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    Shamrock Shake Recipe

    This Shamrock Shake Recipe is full of eye-popping green color and creamy mint flavor. Make this seasonal treat whenever you need a minty pick-me-up!

    The Shamrock Shake returns to McDonald’s menus each February to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It’s only for a limited time, but now you can make the minty milkshake year-round! This recipe is so easy to make and fun to share.
    If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, then you know I’m extremely picky when it comes to mint-flavored sweets. I am likely to pass up minty sweets on most dessert menus. Why? Because it’s difficult to know if you’re getting something that tastes light and refreshing, or something more akin to toothpaste. This is definitely not the latter. This copycat Shamrock Shake recipe is creamy and indulgent with light mint flavor.  It’s such an easy dessert for St. Patrick’s Day dinner – or heck! Anytime you’re looking for a sweet minty treat.

    Shamrock Shake Origins
    First, a bit of history. Because after some digging, I was shocked to see how long Shamrock Shakes have been around. Connecticut McDonalds franchise owner Hal Rosen brought the Shamrock Shake to life in 1967. He created it to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. But get this – it wasn’t mint-flavored! It was made with lemon-lime sherbet. In 1983 that the mint-flavored shake made its debut. It was such a success, McDonalds decided to debut it nationally. Altogether, that’s more than 50 years of Shamrock Shake-ing!

    Let’s Talk Vanilla Ice Cream
    According to their website, McDonald’s Shamrock Shake recipe is made with reduced fat vanilla ice cream from the on-site soft serve machine. It’s perfectly fine to start with your favorite full fat, plain vanilla ice cream from the grocery store. It doesn’t have to be reduced fat. But it can be. However, full fat will blend better and the milkshake will be thick. Mayfield’s, Breyer’s, Turkey Hill – all the usual vanilla ice cream brands will work. Set the tub of ice cream out for about 10 minutes at room temperature to soften.

    What Kind of Milk?
    Use whole milk for the closest copycat of the McDonald’s shake. If you’re not a purist or stickler, then use whatever milk you prefer. 2% works well also. You’ll need about 1 1/2 cups for this recipe.

    Shamrock Shake Flavor and Color
    The McDonalds formula uses mint beverage syrup for the Shamrock Shake recipe. I don’t know about you, but I don’t keep beverage syrups on hand. But as a baker I definitely have mint extract. Use mint extract, and sure to use bottles labeled as “Mint” and not “Peppermint”. You might think there’s not much difference. But peppermint flavor is much sharper and not as true to the original shake’s flavor.  Start with 1/4 teaspoon of mint extract. Then, add more to taste. I know that doesn’t seem like much. However, over the years, and through many bottles of mint extracts, I’ve learned that brands vary in strength. You can always add more to taste.
    What makes the Shamrock Shake green?
    Well, technically, the food industry’s Yellow 5 and Blue 1. Yep, food color! The shades seem to vary a little in person and in advertisements. Some show it as bright lime green. And others are more emerald green.  So, use whatever green color you have on hand. A few drops of liquid green food color from a standard pack of grocery store food colors will work. I used a few drops from this Wilton’s set.

    In 2012, the shake was updated with whipped cream and a cherry on top. The squirt-y canister of aerosol whipped cream is a good standby. However, it is extremely meltable and goes flat rather quickly. I made some homemade using whipping cream, because it holds its shape longer. (And I needed it to last through an hour-long photo session!) Use whatever you prefer. But, while fleeting, the aerosol whipped cream is closest to its inspiration.

    Blend it all Together
    Get the ice cream, milk, green food color, and mint extract together in the pitcher of a blender. Then, give it whir. Taste-test, and add more mint extract if needed.

    Pour in a Tall Glass
    Divide the milkshake mixture between four glasses. Immediately top with the whipped cream of your choice (aerosol or homemade). Add the all-important red cherry on top!

    If you’re feeling festive, you could add some sprinkles to the whipped cream. I had some cute gold sugar pearls, which I used as a nod to leprechaun’s gold. Green sprinkles would also look super cute and very spring-y. Enjoy!
    Related recipe: Irish Cream Coffee Milk Punch

    Shamrock Shake Recipe

    Heather Baird

    This minty, green seasonal treat can now be enjoyed year-round! Shamrock Shakes are so fun to make and an easy St. Patrick’s Day dessert – although they shouldn’t be limited to the holiday. They’re an evergreen favorite! (Pun intended!)Be sure to use extracts labeled as “Mint” and not “Peppermint”. Peppermint extract is sharp and unlike the mint flavor used in Shamrock Shakes. Also, be a label-reader, and pay attention to the ingredients. Some mint flavorings labeled as ‘extract’ are oil based, and will be stronger than water-based extracts. If your ice cream is frozen rock-solid, let it stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before using, or until it is easily scoopable.

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    Prep Time 5 minutes minsBlend time 2 minutes 2 minutes minsTotal Time 7 minutes mins

    Course DessertCuisine American

    Servings 4

    Ingredients US CustomaryMetric 4 cups vanilla ice cream about 8 scoops1 1/2 cups whole milk1/4 teaspoon mint extract plus more to taste10 drops liquid green food color plus more if neededAerosol whipped cream see recipe notes for homemade4 maraschino cherries with stems patted dry2 tablespoons sprinkles, gold or green optional
    Instructions In a blender pitcher, combine the vanilla ice cream, half of the milk, 1/4 teaspoon mint extract, and 10 drops of liquid green food color. Blend to combine; mixture should be very thick.While the blender is running, add additional milk through the hole in the blender lid to achieve a thick, pourable consistency (you may not have to use all of the milk, depending on the ice cream temperature and brand).Taste-test the milkshake mixture, and add more mint extract, 1/8 teaspoon at a time. My milkshake batch took exactly 1/2 teaspoon of mint extract.When the mint flavor is just right, add additional green food color if needed for a bright, festive hue. Blend until completely smooth.Immediately divide the shake between 4 glasses (about 12 oz. capacity, each) and top each glass with a large swirl of whipped cream.Add cherries on top of the whipped cream, then add sprinkles, if using. Serve immediately.
    NotesHomemade Whipped Cream: Place one cup of heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer with a whip attachment. Beat until slightly thickened, and add 2 tablespoons fine granulated sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large closed star top (Ateco 856). Pipe swirls of whipped cream on top of the milk shakes. Or, just dollop whipped cream on top of the shakes with a spoon.
    Boozy Variation: Omit the mint extract, and add 1/4 cup of crème de menthe liqueur to the milkshake mixture. Add more to taste.
    Vegan/Dairy-Free Shamrock Shake: Replace the ice cream in this recipe with plant-based vanilla ice cream in equal portions (oat milk, cashew, or coconut milk to name a few). Also use plant-based milk. Use plant-based frozen whipped topping (thawed), such as So Delicious brand coconut whipped cream.
    Copycat Oreo Shamrock McFlurry®: Crush 8 Oreo cookies and add them to the blender pitcher with the mint milkshake mixture. Blend in bursts to disperse cookie pieces throughout the shake. Don’t blend too much, or the cookies will turn the milkshake grey.
    *Shamrock Shake is a registered trademark and brand of McDonald’s Corporation. 

    Keyword maraschino cherries, McDonald’s Shamrock Shake, peppermint extract, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, whole milk

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    Magic Granola Cookie Bars

    Magic Granola Cookie Bars are made with your favorite ready-made granola. Just five ingredients makes them an easy, quick fix!

    Leave it to me to take something healthy like granola, and make it a little naughty. Magic Granola Cookie Bars are inspired by Magic Cookie Bars (also called 7 Layer Bars, or Hello Dollies). Heard of them? The recipe was published in the 60’s, and home bakers have been making them ever since. A big part of the recipe’s appeal is how easy it is. And also how deliciously chewy-gooey the bars are.
    The inspiration recipe uses 7 layers of ingredients, that includes mix-ins like baking chips, coconut, and nuts. The most important ingredient of them all? A can of sweetened condensed milk. It holds everything together, and creates the most craveable soft, chewy texture. I wondered if a granola mix could be used in place of all those mix-ins. Because a bag of granola already has a lot of things in it – nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips. (Depending on the variety you use.) I just had to try it, and I’m so glad I did!

