Double Ginger Sugar Cookies

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When I was a little girl, there was no food, (and I mean absolutely NO FOOD) that I loved more than sugar cookies.

Not french fries. Not chicken nuggets. Not chocolate. Not mac n cheese (which I never liked and still don’t actually…hush). Not even chocolate chip flavored cookies.

Sugar. Cookies.

To me they were just… the best thing ever.

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If I’m being completely honest, there’s a part of me that still thinks they are. The ingredients of the typical sugar cookie are deceptively simple, yet the recipe itself is still easy to miss the mark on. A poorly made sugar cookie can come in the form of one that’s dry, too crisp, bland, too thick, too crumbly and dozens of other ways that things can go wrong. To date, the worst excuse for a sugar cookie I’ve ever had came from those abominable premade break and bake refrigerated cookie dough. The cookie is just barely palatable in a precious window of time of about….10 minutes after you take them out of the oven. Then, well…they cool/dry into pretty much inedible, bland sawdust.

Blegh.

Stay away. Far, far away from break and bake dough when making sugar cookies, I implore you. Scratch really is the only way to go. I will take a well made, from-scratch sugar cookie over say, creme brulee or a slice of cake any day. I will fight you for the last sugar cookie on a dessert tray. (You think I’m playing. Heh. Go ahead and try me, Buttercup.)

A well made sugar cookie is a perfect dessert, whether eaten all on its own or say, dipped in ice cream or whipping cream or chocolate (try it sometime if you haven’t). Once you know how to make a good one all on its own, it might be a good idea to start branching out and experimenting with creative twists to it…like this one.

I made these as a result of still having an excess of ginger from my homemade ginger tea I was making to ease my stomach issues. I took the leftover ginger from the syrup I made and candied it by rolling the pieces in white sugar and letting them cool until they’d crystallized. It’s a MUCH easier alternative to buying the premade stuff in the spice aisle and it’s quite easy to do. I was VERY curious to see what the spicy, slightly sweet ginger would add to the base of a sugar cookie.

Textures abound in this here recipe. The cookie itself is slightly crisp at the edges, with just the right amount of softness in the center so that biting into it, you get a slight crunch & a chew at the same time that’s intensified by the texture of the candied ginger. I won’t lie, the ginger REALLY does pack a punch; there is both crystallized and ground ginger in the dough and it’s definitely noticeable. The cookies are both sweet and spicy, but I enjoyed the contrast of flavors. Sometimes sugar cookies are stuck between either being too sweet or too bland; the doubled use of ginger here ensures that these are neither. They’re the perfect balance.

As usual, I’m linking this post to the Fiesta Friday for this week, #166, co-hosted this week by Mollie @ Frugalhausfrau and Ginger @ Ginger and Bread.

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Double Ginger Sugar Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Food and Wine

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (3 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks ( 1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Coarse turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Directions

In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, crystallized ginger, ground ginger, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand held mixer) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to evenly combine. Fold in the dry ingredients, about 1/3 a cup at a time. Mix just until dough comes together.

Shape dough into a long log and freeze log for about 1 1/2-2 hours, until very firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a bench scraper, cut off cookies about 1/8 inch thick and place them about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar if desired.

Bake the cookies in batches until golden and just barely set on top, 8-10 minutes.  Switch the top and bottom racks midway through baking. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on pan before moving to wire racks to cool completely.

Note: No one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Strawberry Supreme Birthday Cake

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It’s my niece’s 4th birthday tomorrow. I have no idea how this kid is four already. I swear it was just yesterday I was sitting in the hospital room when she was wheeled in from the delivery with her mom, swaddled in her little burrito blanket. Time really does fly when it comes to kids, even when you’re just helping raise them.

I know I’m biased, but she really is such a sweetheart. I love her to death and feel blessed to have been able to be a major part of her life.

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I’ve been making her cakes for her day for the past two years. Last years was this Funfetti Cake. This year when I asked her what kind she wanted, she didn’t hesitate to reply: “Strawberry Cake, Auntie.”

I had my marching orders. A Strawberry Birthday Cake it was.

What first comes to y’all’s minds when you hear Strawberry Cake?

