Cranberry Pecan Snowballs

One bite of these buttery snowball cookies will tell you they aren’t your mama’s tea cakes. The dough is subtly flavored with orange zest, and a sweet cranberry filling hides in the center. If you choose to add a fresh cranberry, it will add a burst of tangy flavor.

Whether you call them Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican (or Italian) Wedding Cakes, or Snowballs, they are a holiday tradition worth making. They do tend to be just a little bit dry (like shortbread) so a small dab of filling to soften the center worked well. Of course, if you don’t want all the bells and whistles, you can simply leave out the filling entirely. But oh, not the orange zest! It’s so good.

I am pretty hands-on, and use my thumb to make the hole in each ball of dough (where the filling is added) but if it makes you more comfortable, it can be made with the round handle of a wooden spoon . . . or you can wear disposable gloves. The only tricky part is to make the dough at the top of the hole thinner—and don’t over fill, of course—so the cookie can be neatly pinched closed. If a little filling squeezes out, just wipe it off and patch the spot with a small piece of dough before rolling into a smooth ball.

Easy as 1,2,3! Fill, pinch and roll.

Cranberry Pecan Snowballs
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For best results, once cookies are filled and formed, chill for 1 hour before baking. They can be chilled on the baking sheets, or the balls of dough can be put in a large cake pan and then transferred. You can skip this step, but they will be slightly flatter.
Ingredients
  • FILLING:
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon cranberry sauce (jellied or whole berry)
  • a few drops of red food coloring (optional)
  • ¼ cup white chocolate chips
  • 24 fresh cranberries (optional)
  • DOUGH:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans (I toast mine first for the best flavor)
  • Zest of one large orange (about 1 packed tablespoon)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Powdered sugar to roll cookies in
Instructions
  1. FILLING: In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese and cranberry sauce. If desired, add a few drops of red food coloring.
  2. Melt the white chocolate in a small pan on lowest heat, or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave at fifteen second increments. Don't get it too hot - just until melted. Add to cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth. Place in a pastry bag and set aside. (You can skip the pastry bag and just use a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon to fill the cookies, but it will be messier.)
  3. DOUGH: In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add powdered sugar and beat for 1 minute, scraping sides of the bowl often.
  4. Add chopped pecans, orange zest, and vanilla. Beat well.
  5. Add flour and salt. Beat just until blended.
  6. Make balls of dough, using a generous tablespoon of dough for each. (You should have about 24.) Make a deep hole in each. The easiest way is to cup your hand around the dough with it poking out of the circle made by your thumb and forefinger. Use a finger on your opposite hand (or the rounded handle of a wooden spoon) to make the hole, then widen it so it's a little thinner at the top. Using a pastry bag, fill the hole about half way. Press a raw cranberry (if you're using them) on the filling and gently pinch the dough over the hole. Roll between your hands to form a round ball. Place 1½ inches apart on ungreased (or parchment lined) baking sheet.
  7. Repeat until all cookies are formed. If you have time (and room in your fridge) chill for 1 hour.
  8. Heat oven to 325 F. Bake cookies 15-17 minutes, until just the bottoms are lightly browned.
  9. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for a minute or two before sliding onto a cooling rack.
  10. When the cookies are barely warm, dredge them in the powdered sugar. Wait until completely cool and repeat. Store in an airtight container.

Beat butter well (see how fluffy?) Add powdered sugar and beat for 1 minute.

Stir in finely chopped pecans, orange zest, and vanilla

Mix in the flour and salt. It will look crumbly at first, but keep beating; it will come together!

I found that the easiest way for me to fill the cookies was to wrap my hand around the ball of dough and use my other hand to make the hole, fill it, pop in a cranberry, and pinch the top.

But you might prefer working on a flat surface, like this:

Poke a hole in each ball with your thumb and thin the sides out. Add about a half teaspoon of filling

Add a fresh cranberry

Carefully pinch the cookie closed and roll gently between your palms to make a ball

The tops of your cookies shouldn’t brown, but the bottoms will turn a light golden brown.  I think my camera exaggerated the color, but I may have left this batch in the oven a minute too long. Meh . . . that’s what the powdered sugar is for!

Dredge warm cookies in a bowl of sifted powdered sugar. Wait until cool, then repeat. (For the second coat you can put the sugar in a paper bag and shake a few at a time.)

Wishing you peace,

Lorinda

Sourdough Pumpkin Rye Bread

I’m on a bit of a sourdough kick right now, and couldn’t resist creating a sourdough version of my Pumpkin Rye Bread. This is a little denser, chewier . . . just the way I like it. It also takes longer that the yeast version (though it is not a bit harder to make), so I recommend you start this bread in the evening and let the dough rise overnight in a cool spot.

I use a cast iron Dutch oven with a domed lid for baking sourdough bread. The pan helps the bread keep its shape and the lid holds the steam in and gives the loaf a wonderful crust. If you don’t have one, you can simply put a pan of water in the bottom rack of your oven when you start preheating. The bread can go on a baking sheet on the rack above the water and the steam will give your bread that magical sourdough crust.

This loaf has been dropped into a preheated (OH so hot) Dutch oven. Lid goes on for baking. (You’ll notice for this loaf I put the orange strip down first with the dark dough on top of it, then rolled, for a lighter colored loaf.)

This is ideal for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but you know I can’t just leave a recipe alone, right? So . . . with Halloween as an inspiration, I made a batch with food coloring for more contrast, and cut designs on an outer layer of rye dough. I love the way it turned out!

With the exception of food coloring, the ingredients are the same; it’s just formed differently. The loaf at the top of the post was rolled up like a cinnamon roll, and the Halloween version was made of a ball of brown dough wrapped in orange dough, wrapped in the remaining brown dough.

Get creative. As long as you handle the dough gently to keep as many of those precious air bubbles in it as possible, you can play to your heart’s content. I think a whole lot of balls of dough pressed together and then formed into a smooth ball or covered with a layer of dough would be fun. Next time!

