How to style a holiday cookie tray

T‘is the season for sweets of all shapes and varieties: frosted and glazed, rolled and stamped, sandwiched and sprinkled.

Today’s mail delivery brought a pretty box of assorted cookies and confections to our door, straight from the kitchen of my talented friend, Marie. Along with the goods from my recent cookie swap, our cousin cookie decorating party, and a few baking projects of my own, our stash of holiday sweets is quite substantial.

It’s a good thing we love to share. Most of our treats get boxed up and delivered to neighbours, teachers, and family; others are served up for tea time with friends around our table or brought to a gathering for all to enjoy.

A tray of assorted cookies is a sweet and simple way to end a holiday meal. Sure you can always just heap them on a plate and call it a day, but today’s post shows you how to have a bit more fun with presentation .

The Germans have a name for a generous plate of assorted Christmas cookies – a bunter Teller. I first heard this term from baker Luisa Weiss, who wrote about a delightful Sunday afternoon tradition of gathering friends to share a heaping the bunter Teller. That’s definitely a holiday tradition I can get on board with.

I suppose this styled cookie tray is my version of a bunter Teller – a delicious assortment cookies and confections, served up in lot of little compartments for a pretty presentation.

How to style a holiday cookie tray

Start with your base -a shallow wooden box, a tea tray with sides, even a rimmed baking sheet would work. You could also use an actual box, and line it with parchment, tissue or wrapping paper.

Fill the base completely with a collection of assorted small containers, the more mismatched the better. I like to use a mix of materials – wood, tin, glass, ceramic – as well as an assortment of shapes. Ideally the containers can hold 6-8 cookies each. Hunt around your kitchen and be creative. I use mini loaf pans, Weck jars, tiny tart pans, a butter dish and small bamboo produce baskets.

Arrange them to fit snugly in the base then line a few with parchment paper, if you like. I do this because my containers are not always pristine, as you can see. Lining them with parchment looks and feels cleaner. It also helps the cookies to ‘pop’ visually.

Now start slotting cookies into compartments. Stack them and slot them; pile them high, placing the pristine cookies at the top of the stacks.

Notice in the photo above how I’ve paired the cookies to match the containers. The petals on the spritz cookies match the flower shape of the tiny tin. And the scalloped edges of the alfajores complement the delicate edge of the tin holding them. In the grand scheme of things, this pairing doesn’t matter at all, but if you like to pay attention to detail, then it might make you happy to match cookies to containers.

One you’ve assembled your cookie tray – meaning you filled every small container to the brim – wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and keep it at room temperature for a few hours before serving. You can also bring it with you to a holiday potluck and be the most popular person at the party.

Here’s last year’s cookie tray – or bunter Teller. It’s pretty with a bit of greenery tucked in amidst the cookies.

So I have to ask – do you have a favourite holiday cookie?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. My all time favourite is shortbread, with cream cheese sugar cookies and rugelach coming in behind.

    Happy holidays Aimiee and the best of health and happiness in the New Year!

  2. Beautiful, yet simple enough! Jam Thumb print cookies are my favorite for their festive color
    when using the raspberry jam. I have found a delightful jam from Trappist, made from an Abbey
    of Monks. Try it and you will see how delicious this product is!

  3. My mom taught me how to make something called a sandwich cookie. They are hands down the favorite cookie everywhere I bring them. Here is a simple recipe. I have made them in Gluten Free and with Wheat. They are more delicate than shortbread and with the butter cream filling….OMG….the best!!!!! Also, my other mainstays are caramels and Butter toffee, with and without almonds!

    Christmas Sandwich Cremes Recipe

    1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
    1/3 cup whipping cream
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
    1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    Food coloring
    1. In a mixing bowl, combine butter, cream and flour; mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until dough is easy to handle.
    2. Divide into thirds; let one portion stand at room temperature for 15 minutes (keep remaining dough refrigerated until ready to roll out). On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-in. thickness. Cut with a 1-1/2-in. round cookie cutter. Place cutouts in a shallow dish filled with sugar; turn to coat. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Prick with a fork several times. Bake at 375° for 7-9 minutes or until set. Cool on wire racks.
    3. For filling, in a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla. Tint with food coloring. Spread about 1 teaspoon of filling over half of the cookies; top with remaining cookies. Yield: 4 dozen.

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