Hogmanay Shortbread Cookies

December 31: Hogmanay/New Year’s Eve

Whenever we are too lazy bake a black bun out celebrating with family and friends on New Year’s Eve, we still like to add something Scottish to the festivities. A simple shortbread seems to satisfy, after indulging in all the heavier appetizers, main dishes and drinks.

We used a rustic recipe—only three ingredients: flour, powdered sugar and butter—just like the old Scots did when harsh winters limited their resources and ingredients. Traditionally baked in round tins, our shortbread was shaped into mini circles to resemble lucky coins to wish everyone good fortune in the new year. We also decorated a few of the cookies with chocolate fondant cutout alphabets. They make for a good conversation (and an edible education) about Hogmanay, the last day of the Scottish old year, which does not just include the singing of Auld Lang Syne. Learn more about the rich traditions from Scotland.org.

We are happy to share a little bit of Highlander’s food and culture with everyone. Happy Hogmanay!


(Adapted from Almanac.com)


  • 1 ½ cups pastry flour (see Notes)
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup butter, chilled
  • Chocolate fondant (optional)


Sift the pastry flour with the powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Grate the chilled butter into the flour-sugar mixture. 

Knead for several minutes until the dough comes together. Roll into a ball. Flatten the ball of dough into a disc between two sheets of wax paper. Roll into ¼-inch thick. 

Cut into round shapes. Re-roll dough and continue cutting out shapes. Place onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees F for 30 minutes, being careful not to overbake or burn the bottoms. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Optional: Dust a clean surface with powdered sugar. Roll out a small piece of chocolate fondant to 1/16-inch thickness. Cut out letters to spell Hogmanay. Brush the top of the shortbread with water. Position a letter on the cookie. Arrange on a serving platter.


  • We purchased pastry flour from our local grocery store. But a good alternative is to mix half all-purpose with cake flour.
  • We were at Islander’s parents’ house in Hawaii when we baked these Hogmanay shortbread and forgot to bring round cookie cutters. So we improvised and used the lid of a spice jar to cut shapes. They were the perfect size for this festive food.

Lunar New Year Candy Bars

January 25 (2020): Asian Lunar New Year

Happy new year (again)! In an attempt to make edible spring couplets, Islander asked her adult ESL students to write Korean and Chinese greetings and well wishes on auspiciously red-colored confectioners candy bars. The activity was a nice break from the usual reading/conversation/pronunciation lessons for the day and gave her students a chance to share some sweet candy, traditions and information about their cultural observances of the lunar new year with others at school. Simply make this fun and festive food to ring in the Year of the Rat!



  • Red candy melts (Wilton brand)
  • White tube icing


Melt the candy melts according to the package instructions. Stir until smooth. Pour into rectangular candy molds. Cool to set. Unmold carefully onto paper towels.

Using a small round tip on the white tube icing, write short new year greetings in Chinese or Korean characters. Let dry but do not stack.


Mochi Matcha Bundt Cake

January 1: New Year’s Day/National Hot Tea Month

Most Asians have a tradition to eat mochi (glutinous rice flour) desserts on New Year’s Day. The sticky chewy texture of the food symbolizes that luck will stick around all year long while the “rice” spelling resembles the word “rich” for prosperity ahead. We have eaten mochi-based Filipino bibingka and Chinese gau many times before. But here now is our double take on this Japanese-inspired mochi matcha bundt cake recipe. The chocolate cake contains mochi for keeping the new year food tradition while the matcha green tea is for commemorating the month-long food holiday. The two-tone color of this mochi matcha bundt cake is a visual representation of celebrating both New Year’s Day and National Hot Tea Month.


(Adapted from PopSugar)


  • 1 box (1 pound) mochiko (sweet rice flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons matcha green tea powder
  • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips


Grease a bundt pant and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the mochiko, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter with the sugar. Stir in the evaporated milk.

Add the vanilla. Beat in the eggs. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients and stir until smooth.

Divide the batter in half into two bowls. To the first bowl, mix in the cocoa powder. To the second bowl, mix in the matcha green tea powder. Stir in the mini chocolate chips into the cocoa powder mixture.

Pour the chocolate batter into the bundt pan first and smooth it out with a spatula. Next, pour the matcha batter on top of the chocolate batter. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick or wooden skewer. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Invert the pan onto a wire rack to cool completely. Slice to reveal the two-tone colored cake. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the slices before serving (optional)


  • This mochi matcha bundt cake bakes up a dull green but photographs okay in the light. Feel free to add a few drops of green food coloring in the matcha batter and mix well to make the hue brighter when baked.
  • Search our blog for other traditional New Year’s and hot tea recipes.