In theory, there’s nothing better than giving thoughtful, homemade DIY gifts during the holidays. In reality, that doesn’t always hold up, especially when it comes to edible gifts. When should you make them? How long do they stay fresh? And how do you package them so they look cute and delicious?
This year, master the art of edible Christmas gifts you can make in advance. Here’s how to plan a gift-giving strategy that turns homemade treats into perfect DIY gifts for friends.
Make a list, and check it twice. When you create your gift list this year, include a section for people who love to receive edible gifts. People who probably aren’t going into this section include your kids (Um, no thanks mom), your spouses or partners (I’ll pass), your mom (Really? This is it?), or anyone who lives outside a reasonable, hand-delivery radius. Edible gifts are perfect for friends, neighbors, doctors, mail carriers, teachers, party hostesses—anyone you see on a regular basis who you can hand a homemade gift to.
- Get the goods. There are three basic essentials for creating edible gifts: the right tools, fresh ingredients, and cute gift packages to put them in. You probably have lots of the tools you need, but some fun ones to add to your baking arsenal might include a rolling cookie cutter that makes dozens of uniformly shaped cookies in minutes, a marble rolling pin that keeps the dough from sticking to the barrel, or cute mini pie, loaf, donut, and cake pans that are both on trend and perfect for gifting. When it comes to ingredients, it depends on what kind of treats you want to bake and gift. Cookies? Pies? Cakes? Cookies are a perennial favorite, but mini cakes and pies are the new fruitcake. Once you figure out what kind of treats you want to create, hit the grocery store and get your goods. Then the fun part: Gift packages. Forget plastic bags that cling to your treats and fail to protect them from inevitable breakage—sturdy, customizable gift boxes are the way to go.
- Time it right. When it comes to edible gifts, timing is everything. Bake too early during the holiday season and risk giving gifts that aren’t fresh. Bake too late and spend your last few days before the holidays frantically gifting baked goods that get pushed to the “community treats” table during holiday get-togethers. The best time to bake and gift is early to mid-December, so you can deliver the goodies while you’re out and about without rushing.
- Plan an afternoon of baking—and make it fun. Grab your tools, pre-heat the oven, and start baking. The kinds of treats you’re making will determine what your spread looks like. Whether you make Mini Classic Chocolate Bundt Cakes , Mini Apple Pies , or Mini Banana Bread Loaves, you don’t have to do it alone. Grab the kids and put them to work! They can glaze a Bundt cake or mix batter. The key is to give them a job and let them own it. Nobody said you have to gift all the treats. Save the most “creative” ones and add them to your kids’ lunch boxes as special treats in those last few days of school before winter break.
- Box it up. Customizable gift boxes work for all kinds of treats—mini cakes, donuts, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and more. You name it: It can sit, fit, and be protected in a gift box. Plus, decorating gift boxes is another fun activity for kids—or yourself. This is like taking adult coloring books to a whole new level. Color, stamp, glue, glitter, and decorate to your inner artist’s desire.
- Make special deliveries. Once boxed, edible gifts will stay fresh from anywhere from two to seven days, depending on what you’re gifting. Because they’re in boxes, you could place them all in your back seat or trunk and deliver to friends, neighbors, teachers, and so on over the course of a week. Keep a box of your holiday cards close by, and hand-deliver the items together. And to help your kids see how special it makes someone feel to receive a thoughtful, homemade gift, take them along to make special deliveries, too.
Oh, and there’s one step—taste testing! But you can probably figure out the best time to add that into the process. Happy gifting!
This post has been updated since in was originally publish in October 2017.