Benchmark Blog

A Sweet Surprise for the Holidays 2.0

Dec 22, 2023
Benchmark Blog

Holiday Tray Bake Recipes

Members of the departmental leadership of Benchmark Human Services are thrilled to share their favorite tray bake recipes for the winter season. Happy Holidays and Merry Baking!

Trista’s Great Grandma’s Texas Sheet Cake

From Trista DeBolt, HR Director of Recruitment

“I am so excited to be part of this! 🙂 My recipe is my Great Grandma’s Texas Sheet Cake. I was very fortunate to have her in my life until she passed in 2022. She was the most special lady and would make anything we requested, even if there was no special occasion at all. I always enjoyed making this recipe with her.”



2 C Flour
2 C Sugar
1 C Margarine
4 T Cocoa
1 C Water
1/2 C Buttermilk
2 Eggs, beaten
1/2 t Cinnamon
1 t Baking Soda
1 t Vanilla


4 T Cocoa
1/3 C Margarine
6 T Milk
1 lb. Powdered Sugar
1 t Vanilla
1 C Walnuts (if desired)


Preheat oven to 350°.
Frosting: Combine cocoa, margarine and milk, bring to boil. Remove from heat; add powdered sugar, vanilla, and walnuts (if using). Set aside.
Cake: Prepare batter by mixing flour with sugar in a large bowl. Bring margarine, coca, and water to a rapid boil. Immediately pour over flour mixture, mix well.
Add buttermilk, eggs, cinnamon, baking soda, and vanilla. Mix well.
Pour into greased and flowered 17 x 11- inch sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
Remove cake from oven and frost immediately.
Allow to cool, slice, and serve.

Jenn’s Magic Cookie Bars

From Jenn Rolfs-Knepper, Accounting Manager

“This is one of our family favorites! My uncle makes these each year. As kids we would sit around and wait while they baked and argue over who got the first piece. They were a treasured treat during holiday’s together and a Santa favorite. 🙂 Plus they are super easy to make!”


1 ½ C Graham Cracker Crumbs
½ C Butter, melted
1 (14 oz.) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 C Semisweet Chocolate Morsels
1 ⅓ C Flaked Coconut
1 C chopped Nuts of Choice


Preheat oven to 350° or 325° if using a glass dish.
Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Mix graham cracker crumbs and butter in a bowl until well combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and press onto the bottom.
Pour sweetened condensed milk on graham cracker crust. Sprinkle with an even layer of chocolate chips, coconut, and nuts. Press toppings down firmly with the back of a fork.
Bake in the preheated oven until lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Cool completely, then cut!

Kelly’s White Texas Sheet Cake

From Kelly Stahl, Assistant Controller

“A white winter twist on the traditional chocolate favorite!”



2 2/3 C Flour
2 C Sugar
1 C Water
2 Eggs
½ C Margarine
½ C Vegetable Oil
2/3 C Buttermilk
2 t Vanilla
1 t Cinnamon
1 ½ t Baking Powder


½ C Margarine
1 lb. Powdered Sugar
8 oz. Cream Cheese
1 t Vanilla


Preheat oven to 350°.
Beat all cake ingredients together until smooth.
Pour into a greased and flowered 17 x 11- inch sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
While the cake bakes, mix together all of the frosting ingredients.
When the cake has finished baking, spread the frosting on top while it is still hot.
Allow to cool, slice, and serve.

Paula’s New Year’s Cake

From Paula Spall, Benefits Administrator

“This is a cake for anytime but we often enjoyed it on New Year’s morning… or early afternoon depending on how late we stayed up celebrating on New Year’s Eve!”



1 box Yellow Cake Mix
4 Eggs
8 oz. Sour Cream
1 C Brown Sugar
1 T Cinnamon


2 C Powdered Sugar
4 T Milk
1 T Vanilla


Preheat oven to 325°.
In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and ground cinnamon. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, using a wire whisk, combine eggs and sour cream until well incorporated.
Stir in cake mix. Mix until most lumps are gone.
Pour half the batter in a 9 x 13 inch ungreased baking pan.
Sprinkle all the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture over the batter.
Spoon remaining batter into the pan and swirl by drawing a knife through the batter multiple times.
Place in oven and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
While the cake cakes, prepare the icing by whisking together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.
When the cake has finished baking, remove it from the oven and spread the icing on top while the cake is still fairly hot.
Wait for the cake to cool to at least warm before serving.
May also be served at room temperature, cold, or re-heated.

Annette’s Easy Cranberry Fluff

From Annette Powers-Kilburn, Manager of Health Services

“This is a recipe that my grandkids made in “Cooking Club” and the family has adopted it for EVERY gathering!! The grandkids are always so proud that they can make something just like everyone else!”


1 (20 oz.) can Crushed Pineapple, drained
1 (14 oz.) can Whole Cranberry Sauce
1 (8 oz.) tub Cool Whip, thawed
2 C Mini Marshmallows
Fresh Cranberries or Craisins, for garnish


In a large bowl, combine the cranberry sauce and drained, crushed pineapple.
Add the Cool Whip and stir until well combined.
Add the mini marshmallows and stir again until well combined.
Pour the mixture into an 8 x 8 inch cake pan.
Freeze for 2 hours or overnight. Cut into pieces and serve.

Margie’s Toffee

From Margie Cantey, Chief Compliance Officer

“I love this stuff!”


½ C coarsely chopped Almonds
2 sticks Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
1 C Sugar
¼ C Water
½ t Salt
1 t Vanilla
1 C Milk Chocolate Chips
1-2 T finely chopped Almonds, for topping
Flaky Sea Salt, for topping

Recommended Equipment

Candy thermometer
Pastry brush


Line a 9×9 pan with parchment paper and scatter coarsely chopped almonds evenly over the bottom. Set aside.
Combine butter, sugar, water, and salt in a medium-sized pot over low heat. Meanwhile measure out your vanilla extract and have it ready nearby.
Stir ingredients frequently over medium heat. During this time (only before boiling), use a wet pastry brush to brush down the sides where any sugar may settle on the side of the pot to prevent sugar crystals.
Once butter is melted, increase heat to medium and continue to stir frequently until mixture comes to a boil (this may take a while, have patience and do not turn up the heat or you will ruin your toffee).
Once the mixture comes to a boil, attach your candy thermometer. Make sure that the point of the candy thermometer is not touching the bottom of your pan.
Continue to stir occasionally, the mixture will slowly thicken and will turn a more yellow hue as it cooks, and cook to hard crack (305°F).
Candy thermometer in toffee mixture
Once toffee reaches 305°F, immediately remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract (careful, it bubbles and steams a bit).
Pour mixture evenly into your prepared pan over the almonds. Allow to sit for 5 minutes and then sprinkle chocolate chips evenly overtop the mixture. Cover with foil and allow to sit another 5 minutes, then remove the foil and use a spatula to gently spread chocolate chips evenly over your toffee.
Immediately sprinkle with additional finely chopped almonds and flaky sea salt, if desired. Allow to cool completely at room temperature before breaking and serving.

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