12 inexpensive (but wildly delicious) holiday bakes

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.

Flourless Fudge Cookies

Photography and food styling by Liz Neily

No need for butter or flour to make these fudgy cookies.

1) Flourless Fudge Cookies

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.)

Donut Muffins

Photography and styling by Liz Neily

Donut muffins mean no frying (or gallons of oil) required.

2) Donut Muffins

If you don’t want to use gallons of oil frying doughnuts, whip up these donut 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.

Overnight Panettone

Photography and food styling by Liz Neily

Try baking your own panettone this year.

3) Overnight Panettone

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.

Easy Microwave Fudge

Photography by Posie Brien

A microwave is the secret to this quick and easy fudge.

4) Easy Microwave Fudge

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!

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

Photography and food styling by Liz Neily

A simple glaze makes this Bundt cake look like a true centerpiece.

5) Gingerbread Bundt Cake

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.

American-Style Vanilla Biscotti

Photography and food styling by Liz Neily

Don’t sleep on biscotti: They’re actually an excellent holiday cookie.

6) American-Style Vanilla Biscotti

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.

Cinnamon Eggnog Scones

Photography and food styling by Shilpa Iyer

Turn your eggnog into flaky, tender scones this season.

7) Cinnamon Eggnog Scones

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.

Sliced ​​flourless chocolate cake

Photography by Kristin Teig; food styling by Liz Neily

This cake is an excellent choice if you’re baking gluten-free.

8) Flourless Chocolate Cake

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 ice cream, 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.

Brown Butter Stamp Cookies

Photography by John Sherman; food styling by Liz Neily

These decorative cookies have an irresistibly nutty flavor thanks to brown butter.

9) Brown Butter Stamp Cookies

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.

Gingerbread Waffles

Photography by John Sherman; food styling by Liz Neily

What’s more festive than gingerbread for breakfast?

10) Gingerbread Waffles

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, nutmegcloves, and molasses to emulate that classic gingerbread taste.

Light Spice Holiday Cookies

Photography and food styling by Liz Neily

Serve these cookies as ice, or glam them up with sparkling sugar or colorful glaze.

11) Light Spice Holiday Cookies

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 as you like cinnamonginger, and allspice, plus a dash of molasses, for festive flavor.

Microwave Nut Brittle

Photography and food styling by Liz Neily

This crackly brittle is a good choice for anyone who is gluten-free.

12) Microwave Nut Brittle

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 two sets.

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.

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