    Use Your Favorite Granola
    Start with a box or a bag of your favorite loose granola or granola clusters. You could also use homemade granola if you have some on hand. You’ll need 3 cups, so if you’re purchasing it, get the ‘family size’ container. If you use clusters, break them up with your hands. Or, pound the bag with a rolling pin to break up the clusters before measuring. I used dark chocolate chip sea salt granola clusters, which made the baked bars taste like the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookie bar, ever!’
    Next, you’ll need graham cracker crumbs and butter for the cookie base, and a can of sweetened condensed milk. I also included sweetened flake coconut. This can be optional, but it’s very tasty!

    Make the Crust
    Mix up the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl and pour it into a greased 13×9 inch baking pan. Tamp the crumbs down evenly using the flat bottom of a measuring cup or glass.
    Then, pour the sweetened condensed milk – directly from the can – onto the crust. Really easy so far, right? Right.

    Layer on the Granola
    Here’s the fun part. Because anything goes! Sprinkle on your favorite granola blend. You’ll need 3 cups. Opt for granola with simple ingredients (no corn syrup).

    Layer on the Coconut
    I used sweetened flake coconut but unsweet flake coconut will work also. This ingredient can be optional, but it adds another toasty layer of flavor.

    Bake until Golden Brown
    Place the pan in a preheated 350°F oven and bake for 25 minutes. Prepared granola has already been baked once. So it’s important to tent the bars with foil halfway through baking so it doesn’t overbrown.
    Just out of the oven, and while the pan is still hot, toss on a handful of chocolate chips. I mean, if you’re feeling extra. (I usually am!)

    Cool and Cut
    Let the bars stand in the pan until cool. You can serve them directly from the pan, or turn them out as I did. However, if you plan to remove them from the pan, line it first with aluminum foil that overhangs the sides. You’ll have an easier time removing it than I did.

    These bars are deliciously soft and gooey in the middle, with chewy edges. The chocolate chip granola mix I used made these bars taste like the best oat bars I’ve ever made!

    So, did I manage to reduce the ingredients? Yes. If you don’t use the optional coconut, the whole pan uses just 4 ingredients. But I think the coconut really adds something. So, it’s worth trying!
    The possibilities are endless with all the granola mixes on the market now. I think I’ll use my favorite cranberry-almond with flaxseed for my next attempt. Seeds, nuts, dried fruits, coconut, chocolate chips all do well in this recipe. There is one caveat: avoid granola mixes that include freeze dried fruit, such as strawberry and apple slices. They don’t hydrate to a nice texture, and the pieces near the top tend to burn.
    This recipe is a quick bake for weeknights, or even busy weekends. There’s big payoff with little effort – *chef’s kiss!

    Related Recipe: Healthy Homemade Granola

    Magic Granola Cookie Bars (5 Ingredients!)

    Heather Baird

    Half cookie bar, half granola bar, 100% delicious! These bars start with your favorite ready-made granola mix. Choose oat-based granolas that have additions like peanuts, almonds, flaxseeds, quinoa, craisins, raisins, dried fruit, and chocolate chips. Avoid granola mixes that contain freeze-dried fruits such as strawberries and apples – the baked texture is tough and strange, and they tend to burn.Use loose cereal-type granola or clusters. If you use clusters, break them up by hand or pound the bag with a rolling pin to break them up before measuring.Remember that ready-made granola has been baked once already. Tent the pan with aluminum foil halfway through baking to prevent the top from overbrowning.

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    Prep Time 10 minutes minsCook Time 25 minutes minsTotal Time 35 minutes mins

    Course DessertCuisine American

    Servings 24

    Equipment9×13 inch panaluminum foil
    Ingredients US CustomaryMetric 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs about 12 sheets crushed fine1/2 cup unsalted butter melted14 oz. sweetened condensed milk 1 can3 cups oat granola any variety with nuts, raisins, chips, etc.1/2 cup sweetened flake coconut optional
    Instructions Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 13×9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil so that it overhangs two long edges of the pan. Spray the foil with cooking spray.In a large mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Stir until well combined, or until the mixture has the appearance of wet sand. Pour the crumbs into the prepared pan; spread evenly and tamp it down with the bottom of a flat measuring cup, or the palms of your hands.Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the crust. Scrape out the can with a rubber spatula to get every last bit out of the can.Sprinkle the oat granola over the sweetened condensed milk in an even layer. Use a rubber spatula to press the granola down into the milk layer.Sprinkle the coconut evenly over the granola.Bake for 25 minutes, tenting the pan with foil halfway through bake time to prevent overbrowning.Cool completely in the pan. You can serve the bars directly from the pan, or after the bars have cooled completely, lift up by the edges of the foil to remove from the pan. Then, cut into 24 pieces.Store the bars in an airtight container.
    NotesWhat to expect: These are the oat version of magic cookie bars. They have soft chewy texture with extra chewy caramelized edges. 
    Optional? You decide: Sweetened flake coconut can be an optional ingredient, but it gives the bars a nice texture reminiscent of the original magic cookie bars.
    Endlessly variable: honey-oat, cranberry-almond, peanut butter-flaxseed, dark chocolate-pecan.. There are hundreds of oat granola mixes out there to try, so have fun experimenting with different flavors!

    Keyword chocolate chips, graham cracker crumbs, granola mix, homemade granola bars, magic cookie bars, oat granola, sweetened condensed milk, unsalted butter

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    Homemade Crescent Rolls

    Homemade Crescent Rolls are so much better than canned! Perfect for breakfast, brunch, or any meal. Freezer-friendly and overnight options make this recipe a keeper.

    Who doesn’t love delicious, buttery crescent rolls? They range from flaky and crusty to soft and pillowy. These homemade crescent rolls fall into the latter category, with soft texture, rich buttery flavor, and a kiss of sweetness. This is my favorite recipe for crescent rolls – and I’ve tried many! The yeasty flavor really comes through. And the addition of honey in the dough is a simple touch of genius. It gives the rolls a honey-butter note – without being overpowering. They’re not complicated to make, and as long as you follow a few simple steps, they turn out perfectly every time.

    Why Make Homemade Crescent Rolls?
    Sure, you could buy a tube of canned refrigerated crescent rolls. But homemade crescent rolls are a thousand times better. Read the label on the can and you’ll find some strange ingredients, including palm oil (and NO butter). For all the compliments and wows at the Sunday dinner table, buttery scratch-made crescent rolls win every time. They’re made with staple pantry and refrigerated ingredients. And if it’s convenience you’re looking for, there are plenty of make-ahead options.

    Make the Crescent Roll Dough
    Mix together 1 1/2 cups of flour, 2 packages instant or active dry yeast, and a little fine grain salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. If you don’t have an electric mixer – no worries. These rolls can be made without a stand mixer. Whisk the mixture together and set aside temporarily.

    Combine butter, milk, and honey in a small saucepan and heat on low while stirring until melted. Let the mixture cool down to 115°F to 120°F.

    Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. Mix together with your mixer’s paddle attachment, or with a big wooden spoon by hand, until the ingredients are well incorporated. Make sure to scrape down the bowl. Especially the bottom, to make sure there are no pockets of flour hiding there.

    The dough is enriched with egg yolks. This gives the dough a golden hue and promotes browning. Add the egg yolks to the bowl. And mix well to combine.

    Add Additional Flour
    Critical point: Add in just enough additional flour to the batter to form a soft dough, about 1 cup to start. The dough should be sticky. Too much flour will make the baked rolls firm and not fluffy – as they bake they are likely to unfurl. Like most yeast dough recipes, this one has a flour range: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 cups. You may not use all of the flour.

    Knead the Crescent Roll Dough
    Switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook. (Or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface to knead by hand.) Turn the mixer on low and knead for 6-8 minutes. The dough should be slightly lax and a little sticky. While mixing it should clean the sides of the bowl but not the bottom of the bowl. If dough sticks to the upper sides of the bowl while mixing, add just a little more flour and mix again. When you raise the dough hook from the bowl, the dough should be soft and slightly sticky. It should drape from the hook. And it should slowly, and partially ease itself back into the bowl. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl and turn over once. Then, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled. About 45 minutes.
    Overnight Option
    After the dough has risen, punch it down. Then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight. The next morning, turn the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape as directed.