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If you’re like me, maybe you thought about strawberry shortcake–which is delicious, but I also knew wasn’t what my niece was talking about. There’s strawberry shortcake; a fluffy biscuit-y cake that’s served with whipped cream and strawberries. Then, there’s the Strawberry Cake; a pink colored cake that usually comes from a box mix. I loved it myself as a kid, and what little kid wouldn’t? It’s pink. It’s EXTREMELY sweet. 9 times out of 10 it’s spread with pink frosting.

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What’s the problem? Well, that cake is just so overly sweet  and artificial tasting. The ‘strawberry’ flavor and color often comes from the addition of a packet of strawberry jello packet. While this may not make a huge difference to a four year old little girl, it sure makes a difference to her 27 year old foodie and baker auntie who doesn’t like to have anything to do with box cake mixes.

I still wanted to give my baby what she wanted though: a yummy, pretty strawberry birthday cake. Guess what? I think I did, even sans cake mix.

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I won’t lie: layer cakes of any kind take patience and time. They can be a labor of love, and this cake is no exception. However, I’ve found that the work can be spread out over two days so that you’re not so rushed or in the kitchen for hours at a time by baking the cakes themselves on Day 1, refrigerating them overnight, then making the filling/frostings and assembling the whole thing on Day 2.

And I do have to say, the work is one hundred percent worth it. I don’t think this cake could be more of a Strawberry Cake if it tried: strawberries are literally in EVERY SINGLE part of it. There are pureed strawberries in the batter. The cake is filled with a fresh strawberry curd. The frosting is mixed with even more pureed strawberries.

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Strawberry on strawberry on strawberry.

The cake bakes up very moist and fluffy. The only downside was that the pureed strawberries in the batter did sink to the bottom of the pans. But that turned out okay too because they just melded together more with the strawberry curd. I’ve made lemon curd before, but never strawberry. This one was extremely easy to do and the result is a tart, smooth curd which gives a real punch of strawberry freshness to the overall taste of the cake. I think it might be the best part, to be honest. The frosting isn’t overly sweet thanks to the addition of the cream cheese to the butter and powdered sugar. And the scoop of the fresh strawberry puree gave it that pretty in pink tint that I knew my niece would love.

Linking this post with Fiesta Friday #161, co-hosted this week by Laura @ Feast Wisely.

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Strawberry Supreme Birthday Cake

Recipe Adapted from Taste of the South Magazine

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Ingredients

For Cake

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries
  • 2½ cups cake flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup ice water
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup butter shortening, at room temp
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temp
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

For Strawberry Curd Filling

  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen sliced strawberries in syrup, thawed and drained
  • 1⁄2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 cup butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon strawberry extract

For Strawberry Frosting

  • 1⁄2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1⁄2 cup reserved strawberry purée (from Strawberry Curd)
  • 1 teaspoon strawberry extract
  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 °. Flour, grease and line three round 8 or 9 inch cake pans with wax paper or parchment paper. Set aside.

Pulse strawberries in a food processor or blender until well blended, but still with some chunks inside. Set aside in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the ice water, whole milk and buttermilk. In bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and shortening until creamy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla, mixing another 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat just until combined. Alternating adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the bowl, starting and ending with flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl with spatula to ensure it’s well mixed. Remove this mixture to another bowl, & wipe out thoroughly. Using clean beaters, place the egg whites and cream of tartar together in the bowl at medium speed, beating until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, fold the egg whites into the cake batter. Fold in the strawberries. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans, smoothing the tops with spatula. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted inside cakes comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 20 minutes before removing from pans and letting cool completely on wire racks.

For Curd: Pour the drained strawberries into a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Remove and reserve 1/2 cup of t he puree for the Strawberry frosting. In a medium saucepan, add the strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks and lemon juice over medium heat, whisking constantly until thickened; about 7-8 minutes., Remove from heat and add the butter in chunks, then the strawberry extract. Let mixture cool slightly, cover with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours before using.

For Frosting: Cream together the butter and cream cheese in bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one until fluffy. Add the reserved strawberry puree and the extract and mix until just combined. Add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time and beat together until smooth and creamy.

To Assemble: Level the tops of each cake. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on the platter. Pipe a border of frosting around the edges of the cake. Spread about half of the strawberry curd inside the border, smoothing with a spatula. Top with another cake layer and repeat process. Top with final cake layer. Spread entire cake with just frosting enough over the top and sides to make a crumb coat. (It should be thin).  Refrigerate cake for one hour until the crumb coat is firm. Finish spreading the remainder of the frosting on the cake, decorating with sprinkles if desired. Remove the parchment strips from the platter before serving.

