Archive | December, 2010

Vermont Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

27 Dec

Last weekend my office held their annual Christmas party at the boss’ house. He makes a decadently delicious prime rib and all of the other dishes are divvied up. I lucked out with dessert! After the excitement settled, I realized I had to choose a recipe! With so many wonderful ones to choose from I was in a bit of a debacle.

Conferring with a friend at the office after a night of Googling, it turned out we both ended at the same recipe. It must have been fate that this Vermont Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting was to be our dessert at dinner.

This cake was no simple feat, but well worth the work. My photos of this cake do it’s taste and beauty no justice.

The cake was so yummy I wasn’t able to snag a picture of a piece before it was gone, so let’s take a look at Sing for Your Supper’s photo…(hers is prettier anyways)

Mouth watering, right? The cake has a wonderful flavor of pumpkin and cinnamon and the creamy frosting is just unspeakably good. It balances the cake perfectly. Ive got to work on the aesthetics of my cake, but the flavor needs no changing! That’s what really counts in my book, at least for a first attempt.

Recipe courtesy of Sing for Your Supper

(Printable Version)

For the Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I used a mixture of 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. cloves and 3/4 tsp. nutmeg)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans. Combine flour, baking powder, spices, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat sugar and butter in a large mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment until creamy.

Add eggs one at a time; beat for 2 minutes. Beat in pumpkin, evaporated milk, water and vanilla extract. Gradually add the flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared cake pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

For the Maple Cream Cheese Frosting:
11 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons maple extract
squeeze of lemon juice

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually add in the powdered sugar and beat until fluffy. Add in the maple extract and lemon juice. Mix well. Refrigerate until needed.

To assemble:
Cut each layer in half horizontally with a long, serrated knife. Frost between layers and on top of cake, leaving sides unfrosted. Garnish as desired.

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Cookie Quest Part One: Chocolate Chip Cookies

26 Dec

While reading through all of my favorite baking blogs I’ve noticed more than a few have cookie fetishes and who can blame them. There’s nothing like a warm gooey cookie fresh from the oven with a cold glass of milk. I’m not talking about just any type of cookie, but the all time favorite and classic Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Of course, once I’ve begun to click open a few tabs of cookie recipes I’m hooked. I’ve got to find the ultimate chocolate chip cookie. Over at Two Peas and Their Pod it seems they’ve been on the search and have found their “Best Ever” chocolate chip recipe. So I decided to start here. I mean why not start my search for “best ever chocolate chip cookie” with someone elses favorite, it’s got to be a good shot, right? And so our cookie adventure has begun! I’m excited!

This cookie was good, no I’ll do you one better, it was great. The edges were a perfect crispness without being crunchy and the centers stayed nice and chewy. I used Ghiradelli chocolate chips which added to the near perfection of this cookie.

That’s right near perfection. This may very well be the best chocolate chip cookie ever. However, I think our search will forge on, not only because I like the challenge of finding the best cookie recipe ever but  also because I love the challenge of having to taste them all!

Recipe

(Printable Version)

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups (12 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. smallish-medium coarse sea salt (I used table salt, kind of wish I would’ve tried the sea salt!)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups/16 oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate, just a personal preference)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar until it is “nice and fluffy.” Two Peas recommend creaming the mixture for 5 minutes, so I did. Add eggs and vanilla and continue to beat for two minutes.

Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour until cookie batter is fully incorporated.  Finally add chocolate chips until well distributed. The batter is thick so mixing in the chocolate chips was a little frustrating, but definitely doable.

Drop about 2 tablespoons of dough and “plop” the batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12-14 minutes. My oven cooked them around 11 minutes, so just check on the cookies around the ten minute mark. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to sit on the tray for two minutes. Then pick up the parchment paper (with the cookies still on top) and transfer to a cool non-porous surface.  Cool on the paper for at least 3 minutes before serving.

Made around 45 deliciously chewy goodies for a couple of wonderful cookie filled days!

National Cupcake Day

15 Dec

In honor of National Cupcake Day, I’ve taken a look back at some of my concoctions and picked out a favorite- Cookie Dough Cupcake. The picture of the cuppies do the flavor of these cakes no justice. So, just trust me when I tell you you’ve got to try this recipe ASAP. For that matter you should bake any cupcake recipe that floats your boat, a good cupcake can always brighten a dark winters day.

Daily Cravings: Chocolate Jingle Bars

15 Dec

Photo Credit: Very Best Baking

Today has been one of those days where I would’ve taken chocolate at any point of the day. Morning, afternoon or even right now (tonight), I would love to sink my teeth into these delights.

