Holiday Issue Preview: Victorian Christmas Cookies

The fall issue of Victorian Homes may have just hit newsstands yesterday, but we’re already busy with our upcoming holiday double-issue. Get ready for a host of swoon-worthy Victorian homes dressed in elaborate Christmas decor and tons of DIY projects you’ll love–including Victorian Christmas cookies. We’re excited to give you a glimpse into the making of what promises to be our best holiday issue yet!

christmas cookies

Our baker prepared to knead the too-cold sugar cookie dough (Photo: Elaine K. Phillips).

We baked three kinds of Victorian Christmas cookies today: sugar, gingerbread and Lebkuchen, each of which were popular in America during the 19th century.

Even with the fancy marble pin you see above, it took far longer than we anticipated to roll the sugar cookie dough sufficiently thin to make pretty cookies; the first batch was too thick, and the cookies puffed up so much that the animals weren’t recognizable. The poor owls came out quite obese, while what should’ve been a gangly giraffe looked like a turkey foot. The doves, meanwhile, masqueraded as amoeba.


Tip: Roll your cookie dough as thinly as possible! If the dough is tough to roll, it’s probably too cold; with plenty of flour, knead it until it rolls cleanly (Photo: Elaine K. Phillips).

While our baker battled the next batch of Victorian sugar cookies into submission, I peeked around the kitchen. We were baking in a 1950s cottage in Costa Mesa, California, a city known for its post-war cottages and bungalows. And this kitchen didn’t disappoint: a shabby chandelier–a yard-sale find painted white–hung over the dining table; a vintage scale, tea set and other kitchenware smiled down from over-sink shelves; and antique buttons from across the world adorned one of the walls.

dining room chandelier

Shabby chandelier in the dining room. (Photo: Elaine K. Phillips)

hot collectible

Hot collectible: vintage scales! (Photo: Elaine K. Phillips)

antique buttons

Antique buttons, inherited recently from a great-aunt (Photo: Elaine K. Phillips).

Next, we tackled the Victorian gingerbread cookies, which held together far better than the sugar cookie dough. The result: beautifully clean-cut animal-shaped cookies.

gingerbread owl cookie

Gingerbread owl cookie, dusted with powdered sugar (Photo: Elaine K. Phillips).

Meanwhile, the next sugar cookie batch came out quite well. We were going to cover them with red sugar crystals, but the crystals turned out to be a bit magenta–so we went with good old fashioned cinnamon instead.

sugar cookie

In the second batch, both the dove and turtle look properly like themselves (Photo: Elaine K. Phillips).

Finally, we turned our attention to our last kind of Victorian Christmas cookie: Lebkuchen, also known as “German gingerbread,” which was brought to America by German immigrants in the 1800s.

historic 1902 Lebkuchen recipe

Our baker’s scribbled tweaks to an historic 1902 Lebkuchen recipe (Photo: Elaine K. Phillips).

The thick, dry dough was incredibly crumbly, so she filled a small glass with room-temperature water and pressed the dough flat with wet fingers.

lebkuchen dough

Tip: Keep your fingers wet while working with Lebkuchen dough; the water will help lubricate the dough so that it will stick together (Photo: Elaine K. Phillips).

Of course, while our baker fought with the Lebkuchen dough, I tested the crumbles for quality control: delicious. The smattering of orange zest in Lebkuchen gives the bread-like treat a tangy kick.

Once the dough was flat, we threw it straight into the oven. Only minutes later, the dry dough was crispy and ready to be cut into bite-sized pieces.

dry dough

Baked Lebkuchen (Photo: Elaine K. Phillips).


Bite-sized pieces of Lebkuchen, waiting to be glazed (Photo: Elaine K. Phillips).

Then, it was time to brush the sweet lemon glaze over the Lebkuchen bites–which, needless to say, took the cookies to a whole new level of delicious.

Tip: Whisk the glaze quickly, almost as if you were making a souffle (Photo: Elaine K. Phillips).

tip: for an even, luminescent finish, apply the glaze in two thin coats, allowing the glaze to dry between coats

Tip: For an even, luminescent finish, apply the glaze in two thin coats, allowing the glaze to dry between coats (Photo: Elaine K. Phillips).

Cool and glaze the Lebkuchen

Tip: Cool and glaze the Lebkuchen over a layer of paper towels to make clean-up easier. The glaze will drip! (Photo: Elaine K. Phillips)

Once the glaze was dry, we packed up our Victorian Christmas cookies and I drove them home, where they’re waiting in my fridge for the official photoshoot.

Keen to try our Victorian Christmas cookies for yourself? Pick up a copy of our holiday issue when it hits newsstands on November 5, 2013; inside, you’ll find complete recipes and instructions for each of these cookies.


by Elaine K. Phillips

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