Pretty in Pink

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

This Valentine’s Day, I wanted to use a recipe I’d found for a vibrantly pink raspberry buttercream frosting I came across last year while making a Rainbow Sherbet – inspired cupcake.  I know February is the season for all things chocolate, but I just couldn’t move past the lemon raspberry flavor combo I adore so much  (Lemon Raspberry cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory, anyone?) so I paired this with my Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes from years past, just made into minis.  The results are DIVINE.  This frosting is pretty darn amazing; tart-sweet with no food coloring added.  That shocking pink is au naturel! Topped with a conversation heart for some V-Day flair, these are a cute and yummy treat for friends and coworkers.

What you need:

Makes 48 cuppiecakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • zest of one lemon

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 12 ounces of raspberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons whole milk, room temperature (if needed)

Lemon Buttermilk Cuppiecakes

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a mini muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

Beat in egg until just incorporated.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

Add vanilla, lemon zest and lemon extracts into the buttermilk and mix half into the sugar mixture. Mix in half of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining buttermilk, then the rest of the flour. Stir only until just combined. Use a cookie dough scoop to portion out into liners.
Turn oven down to 325 just prior to placing pan in oven. Bake for 9 1/2-11 minutes, turning halfway though, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

 

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Place raspberries in a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat stirring with a spoon until they resemble a sauce.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

Place seedless sauce back in the pan and simmer until it reduces to a 1/4 cup of very concentrated raspberry sauce. Set aside to cool.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

When the raspberry flavoring is room temperature, cream the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Sift in 2 cups of powdered sugar, and combine.   Add the raspberry sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of kosher salt and process until smooth.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

Sift in an additional 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and mix until it is spreading consistency.  If it is too stiff, you can add a tablespoon or two of milk, but I didn’t need to. Isn’t it lovely? A bit labor-intensive but worth every delicious calorie.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

Pipe your cakes and top with a conversation heart. Spread the love!

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats


12 Days of Christmas Crafts and Recipes: Better-Than-Presents Cake

peppermint fudge cake better than sex heath bar christmas baking holiday recipes

I think everyone has had some version of the acclaimed Better-than-$&# cake.  In my family, we innocently call it Heath Bar Cake but the result is the same – decadent, moist, fudgy deliciousness with a pillow of whipped topping and covered in crunchy bits.  This is the Ultimate dessert, and for good reason, just check out the ingredients! Absolutely no health benefits here, this is pure indulgence. :)

I changed up the recipe slightly for some holiday festivity, using the Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge boxed cake (the original uses Devil’s Food) and some peppermint bark from Trader Joe’s (the original is crushed up Heath bars).  I might prefer the original just for nostalgia’s sake, but this is definitely a fun and festive variation!

Ingredients:

peppermint bark cake better than sex heath bar holiday dessert recipe

  • 1 box of Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Cake mix
  • 1 can sweetened, condensed milk
  • 1 jar Mrs. Richardson’s hot fudge
  • 1 tub Cool Whip
  • 6-8 ounces Peppermint Bark, like Trader Joe’s, coarsely chopped

peppermint fudge cake cool whip better than sex heath bar holiday baking recipes

Directions:

Bake chocolate cake according to box instructions. Allow to cool, slightly.

peppermint bark cake better than sex heath bar holiday dessert recipe

Using back end of a wooden spoon, poke holes through the cake.

peppermint bark cake better than sex heath bar holiday dessert recipe

Pour consdensed milk over top of cake, making sure milk gets down into poked holes.  Wait a few minutes until condensed milk is absorbed.

peppermint bark cake better than sex heath bar holiday dessert recipe

Warm up your hot fudge to a spreadable consistency, then pour over top of cake.  I like to then tap the pan against a kitchen towel on the counter to encourage the fudge to run down into the holes.

peppermint bark cake better than sex heath bar holiday dessert recipe

Refrigerate fudge-topped cake overnight for best results.

The next day, top cake with Cool Whip (that you shave stored in the fridge, not the freezer, otherwise you have to thaw and final consistency can be too wet, just ask me how I know) and sprinkle chopped peppermint bark pieces on top.

peppermint fudge cake cool whip better than sex heath bar holiday baking recipes

Don’t be a grinch now, share!

 


12 Days of Christmas Crafts and Recipes: Peppermint Sugar Cookies

 peppermint sugar cookie recipe christmas holiday baking food gifts

This Christmas, I’ve decided to share with the blogging world the refreshingly minty, sweet joy of these cookies, which my mom has made at Christmas since we were kids.  Over the years, I’ve changed the recipe a bit and now use a brown sugar spiced cookie, which, combined with the minty buttercream frosting, makes for one delicious holiday bite.  I look forward to making them every year, and hope you will, too.

Ingredients:

Cookies (makes 64, 2-inch diameter cookies):

  • 2 3/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 packed light brown suagar
  • 1 c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Frosting:

  • 2 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted
  • 7 1/2 TB unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4-5 TB whole milk
  • 1 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • a generous pinch of salt (just under 1/4 tsp)
  • 15 peppermint candy canes, pulverized

Directions:

Cookies:

Preheat oven to 375. In stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat brown sugar and butter until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, until just incorporated.  Stir in vanilla.

peppermint sugar cookie recipe christmas holiday baking food gifts

In seperate bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

peppermint sugar cookie recipe christmas holiday baking food gifts

Add flour mixture to wet ingredients in 3 parts, beating until just incorporated.   Optional: chill dough for 30 minutes prior to rolling cookies

Use small scoop to portion out cookie dough, roll into balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Use measuring cup (or bottom of a glass) lightly dusted in flour to gently flatten balls.  Brush off any excess flour.

peppermint sugar cookie recipe christmas holiday baking food gifts

Bake at 375 for 8 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove and let cool on racks.

