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Baking Holiday Decorations

Pastries, cookies, cakes, tarts and gingerbread start to fill shelves of local bakeries

As the holidays draw ever nearer, there’s a steady market for Christmas trees, wreaths, decorations, even bags of salt as insurance against snowstorms.

But for Tom Lauer, Christmas means a different set of supplies. “We’re using 2,000 dozen eggs a week,” he said. “We used 500 pounds of butter this week, but we average between 800 and 1,000 pounds.”

Lally’s staff of bakers at the Alexandria Pastry Shop will use those ingredients over the next two weeks to make apple cranberry tarts, gingerbread snowmen, and A-frame gingerbread houses. “We call them gingerbread chalets,” said Lally, owner of the bakery.

Lally, like other bakers in Alexandria, said the holidays bring customers in droves, looking for old favorites for parties and family meals. “We’re selling a ton of gingerbread houses,” he said. “It’s incredible how fast they’re going out.”

AT SHUMAN’S BAKERY in Old Town, customers have been coming in for the jelly cake and Carl’s cake said Kristen Kemp.

The first is three layers of pound cake mingled with two layers of red currant jelly, topped with powdered sugar. The Carl’s Cake, named for one of Shuman’s bakers, is a layer of devil’s food cake and a layer of yellow cake, covered with white butter icing and then drizzled with chocolate icing.

“The jelly cake is our big seller,” said Kemp. “We sell between 3,000 and 4,000 during the Christmas season, and ship about 1,000 of those.”

Customers also come to buy cookies and donuts, she said, as they do at Brenner’s Bakery, south of the city. “We have all different Christmas cookies,” said Kay Ross, a Brenner’s employee. “Right now I’m decorating frosted snowmen.”

There are also Christmas petit fours, she said, and traditional German Stollen.

STOLLEN IS ONE of the signs of the holidays at Gold Crust Baking Company. “We’re not a sweet bakery,” said Nausika Lyubinsky. “We do breads and rolls, and for this time of year, we’re doing panettoni, Stollen and fruitcake.”

Panettone is an Italian holiday bread, a sweet bread studded with raisins soaked in rum, while Stollen also uses raisins and cherries soaked in rum, mixed into a regular bread dough that is baked, then sprinkled with powdered sugar.

“Our fruitcake is southern, not very heavy,” Lyubinksy said. “We make it with apples, pineapple, coconut, not dates.” The bakery is also turning out two kinds of cookies for the holidays, she said, almond crescents and biscotti. “It’s made with walnut, and a hint of cinnamon,” said Lyubinsky. “It’s not hard, it’s more like shortbread.”

At the Alexandria branch of the Firehook bakery, there is plenty of shortbread, too, in time for Christmas. “We have shortbread cookies with sprinkled sugar, in different shapes and colors, bells and stars and candy canes and snowmen,” said Norma Parma. “We also have a Yule log, with Christmas decorations.”

As at Alexandria Pastry, many customers come in looking for gingerbread houses, but they find a different answer at Firehook, Parma said. “We get a lot of requests for gingerbread houses, but we don’t do those.”

Where to Find Them

*Alexandria Pastry Shop

3690 King St., H&I in the Bradley shopping center

703-578-4144

Gingerbread and chocolate Santa faces – $5.95

Gingerbread men, snowmen and Christmas trees – $2.95

Leibkuchen and Cherry Cardamom cookies – $5.95 a bag

Stollen – $9.95

Buche de Noel - $33.95

*Brenner’s Bakery

1512 Belle View Blvd.

703-765-4688

Holiday cookies, including double-sized Iced Snowmen – $0.39-$1.25 each

*Firehook Bakery

105 S. Union St.

703-519-8020

Christmas truffles – $2.25

Fudge Layer cake – $34

Raspberry Tart – $26

Apple Cranberry Coffeecake – $19

Buche de Noel – $38-40

*Gold Crust Baking Company

501 E. Monroe Avenue

703-549-0420

Biscotti and almond crescents – $0.75 each

Panettone and Stollen - $8

*Shuman’sBakery

430 S. Washington St.

703-549-0128