Something sweet for the holidays

Culture Food | Drink

A few edible show-stoppers to bring to the family celebration

Graphic by Sie Douglas-Fish.

Scribbled on an old piece of cardstock in the back of the drawer, or perhaps just passed down through memory: there’s nothing like a good old family recipe. Holiday desserts are a once-a-year treat that connects us with past generations of finger-lickers. What we eat when we come together tells a story about who we are, written by every grandma in every kitchen laboriously adding just the right amount of cream. 

This year, we’re sharing a few favourites, from our family to yours.

Christmas Shortbread

By Sie Douglas-Fish and Deb Bertrand

For Sie, shortbread is the iconic Christmas food. Their mom only brings out this family cookie recipe during the holidays. “They’re so fun to make, I basically know this recipe like the back of my hand now,” Douglas-Fish said.

  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup butter

Sift together dry ingredients. With a wooden spoon, blend in butter until a soft, smooth dough forms. Roll into 1 inch balls and place half an inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet, then flatten with a fork. Or instead, roll ¼ inch thick and cut into shapes. Bake at 350 F degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Top with sprinkles, jam, or crushed candy canes. 

Vegan Sahlab

By Abigail Schmidt-Brown, Lead Campus Professional for Hillel at UVic

Sipping this sweet and milky treat after a Shabbat dinner helped Abigail feel connected to her family and heritage in Israel. “I could sit in my house in Calgary and think of my cousins in Jerusalem and feel like we are not even close to a world apart, while knowing that what I am holding in my hands is a source of universal joy in the Levant for all people,” said Schmidt-Brown.

  • 4 cups unsweetened oat milk
  • ¼ tsp rose water
  • 6 tsp white sugar
  • 3 ½ tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • ¼ cup pistachios or walnuts

Combine oat milk, rose water, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla on the stove. Bring the liquid to a boil and continue boiling until it thickens. The consistency should be thicker than a drink but thinner than a pudding. Serve hot in mugs and top with cinnamon, nuts and coconut. 

Icky Sticky Pudding with Caramel Sauce

By Fran Maloney and Kaya Martin

In Western Australia, where Kaya grew up, Christmas is in the middle of the summer. The highlight of the backyard family lunch was always her Grandma Fran’s sweet, fluffy fruit cakes warmed by the roasting sun. After that, it was time for a round of cricket.


  • 1 ½ cups dates
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Boil the dates, baking soda and water together in a pot. Pour the mixture into a bowl and let it cool. Then, add the remaining ingredients and combine. Bake in a large tin for one hour at 300 F degrees.

Caramel sauce:

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 200 ml cream
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients and melt in a pan on medium heat. Pour over pudding.