    Shaping the Crescent Rolls
    Of course, if you’re looking to enjoy these rolls right away, you can immediately shape the dough after punching it down – here’s how.
    Cut the dough in two pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll a half out to a 12-inch circle. Cut the dough into 12 wedges.
    If you prefer, you can make slightly smaller rolls by cutting the dough into 16 triangles instead of 12. (I prefer the larger rolls.)

    Roll the triangles up from the large end, tucking the point underneath the roll.
    Freezer-Friendly Option
    Immediately after shaping, freeze the rolls on parchment-lined baking sheets until firm. Transfer to a freezer bag or other freezer container. Return to the freezer and store for up to 4 weeks. To bake, allow them to rise, increasing the rise time to 2 1/2 to 3 hours and bake as directed.

    If you’re not freezing the rolls, place them on parchment-lined baking sheets, cover, and let rise until doubled and puffy. About 45 minutes. Bake at 375°F for 9-11 minutes, or until the rolls are puffy, golden brown, and fragrant.

    Brush the Rolls with Butter while Hot
    Yum, I could eat this picture! While the crescent rolls are piping hot on the baking sheet, brush each with a little melted butter. Or a lot of melted butter -ha!

    The end result? Gorgeous, puffy, buttery, yeasty, homemade crescent rolls. Pile them up on a platter and serve them for any meal. They’re excellent in the morning, split and stuffed with butter and jam. Fill them with chicken salad for lunch, or have them with a garden salad.
    However, I think they are best with a savory dinner. And they’d be so good with the Easter ham or Thanksgiving turkey. My husband eats them for dessert, warmed up in the oven, then stuffed with butter and drizzled with honey.

    After testing and re-testing, and eating my weight in these buttery delights, I couldn’t wait to share my holy grail recipe with you. Some crescent roll recipes have flaky crusts, bordering on croissant territory. Don’t expect that from these. These are pure dinner roll heaven. Soft and pillowy, and cottony on the inside. There are many ways to enjoy these, as I’ve mentioned. But there’s nothing like the simple joy of unfurling a hot crescent roll straight from the oven and eating it as-is.
    You can follow along the making of these rolls with my video tutorial below.
    Related recipe: Perfect Buttermilk Dinner Rolls

    Homemade Crescent Rolls

    Heather Baird

    These dinner roll-style crescents are buttery and soft with pillowy texture and a kiss of honey sweetness. Serve them for any meal! See the recipe notes for overnight instructions, which allows you to make the dough ahead one day and refrigerate it overnight for shaping and baking the next day. Or, use the instructions for freezing the shaped rolls for up to 4 weeks, which makes it easy to have homemade crescent rolls at a moment’s notice.

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    Prep Time 30 minutes minsCook Time 12 minutes mins2 hours rise time 2 hours hrsTotal Time 2 hours hrs 42 minutes mins

    Course Bread, Breakfast, BrunchCuisine American

    Servings 24

    Equipmentlarge baking sheets (2)parchment papersharp chef’s knife or pizza cutterPastry brush
    Ingredients US CustomaryMetric 3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose flour plus more for rolling dough4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast or two 1/4 oz. packages active dry yeast1 teaspoon fine grain salt1 cup whole milk1/2 cup unsalted butter1/4 cup wildflower honey or other local honey3 egg yolks from large eggs room temp.1/2 cup melted butter salted or unsalted
    Instructions In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the yeast, and the salt. Whisk to combine.In a small saucepan, add the milk, butter, and honey. Cook while stirring over low heat until melted. Cook to 115 °F-120 °F. If the mixture exceeds this temperature, let it cool to 115 °F-120 °F.Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients, and stir together on medium-low speed with the paddle attachment (or stir together with a wooden spoon by hand) about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again briefly.Add the egg yolks and mix on medium speed to combine, another 2 minutes.Critical point: Stir in just enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough. Begin with one cup, and add more as needed (about 1/4 cup at a time) while stirring on low speed to form a consistent, sticky, soft dough.Switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook (Or turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand). Knead for 6-8 minutes on medium-low speed. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl while mixing. It’s totally fine if the dough sticks in the bottom of the bowl a little. If the dough sticks to the top sides of the bowl, gently tap in a little extra flour 1 tablespoon at a time, until it cleans the top sides of the bowl. Remember: aim for soft and slightly sticky dough. When the dough hook is lifted from the bowl, it should drape from the hook. As it hangs there, the dough should partially relax back into the bowl.Spritz a large bowl with cooking spray, or butter the bowl. Place the dough into the bowl and turn over once to coat; cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until doubled.Punch down the risen dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two pieces.Roll each portion to a 12-inch circle. Cut each circle into 12 wedges. (Cut the circle crosswise in the center to create 4 pieces; then cut each quarter into 3 triangles to make 12 wedges).Lightly brush each triangle with melted butter; save leftover melted butter. Roll up the triangles from the wide ends. Tuck the points underneath the rolls and gently curve the ends to form crescent shapes.Place the rolls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Cover and let rise until puffy and nearly doubled, 30-45 minutes.Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown and fragrant. Remove from the oven and immediately brush with the reserved melted butter. Serve warm.Store rolls in an airtight container or zip top bag. Reheat rolls on parchment-lined baking sheets in a preheated 350°F oven for 6-8 minutes.See recipe notes for overnight refrigerator method, and for freezing instructions.
    NotesOvernight Refrigerator Method: After the dough has risen, punch it down. Then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight. The next morning, turn the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape as directed. The rise time may increase to 1 hour.
    Freezer-Friendly Method: Immediately after shaping, freeze the rolls on parchment-lined baking sheets until firm. Transfer to a freezer bag or other freezer container. Return to the freezer and store for up to 4 weeks. To bake, allow them to rise, increasing the rise time to 2 1/2 to 3 hours and bake as directed.
    Increase Yield Size: Increase the roll count from 24 to 32 by rolling each dough piece to 14-inches instead of 12-inces. Cut each dough circle into 16 wedges instead of 12. Let rise and bake as directed.
    Cranberry-Orange Variation: (Great for the holidays!) In a medium bowl, toss 1/3 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons fine orange zest from 3-4 large oranges. Rub together with fingers. Stir in 1 cup finely chopped dried cranberries. Brush dough circles with butter. Divide mixture between the two dough circles; cut, roll, rise, and bake as directed.

    Keyword active dry yeast, all purpose flour, egg yolks, freezer crescent rolls, homemade crescent rolls, how to make crescent rolls, instant yeast, local honey, overnight crescent rolls, unsalted butter, whole milk, wildflower honey

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    Costco Vanilla Sheet Cake (Copycat Recipe)

    This cake is inspired by the beloved Costco Vanilla Sheet Cake, with white cake layers, vanilla cheesecake filling, and vanilla buttercream. It’s great for any occasion and feeds a crowd!

    It’s always good to have a reliable sheet cake recipe in your back pocket for birthdays, anniversaries, or anytime you need to feed a party crowd. But it’s especially good if that sheet cake recipe is filled with vanilla cheesecake mousse. This homemade version of the Costco Vanilla Sheet Cake is made with two 9×13 white cake layers, the aforementioned cheesecake filling, and it’s covered in vanilla buttercream. The decors are up to you and your party theme.
    How did I decide to develop this recipe? First of all, I wanted to make a vanilla sheet cake for a special February birthday. And I found a copycat Costco sheet cake recipe online that I was content to use without having to develop my own. However, it was a total disaster. I had an inkling that it would fail after reading through the recipe once. But with hundreds of five star ratings (and curiously, no written reviews) I tried it anyway. After doing some digging on Pinterest, and reading actual text reviews there, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one with terrible results. That’s when I decided to take matters into my own hands.

    Why Make your Own Costco Vanilla Sheet Cake?
    If you live in close proximity to a Costco, then I understand if you’d prefer to just buy one. Costco Sheet Cakes cost $24.99 for a 12×16-inch cake that feeds 48 people. That’s a deal, if you ask me! However, if – like me – you don’t live near a Costco anymore – this recipe may be a valuable resource. Also, in 2020 when folks weren’t gathering as much, Costco stopped selling their large sheet cakes for a while. But thankfully, they’re back. And hopefully that will never happen again! (However you may want to bookmark this recipe just in case.)