Frosting:

Remove wrappers from candy canes and break each one into 4-5 pieces.

peppermint sugar cookie recipe christmas holiday baking food gifts

Place candy canes in a mini-chop and pulse on high until you have a good mixture of finely ground and some smaller pieces.

peppermint sugar cookie recipe christmas holiday baking food gifts

Add softened butter to bowl of stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment.  Sift powdered sugar into bowl and mix, adding 4 TB milk and vanilla until very smooth.  Stir in pulverized candy canes and salt, adding milk as necessary to achieve good spreading consistency.

peppermint sugar cookie recipe christmas holiday baking food gifts

Use teaspoon to place dollop of frosting on each cooled cookie, using a knife to spread it over the top.  Let dry, then package as you’d like.  This year, I used glassine treat bags from Michael’s that came with a foiled cardboard insert and tied them off with red and white butcher’s twine.  These make great, festive little gifts!

peppermint sugar cookie recipe christmas holiday baking food gifts

 

 


12 Days of Christmas Crafts and Recipes: Pecan Bars

holiday christmas recipes dessert bars cookies pecan pie caramel shortbread

I discovered Pinterest earlier this year and stumbled upon this recipe for Pecan Bars right before Thanksgiving.  I’m a Nuts and Chews kind of See’s gal, so these sounded right up my alley.  The original recipe had splenda in it which turned me off (it is the holidays after all!), so I used C & H dark brown sugar and toasted my pecans prior to adding them for increased depth of flavor.  These little babies are deliciously crumbly right out of the oven and oh-so-chewy, buttery and nutty when cooled.  One of the simplest and best things I’ve ever baked.  So much so, that I’ve already made them three times this holiday season for various groups of people!

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 c dark brown sugar
  • 2 2/3 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Topping:

  • 1/2 c unsalted butter
  • 1 c dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 c honey
  • 2 TB heavy cream
  • 2 c toasted pecan halves or pieces (I like to buy raw pecans from Trader Joe’s and toast them at home)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º and line a 9×13-inch pan with parchment paper.  Paper should cover most internal surfaces of pan. **In the pictures below, I halved the recipe and used a square baking pan.**
  2. Start by making your crust.  In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the softened butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add flour and salt and mix until crumbly.

    holiday christmas recipes dessert bars cookies pecan pie caramel shortbread

  3. Press crust dough into your parchment paper-lined pan and bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

    holiday christmas recipes dessert bars cookies pecan pie caramel shortbread

  4. While your crust bakes, prepare the filling. Combine the butter, brown sugar, honey and heavy cream in a small saucepan, over medium heat.holiday christmas recipes dessert bars cookies pecan pie caramel shortbread

    Simmer the mixture for 1 minue, then stir in your toasted pecans.holiday christmas recipes dessert bars cookies pecan pie caramel shortbread

  5. Remove your crust from the oven and immediately pour the pecan filling over top, spreading it to cover the entire surface of crust.holiday christmas recipes dessert bars cookies pecan pie caramel shortbread
  6. Return your pan to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove the pan from the oven and allow the bars to fully cool in the pan on top of a wire cooling rack.
  7. Once cool, lift the bars out of the pan and transfer them to a cutting surface. Slice and package as wanted! I like to wrap mine in unbleached parchment paper and tie them up with festive, red and white butcher’s twine.

12 Days of Christmas Crafts and Recipes: Persimmon Cake

David Lebovitz persimmon cake holiday christmas dessert epicurious recipes

Earlier this year, my husband and I moved into a cute little rental in a charming, established neighborhood, replete with mature fruit trees.  Imagine my delight when, come autumn, my next door neighbor had not one, but two, persimmon trees bursting with the gorgeous orange orbs!  I eat the Fuyus raw and put them in salads, but the Hachiyas, which I used in this modified recipe from David Lebovitz, are great for baking.  Hachiyas should feel heavy and soft, with skins about to burst when ready to use.

Ingredients:

Cake

David Lebovitz persimmon cake holiday christmas dessert epicurious recipes

  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup whiskey
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups persimmon purée
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Icing

  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 4 or 5 teaspoons water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Use an empty butter wrapper to grease the inside of a Bundt cake pan.

David Lebovitz persimmon cake holiday christmas dessert epicurious recipes

For the cake:

Prepare persimmon puree by scooping soft flesh from persimmons into a bowl, discarding skins and stem.

David Lebovitz persimmon cake holiday christmas dessert epicurious recipes

Transfer pulp to a blender and blend until smooth.  Measure out 1 1/2 cups for this recipe, then store any extra in an airtight container in the freezer.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the cranberries and whiskey to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and let cool.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the sugar and softened butter on medium until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat on medium-low until just incorporated. Gently mix in the persimmon purée and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

David Lebovitz persimmon cake holiday christmas dessert epicurious recipes

Add flour mixture to bowl, in 3 parts, beating just until incorporated. Fold in the cranberries and the walnuts. Do not overmix.

David Lebovitz persimmon cake holiday christmas dessert epicurious recipes

Scrape the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Once cool, invert the cake onto your cooling rack, which has been positioned over a jelly roll pan.

David Lebovitz persimmon cake holiday christmas dessert epicurious recipes

For the icing:

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and 1 tablespoon butter on high speed until smooth. Beat in the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and the lemon juice, then gradually add the powdered sugar, beating on high speed until smooth. Add the 4 teaspoons water; the icing should be pourable. If necessary, add 1 more teaspoon water.

David Lebovitz persimmon cake holiday christmas dessert epicurious recipes

Pour the icing around the top of the cake, then tap the plate on a folded kitchen towel on the countertop to encourage the icing to run down the sides of the cake.

David Lebovitz persimmon cake holiday christmas dessert epicurious recipes

Transfer cake to your favorite cake platter and serve.  While my icing technique has never been great, this cake is gorgeous! Think of a decadently wholesome and delicious version of fruitcake, without any of those strangely fluorescent gooey things.  So good!

David Lebovitz persimmon cake holiday christmas dessert epicurious recipes

 


Paddy’s Day Party Prep

St. Patrick's Day entertaining menu recipes corned beef and cabbage irish soda bread

I love to entertain.  Over time, I’ve found the more gatherings you host, the better you get in terms of time management.  Like the best known entertainers will tell you, you host events to spend time with your guests…and how much time are you spending with them if you are constantly in the kitchen?

St. Patrick’s Day gatherings at our house have become a yearly thing.  Luckily, the food is so easy to prepare, and so naturally flavorful and good that getting an algorithm down for preparation isn’t half bad.  It is a meal that is a good place to start if you are just getting into entertaining.

My usual menu goes a little something like this:

Appetizers

  • Cheese plate with crackers/fruit
  • Pretzels with a fun mustard
  • Crudites with some type of dip
St. Patty's Day entertaining recipes hosting meal planning

*I always try to stick with a theme when entertaining.  For St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll typically pick up an Irish Cheddar, a stout infused cheese and something like an English Cotswold or an Apricot Stilton or some other fun variety.  For veggies and fruit, I choose what I serve using yellow, green and white as my color palette.