Sourdough Pumpkin Rye Bread
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Ingredients
  • ½ cup (about 5 oz) sourdough starter
  • 1½ cups filtered water
  • ½ cup solid pack pumpkin
  • 4 cups bread flour (divided)
  • 1½ teaspoon salt (kosher or sea salt is best)
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (2 if you're going for darker dough)
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • Food coloring (optional) for richer colors
Instructions
  1. Begin this bread in the evening and bake the next day. The first rise takes 8-10 hours.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sourdough starter, pumpkin, and water. (Add orange food coloring here, if desired.) Stir in 3 cups of bread flour, and salt until completely blended.
  3. Pile 1 cup of bread flour on work surface and drop half of the dough onto it. Using a bench scraper to help if necessary, knead until dough is smooth and doesn't stick to hands - about 5 or 6 minutes. You will use up most of the flour. Form dough into a ball and place in greased bowl.
  4. To make the rye dough, you can either knead by hand or machine. If kneading by hand, add caraway seeds, molasses, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Mix well, then place 1 cup of rye flour on work surface, drop the dough onto it, and proceed as you did with the orange dough. You may need a little additional flour; if so, don't use more rye flour - use bread flour. If kneading by machine, use a dough hook. Add rye flour and the remaining ingredients and knead for 5 minutes. Add a little more bread flour if dough is overly sticky. Form into ball and place next to the orange dough in the bowl.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough sit in a cool place overnight.
  6. The next day, carefully separate the two balls of dough (don't worry if a little of one color sticks to the other.) Handle the dough as gently as possible so you don't lose all the bubbles. Press, stretch, or gently roll each piece into a long wide strips, about 3 inches wide by 14 inches.
  7. Place one on top of the other. If the dark strip is on the bottom, more dark will show on the outside of the loaf, and vice versa. Roll the two pieces up together and pinch the end to seal.
  8. Turn so the swirl is on top and use the sides of your hands to tuck the dough under a little, scooching the bread along the work surface to smooth the bottom.
  9. Place in a bowl lined with floured plastic wrap or a floured dishcloth. Cover and let rise until doubled. Depending on your sourdough starter, this could take anywhere from 1 - 4 hours.
  10. Baking in a Dutch oven: Set the bottom half of Dutch oven on second lowest rack in oven and preheat to 450 for at least 30 minutes. (No grease is necessary if it is well seasoned.) Open oven and pull out rack. Gently lift dough from bowl and CAREFULLY drop it into the VERY hot pan. Use a scissors or sharp knife to make three quick cuts across the bread, cover with the lid, and return it to the oven. Reduce heat to 425 and bake for 20 minutes. Remove lid and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the bread is beginning to brown.
  11. BAKING on BAKING SHEET: Put a large pan of water on bottom rack of oven and preheat to 450 F. for 30 minutes. Dust the center of a baking sheet with flour or corn meal. Lift dough from bowl and place on baking sheet. Open oven door carefully (the steam is very hot) and quickly put the bread on a rack above the water. Reduce heat to 425 F and bake about 40 minutes, or until bread is beginning to brown.
  12. Remove from oven and tip out onto cooling rack. The bottom of the bread should be brown and sound hollow when tapped. Allow bread to cool before cutting.

NOTE: Photos are for the original recipe. Halloween bread photos and instructions will be at the bottom of the post

Combine sourdough starter, pumpkin, and water.

Stir in 3 cups bread flour and the salt. It will be kind of . . . gloppy. That’s okay!

On work surface, drop half of the dough onto 1 cup bread flour and (using a dough scraper to begin with, if necessary) knead until smooth (about 5 – 6 minutes).

It should hold its shape and shouldn’t stick to your hands or the work surface. It will use most of the flour to reach this point.

To remaining dough, add molasses, caraway seeds, cocoa, and espresso powder. Mix well.

This is where there should be a photo of me, kneading the rye dough on a bed of rye flour. The photographer (ahem) was negligent. Sigh. Just figure it’s the same as incorporating the flour in the orange dough, only you MAY need a little more flour (because of the molasses). If so, use bread flour, not more rye.

Snuggle them up, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap, and let them rise in a cool place overnight.

Next day, pat each ball of dough into a long strip, about 3 inches wide, and 14 inches long. (Longer makes smaller marbling, shorter makes big, bold streaks.)

Lay one piece on the other (whichever color you want to show most on the outside should be on the bottom) and roll it up. Pinch the end to seal. Turn so the swirl is on the top and use the sides of your hands to tuck the bottom underneath a little, while “scooching” the bread toward you and turning.

Line a bowl with plastic wrap or a dish towel, and sprinkle generously with flour. Place dough in the center. Cover, and let rise until doubled. Depending on your starter this could take anywhere between 1 – 4 hours. Mine took 2.

This loaf has been dropped into a preheated (OH so hot) Dutch oven. Lid goes on for baking.

 

HALLOWEEN VERSION!

Use the same ingredients but add a generous squirt of orange coloring when you add the pumpkin and water, and then add black food coloring to the remaining dough when you add the molasses. Follow the recipe instructions for adding the remaining flour and tuck them into the bowl to rise.

Waiting to be put to bed for the night.

The next day, instead of forming two strips and rolling them together, divide the dark dough into two pieces. Roll one into a ball, place on slightly flattened orange dough and bring the orange dough up to completely cover the dark dough. Pinch together well and flip it over, smooth side up.

Pull orange dough up and over the ball made with half of the dark dough.

Flatten, gently stretch, or carefully roll out the remaining dark dough, large enough to completely encase the orange ball. Lay it over the orange dough ball and tuck under the bottom. Gently “scootch” the ball toward you, spin a little to the right, pull toward you again. Repeat until the dough is smooth.

Drape the remaining dark dough over the ball. (That’s my hand under there. I may have gotten carried away and made it a little too big. The stuff stretches! The extra dough just got tucked under, creating a thicker dark marbling at the bottom. You can’t go wrong with this!

Line a bowl with a dishtowel or plastic wrap, dusted in flour, and set the dough in the bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled. This can take anywhere from 1-4 hours, depending on the enthusiasm of your sourdough starter.

Ready to rise

Lift out and, using scissors, knife, or razor, cut designs in the dough, snipping deeply enough to see the orange, and even the brown center. Bake as instructed in the recipe.

Snip snip!

Okay, WHEW. I think I’m ready to move on from bread now.

I make these recipes seem WAY more complicated than they are, because I don’t want to leave any questions in your mind when you’re elbow-deep in flour. If I had a  little more technological ability I’d just do a video. (Maybe in the future, but don’t hold your breath.)

As Julia Child said: “Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”

Lorinda

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Rye Bread

Two of my favorite breads have been marbled together to create a crusty, flavorful symbol of autumn harvest. This loaf could be:

  • The focus of a charcuterie board.
  • A Thanksgiving centerpiece.
  • The foundation for the best turkey or grilled cheese sandwich ever.
  • A Halloween masterpiece. (Add a little orange and black food coloring.)

I actually made two versions—this, and one using sourdough. I loved the chewy texture of the sourdough loaf, but I can only put one recipe in a blog, and this one was quicker to make. (You’re welcome!) I will, however, post the sourdough recipe too in a few days. Check back!

It takes a little more effort to make this than a normal loaf of bread, because you will have to knead the orange half by hand. (The rye half can be kneaded by machine if you wish.) But there is nothing hard about this at all.

