We share our recipes for special desserts that are perfect for the Christmas holidays. We offer easy and quick Chocolate Surprise Cookies, Autumn Spice Cake with Maple Buttercream Frosting (A favorite at our home), a delicious Grasshopper Dessert Pudding, and an easy Fruit Finale dessert that’s great with orange sherbet. Enjoy.

Chocolate Surprise Cookies

1 tube refrigerator sugar cookies (I use Pillsbury)

1 (10 oz.) package solid chocolate mints or chocolate kisses

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Cut chilled cookie dough in ½ inch slices. With buttered hands, roll each slice into a ball. Push a piece of candy into the center of each then roll into a smooth ball again so the cookie dough completely encloses the piece of candy. Arrange on greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with chopped nuts. Refrigerate for 1 hour or so. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in 375 degree oven until lightly brown. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from cookie sheet. Makes 2 1/2 dozen. Tip: dried apricots, apples or raisins may be used for the center.

Autumn Spice Cake

1 package (18.25 oz.) spice or carrot cake mix

1 cup water

3 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup Maple Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)

2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

1/4 cup chopped almonds

For Frosting:

2 tablespoons chopped dried apricots

2 tablespoons chopped dried cranberries

2 tablespoons raisins

Prepare Maple Buttercream Frosting and cover. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Combine cake mix, water, eggs, oil, and maple buttercream (1/3 cup only) in medium bowl. Beat on low speed of electric mixer until blended; beat about 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pans. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Place one cake layer on serving plate. Frost top with Maple Buttercream. Top with second layer. Frost the top and sides of cake with frosting. Press walnuts into sides of cake. Pipe chocolate onto cake, shape like a tree trunk. Combine almonds, apricots, cranberries and raisins. Sprinkle on top part of tree trunk, on top of cake. Easy and so pretty, a delicious cake. Serves 12.

Maple Buttercream Frosting

4 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

1/4 cup maple or pancake syrup

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

In a small bowl, beat butter and syrup until blended. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Makes about 3 cups.

Grasshopper Dessert Pudding

2/3 cup crushed chocolate wafers

1 package (3.4 oz. size) instant vanilla pudding

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons crème de menthe

1 tablespoon crème de cacao

Spread 1/3 cup crushed wafers over bottom of 1 quart dish; reserve remainder for topping. Prepare pudding with milk as directed on package; stir in crème de menthe and crème de cacao. Spoon pudding over crumbs. Chill in freezer 30 minutes. Do not freeze until solid. Move to refrigerator if serving time is later. To serve, spoon into parfait or wine glasses. I like to layer this in parfait glasses ahead of time and add a sliver of chocolate candy as a topping. So pretty. The color makes it perfect! Serves 4.

Fruit Finale

1 cup seedless or seeded grapes, halved

1 1/2 cups drained pineapple chunks

2 cups sliced bananas (2 medium)

1/2 cup maraschino cherries

1/2 cup kiwi fruit, peeled, sliced

2 to 4 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed or orange flavored liqueur

Half orange shells or sherbet dishes

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except orange shells. Serve fruit mixture in orange shells or sherbet dishes. If desired, fresh mint or lime twist may be added for garnish. Suggestion: poppy seed dressing, or my favorite, orange sherbet may be used. This is an extremely versatile dessert, easy to assemble for company anytime of year. Enjoy. Serves 4 to 6 easily.