Informational Articles

Chef’s Guide To Holiday Baking Prep

Don't be afraid of the holidays! I'm here to help your Holiday Baking Prep with my years of professional chef experience. With these tips and planning, your holiday is about to be as memorable as it is stress-free!
A table full of holiday desserts and dessert recipes.

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Hi Bold Bakers!

There is a lot of excitement around the Holidays — but also there can be stress. I’m a professional chef and baker, and I’m here to share with you my guide to getting you through the day with ease with some simple planning and Holiday Baking Prep. That’s right, just plan your menu in advance and everything else will fall into place. If my years of pro experience have taught me anything, it’s that a lot of headaches and stress can be avoided just with some simple preparation ahead of time!

[ Bigger Bolder Baking is your #1 source for Holiday Baking! Visit my Holiday Baking Headquarters for recipes & help! ]

That way you can focus on what truly matters during the holidays!

Holiday Baking Prep: Choosing Your Menu

Choose a menu that allows for advance prep or preparations that can be made ahead of time  — we always like to make the day before (that means a full day before anyone arrives) our busy prep day, full of chopping herbs and veggies and making sauces and baking anything that can be easily reheated. This leaves Thanksgiving or Christmas free for last-minute details and ample time for the turkey to bake without stressing about what else needs oven time.

It’s also good to have some menu items that don’t require cooking (like my no-bake desserts below) or can be made in a crockpot (see my list below) to keep the oven free for pies, turkey, roasting veggies, and rewarming food just before serving. Or — if you are potlucking, delegate items that need to be baked so you don’t experience a backup for oven time! For me this means that I make the turkey, a side that I can’t live without, and a dessert or two that I must have. Then I let my guests know that they are welcome to bring their favorite side or dessert.

Hands reaching for pinwheel cookies among a table of other desserts.

For either a very large or very small crowd, consider making turkey leg confit in olive oil instead of roasting a whole turkey (or several). This can be made several days in advance, and you can make just two legs or 42! It’s scalable for your occasion. Once done, the legs can be stored in the oil until the day of — just 30 minutes of warming and crisping in the oven while guests arrive is all it will need. 

Veggies for sides (except for potatoes) can be washed and cut 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. You can also keep your prepped veg in the fridge up to 2 days before the big day. 

Most classic Holiday desserts can be made at least one day in advance, too, if not weeks in advance, and frozen like Pie crust and crisp toppings.

The Weeks Before

Here’s your checklist to ensure a stress-free baking holiday. Start early! I promise you, you’ll thank me day-of. Visit my Holiday Baking Headquarters for inspiration.

  • Create Your Menu
    • Know exactly what you’re making, when, and what your guests might need dietary-wise.
  • Make Your Pastry
    • Pastry can be made and then frozen! There is no reason not to — it will bake off just the same and be just as amazing.
  • Assemble Fruit Pies and Freeze (if applicable)
  • Make and bake any desserts that can be baked and frozen

The Weekend Before

  • Make your shopping list — look through all of your recipes to make sure you don’t forget anything.
  • Do all of your shopping, bar fresh meat or fish. Eggs, dairy, and other perishables will last just fine until the big day.

The Day Before The Holiday

Peel and chop all veggies and fresh herbs for sides, make sauces, and stuffing. Then, place in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Store cut potatoes in water to stop them from going brown. They can be kept out for just 24 hours in a cold room. 

  • Make any salad dressings or sauces
  • Brine (wet or dry) your turkey if brining
  • Make any desserts that can be baked in advance
  • Assemble stuffing (if the recipe allows) and hold it in the refrigerator
  • Make cranberry sauce

The Day Of

  1. Bake all the pies first
  2. Bake the turkey
  3. Bake the stuffing
  4. Roast veggies
  5. While food is baking, make any stovetop items

My last piece of advice is once you make your menu choices, stick to them! Don’t add more work to your plate. There will be enough of everything and people will love it.

Here Are Some Desserts For The Holidays

Holiday Sweets To Make In Advance

A walnut caramel tart sliced out and served.

Here’s the thing — why break your back the day of the holiday when you can prepare further in advance when stress levels are low and you have some extra time? Here are some dessert recipes that can help you do just that.

Pies For The Big Day!

Sweet Potato Pie with a slice removed.

If your dessert needs baked day-of, that’s OK too! Here’s a list of recipes you can get a leg-up on early and then assemble and bake day-of.

Crock-Pot Desserts 

Two bowls of pumpkin cobbler made in the crockpot

Free up that precious oven space! Nothing says you have to bake your desserts in your oven — make something downright delicious in your Crock-Pot or slow cooker instead. TIP: That being said, you can always bake in toaster ovens, too!

No-Bake Desserts 

Dulce De Leche Cheesecake topped with whipped cream.

The ultimate in baking tricks — don’t even bake at all. No-bake desserts can be made entirely the day before and chilled overnight to set. Just make sure you have room in your fridge.

Don’t forget, Bold Bakers, we’re here to help! My culinary team of experts and I are here for you. We respond to every question we get in the comments on the website, and there could be a brand new way of reaching out to us in a pinch very soon!

Start Making Cookies, Too!

It’s never too early to figure out which holiday cookies you want to try this year.

And don’t forget to buy my Bigger Bolder Baking Cookbook!

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2 years ago

Just wondering about the whirligig biscuits – are they sweet or savoury, please? Can’t find the recipe. Hope you can help, many thanks.

Chantal Hortop
Chantal Hortop
2 years ago

Lots of great tips here for spreading out the prep – I’m a planner and a list-maker, but really appreciate the outline of what can be done when! Thank you, Gemma!

About Us

Meet Gemma

About Us

Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, a cookbook author, and the creator of Bigger Bolder Baking. I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere with my trusted and tested recipes and baking tips. You may have seen one of my 500+ videos on YouTube & TikTok or as a guest judge on Nailed It! on Netflix or the Best Baker in America on Food Network. No matter your skills, my Bold Baking Team & I want to be your #1 go-to baking authority.


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