National Gingerbread House Competition

15 Dec

One of my favorite things about the holidays isn’t just the food, but those few cities that just exude holiday cheer. Asheville, North Carolina is one of these special cities.

A couple of years ago I was doing some research as to what else there was to do in Asheville at Christmas aside from visiting the breathtaking Biltmore Estate and that is how I found this little gem- The National Gingerbread House Competition.

So, for years now I’ve wanted to see these little (and some not-so-little) exquisite houses. This was my year. Being good sports, my Dad and husband tagged along to Grove Park Inn to check it out first hand. Just as a little side note, Grove Park Inn is worth visiting whether or not you’re going to see the gingerbread houses.

Surprisingly enough some of my favorite houses weren’t even top winners. In fact, we all felt a little gipped by the Grand Prize winner because it wasn’t even a house. It was beautiful, but not a house.

Grand Prize Winner

Teen 1st Place

Youth 2nd Place

Okay, I realize I’ve been listing the “top” winners in each category, however I disagree with the judges’ choice here. In my opinion, this is much better than the 1st place winner. Just look at a close-up of these leaves that make up the roof. (excuse the photo quality, they had many of these top winners encased in glass!)

Child 1st Place

Those are the best of the best, at least in the judges eyes. For some reason this tree lot scene was my favorite house of the day.

Daily Cravings: Monogram Cookies

14 Dec

So, I stumbled upon a site dedicated to cookies. Over at Bake at 350, she’s got tips on baking cookies and better yet decorating. Oh, the decorating.

I am in awe and completely inspired by basically every post on the site. Since I will most certainly be testing out some of the Christmas cookies she’s done I’ve passed them over as our Daily Craving. These beautifully monogrammed cookies are even better anyways. AND they’re even the monogram I’d use for my little one!

Photo Credit: Bake at 350

Love…

Daily Cravings: Lemon Blueberry Bread

10 Dec

Photo Credit: The Comfort of Cooking

It looks like this lady is on a lemon kick this week. That’s right, my other big craving this week has been this Lemon Blueberry Breakfast Bread.

I LOVE blueberries and mixed with the kick of lemon the flavors are just oh so wonderful. Not only that, but do you see that glaze just teasing and tempting us to try this recipe. I sure do!

Daily Cravings: Sticky Lemon Rolls

7 Dec

Photo Credit: TheKitchn

As I was browsing through my daily blogs, I ran across an article “10 Things that Will Make Your House Smell Amazing.” Of course I clicked on it because I mean who doesn’t want their house to smell amazing due to food from the oven?

Out of the ten things, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of these Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze.

If someone would like to make these for me I would gladly accept.

Daily Cravings: Cream Puffs with Ice Cream

6 Dec

Photo Credit: Good Housekeeping

Photo Credit: Epicurious

Photo Credit: Baking Bites

I have no words about this craving. Honestly, I’m speechless.

If you aren’t craving these cream puffs with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce you are not human.

Top Ten Edible Gifts for the Holidays

6 Dec

In need of some ideas of which treat to give out this year? No worries my friends, I’m here to help you narrow your options. For those of us who love to bake, this time of year is the perfect reason to make all kinds of yummy dishes for our friends, family and co-workers. But choosing which goodie gift to give can be daunting, so, here are my top picks for the season.

Chocolate-Dipped Peppermint Sticks

A sweet addition to a holiday classic, the candy cane.

Peppermint Spoons

I had never thought of this, but it’s absolute genius. Perfect for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate!

Peppermint Bark

My mother-in-law loves peppermint bark. I had never really been a big fan, however, it’s growing on me. Especially these recipes for Peppermint Bark Brownies, yum.

Cheddar Cheese Shortbread and Biscuits

With all the sweets you’re bombarded with over the holidays, I’ve found these spice little biscuits are the perfect taste-bud break.

Muddy Buddies

This is a quick and easy treat my mom and I have been making for years. And it is SO GOOD! The first time my husband tried these he couldn’t get enough, trust me, you’ll feel the same way.

Fudge

Yes, Please! This is another holiday classic, for me at least. I’d help my mom make this as a little girl and give it out to my teachers at school. Whether or not they liked it, I guess I’ll never know, but I surely do.

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies

There are way too many types of delicious cookie recipes everyone loves to give out for the holidays for me to just choose one. But gingerbread is an obvious.

Banana Bread

Great for Christmas morning when you aren’t quite ready to jump into the cookies and fudge.

Popcorn

There’s not much to say here, who doesn’t like some popcorn, especially with caramel.

Hot Chocolate Mix

We’ll finish our little list of goodies with the one I indulge in most during the winter season. Hot chocolate is a wonderful way to warm up on those chilly morning and nights that fill most of our holiday seasons.