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Chocolate King Cake

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On the twelfth night after Christmas, January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany begins. In the Christian faith, it’s supposed to celebrate the coming of the 3 Wise Men/Kings to the Christ Child and the bringing of gifts to honor him. It’s also supposed to mark the beginning of the Mardi Gras season that lasts until Fat Tuesday, which is always 47 days before Easter Sunday. Although you may not be able to celebrate with the folks down south in N’Awlins at Mardi Gras, you can still celebrate in your own kitchen with traditional Cajun/Creole foods that are typically eaten at this time of year.

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Muffaletta sandwiches. Catfish. Shrimp n’ Grits. Beignets. There’s a chain of bakeries in my hometown that sells to-DIE-for Packzi, the jelly, fruit or cream filled donuts. I make a pretty mean Jambalaya myself, and last week I shared a recipe for what I think is also a pretty mean Gumbo. (Which you guys absolutely should try for yourselves). This week, four days before Fat Tuesday itself, I thought I would share one more recipe that gets a lot of attention this time of year: the King Cake.

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The King Cake is a staple of Mardi Gras food. It hearkens to the Feast of the Epiphany and the 3 Kings who came to visit the Christ Child, who in the Christian faith was called the King of Jews. Kings come to visit the King, thus yielding the King Cake; pretty self-explanatory. For that reason, a small plastic baby figurine is even tucked into the bottom of the finished product; the person who has and finds the baby in their piece of King Cake is supposed to have good luck for rest of the year.

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Alright, now down to brass tacks.

Although it’s called a ‘cake’ I would actually describe it in taste and texture as closer to a brioche style bread. It’s made with yeast in a very similar way to brioche and provided your dough is made right, the texture should be close to it as well; moist and buttery with a tender chew. Traditionally, King Cakes are filled and rolled up with a mixture of cinnamon, sugar and pecans. As you guys can see, mine…isn’t.

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Why? Well, two reasons. First, nuts are expensive and the old purse strings gave me the side-eye when I asked them about going out to get some. Second, I already had chocolate in the house and I’d say that a chocolate filled cake is just as tasty as one filled with nuts, right? Of course right.

What do you guys think of the finished product? The topping I kept traditional; a powdered sugar icing sprinkled with green, purple and yellow sanding sugar, which are the typical colors of Mardi Gras. And I think it both looks and tastes pretty nice if I may say so myself, nuts or no nuts.

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One thing I will advise is that you follow the tip that I included in the recipe to help maintain the circle shape through the second rise and baking. If you have an oven-safe bowl (like the kind creme brulee or lava cakes are made in) it would be perfect to wrap the ring around and let it proof and bake that way. If you don’t, that’s fine too. Just mist a big ball of crumpled up aluminum foil with cooking spray and wrap the ring loosely around that. Loosen the cake from eiher the bowl or the foil shortly after it comes out of the oven; it’ll make for easier removal. And if you’re so inclined, feel free to slip a plastic baby figurine (or a bean, because who actually has one of those just sitting around) into a slit that you cut into the bottom of your FINISHED & BAKED loaf for that special person to find and get their extra bit of luck for the rest of the year. Aaaaand, that’s it.

Laissez le bon temps rouler, y’all.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #160, co-hosted this week by  Anugya @ Indian Curry Shack and Margy @ La Petite Casserole.

Chocolate King Cake

Recipe Adapted from LouisianaCookin.com

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Ingredients

For Dough

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1/3 cup warm water (between 105° and 110°)
  • 1/2 cup plain sour cream (or 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and softened

For Filling/Top

  • 1 2/3 cups chopped semi sweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons warm milk
  • 1 tablespoon baking cocoa or unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar,
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Yellow, green and purple sanding sugar/sprinkles

 

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with dough hook attachment, combine the warm water with the yeast. Sprinkle the 1 tsp white sugar on top & let sit for 10 minutes, until frothy. Meanwhile in a small bowl whisk together the sour cream (or buttermilk), vanilla extract, eggs and egg yolk. Mix into the yeast mixture and beat for about 1 minute.

