Easy Kitty Treats

Here’s a fun gift idea for Christmas. Kids will have a blast making these little kitty treats, especially if you let them cut the dough out with a large plastic straw, because the only way to get the dough back out of the straw is to blow it out. They’ll enjoy that for a while, and then you can pick all the little blobs of dough off the wall and let them go to town rolling and flattening them with their fingers instead.

Even if you don’t have a cat, I’ll bet you know someone who does. If they dote on their kitty they will appreciate a bag of homemade goodies. And in case you’re wondering, my dogs will do backward flips for these, even though they’re made with catnip.

Mixing up the (stinky) dough is easy. If you don’t mind the rough edges (my cats certainly don’t) cutting the little shapes out is as simple as running a knife or pizza cutter across in small strips horizontally and vertically.

If you want them to look nicer (for gifts – or perhaps your feline is persnickety and concerned with aesthetics), roll those little pieces up into small balls and flatten with your finger. Or go all out and use silicone molds, like this:

The dough pops right out of a silicone mold.

Feel free to throw in an extra can of meat if your cat is finicky. You just may need to add a bit more flour to compensate for the extra juice.

 

Easy Kitty Treats
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Ingredients
  • 1 5-oz can tuna (do not drain) or try salmon or chicken
  • 1 cup solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 cups oat flour (purchase, or make your own by blending oats in a coffee grinder or a blender)
  • 1 tablespoon catnip - optional
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 325 F.
  2. In a food processor or sturdy blender, mix all ingredients together to make a stiff dough.
  3. On lightly floured parchment, roll dough out to ¼-inch thickness.
  4. Cut treats. They can be made into small squares by cutting thin strips horizontally and vertically, using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter. This is the fastest way. If the pieces don’t separate on their own, bake it in one piece for the first 20 minutes, then break it apart and continue baking. For more attractive treats, roll into small balls and flatten with your finger. Or flour the end of a jumbo straw and cut circles. You’ll have to blow each one out – kids love to do this. If you have a silicone mold with small designs, the dough can be pressed into each cavity. It will pop out easily.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes. Stir to assure even baking, and return to the oven. Reduce heat to 250 and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the treats remain inside until cool.
  6. Store in an airtight container for up to a week at room temperature, or for several weeks in the refrigerator.

Ingredients. (The pumpkin looks a little soupy because it was frozen.)

Grind up the oatmeal (or buy oat flour).

Mix it all together. The amount of juice in your tuna/salmon/chicken might vary, so adjust with a little more or less flour if needed.

A few options, from left to right: cut with a large smoothie straw (fun, but tiring); squeeze between thumb and first finger of both hands to make pyramid shapes; use a pastry cutter.

You can either cut the rolled dough out directly on a baking sheet and break the treats up during the baking cycle . . .

Or separate them before baking. A fluted pastry cutter makes the treats separate easily.

That’s it! Put them in a decorative bag and make a cat happy this season!

Cats will love these treats!

 

Mini Maple Pecan Pies

I’m from the Pacific Northwest, and pecan pies were just not a “thing”. At least, not in my family. In fact, desserts were not a thing. We had pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, cake for birthdays and Christmas, and that was pretty much it.

Somewhere along the line I was introduced to those cute little pecan tassies and fell in love, but still hadn’t tackled an actual pie until . . . well . . . a month ago. Don’t wait until you’re in your sixties to try one; think of all the sweet, gooey goodness you will have missed.

My first attempt was lovely. And runny! Not acceptable. But oh, did it taste good.

I switched to mini pies because I like to fuss, and that gave me more rolling, crimping, and decorating opportunities. My first batch was chewy! I mean, pull-out-your-teeth chewy. Once again, not acceptable. But yes, they tasted amazing.

I learned some lessons along the way. The most important? Don’t forget the butter, and do NOT overbake them. Here are a few other tips:

