3 Christmas cookies to add to your holiday dessert table

Pizzelle, spritz cookies and seven-layer bars are a few of our favorites to bake this time of year. Get the recipes.
Tampa Bay Times staffer Mari Faiello makes pizzelle every Christmas with her grandmother. They use a family recipe for the popular Italian waffle cookies.
Tampa Bay Times staffer Mari Faiello makes pizzelle every Christmas with her grandmother. They use a family recipe for the popular Italian waffle cookies. [ MARI FAIELLO | Times ]
Published Dec. 22, 2022|Updated Dec. 22, 2022

With the holidays in full swing, many folks are stepping it up in the kitchen now and into 2023.

And one particular group of desserts is synonymous with this time of year: cookies.

If you’re still on the hunt for the perfect cookies for your dessert table (Christmas is coming up fast!), my Tampa Bay Times colleagues and I have you covered.

Below, staffers Kelsey Harrell and Meaghan Habuda join me in sharing a few of our favorite Christmas cookies to bake. All three are made with family recipes.

I offer my go-to recipe for pizzelle, classic Italian waffle cookies. Kelsey went with the fun little holiday staples known as spritz cookies, and Meaghan’s pick are seven-layer bars and their gooey, crunchy goodness.

Bake the season bright with us.


12 large egg yolks

1½ cups vegetable oil

2 ounces anise flavoring

1½ cups sugar

4½-5 cups flour

⅓ cup anise seeds


Pizzelle waffle maker

Cooling rack

Beat egg yolks in a mixer. Add vegetable oil and anise flavoring. Once combined, add sugar. Once mixed, add flour and anise seeds. Measure out half a teaspoon of dough per cookie on a small waffle iron (one teaspoon if you have a large waffle maker) and place the dollop in the center of the cookie design. Bake for about a minute and a half. Move cookies to a cooling rack. Makes about 10-12 dozen.

Spritz Cookies

Kelsey bakes these cookies each year using a secret family recipe. What is it? Can’t tell you, of course. But this Betty Crocker spritz cookie recipe is similar. Note: Kelsey’s family recipe doesn’t include food coloring or toppings and calls for vanilla instead of almond extract.

1 cup butter, softened

½ cup sugar

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla

Food coloring, if desired

Currants, raisins, candies, colored sugar, finely chopped nuts, candied fruit or fruit peel, if desired

Mix together butter and sugar. Stir in flour, salt, egg and almond extract. Place dough in a cookie press. Form desired shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 5-8 minutes or until set but not brown. Immediately remove from the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack. To decorate cookies after baking, use a drop of corn syrup to attach toppings. Makes 72.

7-Layer Bars

½ cup butter or margarine

1½ cups finely crushed graham crackers

1 6-ounce package (1 cup) semisweet chocolate pieces

1 6-ounce package (1 cup) butterscotch pieces

1 3½-ounce can (1⅓ cups) flaked coconut

½ cup chopped walnuts

1 14-ounce can (1⅓ cups) sweetened condensed milk

Melt butter. Stir in crushed graham crackers. Pat crumb mixture evenly in bottom of an ungreased 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Layer, in order, chocolate pieces, butterscotch pieces, coconut and walnuts. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over all. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Cool. Cut into bars. Makes 36.