with some of these delectable holiday delights this season, from our homes to yours.


Sharron’s Pumpkin Cheesecake

Matthew Merkel, sports reporter

This recipe belongs to my mom, Sharron. One Christmas, she couldn’t decide whether to make a pumpkin pie or a cheesecake for our family dinner, so she combined the two. The resulting dish quickly became a favourite among my cousins and I, and now it’s a regular holiday dessert in my house.


For the crust:

1 1/2 cups Oreo cookie crumbs or graham cracker crumbs

6 tbsp (3/4 stick) melted butter

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

For the filling:

16 oz. cream cheese

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

15 oz. canned pumpkin puree

4 eggs

1/4 cup sour cream

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

2 tsp pumpkin spice

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp vanilla

For the crust:

Mix the Oreo cookie crumbs or graham cracker crumbs with sugar, cinnamon and melted butter in a bowl. Line the bottom and sides of a baking pan with the mixture. Bake at 176 C (350 F) for eight minutes. After baking, let cool on a cooling rack while you make the filling.

For the filling:

In a bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, eggs, sour cream, flour, salt, vanilla and pumpkin spice. In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese and brown sugar together. Combine the two mixtures together, mix well. Pour the mixture into the pie crust.

Tap the bottom of the pan or use a toothpick to pop any bubbles that may be forming in the mixture.

Bake at 176 C (350 F) for 60 minutes. After 60 minutes, turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven for 45 more minutes.

To check doneness, stick a toothpick into the filling. If it comes out clean, then the pumpkin pie cheesecake is done.

After baking, let cool on a cooling rack.

Serve cool or at room temperature.


Spiced Chai Sugar Cookies

Shaylyn Maharaj-Poliah, arts and culture editor

Tender, delicious and so easy to make — these classic cookies paired with fragrant chai tea make for a warm and exotic treat that perfectly complements your favourite holiday drink. I like a little extra chai flavour in my cookies, so I add two tea bags worth of leaves, but feel free to dial it back.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup softened butter

3/4 cup granulated white sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 to 2 tbsp chai tea leaves (about 1 to 2 tea bags)

Cream together the butter and sugar with a hand mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut open the tea bags and add in the tea leaves.

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet in increments until combined.

Turn out the dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface so it doesn’t stick. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for one hour.

After the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 176 C (350 F).

Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and place on a lightly floured surface.

Roll out the dough using rolling pin until you have a half-inch thick sheet of dough. Cut out circles using a glass or some festive cookie cutters.

Transfer the cookies to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about an inch apart.

Don’t waste those extra dough scraps, reroll them and cut out more cookies. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let them cool completely and enjoy.

Makes approximately two dozen cookies.


Christmas Bikkies

Kaelen Bell, arts and culture reporter

Christmas baking, much like Christmas itself, takes on sinister new layers as you age.

The veil slowly lifts, and all that effortless Christmas magic reveals itself to be a frenzy of stress and expectations. With this in mind, I prefer my Christmas baking to be a simple set-and-forget situation that can be easily doubled or tripled and sent away.

This cranberry, white chocolate and pistachio cookie recipe — what my family inexplicably calls “Christmas Bikkies” — meets the criteria.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, softened

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest

1/2 cup shelled pistachios

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup white chocolate chips or chunks of white baking chocolate

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup decorative sugar

Stir together flour and salt in a bowl. Beat together butter, granulated sugar and zest in a separate large bowl at medium-high until pale and fluffy.

Reduce to low and add dry ingredients, mixing until dough comes together in clumps, then mix in pistachios, cranberries and white chocolate.

Gather and press dough together, then cut into two equal pieces. Form each piece of dough into a log about one-and-a-half inches in diameter using wax paper. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until very firm, at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 176 C (350 F). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Brush egg over the bars and sprinkle decorative sugar. Cut the bars into 1/4-inch rounds. Bake cookies until edges are pale golden, about 15 to 18 minutes.


Great Grandma Klassen’s Ginger Snaps

Zoë LeBrun, arts and culture reporter

This recipe is a holiday standard in my household — we use my great grandma’s recipe and, when I tell you these are the best ginger snaps ever, you better believe it. Unlike most store-bought ginger snaps, these ones are soft, spiced and sweet, but above all they’re simple. This makes them great for festive baking with family members of all ages. They’re great on their own or dipped in coffee or tea.


2 cups flour

1 tbsp ginger

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup shortening or oil

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses

Sugar for rolling

Cream shorting and sugar in a large bowl. Beat in egg and molasses. Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, then sift into previous mixture gradually. Blend well. Form dough into small balls and roll in sugar, placing them two inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. The most vital step: bake cookies for 12 to 15 minutes at 176 C (350 F) and make sure to watch your first couple dozen cookies to prevent overbaking.

Do not overbake these cookies — this is the secret to keeping ginger snaps soft. They continue to cook when you take them out of the oven and they will have the texture of a hockey puck if overbaked. They’re ready to come out of the oven when the cookies begin to flatten, crack and their edges have set. Once out of the oven, let the cookies cool on a rack and enjoy.

Makes approximately 45 cookies.