A Handmade Holiday Recipe from Susan Waggoner, Author of Have Yourself a Very Vintage Christmas

A Guest Post by Susan Waggoner

My early Christmases were celebrated in Des Moines, Iowa, with my father’s family, a group to whom Yuletide was equal parts holiday and competitive crafting marathon. Today, my most vibrant memories of those years revolve around what was made rather than what was bought: red voile aprons with white poinsettias painted--freehand--by my grandmother; a host of miniature angels crafted by my mother hovering around an organ my father made, using his drafting pencils for pipes; wreaths of pinecones. It was exciting to be even on the fringes of such activity.

A few years later, when we relocated to Minnesota, my mother kept up the tradition on her own, gluing mercury glass beads to pine boughs on the steppes of suburbia. Our Christmas Eves were quieter, lit by tiny blue lights and the magical hush of a house surrounded by deep snow. In Minnesota, we followed my mother’s family tradition, and hand-crafting took the form of a Swedish smorgasbord, with tender meatballs in cream gravy, sweet Swedish rye bread with orange peel grated in for the occasion, a sweet-and-sour brown bean dish known as bruna bönor, and for dessertkringler, a delectable almond pastry whose very taste still summons up to me the essence of so many Christmases gone by.

Swedish Kringler

This is a surprising recipe in that it has no sugar other than the frosting, and the filling sounds about as appealing as wallpaper paste. Nevertheless, the end result is delicious. If I'm just making this for a few people, I make half the recipe. I don't try to do half of 3 eggs, I just pick the largest egg in the carton and it works fine. To keep the crust crisp, I store leftovers in a shoebox, or on a plate loosely tented with foil.


1 c flour

½ c butter

2 tbsp water


1 c water

½ c butter

1 c flour

3 eggs

1 tsp almond extract


1 c powdered sugar

1 tbsp milk or cream

1 tbsp butter, melted

1 tsp almond extract

To make the crust:

Pulse ingredients in a food processor or cut with knives as you would pie dough to make a crumbly dough that will stick together if you press it.

Round up dough in two balls.

On a cookie sheet (a silicon mat on the cookie sheet is swell, as is baker’s parchment), pat into 2 long strips, about 4" x 12" each. This is kind of messy and sticky—I use the side of my hand to push it into shape. No problem if it looks rustic.

To make the filling:

Put water and butter in a saucepan. Heat to melt butter, then increase heat, bring to boil and remove from heat immediately. Add flour and stir until smooth. Beat in one egg at a time. Add extract and spread over crust.

Bake on 325 for about 40 minutes, until the edges of the crust turn golden brown.

To make the frosting:

Whip ingredients together. 

When cool, frost and garnish with slivered almonds or multicolored sprinkles or drained maraschino cherry halves.  Slice crosswise in strips about 1" wide.

For more traditional holiday recipes as well as vintage-inspired holiday decorations, check out Susan's book Have Yourself a Very Vintage Christmas.