I gussied these chocolate cupcakes up for Halloween, creating pumpkins with little spiders lurking on them, but without the spiders they would be perfect for Thanksgiving – a real crowd-pleaser. Grand Marnier makes these an adult indulgence, of course, but you can always replace the liqueur with orange juice if you are feeding them to littles.
I’ll go with the booze, thank you very much.
I love Grand Marnier and usually splurge on a bottle every year. Mostly for baking, though a little occasionally makes its way into a small brandy snifter. Who can resist that? What amazing flavor it imparts to buttercream icing! It doesn’t take much, so you could just buy one or two of those mini bottles at the liquor store if your budget is tight, or go with a knock-off version.
Makes about 30 cupcakes Decorating them like pumpkins uses a lot of icing! If you choose to simply frost the cupcakes, you can cut the icing recipe in half.
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cocoa powder (I use a mixture of regular and extra dark)
¾ cup buttermilk
1 cup oil (I use peanut oil, but canola would be good too)
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup hot coffee
Grand Marnier for drizzling over cupcakes before icing (optional)
1 cup butter
4 tablespoons shortening
9 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup Grand Marnier liqueur
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
¼ cup heavy cream
Orange food coloring (optional)
Chocolate slivers, green icing for decorating.
Heat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder.
Add buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Beat well, scraping the bowl often.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well in between each addition.
Stir in the coffee until mixture is smooth.
Fill cupcake liners a little more than half full, but no more than ⅔ full.
Bake 25-30 minutes, or until top springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Cool on a rack.
Once cool, you may want to poke inch-deep holes in the cupcake tops and drizzle each cupcake with ½ teaspoon Grand Marnier, letting it soak in through the holes.
ICING: beat together the butter, shortening, and 2 cups of the powdered sugar until creamy.
Add Grand Marnier, frozen orange juice, and cream. Beat until well combined.
Add the remaining powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl often. Beat on high until fluffy, adjusting if necessary by adding more powdered sugar or cream to achieve a thick icing that will hold shape when piped.
Add orange food coloring, if desired.
With a pastry bag fitted with large round tip, pipe a mound in the middle of each cupcake. Starting at the base of the mound and working your way around the icing mound, pipe from bottom to top, releasing pressure on the pastry bag as you reach the top. Put a small sliver of chocolate in the center of the top for a stem and, if desired, use a small amount of green icing to add leaves.
Poke holes with a skewer and drizzle with Grand Marnier.
Use large round tip to make a flat circle then center mound (like a witch’s hat). Or . . . just make a mound.
Pull icing up from the base of the circle to create a pumpkin.
Now just stick a little sliver of chocolate (or get creative: a pretzel stick, piece of Tootsie Roll, cacao nib, whatever) on top and, if you want, add a few leaves and curlicues with green icing and a tiny writing tip. I piped small spiders on mine with melted chocolate (because the crow requested them) but if you don’t want to get all crazy, you could just do this:
Added bonus to taking this shortcut: you would only need half of the icing recipe for the pretty little floret. A drizzle of chocolate or a few sprinkles, and it’s a thing of beauty.
A peanut butter and banana sandwich is one of my very favorite comfort foods. And, of course, the combination of peanut butter and chocolate makes me very, very happy; my favorite candy bars fall in this category. So when The Man suggested I try adding peanut butter to my pie crust, it only took me seconds to get on board with that. Banana pie. Chocolate pie. A match made in heaven!
I had qualms about how the peanut butter would affect my crust, but my concerns about texture were unfounded. The pie crust, though slightly less flaky than my favorite recipe, didn’t turn out heavy or tough as I’d feared. It was actually, well, perfect. I don’t use that word lightly because I tend to tinker with things until I’m satisfied, but I wouldn’t change one thing about this crust – and was tickled with it on my very first attempt.
So I’ll just amuse myself by considering all of the possibilities this crust offers. And believe me, I have a whole list of interesting recipes waiting for their turn in the limelight. For now, I’ll concentrate on pies. Specifically, chocolate cream pie. In this post, I’ll give you the recipe I used for my chocolate pie, and in a future post you’ll get this:
Coming soon: Banana Cream Pie with Peanut Butter Crust
The pie crust itself is very easy to work with. I had no problem at all fashioning some of it into roses, leaves, hearts, stars, and even holly. With a cookie cutter or press, you can easily customize for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day.
Make crust: In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and brown sugar.
With a pastry blender, work the peanut butter and shortening into the dry ingredients until well combined. There should be no large lumps.
In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and vodka (or vinegar). Pour into dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Dough should not be too crumbly. If it is, drizzle in a tiny bit of water and combine.
Divide dough into two pieces. One will be for the pie crust and the other will be for cut-out decorations if desired. (Hint: for ease of rolling, make the piece you will use for crust a little larger than the one for decorating.) If you don’t want to make decorations, divide into two equal pieces and freeze the other half for another time.
Dust one piece of dough lightly with flour, place between two pieces of parchment, and roll out evenly until larger than the diameter of your pie pan, all the way around. Remove the top piece of parchment, place the pie pan upside down on the dough, and cut a circle at least 1 inch bigger than the pan, all the way around Remove scraps.
Slide a flat baking sheet or large piece of cardboard under the bottom parchment and flip the pan, dough, and parchment over in one movement. Remove baking sheet and carefully remove parchment. Ease the dough into the pie pan, roll edges under, and crimp the edges.
Line with foil and fill half way with dry beans, pie weights, or sugar. Bake for 20 minutes.
