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    Kentucky Colonel Candy

    This classic southern candy has a cream center infused with real Kentucky bourbon, and enrobed in smooth chocolate. It’s a perfect gift for the bourbon connoisseur on your list! 

    This is yet another retro southern candy that I’d never tried – until now! The centers hold a cream filling that is packed with bourbon flavor and they’re sandwiched between two pecan halves. Chocolate-dipped and drizzled, they are ready for the holidays and a place on your favorite silver candy tray.

    I’ve always heard these referred to as Kentucky Colonels, but some people call them bourbon balls. In my neck of the woods (TN), a bourbon ball is a completely different confection of packed cookie crumbs mixed with chocolate, honey, and bourbon (see my 5 Minute Bourbon Ball recipe here). It just goes to show you how diverse southern food culture can be – it’s so wonderful to explore!

    The ingredients list is short, so use the best of each you can find, however, any Kentucky bourbon will be wonderful in this recipe. I used a bottle of Four Roses single barrel left over from a wedding cake I made in October. But less costly brands such as Wild Turkey 101 will taste just fine, too.

    After they’re set, these candies stay boozy for quite a while! They will mellow over time, so they can be made a few days in advance.

    One batch of this candy can be divided to make several gifts. They are very rich and have a tongue-tingling bite! Four or six, boxed or packaged in a cellophane bag is the right amount to give considering their potency. Kentucky Colonel Candies[Click for Printable Version]
    Yields 18-20 candies1/4 cup (57 grams) butter
    4 cups (455 grams) confectioners’ sugar
    1/3 cup (80 ml) Kentucky bourbon 
    36-40 pecan halves
    2 cups (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate morsels
    1 tablespoon vegetable shorteningMelt butter on the stovetop on medium heat, or in the microwave for about 20 seconds until just melted. In a medium sized mixing bowl, pour butter into the confectioners’ sugar, along with the bourbon and stir together until the mixture forms a dough. Portion mixture with a small cookie scoop (4 teaspoon capacity) and form into balls, then press a pecan half into the bottom and top of each ball (in other words, sandwich the ball between two pecans). Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for 8 hours, or overnight.Melt chocolate and shortening together in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat, and carefully dip bottom half of each candy in chocolate one at a time. Place each candy on a baking sheet lined with parchment to cool.Place 2-3 tablespoons of melted chocolate in a small zip top bag. Snip a tiny hole in one corner of the bag. Drizzle melted chocolate over the tops of the candies. Let candies cool and set at least 30 minutes before serving or packaging. Store in an airtight container. 

    Note: Yield size can be increased by rolling smaller portions of the cream filling, just make sure to have enough pecans and chocolate on hand to accommodate the amount.
    link Kentucky Colonel Candy By Heather Baird Published: Wednesday, December 16, 2020Wednesday, December 16, 2020Kentucky Colonels Candy Recipe LEGGI TUTTO

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    Spiced Rum Cake Mini Trifles

    These elegant mini trifles have big holiday flavor! Layers of rum-soaked cake and spiked vanilla bean custard are layered in small glasses and topped with fluffy whipped cream. 

    No matter what size your guest list is this year, it always helps to have recipes that can be made ahead. There’s so much to do even with a small dinner gathering – mains and sides to arrange on the buffet, glasses to fill, naughty little pugs to shoo out of the kitchen – it always helps to have a trick or two up your sleeve (and in the refrigerator).
    The components of this dessert can be made up to 3 days ahead and then assembled before serving. They are appropriately bold and rich for their small size. It’s like having the flavors of the holidays condensed into your own single serving. 

    The cake portion is studded with plumped dried fruit. Figs and apricots give it some heft, and even though it is rum-soaked I hesitate to call it ‘fruitcake’. It is not dense or tough, and it fluffs up when crumbled for the trifles. 

    Vanilla bean-rum custard is smooth and boozy, and just perfect with the cake. I think this dessert looks best serve in stemmed or footed glasses. It’s an elegant touch without being the least bit fussy.

    Whipped cream can be dolloped or piped on – whatever fits your time constraints and tools. Here I’ve used a large open star pastry tube.

    The cake portion of this recipe makes slightly more than you’ll need for the trifles. I used this as an opportunity to add an extra crumble on top of each dessert. A small sprig of rosemary will add a note of evergreen, but it’s completely optional and mostly just makes them look pretty. Serve these on a fancy tray and your guests are sure to feel special!

