In my experience, finding a great gift for a baker can be quite a challenge. If the person on your list loves to bake, chances are they already own many of the items you’ll find in kitchen-related gift guides this holiday. There are a few tried-and-true presents I like to wrap up that any baker will undoubtedly use, like interesting spices or very good vanilla extract — but isn’t it always more fun to gift something unexpected? Something that will surprise and delight?
The answer: DIY baking mixes. By wrapping up your own homemade mix, you’re giving the gift of baking itself, as the recipient gets to have the cozy, comforting, joyful experience of baking at home (and pulling something warm and delicious out of their own oven) without having to pick a recipe, do the mixing and prep, or source the ingredients.
It isn’t just about convenience though — for that, you could just give a really excellent boxed mix and call it a day. Instead, a DIY baking mix is the equivalent of a handwritten note: It has your homemade touch! To me, this adds a thoughtful and generous element to the gift. In addition to the physical present, you’re giving something intangible — your time and effort.
Here’s what you need to make your own DIY baking mix:
First, find the right recipe. Not all recipes are good candidates for a mix: If too many of the ingredients are fresh or perishable, it’s not a great option (because the recipient ends up having to do most of the work!). Instead, look for recipes that have dry ingredients that get mixed together first, with fresh (generally wet) ingredients added later. Quick breads, muffins, cookies, and some cakes are all generally excellent for this purpose.
The recipient is almost always going to have to add a few of their own ingredients, like eggs or dairy. That said, I like to look for recipes where I can include the “extras” beyond pantry staples, so that I’m providing as much as possible for the baker, and so that they don’t need to source anything out of the ordinary beyond what they likely already have on hand. For example, recipes calling for canned pumpkin, chocolate, or dried fruit are all fun to turn into a mix, as you can include fancy versions of each ingredient in the box.
Next, find the right containers. For the dry ingredients, I always use a Mason jar — easy, basic, and useful for the recipient to reuse (also, they come in so many sizes that you can always find the right one for your recipe). Look over your recipe and see if you’ll need smaller containers too: Some recipes call for extra finishing touches, like cinnamon sugar or sparkling sugar, so you might want to find small glass or plastic containers with good lids. Spice jars are excellent for this. Finally, make sure you have a box or bag big enough to hold all of the various elements!
Once you’ve chosen your recipe, look it over carefully and figure out how many of the steps you can do ahead. For example, here’s what you can prep for these Cinnamon Smear Scones, which have a filling, dough, and topping:
Mix together the butterscotch chips, cinnamon, and brown sugar for the filling (recipient adds the butter).
Mix together all the dry ingredients for the dough (recipient adds egg, butter, and evaporated milk).
For the topping, mix together the cinnamon and sugar (recipient adds the egg white).
You can include a can of evaporated milk, too, since it’s a non-perishable item.
Or, for our Easy Pumpkin Bread, you can mix together all of the dry ingredients, then separately measure out the chopped nuts and chocolate chips, which get added later. Include a can of pumpkin purée in the box.
Consider doing as many steps as possible ahead of time: If the recipe calls for cinnamon mixed with sugar for the topping, measure both out and include them in a small glass jar or twisted up securely in a piece of parchment tied with string. The idea here is to make the baking process simple and thought-out for the recipient — allowing them to focus on the tactile joy of stirring batter or cracking eggs, and watching something delicious emerge from all the ingredients.
The most important part is also the most fun! You’ll need to include instructions, which will be tailored to how many steps you did ahead of time. Look over the recipe, and write down the steps the recipient needs to do based on what you’ve already mixed together. Always include an ingredient list that reflects what you’ve included and what they need.
Here is where labeling your jars and the components comes in handy — you can refer to those labels in the ingredient list.
Have fun with it too! I made a DIY baking mix for our pumpkin bread for a friend who recently had a baby — and I snuck in a few personal bits. Step 1 was to ask her husband to make her a mug of hot apple cider, turn on some good music, and get someone else to hold the baby. Step 2 was to mix the dry and wet ingredients. You get the idea!
You can dress up your DIY mix as much or as little as you like. I often stick with a simple approach and wrap a pretty ribbon around the jar of mix, then put it all in a nice box or bag. You can indulge your crafty side, if you have one, and break out the glitter and stickers and so on. Wrap it all up snugly with tissue paper and give it the luxe treatment with gorgeous wrapping paper and ribbon, or keep it uncomplicated. Either way, the gift will be beautiful.
If you’re shipping it in the mail, be sure to carefully pad all the fragile jars and pieces. If you’re hand-delivering it, I often just put everything in a gift bag with a pretty ribbon.
Ready to gift? To get you started, here are a few more recipe ideas that lend themselves beautifully to a DIY baking mix:
Gingerbread Bundt Cake
The Best Waffles Ever
Double Fudge Chocolate Cake
Cake Pan Cake
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Do you give baking gifts — mixes or baked goods — around the holidays? Tell us in the comments; we’d love to hear your go-to ideas!
Cover photo illustration by Michelle Chen.