    Make the White Cake Layers
    First, mix all the dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer: flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Then, add room temperature butter to the dry ingredients and mix until the ingredients resemble fine cornmeal. This is called ‘reverse creaming’. It may sound strange, but it’s a tried-and-true method that harks back to the 1950’s. But all you really need to know is that it creates a fluffy cake with a tender crumb. Once the wet ingredients are added, which includes 8 egg whites and 2 whole eggs (add an extra dozen to the shopping list!) the batter becomes thick and smooth. Divide the batter into two 9×13 inch cake pan with sides at least 2 inches deep.

    Bake and Cool the Cake Layers
    Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes, or until golden on top and set in their centers. Turn them out on wire racks to cool completely. You’ll notice the centers don’t crown or dome too much. This is another benefit of reverse creaming. There is very little leveling to do after the cakes are baked. Some, but not much.
    When the cakes are cool, refrigerate them for a couple of hours. This firms the crumb and makes them much easier to level with a serrated knife.

    Make the Vanilla Cheesecake Filling
    In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese and heavy cream on low speed. You’re not trying to whip the heavy cream, you’re just combining the two ingredients. Next, beat in a little whole milk and a package of instant vanilla pudding. Then, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until thick and fluffy. This combination of ingredients creates a lovely, smooth, not-too-sweet filling that tastes a whole lot like its inspiration!
    Top one cake with the entire amount of cheesecake mousse filling, then top with the second white cake layer.

    Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
    Cover the cake in a classic American buttercream. This formula is just butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and a little milk to thin. The trick to making this kind of buttercream billowy and light, is to beat the heck out of it on high speed. I recommend a stand mixer for this. A sturdy hand mixer could also work but will take a long time.

    Pipe a Shell Border
    While décor will always vary on the Costco Vanilla Sheet Cake, there’s always one decoration that is a mainstay: a piped border. Use a large open star tip (such as Ateco 826) to pipe a shell border along the bottom and top edges of the cake. If using sprinkles to decorate, sprinkle them on immediately after piping one edge. Because the buttercream crusts easily, if you wait to long they’ll bounce right off.

    Add Decors to Match Your Party
    This cake is an all-occasions kind of cake. So as I mentioned earlier, the decors are up to you! Red, white, and blue for July Fourth. Red and green for Christmas. Or any mixture of happy sprinkles for a birthday-friendly cake (such as these neon baubles).

    I added a pink ‘Happy Birthday’ candle to the center of the cake. Because my finer piping skills are not the best (I’m actively working on improving – but oof! It is hard.) I couldn’t find the exact candle topper I used, but you can find a similar one right here.

    Happy Everything!

    Party Cake Cutting Guide
    This cake is slightly smaller than the 12×16 Costco cake, at 9×13-inches. However, it’s still a sizeable confection! With two white cake layers, and the filling – it’s hefty. And you can tailor your slices to the size of your party using my guide below. Large Party Size Slices are generous indeed, and would nearly feed 2 people instead of one. The Medium Size Party Slices are more in keeping with what I’d consider a normal serving. However the Small Wedding Size Slices are plenty sufficient for a larger event, and not skimpy-looking on a dessert plate.

    This sizeable corner piece shows off the pale fluffy layers and cheesecake filling. The cake slices so beautifully and has a tender, fluffy crumb. Flavor-wise it is smooth and mellow with vanilla, although with more scratch-made flavor than the original Costco White Vanilla Sheet Cake. The filling is quite close to the original – not overly sweet, really smooth and creamy. While the buttercream frosting is the guest that brings the sweetness to the party.
    This cake isn’t difficult to make, and most home bakers will have a couple of 9×13 pans in their bakeware arsenal. Use two identical pans if possible, which will prevent extra trimming once assembled. Check out the reverse creaming method in my video if you’re not familiar with the technique. Enjoy!

    Related recipe: Bottle of Sprinkles Cake (Homemade Funfetti Sheet Cake)

    Costco Vanilla Sheet Cake (Copycat Recipe)

    This copycat recipe for Costco Vanilla Sheet Cake is perfect for just about any gathering. It’s home baker-friendly, and easily made in 9×13 cake pans. The end result is a hefty cake suitable for serving a large gathering. See the recipe notes for the cake cutting guide.The white cake recipe uses ‘reverse creaming’ or ‘paste method’ of mixing the batter. This refers to the first step of mixing, which is to combine the dry ingredients with the butter until a crumbly or sandy texture is formed. The mixture may also form a paste in a humid environment. Both textures are normal. (Read more about this at the link in the blog post.)The vanilla cheesecake mousse calls for 1 package (3.4 oz.) instant vanilla pudding mix. This means the dry mix, poured directly from the pouch into the mousse mixture.

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    Prep Time 1 hour hrCook Time 16 minutes mins2 hours chill time 2 hours hrsTotal Time 3 hours hrs 16 minutes mins

    Course DessertCuisine American

    Servings 18 + servings

    Ingredients US CustomaryMetric White cake layers5 1/4 cups cake flour3 1/3 cups granulated sugar2 tablespoons baking powder1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain salt1 1/2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature8 egg whites from large eggs at room temperature2 whole large eggs at room temperature2 cups whole milk at room temperature1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extractVanilla cheesecake mousse filling8 oz. cream cheese softened1/2 cup powdered sugar1 1/2 cups heavy cream1/2 cup whole milk3.4 oz. package instant vanilla pudding mix dry mixVanilla buttercream (American)1 lb. unsalted butter at room temperature7 cups confectioners’ sugar2 tablespoons vanilla extractWhole milk to thin to spreading consistency1 cup rainbow sprinkles or other decors
    Instructions White cake layersPreheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two identical 9×13-inch baking pans line the bottoms with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment paper.In the bowl of an electric mixer (stand mixer preferred) combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.Add the butter to the flour and mix until well incorporated and crumbly, with a texture similar to damp sand or cornmeal. The mixture may also form a paste in humid conditions, this is fine too.With the mixer running on low speed, add the egg whites and the whole eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl and mix again briefly.Add the milk, about 1/3 at a time, to the batter. Beat 1-2 minutes after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract.Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 26-30 minutes, or until the cakes are golden on top, and a toothpick tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn them out onto wire cooling racks to cool completely. Peel away the parchment paper and discard it.Optional step: Wrap and refrigerate cakes for 2 hours, or overnight. This will firm the crumb and make them easier to level.When cakes are completely cool, level the rounded tops using a serrated knife.Vanilla cheesecake mousse fillingIn the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and mix again until incorporated.Add the heavy cream and mix on low until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and mix again, raising the speed slightly, until the mixture is smooth (you’re not trying to whip the cream, just mix until the two are smooth).Add the whole milk; beat to combine Then, add the dry instant vanilla pudding powder. Mix until combined. Scrape down the bowl (sides and bottom) and mix on medium-high speed until the mixture thickens, 2-3 minutes.Place a white cake layer on a cake board or serving platter and top with all of the cream cheese mousse. Spread evenly to the edges and top with the second white cake layer. Cover and refrigerate while you make the buttercream.Vanilla buttercreamIn the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, add the butter and mix until creamy. Add three cups of powdered sugar; mix on low speed until combined, the beat on high speed 1 minute. Add remaining confectioners’ sugar, pulsing the mixer on and off to combine slowly, so the sugar doesn’t fly out of the mixing bowl. Beat until incorporated. Add milk or cream a little at a time to thin. Mix on high speed for 5 minutes, or until lightened in color and billowy. The frosting should lose most of it yellow butter hue.Transfer about 1 1/4 cups of the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a large open star tip; set aside Use the remaining frosting to cover the entire cake, smoothing it evenly with an offset spatula.Use the piping bag with the decorator tip to pipe a shell border around the bottom edge of the cake (see video for this action). If using sprinkles, add them after you pipe one edge (wait too long and the sprinkles won’t stick!). Pipe a shell border on the top edge of the cake and add decors, if using.Refrigerate cake until the buttercream is set, then cover gently with plastic wrap. Store cake in the refrigerator.Bring the cake to room temperature before serving. The cake’s texture, flavor, and filling will be most developed at room temperature.
    The cake recipe was adapted from King Arthur Baking’s Tender White Cake recipe, from their book “The All-Purpose Baker’s Companion“.
    For volume measuring, use the spoon and sweep method for the cake flour. This means to spoon flour into the measuring cup and sweep the top level with a knife or spoon handle. Flour scooped directly from the bag with a measuring cup tends to pack more flour in the cup than needed, which can result in a dense cake. Keep this cake fluffy with the ‘spoon and sweep’ technique.