    Spiced Rum Cake Mini Trifles[Click for Printable Version]
    Yields about eight 4 oz. trifles
    Adapted from Christmas with Southern Living 2011Spiced rum cake
    1/2 cup (75 grams) chopped pitted dates
    1/2 cup (75 grams) golden raisins
    1/2 cup (75 grams) chopped figs
    1/2 cup (75 grams) chopped dried apricots
    1/2 cup (120 ml) orange juice
    1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, softened
    1/2 cup (90 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
    3 large eggs
    1 1/4 cups (156 grams) all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup (75 grams) chopped pecans
    2 teaspoons orange zest
    1/2 cup (120 ml) spiced rumVanilla bean-rum custard
    1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
    3 tablespoons cornstarch
    2 1/4 cups whole milk
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 egg yolks
    3 tablespoons spiced rum
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 teaspoon vanilla bean pasteToppings
    1 1/4 cups heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks
    8 rosemary sprigs, optionalCombine the dates, raisins, figs, and apricots in a medium bowl; pour orange juice over the fruit and stir to evenly coat. Cover and let stand at least 30 minutes.Coat the inside of an 8-inch square pan with flour-based cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 325°F.In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter at medium speed until creamy; gradually add sugar. Add eggs one at time, beating until well blended after each addition.In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Mixing on low speed, gradually add flour to the butter mixture, scraping down sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure ingredients are well blended. Stir in pecans and orange zest.Drain the fruit mixture and discard orange juice. Fold fruit into the batter and spread evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.Let cake cool slightly in the pan; do not turn out. Poke holes in the cake with a wooden skewer while it is still warm. Pour rum evenly over cake, allowing it to seep into holes. Cool completely in the pan on wire rack, about 1 hour.Vanilla bean-rum custard
    Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large saucepan; whisk in milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for about 7 minutes or until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute while whisking.In a separate mixing bowl, break egg yolks with a whisk and beat until consistently smooth. Gradually stir about 1/4 of hot milk mixture into eggs; then add yolk mixture to remaining hot milk mixture, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes, or until well-thickened, whisking constantly.Remove from heat and stir in rum, butter and vanilla. Cover and chill 2 to 24 hours. Whisk custard smooth before assembling desserts.To assemble the trifles, coarsely crumble about 3/4 of the fruitcake in the pan (you will have leftover fruitcake). Layer a spoonful of custard in the bottom of 4 oz. glasses. crumbled fruitcake in the bottom of 4 oz. trifle glasses. Top with a layer of crumbled fruitcake. Repeat custard and fruitcake layering so that you have two layers of custard and two layers of cake in each glass. Place whipped cream in a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe whipped on top of trifles; add a few cake crumbles on top just before serving, and rosemary sprigs if using.Make ahead: The cake, custard, and whipped cream can be made ahead and stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to three days. Stir custard well before layering in the Spiced Rum Cake Mini Trifles By Heather Baird Published: Tuesday, December 15, 2020Tuesday, December 15, 2020Spiced Rum Cake Mini Trifles Recipe LEGGI TUTTO

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    Frosted Animal Cookies for Christmas

    These cookies were inspired by a nostalgic childhood treat – Frosted Animal Cookies! This version gives shortbread a holiday makeover in red, green, and white with lots of sprinkles on top.

    These cookies were the result of a happy accident. I ordered a set of cookie cutters (these) for a client project, and when they arrived they were much smaller than I expected! I love miniatures of all kinds, and these cutters were too adorable for words. If you look closely, they are all dog shapes – although the dachshund could pass for a seal which is one of the original Keebler Animal Cookie shapes – ha!

    I instantly knew these cutters were destined to stamp out shortbread shapes for a version of animal cookies all dressed in holiday colors!

    Because the cutters are so small, one batch of dough makes many, many cookies! It’s definitely an intense session of stamping and re-rolling dough, but it goes pretty fast. And the beauty of the icing is that there’s not a lot of fussy detail – it’s simply icing and sprinkles.

    I divided the assorted shapes into three batches and decorated each batch of shapes a different color. I think they look really festive!

    These don’t have to be dog shapes, of course, but if you’re like me and love doggos, or have friends that are dog owners, then bags of these would make fun gifts for them! If you’re more interested in the traditional circus animal shapes, you can find those cutters here.

