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Not sure what to give this holiday season? Do something different and wrap up some homemade sweet treats! Whether it's for family, co-workers or friends — these delicious desserts from Gesine Bullock-Prado will make anyone's day that much sweeter. Here, she shares her recipes for Marcona almond toffee, polka-dot cheesecake sandwich bars and more.

Marcona almond toffee


Makes 24 servings
Courtesy of Gesine Bullock-Prado and Better Homes and Gardens, Dec. 2014

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Chill: 30 minutes


  • 2 cups butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup roasted and salted Marcona almonds
  • 1 cup chopped white baking chocolate
  • 1 tsp. shortening

1. Line a 15×10×1-inch baking pan with foil; coat with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In a large saucepan combine butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Stir over medium heat until sugar is completely melted and mixture boils. Clip a candy thermometer to pan. Continue stirring until mixture reaches 290 degrees Fahrenheit, about 15 minutes.

3. Pour toffee into prepared pan, tipping pan to evenly spread. Let cool on a wire rack. In a small saucepan melt chocolate and shortening. Spread over toffee. Sprinkle with almonds. Chill least 30 minutes.

Polka-dot cheesecake sandwich bars


Makes 36 servings
Courtesy of Gesine Bullock-Prado and Better Homes and Gardens, Dec. 2014

Prep: 45 minutes
Bake: 1 hour and 10 minutes
Chill: 1 hour


  • 18 to 19 graham cracker rectangles
  • 4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cranberry puree
  • 1 1⁄2 cups frozen fresh cranberries
  • 1⁄2 cup sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup water
  • 2 to 3 drops gel food coloring (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 13×9×2-inch baking pan with foil. Arrange graham crackers to cover bottom, breaking crackers as needed. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl beat cream cheese and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add cream and lemon juice; beat until combined. Add eggs, one at a time. Add flour, zest, and a pinch of kosher salt. Mix until smooth.

3. Transfer 1 cup batter to a small bowl. Set aside.

4. In a heavy medium saucepan combine cranberries, sugar, and water. Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly and cranberries pop. Cool slightly.

5. Transfer mixture to a food processor; pulse until smooth. Press through a fine mesh sieve; discard solids. Stir puree into 1 cup reserved batter. Add food coloring, if desired. Cover. Chill batters 1 hour.

6. Using a large offset spatula, evenly spread plain batter over prepared graham cracker crust. Spoon cranberry batter in mounds on top of plain batter.

7. Top batter with remaining graham crackers, arranging to fit the pan.

8. Bake 40 minutes. Turn oven off. Let stand in oven 30 minutes more. Remove. Cool on a wire rack. Cover. Chill for 2 hours. Cut into bars along cracker perforations. 

Candy cane toboggan


Courtesy of Gesine Bullock-Prado and Better Homes and Gardens, Dec. 2014

Gesine's favorite royal icing (makes 1/4 cup): 

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. dried egg whites
  • 2 Tbsp. water

In a small bowl combine 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tsp dried egg whites, and 2 Tbsp water (1 Tbsp at a time), until smooth. To store, cover with plastic wrap touching the surface for up to 1 week. 

  • 1 package of candy canes (regular or large)
  • 1 package of tea biscuits or rectangular cookies

To create this whimsical treat, use royal icing (see above) to attach your favorite tea biscuit or rectangular cookie to candy canes. Set the toboggan on a mound of sugar to dry, if desired. 

Cherry pistachio pralines


Makes 12
Courtesy of Gesine Bullock-Prado and Better Homes and Gardens, Dec. 2014

Start to finish 30 minutes


  • 1 Tbsp. finely shredded lime peel
  • 1⁄4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, unsalted
  • 1⁄4 tsp. salt
  • 1⁄8 tsp. cherry oil
  • 2 drops red gel food coloring

1. Coat twelve 2 1⁄2-inch muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. Add a pinch of lime peel into each cup. Add pistachios. Set aside.

2. In a 1-quart saucepan combine sugar, evaporated milk, butter, salt, oil, and food coloring. Stir over medium heat until sugar is melted and mixture boils. Attach a candy thermometer to pan. Continue to heat, without stirring, until mixture reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Immediately spoon mixture into each cup, working quickly before mixture hardens. Let stand 15 minutes to set. Loosen candies with an offset spatula. Turn muffin tin over and gently knock on the bottom of each cavity to release each paver.