St. Patrick's Day entertaining menu recipes corned beef and cabbage irish soda bread

Main meal

  • Corned beef and cabbage (and carrots and red potatoes)
  • Irish Soda Bread
  • Salad of mache, crisp green beans and tomatoes with a white wine-whole grain mustard dressing
irish soda bread recipe St. Patty's Day menu planning hosting entertaining tips tricks

*I find that the traditional corned beef in a bag that you get from your grocer is sufficiently delicious for this meal. It is so easy to not have to worry about brining and seasoning…it always comes out great!  So, to amp up the foodie factor, I spend time making my own bread and a nice salad.

Dessert

  • Rich chocolate stout cake with a ganache drizzle and french vanilla ice cream
  • Coffee and Bailey’s
chocolate stout cake recipe St. Patty's Day menu planning hosting entertaining tips tricks

* This meal is so rustic and simple, it almost demands a decadent dessert for a strong finish! A great way to round out a fabulous meal.

The key to a smooth evening is prep earlier in the week.  Cut your veggies (cabbage into quarters, red potatoes halved or quartered , depending on size and carrots peeled and chunked for your CB&C and slice your crudites for appetizers) 1-2 days ahead of time and put them in easy to grab ziploc bags or reusable containers.

St. Patrick's Day entertaining menu recipes corned beef and cabbage irish soda bread
St. Patrick's Day entertaining menu recipes corned beef and cabbage irish soda bread

I love to add blanched green beans to a simple mache and heirloom tomato salad with mustard dressing – blanch your green beans ahead of time, slice your tomatoes and make your salad dressing early.

St. Patrick's Day entertaining menu recipes corned beef and cabbage irish soda bread
St. Patrick's Day entertaining menu recipes corned beef and cabbage irish soda bread

One thing I love to do, since a cheese plate is always a staple, is cut the label from a cheese wrapper and affix it with scotch tape to a simple toothpick.  Trader Joe’s has a great cheese selection and particularly cute labels, so it is identification and cute decoration, all-in-one!  Place unwrapped cheeses in a reusable container, ready to plate!

St. Patrick's Day entertaining menu recipes corned beef and cabbage irish soda bread

If making Irish soda bread the day of (which should definitely be eaten right out of the oven!), get your wet/dry ingredients portioned out in mixing bowls and cover in plastic wrap so they are ready to go. I typically pop my unbaked loaf into the oven just after guests arrive as it takes a little over an hour to bake.  Nothing better than the smell of fresh baking bread! And don’t forget to take some butter out of the fridge the morning of to allow to soften for serving.

St. Patrick's Day entertaining menu recipes corned beef and cabbage irish soda bread

Clear out one shelf in your fridge and stick everything for that day there, so you don’t have to search for things.

St. Patrick's Day entertaining menu recipes corned beef and cabbage irish soda bread

Plan out what servingware you’ll use, pre-wash them, and set them out how you want them arranged the night before.

St. Patrick's Day entertaining menu recipes corned beef and cabbage irish soda bread

Iron your fabric napkins and polish your silverware and glassware with a clean cloth.

St. Patrick's Day entertaining menu recipes corned beef and cabbage irish soda bread

And most importantly, have a great time and enjoy your guests the day of!  Happy Entertaining!

entertaining for St. Patrick's Day

Bake Love

Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

When you think of Valentine’s Day, what comes to mind? Love, romance, Cupid…<snore>, let’s get a little more tangible, people.  How about roses? Chocolate covered strawberries? Champagne, maybe? What if you were to combine all of those elements into one perfect edible little package…in the form of a mini cupcake? A delicate champagne cake, topped with a rich, rose-scented buttercream, garnished with a white chocolate drizzled strawberry slice. One, maybe two bites if you’re being polite, the interplay between these subtle, yet distinct flavors delivers one lovely treat.

As always, I’m a scourer of recipes, so this is a combination/adaptation.  Many thanks to Gimme Some Oven (how great is that name?) for the cake recipe and the peeps at epicurious for the fabulously pipeable buttercream frosting base. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the Champagne Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup champagne
  • 3 egg whites

For the Buttercream Frosting:

Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (found at specialty food stores and your local middle eastern market)
  • 1 drop red food coloring (optional, though festive)

Directions:

To Make The Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare a mini cupcake pan with liners.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together, and then blend into creamed mixture alternately with champagne.

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

  3. In another large clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. You should be able to hold the bowl above your head and nothing should move.

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

  4. Fold 1/3 of the whites into batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining egg whites.  Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

  5. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

To make the frosting:

  1. In a large bowl, mix the butter, sifted powdered sugar, salt, milk, and rose water until smooth. Mix in food coloring if using.

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

For your strawberries:

Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

  1. Wash, hull, and slice your berries into ~4-5 slices per berry.  If making minicupcakes, smaller strawberries seem to make a more proportionate garnish.

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

  2. Lightly dry berries by using paper towel to remove excess moisture and place berry slices on a sheet of parchment paper.

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

  3. Temper your melting chocolate and use a spoon to drizzle melted chocolate over berries (obviously, there is some room for improvement in my drizzling technique!).  Allow to dry.  Garnish your cupcakes and share the love!

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry


Cake Poppin’

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

When I first saw little cake balls on a stick at Starbucks, I honestly wasn’t very interested.  The idea of frosting and cake covered in more candy/chocolate sounded overly sweet for my preferably savory tastebuds. Then, along came Pinterest and all it’s pretty pictures…all of a sudden, just like that, I HAD to make them.

Thank goodness for Bakerella and her lovely YouTube video!  If you’re a first timer, be sure to check it out for helpful tips – you really can’t go wrong.

As Valentine’s is coming up, what better combo for a cake pop than my favorite, dreamy red velvet with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, doused in a white chocolate shell and adorned with some festive red sprinkles?  Simply, sinfully, scrumdeliumptious.

If you have a recipe for 12 cupcakes, it’ll make enough cake for about 48 cake pops.  I didn’t have enough frosting for that many, so I cut the baked cake in half.  I <gasp!> do not own a cake pan, so poured my prepared cupcake batter into a loaf pan and baked for ~45 minutes at 325, until a toothpick came out clean.

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

I cut the loaf in half and crumbled it up,

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Added about 1/4 – 1/3 c of Cinnamon Cream Cheese frosting (I made a batch of 24 mini cupcakes the same day and frosted them – this was the amount that was leftover)

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Mix the cake and frosting together and, using a cookie scoop, roll them into uniform little balls that hold together.  Stick the balls in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm them up, then switch them to the fridge – you do not want frozen balls!