    These are so buttery which is the hallmark of any good shortbread, and the royal icing gives them just the right amount of sweetness. They are so adorably mini, it makes eating handfuls a totally reasonable thing to do!
    Frosted Animal Cookies for Christmas[Click for Printable Version]
    Yields 8+ dozenSmall animal cookie cutters are required for this recipe. See blog post for sources.Shortbread
    4 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
    1 teaspoon lemon zest
    1 cup confectioners’ sugar
    2 teaspoons vanilla extractPreheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment paper.Sift flour and salt into a bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter and lemon zest on medium low speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until smooth, about two minutes. Beat in vanilla extract. On low speed, gradually add flour mixture, gently stirring just until incorporated. Flatten the dough out into a disk shape and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill until firm, about 1 hour.Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out animal shapes with lightly floured cookie cutters, and place on the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate for 15 minutes so the dough will firm and cookies will maintain their shape when baked. Bake cut-outs for 7-9 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottoms but still pale on top. Cool thoroughly on wire racks before frosting.Royal icing
    4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
    3 tablespoons meringue powder
    1/2 cup warm water, plus more for thinning
    1/2 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
    green gel food color
    red gel food colorRed, white, and green nonpareil mixIn the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, stir the confectioner’s sugar and meringue powder on low speed until combined. Add the water and beat on medium high speed until very stiff peaks form, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add flavoring and beat on low until combined; divide into three bowls and tint one portion of icing with the green gel food color; tint another portion red; leave the third portion white. Bring each to flood consistency.Flood Consistency: Stir drops of water into each bowl until the icing is thinned but still has the consistency of a thick milkshake, this is called flood consistency. To make sure the consistency is correct, drag a spoon through the center of the icing in a straight line, creating an indentation. When the icing is of perfect flood consistency, the indentation should completely disappear in 10 seconds. If it disappears too quickly, then the icing is too thin and will not dry properly. The indentation should disappear as close to the 10 second mark as possible. It is much harder to thicken the icing after it has been thinned than to make thick icing thinner, so take your time and add water drops a few at a time.Place a #2 round decorator piping tip into the bottom of a small piping bag; snip off plastic on the end of the piping bag. Fill piping bag with green icing and seal the open end with a rubber band. Repeat steps with the red and white icing. Stand each piping bag in a tall glass with a moist paper towel in the bottom to prevent the icing from drying out and the tip from clogging.Pour nonpareils in a small container and have them close to hand. Divide cookies into three batches of assorted shapes on large parchment-lined baking pans. Pipe one batch of the cookies with the green icing, stopping to sprinkle on nonpareils immediately after piping each cookie. Pipe the second batch with the red icing and sprinkles, repeat steps with the white icing.Allow the cookies to dry for 4 hours or overnight. When cookies are dry, package assorted shapes and colors of cookies in cellophane bags and tie with festive ribbon. Or, keep them in airtight containers.

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    link Frosted Animal Cookies for Christmas By Heather Baird Published: Monday, December 14, 2020Monday, December 14, 2020Frosted Animal Cookies Recipe LEGGI TUTTO

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    Blue Holly Gingerbread Cake

    Celebrate Christmas this year with a pretty cake in hues of pink and blue! Layers of fluffy gingerbread cake are covered with silky Swiss meringue buttercream and crowned with a wreath of edible blue holly leaves. 

    My favorite Christmas décor tends to be nontraditional holiday colors. Red and green are nice (and I will always love red tartan!) but when December rolls around I festoon the workshop with white pine garlands, big pink globe ornaments, glittery turquoise pinecones, and magenta bows. It’s a happy place to be.

    I was inspired to make this cake while I was shopping for Christmas china in those nontraditional colors. I happened upon a retired pattern, vintage, and completely sold out. Powder blue holly floated around the rims of the plates. It was so beautiful that I decided right then to bring blue holly to life in one of my confections.

    And here is the result!  This gingerbread cake is three layers tall, filled and covered with lovely Swiss meringue buttercream, and covered with a white ganache drip. 

    A set of holly plunger cutters is required to make the wreath on top of the cake. I love these tools so much, because you can vein the fondant as you stamp out the leaves! Make them a day ahead. They’ll need to dry so they become rigid enough to stand upright in the buttercream on top of the cake.

