Holiday Treats

Three local businesses share their secrets for sweet success

By Kelly Vetter

Photos by Andrea Hutchinson

Rebecca Johnson and Mary Wheatley.

Atlantic No. 5

Mary Wheatley and Rebecca Johnson of Atlantic No. 5 in downtown Louisville know a thing or two about preparing holiday goodies. Their shop is always filled with sweet desserts, and the holiday season is no different. We asked the co-owners a few questions about what the season looks like for them, and they shared with us one of their most decadent recipes.

What is different about holiday treats versus other treats?

“Holiday treats are all about tradition,” Wheatley said. “So, bringing out the cookie and dessert recipes that our families have been making for years and years only for the holidays makes them special.”

What is your favorite holiday treat to make and eat?

“Mary loves to make her favorite pies and lots of them,” Johnson said. “I make cookies with my two girls, but a beautiful cheese plate is my absolute favorite. Mary’s favorite thing to eat is warm fruit, like a pear or apple, or pumpkin pie with homemade cinnamon ice cream. I enjoy peppermint ice cream with homemade hot fudge sauce during the holidays.”

How can readers impress their friends and family through cooking during the holidays?

“The best way to impress your guests is to be well prepared and relaxed by the time your guests arrive, so you can spend time with them and enjoy their company,” Johnson explained. “Also, teaching a younger family member how to make one of your traditional recipes so they can carry it on when they have their own families is the best way to leave a lasting impression.”

Wheatley added, “Make your desserts seem extra special and festive by making a tiered display of holiday cookies, or make a beautiful dessert buffet with simple garnishes – mint, sugared cranberries, fresh fruit – for a larger group.”

Peppermint Cheesecake

Yields 10 to 12 slices

1 cup crushed peppermint candy

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened

2 cups whipping cream, whipped

1 or 2 drops red food coloring (optional)


1½ cups crushed chocolate wafer cookies

4 tbsp melted butter

¼ cup sugar

Mix together crust ingredients. Press into the bottom of a nine-inch springform pan.

Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add in sweetened condensed milk and red food coloring. Fold in whipped cream and peppermint candy.

Pour into prepared pan. Freeze until firm.

This can be prepared a few weeks before serving. Leftover pieces can be stored in the freezer.

Sweets by Millie


Maggie Hoy.

Sweets by Millie, which specializes in custom wedding cakes, gets busier than ever during the holiday season. Even with the kitchen staff hustling to fill all of the bulk orders, they still find time to whip up their famous holiday sugar cookies. We spoke with owner Maggie Hoy about her holiday traditions, and she even shared tips on how to stand out during the season.

What makes holiday treats special?

“Holiday baking is about spending time in the kitchen with loved ones and family,” said Hoy. “It’s not so much about the finished product but about gathering around the kitchen counter, sharing stories and enjoying the process – and the sweet treats.”

What is your favorite holiday treat to make?

“When I was a child, my mother would spend the entire Saturday before Christmas baking sour cream coffee cakes to gift to all of our family and friends,” she recalled. “It was a crazy, long, labor-intensive process, but the joy on the recipients’ faces made it all worth it. To this day, when the smell of cinnamon and brown sugar wafts through the bakery while a coffee cake is baking, I’m transported back to those Christmas days spent baking with my mom and sister.”

What is your favorite holiday treat to eat?

“My aunt makes a traditional Christmas pudding every year at the holidays,” Hoy explained. “The batter is mixed, poured into an intricate mold and steamed in a water bath on the stove top for a few hours. There’s always a bit of risk, wondering whether the pudding will come out of the mold at the end! But a thin slice of the delicate raspberry pudding, topped with fresh raspberry sauce and whipped cream is the perfect ending to a holiday meal.”

How can people impress their friends and family through baking this holiday season?

“There is no more meaningful gift than something that is baked from the heart,” Hoy said. “Don’t pressure yourself to be perfect. Just the fact that you put in the time and energy to make something special for your loved ones will be enough to impress them and let them know you care.”

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Yields 24 cookies

1 cup butter at room temperature

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

1 egg

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

5 cups all-purpose flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. With mixer off, add vanilla, baking powder and salt. Mix thoroughly. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer running, add the egg and mix thoroughly. With the mixer on low, slowly add flour and mix until combined.

Divide dough into two portions, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 10 minutes. Roll out dough between two pieces of parchment paper to one-quarter inch thickness. Put back in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes. Cut out shapes and arrange on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, about half an inch apart. Put back in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for seven minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool thoroughly before decorating.

Royal Icing

Combine in a stand mixer:

4 cups powdered sugar

3 tbsp meringue powder

With the mixer on low, add six to seven tablespoons water, one at a time. Mix on two speed for six minutes. Check the consistency; it should be thick but not overly hard. You may need to add one or two more tablespoons of water. Put into Tupperware and cover tightly with plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out.

Pro Tip: Use a thick consistency for outlining shapes and adding details. Use thin icing with water a teaspoon at a time until slightly runny for flooding consistency on the background of cookies.

To decorate, outline cookies with thick royal icing, then fill in the background with thin royal icing. Let dry at least one hour before adding details. Be sure to keep your extra icing covered tightly with plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out.

Heitzman Traditional Bakery and Deli


Heitzman Traditional Bakery and Deli is no stranger to holiday sweets. With customizable cookie trays and gift baskets – filled with an assortment of made-from-scratch desserts – the bakery is packed each holiday season with eager customers. Marguerite Schadt oversees the holiday madness along with her co-owner and husband Dan Schadt. She shared with us some of their favorite holiday treats and traditions.

What’s the most popular holiday treat at the bakery?

“Our bakery specializes in custom holiday desserts like famous jam cakes, Maker’s Mark fruit cake and holiday decorated cookies,” Marguerite said. “Iced holiday cookies seemed to be the most popular treat. Customers get to pick from Santa, snowmen, reindeer, bells, wreaths and so many more.”

What is your favorite holiday treat to eat?

“The blackberry jam cake is the best dessert to have for dessert during the holiday season,”  she asserted. “(It has) a combination of walnuts, spices and jam, and we pour and spread the luscious and creamy caramel icing all over the entire cake. This cake is available in strawberry or blackberry jam.”

What is the bakery like during the holidays?

“Beyond all the baking lays a kitchen filled with baked turkeys, dressing, green beans with ham, creamy mashed potatoes and homemade turkey gravy,” Marguerite reflected. “And don’t forget the butter fluff and homemade pumpkin pie that everyone can enjoy for a reasonable price. We can cater or make your family’s holiday dinner.”

Marguerite Schadt.

Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground cloves

2 large eggs

1 15 oz can pure pumpkin

1 12 oz can evaporated milk

1 9” pie crust, unbaked

Preheat oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.

Combine all of your dry ingredients, and than add the wet ingredients. Mix well and pour into your unbaked pie shell. 

Reduce temperature to 350 and bake for 40-50 minutes. Bake until it doesn’t jiggle.

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