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Meanwhile, get your chocolate ready.  I used the narrowest and deepest microwavable vessel I had on hand, which turned out to be my trusty Pyrex liquid measurer. I filled up my Pyrex cup with my melting chocolate, put it in the microwave for two, 30 second intervals and used a spatula to stir from the inside out (just like you would if using a double boiler to melt your chocolate) to make sure everything is melted, incorporated and smooth. DO NOT OVERHEAT or your chocolate will not set properly.

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Take a lollipop stick and dip 1/2 inch or so of the tip in melted chocolate.

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Insert tip into firm cake ball, about halfway through (not all the way through!)

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Using a straight, vertical motion, submerge your cake ball in chocolate.

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Use the turn of your hand to make sure all cake is covered (do not twist the stick!)

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Lift cake pop straight out of vessel, pausing to let excess drip off in a vertical fashion, THEN, turn cake pop 90 degrees and slowly spin stick in your hand.  Use your opposite hand to gently tap your palm to allow all excess to drip off as you spin (watch the video – it is easier than it sounds!)

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Before chocolate has fully set, sprinkle your cake pop with your favorite adornment. Place finished cake pops in a thick styrofoam base to allow them to set and dry.

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

To serve, I set mine in mini cupcake papers – helps contain the sprinkles!

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert


Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice

Carrot ginger oatmeal cookie recipe

That’s what these ginger-carrot-oatmeal cookies are made of!

What can I say?  I hadn’t baked in about a month and was starting to get that NEED.TO.USE.THE.KITCHENAID itch.  Armed with ingredients already on hand, I began to scour recipes for carrot/oatmeal cookies and came across two that were inspiring, Martha’s Carrot Cake Cookies and Dorie Greenspan’s Gingered Carrot Cookies. I didn’t have pecans or walnuts or coconut and don’t particularly love raisins, so I used the base of Martha’s recipe and the gingery idea of Dorie’s, adding candied ginger to increase the ginger flavor and replicate the chew of the raisins.  The result was a pretty delicious hybrid!

I might mention that this itch might of had to do with coming straight from the gym, where my treadmill faced a TV that was playing Food Network episodes.  Hmmmmm.  To make myself feel better, I subbed half the flour for almond meal, which since I was omitting walnuts, gave them a great nutty base.  The cookies spread out quite a bit, probably in part due to the fact that almond meal doesn’t bind as well as flour, so this is definitely more of a thin, crispy cookie, as opposed to a chunky one. Crumbled, it would be great over vanilla bean ice cream, or if you live in a foodie friendly place, over some stracciatella gelato.  :) Next time, in order to get them to hold together a little better, I think I will decrease the baking temp to 350 and chill the dough for at least an hour prior to baking. Still, pretty darn delicious.

Gingered Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

adapted from Martha Stewart.  Makes 24.

Carrot ginger oatmeal cookie recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup finely grated carrots (about 3 small-medium carrots)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugars and butter; beat until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until just incorporated.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; stir to combine.

    Carrot ginger oatmeal cookie recipe

    Gradually add flour to butter mixture; mix on a low speed until just blended.

    Carrot ginger oatmeal cookie recipe

    Mix in oats, carrots, and candied ginger.

    Carrot ginger oatmeal cookie recipe

  4. Using a 1/2-ounce ice-cream scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies.

    Carrot ginger oatmeal cookie recipe

  5. Transfer to oven, and bake until browned and crisped, rotating pan halfway through baking to ensure even color, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Positively Persimmon

PERSIMMON COOKIE RECIPE  FALL DESSERTS THANKSGIVING TREATS FLAVORS

I.LOVE.PERSIMMONS. What’s not to love about the crisp, vibrantly orange, lightly spicy-sweet fruit? It wasn’t so long ago that I didn’t understand why you would choose a strange piece of fruit after Thanksgiving dinner over traditional desserts like pumpkin pie and ambrosia (alright, alright, I probably don’t ‘choose’ so much as make room for both or all).  My uncle always has a plate of fresh Fuys out and, one year, they just looked so perfectly plump and pretty that I had to try one…and I’m so glad I did!

Now, I always look for them in the fall and buy them in numbers. Usually, I’m the only one in my household eating them and this year I actually let a few get <gasp!> overripe.  What’s a girl to do with overripe fuyus?  Same thing you do with bananas – bake ‘em up! Perusing the web, I came across this lovely photographic blog and a persimmon cookie recipe that sounded pretty tasty and decided to give it a whirl (literally!). The original recipe  (and most persimmon baking recipes) calls for Hachiyas but the Fuyus worked out great; whichever variety you choose, just make sure the persimmon is so ripe that the skin is almost translucent and bursting at the seams. The flavor and texture of the finished cookie reminds me of fall with flavors very similar to pumpkin spice.  Tasty little guys either on their own or with ice cream…butter pecan, anyone?  :)

Persimmon Cookies

PERSIMMON COOKIE RECIPE  FALL DESSERTS THANKSGIVING TREATS FLAVORS
  • 1 cup persimmon puree (about 3 persimmons)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

For the persimmon puree, remove the stems from the persimmons and cut the fruit into chunks. Puree the chunks in a food processor until the mixture is smooth. Use a sieve to strain pulp  and remove skins.

PERSIMMON COOKIE RECIPE  FALL DESSERTS THANKSGIVING TREATS FLAVORS
PERSIMMON COOKIE RECIPE  FALL DESSERTS THANKSGIVING TREATS FLAVORS
PERSIMMON COOKIE RECIPE  FALL DESSERTS THANKSGIVING TREATS FLAVORS

Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in the the orange rind, egg, vanilla, and persimmon pulp.

PERSIMMON COOKIE RECIPE  FALL DESSERTS THANKSGIVING TREATS FLAVORS

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  Add flour mixture to wet ingredients in 2-3 batches, mixing until just incorporated. Stir in the walnuts and cranberries.

PERSIMMON COOKIE RECIPE  FALL DESSERTS THANKSGIVING TREATS FLAVORS

Drop the dough, using a small ice cream scoop onto the prepared cookie sheets.

PERSIMMON COOKIE RECIPE  FALL DESSERTS THANKSGIVING TREATS FLAVORS

Bake cookies for 20 minutes, depending on the size, rotating pan halfway though.  Allow to cool and enjoy!