 

Pumpkin Rye Bread
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Ingredients
  • 1½ cups very warm water (about 120 degrees)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package active-dry yeast
  • ½ cup solid pack pumpkin
  • 4 cups bread flour, divided
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seed (more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • Optional: 1 egg white whisked with 1 teaspoon water and flaked rye (or oatmeal)
  • Food coloring - orange and black to create Halloween colors
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl combine very warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit until bubbles begin to form - about 5 minutes.
  2. Add pumpkin, 3 cups of bread flour, and salt. Mix until completely combined. Mixture will be a heavy batter.
  3. Spread the remaining 1 cup of bread flour on work surface and drop half (about 1½ cups or 1 pound) dough on the flour. Sprinkle some of the flour on top of the dough and knead until just slightly sticky - about 5 minutes. It's very soft to begin with; use a dough scraper if necessary. Form kneaded dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Leave any leftover flour on work surface.
  4. The remaining dough in the bowl will be your brown rye bread. To knead by hand, stir in caraway seeds, molasses, cocoa, and espresso powder,. Push bread flour aside and place 1 cup rye flour on the work surface, then drop the dough onto the top and knead as you did the orange dough. If more flour is needed, don't add more rye - use bread flour. (If kneading by machine, simply add the remaining ingredients to the dough and switch to a dough hook and knead for 5 minutes.) Form a ball and place it into the bowl next to the orange dough.
  5. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
  6. On floured surface, press or roll the rye dough into a rectangle approximately 12 inches long, with the width a little shorter than the length of your bread pan. Repeat with the orange dough. Place orange dough on top of brown dough. (It doesn't have to fit perfectly.)
  7. Fold the bottom third up and then the top third down over the bottom third. Pinch edges closed. Using the edges of your hands, gently tuck the dough under all the way around, several times until you achieve a smooth loaf. If the orange dough shows through the top a little, that's fine.
  8. Place in prepared loaf pan, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap, and let rise until double - about 1 hour.
  9. Heat oven to 375 F and lightly grease a large loaf pan. (I like to spray with a flour/oil spray like Baker's Joy.)
  10. If desired, brush the top of the loaf with egg white wash and sprinkle with flaked rye (or oats). Make several slits diagonally or straight across the top using a sharp knife, razor, or scissors.
  11. Bake for approximately 40-45 minutes, or until light brown. When released from the pan the bottom should sound hollow when tapped. .
  12. For best results, let the bread cool before cutting.

 

Combine water, sugar, yeast, and let it sit until you see a few small bubbles forming (about 5 minutes).

Add flour, pumpkin (sheesh, that looks RED!) and salt. Mix well. It will be more like a heavy batter than a dough.

Place half the dough on top of 1 cup flour on work surface. Knead for about 5 minutes. You probably won’t need all the flour, but that will depend on if you divided the dough evenly. If it isn’t sticking to your hands, it has enough flour!

Form into a ball and place in greased bowl.

To the remaining half add molasses, cocoa, espresso powder, and caraway seeds. If using the machine to knead, add rye flour. If kneading by hand, don’t add the flour yet. Dump the wet dough onto a cup of rye flour. Knead well and form into a ball.

Snuggle them up, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap, and let them rise.

The orange dough is softer and will rise a little more. That’s okay!

Press or roll each ball into a rectangle about 12 inches long and not quite as wide as the length of your pan. Lay orange dough on brown.

Flip bottom third up, then top third down over the bottom third.

Pinch it all the way around the edges.

Use the sides of your hands to gently tuck the bread under ALL the way around until you have a smooth loaf. Place it in the pan to rise until doubled.

Once it has risen, you can brush the top with an egg wash and sprinkle with flaked rye if you’d like.

Snip! Snip! Cut a few slits in the top, straight or diagonal, with a sharp instrument of choice.

Put down that butter! Try to restrain yourself (I know it’s hard) and wait until it’s cooled off to cut it, otherwise you’ll let out all that important steam. Warm is okay.

This is going to be a fall tradition around here from now on. Hope you and yours enjoy it too!

Lorinda

Cherry Key Lime Cupcakes

Cherry-lime is a perfect flavor combination; a little sweet, a little tangy. When I found key limes on sale for a jaw-droppingly low price, I snapped up two bags of them and then let my mind go wild.

It likes to do that . . . especially at three o’clock in the morning.

Since Valentine’s Day is almost here, cherries were a natural choice to complement the lime flavor. Both were used in the cake batter, and then I decorated the cupcakes with maraschino roses.

It took a lot of cherries before I figured out the easiest method to make roses. My fingers looked like I was part of a crime scene. Perma-red! And cutting the limes was a learning experience too. (Let’s just say that my favorite knife and I are no longer friends.) Please be careful; those limes are slippery little devils.

Gah! After making the roses. (But before attempting to cut my finger off.) Fun times.

If you aren’t familiar with key limes, they are smallmuch smaller than a regular lime.  And boy, oh boy, do they have a lot of flavor.They lighten in color as they ripen, so you want to look for shades of light green and yellow. Dark green limes are too firm and don’t produce much juice. Zesting and juicing them takes patience. I bounced between quartering them and squeezing with my fingers, and using a garlic press. (I made this recipe three times, and my hands got tired!) From experience, I can tell you that a good sturdy garlic press works well as long as the lime is quartered first, but have the skin side facing up, otherwise you’ll get sprayed in the face. I know this for a fact.

Stained hands, a cut finger, and lime juice in the face. Yes, I had a GREAT time making these. And you can, too. Bwa ha ha.

But look at these sweethearts. Worth it, right?

Here’s the recipe and instructions. Disclaimer: I don’t like using shortening. I really don’t. I tried this with butter. I tried this with coconut oil. The flavor was excellent, but the best color, best rise, came from shortening. So . . . if you substitute, you may not get a light, fluffy cake.

