cocoa squares

Holiday bakes and tray treats also make thoughtful Christmas gifts. Image: Salvelio Meyer

Holiday bakes: Fill the biscuit tins with old-school favourites

Try these festive treats that taste like home and are so easy to make.

cocoa squares

Holiday bakes and tray treats also make thoughtful Christmas gifts. Image: Salvelio Meyer

Few thing are as symbolic of the holidays as opening a big tub of home-made biscuits baked with love. The advantage of the holiday bake or tray treat is that you have an arsenal of goodies for hungry little mouths and a ready supply of Christmas gifts — pop them into a jar, decorate and you’re sorted!

Today’s recipes for easy holiday treats were shared by Port Elizabeth chef Lu-Ann Moffett. Lu-Ann has been baking since she was a little girl and this set her on a path to becoming a chef with international experience.

“Our family always has something nice on the stove or on the braai. We are very sociable and this always includes a good meal,” Lu-Ann said.

She and her husband, Paul Moffett, did something during the lockdown that many thought was “completely mad”. They started a small catering business and retail outlet called This is Me, where Lu-Ann has been cooking an baking up a storm since November.

chef Lu-Ann Moffett
Chef Lu-Ann Moffett at This is Me with an armful of irresistible holiday eats. Image: Salvelio Meyer

What path did you follow to become a professional chef?

I was born in Komani [previously Queenstown] and moved to Port Elizabeth when I was 12. 

After matric, I studied at Warwick’s chef school in Hermanus. I worked at the Beach Hotel and Shamwari Game Reserve, both in the Eastern Cape; Wilderness Safaris in Botswana; and spent two years in London doing high-end corporate catering for the likes of the London Stock Exchange. 

After my return, I joined the Plantation [group of venues and accommodation establishments], where I worked from 2007 to 2019. I completed a six-month consulting contract in Tanzania, where I did formal chefs’ training for underprivileged children, before we started our little business.

Tell us about the business and inspiration behind it?

I’d always wanted to have my own business, but I was too scared. The business began with a carrot cake order during the lockdown, which then became two, and more and more. I also started doing private catering in that time. 

The space in Walmer, Port Elizabeth, where we now have our shop and business became available. We decided there was no better time than now, so Paul and I took the plunge. 

We’ve been open for a few weeks, and have already had such positive feedback and feel so welcome. We are excited about the future and believe we will grow from strength to strength.

How has the lockdown affected your business and industry?

Lockdown is what got my business started and I believe I am one of the fortunate few with a happy story to tell at such a challenging time in our lives. 

Chef Lu-Ann’s holiday bakes and tray treats

chef Lu-Ann Moffett
Lu-Ann preps a batch of edible prezzies to pop under the tree. Image: Salvelio Meyer

The first recipe, for the archetypal ‘soetkoekie’, was submitted by a Mrs Mollie de Witt and published in Knuppeldik aan Koningskos, a publication compiled by the Pretoria Police Officers’ women’s club back in the day. 

Lu-Ann, whose late father, Melvin Humpel, was a renowned detective in the Eastern Cape for many years, has been cooking from this recipe book since she was a little girl. 

“I’ve probably made these ‘soetkoekies’ a thousand times and they are a winner every time. You get a huge amount of biscuits out, so these should see you through the entire school holidays.”

RECIPE: Old-fashioned ‘soetkoekies’ 

‘Soetkoekies’ are a South African favourite. Image: Salvelio Meyer

Makes 100+ biscuits


250g butter, room temperature

600g (750ml) sugar

5 eggs, large 

825g cake flour (6 x 250ml, measured unsifted)

30ml baking powder

10ml ground nutmeg 

2ml salt

To paint the biscuits:

1 egg, beaten

25ml milk

Extra sugar for decorating


Cream butter, sugar and the five eggs together. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Mix sifted ingredients with butter mixture until a fairly soft dough is formed.

Cover and allow to rest for half an hour. 

Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly grease baking trays or use a non-stick spray. 

Roll out dough thinly on a surface dusted with flour. Cut out circles, 4 to 5cm in diameter, using a cookie cutter. 

Place dough circles slightly apart on baking sheets. Mix beaten egg and milk, and lightly paint over biscuits. Sprinkle a little sugar in the centre of each biscuit for decoration. 

Bake biscuits for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly and place on a wire rack to cool completely. 

Store in an airtight container.

RECIPE: Classic cocoa squares

cocoa squares
Let the kids pitch in to help make these cocoa squares. Image: Salvelio Meyer

The beauty of this recipe, Lu-Ann says, is that it’s so easy you can rope in the youngsters to help or they can do it all. It’s technically not even baking, so oven burns are not going to happen!

Makes 24 squares


500g icing sugar

100g cocoa

2 x 150g Marie biscuits, broken into pieces

2 eggs

250g butter


Melt the butter in a microwave and set aside. Mix the icing sugar, cocoa and eggs together.

Add the melted butter, mix well and microwave for three minutes.

Remove and add the Marie biscuits.

Mix well, tip out onto a baking tray, spread evenly and allow to cool before slicing.


cranberry squares
The addition of cranberries gives this easy tray treat a festive touch. Image: Salvelio Meyer

Makes 24 squares


2 x 150g packets of Marie biscuits, broken

300g Wooden Spoon white margarine

1 tin condensed milk

250g icing sugar

250g desiccated coconut

Handful of cranberries, chopped

100g slab of white chocolate

15ml cooking oil


Melt the butter, add the condensed milk and stir through.

With the pot still on the stove, add the icing sugar, coconut and cranberries, and mix well.

Remove from the stove and add the Marie biscuits. Mix well.

Place on a baking tray and spread evenly.

Gently melt the white chocolate with the cooking oil and it spread it over the biscuit mixture.

Decorate, cool and cut into squares.

Follow Lu-Ann on Instagram at thisisme_lu and on Facebook at This is Me.