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Writing  by Cathy Deutsch

Artwork by Elizabeth Gourlay

Photography by Justin Negard

Holidays – especially Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas – are often where we gather with family and friends around the dining table in celebration of honored customs and traditions. For this Connecting in the Kitchen, we’ve skipped all the boring stuff (the turkey and ham, infinite variations of potatoes, vegetables, etc.) and taken a seat at the dessert table. And we encourage you to do the same. 

And to help you out, we’ve connected with some of your favorite local bakeries to get their favorite holiday recipes. Even if you’re not a professional baker (don’t worry, we aren’t either), we hope you’ll try to make some of these desserts yourself because the best memories are usually in the work, not the result. 

So dress up your cakes as elegantly or whimsically as you wish. Give your children a mixing bowl. Invite the neighbors or family to pitch in. Get flour on the floor. Lick the spoon. But most of all, have fun.

The king of cakes 

French-born pastry chef Patrice Yvon and his wife Lorna own and operate L’Anjou Pâtisserie Française in Mount Kisco. Growing up in France, Yvon has fond memories of Galette de Rois (King Cake), which is served during Epiphany (January 6). 

The cake is topped with a golden crown and has a porcelain figurine called a fève baked into it (so indulge carefully). The lucky person who gets the fève wears the crown and becomes the king. Every year, Yvon’s mother would buy this elaborate cake from their local patisserie. 

“My brothers and I waited with much excitement, hoping to discover the crown in the cake.”  

Madame Yvon still participates in this tradition, even though she’s in France and her son is now here in the U.S., by sending the crowns to L’Anjou Pâtisserie. 

Note: This is a cake best attempted by an experienced baker, as it’s very delicate and has many steps. For those who prefer to leave it to the pros, you can special order a Galette des Rois from the bakery.

Click here for the recipe.

Home for the holidays 

Another husband-and-wife team, British pond skippers Jason and Dawn Bowman, started a home baking business in January 2020. With help from Pound Ridge neighbor Booksy, they were able to sell their pastries, cookies and bread curbside during lockdown. 

“We promised loyal customers we would get them through the pandemic, one pastry at a time,” says Dawn. 

And they did – opening BreadsNBakes, their dual storefront/bakery, right up the street in July 2022. 

One of their signature holiday offerings is their homemade gingerbread house kit which includes baked gingerbread panels, frosting ingredients, a variety of candies and decorations, a tiny mini light that glows through the cut-out windows and instructions. If you’d like to make your own gingerbread panels, they’ve shared their gingerbread recipe with us.

“Every Christmas, when we take the children home to England, we take over the kitchen of whatever relative or friend we are staying with,” recounts Bowman. “We create a group baking afternoon, modeling the gingerbread house on wherever we are staying or a historic building.” 

Click here for the recipe.

Oh Christmas Tree

Hayfields Market in North Salem is a farm-stand-turned-gourmet-emporium offering meals and baked goods. Ronny Torres has served as the pastry chef since they opened eight years ago. Their Christmas tree cake features layers of light sponge with Swiss pastry cream in between each layer and coating the outside. 

“I recommend enjoying a slice of this cake with a cup of hot cocoa,” Torres says.  

What makes it so distinctive are the spikes of clipped pine twigs on top, which are cut from the trees they sell on-site during the holiday season. It’s as eco-friendly and local as you can get. Add some fresh cranberries and edible silver balls on top to create your own snowy winter scene.

Click here for the recipe.

Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of cake

Move aside sweet-yet-flavorless Hanukkah gelt that claims to be chocolate, there’s a new chocolate-based Hanukkah tradition in town, thanks to Sweet Delites in Somers. Meet the dreidel cake pops: they’re soft, moist and delicious. And it’s pretty simple to make as well. 

All you need is a box of cake mix (or make your own if that’s your thing), some buttercream frosting, candy chocolates, a few utensils and a few hours so the cake can harden in the fridge before you make the pops. 

“Decorating these was so much fun,” says Jill Acerno who co-owns the bakery with her husband. “We take great pride in making them delicious and beautiful to give as gifts.”

Click here for the recipe.

But if you’re “so over” cake pops (or just don’t have the patience), try your hand at chocolate-covered Oreos – they’re even easier and faster. It’s just cookies, candy melts, sprinkles and fun. 

Click here for the recipe.

Cake design by Nikita Batra.

Dashing through the snow

Head baker Rui Soares’ first job at Sweet Delites was as a dishwasher. He worked his way up, and now he and his wife, Jill, own the bakery.  

“We love the holidays,” says Jill. “When we bake during the holiday season, we blast holiday music in the back and sing along as we work. It’s a very happy time for our staff, and seeing regulars come in year after year is so exciting as we all get into the holiday spirit.”

One of their showcase Christmas cakes is their reindeer cake – a vanilla cake layered and covered with chocolate buttercream frosting. 

Click here for the recipe.

Photo by Mark Kramer, Copper Kitchen Studio.

White Christmas

Chappaqua mainstay Susan Lawrence has served the area for over 40 years. Founded by siblings Mark and Susan Kramer, Mark, who is still at the helm, says he honors his sister’s memory every holiday season by making their favorite/signature Buche de Noel, also known as a French yule log cake. It’s a complex, multi-step, time-intensive creation that Mark and Susan enjoyed making together every Christmas Eve. 

“Susan always brought her contagious energy, good cheer and enthusiasm to what seemed an impossible task as we made over 100 cakes well into the night,” he says. “By the end, our aprons were always covered with chocolate, and we were exhausted. But for both of us, it was a true labor of love.”

Photo by Mark Kramer, Copper Kitchen Studio.

While that tradition continues at Susan Lawrence, it’s so complicated that Mark chose to provide the recipe for his favorite holiday cocktail instead. His White Christmas Margarita is a blend of tequila, coconut, lime juice, heavy cream and Cointreau. Cheers!

Click here for the recipe.

This article was published in the November/December 2023 print edition of Connect to Northern Westchester.

Cathy Deutsch
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Cathy Deutsch is a resident of South Salem and a former local shopkeeper in Katonah and Mount Kisco. She previously wrote a restaurant column for The Country Shopper and is currently a contributor to several local publications. Additionally, Cathy’s personal essays have been published on noted on-line platforms including Dorothy Parker’s Ashes. “Writing has always been my passion, and I’m very excited to be writing for Connect to Northern Westchester,'' she says.