  • Though I love a flaky bottom crust as much as the next person, I decided the extra step of pre-baking the crusts wasn’t necessary. If you want to blind-bake your crusts, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t poke holes in the bottom. Just add pie weights and hope for the best. Pecan filling seeps down into those holes and turns to concrete on the bottom of your pans, especially if you overbake them. (Ask me how I know.) 10 minutes at 400 F was about right when I tried it. Meh . . . the pies I made without this step were just as good.
  • It may sound a little odd, and I’ll probably be lynched if any pastry chefs see this, but I tried putting balls of dough in a tortilla press, between generously floured pieces of parchment. Pressed once, flipped it over (making sure there was still enough flour to let the dough spread easily) and pressed again. Worked like a charm. You didn’t hear that from me!
  • The whiskey is completely optional. Just leave it out of the filling if you prefer.
  • Pecan halves are fine for large pies, but when you’re filling these small pie pans, chopped nuts work better. Decorate the top with pecan halves if you’d like.
  • Pie crust decorations can be added before baking or baked separately on a baking sheet at 425 F. Your choice. I kind of like to bake them separately; then I can place them where I want on each baked pie. Watch them closely; they go from raw to burnt very quickly. You can see that this batch of leaves was a little dark. Still yummy, though!

The next batch was beeeeautiful, if I do say so myself.

Mini Maple Pecan Pies
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Makes 8
Ingredients
  • PIE CRUST:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt (1¼ if using unsalted butter)
  • 1 cup chilled shortening
  • ½ cup cold butter, coarsely grated
  • 2 tablespoons maple whiskey (or use regular whiskey, vodka, or 1½ T vinegar)
  • ⅓ cup buttermilk
  • PIE FILLING:
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup corn syrup (light)
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk (keep the white for brushing on the crusts)
  • 2 tablespoons maple whiskey (or regular whiskey)
  • 1 teaspoon maple flavoring
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 cups chopped pecans (plus pecan halves if you want to decorate the top)
Instructions
  1. CRUST:
  2. In a large bowl combine flour and salt. Cut in the shortening and butter until flour is blended in and no large lumps are visible.
  3. Combine the whiskey (or vinegar) with buttermilk. Drizzle into flour mixture while tossing with a fork. Stir just until combined. Dough should easily hold together when you squeeze it. If mixture is too dry, add more buttermilk, 1 teaspoon at a time.
  4. Either roll out half of the dough at a time between generously floured pieces of parchment OR separate the dough into 8 pieces and roll each between floured parchment. Either way, shape the dough into a ball, flatten with your hand, and roll out fairly thin, about ⅛-inch. Set mini pie pan (top inside dimension 4¼-inches) upside down on dough and circle about 1-inch larger than the pan all the way around. Cut out 8 circles, saving scraps to re-roll.
  5. Lift circles (use a dough scraper or large spatula if needed) and place in pans, easing them in to fit snugly. Fold the edges under and crimp or press with a fork.
  6. Brush the bottom of the crusts with whisked egg white, then move to the refrigerator while you make the filling.
  7. Heat oven to 350 F.
  8. FILLING:
  9. In a medium bowl combine maple syrup, corn syrup, white sugar, and brown sugar. Stir well.
  10. Add 3 eggs and one egg yolk, whiskey, maple flavoring, and salt. Stir.
  11. Add melted butter and pecans and stir well.
  12. Fill crusts with a generous ½ cup of filling - about ⅔ full, stirring the mixture in the bowl before you fill each crust, because the pecans will all float to the top.
  13. Place pies on baking sheets and bake approximately 30 minutes. Gently shake one of the pies. If there's a slight jiggle, that's okay, but if it's wiggly, let the pies cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow the pies to cool completely on a rack.
  14. Serve, or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. They may be frozen, too.

Add fats to flour and salt and cut in with pastry blender or two knives until no large lumps remain. Give it a light stir – there should be no pockets of flour; it all should be attached to fats.

Add buttermilk and whiskey, stirring with a fork.

Give it a squeeze! It should hold together. If not, add a teeny tiny bit more buttermilk.

You can roll out the dough and then cut as many circles as possible out of it.

Or roll and cut out one at a time (my favorite method).

OR, if you’re feeling like a rebel, you can try pressing balls of dough in a tortilla press. (Use parchment and lots of flour.)

Place crust in pan and crimp edges. Brush lightly with whisked egg white.

If you want to blind bake the crust, fill with weights (I used a coffee filter and beans) and bake 10 minutes at 400 F. Don’t poke holes in crust!

Mix syrups and sugars together.

Stir in eggs, salt, maple whiskey (or regular whiskey) and maple flavoring.

Add pecans and melted butter and stir well.

Fill the crusts. Use a generous half cup of filling.

Ready for the oven.

Baked.

Mmmm.

In case you’re wondering, these work very well for tassies, too. The crust-to-filling ratio is different; you might want to cut the filling recipe in half. I’d test that theory, but I think I’ve had enough pecan pie to last me at least a week or two!