PERSIMMON COOKIE RECIPE  FALL DESSERTS THANKSGIVING TREATS FLAVORS

Fall in the Big Apple

old fashioned apple cake apple picking baking recipes fall dessert bread

thethriftycrafter has moved to New York! While my new schedule doesn’t allow for a whole lot of crafting time, my hubs and I have tried to make the most of the time we do have by venturing out to explore our new surroundings.  Among our most recent trips, we did a little apple picking in New York’s Hudson Valley region at Wrights Farm. We spent the day taking in (and taking pictures of!) all of the fall colors and finished up with a brisk hike in the apple orchards.  Such a fun outing to enjoy the fall season!

old fashioned apple cake apple picking baking recipes fall dessert bread

Coming home with 2 whole pecks of apples, I was in search for a few good recipes. I turned to my trusty Moosewood Desserts cookbook for inspiration and found a great recipe for Old Fashioned Apple Cake.  I made it as directed and it was delicious, though next time to mix it up, I would add some chopped walnuts and a cream cheese glaze.  Try it as a morning bread in a loaf pan, or increase the recipe and make it in a bundt pan for a festive fall party cake.  A sweet reminder of the glorious beauty of fall.

Old-Fashioned Fresh Apple Cake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups peeled, chopped apples (recipe suggested Mutsu and Rome, both of which were varieties we picked!)
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel

old fashioned apple cake baking recipes moosewood fall dessert bread

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Oil or butter a loaf pan.

2. Combine the melted butter and brown sugar, beating well by hand or using an electric mixer. Add the vanilla, then beat in the eggs one at a time.

old fashioned apple cake baking recipes moosewood fall dessert bread

3. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture – batter will be stiff. Fold in chopped apples, lemon juice and lemon peel.

old fashioned apple cake baking recipes moosewood fall dessert bread

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until the cake is golden and a knife comes out clean.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or let cool and garnish with a cream cheese glaze.

old fashioned apple cake baking recipes moosewood fall dessert bread


Easter Treats: Carrot Cake Cupcakes



Carrot Cake cupcake recipe easter springtime dessert ideas lemon cream cheese frosting

When I think of springtime treats, lemon desserts and carrot cake are the first things that come to mind. So why not combine the two to give you the best of both worlds?  Since I prefer the individuality of cupcakes, especially when I am making treats for different groups of people, I used this delicious-looking and rave-reviewed recipe for carrot cake and adjusted the time down for cupcakes.  To top them off, I used the lemon cream cheese frosting recipe from my archives, adapting it so that is presentable and sufficiently stiff (cold cream cheese is the key!). The results were scrumptious!  The cake is incredibly moist and delicious and the lemon zest really ties it all together.  Just don’t make yourself sick licking the frosting off the beater!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes (makes 24):

Carrot Cake cupcake recipe easter springtime dessert ideas lemon cream cheese frosting

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line muffin pans with your favorite springtime liners.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and salt.

    Carrot Cake cupcake recipe easter springtime dessert ideas lemon cream cheese frosting

  3. In another bowl, stir together the carrots (use a food processor for fast shredding!), chopped nuts, coconut and raisins.

    Carrot Cake cupcake recipe easter springtime dessert ideas lemon cream cheese frosting

  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar and oil together on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one, and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear.

    Carrot Cake cupcake recipe easter springtime dessert ideas lemon cream cheese frosting

  5. Gently mix in the chunky ingredients. Use ice cream scoop to portion into cupcake liners, filling until about 2/3 full (any more full and they will spill over!).
  6. Bake for 20-24 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then gently run a knife around the sides of the cupcakes to transfer them to cooling racks.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (makes enough for 24 cupcakes):

Carrot Cake cupcake recipe easter springtime dessert ideas lemon cream cheese frosting

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, cold
  • 10 TB unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4.5 c powdered sugar, sifted
  • zest of 2 lemons, grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Have the cream cheese cold and the butter at room temperature. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, lemon juice and zest until blended. Add sugar one-third at a time and beat just until smooth and the desired consistency. If frosting is too stiff, beat for few seconds longer. Do not overbeat.
  2. To finish, use a piping bag to frost cupcakes. If you want a garnish, a toasted walnut half would be cute.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

red velvet cupcake recipe valentine's day hummingbird bakery cinnamon cream cheese frosting

I never really understood the whole hype with Red Velvet cupcakes until I started baking a few years ago.  I always thought it was weird to eat something with such a strong artificial color to it, and was a bit averse to making them.  After some perusing, I found another baker with the same thought process, and discovered this recipe on Joy the Baker (a fabulous blog, if you haven’t yet stumbled upon it).  These Red Velvets have the delicious, lightly chocolate cake the type is known for, but are a subtle shade of rouge that won’t make you feel like you’ll be peeing red. :)

red velvet cupcake recipe valentine's day cinnamon cream cheese frosting pernigotti unsweetened cocoa powder

À la Martha, I tend to prefer Dutch processed cocoa for its milder flavor and use gel pastes for my food coloring, so those changes are reflected in the recipe below.  I finish it off with my trusty, pipeable Cream Cheese Frosting, adding a bit of cinnamon for a surprise and finally top it off with a cinnamon candy heart in honor of the holiday.  Enjoy and remember to share the love!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

makes 12 cupcakes

  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tablespoons dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder (like Pernigotti)
  • 1/4 tsp red gel paste food coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 5/8 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  1. Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Turn mixer to high and add  the egg.  Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.
  3. Add in cocoa, vanilla and red food coloring, mixing thoroughly until completely combined.  You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.
    red velvet cupcake recipe valentine's day cinnamon cream cheese frosting pernigotti unsweetened cocoa powder
  4. Turn mixer to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk.  Add half of the flour and all of the salt and mix until combined.  Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour.  Beat on high until smooth.
  5. Turn mixer to low and add baking soda and white vinegar.  Turn to high and beat until well incorporated.
  6. Scoop batter into a paper lined cupcake baking pan and bake at 325 F for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean.
    red velvet cupcake recipe valentine's day cinnamon cream cheese frosting pernigotti unsweetened cocoa powder
  7. Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then place them of a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

(makes 2 cups, more than enough for 12 cupcakes, maybe closer to 16)

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cold
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (measure, then sift into bowl)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  1. Have the cream cheese cold and the butter at room temperature. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until blended. Add sugar one-third at a time and beat just until smooth and the desired consistency. If frosting is too stiff, beat for few seconds longer. Do not overbeat. Stir in cinnamon to taste.
    red velvet cupcake recipe valentine's day cinnamon cream cheese frosting pernigotti unsweetened cocoa powder
  2. To finish, use a piping bag to frost cupcakes. Garnish each with a cinnamon heart.