Cherry Key Lime Cupcakes
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Makes approximately 30 cupcakes or two 9-inch layers (with 2-inch sides) If making a rose for each cupcake, you will need two 16-ounce jars of cherries for the entire recipe.
Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • ½ cup (packed) finely chopped maraschino cherries, blotted dry
  • 12 key limes
  • ¾ cup shortening
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 5 eggs (1 whole egg plus 4 egg whites, separated) room temperature
  • 2¼ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • FROSTING:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)
  • ¼ cup cream
  • ROSES (MAKES 30):
  • 45 cherries (a 16 ounce jar has between 30-35 cherries.)
  • 8 limes for leaves
Instructions
  1. Begin by prepping the limes. You'll need ½ cup of lime juice for the cake, and 2 tablespoons for the icing (optional). Zest them first, placing zest in a small bowl.Quarter the zested limes and either squeeze by hand or use a sturdy garlic press to juice them. (If you don't have quite enough juice, add water to make up the difference.) Strain out any stray seeds. Set aside 2 tablespoons for the icing and add ½ cup of juice to the zest.
  2. Heat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners, or prepare two 9-inch round pans (with 2-inch sides) by greasing and flouring or spraying with baking spray (like Baker's Joy).
  3. In a large bowl, beat the shortening and sugar together well.
  4. Add lime zest and juice. Mix well, scraping the sides of the bowl often.
  5. Add 1 whole egg and beat well.
  6. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  7. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately, ⅓ of each at a time, beginning with the dry ingredients and ending with the milk. Just mix until combined.
  8. In a small cup or bowl, stir the chopped cherries into 1 tablespoon flour. Fold into batter.
  9. In a medium bowl, beat the 4 egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into batter.
  10. Spoon into cupcake liners, about ⅔ full. Or, if making a cake, divide between the two pans.
  11. Bake cupcakes approximately 20 minutes, (cake layers 25-30 minutes) or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Remove to rack to cool.
  12. FROSTING: Beat butter and shortening well. Add powdered sugar and lime juice and mix thoroughly - approximately 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl often.
  13. Add whipping cream and beat well. Pipe onto cool cupcakes or spread on cake. NOTE: The recipe given is adequate for the cupcakes, but if you are making a cake and want lots of embellishments (rosettes on the top, a generous design at the bottom) you may want to double the recipe.
  14. ROSES: 30 cherries will be used for the outer petals. 15 cherries will be used to create inner bud. Blot cherries with paper towel. Using a sharp knife and working your way around the cherry, cut 3-5 "petals", beginning from top and cutting down almost to the bottom. Use the tip of the knife or scissors to cut out center. Repeat with 29 more cherries. (Wear gloves if you don't want red fingers!)
  15. With the remaining 15 cherries, use a sharp knife, trim two thin pieces of cherry skin, working around the top half and then the bottom half. Roll each strip and place one in the center of each "petaled" cherry. Place one on each cupcake. (If you make these ahead, set them on a plate and refrigerate until ready to decorate.)
  16. With a sharp knife, cut 4 thin pieces of skin from the limes, working from top to bottom. Cut into leaf shapes. A scallop-edged pastry wheel makes them look more like rose leaves, if you have one. Place a leaf next to each rose. A thin strip for a stem is pretty too. Get creative!

 

A fine grater (or microplane) will do the job.

A sturdy garlic press works well, as long as you quarter the limes.

If you’d rather not make 30 roses, you could always make a cake and just put a few on top! I used some Tillen Farms Bada Bing cherries on this cake, but . . . well . . . they kinda look like olives, right? I love them, though. They don’t have artificial colors, which is very nice. But . . . olives.

I know I didn’t give you much time, and will totally understand if you aren’t able to pull this recipe off by Valentine’s day. (Slacker!) But hey, wouldn’t this be pretty for Christmas?

Lorinda

Raspberry Rose Cookies

Cookie dough roses are baked right into these raspberry flavored hearts, creating a treat your valentine won’t be able to resist. A thin icing is all they really need, but decorating them was so much fun, I just had to play.

(Humor me . . . just one more picture? It’s excessive, but they were so photogenic, I couldn’t choose!)

Go classy and understated, or let your artistic side run wild. Your choice!

These cookies may look delicate, but they are sturdy enough to be decorated by little hands. Flavored gelatin not only provides the raspberry “zing” and color, it gives the shortbread cookie base a denser, chewier texture.

I tried using half shortening and half butter to ensure a pretty pink color, but they just didn’t have the flavor I wanted. Back to all butter, which gives them a hint of salmon color. You could add a touch of pink coloring if you’d like.

They’ll hold their shape, so any designs you add to the hearts before baking will still be there when they come out of the oven. Cake decorating tips, gum paste tools, cookie stamps or silicone molds all work very well for this.

I used a small heart cutter and gum paste tool to create designs. You could use a straw to cut out holes all the way around to look like lace. A small rose in the center would have been pretty too.

Press hearts with a silicone texture mat for texture, or press dough into a floured silicone mold and carefully ease the shape out onto the heart. Clockwise from upper left: Hand shaped rose on plain heart, rose design made by silicone mold on plain heart, textured heart, textured heart with small rose.

Raspberry Rose Cookies
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Makes approximately 18-20 cookies
Ingredients
  • COOKIES:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry flavored gelatin
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ICING:
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water to make thin glaze
  • Red or pink food coloring (green if you are adding leaves)
  • Royal icing, colored sugar, sparkling sugar if desired
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Prepare two baking sheets by covering each with a sheet of parchment.
  2. COOKIES:In a large bowl, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, and gelatin for 3 minutes.
  3. Add egg white. Beat for 1 minute.
  4. Mix in the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Dough will be thick.
  5. Work with half of the dough at a time, keeping the remainder wrapped at room temperature. Roll out dough ¼-inch thick. No thicker, or roses will brown before cookie bakes.
  6. Cut out heart shapes using 3-inch cutter. (Mine was slightly smaller.)
  7. Using the base of a large decorating tip or 1-inch round cutter, cut a hole in the middle of each heart. Save the circles. Before gathering scraps, use the round cutter to make more circles; you will use these for rose petals. Place hearts on prepared baking pans, 1 inch apart.
  8. To create roses, Press one small circle into a roughly oval shape. Slowly roll from one end to the other, to create the center of the rose. If dough cracks, just press it gently to smooth. Flatten another circle, and, holding it a little higher than the center, wrap it around. It doesn't need to go all the way around - the idea is to overlap petals. Don't worry about how long the "stem" you're holding is. That will be cut off when you're through. Repeat until you have a rose you like. I prefer 5 petals: the center, 1 around the center, and then 3 around the outside. As you work, gently pat the top edge of the petals to smooth if they crack, and roll the top edge back slightly on a few petals. When finished, use a knife or scissors to cut off the excess at the bottom (or pinch it off with your fingers) and place the rose in the hole in the heart, carefully pressing at the base to secure. Shape some leaves, if you wish.
  9. Bake 9-11 minutes, depending on the thickness of your cookies. The bottoms should be just starting to brown a little, but don't overbake or the roses will brown. (If this happens, a little icing and colored sugar on the edges will cover it nicely.) Cool completely on a rack.
  10. GLAZE: Whisk together the powdered sugar and water. In a small cup, combine 2 tablespoons of glaze and a drop of red or pink coloring. Do the same for green, if you added leaves to your roses. Brush a smooth, thin coating of the white glaze on each cookie, avoiding the rose. With a paintbrush, lightly paint the roses red or pink and the leaves green. Let cookies dry for at least 1 hour before storing or decorating.

Cut out hearts Use a large decorating tip to make a hole in each. Keep the circle of dough for rose petals!

Flatten the 1-inch circle into a rough oval shape. Start and one side and roll up, smoothing top edges if it cracks.

Add second and third petal, overlapping.

I like to stop at 5 petals. But each rose is a little different; follow your instincts!

Pinch or cut off excess dough on bottom of roses. Settle each rose into a heart, pressing gently into the hole.

Bake on parchment 350 F. for 9-11 minutes.

You can use a small decorator tip to put design on outer edge.

You can also make tiny roses and leaves. Use a straw or large tube tip to make the hole to set the rose in.