    I hope you’re not tired of drip cakes yet! I still love the effect, and I think it looks really pretty against the pink on this cake. A fat rope of piped blue buttercream on the top edge of the cake serves as a wreath base for all those holly leaves!

    I couldn’t resist a sprinkle mix with red, blue and pink baubles. I can no longer find the mix I used available for purchase, but you can find some very similar sprinkles right here (just add a few pink Sixlets to get a near match)!  

    This gingerbread cake is for people who aren’t shy about using ginger! It uses both ground and fresh ginger, and the baked cake has deep brown sugar and molasses notes. It will definitely wake up any sleepy winter taste buds with zingy flavor!

    This cake tastes like the holidays – there’s no denying it! Its bold ginger flavor is tempered by the silky, creamy texture of the buttercream. It’s the perfect ending to any holiday feast!

    Blue Holly Gingerbread Cake
    [Click for Printable Version]
    Yields about 12 servings

    Cut the fondant holly leaves a day before you plan to assemble the cake. They need time to firm up enough to stand rigid on the top circle of frosting.

    Blue holly leaves
    1/2 lb. light blue fondant
    Holly fondant plunger cutters (see post for link)

    Knead fondant until pliable. Roll to 1/4-inch on a countertop lightly dusted with cornstarch. Punch holly leaves out of the fondant using the cutters. Dry the leaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet overnight.

    Gingerbread cake layers
    3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
    2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon cloves
    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    1 1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 cup (227 grams) butter, softened
    1 cup (210 grams) packed brown sugar
    2 large eggs
    1 cup (280 grams) blackstrap molasses
    1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
    1 1/4 cup (296 ml) whole milk

    Preheat oven to 350F. Spray three 8 inch cake pans with flour-based cooking spray (recommend Baker’s Joy) and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

    In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt, baking powder and baking soda; set aside. 

    In the bowl of an electric mixer using a paddle attachment, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer running, slowly add molasses, followed by grated ginger. Beat until well mixed.

    Scrape down sides of bowl. Add flour mixture with the milk in 3 additions, scraping down sides of mixing bowl after each addition. Begin and end with flour. Mix until well combined.

    Divide the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans. Bake in preheated oven on the same rack together, about 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out  clean. Check at 25 minutes.
    Remove from the oven and allow the layers to cool in pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes before turning them out. Cool completely.

    Swiss meringue buttercream
    10 egg whites
    2 cups/400g sugar
    1/4 tsp salt
    2 lbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 tbsp. clear vanilla extract
    Pink gel food color
    Sky blue gel food color
    Pink, blue, and red sprinkle mix

    Set a saucepan filled one-third full of water over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer.
    Whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and salt in a large heatproof bowl (I suggest a stainless bowl). Set over the simmering water and whisk until the mixture is hot to the touch and the sugar has dissolved (120-140 degrees on a candy thermometer, to be sure).

    Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
    Beat on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase to medium-high until stiff peaks are formed.
    Continue beating at medium-high speed until the mixture is fluffy and has cooled (the mixing bowl should feel cool to the touch).

    Turn the mixer off and switch from the whisk attachment to the paddle. Turn the mixer on medium-low and add the butter, a few cubes at a time, beating until well incorporated before the next addition. The mixture will deflate as the butter is added – don’t worry! Just keep adding all of the butter. When the last of the butter has been added, beat on high speed until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract.  

    Remove 1 1/3 cups of the frosting to a bowl; cover with a damp towel. Remove about 2/3 of the remaining frosting to a mixing bowl. Add pink gel food color and mix until consistently pink. Cover with a damp towel until ready to use. Tint the remaining portion of the frosting with a few dabs of blue food color until a light blue color is achieved. Transfer the blue frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large open star pastry tip. Set aside.

    Place a cake layer on a serving plate or stand. Fill cake each cake layer with about 2/3 cup of white frosting. Apply a thin crumb coat of pink frosting to the outside of the cake; refrigerate until firm. Apply a second thicker coat of pink frosting to the outside of the cake as evenly as possible (a cake smoother or bench scraper is recommended.) Refrigerate until firm.  Meanwhile make the white ganache drip.

    White ganache drip
    12 oz. bright white candy melting wafers
    1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

    Place the melting wafers and heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl. Heat the mixture at 100% power for 1 minute. Let stand 1 minute and whisk together until smooth and glossy. Let cool until barely warm but still pourable.