12 Days of Christmas Crafts and Recipes: chocolate peppermint crunch cookies

andes peppermint crunch double chocolate cookies holiday christmas recipes

A few years ago, a patient brought in some delectable chocolate cookies that incorporated Andes Peppermint Crunch candies, found in stores during the winter holidays.  I decided to attempt to remake the soft and chewy cookies, using Martha’s Double Chocolate Cookie recipe as a place to start, and tweaking it based on ingredients I had on hand.  I think the results are delicious! If you are a chocoholic and like the refreshing taste of peppermint, you must give these a try!

Ingredients

Makes about 4 dozen

andes peppermint crunch double chocolate cookies holiday christmas recipes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (like Hershey’s)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 4 ounces 72% cacao dark chocolate (I get mine from Trader Joe’s for cheap!), broken into pieces
  • half of a 9.5 oz bag of Andes Peppermint Crunch, cut into 1/4-inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  2. Melt dark chocolate with the butter in a small heatproof bowl in the microwave for ~45 seconds.  If chocolate is not completely melted, stir mixture until it is. Let cool slightly.
    andes peppermint crunch double chocolate cookies holiday christmas recipes
  3. Put chocolate mixture, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Fold in Peppermint Crunch chunks.
    andes peppermint crunch double chocolate cookies holiday christmas recipes
  4. Using a 1.5 inch ice cream scoop (like this one from Crate and Barrel), drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Optional: this dough is easy to pick up and roll into balls for perfectly round cookies, which is what I did after using the scoop.
    andes peppermint crunch double chocolate cookies holiday christmas recipes
  5. Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces crack, about 12 minutes (cookies should be soft). Slide parchment sheets onto wire racks and allow cookies to cool. Cookies will be soft at first, but after cooling will maintain their shape – parchment paper is a must!

Note: Martha’s original recipe called for Dutch-processed cocoa powder, which I was out of.  I used natural Hershey’s cocoa powder so had to change the amount of both cocoa powder and baking soda to get the right acidity.  I used information on this website to make my conversion.

andes peppermint crunch double chocolate cookies holiday christmas recipes

12 Days of Christmas Crafts and Recipes: maple knots

holiday recipes caramel pretzels homemade baked goods gifts treats

I was incredibly lucky to marry into a family who really celebrates tradition at Christmas.  Of our traditions, these delectable little bites of heaven are lovingly placed in our stockings by a Mrs. Claus who is so busy baking and wrapping gifts throughout the day, she often does not sleep on Christmas Eve. While the flavor and the crunch of these pretzels is divine, its the love that goes into making them that you can taste the most.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Ingredients:

holiday recipes caramel pretzels homemade baked goods gifts treats

  • 1 c butter
  • 2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp maple flavoring
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 24 oz mini pretzels

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Divide pretzels between two foil-lined rectangular pans.
  2. Heat butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and maple flavoring in saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until bubbly around the edges.  Cook for ~5 minutes, then remove from heat.  Stir in baking soda.
    holiday recipes caramel pretzels homemade baked goods gifts treats
  3. Pour maple mixture over pretzels.  Mix until well coated.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool, then package as you wish and spread the love!

12 Day of Christmas Crafts and Recipes: peppermint brown sugar cupcakes

peppermint frosting vanilla brown sugar cupcake holiday desserts recipes

For years, my mom has made a sugar cookie with peppermint frosting as the holiday treat that is made for family functions or boxed and given away as gifts.  Nothing compares to the gently spiced sugar cookie topped with a refreshingly minty, yet rich, buttercream frosting.   So, since I love to make cupcakes, I decided I’d try to recreate the cookie in cupcake form just for fun.  The results were equally delicious! I used Billy’s Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes recipe (as seen in my March ’09 post) as a rough base and did some tweaking to get the right flavor.

Brown Sugar Cupcakes:

makes 24 cupcakes

  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine brown sugar and butter, mixing until pale and fluffy.

2. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.

3. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat.

peppermint frosting vanilla brown sugar cupcake holiday desserts recipes

4. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about two-thirds full.

5. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cupcakes have cooled, pipe tops with peppermint frosting.

Peppermint Frosting:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • scant 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 16 peppermint candy canes, pulverized to a powder in a food processor

peppermint frosting vanilla brown sugar cupcake holiday desserts recipes
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sifted powdered sugar.
  2. Mix in vanilla, then add milk until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency (you often won’t use the entire amount).  Beat until smooth and creamy.
  3. Stir in crushed candy canes until well mixed, adding more milk if frosting becomes too stiff.  Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and enjoy with a tall glass of milk!
peppermint frosting vanilla brown sugar cupcake holiday desserts recipes

Thrifty Tip: The bright and shiny cupcake liners were found at Crate and Barrel in the after-Christmas clearance section last year.


A Match Made in Fall Flavor Heaven: Pumpkin & Gingerbread

chocolate gingerbread cupcake pumpkin cream cheese frosting fall flavors cupcake recipe Trader Joe's

Last Halloween, my husband and I hosted a themed dinner party, with a menu full of rich foods like aged french mimolette cheese, lemon-mascarpone stuffed dates wrapped in prociutto, and lacquered short ribs.  For dessert, I wanted to finish with something a bit lighter and more refreshing, and opted for gingerbread cookie ice cream sandwiches, filled with smooth and delectable Dreyer’s Pumpkin Ice Cream. This year, since the pumpkin-gingerbread combo was so delightful, I’ve scoured my cookbooks and favorite websites to put together this gingerbread cupcake with pumpkin cream cheese frosting.

This recipe is not for the faint of heart – the flavors in this cupcake are strong and decadent.  If you prefer something a bit more mild in terms of molasses, or maybe you’re a busy mom and want something a little easier, try Trader Joe’s boxed Gingerbread Mix and top with the same pumpkin cream cheese frosting.  Most of these ingredients were purchased at Trader Joe’s, which makes for nice, one-stop shopping! Enjoy!

chocolate gingerbread cupcake pumpkin cream cheese frosting fall flavors cupcake recipe Trader Joe's

Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes (a combination recipe adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts and Martha Stewart’s Cookies):

makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c unsulphured molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 TB freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 c unbleached flour
  • 1 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 c boiling water
  • about 6 oz dark chocolate, cut into 1/4 inch chunks

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cocoa powder.
    chocolate gingerbread cupcake pumpkin cream cheese frosting fall flavors cupcake recipe Trader Joe's
  3. In an electric mixer, beat pumpkin puree, sugar and fresh ginger until well incorporated.  Add molasses and egg and beat until smooth.
  4. In a separate cup, dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water.
  5. Add half of flour mixture to mixer, mixing just until combined. Beat in baking soda mixture, then finish with the other half of the flour mixture. Stir in chocolate pieces.
    chocolate gingerbread cupcake pumpkin cream cheese frosting fall flavors cupcake recipe Trader Joe's
  6. Use scoop to portion batter into cupcake liners.  Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating once, until the cupcakes are slightly springy to the touch.  Cool for 3 minutes in the muffin pan, then transfer cupcakes to a cooling rack.

