Mocha Pinwheels and the Twelve Hours of Baking

VLUU L210  / Samsung L210

My heart is still hurting. I, along with many other bloggers, joined in a Day of Silence yesterday for the victims of the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. I know that I’ll never be able to comprehend the grief of all those affected, but my thoughts and prayers and tears have been with them since Friday. I can only hope that my children will live in a world a little less fearful than this one.

In honor of the spirit of family, friends, and love that is still so much a part of this season–now perhaps more than ever–I’m honored to bring you a guest post from a very special friend. Frequent readers will remember Cayce from our cake baking adventures, cupcake tastings, and her impending wedding, and today she’s sharing with you one of her family’s most treasured traditions (as well as a recipe): The Twelve Hours of Baking.

“In the first hour of baking, my family baked for me…a chocolate chip cookie. In the second hour of baking, my family baked for me…two macaroons and a chocolate chip cookie.”

My family loves holiday traditions. Over the years, we’ve seen many come and go—paper chain countdowns, seeing Santa at the mall, midnight church services on Christmas Eve—but there is one family tradition that has grown instead of faded: The Twelve Hours of Baking.

Every year, my family wakes up the day after Thanksgiving and begins a marathon-like cookie baking blitz. We bake all of our Christmas cookies during the Twelve Hours and then freeze them, sharing them as hostess gifts and party trays throughout the holiday season.

Right now, you may be thinking, “That’s a cute little tradition, but how the heck does it take 12 hours for these people to make cookies?” Well, it takes a pretty long time to make 25 different varieties of cookies! Yes, 25. We, uh, kind of have a problem. And it’s also much longer than 12 hours, but I can assure you each cookie is baked, cooled, and in the freezer by the end of Thanksgiving weekend.

At this point, I should probably back up and explain how it all began. My mom stayed home with my brother and me when we were young, and she often found herself with extra time to occupy (don’t ask me how—we were a handful, so she’s Wonder Woman). That time was often filled with crafting, baking, and party planning—all areas in which my mom excels.

When I was little, my mom started a tradition of making a batch of Christmas cookies for each of the twelve days of Christmas. Each afternoon, we would mix up a different cookie, and by Christmas Day, we had a delicious assortment of cookies for the holiday. This beloved tradition continued until it became too much when my mom went back to work.

With our borderline-obsessive love of holiday traditions, though, we could not let this one fade away. So, we condensed it into one day, the day after Thanksgiving, and called it the Twelve Hours of Baking. My mom even wrote a little song so we would remember each cookie.

That was twelve years ago. This tradition has since burgeoned into a whirlwind weekend in which tray after tray comes out of the oven, obscene amounts of butter are creamed, and the whole kitchen becomes lightly coated in flour. It is also my favorite weekend of the year. I like it better than Christmas Day itself.

My creatively minded mom was always trying a new recipe, intending to retire an older cookie in its place. This suggestion, however, was met by cries of “Ruining Christmas!” from my brother and whining all around. Replacing cookies simply would not fly.  So, as we have discovered many new cookies that “make the tray,” we have reached 25 as our number of annual varieties. I’m not a math person, but when we were at about 20 varieties, my brother decided to count each individual cookie, which came out to about 1,800 total cookies. 25 varieties would put us near 2,250.

But it’s really not about the numbers, even though the shock value is sometimes too entertaining to pass up. It’s not even about the cookies themselves, because by the time we are done that crazy baking, I feel like I’d be fine if I never saw a cookie again. It’s more about the memories and the way the tradition has grown with our family and friends. The Twelve Hours of Baking has often included friends, out-of-town relatives, folks from church, and significant others, in addition to the core group of my parents, my aunt, my brother, and me.

I wouldn’t miss cookie baking for the world. When I studied abroad, the only reason I chose spring over fall was because I would miss the Twelve Hours. We often joke of doing this when my parents are old and they are hobbling around with their minds half gone. I am happy to have welcomed my fiancé to the fold, and the Twelve Hours of Baking will only get more fun when there are little kids in the mix again.

Amidst the joys and stresses of the Twelve Hours of Baking, our family has made many memories through this beloved tradition. We have shared laughs about past cookie disasters, we have shed tears about those close to us who have passed on. We have also shared many, many cookies. The Twelve Hours of Baking is part of my family’s identity, and it is more than simply a holiday tradition. It is our legacy.

VLUU L210  / Samsung L210

I would be remiss in this post if I did not thank my family for these cherished memories. Thank you to my dad for taking care of all the cookies that require extra patience, to my brother for keeping us from ruining Christmas each year, and to my aunt for her abiding defense of the inclusion of chocolate chip cookies. I would especially like to say thank you to my wonderful mom for starting this tradition and bringing so much sweetness to my life. Thank you, Mommy. I can only hope to be half the woman you are when it is my turn to carry on this tradition. I love you.

I would also be remiss if I did not give you all a recipe! This cookie is one of my favorites, best enjoyed with a cup of coffee. They’re a little labor-intensive, but they are worth it! So here you go: Mocha Pinwheels.

VLUU L210  / Samsung L210

Mocha Pinwheels

  • 1 1/2 cups softened butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tbsp instant coffee (more to taste)

1. Cream butter until smooth. Stir in sugars and vanilla until evenly blended. In separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Add dry ingredient mixture gradually until dough is evenly blended.
2. Separate the dough into two equal portions. Add the cocoa powder to one half and instant coffee to the other half.
3. Divide each dough in half again, and place each portion on a large piece of plastic wrap and pat into a .5 inch thick square. Makes 2 squares of each kind of dough. Chill until firm.
4. After chilled, roll each rectangle into a 9×7 inch sheet.
5. Remove the top piece of plastic from each dough sheet and invert chocolate dough onto coffee dough. Roll into a log, peeling plastic as you go. Wrap the log in plastic and chill at least 2 hours. Makes 2 logs.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Slice logs into 1/4 inch thick rounds using a knife or unflavored piece of dental floss. Place 1 inch apart on a baking sheet and bake for about 10-13 minutes. Cookies are done when they are still just slightly soft.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Cayce Lista is a lover of all homemade baked goods. When she is not working, studying, or commuting to see her cute fiancé, she is most likely baking cupcakes or anything with sugar in it. As for the domestic arts, Cayce’s mom taught her everything she knows, for which she is eternally grateful.

5 thoughts on “Mocha Pinwheels and the Twelve Hours of Baking

  1. Wow, what an amazing tradition! And it’s so nice to read about a happy, meaningful tradition as we’re all struggling to comprehend the tragic things that are going on in this country. Thank you for an uplifting guest post! And a tasty-looking cookie recipe. =)

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