Take crust from oven and gently remove foil and weights. Poke crust all over with a fork and return to oven. Turn heat down to 350 F. and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
Remove crust from oven and place on cooling rack. Sprinkle with ¼ cup chopped chocolate and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, melting the chocolate. Spread over bottom of the crust and sprinkle with nuts if desired.
Remaining dough can be used to make cutout designs for the pie or can be wrapped well and frozen.
Make filling: In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, espresso powder, milk, and unsweetened chocolate.Cook at medium-high heat, stirring constantly until mixture begins to boil.
Turn heat down to medium and continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Adjust heat as necessary to keep the mixture at a low boil.
Add about ½ cup of the mixture into egg yolks and whisk together. Pour egg mixture into the pan, stir well, and return to low boil. Continue to stir and cook for 2 additional minutes. Remove from heat.
Stir in vanilla and butter until the filling is smooth. Pour into the pie shell and let the pie cool. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 4-6 hours.
Serve with whipped cream, a sprinkle of chopped peanuts, and shaved chocolate if desired.
Hoo-boy! This is over the top–even for me. I hesitated and dithered about adding this to my blog because I didn’t know if anyone would actually want to go to this much work for a candy-coated brownie, but my trusted friend Mary assured me that the description of my struggles would be interesting, at least. We’ll see about that.
You know the drill. First I tell you about all the steps I used, then I let you off the hook with easy alternatives. Yes, yes, I’m going to do that again. But first, I want to mention that maybe it just seemed like this was an insanely big production. It took me a couple of days, but that’s because I had to adjust my brownie recipe so that it would bake as evenly as possible. No big, tall, crunchy sides and sunken center for this baby. And then I decided (no wine was involved, I promise) that it would save time if I coated one side with orange candy melts, thinking I could then just cut and dip in yellow and white. Um. I have issues with spacial concepts – can’t imagine how something will work unless I actually try it.
Nope. Learn from my mistakes, and don’t try to create a shortcut. Resign yourself to a lot of messy dipping!
It didn’t. There were still sides that would need orange coating, and I just used up all of my orange melts. Pffft. Luckily I had an extra bag of white melts, so naturally, I added red food coloring to my bag of yellow melts to make orange, and then colored the extra bag of white melts yellow. Why didn’t I just color the white melts orange? There was a reason, but I can’t remember. I’m old.
I also played with the icing, trying to incorporate melted candy corn. It.Did.Not.Work. That stuff is like taffy. (And as an aside, if you see the recipe that insists you can make homemade Butterfingers with candy corn, don’t believe it for a minute. You will get yummy chewy peanut butter taffy. I know.) So I finally gave up and used buttercream.
Maybe, maybe if I made them again, knowing what I know now, it wouldn’t seem overwhelming. But that ship has sailed, and I’m moving on. Give this a try if you’re bored and want a challenge . . . and if you enjoy washing lots of dishes.
If I were to make them again, I might make them smaller, too. They’d be easier to dip.
And if you decide to:
use a boxed brownie mix
use canned frosting
dip only half of them and eat the rest plain
. . . I will completely understand. And bravo for trying! Please send me photos, okay?
Brownies, decorated to look like candy corn. They're iced and dipped in three colors of candy melts. Add chopped candy corn to the brownie batter if that isn't enough sugar for you! Makes about 27.
1 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
1 cup cocoa (I combine regular and extra dark for a richer color)
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped candy corn (optional)
½ cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
You will need approximately 18 ounces orange candy melts, 12 ounces yellow candy melts, and 8 ounces white candy melts. This may vary, depending on your dipping style!
Shortening or coconut oil to thin chocolate for dipping.
BROWNIES: Heat oven to 325 F. Generously grease and flour (or spray with an oil/flour baking spray) a 13x9-inch baking pan. Hint: you may want to lay a piece of foil or parchment across the bottom, extending up the sides to make it easier to lift brownies out.
In a large pot on low heat, melt butter. Remove from heat and add sugar, stirring well. Allow mixture to cool until lukewarm.
Stir in eggs, one at a time, mixing well.
Combine cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture, along with candy corn (if using). Stir gently, just until blended. Do not over stir! Spread evenly in pan, smoothing the top as much as possible. An offset spatula or dough scraper works well for this.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.
Cool completely in pan on rack. Once cool, remove from pan.
ICING: In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and powdered sugar. Add milk and vanilla and beat until smooth.
ASSEMBLE: Cut off any rough edges. Flip the brownies over and spread icing over the bottom side of the brownies (it's the smoothest) as evenly as possible. With long edge towards you, divide the brownies into three long strips, approximately 3 inches tall. (If you had to cut off much of the edges, they may be a little shorter than that.) Mark the bottom of each strip every two inches, then mark the top of the strip beginning with 1 inch and then every two inches. Cut from the bottom left corner to the 1-inch mark, then from the 1-inch mark down to the 2-inch mark on the bottom, creating a candy corn shape. You can be precise, or you can wing it from there.
Set each candy corn shape on a large baking sheet and place in freezer for at least 2 hours. As you work with the brownies, dipping them in candy melts, keep them frozen, only removing part of them from the freezer at a time.
Place orange candy melts in a small microwave-safe bowls or mug, adding about 1½ teaspoon shortening or coconut oil. Microwave, stirring every 15 seconds. Stop before completely melted; the hot bowl will finish melting the candy. Stir until smooth. As you're working with the candy, heat it for a few seconds if the mixture thickens. Thin candy is much easier to work with. Alternatively, you can keep the bowl of melted candy in a pan of hot water as you work - just be careful not to get any water into the candy.
Cover a large baking sheet with parchment.