    When the cake is well-chilled, pour the ganache onto the top center of the cake, allowing the excess to drip down the sides of the cake (you may not have to use all of the ganache).  Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.

    When the cake is chilled, pipe a thick undulating rope of the blue icing around the top edge of the cake. Immediately top with some of the sprinkle mix. Arrange holly leaves in the frosting around the entire top edge of the cake, creating a wreath of blue holly. Add more sprinkles, if desired.

    Serve slices of cake at room temperature. 

    link Blue Holly Gingerbread Cake By Heather Baird Published: Friday, December 11, 2020Friday, December 11, 2020Blue Holly Gingerbread Cake Recipe LEGGI TUTTO

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    Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes

    Fluffy almond cupcakes are filled with delicious plum preserves and topped with a tall swirl of purple buttercream. Lavender sanding sugar makes them sparkle and gives them a crunchy bite.

    It’s not hard to guess what inspired these cupcakes! I can practically hear Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairies from the Nutcracker Suite when I look at them. When I was a teenager, my mom would take me to see the live ballet in December, and I’d marvel at the athleticism – effortless leaps and twirls that seemed to go on and on! It was pure magic.
    When I found a package of old-school ballerina toppers hidden in my stash of cake decors, I knew I wanted to capture a little of that magic in cupcake form.

    This recipe makes a whole troupe of cupcakes!  Plenty for you to enjoy and share with friends. If you do plan to share, you’ll need some extra-tall cupcake boxes (like this) to accommodate the tiny dancers, or you could scale down the frosting swirl just a wee bit! (I’m a frosting girl, can you tell?)

    The recipe begins with a one-bowl cupcake recipe. That means that all the ingredients are stirred up in one big bowl and there’s less dishes to do! The cakes bake to a firm yet soft crumb that’s perfect for filling. Damson plum filling is delicious in these cupcakes, and you can find the brand I use here. 

    For the piped frosting, I used a large drop flower tip (Wilton 2D) to pipe white flowers around the outer edge of the cupcakes. For the center, a large open star tip (Ateco 828) makes a tall soft serve-style swirl.

    These vintage-inspired ballerinas got a sugar plum makeover with pinky-purple acrylic paint and German glitter. You can find the ballerinas here, in my pal Amanda’s shop Cranky Cakes.  

    The plum preserves give the almond cakes a tart, fruity note which is nice with all of that buttercream, but I think my favorite part is the lavender sanding sugar on top. You’ll get a little sugar crunch between your teeth when you bite them!Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes 
    [Click for Printable Version]
    Yields about 20 cupcakesCakes
    2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 cups (300g) sugar 
    2 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup shortening (very soft but not melted, Crisco is best)
    3/4 cup milk 
    2 large eggs
    2 teaspoons almond extract
    1 1/2 cups plum preservesPreheat the oven to 350F. Line two cupcake tins with papers.In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the soft/room temperature shortening, milk, vanilla and eggs. Beat together using a hand mixer until all the ingredients are well blended; don’t over-beat (over-beating will cause the centers to sink as they bake).Pour into the prepared pans, about three-quarters full. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick tester comes out clean when inserted in the center of a cupcake. Transfer cupcakes to wire cooling racks and cool completely.When the cupcakes are cooled, cut a hole in the top of each cupcake and remove the cake piece. It should be large enough to accommodate 1 tablespoon of preserves. Trim the cake piece flat and replace on top of the cupcake.Almond Buttercream
    1 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2 lb. (1 large bag, about 8 cups) confectioners’ sugar
    Milk or cream to thin (I used 5-6 tablespoons)
    2 teaspoons almond extract
    Neon purple food color
    Lavender sanding sugar
    Ballerina cupcake toppers, 20 ct.In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the butter until creamy; add the confectioner’s sugar and beat on low speed. When the sugar is mostly absorbed, increase the mixer speed. Add milk or cream a little at a time until the mixture comes to piping consistency (soft, but not too lax). Beat in the almond extract.Transfer 1/3 of the white icing to a piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip. With the mixer running, add the neon purple food color a little at a time to the remaining buttercream. When a vibrant purple hue is achieved, transfer the frosting to a large piping bag fitted with a large open star tip. Have the sanding sugar placed in a bowl and ready to hand before you begin piping.Using the white icing, pipe stars around the outside edge of each cupcake. Using the purple icing, pipe a large swirl in the center of a cupcake and immediately sprinkle with lavender sanding sugar. Continue piping purple swirls on the cupcakes, and immediately after piping a swirl top it with sanding sugar (don’t wait around – the buttercream will crust and the sugar won’t stick!).Top each cupcake with a ballerina topper, if using.