    Keyword american buttercream, cake flour, confectioners’ sugar, Costco Vanilla Sheet Cake Recipe, heavy cream, pure vanilla extract, vanilla cheesecake mousse filing, white cake layers

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    Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes

    Made with full-bodied red wine, Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes have rich, intense flavor. They’re the perfect date night dessert or a sweet ending to a special occasion meal.

    There’s a reason why chocolate and red wine go together so well in desserts. Separately, each have bold flavors with lingering subtleties. Like, floral and berry notes, plum and molasses – just to name a few. And both will compete for your palate’s attention, so pairing them can be tricky. (I’ll leave that to the sommeliers!) However, when married in sweet confections, the great equalizer and balance-giver is sugar. It tamps down the astringency of tannins in both ingredients. It rounds out sharpness and brings forward the bright fruity notes in red wine. The two become complementary, highlighting red wine’s sophisticated flavor.
    These cupcakes begin with a dark cocoa cake batter enriched with red wine. The baked cakes are filled with simple three ingredient red wine ganache. Then, they’re topped with a big swirl of naturally wine-hued red wine buttercream. While these Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes are not health food, it’s worth noting that both dark chocolate and red wine have long been celebrated for their heart-healthy attributes. Healthy or not, these must be the most antioxidant-rich cupcakes I’ve ever made!

    What are Tannins? Tannins are found in plants and naturally occur in nature. In wine, chocolate, coffee, and tea, they are often perceived as a sensation of dryness and bitterness.Tannins also have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

    Choose a Full Bodied Red Wine
    Any red wine with more than 13.5 percent alcohol is considered a full-bodied wine. In general, these wines have more concentrated flavors and higher tannin content. Use your favorite dry merlot, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, or syrah. I used merlot.

    Three Ingredient Red Wine Ganache Filling
    Chop 4 oz. (or, 1 Baker’s bar) of milk or semisweet chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl. Add in 1/4 cup red wine and heat for 1 minute in the microwave. Allow the mixture to stand for one minute, then whisk together until a shiny ganache forms. While the ganache is still hot, finish it with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. This will give the ganache a smooth silky texture. Set aside while you make the cupcakes.
    Note: This ganache will be quite sharp in flavor, with some bitterness. This is by design. It tastes much milder as a cupcake filing, yet punches up the overall red wine flavor. I prefer using milk chocolate for this component because of its sweetness, but semisweet chocolate will work just fine, too.

    Make the Chocolate-Red Wine Cupcake Batter
    Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl by sifting together the flour, dark cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk together so everything is combined and well dispersed.

    Next, cream butter, granulated sugar, and eggs together using a hand mixer. Add in a little sour cream to keep the cake’s texture moist. Then add half of the cocoa mixture on top of the cream mixture and mix until just combined.

    Add 1/2 cup of red wine to the mixture, then beat to combine. Follow up with the last of the dry ingredients and mix again until just combined.

    Portion the cupcakes into liners with a standard size trigger ice cream scoop (or by the level 1/4 cups). My yield was about 15 cupcakes. Bake until domed and a toothpick tester comes out clean, then cool completely.

    Fill the Cupcakes with the Ganache
    By the time your cupcakes are cooled, the red wine ganache made earlier has probably set up a little. If so, microwave it at 10 second intervals until pourable. Cut a little divot from the top of each cupcake using a paring knife (see video for action of this) and fill it with a spoonful of ganache. Trim the cake piece flat and replace it over the hole.

    Make the Red Wine Buttercream
    My favorite part! This buttercream is so delicious, I could eat loads of it straight from the bowl. Start with two cups or red wine, and simmer it on the stove top until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 20 minutes). Your house will probably smell like a winery the entire time, but that’s not entirely a bad thing.
    Once the wine is reduced, let it cool completely. Then, cream butter, confectioners’ sugar, and the wine reduction in the bowl of an electric mixer.

    Beat until fluffy and well combined. The frosting will have a naturally light red/wine colored hue which will oxidize and darken as it stands. Your frosting may be more red or more pink hued depending on the red wine you use.

    Pipe a generous topping of red wine buttercream onto the filled cupcakes. You should have plenty enough for a nice double swirl on each.

    I decorated these cakes with a mix of gold dragees. I love the look! However, the larger ones are a bit hard to chew. You have to – sort of – hold them in your mouth to soften before they dissolve enough to chew. Next time, I think I will opt to use just the smaller ones. If you’d like to purchase some, you can find them here.

    If you serve these chocolate red wine cupcakes soon after filling and frosting them, the ganache may still be liquid in the centers. It will set over the course of about an hour, and have a smooth truffle-like consistency. They are delicious both ways!
    If you’re keen on making these, check out my video to help you along. There are a few steps, but all are pretty straight-forward.

    Related recipe: Artisan Red Wine Soft Caramels

    Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes

    Heather Baird

    These Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes are truly special-occasion worthy. They add a touch of sophistication to any event: weddings, showers, birthday parties, Valentine’s Day. You can even make them a sweet addition to a cheese and wine-themed charcuterie board. Choose a full-bodied red wine for this recipe, such as merlot, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, or syrah. For the buttercream, the wine will need to reduce on the stove top for about 20 minutes, which will temporarily make your kitchen smell like a winery – but that’s not entirely a bad thing!

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    Prep Time 35 minutes minsCook Time 16 minutes minsTotal Time 51 minutes mins

    Course DessertCuisine American

    Servings 15 cupcakes

    Equipmentcupcake pans one or more15 cupcake linersdisposable piping baglarge closed star piping tipTrigger ice cream scoop
    Ingredients US CustomaryMetric Red wine ganache4 oz. chopped milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate1/4 cup red wine2 tablespoons unsalted butterChocolate red wine cupcakes1 cup all-purpose flour1/2 cup unsweet dark cocoa1/2 teaspoon fine grain salt1/2 teaspoon baking soda1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature1 cup granulated sugar2 large eggs at room temperature1/4 cup sour cream1/2 cup red wineRed wine buttercream2 cups red wine1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature4 cups confectioners’ sugarGold dragees optional
    Instructions Red wine ganachePlace the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and add the red wine. Microwave at 100% power for 1 minute. Allow the hot mixture to stand for 1 minute.Whisk the two ingredients together until a shiny ganache forms. While the mixture is still hot, add the 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk until melted and combined. Set aside.Chocolate-red wine cupcakesPreheat the oven to 350F. Line cupcake tins with 15 paper liners.In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix again. Beat in the sour cream.Add half of the dry cocoa/flour mixture to the creamed mixture. Beat until just combined. Add the 1/2 cup of red wine and beat until well incorporated. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat again until just combined. Scrape down the bowl to make sure everything is well mixed.Using a trigger ice cream scoop, or a 1/4 cup measure, portion the batter into the cupcake liners. Bake 15-17 minutes, or until cupcakes are domed and a toothpick tester comes out clean.Let cupcakes cool in the pans 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.Red wine buttercreamPlace the red wine in a saucepot and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to about 1/4 cup. This will take about 20-25 minutes, more or less depending on your range. (When wine reduces by half, keep a close eye on it.) Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl or small pitcher to cool completely.In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the cooled wine reduction and beat until light and fluffy, and the frosting’s color is consistent throughout. (Buttercream may appear light, but will darken over time.)Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip.Assemble the cupcakesStir the ganache that has been standing at room temperature. If it has thickened, microwave it for 10-15 seconds until loose and pourable.Cut a small divot from the center of each cupcake and save the cut-out cake pieces. Fill each cupcake with a small spoonful of the red wine ganache, about 1/2 tablespoon. Trim cake pieces flat and place over the filled holes. (See video for action.)Pipe a double swirl of red wine buttercream onto a cupcake. Immediately top with dragees, if using. Repeat with remaining cupcakes.Keep cupcakes in an air-tight cupcake keeper. Or, allow cupcakes to stand uncovered until the buttercream crusts, about 30 minutes, before covering them with plastic wrap.
    NotesWhat to expect: Soft dark chocolate cupcakes hold a punchy hit of sharp red wine ganache inside, with a topping of sweet, fruity red wine buttercream that brings balance to the confection.
    Ganache can be optional: These cupcakes are good with or without the ganache. The ganache makes them a more grown-up treat, as it is the only element where the alcohol in the red wine doesn’t completely cook out.
    Ganache will set: If you serve the cake soon after filling and frosting, the ganache may still be liquid. The ganache will set over time for a smooth truffle-like texture.