Holding onto the wide end of each brownie, dip the pointed end about ⅔ of the way into orange candy. Place on parchment to harden. When all of the brownies have been dipped in orange, return to the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
Heat yellow candy melts, adding 1 teaspoon shortening or coconut oil. Holding pointed end, dip wide end of each brownie into yellow candy, bringing it up to meet the orange candy. Don't leave any brownie showing! Once all have been dipped in yellow, return to the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
Heat white candy melts, using ½ teaspoon shortening or coconut oil. Dip the tip of each brownie in the white. Allow coating to harden. These can be kept at room temperature for 2-3 days, or refrigerated if you prefer. They freeze very well too!
Combine melted butter and sugar well. Allow it to cool a bit.
Stir in eggs, one at a time.
Add dry ingredients
. . . and the candy corn, if you’re using it.
Spread evenly in prepared pan and bake.
A 3×5 index card might help with cutting those triangles.
Ice the smooth bottom side of the brownies, cut into 3 strips and cut out triangles.
Place pieces on parchment covered pan and freeze
Dip frozen brownies in orange candy melts. Pop back in freezer briefly.
Dip the other end into yellow melts until it meets the orange.
Dip the tip in white
See, wasn’t that easy? Hello? Hello?
Wait! I actually have another idea that would be good for Halloween or Thanksgiving, and it’s easier, though it still involves dipping. It even (GASP!) uses store-bought cookies. If these Candy Corn Brownies make your eyes roll back in your head, just stay with me, because the next post might be right up your alley.
This may sound odd coming from a confirmed chocoholic, but if I could only have one type of cake for the rest of my life, it would be angel food. For the Fourth of July I made a red, white and blue angel food cake, giving this classic cake red and blue layers and topping it with strawberry whipped cream. Light, cool, and sweet—just perfect for a hot summer day.
I didn’t get to try it, however, because I’m on a super strict diet. But my wonderful group of taste-testers did, and they all were very enthused. Need a laugh? I take all of the goodies that I am not allowed to eat to my weekly Watching Our Weight group and divvy it up. Talk about sabotage. But the biggest loser each week wins the pot, so can you blame me? Bwa ha ha.
This cake isn’t as high and fluffy as a regular angel food cake because it requires some manhandling of the batter to get the colored layers. Usually the batter is very gently folded and then spooned carefully into a tube pan. For this cake I had to actually spread the batter, which deflates some of those precious air bubbles. But it was still light and tender.
See? Still plenty high. And in case you’re wondering, the colors really were that vibrant. I used a concentrated food color from Wilton, and whoooooeeeee!
For best results:
Line the bottom of the tube pan with parchment.
Stir the colored batters as little as possible. It’s okay if the colored batter is a little streaky.
Use concentrated or paste food coloring. It will take too much regular liquid color to get a nice red, and the liquid will destroy the air bubbles.
Bake for an hour without opening the door to peek (unless you have a wonky stove and can’t trust it).
I rarely use whipped topping in a tub, but it is more stable for this application. You can definitely use whipped cream, but the topping will be softer and won’t hold up as well in hot conditions.
Room temperature egg whites are used. I suggest you separate the eggs while they’re still cold and then leave the bowl of whites out for an hour to warm up (covered, of course). If you try to separate the eggs when they are room temperature, the yolks tend to break. Ask me how I know!
If you haven’t made an angel food cake from scratch before, don’t panic. It isn’t hard at all. Room temperature egg whites, well-sifted flour, and squeaky clean utensils are all you need to remember. Well, and to follow the recipe:
1½ cups superfine sugar (important to use superfine)
1⅓ cups egg whites (about 11 eggs), room temperature
1¼ teaspoons cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla (or ½ teaspoon almond or lemon) extract
Concentrated red and blue food coloring, to achieve desired shade
Powdered sugar, sprinkles if desired
1 tub whipped topping OR 3 cups of sweetened whipped cream
½ cup chopped fresh strawberries (more to taste)
2 tablespoons strawberry spreadable fruit - or jam.
small fresh strawberries for garnish
Heat the oven to 325 F.
Prepare a tube pan by cutting a circle of parchment the size of the bottom of the pan and cutting a round hole in the middle so that it will fit over the tube. Do not grease or flour the parchment or the pan.
In a small bowl, sift flour 3 times with ½ cup of the sugar.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle the salt and cream of tartar over eggs and beat until they hold soft peaks.
Add the rest of the sugar, ¼ cup at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in flavored extract.
Add the flour and sugar mixture ½ cup at a time, folding gently after each addition.
Remove 2 cups of batter, placing 1 cup of each into a separate small bowl. Add red food color to one bowl and blue to the other, and fold in gently. Only stir as much as necessary; it's okay if it's streaky.
Drop ⅓ of the white batter into the bottom of the lined pan and use the back of a spoon or a small spatula to spread evenly. Again, don't overwork the batter!
Add all of the red batter and spread gently to cover the white batter. Using a thin spatula or knife, run all the way around the circle halfway between the tube and the side of the pan. Only do this once.
Add ⅓ of the white batter, level it out, and top with the blue, spreading carefully. This time when you run the knife through the batter, keep it shallow so you don't disturb the red layer.
Cover with the remaining white batter, smooth gently, and bake 1 hour at 325. Top should be deep golden brown.
Turn pan upside down on cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Slide a knife around the side of pan to release the cake. Dust with powdered sugar. Add a few sprinkles if you wish.
In a small bowl, stir the chopped berries and spreadable fruit together. If you are using whipped topping, stir together with the berry mixture until well combined. If you are using fresh whipped cream, fold the berry mixture into the topping as gently as possible.
Keep topping refrigerated until needed. Place a dollop on each slice of cake and top with a berry.
Gently spread one third of white batter on bottom of pan. Cover with all of red batter.
Run a spatula or knife through the batter, one time. Go all the way around the circle, halfway between the tube and the side of the pan.
Repeat with layer of white, then blue. Go shallow when you run the spatula around the center so you don’t disturb the red. Top with remaining white batter.
That’s it! Bake it, cool it, and top it if you wish, though I love my angel food cake plain, too. Dust the cake with powdered sugar (and maybe a few sprinkles) to make it purty, and cut it with a serrated blade.
The combination of chocolate and peanut butter is irresistible to me, and I just love getting both flavors in one cookie. There are endless ways to put these two doughs together, and I’ll show you a few, but I’m sure you will come up with some fun ideas of your own.
Yes, you’ll have to make two different batches of cookie dough, but it really is a very easy dough to make, and it won’t take you long at all. If you’re wondering how many this will make, I just don’t know what to tell you. It depends on whether you’re making the three layer cookies or the chain cookies or . . .
Let’s just say it makes a generous amount, at least 4 dozen.
Two easy batches of shortbread cookie dough can be combined in countless ways to make creative and delicious cookies.
PEANUT BUTTER DOUGH:
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon milk or water
1½ cups powdered sugar
½ cup cornstarch
3 cups all-purpose flour
CHOCOLATE COOKIE DOUGH:
1½ cups butter, softened
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon water or coffee
1½ cups powdered sugar
½ cup cornstarch
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
To decorate: your choice of chopped peanuts, sprinkles, chocolate icing or ganache
PEANUT BUTTER DOUGH:
In a large mixing bowl (a sturdy stand mixer is best) beat butter, peanut butter, egg yolk, vanilla, and milk (or water) together well.
Add the powdered sugar and cornstarch and beat on low until incorporated.
Gradually add the flour. This is a very stiff dough! It will appear crumbly, but with thorough beating, should come together. If it doesn't, drizzle in a small amount of milk or water.
Wrap and refrigerate dough. Scrape bowl out and use for the chocolate dough.
CHOCOLATE COOKIE DOUGH
In large bowl, beat butter, egg yolk, vanilla, and water (or coffee) together well.
Add the powdered sugar and cornstarch and beat on low until incorporated.
Combine the flour and cocoa and gradually add, mixing until dough forms. If necessary, drizzle in a very small amount of water or coffee.
Wrap and refrigerate both doughs for 30 minutes. If you refrigerate the dough longer, it will become very stiff. If that happens, let it rest at room temperature until manageable.
Heat oven to 350 F.
Working with a small piece of one color at a time, roll ¼ inch thick on lightly floured surface or between sheets of parchment. Bake on ungreased baking sheet or on parchment for approximately 10 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your cookies. They should just be beginning brown on the bottom. Here are some ideas:
Try using two different sizes of the same shape of cutter. If using hearts, cut large hearts out of both doughs, then use a smaller heart cutter in the center of half of the large hearts. Gently press a shape with the center removed onto a solid shape. Once baked, fill the center with chocolate ganache or peanut butter icing. You can also marble the colors, roll, and cut. Or try putting a small heart on a large one, topping with a dab of peanut butter, and covering with another large heart, creating a small raised heart in the center. Cover cooled cookie with icing or ganache. Or cut small hearts out of the center of large hearts to create heart "frames". cut one on the side, and slip the other through the cut. Press lighlty for a 2 heart "chain".
This rich, slightly boozy chocolate cake is paired with a light, slightly boozy whipped tart cherry buttercream filling. (Are you seeing a theme here?) And if that isn’t enough to make you put on your apron, it’s covered with chocolate ganache and sprinkled with chopped walnuts. Add a dollop of whipped cream, and you’d think you were eating a sundae…only better.
Boozy sundaes are the best!
Of course you don’t have to add alcohol. A little cherry flavoring in the cake would be fine. Ditto with the buttercream – just add more flavoring. Obviously you’d want to do this if you were planning to serve the cake to children, because contrary to what we have all been told, alcohol doesn’t always magically disappear when heated.
I used a 6-inch Wiltons heart pan. I sure wish I had two of them, because I had to bake one at a time, and this recipe makes four. It just took a little more time, but the batter held up very well at room temperature. Each cake was leveled and then sliced into two thin layers. I only used five layers for the finished cake, but wisely compensated for the “wonky” layers I knew I’d get. (I seem to be missing that gene. You know, the one where you can see if something is level. You should see the way pictures hang on my wall!)
Hubby happily ate the scraps.
This isn’t an inexpensive cake to make. The dried cherries are pricey, good ganache uses good chocolate, and of course you’ll need the chocolate cherry liqueur and the cherry brandy, but those two liqueurs are wonderful to have around. They are great in so many dishes…or just for sipping!
Seriously, if there’s any time to indulge in something completely decadent, it’s in February! You can use the excuse of Valentine’s Day, George Washington’s birthday (hellloooo…cherries) or a morale booster as winter begins to turn into a slushy, gray mess. Any or all of those reasons work for me.
If you can’t find the dried cherries, by all means used canned sweet cherries – or frozen cherries – or even maraschino cherries. Just blot them well and skip the whole “soaking them in booze” step. I’m sure you’ll find something to do with that extra liqueur.
I just can’t be brutal and cut much off the top of the small cakes to level them. I take off what I must, but there is still a flat half and a slightly rounded half. I use the flat halves for layering, so they’ll stay somewhat level, and then one with a slightly rounded edge for the top. It looks pretty that way, and lets the ganache cascade off nicely.
Speaking of cascading, stop before you think you should. That stuff will keep working its way down and you don’t want huge puddles at the bottom. Hold off on the nuts until you’re sure the lava flow has stopped, otherwise they will be going along for the ride.
I used five of the eight baked layers, which was plenty tall. One tore, and two were a little out of level. If you trust your slicing skills better than I trust mine, just bake three of the cakes and make a few cupcakes with the remaining batter.
Do you know why this recipe looks so HUGE? There are three components, and I’m very wordy about how to do each – the cake, the filling, and the ganache. It’s not as scary as it looks! It all begins with a rich, tender, killer chocolate cake:
½ teaspoon cherry flavoring (a little more if you aren't using the brandy)
10 drops red food coloring
6 cups powdered sugar
⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream
walnuts or sprinkles, if desired
Heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour (or use an oil and flour spray like Baker's Joy) pans. A piece of parchment, cut to fit pan, can be put in the bottom for ease of release. For layered heart cake, use 6-inch heart pans. Cakes may be baked one at a time if only one pan is available. (Make sure pan is cooled and greased between cakes.) Two 9-inch round pans may be used instead.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, and sugar.
Add oil, coffee, milk, and Baileys (or milk and flavoring, if preferred). Beat for 1 minute on medium speed, scraping sides of bowl.
Add eggs and vanilla. Beat 1 additional minute.
Pour batter into pans: Fill the 6-inch heart pans half way, approximately 1½ cups of batter in each. Or divide evenly between 9-inch pans.
Bake 25 minutes. Test with a toothpick. It should come out cleanly when inserted in the center of the cake.
Allow cakes to cool in pans for 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto rack to cool completely. Chill for easiest handling! Cut a thin slice off of the top of each cake to level it, and then cut each cake into two equal layers.
In a small pan on medium heat, combine the dried cherries and 2 tablespoons cherry brandy (or water, if preferred). Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, and let sit for 20-30 minutes.
In large bowl, beat the butter and shortening until smooth and creamy. Add remaining tablespoon of brandy (or milk, if preferred) cherry flavoring, and food coloring, and beat well.
Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until completely incorporated. Mixture will be thick.
With beater on medium high speed, slowly add cream and continue to beat until stiff peaks form - approximately 3 minutes.
Drain the cherries (keep the brandy they were soaking in for later) and stir into the filling.
Spread between 5 cake layers, crumb coat the sides (this is a very thin coating to hold in the crumbs) and chill for about an hour to let the coating set.
While the coating is setting, make the ganache.
Place chopped chocolate into small bowl.
In small pan on medium heat, bring the cream to a heavy simmer. It should be bubbly, but not at a boil. Remove from heat.
Pour half of the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 2 minutes. Stir gently with a rubber spatula.
Return the cream to the stove and bring back to a simmer. Pour over chocolate mixture.
Fold slowly until cream and chocolate are combined. Set aside, but stir occasionally.
If you are using liqueur in this recipe, use a wooden skewer to poke holes in the top of the chilled cake, almost through the bottom layer. Carefully pour remaining brandy (from the cherries) into the holes. OR you can use a tablespoon or two of Baileys. Not too much or the cake will get mushy!
Ice the cake, sides and top, with the remaining filling.
If your ganache is thick but still pourable, it's ready to be spooned over the top of the cake. If it's still very thin, wait a little longer; it will thicken as it sets.
If you love peppermint patties, you will swoon over these holiday confections! With a crunchy cookie bottom, a thick layer of soft, creamy peppermint candy, and a firm, snappy coating of chocolate, the combination of textures is every bit as appealing as the flavors. Family and friends will take one bite and beg you to make more; I’ll bet they’ll be the first treats to disappear from your cookie platter.
There’s really nothing hard about making them, but they are a bit of a project. If you have young ones around, I know they’d love to help cut out the shapes and put the cookies and filling layers together. And you don’t have to do it all at once; bake the cookies one day and leave the filling and dipping for another time. The cookies freeze well, so you could get that part out of the way weeks before, if you’re the efficient type.
Frankly, though I love anything and everything dipped in chocolate, I hate doing the dipping. If there were anyone else here I could stick with that job, I’d do it. I don’t usually fuss about getting messy. Up to my elbows in dough? Great! Splattered wtih icing? Sweeeeet! Food coloring under my nails? No problem. But chocolate on my hands? Eeeeuw. Wash wash wash wash.
Okay, I lied; I don’t love EVERYTHING dipped in chocolate. This was a bad idea. Bad!
Still, totally worth it!
Of course I can’t just make something the way I imagined it; I have to play with variations. So…after the recipe and instructions, I’ll show you a few different ideas I tried.
If the chocolate cookie recipe looks familiar, that’s because it’s my go-to recipe when I want crunch. The cookie itself isn’t too sweet, which is perfect, because the patty filling certainly is! It’s basically what everyone’s aunt uses to make wedding mints, right? Put them together and dip the two layers in chocolate, and it just works perfectly together.
I originally considered topping the mint layer with a firm ganache before dipping, but my daughter talked me down from that craziness. She was right—these don’t need more chocolate. (Did I just say that?)
2 cups all-purpose flour (plus a little more, if necessary)
⅔ cups unsweetened cocoa
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
½ teaspoon clear vanilla (optional)
8½ -9 cups powdered sugar
18 ounces dark chocolate
1 tablespoon shortening
Milk or white chocolate, or colored icing for decorating. Or just use sprinkles!
Heat oven to 350 F.
Cream together the butter and sugar.
Add the vanilla, milk, and egg, and beat well.
Add the dry ingredients (slow down there, Tiger...the cocoa will fly everywhere! Beat it on low until it's incorporated) and mix together well. It should be very soft, but if it's too sticky to handle, add up to 3 tablespoons extra flour.
For best results, roll out between two pieces of lightly floured parchment until it's about ¼" thick.
Cut with a star shaped cookie cutter (mine was 2¾" wide) and place ½"-1" apart on ungreased bafking sheet. Bake for 12-13 minutes. The cookies should be fairly firm. If they're still soft, give them another minute or two. They'll harden a bit as they cool.
Allow the cookies to sit on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Beat together the cream cheese and butter. Add peppermint extract and vanilla, if using, and mix well.
Slowly add the powdered sugar, using a sturdy stand mixer and dough hook, if possible. If mixing by hand, stir in as much powdered sugar as possible, then place any remaining sugar on work surface and put the dough on top of it. Knead by hand until smooth. Add additional powdered sugar if dough is too sticky to roll.
Work with half of the dough at a time, keeping the reamaining half tightly wrapped in plastic. Roll out ¼-inch thick between sheets of parchment that have been dusted with powdered sugar.
Cut with the same star cookie cutter you used for the cookies. Place one piece of peppermint dough on each cookie. Using a mini-roller or your hands, make sure the dough goes all the way to the edge of the cookie. Press gently around the edge to make it rounded and smooth all the way around.
Chill for at least one hour.
Melt chocolate and shortening in the microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring each time, or in a small pan on lowest heat, stirring frequently.
Turn each cookie over and dip the peppermint side into the melted chocolate, making sure the chocolate completely covers the peppermint. You don't need to coat the bottom of the cookie.. Allow excess to drip off, and place (cookie side down) on waxed paper or parchment. Chill until chocolate is firm. (If you are using sprinkles, add them before the chocolate hardens)
Or, once chocolate is firm, drizzle with a contrasting color, using milk or white chocolate or a colored icing.
Oh, you’re going to love this! This hearty casserole made with sweet potatoes, apples, cranberries, bacon, and pecans is the ultimate side dish for Thanksgiving, guaranteed to win everyone’s heart around the holiday table. It’s also stellar as a rib-sticking breakfast. Since it freezes well, I recommend that you make a double batch and tuck some away for Christmas, when things are wild and crazy and time is of the essence.
This will be the dish you are requested to bring to every function you attend, September through February. And not in that polite way: “Oh, Aunt Susie…we’re so glad (cough cough) you’re bringing your famous corn and oysters to Thanksgiving again this year”.
See how short this recipe is? It’s not one of my typical three-page-marathon recipes. You’ve just got to give it a whirl! This dish can be changed to suit your preferences, of course. Double the cranberries, omit the bacon (or try ham), substitute maple sugar for brown sugar, or walnuts for pecans.
If you plan on making this ahead and freezing it, it’s best to do so right after it’s put in the casserole dish, not after it’s baked. Be sure to bake it for at least an hour if your casserole is going straight from the freezer to the oven, and test to make sure the veggies are hot and fork tender.
½ cup coarsely chopped raw cranberries (frozen berries are fine, too)
4 pieces of bacon, cooked and broken into small pieces (optional)
⅓ cup brown sugar, packed firmly
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup miniature marshmallows (optional)
Heat oven to 350 F.
Peel sweet potatoes and cut into bite-size pieces. Place in medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a full boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain well.
Peel and core apples. Cut into bite-size pieces.
Place sweet potatoes and apples in a large bowl. Add melted butter and toss to coat.
Add all remaining ingredients except for the marshmallows and toss.
Place in a lightly greased 2½-quart casserole dish, leaving at least ½-inch of space at the top. If you don't have that size, the mixture can be pressed firmly into a 2-quart dish, (any extra can be put in a "bonus" ramekin) or a 3-quart casserole can be used, but it may not need as long in the oven.
Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. (30 if you are using a 3-quart casserole)
Remove from oven, fluff lightly with a fork, and cover with marshmallows. Return to oven and cook for 10–12 minutes, or until marshmallows are golden brown.
Here are some of the ingredients. I always use what the grocery stores call “yams” (they’re not, really), with the orange flesh. They really are sweet potatoes, but I believe they are more flavorful than the pale sweet potatoes. Your choice!
The pig wouldn’t cooperate and stay on the table, but bacon (or ham) really jazz up this dish.
Peel and chunk the sweet potatoes. (I know, I know…call them “yams” if you must!)
Cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute.
Cut apples (whatever kind you like) into bite size pieces.
If you’re doubling the recipe, use a HUGE bowl for the following step:
Toss apples and cooked potatoes in melted butter. Add cranberries and nuts…and everything else except the marshmallows.
In the recipe I mentioned the different options for casserole dishes. A 2 1/2-quart dish is your best bet. I squeezed mine into a very deep pie pan (because it was so pretty) which was fine, but with less headspace, I couldn’t get too carried away with the marshmallows. Boo!
I used a deep pie pan.
Using a 3-quart casserole means you’ll need to cut the baking time down to 30 minutes, since the ingredients are more spread out. The upside is, you can go crazy with the marshmallows!
In a 3-quart casserole.
If you really want to get fancy, and no—I haven’t tried this yet—spoon the mixture into lightly greased ramekins and let each person have their own mini-casserole.
If there ARE any leftovers, they won’t get pushed to the back of the refrigerator with the dressing and green bean casserole (and those nasty corn and oysters), I promise!
This recipe (tweaked slightly) made its debut in a column I wrote for Yummy Northwest a couple of years ago, showcasing “Bounceberry” recipes, (aka: cranberry recipes).
You may want to take a peek at the archived column for more fun holiday ideas.
These spicy molasses cookies are slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, just like a spider! Bwa ha ha. I try to put aside my hatred of spiders when I decorate and eat these delightful, flavorful cookies, because at Halloween it’s kind of fun to enjoy the food, yet be grossed out at the presentation—sort of a “love to hate it” situation.
The dough is very soft and must be chilled before rolling and baking, so planning ahead is a good idea. If you wrap it well, you can actually make this dough several days ahead…if you’re the efficient, organized type. (I salute you!)
I made several batches of these a few years ago for a holiday bazaar, and they sold like crazy. It’s a horrible picture, but you can see how huge they were.But…not everyone wants a whole handful of cookie, so I improvised and made these cute little two-inch bites for this post.
The dough is very quick to make; just leave yourself plenty of time to chill it properly. It also helps to roll it out between two sheets of lightly floured parchment. And even though I really don’t like using shortening, it’s important in this recipe. All butter will make the cookies spread more, and you don’t want that!
Makes about 8 dozen small (2-inch) cookies. You can make them larger or just lightly frost the rest when you get tired of making spiders!
½ cup butter, slightly softened
½ cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
5½ cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup molasses
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
Royal Icing - use your favorite recipe OR try mine:
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder (I use Wiltons brand, available in the cake decorating section)
¼ cup water
Dark icing, melted chocolate, dark brown coated candy...whatever you want to use for the spider.
In a large bowl (a stand mixer is helpful) beat together the butter, shortening, brown sugar, and white sugar until well combined.
Add eggs and beat until incorporated.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt, and baking powder.
In a small bowl combine the molasses and sour cream. Whisk in the baking soda. It will foam up and lighten in color.
At low speed, add ⅓ of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. When most of the flour is mixed in, add ⅓ of the molasses mixture. Repeat twice, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Do not overbeat!
Chill dough for at least 2 hours. Overnight is better.
Heat oven to 375.
Roll out ¼ of the dough at a time, leaving the rest in the refrigerator. Dough should be about ¼-inch thick. Cut into circles and place on parchment covered baking sheet, 1 inch apart.
Bake small circles for 8-9 minutes, larger circles for 9-10 minutes. Touch the top of one cookie gently. If your finger leaves a mark, give them another minute. For crispy cookies, add an extra minute or two.
Cool on a rack.
To make royal icing: Combine powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water. Beat with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes, until thick and fluffy.
Using a pastry bag and small tip (or a heavy zipper bag with the tip cut off) pipe spider webbing onto cool cookies: make a straight line from top to bottom, then side to side. Then two more lines diagonally, like cutting a pie into 8 pieces. Pipe near the outer edge of the cookie, swooping from one line to the next. Do it again closer to the center. That's it!
Hint: You can also coat the entire cookie in a thin layer of icing, let it dry, and then draw the web on with a food color pen like Wilton's FoodWriter.
You can make the spider out of dark chocolate frosting (this is one of those times I'd encourage buying a can of frosting for simplicity), ganache, or by piping melted chocolate for the legs and head, and using a dark brown M&M for the body.
Beat butter and sugar, then add eggs. Mixture should be light and fluffy.
In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients
In a small bowl, whisk baking soda into molasses and sour cream. It foams!
Alternate molasses and dry ingredients. Dry first, then wet. Repeat twice.
Cover dough and chill thoroughly.
Cut circles and bake on parchment. Size is up to you!
There are two decorating options I like:
Wait for the icing to dry (see the center? I didn’t wait long enough) and draw the web onto cookie with a food marker. OR pipe it with black icing or melted chocolate.
or pipe royal icing webs on plain cookies. I think the spiders show up a little better this way.
To make the spiders, simply pipe on legs and a small head, using black icing or melted chocolate (I stir a tiny bit of corn syrup into the warm chocolate, just until it thickens a little) and top it with a dark brown M&M. You can find lots of different spider shapes on Google.
I had intended to go all out with these—make brown recluse and black widow spiders—but it creeped me out so badly I just couldn’t do it. If you are tougher than I am, go for it. Making these cookies was bad enough for this arachnophobe!
This recipe makes a whopping 8 dozen small (2-inch) cookies. If you get tired of drawing webs and making spiders, you can always make them larger OR just lightly ice some of them with the crispy royal icing.
These crisp vanilla cornucopias are filled with dark chocolate and sweet little fruits and vegetables—as delightful to look at as they are to eat!
If you don’t have cream horn molds, you’ll want to pick some up at your local kitchen store, or buy a dozen online for less than $10.00. You won’t be sorry!
You can fill these babies however you please. Marzipan fruits, little chocolate leaves…go where your imagination takes you! For those of you who are sissies reluctant to create your own little decorations, I’ll give you options ranging from “easy-peasy” to “seriously???” so you can pick your method. You know which one I prefer, of course…but then, I can’t resist playing with my food.
This is a basic sugar cookie recipe with just a little brown sugar to add color, and an extra egg white to add to the crisp factor. Think of the cornucopia as “sugar cone meets fortune cookie” and you will know what to expect. The chocolate coating just puts this cookie over the top!
Honestly? I loved the crunchy cookie and chocolate without any decorations at all. You’ll have a few that don’t come out pretty, so I’m sure you’ll be able to munch on one or two. Or three.
I’ll give you the cookie recipe and instructions first, then tell you how I made the decorations.
Makes 3½ - 4 dozen cookies. Dough must be chilled for at least 2 hours before rolling.
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
½ cup butter (softened)
1 egg plus 1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
2⅔ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
Decorations, if desired: fruit shaped candy or fruit snacks, chocolate leaves, M&Ms, marzipan fruit, fruit and leaves made from candy clay, leaves made from fruit roll-ups or rolled candy corn.
In a large bowl (a stand mixer is very helpful - this is a stiff dough!) combine brown sugar, white sugar, and butter. Beat well until creamy.
