CASA GRANDE -- Tis the season for holiday baking and eating.

This time of year, I love to bring out family cookie and cake recipes and bake up batches of yumminess that were just like the treats made by my grandmother. To me, there has always been something special about recipes that tie generations together as they’re handed down over the years.

But it’s also fun to try new recipes too. And this year, perhaps because COVID-19 has us separated from loved ones in different cities and states, it’s a great time to add new recipes and new traditions to the mix.

Chai latte cupcakes are so simple to make, and the hint of tea in them makes them perfect for the holidays or any time of year. This year, I made batches of them and included them in gift baskets for neighbors.

The recipe is so easy that it’s a great addition to last-minute baking.

Below are recipes that are ideal additions to any holiday baking list.

These cupcakes are so easy to make using a box of cake mix. They are great for holiday baking or making anytime of the year. Try adding chai latte cupcakes to a tea-theme gift basket!

Chai latte cupcakes

1 box white cake mix

3 eggs

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 cup warm milk

3 tea bags

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

½ tablespoon cardamom

Steep tea in warm milk for about five minutes.

In medium-size bowl, combine pumpkin pie spice and cardamom with box cake mix. Add eggs, oil and tea and mix well.

Line cupcake pan and add about ½ cup of batter to each cup.

Bake about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Top with white frosting seasoned with a few drops of tea and some of the spice mixture.

Swiss butter cookies

Submitted by “Chef Todd” of Casa Grande

1 cup softened butter

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ cup sugar

1 whole egg

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar for dipping

Blend egg, sugar, butter and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add in flour and blend until smooth. Do not over-mix. Divide dough into four balls, cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Form each ball into logs and place in refrigerator.

Slice cookies from log with slices being about 1/3- to ½-inch thick. Dip both sides of each cookie into granulated sugar and place on a lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for about eight to 10 minutes or until light golden brown.

Banana-pecan bread

Submitted by “Chef Todd” of Casa Grande

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

4 eggs

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

1 cup chopped pecan pieces

6 medium ripe bananas

4 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

Cream together the butter and sugars.

Add the eggs, vanilla and smashed bananas, followed by the pecans.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking soda. Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients.

Pour batter into four greased, standard-sized loaf pans. Fill each pan about ¾ full.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 to 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

The bread may be frozen for up to six months.

Sour cream sugar cookies

½ cup unsalted butter

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2/3 cup sour cream

½ teaspoon baking soda

3 teaspoons baking powder

4 cups all purpose flour

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla and sour cream and beat until smooth.

Add baking soda, baking powder and flour and mix until well combined. Dough will be cake-like.

Drop batter by tablespoon onto parchment-lined baking pan, placing each tablespoon about 2-3 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes until golden brown.

When cool, frost if desired.

Easy French shortbread cookies

I like these cookies because they are far less sweet than most Christmas cookies but are buttery and flaky.

1 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup softened butter, cut into pieces

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

Whisk flour, sugar and salt together. Using a fork, mix butter into flour mixture until it is a sand-like texture.

Add egg to the mixture and combine. Shape dough into a ball. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Place dough on floured surface and roll flat to about a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut dough into rounds using a cookie cutter or a cup.

Place cookies on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.


Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at