Peppermint sticks

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

1. Peppermint Sticks
In The Art of the Cookie, food stylist Shelly Kaldunski teaches tricks of the trade to making professional-looking treats like these ethereal candy-cane-inspired tuiles. It's a surprisingly simple process: The key is to buy gel paste food coloring; it gives the cookies their vibrant color.
Whoopie pie pan

Photo: Sur La Table

2. Holiday Mini Cakes
With indentations shaped like snowflakes, gingerbread men, Christmas trees and snowflakes, this whoopie pie pan turns out a dozen little cakes. Pile them high on a plate and let guests dip them in hot chocolate or build their own marshmallow fluff, Nutella or dulce de leche sandwiches. This red velvet whoopie pie mix will give the treats a holiday tint (it also comes in chocolate).

Photo: Williams-Sonoma

3. Stump de Noël
This spin on the French log-shaped Christmas treat known as a bûche lets you easily make a cake that looks like a woodland tree stump. Fill the cast aluminum, nonstick pan with your favorite Bundt cake batter (or use this chocolate malted Bundt cake mix), bake, cool and then invert the pan to release the cake. Powdered sugar optional but definitely not necessary.
Icebox Cookies

Photo: Thinkstock

4. Icebox Cookies
These are some of the easiest cookies you can make: Form this basic dough into a log and fold red and green candied cherries in; then chill, slice and bake. Other ways to give these cookies a simple holiday twist is to roll the log in red or green sugar, or substitute rum (or rum extract) for the almond extract.
Checkerboard Cookies

Photo: Thinkstock

5. Checkerboard Cookies
Make these old-fashioned sweets using vanilla and cocoa powder for a brown-and-cream theme, or dye the dough red and green with food coloring. Creating the pattern is easier than you might think: It just entails making long, rectangular, different-colored logs, placing them side by side and slicing them to form a checker design.
Pears Poached in Red Wine

6. Pears Poached in Red Wine
This showstopper of a dessert is a sophisticated, savory way to end a winter dinner party. You can cook the pears three days ahead. When you're ready to serve them, pour the poaching liquid into a saucepan, boil until syrupy (five to 10 minutes) and then spoon over the fruit.
Inside-Out Cupcakes

Photo: Betty Crocker

7. Inside-Out Cupcakes
If you put the frosting on the inside of the cupcake, there's no need to spend time sculpting perfect peaks on top. A new boxed mix from Betty Crocker contains the dry ingredients for cupcakes and filling, or make your own from scratch and fill with jelly or frosting. You don't need any special equipment. Just pour batter into the cupcake wrappers one-third of the way up, add a spoonful of filling and then top with more batter.

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