Note: the original Moosewood recipe calls for 1/4 c of butter, which I completely omitted and substituted canned pumpkin for in an attempt at a slightly healthier version.  You don’t miss the butter at all, and the canned pumpkin really keeps things moist.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cold
  • 5 TB Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter
  • 1 TB softened butter
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (measure, then sift into bowl)

Directions:

  1. Have the cream cheese cold. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, pumpkin butter, and regular butter until blended. Add sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beat just until smooth and the desired consistency. If frosting is too stiff, beat for few seconds longer. Do not overbeat.
    chocolate gingerbread cupcake pumpkin cream cheese frosting fall flavors cupcake recipe Trader Joe's
  2. To finish, use a piping bag to frost cupcakes.

Hosting a Book Club

daughter of fortune by isabel allende host your own book club entertaining ideas

My recent book club read, Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende, inspired me to host a themed book club last month.  Set in the mid 19th century, it is the story of a young Chilean girl, Eliza Sommers, who is raised by a well-to-do British family in Valparaiso, Chile.  At 16, Eliza finds her first love in Joaquin Andieta, a young man who, like many Chileans at the time, takes off to California to seek his fortune in the gold rush.  Months later, Eliza follows him, and in an elusive search for her lover, embarks upon a journey of self-discovery.

This novel is full of inspiration when it comes to hosting a themed book club evening.  There are many images and elements from the story to draw upon: Chile itself, the Victorian clothing of the period which incorporated lace, gold to symbolize the Gold Rush, luxuries to Chileans at the time, including chocolate, and the fact that our heroine is an incredible chef and baker and resourcefully makes empanadas while in California as a means to a living.

hosting a themed book club entertaining ideas cupcake recipes appetizers wine charms

For our meeting, I served Chilean wine, empanadas, and an olive and spanish cheese plate with marcona almonds and black grapes.  We finished the evening with Martha’s devil’s food chocolate cupcakes with a velvety smooth dark chocolate ganache frosting. While the idea of topping my cupcakes with a sprinkle of edible gold leaf was divine, the $28 price tag from Sur la Table didn’t make it thriftycrafter friendly, so I had to omit it!

hosting a themed book club craft decorating ideas recipes entertaining

Gold chargers, crisp white plates and black lace adornments decorated the table and super easy to make hand-fashioned wine charms (this is, after all, a wine, er, book club!), marked our glasses. Finally, I made a simple garland out of leftover gold Christmas ribbon and white paper doilies from the Dollar Tree.  Thanks to apartmenttherapy.com for the inspiration!

host your own themed book club entertaining ideas recipes llace table runner

First, the crafts!

Wine Charms

hosting a themed book club craft decorating ideas recipes entertaining paper wine charms


Here’s what you need:

host a themed book club crafts recipes cupcake appetizers wine charms doily garland

  • cardstock
  • eyelet stickers (alternatively, you could use a stamp or these great rub-ons from Paper Source)
  • compass with pencil
  • scissors
  • hammer, nail and wooden block
  • jewelry ear wires
  • gel pen or other marker for writing

Here’s what you do:

  1. Use your compass to create circles on cardstock.  I made mine with a radius of 5/8 of an inch.

    host a themed book club crafts recipes cupcake appetizers wine charms doily garland

  2. Cut out circles and adhere lace stickers to cover just more than half of the circle.

    host a themed book club crafts recipes cupcake appetizers wine charms doily garland

  3. Cut excess edge of sticker and write your characters’ names below the arc.

    host a themed book club crafts recipes cupcake appetizers wine charms doily garland

  4. Use hammer, nail and wooden block to pierce tag where you want your ring to go.

    host a themed book club crafts recipes cupcake appetizers wine charms doily garland

  5. Use wire bending tool to bend end portion of your hoop up to create lock and feed through hole in tag.

    host a themed book club crafts recipes cupcake appetizers wine charms doily garland

Cost: less than $5!

Doily Garland

hosting a themed book club craft decorating ideas recipes entertaining paper doily garland

Here’s what you need:

hosting a themed book club craft decorating ideas recipes entertaining paper doily garland

  • paper doily pack
  • stitch witchery
  • iron and ironing board
  • 1/2 inch width ribbon or thicker
  • scissors or Fiskars paper trimmer

Here’s what you do:

  1. Use scissors or paper trimmer to cut doilies in half.

    hosting a themed book club craft decorating ideas recipes entertaining paper doily garland

  2. Rip stitch witchery in pieces that measure the diameter of your doily, place between the ribbon and doily, and use iron on low setting to adhere.

    hosting a themed book club craft decorating ideas recipes entertaining paper doily garland

  3. Repeat until desired length of garland is achieved!

Cost: less than $3!

Adorned Cake Plate

host your own themed book club entertaining ideas recipes lace adorned cake plate

Here’s what you need:

hosting a themed book club craft decorating ideas recipes entertaining lace adorned cake plate

  • cake plate
  • strip of lace, in the measured circumference of your cake platter
  • Zots

Here’s what you do:

  1. Adhere Zots to cake plate rim every 1.5-2 inches.

    host your own themed book club entertaining ideas recipes lace adorned cake plate

  2. Starting with one end of your strip of lace, press lace against zots, keeping correct amount of slack, until lace band encircles your platter.

Cost: less than $5!

Now, onto the food!

I used an empanada dough recipe found on Epicurious.com for my mini empanaditas, a beef filling recipe from Susan Feniger (of Border Grill and Ciudad fame) and a pork filling recipe from Food & Wine Magazine.

Empanada Dough:

Doubling the recipe made just under 4 dozen 3.5 inch empanaditas

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup ice water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  1. Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
  2. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.)
  3. Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.
  4. On lightly floured surface, roll dough out to 1/8 inch thickness and use 3.5″ cookie cutter to make discos.