Brush the cookie with white glaze, then paint the roses and leaves.

Once the cookies are dry, decorate to your heart’s content. I used royal icing and some colored sugar.

XOXOXO

Lorinda

Chocolate Walnut Holiday Bread

Pull off a branch of this Christmas tree and bite into tender bread layered with creamy dark chocolate and ground walnuts. I couldn’t resist adding maraschino cherries to make the bread even more festive. It’s rich without being too sweet, and the chocolate flavor really stands out.

This dough needs to chill overnight, so make it in the evening, let it rise, and then put it in the fridge until the next day. 

I’m sure you’ve seen variations of this idea, often using puff pastry and hazelnut spread. (Check out YouTube for this option.) It would have been much easier, but I wanted to make things difficult, of course, preferring a soft, puffy 3-D appearance.

I’m posting this at the last moment, but inspiration just struck today and I had to bake this. If you’re too busy this Christmas, the strips of layered dough could easily be woven into a heart for Valentine’s Day. Or you could simply roll the dough out, spread with the chocolate mixture, roll up and slice, and bake like cinnamon rolls.

This is undeniably messy to make. You will get chocolate on your hands, on the counter, and on the bread itself. But your hands and the counter will wash, and the chocolate smears on the dough just makes the bread prettier, honest!

Since this is a last minute slam-dunk, I’ll dispense with my usual chit chat and just go right to the recipe!

Chocolate Walnut Holiday Bread
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Author:
Ingredients
  • BREAD:
  • ¼ cup very warm water
  • 1 package active-dry yeast
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • FILLING:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 10 ounces chocolate (I used semi-sweet mini chips)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups ground walnuts (grind in a food processor for 10 seconds)
  • Maraschino cherries, if desired, blotted well with paper towel
  • Egg wash: 1 egg and 1 teaspoon milk or water, whisked together well
  • Powdered sugar and water glaze, if desired
Instructions
  1. BREAD DOUGH:
  2. In a small bowl, combine the warm water, yeast, and pinch of sugar. Allow to sit until bubbly - about 5 minutes
  3. In a small pan place 2 cups milk, 2 tablespoons butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Heat on medium until butter is melted. It should be warm to the touch, but not hot.
  4. Pour warm milk mixture, yeast mixture, and eggs into large bowl. (A stand mixer with dough hook is recommended) and mix until combined.
  5. Add flour and salt and mix well.
  6. Add 2 tablespoons softened butter and knead by machine for 5 minutes. (Dough will be too soft to knead by hand. If you don't have a stand mixer, stir with a heavy spoon.)
  7. Scrape dough into a generously greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double - about 1 hour.
  8. Punch down the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
  9. FILLING: The next day, in a medium pan on low heat, combine the cream, butter, and chocolate. Stir often until chocolate melts. Once the mixture is smooth, add the flour and ground nuts. Stir well and set aside. Mixture will need to set up a little. If you plan on starting the bread right away, place the pan in a cold water bath. (Put the pan of chocolate filling in a larger pan and add cold water to the bottom pan, bringing it halfway up the side of the pan of chocolate.) Stir occasionally until thickened.
  10. ASSEMBLY: Place a sheet of parchment in a 12x17 rimmed baking pan. Remove dough from the refrigerator and drop onto floured surface. Form a long roll, flatten, and roll into a 24-inch by 14-inch rectangle. Spread with the filling and cut into three 8x14-inch pieces. Roll each up from the long side, stretching slightly to create rolls that are 18 inches long.
  11. Cut two of the rolls LENGTHWISE down the middle, exposing the chocolate layers. You will have 4 long skinny pieces and one whole piece (for the trunk).
  12. Note: Remember that dough will rise as it bakes, If all of your branches touch the sides of the pan, the tree will look square. Only let the bottom, bigger branches touch the sides of the pan.
  13. Pick up one of the cut pieces (yes, this will get messy) and twist it. Place it down in an upside-down 'V' shape, at the bottom (short end) of the pan. leaving room for a trunk. It will be too long; cut extra off with a scissors or knife.and set scrap aside. About an inch above the bottom branch, add another twisted piece, cutting off extra. This piece will be smaller, so the scrap will be larger. Repeat two more times, getting progressively smaller with each branch.
  14. Using the palms of your hands, roll the uncut piece to make it longer and skinnier, tapering it at one end, and place it in the center of the branches, putting the skinny end at the top and going from top to bottom, creating a trunk. Cut off excess, and cut the scrap down the middle to use for branches.
  15. Twist and stretch the remaining scraps to make them a little thinner, then fill in your tree, laying branches across the trunk. Pull and twist to shape the tree to your satisfaction. Cut some vertical lines down the trunk to look like bark.
  16. If you're using maraschino cherries, tuck them into the branches. Cover bread with a towel and allow it to rise for 30 minutes..
  17. Heat oven to 350 F. Brush bread with egg wash and bake for approximately 40 minutes. (Cover lightly with foil if bread is getting too dark.) Remove from oven and cool on rack.
  18. Use glaze to add "snow" to the branches, if desired.

Dissolve yeast until bubbly in very warm water with a pinch of sugar.

Combine warm milk mixture, yeast, and eggs.

Mix in flour and salt, then knead in softened butter. Dough will be soft and will stick to the bowl. That’s okay!

Scrape dough into buttered bowl. Flip over to coat both sides and let rise until doubled. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Finely grind the walnuts in a food processor for about 10 seconds.

Heat cream, butter, and chocolate until smooth. Stir in nuts and flour.

Drop chilled dough onto floured surface. Use hands to make a long roll, then roll it out 24×14

Spread with filling

Cut into three equal pieces and roll each from the long edge.

 

Use a sharp knife (or pizza cutter) to slice up the middle of two rolls. This is where it starts getting messy!

First layer, place 4 branches, then top with uncut roll for trunk

Add another layer of branches. Get creative! Twist and pull to shape it, then add maraschino cherries.

I’m in love with the way this dough turned out. It was so soft I had my doubts, but once it was chilled, it was very cooperative. I’ll be playing with it more in the future, for sure.

TIPS:

  • I use maraschino cherries without artificial color. If you use regular ones, they will be brighter and prettier.
  • If you have a larger pan, use it! It will be much easier to shape your tree.
  • If you don’t have a food processor or blender, just chop the nuts finely.
  • I like to put a little meringue powder in my icing to give it more body.
  • If it looks like your bread is getting too dark, lightly cover it with foil as it bakes.

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Lorinda

Christmas Kisses (Meringue Topped Brownies)

Hang up that mistletoe, because a kiss just doesn’t get any sweeter than this! Each chewy chocolate brownie is filled with a sweet surprise and topped with a crisp peppermint meringue rosette, creating a harmony of flavors and textures. These little two-bite treats are sure to brighten up a holiday cookie platter or buffet table. And make sure to put one next to Santa’s glass of milk to give him a break from all of those sugar cookies.