Lorinda

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes

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 by 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.

Velvety Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes
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Makes approximately 24 cupcakes. Recipe can be doubled.
Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • ¼ cup oil (canola or peanut oil are good)
  • ¼ cup butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated, room temperature
  • ¼ cup solid-pack pumpkin
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1¼ cups cake flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt (add another pinch if you're using unsalted butter)
  • 1½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ICING:
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (plus more for dusting over the top)
  • ⅓-1/2 cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Prepare two cupcake pans by adding 24 paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the oil, butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until light - at least 2 minutes.
  3. Add egg yolks one a time, mixing until well blended and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  4. Add pumpkin and vanilla. Beat until incorporated.
  5. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.
  6. Add dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately, one-third of each at a time, beginning with the flour mixture and ending with the buttermilk.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold thoroughly into the batter. (It's fine if you see a few white fluffy spots.)
  8. Divide between the 24 liners, approximately ⅔ full.
  9. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of a cupcake. Cool completely on a baking rack before icing.
  10. ICING:
  11. In a large bowl, combine the butter, cream cheese, shortening and vanilla. Beat well.
  12. Add salt and cinnamon. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating on medium speed. Add a little of the cream if mixture gets too thick.
  13. Begin with ⅓ cup cream. Add one tablespoon at a time until incorporated. Beat at high speed until light and fluffy; 1-2 minutes. If icing is too thick, drizzle in remaining cream a little at a time.
  14. Pipe onto cupcakes and dust lightly with cinnamon.

Sift the dry ingredients! This is a light, airy cake – you’ve got to jump through some hoops.

Cream the butter, oil, and sugars. Add yolks one at a time.

See how fluffy the batter is now? Time to add the pumpkin.

Fold in the stiffly-beaten egg whites.

Fill about 2/3 full.

Pipe on the icing and sprinkle with cinnamon

Haunted House Cake

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!

Bake the cake. Here’s the recipe I used.

Orange Cake (for Haunted House Cake)
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Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2⅔ cups sugar
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.)
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs, one a time, beating thoroughly after the addition of each egg and scraping the bowl often.
  4. Add vanilla and orange extract (or zest).
  5. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  6. In a small bowl combine the milk and concentrated orange juice.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Move to a cooling rack for 10 minutes before turning out the cakes. Let the cakes cool completely before icing.

 

 

Ready for the oven.

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!

Lorinda

Chocolate Caramel Acorns

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.

Chocolate Caramel Acorns
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Makes 12
Ingredients
  • 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)
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.
  7. Place one cap on the top of each acorn, pressing gently.
  8. 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.
  9. Store lightly covered at room temperature.

 

Cut circles from caramel wraps.

 

Make the acorns.

Make caps. Place one on each acorn and press gently.

That’s about as easy as it gets, folks. Start unwrapping those caramels!

Lorinda

Maple Crown Cake

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!

Maple Crown Cake
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Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • 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)
  • ICING:
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons maple whiskey
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. 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.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the white sugar, brown sugar, and butter together for 3-4 minutes. The mixture should lighten in color.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!)

It’s important to let the butter and eggs come to room temperature.

Coat a bundt pan with vegetable oil or coconut oil and sprinkle liberally with sugar. I used maple sugar for added flavor, but regular sugar is great; it’ll give a crispier sugar crust to the cake.

Beat butter and sugar well, then add eggs. One.At.A.Time. Don’t be in a hurry here!

Last egg. See how fluffy the batter is?

Combine buttermilk and whiskey

Add dry and liquid ingredients alternately, then spoon into pan. Spread gently and bake.

Cool for 10 minutes, then turn the cake over and let cool a few more minutes before lifting the pan.

Make icing. Add whiskey and powdered sugar to the boiled mixture and whisk it like you mean it!

 

Once the cake has cooled, pour the warm icing over it.

Keep this covered on the counter (don’t refrigerate) and enjoy it slice by slice. It just gets better and better!