Beef Filling:

host your own themed book club empanada filling recipe entertaining ideas

Makes enough for 4 dozen mini empanadas (I halved the recipe to make two dozen)

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup dark raisins
  • 8 Italian Roma tomatoes
  • 3 serrano chilies
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a large heavy skillet, over a medium high heat, saute the ground beef until the meat is browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain off the excess fat.
  2. Add the onion and saute 2 minutes. Then add the garlic, almonds, and raisins, and saute 1 minute.
  3. Place the tomatoes, chilies, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a blender and puree until smooth.
  4. Add the puree, cumin, cloves, cinnamon and salt and pepper to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes to get rid of any excess liquid. Cool.
  5. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each circle of pastry. Fold over the pastry and seal the edges. Let the empanadas rest in the refrigerator 1/2 hour or freeze immediately. (Bake the frozen empanadas without defrosting.)
  6. Empanadas may be glazed (1 egg and 2 tablespoons milk, well beaten) and baked until golden in a 400 degree oven, for about 15 minutes.

Pork Filling:

host your own themed book club empanada filling recipe entertaining ideas

Makes enough for 4 dozen mini empanadas (I halved the recipe to make two dozen)

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup amber beer
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese chile-garlic paste or sambal oelek
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and very finely chopped
  • 3 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
  • 6 pitted kalamata olives, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon golden raisins
  1. In a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is browned, about 8 minutes longer.
  2. Meanwhile in a large skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped pork, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat until the pork is golden brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Stir and cook until no pink remains, about 3 minutes longer. Stir in the browned onions, beer, soy sauce, paprika, chile paste, cumin and jalapeño and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the filling to a large bowl. Stir in the hard-cooked eggs, olives and raisins and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  4. Brush the empanadas with the egg wash. Bake them for about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the empanadas are golden brown, then serve.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes:

host your own themed book club devils food cupcake recipe entertaining ideas

Makes 32 cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.
  3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three- quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
Chocolate Ganache Frosting:
Makes 4 cups
  • 1 pound good-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 1/3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  1. Place chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Bring cream and corn syrup just to a simmer over medium-high heat; pour mixture over chocolate. Let stand, without stirring, until chocolate begins to melt.
  2. Beginning near the center and working outward, stir melted chocolate into cream until mixture is combined and smooth (do not overstir).
  3. Refrigerate, stirring every 5 minutes, until frosting just barely begins to hold its shape and is slightly lighter in color. Use immediately (ganache will continue to thicken after you stop stirring).
  4. To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting. Refrigerate up to 3 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature and garnish just before serving.

Baking with Almond Meal

Trader Joe's almond meal baking recipes sour cream coffee cake moosewood restaurantMy husband and I recently discovered Trader Joe’s Almond Meal as a great alternative to breadcrumbs or flour when our dinner recipes call for our protein to have a breading or coating.  What is almond meal, exactly?   Almond meal is just ground up almonds, usually with the skin still on. It has the same nutritional profile as whole almonds: high in protein, as well as healthy monounsaturated fats. Why not add some good fats, protein and nutty flavor to your baked goods, while cutting some carbs at the same time?

While I try not to bake too much for the two of us anymore, I do enjoy the process of it and recently made a coffee cake for my inlaws as a thank you (or a bribe!) for dogsitting for us while we were out of town.  Since I had the almond meal, I thought it would be a perfect way to 1.) try out a new use for it and 2.) get at least some nutrition into my thank you gift.

Trader Joe's almond meal baking recipes sour cream coffee cake moosewood restaurant

Adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts, this sour cream coffeecake uses almond meal to replace a third of the flour in the original recipe, giving it a moist, nutty texture.  You generally should only replace up to half of the flour in a baking recipe with almond meal if you want your product to hold together.  The inside did slightly crumble when cut into, so you could tweak the recipe and only replace a fourth of the flour with almond meal and see if it holds together better.  It was still pretty delicious, though.  Next time, I may also try whole wheat flour, just for the extra fiber and nutritional benefit.

Trader Joe's almond meal baking recipes moosewood restaurant book of desserts sour cream coffeecake

Ingredients:

  • 1 c butter, room temperature
  • 1.5 c  sugar, plus one TB
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 c light sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking power
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 c all purpose flour
  • 2/3 c almond meal
  • 1 c pecans, toasted
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter and flour the bundt pan.
  2. Cream the butter with 1 1/2 c of sugar.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly blended.  Stir in the vanilla and beat in the sour cream.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, baking power, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients in 3 equal portions, making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next.

    Trader Joe's almond meal baking recipes sour cream coffee cake moosewood restaurant

  4. Toast your pecans until fragrant, let cool.  Coarsely chop and toss with 1 TB sugar and the cinnamon.
  5. Spoon half of the batter into your prepared bundt pan.  Sprinkle all of the nut mixture evenly over the batter in the pan.

    Trader Joe's almond meal baking recipes moosewood restaurant book of desserts sour cream coffeecake

  6. Spoon the rest of the batter into the pan and bake the coffeecake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  Cool the pan on a wire rack and turn it out onto a plate after 10 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sugar & Spice

cinco de mayo cupcakes mexican hot chocolate cinnamon buttercream frosting

Hope everyone had a fun and festive Cinco De Mayo! I wanted to get these up before the actual holiday, but entertaining mid-week can be quite taxing with food/house prep in the days leading up to your get together.  In any case, should you be celebrating over the weekend, or simply are looking for a delicious spin on your favorite chocolate cupcake, here’s a recipe to bring out the delicious flavors of Mexican Hot Chocolate. With a silky smooth and delectable cinnamon buttercream frosting, these cupcakes are sure to please.  Serve with coffee to really bring out the chocolate flavor!

Ingredients:

Cupcakes (adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home)

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Icing (adapted from this cool little blog written by a dental student, Sweet Tooth)

  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanila
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Good quality chocolate bar (optional)

cinco de mayo cupcakes mexican hot chocolate cinnamon buttercream frosting

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, light sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the icing, beat butter in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until fluffy.  Sift 1/2 cup of powdered sugar at a time into bowl and mix completely before next additions. Add the milk 1 tbsp at a time to achieved desired thickness. Mix in vanilla and cinnamon until well combined.  Pipe onto your cooled cupcakes and garnish with chocolate curls (use a vegetable peeler to shave chocolate bar).

mexican hot chocolate cupcake recipe cinco de mayo dessert idea