    link Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes By Heather Baird Published: Tuesday, December 08, 2020Tuesday, December 08, 2020Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes Recipe LEGGI TUTTO

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    Make A White Birch Yule Log Cake for Christmas

    A centerpiece that doubles as dessert, this birch log looks fresh from the forest but it's actually a delicious cake! Christmas wouldn't be the same without my yearly endeavor of making a Bûche de Noel! You may remember some of my yule log cakes from Christmases past, such as this Black Forest version, or even this Mulled Wine Stump Cake. However, this one with tiled pieces of white candy birch 'bark' might be my favorite of them all!Earlier this season a friend at HGTV asked if I'd be interested in styling a few tablescapes with matching edible centerpieces for the website. I was so honored and excited to be asked – yes! Anyone who knows me knows I love a beautifully set table and couldn't wait to get started. I really loved creating this cake, and I feel the corresponding tablescape matches its woodsy-cozy appeal.Continued, click to read more… LEGGI TUTTO

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    Winter Key Lime Cheesecake

    If you’re missing warm weather during cold months, this cheesecake will transport you to a holiday at the beach! Key lime cheesecake is tangy and rich with a topping of pomegranate syrup and ruby red pomegranate arils.

    Who says key lime is just for summer months? Not me! And especially not when it is enhanced by one of winter’s best offerings. I’m talking about tart and tangy, antioxidant-rich pomegranate. In this recipe, pomegranate juice is reduced to a syrup over the stove top, and served alongside slices of cheesecake topped with freshly whipped cream and jewel-like pomegranate arils.

    This is the unfussy sort of cheesecake that doesn’t require a water bath, and you may get a little crack in the top near the end of baking, but no stress! No one will know because it’s going to be covered a mound of billowy whipped cream. 

    POM Wonderful was so generous to send us some of the most beautiful pomegranate arils for our holiday baking. I love that you can see exactly what you’re getting with this product through the packaging which is deep red, vibrant fruit. I also love the adorable moniker ‘Pom Poms’ for pomegranate seeds. I almost want to do a little cheer (ha!).

    The batter for this cheesecake may seem a little thin going into the pan, but that makes for a dense, decadent cheesecake. Use a knife warmed in hot water to slice this cake. It will cut cleanly so you can see all those beautiful flecks of lime zest floating throughout the cake. 

    The pomegranate syrup is so nice with the tropical flavor of key lime, and I found myself piling on arils by the heaping spoonsful! 

    This cheesecake tastes like a sunny vacation! If you’re a key lime lover, then it’s an absolute must, and the pomegranate is a lovely accompaniment. Plus, its virtues of Vitamin C and antioxidants will fortify you during winter. 

    Winter Key Lime Cheesecake[Click for Printable Version]
    Yields about 8 servingsCrust
    1/2 cup (4 oz.) melted butter
    2 cups (198g) graham cracker crumbs
    1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugarCheesecake
    24 oz. (3 packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
    1 1/4 cups (212g) granulated sugar
    3 large eggs
    8 oz. (1 container) sour cream
    2 teaspoons lime zest
    1/2 cup key lime juice (or regular lime juice)Pomegranate syrup
    1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
    3 cups (720 ml) pomegranate juice
    3/4 cup (180ml) heavy whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks
    1/2 cup (2 oz.) pomegranate arils, such as POM Wonderful Pom Poms 
    Lime zest for garnish, optionalPreheat the oven to 350°F.For the crust, stir together the butter, crumbs, and sugar. Pour into a greased 9-inch springform pan and press the mixture into the pan and 2-inches up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes and cool completely on a wire rack.Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.For the filling, beat the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Stir in the sour cream, lime zest and juice. Pour into the baked and cooled crust.Bake for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes. Turn the oven off and prop the door of the oven open. Allow the cheesecake to set inside the oven with the door open for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately run a knife between the crust and the pan. Cool completely in the pan and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill 8 hours or overnight.For the pomegranate syrup, combine the pomegranate juice and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook until syrupy and reduced to 1 cup, about 25 minutes. Cool to room temperature then transfer to a syrup pitcherTop the cheesecake with the whipped cream and pomegranate arils. Scatter on the lime zest, if using. Serve slices topped with pomegranate syrup.