Lorinda

 

Maple Raisin English Muffins

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Maple Raisin English Muffins
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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!
Ingredients
  • 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 egg
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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!
  2. Remove from heat. Add butter and raisins, stirring occasionally until butter is melted and the temperature is comfortably warm.
  3. In a small bowl or cup, combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let it sit until foamy - about 5 minutes.
  4. 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.
  5. Add flour and beat for 3 minutes
  6. 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.
  7. Combine cornmeal (or farina) and maple flavor, if using. Sprinkle on a lightly buttered electric griddle(or cast iron skillets).
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Cover lightly with a clean towel and let the muffins sit on the unheated griddle for 30 minutes.
  11. 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.
  12. When the bottom is brown, use a thin spatula to flip the muffins over. Cook on that side until brown.
  13. Turn the heat down and flip the muffins over one more time, for about 3 minutes on each side.
  14. Allow the muffins to cool completely before using a fork to split. Toast under a broiler for best results.

Heat milk, syrup, cinnamon, and salt until bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in butter and raisins.

Combine milk mixture, yeast, and egg.

Add maple flavoring.

Use a big, greased bowl. Bigger! (Use a rubber spatula to flip the dough over to coat the whole surface.)

Here’s why you need a big bowl. See how full it is once you let it rise all night?

Optional: Add maple to the cornmeal or farina (I use Malt-O-Meal) for another layer of flavor. Sprinkle it on a lightly buttered griddle or skillet.

On floured surface, use your hand to pat dough 1/3-1/2 inch thick.

Place on the prepared unheated skillet, press down with hand (to enlarge and so cornmeal will stick) and cover. Let rest for 30 minutes. They’ll do more rising while they cook.

Cook on both sides until brown. Then turn the heat down and cook a few more minutes on each side to make sure the center is done. Let them cool before splitting.

I don’t suppose you need any suggestions for eating these bad boys, but just in case:

More maple to come!

Lorinda

 

Maple Marshmallow Treats

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.

Maple Marshmallow Krispie Treats
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Ingredients
  • 3 quarts (12 cups) crispy rice cereal
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 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)
Instructions
  1. Line a 12 x 17 baking sheet with parchment. Butter lightly.
  2. Lightly grease a very large bowl (I use a stock pot). Put the cereal in this and set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the maple flavoring and marshmallows. Pour over the cereal and stir well.
  5. 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.
  6. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

Bring the sugar, butter, syrup, and salt to a boil.

Boil and stir 6 minutes, or until it reaches 250-260 degrees.

Add marshmallows and maple flavoring

Stir the hot marshmallow mixture into the rice cereal

Press into prepared pan. Let them set a bit before cutting.

Or form balls and roll in chopped pecans!

Chewy, squishy, buttery. Yes, these are good. Very good.

Next up is a maple recipe that isn’t sweet! Wait for it . . .

Lorinda

Caramel Candy Corn

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!

Caramel Candy Corn
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Ingredients
  • 4 quarts popped corn
  • 1 cup peanuts (or any nut you like)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup candy corn
  • 10 each: white, yellow, and orange candy melts (optional)
Instructions
  1. Grease a really large pot or bowl. (I use coconut oil.) Put popcorn and nuts in the pot and stir to combine. Set aside.
  2. Lightly grease a 12x18x2" cake pan - or two 9x12" pans. Set aside.
  3. Heat oven to 225 F.
  4. 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.
  5. Stir in the vanilla and baking soda and pour over the popcorn and nuts. Stir well.
  6. Scoop into the prepared baking pan(s) and place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Putting together the ingredients for the caramel.

Boil for 5 minutes without stirring

The baking soda will foam up. Just give it a few good stirs and pour it over the popcorn and nuts.

Stir hot caramel into popcorn

Spread into greased pan and bake.

I got this in just under the wire because tomorrow is October and I’m moving on . . . to maple. No pumpkin spice here, folks. We’re going for Maple Madness!

Lorinda

 

Caramel Rose Pecan Cupcakes

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?

Compare!

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!

First, the cupcake recipe:

Caramel Rose Pecan Cupcakes
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Makes approximately 18 cupcakes.
Ingredients
  • FILLING:
  • 18 unwrapped caramels
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ½ cup cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (toasted for the best flavor)
  • CAKE:
  • 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)
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan on low heat, melt the caramels and cream, stirring often. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar thoroughly. Add egg yolk and beat well.
  3. Once the caramel is lukewarm but still fluid, add to cream cheese mixture. Beat well. Stir in chopped pecans. Set aside.
  4. Heat oven to 350 F. Place 18 paper liners in cupcake pans.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy - at least 2 minutes.
  6. Mix in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly and scraping the sides of the bowl between each egg.
  7. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Cool thoroughly before icing and decorating.

Just follow the instructions; you can’t go wrong!

I’m going to cut right to the caramel rose directions.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Lorinda