If you prefer cake brownies, well . . . move along; there’s nothing to see here! Nope, these are chewy with a crunchy edge, just the way I love them.

It took me a few tries to get this right. Okay, five. It took me five tries. My first attempt was with a chocolate cookie crust. They were delicious, but so messy. SO MESSY. Meringues crackle and crumble when you bite into them, which is expected, but add a crumbly crust that falls everywhere, and it simply wasn’t going to work. I could just see these being served at a tea and having to hand out bibs!

I tried baking the brownies for a bit first, and the final result was a dry, hard, brownie brick. Nope.

The third time I realized that they were hollow. The bottom of the meringues melted into the brownies, and the meringues puffed and were hollow (as meringues are) which would have been kind of neat, if the tops didn’t pop off so easily. I could see them filled with ganache, and almost went that direction (you can, if you wish) but ultimately tried, tried again.

On the fourth batch I went for a slower, shorter bake time. Goo. ‘Nuff said.

So . . . I tried an experiment, hoping to give the meringues something to hold onto besides brownie batter. Peppermint patties erupted in the oven, but the other three optionssoft peppermint candy, chocolate kisses (point down) and peppermint kisses (point up)—all worked great. Whew. You have a choice!

Left to right: Soft peppermint puffs (give the best support), Chocolate kiss, and peppermint kiss.

And if you’d like to really add some bling, dip the tips of each kiss in a little melted white chocolate and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy, grated chocolate, or sprinkles.

Here’s the recipe . . . tips and photos are below.

Christmas Kisses (Meringue Topped Brownies)
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Author:
Makes 48 kisses. Ultra fine sugar is recommended for the meringue, but regular sugar can be used. It just may need a little more beating to dissolve properly.
Ingredients
  • BROWNIE LAYER
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1½ cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used half regular, half special dark)
  • ¼ cup grated or very finely chopped dark chocolate
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Candy for filling - 48 each peppermint puffs or chocolate kisses)
  • MERINGUE:
  • 4 egg whites (at room temperature)
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¾ cup ultrafine sugar (Baker's Sugar)
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • red food coloring (optional)
  • White chocolate melts, crushed candy cane, grated chocolate for decorating if desired
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 250 F. Place 48 paper liners in mini muffin pans.
  2. BROWNIES:
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter, cooking oil, and sugar.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla until frothy, then add to large bowl and stir to combine.
  5. Add cocoa powder, grated chocolate, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir just until combined. A few wisps of flour showing is just fine.
  6. Using a pastry bag with large tube tip (or you can use a spoon) divide the brownie mixture between the 48 cavities - approximately 2 level teaspoons each.
  7. Add a piece of candy to each cup, pressing down firmly. If using a chocolate kiss, place it point down. Set aside.
  8. MERINGUE:
  9. In a squeaky clean bowl, beat egg whites until thick and foamy, then sprinkle in the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.
  10. Trickle in the superfinen sugar, a tablespoon or two at a time, beating well before adding more. Take your time to ensure the sugar dissolves completely.
  11. Once all sugar has been added, beat until mixture is at stiff peak stage and holds its shape. Depending on many factors (weather, size of eggs, etc.) this can take 5 or 6 minutes.
  12. Add peppermint extract and beat until combined.
  13. For striped meringues, use red paste food coloring to paint stripes up the inside of a large pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip. (It's easiest to do this in two steps, folding down the top of the bag and painting from the tip up, then unfolding the bag and continuing the stripes.)
  14. Pipe in a circular motion upwards. Leave a little edge of brownie showing to make them easier to handle. (Use up extra meringue mixture by piping on a baking sheet covered with parchment.)
  15. Place pans in the oven (including extra meringues) and let them cook for 30 minutes, then WITHOUT OPENING THE OVEN DOOR, turn oven off and leave the kisses in there overnight.
  16. If desired, dip the tip of each in melted white chocolate and sprinkle on crushed candy cane, grated chocolate, or chocolate jimmies.
  17. Store in airtight container.

 

Beat eggs and vanilla, and add to butter and sugar mixture.

Add the dry ingredients and stir JUST until combined.

Pipe (or spoon) into paper liners.

Add candy to support the meringue. (I could have just cropped out the peppermint patties, but I want to show you what happens if you use them!)

Perfect peaks on the meringue.

Paint red stripes in pastry bag OR just add a couple of drops of red coloring to meringue for pink rosettes.

Pipe on the meringue. Leave a little brownie edge to make them easier to remove from the pan.

Just say “no” to peppermint patties!

TIPS:

  • Start the day before, because these really should be left overnight in the oven.
  • When you wake up in the morning and remove the kisses from the oven, immediately place them in an airtight container.
  • Putting the chocolate kiss point down seemed to support the meringue better
  • Skip the stripes if you’d like. They’re pretty plain white or light pink, too.
  • Regardless of what you may have heard, meringues are simple to make, and unless you are in Florida and the humidity is ghastly, don’t sweat the weather. I made this batch while it was snowing like crazy outside.
  • You can skip the paper liners if you use a baking spray (like Baker’s Joy) in the cavities. Just use a table knife to pop the kisses out when they’re cool.
  • This recipe can easily be halved to make 24. (If you don’t have a 1/8 cup measure for the 3/8 cups of flour and superfine sugar, use 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons.)

I’m hoping to get one more Christmas post up, but things are crazier than usual around here, so just in case . . .

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Lorinda

Black Licorice & Orange No-Bake Cheesecake

I admit this recipe will appeal to a very limited audience, but I happen to adore black licorice. I always chose licorice ice cream when we were taken to the ice cream parlor as a child, and remember fondly the bowls of orange and black jelly beans that were put out for our Halloween parties.

I couldn’t resist running with that theme!

Which means I made this a little harder than it needs to be, because I wanted to actually use jelly beans to flavor my cheesecake. I also hoped that the pectin (or whatever is used to make them gummy) would help thicken my cheesecake, because there’s nothing worse than a no-bake cheesecake that doesn’t set properly.

My hope of covering all the bases (flavor, color, texture) with jelly beans may have been slightly optimistic. I ended up adding a little additional color, and found that unless you prefer subtle flavoring (I don’t), you’ll probably need to boost that too. I added orange zest to the orange layer and mashed licorice sticks to the licorice. (Easy to do . . . you’ll see.)

And . . . licorice has a way of turning green. And purple. You’ll need some serious black food coloring for this job! A final deep gray color was acceptable.

I used vodka for soaking the beans, assuming it would dissolve them more quickly than water. I’m not a lush, honest! It’s just that there are such fun flavors available in the liquor store. Pernod would be great for the licorice layer, and Grand Marnier for the orange. Sadly, I had neither, so if you go that route, please let me know how it tasted.