    Please note, this is not a sponsored post. The POM Wonderful Pom Poms were offered to us by the company, and since we already loved them they were a natural fit for this awesome cheesecake.

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    link Winter Key Lime Cheesecake By Heather Baird Published: Friday, December 04, 2020Friday, December 04, 2020Winter Key Lime Cheesecake Recipe LEGGI TUTTO

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    Red Velvet Smith Island Cake

    Smith Island Cake gets a holiday makeover with layers of red velvet, swirled white chocolate frosting, and festive candy ornament toppers.  

    I’ve had Smith Island Cake on my baking bucket list for perhaps five years or more. That’s a long time! I’ve just never found the right moment or the right inspiration, until now. A ready-made red velvet version caught my eye on the Smith Island Baking Company’s website. My southern heart was instantly smitten. I wanted to make my own version because it was so beautiful, and because I want to celebrate Christmas 2020 in a BIG way. We’ve all had quite a year and I think we deserve some happiness a dozen layers high!

    This is a Maryland tradition, usually made with 8 to12 yellow cake layers and chocolate frosting. In my search for a recipe, I happened upon the Maryland Office of Tourism site, which offered an authentic yellow and chocolate Smith Island Cake recipe. I used what good sense I gleaned from my red velvet-making days, and altered the recipe to a ruby hue with tangy buttermilk flavor.

    I would call this cake eggy, with five large, whole eggs in the batter which helps the thin layers hold together. As I’ve mentioned, a Smith Island Cake has between 8-12 layers, and my batter yielded 11 in my 8-inch cake pans. 
    The cake layer-making went quickly for me because I have four 8-inch cake pans that all fit on one rack in my oven. The layers only bake for 8 minutes, and aside from washing and re-greasing pans, it all went by fast. Total time will vary according to your tools and equipment. If you’re not inclined to expand your 8-inch pan collection permanently, consider getting some disposable 8-inch aluminum cake pans, which can be recycled after you’re done.

    It almost felt wrong to not cover this cake with cream cheese frosting, but all those layers need structure, and that’s not what cream cheese frosting is about.  The white chocolate frosting I used is tasty and held all the layers well. I also like that it keeps with the chocolate component that the original cake has as its covering.

    Sparkle, sparkle! This cake deserved something a little flashy, so I decided to whip up some candy ornaments with lots of bling!

    If you plan to make the toppers, you’ll need some sphere molds. This set has all the sizes needed. They’re not hard to make, and I think the extra effort is worth it. These are cast with red candy melts and covered with piping gel (or corn syrup) and nontoxic red disco dust.

    I fashioned some ornament hangers using gum paste. The loops on the small ornaments are made with beads from a candy necklace. 

    White chocolate shavings make the top of this cake look snowy, and it also repeats the flavor of the frosting.

    So many layers!

    This cake is rather frosting-forward, since the ratio to cake is about 50/50, so if you like buttercream you’ll love this cake! It’s sweet with a discernable buttermilk tang from the cake layers, and just a notion of cocoa in there, somewhere. 

    Red Velvet Smith Island Cake
    [Click for Printable Version]
    Yields 12-14 servings

    Note: The cake layers use 2 cups of full fat buttermilk which is very thick. If you’re using a buttermilk substitute, such as a mixture of milk and vinegar, decrease the amount of milk to 1 1/2 cups. 

    Cake layers
    Flour-based baking spray for the pans
    2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
    2 sticks (226g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    5 large eggs
    2 1/2 cups (360g) all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup (60g) unsweet cocoa powder (not dark)
    1/2 teaspoon fine grain salt
    1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
    2 cups (480ml) full fat buttermilk, well shaken before measuring
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    Red gel food color

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray four 8-inch round cake pans with flour-based baking spray.

    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder; add to the egg mixture one cup at a time, mixing as you go. With the mixer running, slowly add the buttermilk. Mix well and stir in the vanilla extract. Add red gel food color a little at a time until a consistent, vibrant red hue is achieved (I used about 1 tablespoon).

    Place 2/3 cup of batter into each pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool in the pans for 2 minutes (the cakes should pull away from the sides of the pan, or help them by running a knife around the edges). Turn the layers out onto cooling racks and wash the pans; re-spray with flour-based baking spray. Fill pans and bake four more layers as before. Repeat these steps until all the cake batter is used (my batter yielded about 11 layers). When all the cake layers are completely cool, they can be filled with buttercream. 

    White chocolate buttercream
    2 cups (1 lb.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    8 cups (2 lbs.) confectioner’s sugar
    Milk or cream to thin
    8 oz. (two 4 oz. bars) white baker’s chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
    2 oz. white chocolate shavings, cut from a bar using a vegetable peeler

    Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on medium-high until creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until almost combined (the mixture may be a little crumbly). Add milk or cream a little at a time while mixing on medium high (I used about 5 tablespoons); beat until the mixture is thick and fluffy. With the mixer running, add in the melted chocolate a little at a time (make sure the chocolate is not hot or it will melt the buttercream!). Beat until the chocolate is completely incorporated.

    Place a red velvet cake layer on a cake board or serving plate. Top with about 1/3 cup (level) of buttercream and spread as evenly as possible. Repeat steps until all the cake layers are used. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until the frosting firms. Cover the outside of the cake with a thin layer of buttercream (crumb-coat) and refrigerate again, 15 minutes. Cover the outside of the cake with the remaining buttercream, swirling the frosting as you go.  Cover the top of the cake with the white chocolate shavings.

    Candy Ornaments
    10 oz. red candy melting wafers, melted 
    2 Small food dedicated art brushes
    Silicone ball molds, large and small (2-inch and 1-inch half spheres)
       *(sizes are approximate) 
    Piping gel or corn syrup
    Red disco dust (nontoxic cake decorator’s glitter)
    2 oz. gum paste
    1” and 1/2” circle cutters, or the open ends of medium and large piping tips
    3 beads from a candy necklace
    Edible gold paint
    2 Small food dedicated art brushes

    Coat two of the 2-inch silicone cavities with red melted candy using one of the art brushes. Brush the entire surface area including the very top edge of the mold. Coat six of the 1-inch cavities in the same manner. Chill until set, about 10 minutes. Re-heat candy if necessary and apply a second coat. Chill in the freezer until solid, about 10 minutes. Turn the candy spheres out onto a work surface. Let the pieces stand until they are room temperature. Save leftover melted candy for a future step.

    Place a nonstick saucepan over low heat. Place open ends of the two matching 2-inch spheres on the pan until the candy melts slightly (about 2-3 seconds at the most) and stick the two melted edges together to form one 4-inch sphere. Repeat this process with the smaller half spheres, creating three 2-inch spheres. Allow them to stand at room temperature until set, about 5 minutes.

    Wash the candy from the art brush under hot water and dry thoroughly. Lightly coat the large sphere with piping gel or corn syrup using the brush; immediately sprinkle red disco dust over the surface of the candy while holding it over a bowl to catch the excess glitter. Place the ball in the cavity of a muffin tin to dry (this prevents the ball from rolling around). Repeat this process with the smaller balls. Let stand until mostly dry, about 25 minutes.

    Knead the gum paste until pliable. Roll to 1/2-inch thickness and cut out one 1-inch circle and three 1/2-inch circles. Use the pointed end of the art brush to push a hole through the middle of each piece. With the scraps, roll out a small rope under your palms and make a loop about 1/2-inch long; twist the ends together and cut away the excess. Apply a dot of piping gel or corn syrup to the twisted end of the rope and insert it into the hole in the larger circle. Let stand until firm. Re-heat reserved melted candy. Place melted candy on the hole in the smaller circles, top each with a candy bead. Let stand until set, about 5 minutes. Use more leftover melted candy to attach the hanger pieces to the glitter ball ornaments; let stand until set 5-10 minutes. Using the unused art brush, apply a coat of gold edible paint to the assembled hanger pieces. Allow the assembled ornaments to stand until completely dry, about 30 minutes.

    Arrange the ornaments on top of the cake and give yourself a big pat on the back! (You did it!) Before serving, make sure the cake is room temperature. The flavors will be most developed when not chilled.

    link Red Velvet Smith Island Cake By Heather Baird Published: Thursday, December 03, 2020Thursday, December 03, 2020Red Velvet Smith Island Cake Recipe LEGGI TUTTO