Explore how one holiday cookie brings people together.
Baking has always been in the cards for Maple Grove’s 16-year-old Kate Ross of Kate’s Little Bake Stand. Creating a plethora of sweet treats (cakes, cookies and macaroons), Kate says she enjoys experimenting with different techniques she sees via social media or learns from her grandmothers and great-grandmothers.
“Baking is really special to me because it is a way to connect with people,” she says. “I can share what I like to do with other people in a way that can make them happy and help them celebrate what is special to them in life … I am a part of it.”
And Kate connects with individuals far beyond reaching their taste buds. Sharing the holiday spirit, she regularly donates some of her proceeds to Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP), a program she became familiar with during her time at Wayzata High School.
Leveraging its efforts through the help of the community, IOCP’s mission is “to strengthen our community by meeting basic needs and equipping individuals and families for ongoing stability.” That can include helping individuals and families secure food, accessible housing, employment services and more—elements that Kate has come to realize are not always readily accessible to her peers.
“I am grateful enough to have a stable income from my parents and be in a situation where I can help people, and that has always been a huge part … giving back to the community that has raised me and given so much to me,” she says.
Each year (in addition to her normal custom sales), Kate creates about 20 holiday cookie baskets, filled with dozens of treats to hand out to friends and family. “You are giving a gift. It is a part of the holiday spirit,” she says. Among the treats are chocolate cherry bit cookies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate crinkles, chocolate pinwheels, classic sugar cookies, fudge, marzipan strawberries, peppermint sugar cookies, pizzelles and, of course, gingerbread men.
For some, gingerbread is an acquired taste. For Kate, it is something she has grown to love through her exposure to baking. “I used to not like gingerbread, but we would always make them for the holiday,” she says. “I used to make [gingerbread men] look crazy. I would cover their faces in all sorts of frosting, and we would make tons of fondant that I would use to make hair and full outfits. As I got older, I started to enjoy gingerbread even more … I could literally eat a million of them.”
Incorporating these iconic cookies in her holiday offerings and cookie baskets, Kate says what sets these cookies apart from the rest begins before the baking ends. “You always know when gingerbread is being made because of the aroma in the whole house. You can smell the molasses, the cinnamon, the ginger and allspice,” she says. “It just puts you in a holiday mood.”
Cookie: Chocolate chip Biscoff cookies.
Item to bake: Cake bombs, a name she coined herself that refers to the cake pop-like creations that can be made in any shape, color or flavor.
Cookie cutter shape: Anything holiday related but especially trees and snowflakes, because there are more ways to decorate them. They are always unique.
Warm or chilled cookies? Warm, because they are more ooey gooey, and they just melt in your mouth.
Kate’s Favorite Gingerbread Recipe
via Sally’s Baking Addiction
- 10 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- ¾ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
- 2/3 cup unsulphured molasses
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. ground ginger
- 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp. ground allspice
- ½ tsp. ground cloves
In a large bowl, beat the butter using an electric mixer on medium speed until it is smooth. Add the brown sugar and molasses; beat until well combined. Add the egg and vanilla; increase the speed to high for two minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and all the spices. On a low speed, gradually mix in the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. Mix until well combined. (Note: The dough will be thick and sticky.) Divide the dough into two round chunks, wrap in plastic wrap and let them chill in the refrigerator for three hours. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
To prep the cookies, sprinkle a generous amount of flour on the counter and a rolling pin. Roll the dough until it is ¼ of an inch thick. Cut the dough into your desired shapes, and place them 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Let cool for five minutes, and enjoy!
Kate’s Favorite Frosting – A basic American buttercream
- 1 cup butter (room temperature)
- 1 cup Crisco
- 6 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
- 1 Tbsp. flavoring (of your choice)
- 2 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream
Beat butter and Crisco until thoroughly combined. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, allowing it to fully incorporate, and beat between each cup (usually about 1-2 minutes between cups). Once all the powdered sugar is added, turn the speed up and allow to whip for 3-4 minutes on medium high. Add flavoring and heavy whipping cream, and beat for 1-2 minutes on high.
The Jack of all Trades
If baking isn’t your forte, we found local vendors, who make holiday fun very easy (and without the kitchen clean up).
Gingerbread House Kits
- Lunds & Byerlys
12880 Elm Creek Blvd. N.; 763.416.1611
- Nadia’s Cakes
11650 Fountains Drive; #207; 763.575.8885
18755 70th Way N.; 763.494.5300
- Nothing Bundt Cakes
8085 Wedgewood Lane. N.; 763.350.3877
Brown Sugar Ginger Tea