Add egg and egg white, vanilla, and milk. Beat well.
Gradually add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mixture will look dry and crumbly, but will eventually come together into a stiff dough. If it doesn't, add a little milk or water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Cover dough and chill for at least 2 hours - overnight is fine.
Create a template by cutting a piece of cardstock (or the middle of a paper plate) to fit exactly around a cream corn mold, leaving at least 1 inch of the large end of the mold uncovered. This helps to remove the mold after baking and keeps the cookies from being too large. My template was approximately 3-1/2" by 3-1/2".
VERY lightly coat the molds with butter. You shouldn't be able to see the butter!
Heat oven to 350F. Cover baking sheets with parchment.
Remove about ¼ of the dough from the refrigerator at a time. Roll out on generously floured surface to approximately ⅛-inch thickness.
Using template, cut out shapes. With fork tines, press vertical and then horizontal lines to resemble basket weave.
Lift each piece of dough with a flat spatula and lay over the mold with the mold seam to the back. There should be a small gap at the seam. Gently ease the dough together over the seam. Don't overlap, and make sure the dough is snug on the mold to avoid sagging as the cornucopias bake.
Bake for 11-12 minutes, until golden brown. Remove pan from oven and move to cooling rack until cookies are cool enough to handle. Holding a cookie in one hand, gently squeeze the metal mold to loosen, and firmly pull cookie off of mold. Allow all cookies to cool before proceeding with chocolate.
Repeat with remaining dough. When finished, melt the chocolate: in the microwave, at 15-second increments, stirring each time, or in a small pan on the stove using the lowest heat, stirring often. With either method, heat JUST until most of the chunks are melted. Remove from heat and stir until completely smooth.
Lightly coat the inside of each cone with chocolate. I found it easiest to do by dipping a (clean!) finger in the warm chocolate, but you can use a paintbrush or pastry bag. Keep the coating fairly light so it doesn't seep through the cookie shell. Dip the opening in chocolate and place on waxed paper.
Chocolate will remain soft for quite a while, so this is a good time to add any decorations you are using.
Make a template. Use card stock or the center of a paper plate. Leave an inch uncovered at the big end, and a small gap at the seam.
Roll out small portion of chilled dough on generously floured surface.
Cut out shape by cutting around template with sharp knife. Press fork tines in one direction…
and then the other direction, creating a basket weave design.
Lay dough over mold, leaving gap on the underside by the metal seam.
Then, gently ease it together. Dough should fit snugly on the mold. If it’s loose, it will sag as it bakes.
Ready for the oven! I like to stretch and curl the tips a bit.
Lightly coat the inside of the cones with melted chocolate, then dip the outer opening. If your decorations are ready, place them while the chocolate is still soft, so they’ll stick well.
Note here: I’ll admit, after using a teaspoon to pour chocolate in each cone and trying to swirl it around, I found that the easiest way was to just use my finger. Dip it in the chocolate and then swirl it in the cone. Hey…that finger was CLEAN! You can use a glove if you’d like, or maybe try a paintbrush or even a pastry bag.
TO MAKE THE FALL DECORATIONS:
This was before I decided to dip the opening in the chocolate too. Either way works!
I really like the flavor of candy clay (or molding chocolate) for the little fruits and vegetables. It doesn’t clash with the flavor of the cookie the way taffy, fruit leather, or hard candy does.But if time is of the essence, take the easy route and use store bought goodies; they’ll look cute either way.
Here is a link with instructions for making it out of candy melts: Wiltons Candy Clay. I made a batch of clay using white candy melts, immediately split it up into small bowls and added food coloring before putting the pieces in sandwich bags to set until firm.
The corn in the picture above was made with yellow candy clay, wrapped with very thin green clay. The pumpkin was made with orange clay. The stem was a little piece of brown candy corn. Cocoa nibs look great too, if you have them. Bananas, grapes, oranges, apples…all from clay, molded individually. The grapes were kind of fun. Park yourself in front of the TV with purple candy clay, and start rolling tiny balls. Lots and lots of tiny purple (or green!) balls. Clump a group of them together, pressing just until they hold together.
Some other options come already shaped, like hard candy fruits (Runts), fruit shaped fruit-snacks, marzipan, or fondant. You can also shape your own without the fuss of making the candy clay by using sturdy taffy (like Starburst) which molds very well. Red sixlets with little leaves on top would be perfect for apples.
Here are visuals of the various options.
A comparison of different mediums – fruit rolls, candy corn (Harvest mix) and candy clay.
When making leaves, use:
fruit rolls for vibrant color and simplicity
thinly rolled candy corn for rich fall color. Relatively easy.
Candy clay. You create the colors – these are more subdued, but thin and realistic. And definitely more effort because you have to mix the clay ahead of time.
You could also use marzipan or fondant, or you could pipe leaves using melted chocolate or candy melts. I don’t recommend gum paste – you want these to be tasty!
Small leaf cutters are wonderful. I used one that came in a kit for gum paste. I used a small x-acto blade to cut out maple and oak leaves. You’ll notice there are a lot less of those! I didn’t think about this option until after I was finished and ready to post the recipe, but if you have small chocolate molds, you could MOLD the leaves instead of cutting them. They won’t be as thin, but the shape would be right and it would be very easy.
A WORD OF ADVICE:
Since this was fussy work, and pretty time-consuming, I’d recommend spreading your efforts over a couple of days so you don’t burn out. Make the little fruits, vegetables, and leaves one day (store them covered, at room temperature) and the cookies the next day. Maybe you can find some little helpers to help fashion some of the decorations.
I’d love to see what you come up with. If you make these, post a picture on my Facebook page so I can enjoy your creativity!