    Keyword chocolate red wine cupcakes, dark cocoa powder, merlot, red wine, red wine buttercream, red wine chocolate cake, red wine cupcakes, red wine reduction, semisweet chocolate, valentine’s day dessert, wedding cupcakes

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    Soft M&M Cookies

    Soft M&M Cookies are deliciously tender and loaded with M&M Candies. They taste just like the soft-baked cookies from the mall’s cookie kiosk!

    I hope you’re not tired of cookies! Since the holidays are over, I decided to work on some recipes that are more evergreen. And these soft M&M cookies are good for any occasion! I’ve tested them a few times now, adjusting the M&M candy to batter ratio. I think these are just about perfect. In fact, tasting them made me feel a little nostalgic. They remind me so much of the cookies I’d get at our local mall, from a popular patriotic-sounding cookie kiosk (you might know the one).
    The hallmarks of those kiosk cookies were their large size and soft texture. They were golden brown underneath with pale tops, and cakey – almost underdone – centers. The M&M chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies were favorites of mine. This cookie recipe is like a combination of the two!

    Make the Brown Sugar Dough
    Combine butter, white sugar, and light brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and cream them together well. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix again. I made these on a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, but you could also use a hand mixer and an extra-large mixing bowl.

    The Secret Ingredient
    Mix together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, and salt. To this mixture add a 3.4 oz. package of dry instant vanilla pudding mix. While it’s true that I don’t often use convenience foods as ingredients in my baking, I do make exceptions. It wasn’t until I made this Caribbean Rum Cake with dry pudding mix in the batter, that my opinion of this ingredient changed completely. I was skeptical. But it gives baked goods a soft, tender texture, and I’d never received so many compliments and recipe requests for a bundt cake before!
    In these cookies, the pudding mix imparts noticeable vanilla flavor, and keeps the middles soft during baking. It really gives them the flavor and texture of my once beloved mall cookies.

    M&M Minis
    Combine the dry mixture with the creamed butter, and mix well until a pale golden-hued dough is formed. Then, add the M&M candies and fold together. I used M&M minis here, because I was gifted a huge container. I like how they disperse well throughout the dough. However, regular M&M’s work just fine, too.

    Portion by the Level 1/4 Cup
    These cookies are large. So use a standard size trigger ice cream scoop or portion dough by the level 1/4 cups. Place some extra M&Ms on top of the dough balls for a bakery-made appearance, if you’re into that (I am!)
    Chill the portioned cookies on the pan in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, or you can even speed the process by putting them in the freezer for 7-10 minutes.

    Bake for about 13 minutes, or until they’ve spread significantly. The tops should be quite pale and look a little under-done in their centers.

    As I mentioned, these cookies will spread. So bake no more than 4 to 6 to a 9×13-inch baking sheet. If you want to make them perfectly round, grab your largest round cookie cutter. Encircle the cookies’ edges with the cutter while the cookies are still hot. Move the cutter in a circular motion. (See this video for the technique in action!) The cutter will push the edges into a perfect circle. The cookies are quite pliable and will need to stand on the baking sheet until they are firm enough to move to a wire cooling rack.

    These Soft M&M Cookies were fun and uncomplicated to make. If bake sales are still a thing, I could see these selling out first! I can’t help but compare them to the mall’s cookie kiosk cookies – big, soft, and filled with candy. Kids will love them. And kids at heart (like me!) may love them even more!

    Soft M&M Cookies

    Heather Baird

    Soft M&M Cookies are deliciously tender and loaded with M&M Candies. They taste just like the soft-baked cookies from the mall’s cookie kiosk! Please note that this recipe uses one small box (3.4 oz.) of dry pudding mix in the dough. It is used as a dry ingredient added directly from the package to the flour ingredients. This helps soften the cookies helps them keep that tender texture over time.These cookies will spread, so give them plenty of room on the baking sheet. Because the centers have a slightly underdone texture when baked, it can be difficult to judge their done-ness. However, there are some visual cues that will help: The cookies should be spread significantly yet slightly mounded and pale in their centers. The edges will appear set and matte, while the center may still have a slightly glossy appearance. Don’t be tempted to overbake! The appeal of these cookies is their soft texture.

    #wprm-recipe-user-rating-0 .wprm-rating-star.wprm-rating-star-full svg * { fill: #5A822B; }#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0 .wprm-rating-star.wprm-rating-star-33 svg * { fill: url(#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0-33); }#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0 .wprm-rating-star.wprm-rating-star-50 svg * { fill: url(#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0-50); }#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0 .wprm-rating-star.wprm-rating-star-66 svg * { fill: url(#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0-66); }linearGradient#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0-33 stop { stop-color: #5A822B; }linearGradient#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0-50 stop { stop-color: #5A822B; }linearGradient#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0-66 stop { stop-color: #5A822B; }No ratings yet

    Prep Time 20 minutes minsCook Time 13 minutes mins20 minutes chill time 20 minutes minsTotal Time 53 minutes mins

    Course DessertCuisine American

    Servings 16 cookies

    Equipmentlarge baking sheets 2 or more
    Ingredients US CustomaryMetric 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature1 cup light brown sugar packed1/2 cup granulated sugar2 large eggs2 teaspoons vanilla extract2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour1 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon fine grain salt3.4 oz. instant pudding mix 1 small box3/4 cup M&M candies I used M&M minisM&M candies for garnishing dough balls up to 1/3 cup
    Instructions Line 2 or more large baking sheets with parchment paper.In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat well until creamy and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat until well incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and mix again briefly.In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and the dry pudding mix. Whisk well to combine. Add the dry mixture to the creamed butter mixture and beat until a lightly golden-hued dough is formed. Scrape down the bowl and mix again briefly. Add the 3/4 cup of M&Ms. Fold in using a rubber spatula.Portion the dough by level 1/4 cup measures, or with a standard-size trigger ice cream scoop (which has 1/4 cup capacity) onto the prepared baking sheets. Space them at least 2 inches apart (fit no more than 6 dough mounds to a 13×9 baking sheet, or 4 mounds to be extra-sure cookies won’t spread into each other). Dot the tops of the dough mounds with more M&M candies. Refrigerate dough mounds on the baking sheets for 20 minutes, or speed chill time by freezing them for 7-10 minutes.Preheat the oven to 350°F.Bake the cookies for about 13-14 minutes, or until they are well spread and slightly mounded in their centers. Bang the pan on the countertop once to flatten the centers slightly. The edges should look set and matte, while the middles will look pale and slightly under baked. Don’t overbake.Remove the cookies from the oven. They will be loose and pliable, and will need to remain on the baking sheets for 10-12 minutes, or until firm enough to transfer to wire racks for cooling. (See recipe notes or blog post for perfectly round cookie hack, while cookies are still hot on the pan.)Store cookies air-tight, in a zip-top bag or in a large resealable plastic container.
    NotesChill: Be sure to chill the cookies – this is important. The cookies will spread too much during baking if not chilled.
    Bake Time: Keep an eye on bake time. I usually bake on an electric range at my workshop, but my home oven is gas. The electric oven baked the cookies done at the 13-minute mark. My gas oven runs hotter and baked the cookies more quickly.
    Freeze: Dough can be portioned on baking sheets and frozen, then the frozen dough mounds can be placed in a freezer bag and kept for 6 months. To bake, remove frozen dough mounds to a baking sheet and cover; place in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Bake as directed.
    Perfectly Round Cookies: See this video.

