Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day 2011

Well it is Christmas Day! In addition to celebrating the birth of Jesus we are eating some good food today. Sadly I'm sick (most likely allergies thanks to all the warm weather we are having in Georgia) so I did not get to help out too much in the kitchen this year but I still wanted to share these fabulous recipes.
Breakfast started out with overnight french toast! Wow it is delicious!!! It was so nice waking up and just putting it in the oven. We made eggs and sausage too. The french toast reminded my parents and I of a pecan swirl or a honey bun. I would highly recommend making this recipe that we found on the Six Sister Stuff blog on any weekend.

Overnight Baked Caramel French Toast
(Recipe from


1 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/3 cup whipping (heavy) cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
(I added chopped pecans for a little somethin' extra!)

French Toast:
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 (3/4-inch-thick) diagonal cut slices French bread

1. Spray 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. In 2-quart saucepan, mix topping ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. DO NOT BOIL. Spread topping in baking dish.

2. In shallow bowl, beat eggs with fork. Beat in milk, vanilla and salt. Dip bread slices into egg mixture, making sure all egg mixture is absorbed; arrange over topping in dish. Cover; refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

3. When ready to bake, heat oven to 400°F. Uncover baking dish; bake 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and toast is golden brown. Remove from oven; let stand 3 minutes.

4. Place large heatproof serving platter upside down over baking dish; turn platter and baking dish over. Remove baking dish, scraping any extra caramel topping onto toast. Serve immediately.

Also, my mom made Cranberry White Chocolate Bars that we discovered on the Glorious Treats blog. I've not tried the Cranberry Bliss Bars at Starbucks that Ms. Glory was trying to replicate but either way these are amazing.  Mom said she struggled a bit cutting them so needless to say they are not in any fancy shape - just rectangles. Oh well, the shape doesn't effect the taste.

Cranberry White Chocolate Bars

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (slightly softened)
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup dried, sweetened cranberries, chopped
6 ounces (about 3/4 cup) white chocolate chips

~ Frosting ~
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange extract

1/2- 2/3 cup dried, sweetened cranberries, chopped
2 ounces white chocolate, melted

~ Directions ~
1.) Preheat oven to 350 (F) degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 pan then set aside (I also like to line the pan with parchment paper, leaving some hanging over the two long sides- this allows the bars to be pulled out of the pan after baking for easier cutting).
2.) In a medium bowl add the flour, powdered ginger, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set bowl aside.
3.) In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, and orange zest and mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture and blend until combined.
4.) Stir in cranberries and white chocolate. Pour the batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.
5.) Bake 25-30 minutes, until edges are light brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6.) Prepare frosting by beating the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla and orange extract. Beat about 1 minute until fully incorporated.
7.) Assemble dessert by spreading the frosting onto the baked and cooled bars. Sprinkle additional cranberries on top. Drizzle melted white chocolate on top as desired.

Mom and I enjoy the Food Network - big surprise for a foodie family. Saturday mornings are often spent watching our favorite line up while on the phone with each other - kind of like cartoons for kids. A few weeks ago a Deen Family Christmas aired. It was hilarious! Her family visited her dressed up as elves as they prepared an amazing meal. We decided to make slow cooked roast with herb sauce and twice-baked shrimp stuffed potatoes. Check out Paula's food network site for the recipes.

Merry Christmas Ya'll!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Peppermint Fudge Cupcakes

Merry Christmas!

I love peppermint desserts for Christmas. When I found this recipe on the Our Best Bites blog I was sold. I decided to make the cupcake version instead of the jars. Maybe next year I'll try the jars. The recipe is very easy and does not require a mixer! I chose to double the recipe again because I was feeling the Christmas spirit. Well that and my coworker asked twice if I was bringing cupcakes in this week.

No real hiccups this time. I practiced the "cone method" again for the ganache. I went with the pairing knife this time and felt like my skills are improving. One coworker sliced her cupcake in half and you could really see the yummy ganache center.

I decided to be a little creative with my decorating too. You will have lots of ganache left over especially if you make 24 and I did not want it to go to waste. (Fingers crossed for the rest of the ganache I stuck in the fridge!) So some cupcakes have a ganache center and topping. Ooohhh! Then I added red, green, and white sprinkles before the ganache set. Target had cute snowflake cupcake liners and toppers in the dollar spot so I used the toppers for the white cupcakes. Chocolate buttercream was still lurking in the freezer from Thanksgiving and I like how it looks with white sugar pearls. So fancy! Lol. I plan to try the tip for swirling two icing colors they explained in the blog post soon - may look nice on some red velvet cupcakes.

I'm getting all professional with transporting these jokers. I'm taking some cupcakes to my hair stylist so I purchased Wilton four count boxes. They are so cute! When you stack the boxes the cupcakes line up.

Peppermint Fudge Cupcake JarsRecipe by Our Best Bites
Makes approximately 8 jars or 12 Cupcakes

Cupcakes (cake base for this dessert adapted from Shelly Kaldunski)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 oz chocolate, chopped.  (or abt 1/2 C chips) Use bittersweet, dark, or semi-sweet.
1/2 C + 3 Tbs real butter, cut into pieces
3/4 C plus 2 Tbs sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

8 8oz wide mouth mason jars (the short squatty kind)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until melted and smooth.   Set mixture aside and let cool 10-15 minutes.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Using a wooden spoon (don’t use an electric mixer) stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture until combined.  Stir in the eggs one and a time, beating with your spoon until combined after each addition, and then beat in the vanilla.  Gently fold in the flour mixture just until no traces of flour remain; do not overmix.

Place the mason jars on a cookie sheet.  Divide the mixture evenly among the 8 jars (no need for greasing the jars) or 12 cupcake liners if you’re going that route.  The jars should be about half full or a little less.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the jar comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached 22-25 minutes.   Remove from oven and carefully (with a pot-holder!) transfer jars to a cooling rack.  Let jars cool till at least close to room temperature before topping with ganache.

Peppermint Ganache
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (chocolate chips are fine)
1/2 C heavy cream
1/4 tsp peppermint extract

Place chocolate chips in a bowl.  Heat cream in microwave until bubbles form around the outside.  Pour in bowl over chocolate chips and immediately cover bowl with plastic wrap.  Let sit for 5 minutes, add peppermint extract and then whisk until smooth.  Let cool un-covered until thickened slightly, almost like a thin pudding.
To assemble, pour 1 1/2-2 Tbs ganache over the top of each cupcake jar.  If desired, use a paring knife to first hollow out a well in the middle of the cake.  Tilt jars to distribute ganache evenly over the top of the cake and then let cool for the ganache to set.  If storing overnight, place lids and rings on jars and leave at room temperature.

Storage: Note that just because these are in jars does not mean they are shelf stable for extended periods of time.  Also, baked goods are always best fresh, that being said, here are a few storage options.
When fully made, store with lids on at room temp for a day or two.   If made up to the ganache step (before frosting) you can screw lids on and store in the fridge for 3-4 days, then frost right before gifting.  If you’d like to fully prepare them a day or two ahead of time, I would actually reverse the filling and topping.  Core out the center of the cupcakes and fill with frosting.  Place the “cap” of the cupcake back over the hole and then top the entire top with ganache and a sprinkling of candycane.  Store at room temp for 1-2 days or refrigerated for 3-4.

For my frosting - I added 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract to the Wilton buttercream recipe.

Be sure to check out the Our Best Bites blog because they included printable labels for the mason jars.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter Wonderland

Well another Alpha Gam Alumni function inspired me to make these "snow" cupcakes. This was my first year attending our annual Holiday Brunch and it was lots of fun. I love Christmas like most people but my idea of Christmas is not traditional. Snow people, snowflakes, gingerbread people and houses, and penguins are more my speed. Something about blue, white, and silver is just elegant in my opinion of course. In my search for blue Christmas cupcakes I found this Bakerella picture for inspiration.

I was considering baking Gingerbread Cupcakes but I was concerned that not everyone is a fan of gingerbread so I chose cinnamon instead. Back in my pumpkin phase I found a recipe on the Pink Parsley blog for Cinnamon Cupcakes with Pumpkin Icing that I did not get around to making. I began by baking these cupcakes with Mary Engelbreit  snowmen cupcake liners. Oh and I doubled the recipe so I could spread more Christmas cheer. The recipe says to add buttermilk to melted butter. I let the butter cool a bit but was still concerned about combining the two ingredients. As suspected I ended up with a lumpy mess. Luckily my mom was helping and she reassured me that the heat of the mixer would dissolve the lumps. Not sure about that theory but the lumps eventually disappeared. I must say the cupcakes were perfect - great cinnamon flavor and moist!

Next it was time to make icing. Of course I made Wilton Buttercream thin icing which I used to frost about half of the cupcakes. I had some light blue almost teal in the freezer and added a few drops of blue to get that blue Christmas color I love for the rest of the cupcakes. Also, in the fridge was some purple and again I added a couple drops of blue to make it darker. Don't judge me for reusing icing people! There is nothing wrong with it.

For the snowmen I piped three white "dots" with a round tip. Of course the dots get bigger in size like real snowmen. Next I used a knife to gently touch the icing and quickly pull up to create an uneven fluffy snow look. Hope you followed that explanation! Haha. I mean HoHoHo. Then with the dark blue I piped a scarf and hat. No snowmen is the same so each hat is slightly different on purpose. With black sparkle gel I added buttons, eyes, and a smile. Well I tried to make it a smile at least. Orange sparkle gel made a cute carrot nose! I added a few sugar pearls around the snowmen to look like falling snow. Brrrrrrrr!!!

My plan was to decorate some with raw sugar. This was my first time to purchase raw sugar and I chose the wrong kind!!! For future reference "sugar in the raw" is BROWN not WHITE. One of my friends said I should have just went with the brown to make it look more realistic. Sorry but I wanted fresh, clean fallen snow not dirty brown snow! My mom tried to dust some with regular sugar and it made the blue cupcakes sparkle a little. We sprinkled some with sugar pearls to add glamour. Lol.

Snowflakes are a little complicated at least for me anyway. I piped dark blue on white cupcakes and white icing on the blue cupcakes with a small round tip. Everyone said they looked great but the perfectionist in me expected better. Oh well.

All my Alpha Gam sisters seemed impressed with my skills. One sister asked "who made the cupcakes?" and the other replied "Jen, she is our chef." I was informed that it is now expected for me to bring cupcakes to our events.  Love it!

Here is what I decorated with:
- black sparkle gel
- orange sparkle gel
- white sugar pearls (you can use nonpareils too)
- white icing
- blue Christmas icing
- dark blue icing

Cinnamon Cupcakes
adapted from
Annie's Eats, originally from A Southern Grace
makes 12

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. grated orange zest (optional)
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 12-cup cupcake pan with liners, and spray with cooking spray.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Melt the butter and combine with buttermilk. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar and eggs until a thick batter forms, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and orange zest, and mix until combined. Mix in the flour mixture until just combined, and then do the same with the butter and milk mixture.

Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full, and bake 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Cool completely before icing

Happy Holidays!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cupcake Camp Atlanta

Cupcake Camp was so much fun on Sunday! (Be sure to click on the link to see more beautiful pictures!) This was the first year in Atlanta and I hope it becomes a fully successful annual event. They were set up inside Octane which is a coffee shop downtown.

Fifteen or so cupcakes were available for tasting. I sampled a Red Velvet Bourbon mini, Boston Creme, Pina Colada, Limcello, Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate, and Amaretto. And no - I did not eat every bite of each cupcake. My mom came with me so we shared some and sadly a few cupcakes were only worthy of one bite.

The "eaters" were the judges and we voted on three categories. For "best tasting" I voted for the Boston Creme (I love ganache duh!), "best looking" went to the Amaretto for me because it had edible gold glitter and a white chocolate candy squiggle (I think that counts as an official cupcake description), and lastly I chose Limoncello for "most unique flavor".  The Twitter post after the event noted that 400 cupcakes were given out. Next year I plan to be a "baker"!

The Winners:

Best Tasting
1st: Salted Caramel Turtle
2nd: Chocolate Caramel/Vanilla Caramel
3rd: Black and Whites
Best Looking
1st: Lemon Curd Marshmallow Meringue
2nd: Amaretto with White Chocolate
3rd: Salted Caramel Turtle
Most Unique Flavor
1st: Earl Grey Lavender
2nd: Salted Caramel Turtle
3rd: Lemon Curd Marshmallow Meringue

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Biscoff Cupcakes

Anyone heard of Biscoff spread? Well it is a delicious spread made of Biscoff cookies and is produced in Belgium. The consistency is similar to peanut butter and it is very rich. I learned about it while reading the Beantown Baker blog. I began by eating the spread on apples as suggested on the jar. Then I had some chocolate cupcakes in the freezer and decided to try out this recipe. I'm so glad I did too.

However, I'm still trying to figure out the whole "cone method". My parents gave me a cupcake plunger for Christmas and I decided to finally try it out. Well things did not go smoothly. The directions seem easy but it was difficult to make a hollowed out space. I think this was because either 1. I was using cupcakes that were just out of the freezer or 2. the chocolate cupcakes were too sticky. I gave up on the plunger and tried the cone method with a knife. It was a little easier with the knife. I'm not totally giving up on the plunger though. Next time I will try fresh out of the oven cupcakes and maybe vanilla would be a better option. I highly suggest if you make these that you add a pinch of salt to the Biscoff center as the recipe indicates. At first I thought this was odd but I rolled with it and can't imagine what it would taste like without the salt.

The end result is what matters most. These cupcakes received the seal of approval from my parents.

Chocolate Biscoff Cupcakes
12 of your favorite chocolate cupcakes, completely cooled - I used this recipe
1 batch Biscoff frosting - recipe below
Biscoff spread
Sea salt

Once cupcakes are completely cooled, use the
cone method to remove a portion of the cupcake.

Scoop ~1 tsp of Biscoff spread into each cupcake. Sprinkle a scant 1/8 tsp of sea salt (or a heavy pinch) on top of the spread. Replace the top of the cupcake.

Pipe Biscoff frosting on top of cupcakes. Store in fridge.

Biscoff Frosting:
1 (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Biscoff Spread
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the cream cheese in a mixer for 2 minutes until smooth.

Add the Biscoff spread and beat until completely combined.

Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on the lowest setting until powdered sugar is mostly mixed in. Turn mixer up to med and beat for 1-2 minutes. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.