During the holidays, I want everything to have an extra layer of sparkle, even the food — okay, especially the food. Sprinkles, from the silver BB-like dragees to edible glitter and shimmering sugars, deliver that extra layer of over-the-top, spectacular visual joy to my holiday expectations. These colorful, shiny confections add some glamour without much extra effort, not only to desserts but also appetizers and drinks, and they balance out savory dishes with just a touch of sweetness. Here are some ideas for fun and easy ways to add sprinkles to your holiday creations.
1. Eggnog Party Rims
Dressed up with red and gold sugar and tiny white nonpareils, these vintage cut-glass mugs brimming with eggnog are ready to party.
How to Rim Glassware with Sprinkles:
Pour a small amount of eggnog into a shallow bowl, dip the mugs in and then twirl the mugs in another bowl filled with sprinkles. Turn upright and let dry before filling with eggnog.
2. Sparkling Sugared Cranberries
The appearance of these ruby gems in the market is one of the first signs that the winter holidays are around the corner. Visually stunning sugared cranberries are a study in contrasts. The tart, dark berries, which appear to be encrusted with tiny jewels, add a magical quality to whatever they adorn as they catch the light. The berries are tamed by an overnight soak in simple syrup, followed by a roll in a batch of sparkling sugar.
Sugared cranberries go especially well with savory, soft cheeses. Pile onto a pretty platter for an easy cheese plate, or press a few berries into slices of toasted baguette topped with softened Brie for crostini.
Get the Recipe: Sparkling Sugared Cranberries
For the sugar bath:
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sprinkles, such as colored sanding sugar, sparkling sugar and/or nonpareils
1/2 cup superfine sugar*
Stir the granulated sugar into the water and simmer over medium-low heat until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved and the liquid has slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
Rinse the cranberries and place them in a shallow bowl. Pour the simple syrup over the cranberries, cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, drain the berries. Put the sprinkles and superfine sugar into a bowl deep enough to hold the berries. Gently roll the berries in the sugar/sprinkles mixture in small batches, remove with a fork and let dry on a baking sheet.
* Note: If you can’t find superfine sugar in the market, pulse granulated sugar in a blender or food processor for a minute.
3. Sprinkles Sugar Cubes
Plop a sugar cube doused with bitters into a flute. Top it off with your favorite Champagne or sparkling wine, and you have one of the perennial-favorite New Year’s Eve classic cocktails. Handcrafted aromatic bitters infused with Thai, Mexican or Moroccan flavors (available in specialty stores and online) and homemade sprinkles sugar cubes make it very 2014.
As the sugar cubes dissolve, sparkling edible star glitter is released into the glass. Making your own sugar cubes is fun and surprisingly easy. To serve, place one sugar cube in the bottom of each flute and let your guests pick their favorite.
Get the Recipe: Sprinkles Sugar Cubes
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons sparkling sugar or other sprinkles
2 teaspoons water
Edible glitter such as stars or Christmas trees (optional)
Moisten the granulated sugar and sparkling sugar or sprinkles with about 2 teaspoons of water. The sugar should still be gritty, not wet. If using edible glitter, put a little bit into the bottom of candy molds or ice cube trays. Press the sugar mixture firmly into the trays and add a little more glitter, so that when you unmold it, the glitter is on both sides.
4. Marshmallow Menorah
I came up with the idea for celebrating the Festival of Lights with these marshmallow menorahs while I was in art school. (I was too poor to spend money on anything that wasn’t edible.) They’re super cute, festive and cheerful, and after the sun sets, they help make excellent s’mores if you use dripless candles.
How to Make a Marshmallow Menorah:
Press candles into jumbo marshmallows. Dip the marshmallows into melted colored candy discs and then into blue and white jimmies and snowflake quins before dusting with royal blue sanding sugar. Do not hold them by the candles, and be sure to place them on a flame-safe surface. I also recommend using dripless candles if you plan to eat them afterward. These are great for college kids or anyone who doesn’t have a traditional menorah handy, or if you just want a fun alternative.
Delicate, powdery white confectioners’ sugar dusted in a pattern onto anything dark is a sight to behold. Snowflakes cut out of plain paper (like you made in grade school) can be used as stencils, or try lace, doilies or stainless-steel store-bought stencils made specifically for baking. There is also a wide variety of premade stencils available at craft stores and online.
How to Stencil Baked Goods:
Place the stencil over the treat you wish to decorate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, lift the stencil and accent with sugar pearls or other sprinkles.
Jackie Alpers is an award-winning food photographer and the author of Sprinkles!: Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts (Quirk Books 2013).