    Keyword all purpose flour, brown sugar, butter, eggs, granulated sugar, instant vanilla pudding, m&m candies, mall cookies, soft baked cookies

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    Lemon Tiramisu

    Lemon Tiramisu is a refreshing twist on the classic Italian dessert. Mascarpone cream and zesty lemon curd are layered between citrus-soaked ladyfingers for a bright-tasting pick-me up!

    Here comes the sun – in dessert form! This citrusy twist on classic tiramisu uses familiar ingredients such as mascarpone cheese and crisp lady fingers. But that’s where the similarities end. Instead of coffee, this confection has a double dose of lemony goodness with lemon syrup and tart lemon curd. It’s a different kind of pick-me-up!

    Make the Mascarpone Cream
    Start with sugar, milk and a bunch of egg yolks all whisked together in a bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and cook the while beating with a hand mixer. Cook until thickened and a thermometer registers 160°F. Making this custardy mixture takes about 7-10 minutes – more or less depending on your range (a constant gas flame may get the job done quicker). And it’s the most intensive work you’ll do for this recipe! Remove the bowl from the pot, and let it cool completely.
    Speaking of hand mixer… the cordless hand mixer I’m using in the photos (and video!) has pretty much changed my kitchen life. It’s given me a whole new freedom as a baker and food blogger who is constantly fighting/hiding/dragging cords as I work. My mom got it for me for my birthday in 2022, and it’s been such a great tool and a pleasure to use. This is not a sponsored post, but here is an affiliate link to the KitchenAid Cordless 7 Speed Hand Mixer that I’m crazy about. If you have the same issues with being tethered in the kitchen, then you may want to invest in one!
    I digress. Back to the lemony goodness!

    Purchased Ingredients
    This recipe uses prepackaged crisp lady fingers, mascarpone cheese, and prepared lemon curd. If you have homemade lemon curd on hand, then by all means use it! While the bowl of custard cools, give the mascarpone cheese a stir and leave it at room temperature to soften. Also stir the lemon curd. If the lemon curd seems particularly stiff-set, microwave it a little so that it loosens to a pourable consistency.

    Add half of the softened mascarpone cheese to the cooled custard mixture and beat well to combine.

    Add the second half of the mascarpone and beat together until fluffy and no lumps of mascarpone remain. Set the bowl aside while you prepare the lemon syrup.

    Make the Lemon Syrup
    The syrup is a mixture of simple syrup and fresh lemon juice. Super easy! I added just a touch of lemon extract also, but this is optional. You can find my Homemade Lemon Extract recipe right here.

    Assemble the Lemon Tiramisu
    Dip crisp lady fingers in the lemon syrup briefly, then line the bottom of a 7×11-inch dish. You could also use an 8×8-inch square dish or baking pan.

    Cover the lady fingers using half of the mascarpone cream. Then, cover the cream with half of the lemon curd. Evenly spread the lemon curd over the cream. If the two swirl together a little – that’s totally fine!
    Next, dollop whipped cream over the lemon curd. Spread it evenly. It doesn’t have to be perfect – just do the best you can. Then, repeat the layers all over again: soaked lady fingers, mascarpone cream, lemon curd, and whipped cream.

    The final layer of whipped cream doesn’t have to be spread all the way to the edges. Spread it within 2-ish inches of the sides. Refrigerate the tiramisu for 6 hours (or overnight) so the lady fingers have time to soften, the cream sets, and the flavors all marry together. Much like classic tiramisu, I think it improves over time!
    Just before serving, add lemon wheels and lemon zest for garnish. These are totally optional, but it makes a pretty presentation.

    Do you spoon or slice your tiramisu? I do both! However, it’s nice to admire a cross section slice of tiramisu, where you can clearly see all the layers stacked together.

    I almost didn’t get a picture of the interior before we ate it all! It’s such a light-tasting dessert, good at any time of year, but I could see it being right at home at spring and summer gatherings. However, right now, in the bleak midwinter, it tastes/feels like a much needed dose of sunshine!
    If you’d like more visuals on how to make this Lemon Tiramisu, then check out the video below to guide you along. Enjoy!

    Lemon Tiramisu

    Heather Baird

    This citrusy twist on Tiramisu is light and refreshing – the perfect ending to a rich, savory meal. Assembled with the right top-notch prepared lemon curd, it tastes like a restaurant-quality dessert. You could also use homemade lemon curd, if you prefer to make your own.Plan ahead, because this dessert needs to chill for 6 hours, or overnight. It can be made a few days ahead and kept refrigerated. Like classic tiramisu, I think it gets better over the course of a few days.

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    Prep Time 20 minutes minsCook Time 10 minutes mins6 hours chill time 6 hours hrsTotal Time 6 hours hrs 30 minutes mins

    Course DessertCuisine Italian, Italian-inspired

    Servings 12

    Equipmentstainless steel bowlHand mixerCandy thermometer11×7 baking dish or 8×8 square dish
    Ingredients US CustomaryMetric Mascarpone cream2/3 cup whole milk3/4 cup granulated sugar6 large egg yolks16 oz. mascarpone cheese room temperatureWhipped Cream1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream1 teaspoon vanilla extractLemon Syrup1/2 cup water1/2 cup granulated sugar1/2 cup fresh lemon juice1/2 teaspoon lemon extract optionalAssembly24 crisp lady fingers one 7 oz. package12 oz. lemon curd 1 jar6-8 round lemon slices optionalZest of 1 lemon optional
    Instructions Mascarpone CreamFill a saucepot 1/3 full with water and bring to a simmer. Place a heat-proof bowl on top of the pot and add the milk, sugar, and egg yolks. Beat together with a hand mixer on medium speed until the mixture is thick and foamy, and a thermometer registers 160°F (approximately 7-10 minutes). Remove from the heat and cool completely.Add half of the mascarpone cheese to the cooled mixture and beat with a hand mixer until thoroughly incorporated. Add the second half and beat again until thickened and smooth. Cover and set aside.Whipped CreamBeat the heavy cream in a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla extract and beat until just combined. Cover and refrigerate while you make the lemon syrup.Lemon SyrupPlace the water and sugar in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 1 minute 30 seconds. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. (You can also do this in a small saucepan on the stove top.) Add the lemon juice. Stir well. Stir in the lemon extract, if using. Stir and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.AssembleDip crisp lady fingers into the lemon syrup one at a time and place an even layer into the bottom of a 7×11-inch baking dish. Cover the lady fingers with half of the mascarpone cream, spreading it evenly to the edges of the pan.Stir the lemon curd until loosened and pourable. Pour half of the lemon curd over the mascarpone cream. If the curd is too thick to pour, microwave it for 20 seconds to loosen and stir again. Alternatively, dollop firm lemon curd on top of the cream and spread as evenly as possible to the edges of the pan. It is okay if the mascarpone cream and lemon curd swirl together a little.Using a spatula, dollop half of the whipped cream on top of the lemon curd layer. Spread as evenly as possible to the edges of the pan.Repeat the layers of soaked lady fingers, mascarpone cream, and lemon curd. Dollop the remaining whipped cream in the center of the dessert and spread within 2 inches of the edges.Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. Just before serving, add lemon wheels and zest for garnish, if using. Cover and refrigerate leftovers.
    NotesWhat to expect: This is a deceptively light-tasting dessert that packs a lemony punch! It has all the same lovely layers and textures that you’d expect from classic tiramisu. Mascarpone gives the dessert a silky-smooth texture that tastes of a restaurant-quality desert. It’s truly special occasion-worthy

    Thermometer: If you don’t have a kitchen/candy thermometer, you can judge the done-ness by the texture of the egg yolk/milk mixture. It’s ready to use when the the mixture is thick enough to fall in a ribbon back into the bowl when picked up with a whisk. 
    Lemon Curd Brands: There are many wonderful prepared lemon curds to choose from at the grocery store. I recommend Bonne Maman as well as McKay’s. 
    Fresh v/s Bottled: Fresh lemon juice will yield the best tasting results in this recipe, but you can also use bottled.
    Lemon Liqueur: Limoncello liqueur can be used in place of the fresh lemon juice in the lemon syrup for an authentically Italian experience, and a boozy note.
    Cream Cheese Variation: Regular cream cheese could be used in equal amounts for the mascarpone cheese in the mascarpone cream, but the end result won’t be quite as nice in texture. 
    Make Ahead: This dessert can be made a couple of days ahead. Like classic tiramisu, it gets better over time in the refrigerator!

