There’s so much to love about the art of baking, and one of my favorite things is discovering recipes that fully reflect the person behind them. Anyone can bake a good cookie recipe, but it’s pure magic when a recipe can transport you straight into someone’s kitchen. You’re right there beside them walking you through each step—sharing secret tips and swapping stories along the way. And that’s exactly how I felt when Elizabeth Ho from Birdhouse Bakeshop shared this holiday linzer cookie recipe.
In fact, I immediately headed straight into the kitchen to make a batch for myself. Elizabeth’s approach to sweets and desserts is as beautiful as it is approachable, and the celebration of seasonal ingredients in their greatest form is an art that Elizabeth excels at.
Elizabeth Ho’s Favorite Linzer Cookie Recipe
We’re big holiday cookie box fans over here, and I’m stoked to add Elizabeth’s linzer cookie recipe to my gifting exchange this year. Linzer cookies, especially for the holiday season, feel extra special. I shared this chocolate orange version last year. And while the idea of sandwich cookies can be intimidating, once you get in the groove, you’ll impress everyone with the fanciful treat that looks like you’ve spent days baking.
Ahead, Elizabeth shares her recipe with us and her approach to baking with the beauty of the seasons. Plus, get ready for her delicious flavor variations for these linzers, so there’s something for everyone on your list.
Owner of Birdhouse Bakeshop, Liz’s work is rooted in the beauty that comes from quality and simplicity. Always flourished with seasonal blooms, her bakes are an outpouring of love, memory, and sharing of her Chinese Malaysian heritage. In her little home kitchen, Liz spends her days creating inventive cakes, alongside a small everchanging menu of pastries, for locals in Edmonton, Canada.
How would you describe your baking and food philosophy?
I think baking should be loving and emotional, but also practical. I always create in a way that feels nurturing, intimate and calming to me. Often that means focusing on simple (and nostalgic) ingredients, thoughtfully paired and prepared. I want my recipes to tie into something personal—whether that’s memory, family tradition, or place. But I also think it’s important to make the most of what surrounds you. I love the ways food and pastry can bring us closer to the cycles of nature and of a season.
How did you develop this recipe?
I’m almost always very inspired by transitions—in life, in mood, amid seasons. I wanted a recipe that adapted easily to all those changes. These cookies make it very easy to embrace my current cravings, surroundings, and what catches my eye at the farmer’s market or grocer.
I thought about the filling first, and that’s really what makes this cookie. It’s a soothing shade of pastel—balanced, tangy, and allows you to use the winter citrus available to you. I like to approach recipes by looking at the ingredients in front of me and considering how they’ll intertwine, not only in taste but in color and in palate. The buttery biscuit is a classic shortbread. It takes on flavoring well and pairs nicely with any jam, curd, cream… whatever lights you up in the moment.
What makes this recipe your go-to for holiday baking?
These are versatile and nut-free (many traditional linzer cookies contain almond). The dough can be made in advance and comes together in a pinch. Perhaps most importantly, they look stunning in a holiday cookie box!
What are your must-have kitchen tools for this recipe?
This recipe doesn’t call for any fancy equipment, but a mixer (handheld or stand) will come in handy. Have you been waiting all year to use those darling cookie cutters? This is your moment! If all you have is a glass cup, use the top as a cookie cutter. If you don’t have a small enough cutter for the center of the cookie, the back-end of a piping tip works just as well.
What standout ingredients make this recipe special?
Winter can be a melancholy time of year—sometimes excruciatingly so if you live in a colder climate, like I do. Playing with bright and boldly-colored fruit helps! These cookies’ filling pulls from the natural abundance of winter’s produce. Citrus is easily found, and any leftover filling can be eaten on toast, pancakes, cake, ice cream, or by the spoonful. The cardamom in the cookies adds a nice warmth, but a teaspoon of coconut extract would be dreamy as well.
I’m all about unexpected flavor pairings—or rather, weaving together simple ingredients, in a unique way.
What ingredient swaps can be made in this recipe?
For the citrus curd, use whatever is available to you. Grapefruit, blood oranges, and Satsuma mandarins are my favorite. Some flavor variations include:
Lavender & Strawberry. Replace the cardamom and orange zest with two teaspoons dried culinary lavender rubbed into the sugar before beating. Use your choice of strawberry jam, in lieu of the citrus curd.
Orange Blossom & Pistachio. Replace the cardamom with ½ teaspoon orange blossom water/essence, and a spoonful of your favorite pistachio cream, or butter (store-bought or homemade). Hazelnut works great with the orange blossom, too.
These are such a great vessel for your favorite spices, zests, extracts, fillings. So play around with it! Apricot and anise, blueberry and black tea, coconut and dulce de leche. Follow your baking heart and intuition. These cookies do not discriminate.
What favorite baking hacks have you learned over the years?
Thankfully this recipe is so simple, it doesn’t require any hacks. I do like to make the dough a few days in advance, to save some time the day of. A good rest in the fridge allows the flavor to develop too. Here’s a tip: almost any cookie dough will taste better after a 1-3 day rest in the fridge!
After rolling and cutting out the dough, you can store the cut-outs in the freezer (sealed in a ziplock or airtight container, for up to a month), to be baked when you need them. A bit of time in the freezer before baking helps the cookies maintain their shape as well.
What advice would you share with beginner bakers?
Baking is not about having all the professional equipment, a perfectly stocked pantry, or access to specialty ingredients. It’s about finding wonder and inspiration in simplicity, in your surroundings, in memories, and using that to create something nourishing.
Curiosity can be your biggest strength, and perfection is more an idea than a way of life.
For me, baking allows me to be ambitious and open to possibilities, yet humble enough to know when to let go—of an idea, of control. Maybe you didn’t find quince at the market; choose seasonal pears or apples instead. Don’t feel compelled to drive 20 minutes for orange blossom extract? Use a few teaspoons of orange zest, or use a floral that is exciting and nostalgic to you. Anything can be a starting point for a recipe.
If you show up, do your best, and don’t let imperfection or fear of failure be a deterrent, you’ll improve every time.
What is the best part of creating recipes to share for people to bring into their own homes?
Every recipe is an extension of me—what moves me, what evokes memories of childhood, of my family’s heritage. It’s a passionate outlet, a personal labor of love, and it makes me happy knowing others can enjoy or find inspiration in it as well.
I hope people feel a sense of warmth, ease, and connection while baking one of my recipes. And I hope they feel inspired to punctuate the recipes in their own unique ways. Baking has taught me that while we can predict certain elements of the process, the outcome does not have to be perfect to be enjoyed. Embrace that! There’s a comfort and a romance to it.
And I hope in sharing these cookies, people are reminded to cling tightly to what’s important—to cultivate love, community, and presence.
What cookies are in your dream cookie box?
Anything else you’d like to share?
A few things that have my love and attention right now: