Seductively soft and spicy, impossibly light and fluffy, these elegant cupcakes will look beautiful on your Thanksgiving table this year. Whipped cream cheese buttercream icing is piled high and dusted with cinnamon. Irresistible!
Did you know that there are people who don’t like pie? Honest! (Shaking my head sadly.) Hard-to-please guests will enjoy the simplicity of this dessert and appreciate being given an alternative to traditional pies.
When I first created this recipe it was huge, making 48 cupcakes. I’ve cut it in half for you, but if you are expecting a big crowd (or just big eaters) you can easily double it. I’m all about making 48 at a time and freezing some as soon as they’re cool for later in the holiday season. You can ice them in holiday colors or even with stabilized whipped cream.
I’ve never been too tempted with cake batter . . . until now. (Cookie dough? I’m all over it.) This batter tastes just like pumpkin pie. I know, raw eggs and even raw flour can be risky; it’s a risk I’ll take for this guilty pleasure.
If you have a surplus of patience and a little spare time, have I got a cake for you! This is a lovely orange-flavored cake, enough for two deep 8-inch pans and one 6-inch pan, which will create the base for the houses and the top for the moon and witch.
There is a lot going on here if you make it the way I did. The cake, Italian buttercream icing, black fondant cutouts, and a hollow moon made of candy melts.
Let’s see how much of that we can dispense with, for your sake.
The cake can be a boxed mix. You’ll need two boxes of yellow cake mix.
For icing, use a standard buttercream recipe, but double it so you don’t have to be stingy with the icing. I wouldn’t use canned frosting; it would take a lot of cans to do it right, and it’s pretty soft. You don’t want your houses sliding off the cake! I used Italian buttercream, but it’s a lot of work. I hadn’t made it in a long time and just felt like messing with it.
That moon! I really did it the hard way and made it out of candy melts, formed in a bowl. Two large cookies (bought at a grocery store bakery) would be the easiest way to go. Simply coat them with melted yellow candy melts and stick them together.
When you cut out the printed silhouettes for the houses, bats, and witches, leave a little white border around the silhouettes so you’ll be able to see what you’re doing when you cut the fondant. I learned this the hard way.
Buy black fondant. Even I wasn’t nuts enough to make it and try to color it a true black. Nope. Buy it! (If I’d given you more time you could have had edible designs custom printed. Maybe next year?) I tried a new brand this year and am a real fan: Fondarific. I ordered it online, but you may be able to find it in craft stores.
Create black fondant decorations. Do this first; it’s going to take you a while. This can be done a day or two ahead. I printed out clip art silhouettes and cut each one out. Haunted houses, bats, and a witch (or two if you want one on each side of the moon). Working with small pieces of fondant at a time, roll very thin. Use a dusting of cornstarch if necessary to prevent sticking. Rolling between parchment helps too. Lay a template on the fondant and carefully cut around the outside edge with a sharp blade. Remove the template and cut out windows and doors. I used a large straw for round windows. I found it was easier for me to cut out the whole window and then replace the cross pieces, smoothing the edges than trying to cut out those itty bitty squares. Layer the completed pieces between sheets of parchment or plastic wrap. I did the trees free form when decorating the cake. Just rolled and twisted. I also cut long strips that were flat on the bottom and curved on the top to place around the cake bottom.
Lay paper templates on thinly rolled fondant. Cut out carefully, then peel off the paper. A toothpick is a great tool for straightening the little windows!
½ teaspoon orange extract or zest from 1 large orange
4 cups cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter, add an additional ¼ teaspoon of salt)
1½ cups whole milk
2 tablespoons frozen concentrated orange juice
Heat oven to 350 F. Place parchment rounds in the bottom of two 8-inch (2 inches deep) round cake pans and one 6-inch (2 inches deep) round cake pan. Spray parchment and the sides of the pan with a flour/oil baking spray. Or grease and flour pans. (I'd still use the parchment rounds to ensure the cakes release easily.)
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one a time, beating thoroughly after the addition of each egg and scraping the bowl often.
Add vanilla and orange extract (or zest).
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a small bowl combine the milk and concentrated orange juice.
Add approximately ⅓ of the flour to the butter and sugar mixture. Beat just until combined. Add ⅓ of the liquids and beat just until combined. Repeat two more times, scraping the bowl often.
Spoon 3 generous cups of batter into each of the large pans. Drop each pan several times on a hard surface to level. Add remaining batter (about 2 cups) into the smaller pan. Drop to level.
Bake 35-40 minutes. Don't open the oven door while the cakes are baking. At 35 minutes carefully check. If a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of a cake, they're done. If not, let the cakes bake a little longer.
Move to a cooling rack for 10 minutes before turning out the cakes. Let the cakes cool completely before icing.
Make icing. Use your favorite buttercream recipe, and make lots. Cakes are much easier to ice neatly when you can be generous with the icing. Save at least a cup of white out for the clouds, color a couple of cups of icing blue/gray for the top layer (black food coloring adds a nice tone) and color the rest a pretty yellow/orange.
Most of the icing will be orange, the rest is a blue/gray. Save some white too, for clouds.
Ice the cakes. I didn’t bother cutting layers because I wanted the final cake to be as straight as possible, and I’ve learned from experience that the more layers I make, the more chance I have of having a wonky cake. (I know. I need to work on that!) Put the two large cakes together with a generous amount of the orange icing, then ice the outside as smoothly as you can. Ice the small cake with the blue/gray. I found it easiest to ice the small cake first and then lift it onto the large cake with two spatulas. Combine the reserved white icing with streaks of the blue/gray to make clouds. I piped it on with a large round piping tip, at the base of the small cake. (Save a small amount for attaching the moon to the top.)
You can add the silhouettes immediately, or wait until the icing has dried a bit. Your call! Melt a few yellow candy melts and place in a disposable pastry bag or zipper-type bag with a tiny bit of the tip cut off. Pipe into windows and doors to create the appearance of light inside the houses.
Make the moon. Whether you use two cookies or go with the hollow candy melt option, you’ll still need to do some melting and coloring. I used a heaping cup of candy melts, found with cake decorating supplies. Unless you have colors specially meant for chocolate (regular food coloring may react with the melts and cause them to seize into a hard blob) I’d stick with yellow. I wanted a pale yellow, so used mostly white with a few yellow melts. Let your artistic side take over and get the color you want.
White and yellow candy melts are used to make the moon.
If you’re using cookies for your moon, spread the melted yellow chocolate on the rounded sides and lay them, flat side down, on a piece of parchment. Melt a few discs of white, yellow and orange with a tablespoon of chocolate chips to get a contrasting color for the moon’s details. Using a photo from the internet, make a stab at realism by creating craters. Brush or dab color on both cookies so it will look like the moon on either side of the cake.
I mixed white, yellow, orange, and red for my moon accents.
If you want to make a hollow moon, line two small bowls with plastic wrap. The sticky kind works best because you can get most of the little creases out and the plastic won’t budge. Using the darker accent color, dab designs on the plastic on the bottom of the bowl. Here’s the tricky part: you have to do it the opposite of the picture you’re looking at because otherwise, once you turn it out, the craters that you just painstakingly painted from left to right will actually be right to left. I have no spatial abilities. NONE. So I had to flip that bowl over a whole bunch of times to convince myself of this fact.
Line bowls with plastic wrap. (The sticky kind, if you have it.) Smooth out as many wrinkles as possible.
Bowl on the right has the crater design painted in it. Bowl on the left shows the next step – adding the yellow. Then chill!
Once the accent colors have dried, pour melted yellow chocolate into each bowl, swirling as you go. Try to keep the top line even, about 1 inch from the bottom of the bowl. For ease in assembling later, let this dry and then spread on a second layer. Pop them in the fridge to harden quickly. Once firm, gently ease the plastic away from the sides of the bowl, lifting carefully. Take your time. It may help to warm the bottom of the bowl with your hands. Remove plastic from chocolate. “Glue” the two pieces together with melted yellow chocolate and place on top of the cake.
So . . . that’s it. Easy, huh! Hello? Hello?
I don’t really expect anyone to make this, but if you do I’d sure love to see a picture! Just leave it on my Rowdy Baker Facebook Page!
There is no baking required to make these elegant fall treats. Thin pieces of caramel are wrapped around chocolate truffles, creating acorns that are beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. Yes, yes, you heard me. No baking, no mixing . . . just a little rolling.
Whether you put an acorn at each place setting, use them to adorn a cake, or place one on each slice of pumpkin pie, you will create fall magic for friends and family. These would also make a memorable gift for a teacher, and kids would love to help to create them.
As you can see, they’ve featured prominently on some recent projects: my Maple Crown Cake and some fancy-schmantzy fall brownies.
The acorns in this post are made with purchased truffles, caramels, and a package of caramel apple wraps (found in the produce department of most large grocery stores). I used wraps because of the beautiful color, but if you can’t find them, there is a good substitution; with a little more—okay, a lot more—rolling, Tootsie Rolls will work.
Caramel wraps are conveniently rolled out for you. That’s a plus! But they are a little softer than square caramels, so they are slightly harder to work with and won’t hold a design well, making them a poor option for the acorn caps. They do make a beautiful, shiny acorn, however. That’s why I used both wraps and caramels in this version.
3 sheets caramel apple wraps (1 package contains 5 sheets)
12 round 1-inch chocolate truffles (or you can use large malted milk balls if you prefer)
6 square caramels
1 teaspoon butter (optional)
Place one caramel wrap on a piece of parchment. Using a 2½-inch round cutter, cut 3 circles. Move them to a large piece of parchment, being careful not to let them overlap. Set scraps aside. Repeat with the other two caramel wraps.
Form a ball with the scraps and place between two pieces of parchment. Roll out to the same thickness as the wraps and cut out 3 more circles to equal 12 circles total. Gently stretch each piece out a little.
From the scraps, form small balls of caramel – smaller than a pea. Place one in the center of each circle. This will help create a pointy bottom tip for your acorn.
Unwrap truffles and center one on top of the small piece of caramel. Bring the sides up, smoothing as you go. If the caramel gets sticky, butter your fingers very lightly. Cut off excess caramel at the top, close to the truffle. Pinch the tip at the bottom a little to make it pointed.
Unwrap square caramels. Roll out, one at a time, between pieces of parchment – approximately 1½ inches by 2½ inches. Cut two circles out of each piece with a 1-inch round cutter. (The cap from a milk carton works well.)
With a metal spatula or the back of a knife, press lines into the caramel vertically and horizontally, creating a crisscross design. Use a toothpick to make a small hole in the center of each circle. Stick a small piece of the dark caramel wrap into the hole to make a short stem. It doesn’t have to go all the way through the hole. This is the acorn’s cap.
Place one cap on the top of each acorn, pressing gently.
Caramel wrap is softer than the square caramels, and the acorns will get sticky. To prevent them from sticking together, use a very small amount of butter on your fingers and rub the acorns lightly. Serve individually in pretty mini-muffin cups or arrange them a little bit apart on a plate.
This sinfully rich pound cake is dense and moist and grows more flavorful as it ages. It gets its subtle maple taste from the addition of Maple Crown Royal whiskey. (No, I’m not getting a kickback from them, and yes, I’ll give you non-alcohol alternatives.) It has a delicate crispy crust from coating the pan with sugar before adding the batter, and I kicked the sweet maple flavor up a notch by using maple sugar— but that’s just me; I can never get enough maple!
I played with the icing on this cake. On my first attempt, I made a ganache from maple morsels (something new on the market) and was less than impressed. So I went back to my trusty brown sugar icing and spiked it with maple whiskey. Much better!
If you have a little of this icing left, and you haven’t just eaten it with a spoon, try adding a spoonful to a cup of hot coffee. I like my coffee strong and black, but I’ve got to say, this was delightful. Go ahead and refrigerate it if you want; it’ll cool the coffee down a bit when you add it. You may even want to double the recipe!
2 cups white sugar (plus enough to coat the inside of the pan)
½ cup dark brown sugar
1½ cups (3 sticks) butter, room temperature
6 eggs, room temperature
½ cup buttermilk (Bulgarian style, if possible)
½ cup Crown Royal Maple Finished Whiskey*
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter, add an additional ¼ teaspoon)
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
* If preferred, substitute ½ cup buttermilk and 1 teaspoon maple flavoring for whiskey)
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup whole milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons maple whiskey
Heat oven to 350 F.
Prepare a 10-inch bundt pan by coating it generously with vegetable oil (or coconut oil or shortening - don't use butter!) and then sprinkling thoroughly with sugar.
In a large bowl, beat the white sugar, brown sugar, and butter together for 3-4 minutes. The mixture should lighten in color.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly and scraping the sides of the bowl with each addition. Take your time! It should take you several minutes to add 6 eggs.
Add the liquid and dry ingredients alternately in three additions, beginning with the dry ingredients and ending with the liquids. Beat just enough to combine each time, taking care to scrape the bowl down often.
Spoon into prepared bundt pan carefully so you don't disturb the sugar on the sides. Smooth the top and bake for approximately 1 hour 20 minutes. The top should be rich brown and a long toothpick inserted in the cake should come out clean.
Allow cake to rest on cooling rack for 10 minutes, then flip it over. Wait a few more minutes before lifting off the pan. Let cake cool before making icing.
ICING: Put brown sugar, milk, and butter in a medium saucepan. Turn heat to medium and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it boils, let it cook for 2 minutes without stirring.
Remove from heat and add powdered sugar and maple whiskey. Whisk vigorously until the icing is smooth. Pour over cooled cake. If you have a little extra, it can be gently reheated and drizzled over ice cream. (if it's too thick, feel free to add a bit more whiskey!)
Nothing beats an English muffin broiled to a crispy, golden brown and slathered with butter. Well, except for a maple-flavored English muffin! Raisins add a pop of flavor, and the fragrance of maple and cinnamon will make your mouth water long before the muffin hits your plate.
It took me a few tries before I got this right, but it was worth the effort. And now I have a huge bag of perfectly acceptable test muffins in the freezer, which will come in handy this winter.
I tried different types of flour (which made very little difference), muffin rings (meh – not necessary), and different rise times (this really mattered). I also tried many methods of shaping and cooking these babies, and here’s what I learned:
You know those lovely little holes inside where the butter pools up? You get those by using a very soft dough and a long rise. It’s probably the only time you’ll ever hear me tell you to let the dough rise until it blows up and caves in. If you don’t want to let the dough rise overnight, at least give it 4 hours. This will add flavor, too.
All maple flavoring is not the same. And in my opinion, none that I have tried is potent enough. I used a tablespoon of Mapleine in this recipe and it still was just barely maple flavored. (That’s why I added flavor to the cornmeal/farina too.) I’ve just ordered a couple of interesting brands of maple flavor that are supposed to be really strong. I’ll do a taste test and let you know. Until then, be generous!
If you want to skip the rolling/patting/cutting step, you can use an ice cream scoop and drop the dough right on the cooking surface and pat it into shape. BUT there is a general lack of uniformity. If you can live with that, go the easy route! I just can’t. I like it when everything is the same size and shape. OCD much?
These need to be cooked low and slow. Otherwise, the outside of the muffin will be dark before the inside is cooked, and no one likes a gooey center. I used an electric skillet set between 250 and 275 F. Since the muffins wouldn’t all fit on my skillet, I also used a cast iron skillet at medium-low heat. Both worked very well. You will have to adjust the temperature as you go because electric skillets aren’t very accurate. Shoot for 7 minutes on each side to get the color you want, and then turn the heat down and let them go another 3 minutes or so on each side. It’s not that hard – but it may take a little practice. Then you, too, will have a stash of muffins in your freezer.
If it looks like the outside is done but the sides still feel squishy, you can cover the muffins with foil or a lid and cook a little longer at low heat; this will act like an oven. And, if all else fails, pop them in the oven at 350 F for a few minutes. I haven’t had to do this, but it’s perfectly acceptable. The Traditional English Muffin Police will not be visiting to chastise you. Honest.
As hard as it may be, wait for the muffins to cool completely before separating them. And don’t use a knife. This thingamajig that I bought to help me slice onions without cutting off my fingertips? It works really well.
This works really well, but then – so does a fork. (Put that knife DOWN!)
So does a fork. Or you can just tear the muffin open with your fingers and go with the rustic look.
Makes twelve 3½-inch muffins For best results, make the dough at night and let it rise on the counter. Shape and bake in the morning!
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup pure maple syrup (use Grade B if you can find it; it's more flavorful)
1 teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup raisins
½ cup very warm water
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon maple flavor (This will be mild. Double the amount for a rich maple flavor)
4 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornmeal (Or try farina. I use Malt-O-Meal)
¼ teaspoon maple flavor (optional) to mix with cornmeal
a small amount of butter
In a small pan over medium heat, cook the milk, syrup, salt, and cinnamon until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Don't boil!
Remove from heat. Add butter and raisins, stirring occasionally until butter is melted and the temperature is comfortably warm.
In a small bowl or cup, combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let it sit until foamy - about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl (a sturdy stand mixer is recommended) fit with a dough hook, combine the milk mixture, yeast mixture, egg, and maple flavor.
Add flour and beat for 3 minutes
Scoop dough into a large greased bowl. Use a rubber spatula to turn the dough over so that all sides are greased. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough sit on the counter overnight.
Combine cornmeal (or farina) and maple flavor, if using. Sprinkle on a lightly buttered electric griddle(or cast iron skillets).
Generously flour a piece of parchment and drop the dough in the middle. Sprinkle with flour and pat with your hand until it is approximately ⅓ to1/2-inch thick.
Using 3½-inch round cutter, cut as many circles as you can. Lift each one with a spatula and place on prepared skillet. Press each round firmly with the palm of your hand. Gather the dough scraps and press to cut remaining circles.
Cover lightly with a clean towel and let the muffins sit on the unheated griddle for 30 minutes.
Remove cover and turn the heat on. An electric skillet should be turned between 250 and 275 F. A cast iron skillet on the stove should be turned to medium-low. Adjust as needed; it's better to cook too slowly than too fast. If heat is too high the outsides will be dark but the center will be doughy. At 7 minutes, the muffin should be golden brown and ready to turn.
When the bottom is brown, use a thin spatula to flip the muffins over. Cook on that side until brown.
Turn the heat down and flip the muffins over one more time, for about 3 minutes on each side.
Allow the muffins to cool completely before using a fork to split. Toast under a broiler for best results.
Okay, I’m not offering a stunning show of baking skills here; what I’m posting is pure comfort food, with a maple twist. I’ve always loved Krispie treats, as long as they aren’t so dry they tear your mouth up. My version has always included more butter and more marshmallows for a soft, chewy experience.
These are even better, because . . . duh . . . maple!
I cooked a very simple caramel-type syrup, using pure maple syrup, then stirred in marshmallows and MORE maple flavoring. Actually, in the pictured batch on this post, I was so intent on getting a photo of the maple flavoring being poured into the mixture that I jerked my hand and probably poured another tablespoon into the pan. It was wonderful, but you don’t have to use that much!
Whoops. I may have gotten a little carried away.
To do this right you will need pure maple syrup. Inexpensive breakfast syrup might not set up as well. You know those maple candies I blather on about every year? The ones shaped like leaves that melt in your mouth? Those are just pure maple syrup, cooked until it turns into sugar. You can’t make that happen with fake syrup, no matter how good it tastes. It’s just a different product entirely.
You’ll also want to buy maple extract or flavoring. I usually use Mapleine, but have been known to experiment with other brands. And, here’s news!!! (Can you tell I’m so, so, so excited about this?) Nestle has just come out with maple morsels. I haven’t seen them yet (we live in the boondocks) but my friend in Florida just bought some, and I’m so jealous. I will buy them by the case as soon as I find them. Anyhow, my point here is, if you want to skip the flavoring and just stir in a bag of maple morsels, I’ll bet that would be fabulous.
I cut most of the treats into traditional squares but couldn’t resist forming some into little balls, then rolling them in chopped toasted pecans. Yum.
Ready? This is easy. If you have a candy thermometer, cook the mixture until it’s about 260 F. It not, just boil for 6 minutes. This isn’t as touchy as fudge or peanut brittle – just get the temperature in the ballpark and you’re good.
½ cup pure maple syrup (If you can find Grade B, use it for more flavor)
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons maple flavoring (I use Mapleine)
A 10-ounce bag of mini-marshmallows
Chopped, toasted pecans (optional, if making pecan covered balls)
Line a 12 x 17 baking sheet with parchment. Butter lightly.
Lightly grease a very large bowl (I use a stock pot). Put the cereal in this and set aside.
In a large saucepan (3-quart size is best) over medium heat, cook and stir sugar, butter, syrup, and salt until it comes to a boil. Continue to cook and stir for approximately 6 minutes (it will get slightly thick) or until 250-260 on a candy thermometer.
Remove from heat and stir in the maple flavoring and marshmallows. Pour over the cereal and stir well.
Press into the prepared baking sheet and allow it to cool and set up. If you want to roll some into balls, simply spoon a little out at a time and roll, using buttered hands. Roll in pecans if desired.
Cut into squares and store in an airtight container.
I’m working my way through some caramel recipe ideas that have been keeping me awake at night, and it hasn’t been a hardship for me at all; I love caramel! I don’t think I’ve ever met a bowl of caramel corn that I didn’t like, and this is no exception. Of course, I also love candy corn. If you’re not a fan (and I know there are some of you out there) you can substitute something else that screams “Fall” to you. Maybe Reeses Pieces? M&Ms? Black licorice? (Haha, got you there. Black licorice would be gross. I think. Hmm.)
I like lots of nuts in my caramel corn, so I used a generous amount of peanuts. Any nuts would be good, though. They have a tendency to stay at the bottom of the pan, so do try to encourage them to mingle with the popcorn. Of course, if you remember what Cracker Jack was like, the peanuts (all two of them) were always at the bottom of the box. Rebels!
A drizzle of melted white, yellow, and orange candy melts added to the festive autumn theme. Go lightly with melted white chocolate; it can overwhelm the flavor of the caramel, and you wouldn’t want to do that!
I use little pastry bags and melt the white chocolate in a glass of hot water. No mess!
The recipe calls for 4 quarts of popcorn, which may sound like a lot, but believe me—it really isn’t. This stuff has a tendency to disappear before your very eyes, and it stores well in an airtight container. I used mushroom popcorn because I wanted the big, round, fluffy kernels.
Speaking of recipes, do you see how short this one is? That’s because this is EASY. And oh, so satisfying. Do it! Seriously, just do it!
10 each: white, yellow, and orange candy melts (optional)
Grease a really large pot or bowl. (I use coconut oil.) Put popcorn and nuts in the pot and stir to combine. Set aside.
Lightly grease a 12x18x2" cake pan - or two 9x12" pans. Set aside.
Heat oven to 225 F.
In a large saucepan combine brown sugar, butter, honey, water, and salt over medium heat. Stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Drop heat to medium-low. Adjust as necessary to keep mixture gently boiling for 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat.
Stir in the vanilla and baking soda and pour over the popcorn and nuts. Stir well.
Scoop into the prepared baking pan(s) and place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and stir in the candy corn. Dump out onto a piece of parchment or foil and allow caramel corn to cool completely.
Melt each color of candy melt separately - either in small dishes in the microwave or by putting candy in small pastry bags or zip-type bags in a glass of hot water. (Don't let water touch the candy or it will seize up.) Drizzle over caramel corn. Let the drizzle harden before storing or serving.
Celebrate fall with these luscious cupcakes filled with caramel, pecan, and cream cheese. Adding a drizzle of caramel and an elegant caramel rose will create a perfect dessert for the upcoming holidays.
The cupcakes are delicious, but let’s not pretend that they’re the focus here. It’s the rose. It’s all about the rose!
Believe it or not, the roses are very simple to make. All you’ll need is a bag of caramels, a sturdy rolling pin, a small round cutter, and parchment paper. I was blown away by how easy it was to work with caramels. They aren’t sticky, they don’t dry out when you’re playing with them, and they stretch and curl obligingly when you want them to. They stay pliable and . . . well . . . edible, unlike gum paste or candy clay.
And the cake itself is very basic. If your inclination is to reach for a boxed mix, I understand. But if you’d like to try your hand at making a cake from scratch, this would be the recipe to use. You’d have to add eggs, butter, and water to the mix; why not add just a few more ingredients, make the cake from scratch, and avoid the additives that are in packaged mixes?
I think the hardest thing about this recipe is unwrapping the caramels, but if I can do it YOU can do it! Speaking of caramels, do you remember when Kraft had chocolate caramels, too? They’re back. Hard to find, but I just ordered some online. I’ll bet they’d make lovely roses too.
An 11-ounce bag will give you about 40 caramels. You’ll use 22 for the roses, and the remaining 18 for the filling. (Good grief, don’t sweat it if you’re short a caramel or two. You have to check to make sure they’re fresh, right?)
So, you’ll start out with the filling, then make the cake batter. You can create the roses while the cupcakes are baking, and make the frosting once they have cooled. And you know the drill: boxed cake, canned frosting, leave out the filling . . . anything goes. Simple chocolate cupcakes with fudge icing would look great with the roses too. Just make sure you make the roses!
½ cup chopped pecans (toasted for the best flavor)
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, room temperature
1½ cups cake flour (all-purpose flour may be substituted)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
Buttercream icing (or icing of your choice)
In a small saucepan on low heat, melt the caramels and cream, stirring often. Set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar thoroughly. Add egg yolk and beat well.
Once the caramel is lukewarm but still fluid, add to cream cheese mixture. Beat well. Stir in chopped pecans. Set aside.
Heat oven to 350 F. Place 18 paper liners in cupcake pans.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy - at least 2 minutes.
Mix in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly and scraping the sides of the bowl between each egg.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add half of the flour mixture the butter mixture. Beat well and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add half of the milk. Beat well and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat.
Fill cupcake liners halfway. Don't add too much; you need to leave room for filling. If you have extra batter, make another cupcake or two.
Using a tablespoon, place a scant spoonful of filling in each cup, using the spoon to make a small depression in the batter before scooping the filling into the center. The filling will still show on top, but this will help some of it to sink into the cupcake.
Bake for approximately 24 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Test with a toothpick, making sure to insert on the side of the cupcake, away from the gooey center.
I’m going to cut right to the caramel rose directions.
Use a large piping tip, or a cap from a bottle of water or a milk carton—whatever you can find that’s round and approximately 1 inch across—to cut out the caramel circles.
I found that working with one caramel at a time is easiest. Place it between sheets of parchment and roll out thin. You should be able to cut 4 circles out of it with a reasonable amount of leftover scraps. (Pile them up and roll them out later.)
In the picture below, the pieces of caramel in the background are round. That’s because I put each one in a tortilla press. It made it a little easier to roll out that way but isn’t necessary at all. And I’m still scratching my head about the fact that I put a square caramel in the press (between sheets of parchment) and it flattened the caramel into a perfect circle. WTH?
Cut one circle at a time and pop it out of the cutter. If you let them stack up in there, they’re a real bear to separate. I know this for a fact! This would be a fun activity for kids to do and allow you to go right to the fun part of forming roses. It takes 9 rounds to make a rose.
Set your finished roses on the counter (uncovered) or in a mini-tart pan for a little more support. If the rose flattens, just fluff it back out.
Cut out 1-inch circles. (The rounds in the background still need to be rolled out.)
Roll one circle to make the center. Overlap 3 petals around the center. Overlap 5 petals for the outside layer, pulling edges thin and curling down if desired. Petals can be shaped and enlarged before wrapping or after, whichever is easiest. (If you want to have enough caramel for a few leaves, you can cut some of that stem off and add it to the scraps.)
They’re your roses; make them 7 petals instead of 9 if you want. Play with the shapes of the petals. Make some big ones, some small. Play with your food! If you have any leftover caramel, a few leaves make the cupcake even prettier.
Use your favorite icing. I made a basic buttercream for this batch.
I had so much fun making these, and I’ll bet you will too. The roses would be perfect on individual brownies. Or chocolate cookies. Or . . . well, I’ll leave something to your imagination.
If you grow zucchini or know anyone who does, chances are you have a few hanging around in your fridge, or you stashed bags of grated zucchini in your freezer. Or maybe you’ll want to put your coat on and run to the store right now because this is now my official, absolute, no-holds-barred favorite zucchini recipe!
Granted, the flaky pastry might have something to do with my passion for these little puffs (you could probably fill them with cat food and I’d still love them), but the cheesy zucchini filling was so savory and delectable that I was hooked with one bite.
I considered adding ham, onions, olives, or chopped chicken breast—all of which I think would be delicious, but in this case, I wanted to appreciate the pastries in their simplest form. And I appreciated them a lot. A whole lot.
Rough puff pastry is so easy. It really is! It takes a little time because you chill it several times between the rolling/folding action, but making the dough is simple. You dump flour and salt on a work surface, chop cold butter into it, fold in cold water, and then roll and fold . . . many times. See? Easy and fun!
I make mine the day before because I think it has more flavor that way. Take it out of the fridge to soften 30 minutes before you plan to make the puffs.
Yes, yes, I’m using that potsticker press again. I’m getting a lot of mileage out of that little gadget. If you don’t have one, you can do it the old-fashioned way, with a fork.
And I do want to mention that a few of these will—in spite of your valiant efforts with egg white and potsticker press—ooze. What a horrid word. I tried to find a more appealing description but failed. It’s cheese; it oozes! But you know what? That crispy blob of cheese on the baking sheet is the best part as far as I’m concerned.
Makes 20-24 For best results, make the dough several hours before you plan to serve. The day before is even better!
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt (add ¼ t additional salt if using unsalted butter)
1 cup (2 sticks) COLD butter
⅔ cup very cold water
1 cup shredded zucchini, firmly packed (about 1 small zucchini)
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup shredded fresh parmesan cheese
2 ounces cream cheese
2 ounces mozzarella (the soft, fresh kind if possible)
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon herbs de Provence (or herbs of choice)
Pinch of onion powder
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs (I used Panko, but any kind will do.)
1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Place flour on work surface. Mix in the salt.
Cut cold butter into small cubes - about ½ inch square. Chop into flour mixture using a long spatula, knife, or bench scraper. Don't overwork the mixture - you should see chunks of butter larger than a pea.
Drizzle cold water over flour and butter with one hand while tossing with a spatula in the other hand. Use the spatula to scrape the messy dough into a rectangle about 5" x 8", with the short edge facing you. Lightly flour the work surface as needed.
Using a rolling pin, press and gently roll until dough is approximately 7" x 10". It will be very crumbly. Don't panic, it will come together! Use a spatula or bench scraper to lift the bottom of the dough so that the bottom edge is two-thirds of the way up. Lift and fold the top down until the top edge is at the bottom. The dough has just been folded into three equal layers. Give it a turn to the left. Repeat three more times. By the last roll and fold, it should look like dough.
Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Remove dough from refrigerator and repeat the roll/fold/fold/turn procedure three times. Return to refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Again, remove dough from refrigerator and repeat the roll/fold/fold/turn procedure three times. Return to refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 days. (If dough has been chilled for more than 1 hour, let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before making puffs.)
NOTE: While the dough is chilling you can make the filling and refrigerate it until needed.
Heat olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Add grated zucchini and cook, stirring frequently for 1 minute, or until softened. Remove from heat.
Add the cheeses. Stir well. If cheese isn't melted, you can heat it on low or simply knead the mixture together. Stir in the seasonings and breadcrumbs. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
Heat oven to 400 F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment
With the short end of the dough facing you, and the open edge of dough on the right (like a book), cut across the middle, creating two squares. Working with one at a time on a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a long rectangle, 9" x 21".
Using a 4-inch cutter, cut 10 circles. Stack scraps flat in a pile and set aside. Place one circle at a time in potsticker press (or leave flat on work surface if using a fork to seal the puffs) and brush a little egg white around the edge. Put 2 level teaspoons of filling in the center and press firmly to close, or use a fork to seal.
Place at least 1 inch apart on baking sheet. Brush lightly with egg white (a paper towel dipped in the egg white works well) and poke the top of the puff once with a fork.
Repeat with remaining dough. Roll all of the scraps at once. Cut as many circles as possible and discard the remaining dough. (Or just pile loosely on the baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar before baking!)
Bake for about 12 minutes, or until puffs are a light golden brown. Move to a cooling rack. Best eaten warm.
Chop the butter into the flour. (That’s Irish butter – so yellow!!)
Drizzle with one hand and toss with the other.
Corral it into a rectangle and roll it out. I know it’s a mess; just keep rolling!
The first “fold”. Make an attempt to lift the bottom edge up two-thirds of the way.
And then fold the top down over the bottom to create three equal layers. Ugly shaggy layers. It’ll get better, I promise.
Repeat three times and you’ll end up with dough! See the small butter pockets? That’s okay. They’ll blend in eventually. Chill for 30 minutes, then repeat and repeat. The rolling and folding just take a few quick minutes.
Grate the zucchini
Saute briefly in olive oil
Add the cheese.
Add breadcrumbs and seasoning. Stir.
Work with half at a time.
Roll out thin and cut 4-inch circles
Brush edge of rounds with egg white and put filling in the center. Press firmly, using a potsticker press. (Or you can fold it and use a fork.)
Brush with egg white and poke a fork in the top, then bake
Scraps should be stacked flat and rolled all at once. (One time only.)
I used lots of pictures and probably too many words; making these melt-in-your-mouth treasures is a lot easier than it appears. Remember that if you’re making these for a party or guests, the dough can be made several days ahead of time, making the assembly go very quickly.
I may be adding a couple more zucchini plants to my garden next year. You might want to grow a few too!
Dinner doughnuts! That’s what my husband dubbed these after one blissful bite. This simple fried bread has a garlic butter and parmesan center that is flavorful but not overwhelming. It soaks into the bread a bit as it fries so you aren’t faced with butter dripping down your chin. (Never a good thing.)
I’m all about texture, preferring my bread crispy and crackly, but the chewy crust on these puffy rolls was delightful, contrasting nicely with the soft, buttery bread inside. I considered adding chopped pepperoni to the filling, but . . . well . . . I didn’t have any. Garlic, however, is something I have lots and lots of, so I made the most of it. Next time I may try the pepperoni, or maybe some sun-dried tomatoes.
I’m not going to lie to you here; these are probably not on anyone’s diet. That’s all I’m going to say about that!
I use a potsticker press because it seals the dough nicely and makes it easy to work with. Keep it lightly floured for best results. (You can buy these online for just a few dollars, and they come in hand for all kinds of recipes.) If you don’t have one, just fold the circle over on the filling and press the edge firmly with a fork. Looks really don’t matter, because they’re just going to puff up into potato-like shapes. Who cares, when they taste the way they do?
Once fried you can leave them as they are, or you can brush them with melted butter and sprinkle them with coarse salt and a little cheese. I waited too long to do this and my cheese wasn’t very cooperative, defiantly refusing to melt. A few seconds under the broiler took care of that. Hah!
In my usual “go big or go home” approach, this recipe makes a whopping 24 rolls. The recipe can easily be cut in half, or you can freeze some for another time. (I vote for just eating them hand over fist.) Besides, if you’re going to go to the trouble to deep fry, you might as well go for the gusto.
They’re also good the next day, especially if you warm them up a little.
½ cup salted butter, softened (if using unsalted, add an additional ¼ t.salt)
1 generous tablespoon (3-4 cloves) garlic, minced
¼ cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese (more to taste)
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
2½ cups very warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
5 cups bread flour (more for dusting work surface)
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
oil for frying (I use peanut oil, but canola or safflower are also good options.)
melted butter and grated cheese if desired to top hot rolls
In a small bowl, combine all filling ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.
In a large bowl (a stand mixer with a dough hook is best) combine water and sugar. Sprinkle yeast over it and let it sit for 5 minutes. (It won't foam a lot, but as long as your yeast is fresh, it will do its job.)
Add flour and beat until well-combined.
Add olive oil. Continue to knead by machine for 5 minutes, or drop dough onto floured surface and knead by hand for 7-8 minutes. The dough will be soft and slightly sticky.
Cover and allow the bread to rise for 1 hour.
Working with half the dough at a time, roll it out on a floured board ¼-inch thick. Cut with a large round cutter - about 3½ inches across. Place 1 generous teaspoon of garlic mixture on each round of dough and press in half, using a lightly floured potsticker press (or fold the dough over the mixture and press firmly around the edge with a fork).
Heat at least 2 inches of oil to 375 F. Fry a few at a time, turning once, until rich golden brown - just a few minutes. Place between sheets of paper towel to absorb extra oil.
Brush hot rolls with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt and shredded cheese if desired.