With all the gifting and decorating and hosting that happens this time of year, budgets can run tight. But, happily, a delicious holiday recipe isn’t synonymous with an expensive holiday recipe; there are plenty of celebratory treats you can make this season for a reasonable price. Here are some of my favorite affordable recipe recommendations for baking throughout the season.
If you’re making an egg yolk-heavy dish this season (like Chocolate Cream Pie or Roll-Out Sugar Cookies), don’t toss those egg whites! Add confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder and you’ll have a whole batch of holiday cookies ready for gifting or snacking. These are gooey and fudgy, with a deep, dark chocolate flavor. (Bonus: They’re also perfect if you’re serving to anyone who’s gluten-free.)
If you don’t want to use gallons of oil frying doughnuts, whip up these doughnut muffins — the perfect answer if you’re searching for a holiday breakfast option. The muffin itself is basic — what takes it over the top is a clever finishing trick. The tops of the muffins are dipped in melted butter and then rolled in cinnamon sugar for a glitzy, sugary finish akin to an apple cider doughnut.
The other day, I saw a loaf of panettone on sale for so much money that I quite literally did a double take. Instead of cashing out, I’ll be making my own panettone this year by following this recipe, which features an overnight starter for more flavor and a longer shelf life, at a fraction of the cost.
This quicker version of traditional stovetop fudge is made in the microwave with just four staple ingredients: chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, butter, and vanilla extract. They come together to make a sliceable confection that can easily be shipped to friends far and wide without worrying if it’ll withstand rough handling. And it’s gluten-free!
If you’re looking for a show-stopping centerpiece to serve at a holiday gathering that doesn’t come at a heart-stopping price, this Bundt cake is an excellent choice. It’s unfailingly moist and tender, with a basic glaze that can be made with either rum or water depending on your preference.
Biscotti are often overlooked, but they shouldn’t be: These crunchy cookies provide a textural contrast at home on any cookie plate, and their made-for-dunking nature is ideal for cold months full of hot chocolate and apple cider. They also come together with the most basic of ingredients — no fancy chocolate or elaborate extracts needed here — making them an affordable choice.
Sure, you could drink your eggnog. Or you could turn it into these tender scones, which include a hefty dose of nutmeg and a dash of optional eggnog flavor to embody the drink of the season. These scones will keep the holiday spirit going a lot further than that quart of eggnog in the fridge, and they might even be tastier.
This decadent dessert is simple yet elegant. It’s made with a straightforward combination of chocolate chips, butter, sugar, salt, eggs, and cocoa powder, then topped with a rich chocolate and cream glaze. You can serve as is, or dress it up with some extra flair to make a next-level dessert. See ideas for adding festive flavor, decorative designs, and creative garnishes in our previous post: Make a stunning holiday dessert.
Budget baking is all about making the most with what you have, and one of the easiest ways to elevate your baking is to brown your butter. By cooking the butter on the stove, you brown the milk solids and add a nutty, toasted flavor without needing to purchase a single ingredient. Finish these simple cookies with a decorative stamp to make them even more impressive.
I love fancy holiday baking mixes as much as the next baker, but seasonal treats like gingerbread waffles can be just as easy to make at home with the ingredients you’ve already got. This recipe includes ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and molasses to emulate that classic gingerbread taste.
These cookies replace half the butter with shortening, which brings some of the cost down while also yielding crisper, crunchier cookies perfect for decorating. Add spices like cinnamon, ginger, and allspice, plus a dash of molasses, for festive flavor.
Made with just three primary ingredients — sugar, corn syrup, and peanuts — plus a smidge of butter, baking soda, and vanilla, this brittle proves basic is sometimes best. A microwave does all the work: You simply need to stir the ingredients at various points and then pour it all onto a baking sheet to set.
Baking your gifts can be an affordable choice this season. See our favorite homemade food gifts for everyone on your list.
Cover photo (Gingerbread Bundt Cake) and food styling by Liz Neily.