For an alcohol-free version, substitute orange juice for the booze when you soak the orange jelly beans, and Stash Licorice Spice tea (or just plain water) for the black jelly beans.

And, of course, you can always skip the jelly beans altogether (though DO use some to decorate your cheesecake) and simply use anise flavoring and black food color for the licorice layer, and orange flavoring and orange food color for the orange layer.

Black Licorice & Orange No-Bake Cheesecake
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Author:
This cheesecake needs to be refrigerated for a minimum of 10 hours before serving. Add any whipped cream decorations just before serving.
Ingredients
  • ORANGE MIXTURE:
  • 10 orange jelly beans, cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons vodka (or Grand Marnier or orange juice)
  • zest from one orange (zest orange and set aside to add to batter)
  • orange food coloring and flavoring, if desired
  • LICORICE MIXTURE:
  • 3 tablespoons vodka (or Pernod, licorice tea, or water)
  • 10 black licorice jelly beans, cut in half
  • 6 black licorice twists (I used Red Vines brand)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Black food coloring (powdered is best, but paste is okay - don't expect a true black color!)
  • CRUST:
  • 2 cups finely-crushed graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • CHEESECAKE
  • 16 ounces cream cheese (full fat, room temperature)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • DRIZZLE:
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
Instructions
  1. Separate orange and black jelly beans into two small cups. Add 3 tablespoons vodka (or liquid of choice) to each. Cover lightly and set aside for at least 2 hours.
  2. Chop up licorice twists and place in a small cup. Add water. Cover lightly and set aside for at least 2 hours.
  3. Combine all ingredients for the crust in a medium bowl, mixing well. Press evenly into an 8-inch springform pan. Make sure you press it very firmly. Use a flat-bottomed measuring cup for best results. Place in the refrigerator.
  4. Drain the orange jelly beans, reserving the liquid and discarding any remaining jelly bean carcasses. Do the same with the black jelly beans. Set aside.Carefully drain the chopped licorice, but this time KEEP THE LICORICE and throw away the liquid. Mash licorice gently with a spoon and set aside. .
  5. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add sour cream and powdered sugar, and beat for 2 minutes.
  6. Add lemon juice and mix well.
  7. Remove 1⅓ cups of the batter and place in a separate medium bowl.
  8. Add 1 tablespoon of orange liquid to one of the bowls, and the orange zest. If you want to add orange coloring or flavoring, do so now. Stir well. Set aside.
  9. Add 1 tablespoon of black liquid to the other bowl, and the mashed licorice twists.
  10. Mix well, then add black coloring until it is the desired shade. NOTE: Don't throw away the remaining orange and black liquid. It will be used to make a drizzle for the top of the cheesecake.
  11. In a medium bowl, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Divide between both bowls and fold in gently.
  12. Remove springform pan from the refrigerator and carefully spread the licorice mixture into the pan, smoothing all the way to the edges.(Using an offset spatula helps.) Add the orange mixture to the top of the licorice layer and smooth evenly.
  13. (Optional) In a small sauce pan, combine the remaining orange liquid and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens (about 1 minute). Hold the pan high over the cheesecake and drizzle the syrup over the top. Repeat with the licorice liquid.
  14. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 10 hours. (It can be made a day ahead.) Carefully run a sharp knife between the crust and the side of the pan.before releasing the outer ring. Decorate with whipped cream and jelly beans (maybe sprinkles, too?) right before serving.
  15. This is delicious frozen, too. If you want to freeze it, wait until it is completely set, then wrap it well.

Chop up licorice twists. I used Red Vines Brand. (I can’t guarantee Twizzlers would “melt” the same way.)

Soak chopped licorice twists in water for 2 hours. They will turn to mush, which is exactly what you want. Drain and discard liquid – mash and save the licorice.

Soak the jelly beans for 2 hours before draining. Keep that liquid!

Mix crust ingredients together well. Press into 8-inch springform pan. Refrigerate.

Beat cream cheese well. Add sour cream and powdered sugar. Beat for 2 minutes

Add lemon. (I know it sounds weird with licorice, but don’t skip this!)

Whip it! Whip it good! You want to see stiff peaks form.

Divide into two equal portions. Add licorice to one and orange to the other. Add additional coloring or flavoring if you wish. Gently fold in the whipped cream.

Spread licorice on crust.

Top with the orange layer.

If you’d like, you can briefly cook the remaining orange and black liquids with a little sugar to make a drizzle. (Or I’ll bet it would be great in tea.) Sprinkles would look good, too.

If you’ve read this far, you must be a true licorice lover. You have just enough time to run to the store and get the ingredients so you can make it the day before Halloween. Shoo! Shoo!

Lorinda

Pumpkin Spice Cake (Garden Spider’s Revenge)

Surprisingly light, pleasantly spicy, and easy to make, this two-layer cake deserves a place on your table from now through Christmas. Brown sugar buttercream frosting complements it perfectly without overwhelming; it allows the flavor of the cake to shine through.

Oh . . . you may have noticed that I decorated this one for Halloween. A little gross,  with a tipped over wheelbarrow that spilled its pumpkins on the ground, next to a trowel and straw hat that have been abandoned because the unlucky gardener—who had obviously gotten on the bad side of a huge garden spider—has been wrapped tightly in the spider’s silk. A lot of webs, a little blood . . . good times! You may not want to decorate your cake like this for Thanksgiving, but it’s a slam-dunk winner for a Halloween party.

This blog is about the cake and frosting, but I’ll also tell you what I used for Halloween decorations at the bottom of the post, in case you want to creep out your family and friends.

Pumpkin Spice Cake
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Author:
Makes two 9-inch round layers or 36-38 cupcakes (bake for approximately 18 minutes)
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1¼ cups cooking oil
  • 1 cup solid pack pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • FROSTING:
  • 1½ cups butter - room temperature
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 6-7 cups powdered sugar
  • Cream or milk (if needed)
Instructions
  1. CAKE: Heat oven to 350 F. Place rounds of parchment in two 9-inch round cake pans. Spray sides and parchment lightly with baking spray (like Baker's Joy). Or grease and flour the pans and place a parchment round in the bottom of each.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, oil, and pumpkin well.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly and scraping the side of the bowl with each addition.
  5. Combine buttermilk and vanilla.
  6. Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix until incorporated. Add half of the buttermilk mixture and mix until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and repeat. Mix just until the batter is smooth.
  7. Divide evenly between prepared pans. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out cleanly when inserted in the middle of one cake. Don't overbake or cake will be dry.
  8. Cool for a few minutes on rack, then turn out of pans to cool completely.
  9. FROSTING:
  10. In a large bowl, beat the butter and shortening together until smooth. Add brown sugar and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.
  11. Slowly add powdered sugar until desired consistency, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Beat 2-3 minutes. To achieve a good spreading consistency, add a little cream or milk if too thick, or if mixture is too soft, add a little more powdered sugar. This frosting needs to be soft and easy to spread, because the cake is very light.
  12. Place one cake on serving plate and cover the top with a generous amount of frosting. Place second cake on top (flattest side up) and press gently to level it. Cover entire cake with remaining frosting.
  13. Decorate if desired with finely chopped nuts, sprinkles, or holiday candies.

