Branding Magic and the Evolution of Kris Kringle Cookies

Cookies & Content Marketing: The 12 Cookies of KOTAW | Cookie 1: Kris Kringles

Last year I penned The 12 Days of KOTAW, one of the most exhilarating – and exhausting – bodies of work I’ve undertaken. I took great pleasure in the overwhelming response to my collection of holiday stories, and I was tempted to share another dozen anecdotes this December.

How your creative business can achieve branding magic | KOTAW Content MarketingBut I resisted. Because last year I spent so many days and nights (and middle-of-the-nights) writing about Christmas that I didn’t have energy to celebrate the holiday season.

So, this year, I am making – and baking – new memories. I’m replaying The 12 Days of KOTAW for anyone who missed them – or wants to reread them. But I’m also inviting you to share in this season’s kitchen festivities.

The 12 Cookies of KOTAW is a collection of recipes (and stories) featuring my favorite yuletide treats. And for those of you who can’t enjoy a platter of confections unless it’s sprinkled with serious purpose, I’ll dust some of my musings with a marketing lesson or two.

Beginning with the delightfully delicious (but woefully branded) Kris Kringle cookies.

Eagle Hatches a Golden Brand

Long before Eagle Brand slapped a recipe for Magic Cookie Bars on the label of its sweetened condensed milk cans, there lived a very, very similar – but superior – recipe for Kris Kringles. My dad found the recipe in the Windsor Star newspaper and surprised my brother, mom and me with them one Christmas Eve. They were supposed to be left for Santa, but we gobbled them up so quickly that the poor guy got carrot sticks and stale Fig Newtons instead.

Kris Kringles became a family holiday tradition, and we took to making them in double batches so that we could share these delectable treats without depriving ourselves of their gooey-chewy delightfulness. Everyone loved our “secret” recipe, which we never, ever divulged.

Better Taste/Inferior Branding

So I was pretty darn miffed (strong language for me as a child) when someone brought a plate of Magic Cookie Bars to my high school Home-Ec class and everyone raved about this decidedly inferior version of Kris Kringles.

And nearly heartbroken when she gave everyone the recipe – she told us to buy a can of Eagle Brand condensed milk and read the back label.

Well I bought a can (my parents had always purchased the generic version) and followed the recipe and ended up with a very good bar cookie. But they weren’t Kris Kringles.

It wasn’t just my imagination, I swear. I think it’s more about the preparation. But I’ll let you decide whether little-known Kris Kringles taste better than their famous cookie cousin.

How to Make Kris Kringles:

Line a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with parchment paper. The parchment paper isn’t strictly necessary, but your cookies will lift out easier and look prettier if you use it. And you can pick up parchment paper for a dollar at the 99 Cent store, so it’s not the budget-breaker my mom used to tell me it was.

Place ½ cup (1 stick) of margarine on top of the parchment paper and place in oven. Set the temperature to 350 degrees. Remove the pan when the margarine (or butter, if you prefer) is melted. This takes about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, crush 1 packet of graham crackers (about 1 cup) until crumbly. You can use a food processor, blender or rolling pin for this.

Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over melted margarine. Mix with fingers and press firmly onto bottom of the pan to form a crust.

Put pan back in oven for 3 minutes. Remove.

Here’s where it gets tricky (not really, but the layering and the order of the layers makes a difference.)

Sprinkle 1 cup chocolate chips over the crust. Sprinkle 1 cup nuts over the chocolate chips. Sprinkle 1 1/3 cup shredded coconut over the nuts. Note: My dad used chopped walnuts and so did I – until I became allergic to them. Now I use sliced almonds and like them just as much.

The last step – adding a can of condensed milk – is the hardest and most crucial. Skip the temptation to dump the contents over the top and mix everything around. If you want a one-of-a-kind Kris Kringle and not a banal Magic Cookie bar, here is what you must, MUST do:

Create two small holes on the top of the can. My dad did this with a bottle opener (one end opened soda and beer bottles and the other would make a triangle-shaped puncture in metal cans.) You can use a regular can opener to make a one-inch slice on opposite sides of the can. Use a spoon handle to open one of the holes a bit more.

Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over the coconut. Your aim is to completely cover the coconut without leaving blobs of milk in any single place. This is easy, but time-consuming compared to the rest of the Kris Kringle cookie-making process. I find the activity relaxing – it’s sort of like dripping paint onto a canvas and, sometimes, to keep myself amused, I make patterns with the milk. In the end, it won’t matter.

Place the assembled Kris Kringles and bake for about 25 minutes. The edges of the cookies should be solid brown and the middle mostly brown.

Remove from oven. Let set for about 10 minutes before cutting into squares (or rectangles.)

Enjoy and prepare to make a second batch. These disappear quickly.

Recipe for Branding Success

Are Magic Cookie bars better than Kris Kringles? Is Coke better than Pepsi, and do both taste better than generic cola? Or are they just branded better? Many companies with strong products go out of business because their brands are weak.

If you have questions about branding (or cookies), please share them in the comments section below.


  1. Thank you Katherine for sharing such a wonderful story yet again. Now that I’m cooking for 7 of us, I will be sure to make a double batch of these delectable bars! Also, I appreciate your branding insights and sage advice! Definitely, food for thought! Merry Christmas! Rochelle

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Cooking for 7, oh my! Do you have a double oven in the new house? Maybe you can put some of my sage advice in your stuffing!

      Hope this finds you settled in and enjoying the charm of a white Christmas. (I won’t ask about the less-than-charming aspects of snow.)

      Happy holidays to the growing gang!

  2. […] invite you to test my theory with these recipes from The 12 Cookies of KOTAW: Amish-Inspired Raspberry Cookie Squares, Award-Winning Coconut Islands and Grandma Gilhuly’s […]

  3. […] sometimes we get busy baking other holiday goodies — or telling stories about them! — and butter tarts get saved for New Year’s Eve. And sometimes, if Christmas Eve is […]

  4. […] came up with three that met my critical sniff test. And while I ate some of my creations, I penned “Branding Magic and the Evolution of Kris Kringle Cookies”, “Allergic to Peanuts or Social Media? This Cookie’s for You!” and “In Cookies and Content […]

  5. […] why Christmas isn’t Christmas at our house unless it includes butter tarts, Kris Kringles (my father’s variation of Magic Cookie Bars) and a half-dozen other must-have treats we bake […]

  6. Kristen says:


    I truly enjoyed the peek into your walk down memory lane. I love that about the holidays–they always bring out the best traditions and pull at the heartstrings. Thank you for sharing this special moment (and recipe) with us!

    Wishing you and your girls a joyous Christmas holiday.


    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Sharing memories — and creating new ones — make holidays special. The cookies and other treats are a bonus.

      Thank you so much for stopping by here. You make every day seem like a holiday.


Join the Discussion