    Keyword crisp lady fingers, fresh lemon, lemon juice, lemon tiramisu, mascarpone cheese, Tiramisu

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    Champagne Jelly (for New Year’s Day Brunch!)

    This Champagne Jelly recipe transforms your favorite sparkling wine into a delicious breakfast spread. Made with just 3 ingredients, it pairs perfectly with everything from croissants to charcuterie.

    Say hello to my new favorite breakfast addition – Champagne Jelly! But it’s not just for breakfast. It’s right at home on a charcuterie board or as a glaze for the Christmas turkey or ham. The bubbly, wine-infused notes make it a versatile addition to almost any course.
    It also makes a wonderful homemade holiday gift. I plan on sending jars home with my Christmas dinner guests, so they’ll have something special to help ring in the New Year. The best thing about this recipe is how easy it is to make with just 3 ingredients. It’s so simple! The best things usually are.

    Champagne Selections
    When using Champagne in baked goods or sweets, I usually recommend using a brand that you already love. But if you’re not sure where to start, here are a few things to consider.

    Budget: Champagne comes in a range of price points. While high-end Champagnes are best for drinking, you don’t need to break the bank for making Champagne Jelly. Choose an inexpensive bottle that is described as “fruity” or “citrus forward’ and preferably dry.
    Sweetness Level: Jelly, by design, is a very sweet condiment. Which means a lot of sugar is going into the pot to boil with the champagne. Dry sparkling wines have less sugar in them, and using them may help control sugar content and unmask nuanced flavors. However, most any champagne, prosecco, or white sparkling wine will work. But if you have a choice, look for medium-dry (brut) or dry (extra brut) sparkling wines.
    Brand Recommendations: My current personal favorites for baking and jelly making are J. Roget Brut ‘American Champagne’ ($10.99). A medium-dry sparkling wine with crisp fruit flavors. And Freixenet Prosecco ($11.99). An extra-dry Italian white wine with notes of apple and citrus. Its golden color makes a beautiful jar of jelly.

    Sterilize the Jars
    Top priority: ensure your canning jars are sterilized. Do this by washing them in hot, soapy water and then placing them in a large pot of simmering water for a few minutes. Keep the jars hot until you’re ready to fill them. Remove them from the boiling water and let them dry. This only takes a few seconds, because the hot water evaporates quickly. Don’t put the lids in the simmering water, though! It could melt the sealant. Just give those a good wash and set aside to dry.
    Side note: If you’re a novice at canning, and would like to get started in earnest, then I use and recommend the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. It’s the gold standard for proper technique and safety measures. Or certainly visit their Home Canning 101 page online, which is a free resource!

    Three Ingredient Alchemy
    The beauty of this three-ingredient recipe lies in its simplicity. You’ll need 4 cups of champagne, 6 cups of sugar, and a box of liquid pectin (2 packets). Bring the champagne and sugar to a boil, then add the pectin and boil for 1 minute. It’s not only simple, but quick, too!

    Skim the Foam
    This recipe makes a remarkably clear jelly! But you may have a little foam on the surface of the jelly from the boiling process. Just skim it off to a small plate.

    Fill the Jars
    Set a canning funnel in the top of a jar and carefully ladle the hot Champagne Jelly into it, leaving about 1/4 inch of headspace at the top. Wipe the jar rims clean with a damp cloth to ensure a proper seal.

    Process in a Water Bath – or Don’t!
    Place the lids on the jars, and screw the bands on until they are fingertip-tight. Which means, don’t screw the lids on too tight! Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove them and let them stand to cool. You should begin to hear the jars’ tell-tale ‘POP‘ that means it has sealed air tight.
    You don’t absolutely need a water bath canner with a rack to process the jars in, but it helps. Alternatively, you can place the jars in a big stock pot of boiling water that covers the lids, and process for 10 minutes.

    The Simplest Version
    OR, you can just skip the water bath altogether. Just cook, pour in jars, and store the jelly in the refrigerator. The jelly will be refrigerator stable for 6 months. The sugar and refrigeration works in tandem to preserve the jelly for a long period of time. You can still give the jars as gifts – just be sure to clearly label “refrigerate” or “keep refrigerated“.

    Ways to Enjoy Champagne Jelly

    Spread it on toast or croissants for a breakfast or brunch treat.
    Pair it with a variety of cheeses on your charcuterie board for a sophisticated sweet note that complements the savory elements. (I love this with Havarti cheese!)
    Use it as a glaze for poultry or pork dishes to add a touch of wine-infused sweetness to your main course.
    Warm it for 15 seconds in the microwave for the fanciest ice cream topping.
    Use it as a cake filling.
    Share it with friends and family as a homemade gift, perfect for celebrating special occasions or ringing in the New Year.

    There’s nothing quite like sipping on a glass of sparkling champagne to celebrate a special occasion or to ring in the New Year. But I think turning your favorite champagne into a spreadable, edible treat is the next best thing! With its complex yet unmistakable grape notes, Champagne Jelly is a unique way to give any meal a sense of occasion.
    Related recipe: Port Wine Jelly

    Champagne Jelly

    Heather Baird

    Give any meal a sense of occasion with delicious Champagne Jelly. It makes for an exquisite addition to your morning routine, charcuterie board, dessert, or New Year’s Day feast. It’s also a sophisticated homemade gift, perfect for the wine enthusiast or gourmand in your life. Use your favorite bubbly in this recipe, or see the blog post for my recommendations. See recipe notes for how to make this jelly without processing in a water bath.

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    Prep Time 15 minutes minsCook Time 11 minutes minsTotal Time 26 minutes mins

    Course Breakfast, Jams and JelliesCuisine American

    Servings 6 half pint jars

    Equipmenthalf pint jars with lids and rings 6canning funnelWater bath canner optionalCanning jar lifter optional
    Ingredients  6 cups of granulated sugar4 cups of champagne preferably dry6 oz. liquid fruit pectin 1 box or 2 pouches
    Instructions In a large pot, combine the sugar and champagne. Heat the mixture over high heat until it reaches a full, rolling boil, stirring frequently. Stir in the liquid fruit pectin and continue to boil for 1 minute while stirring constantly.Remove the pot from the heat and, if necessary, skim off any foam that may have formed on the surface. Carefully transfer the hot mixture into sterilized half-pint jars, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims clean, center the lids on the jars, and screw on the bands until they are fingertip tight. (Don’t over-tighten!)Place the filled jars into a water bath canner with simmering water, ensuring that they are completely submerged. Bring the water to a boil and process the jars for 10 minutes. After processing, carefully remove the jars from the canner and allow them to cool.
    NotesSkip the water bath canner:
    It’s true, you can skip the water bath altogether. Just cook, pour into jars,  and store the jelly in the refrigerator. The jelly will be refrigerator stable for about 6 months. The sugar and refrigeration preserves the jelly for a long period of time. You can still give the jars as gifts – just be sure to label the jars with this specification: Store refrigerated up to 6 months.
    How to enjoy your Champagne Jelly:

    Spread it on toast or croissants for a breakfast or brunch treat.

    Pair it with a variety of cheeses on your charcuterie board for a sophisticated sweet note that complements the savory elements.

    Use it as a glaze for poultry or pork dishes to add a touch of elegance to your main course.

    Warm it in the microwave for an ice cream topping.

    Use it as a cake filling.

    Share it with friends and family as a refined homemade gift, perfect for celebrating special occasions or ringing in the New Year.

    Keyword black sanding sugar, breakfast spread, champagne buttercream, champagne jelly, charcuterie board, liquid pectin, new year’s brunch, prosecco

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