Sift the dry ingredients and set aside.

Beat sugar, oil, and pumpkin (yes, it was colorful, but maybe not THIS red . . . ) then add eggs – one at a time. Seriously, take your time and beat well after each egg.

Add flour and liquids alternately.

Divide batter between two prepared 9-inch pans and bake.

Bake just until toothpick comes out clean . . . about 25 minutes.

This frosting is so good. Add liquid if necessary so it will spread easily. The cake is very light, and you don’t want to mash it!

There should be plenty of frosting for piping around the bottom. I left it plain because I was adding candy pumpkins. If you’re making this for an occasion other than Halloween, decorate the top with chopped nuts, candy, edible leaves . . . whatever you like.

 

So, stop here if you are making this cake for Thanksgiving or Christmas (or any other festive occasion). If you want to know how I made my Halloween decorations, read on.

The toppings on my cake were a mishmash of ideas.

When I frosted my cake I pressed “dirt” onto the top. (Chocolate and regular graham crackers, finely crushed and blended.)

The wheelbarrow was made from red fondant, with long cinnamon stick handles. The wheel was two candy melt discs stuck flat side together (heat one side briefly on a warm saucepan, then press together). wrapped in a strip of licorice to look like a tire. Use a little melted Isomalt (more about this stuff later) or melted candy melt as glue. If using Isomalt, be careful, and use gloves! A thin piece of cinnamon stick was pushed through the center of the candy melts to act as an axle, then both sides were stuck to the long handles. A little black licorice was also used as a trowel, with a handle made from a Kraft caramel.

I made a small batch of simple shortbread for the fence in the background. I have a fence cookie cutter, but you could just make posts. I also used the cookie dough to create the straw hat.

The poor gardener was made by wrapping cotton candy around a head, two arms, and two feet made from white chocolate. I added a little pink, orange, and brown to get a flesh color, but it could have used a bit more. I poured it into molds. What, doesn’t everyone have body part molds??? If not, you could use candy clay, fondant, or gum paste to create your own. Or just use cotton candy and let everyone imagine there is a person in it. (Oh, and I painted some hair and two eyes on the head with food coloring.)

I only ended up making one person on the cake, but had plenty of body parts to choose from 😀

They all looked a little too jolly to be victims, so I wrapped the cotton candy up over their mouths. Silenced!

There was some trial and error (and possibly some foul language) when it came to that spiderweb. I played with spun sugar with very limited success, and finally broke down and used Isomalt. If you’ve never used Isomalt, it’s similar to sugar but stays clear when heated, instead of amber, and is a little more forgiving. It’s hot hot HOT, so if you play with it, please be careful. I like to use it for windows in my gingerbread houses, so had some on hand. (I order the crystals through Amazon.) There are some wonderful videos online, but basically I just heated it until it melted, cooled it briefly, and when it thickened slightly I used a fork to drizzle/whisk it over the entire garden scene (not too much, just a hint of webbing) and then on a large piece of parchment. First I aimed at making “spokes”, then went in circles around and around. Dip, whisk. Once it cooled, I trimmed it to size carefully with scissors and placed it over my garden scene.

I used black fondant to shape the spider. (Hint: stick those legs on with a little water. They tend to drop off at inopportune times, otherwise.)

I bought the candy pumpkins. (I do have limits to my patience!) For the blood oozing out of the man’s mouth and down the side of the cake, I remelted the remaining isomalt and added a little red food coloring. Powdered food coloring is best, but I didn’t have any, so used paste. It thickens really quickly when you do that, so I had to work fast. Drizzle! (Or just buy a tube of red cake gel.)

That’s it. Gross cake accomplished!

Happy Halloween. (Sweet dreams . . . bwa ha ha.)

Lorinda

 

 

 

 

Raspberry Marshmallow Fudge

If there’s anything I can’t resist, it’s fudge. Though I usually like mine with lots of nuts, this time I left them out and added swirls of seedless raspberry jam and mini-marshmallows, and loved the results. Since this batch is going to a bake sale, I also left out the Chambord, but if you have a bottle of this delicious raspberry liqueur, add a splash at the end when you stir in the chocolate and marshmallow fluff for extra flavor.

For Valentine’s Day, you can cut the fudge with a heart-shaped cutter. Or, if you have small silicone heart molds, use them – they work really well. Traditional square pieces are lovely too, of course.

“Special” Instructions:

What I say: Once fudge is firm, cut edges neatly with a very sharp knife. This will create attractive squares of fudge.

What I mean: Cut the edges off and eat them.

This uses a pound of dark chocolate, but it makes a big batch of fudge. (4+ pounds.) I doubt you’ll find yourself with extra fudge, but if you do it can be wrapped tightly and frozen.

Raspberry Marshmallow Fudge
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Makes over 4 pounds of fudge. You will need a candy thermometer for this recipe.
Ingredients
  • 3½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup butter (if using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt)
  • ⅔ cup seedless raspberry spread (or jam), divided
  • 1 pound dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 13 ounces marshmallow creme (fluff)
  • 2 cups mini-marshmallows
  • Special equipment: candy thermometer
Instructions
  1. Prepare a 9x12-inch baking pan by placing a piece of parchment in the bottom, extended over the sides. Butter lightly, including any exposed areas on the ends.
  2. In a large saucepan on medium heat, bring sugar, milk, butter, and ⅓ cup raspberry spread to a boil. stirring frequently. Once it is boiling, stir continuously until it reaches 234 F. (Adjust for high altitudes by subtracting 1 degree for each 500 feet above sea level.) Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in chopped chocolate and marshmallow fluff until completely melted and smooth.
  4. Drop spoonfuls of remaining ⅓ cup of raspberry on the mixture and add marshmallows. Fold gently, no more than 8-10 times. The goal is to have streaks of raspberry and semi-whole marshmallows.
  5. Pour into prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Once fudge is cooled, chill until firm. Lift out of pan and cut as desired.

Some special things you’ll need to make this fudge. I prefer to use good dark chocolate, but you can use chocolate chips (or a combination of both) if you prefer.

Bring sugar, milk, butter, and some of the raspberry spread to a boil.

Bring mixture to 234 F (adjust for high altitudes). This is almost there.

Stir in chocolate and marshmallow fluff until smooth. (Here’s where a splash of Chambord would be added if desired.)

Gently fold in the remaining raspberry spread and the marshmallows.

Pour into prepared pan.

Ready to cut!

Wishing you hearts and flowers . . . and lots of sweet indulgences.

Lorinda