Turn the mixer off and add the flour (1 cup at a time), salt and remaining 1/3 cup sugar. Beat at medium-low speed until most of the dry ingredients have been absorbed. Turn the speed up to medium and add the butter in small chunks, beating until combined, about 2 minutes. Flour your hands and a clean surface (like a pastry mat or wax paper. Scrape the dough out and onto the surface (it’s fine if it’s a little sticky). Gently knead it about 5-6 times until it’s smooth and pliable. Spray the mixing bowl with cooking spray and punch down into the bottom. Flip over and punch down one more time. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel. Allow to rise until doubled in size for about 90 minutes in a warm place (I usually use my microwave).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Punch risen dough down onto floured surface and roll into a rectangle, about 17×16 inches. In a medium microwave safe bowl, combine the chopped chocolate and butter. Microwave in 30 second intervals until the chocolate is melted and smooth (don’t over-microwave or else chocolate will seize and be unusable; 60 seconds TOPS should do it). Stir in the baking cocoa or cocoa powder & warm milk. Spread in a thin layer over the rectangle of dough.

Starting with one short side, roll dough into a log and pinch the seams thoroughly to seal. Gently lift and place on baking sheet and form a ring, pinching the ends together to seal. (You can use a ball of aluminum foil lightly sprayed with cooking spray or a small oven-safe bowl placed in the center of the ring, to help it maintain its shape). Cover with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°. Uncover cake. Use kitchen shears to make 7 (1/4 inch) deep cut into top of dough. Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes & covering with foil if browning too quickly. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

For icing, combine powdered sugar with vanilla extract & milk in a small bowl. (If too stiff, add 1 tsp milk until spreadable) Drizzle over top of cake with a fork. Sprinkle colored sanding sugar in alternating colors. Let stand until icing is set.

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PB Sandwich Cookies (with Honey-Cinnamon Filling)

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I can’t think back to a time when there hasn’t been a big jar of chunky peanut butter in one of my cabinets or pantry. I’m crazy about the stuff.

I’m not hugely picky on the brand; Jif, Skippy and Peter Pan have ALL passed the test of my tastebuds–just so long as there’s some there whenever I want it. Even when I went through a ‘health nut’ phase, do you think I turned my back on peanut butter? Tuh. I just spend the extra buck or two and bought the natural chunky pb without the extra hydrogenated oils that you have to stir every once in a while. Wasn’t that much of a difference in taste (albeit it a little less sweet) and it did the trick until I finally caved & went back to the really good stuff. I was NOT going to live my life without peanut butter. No way, no how.

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Can I let you guys in on a little secret?

I never could, and still haven’t grown to like peanut butter and jelly as a combination on a sandwich. Who *needs* jelly when you could just slather more peanut butter on two slices of toasted bread? Jelly can take a hike so far as I’m concerned.

Just shut up, pass me the Skippy Chunky and a spoon, and no one will get hurt.

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Apart from just loving the stuff all on it’s own, I remember that I went through a phase as a kid when I was ka-razy about peanut butter cookies–especially the Nutter Butter sandwiches. I just wanted them all the time. I craved them: ALL.THE.TIME.

You know how when you went to the grocery store with your mom and if you were good (or if she was in a good mood and there was a little extra money) she’d let you pick something out to get? For a while, the ‘thing’ that I would always pick out were Nutter Butters.

At the time it didn’t matter because I had the metabolism of an Olympic athlete, but looking back (now that I definitely do not), I can admit that it was embarrassing how many I could put away.

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However. These are not Nutter Butters.

They are…dare I say it? Yeah, I will.

They’re better than Nutter Butters. Got your attention yet? Good.

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I decided to make these on a random whim, since #1, I felt like baking, #2, I had all the ingredients in the house at the time and #3, I was feeling guilty for not using my America’s Test Kitchen cookbook more often and this was in it. It’s a fabulous recipe that’s fairly easy to put together, and with my personal modifications, it just tasted even better.

I swapped out the recommended regular dry roasted peanuts for honey roasted ones that are lightly coated in sugar. I prefer the taste of honey roasteds, and I also think the ‘roasted’ flavor just comes out stronger in them for some reason. The cookies themselves remind me of the peanut butter cookies that can often be found in the bakery sections on cookie platters sold in Sam’s Club or Costco. They’re soft and chewy with the perfect contrast of texture from the crunch of the honey roasted peanuts that are chopped inside the dough.

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The filling was another modification. Whereas Nutter Butter cookies are just filled with a stiff peanut butter frosting, the filling in these cookies is smoother in texture. Second, the combination of peanut butter, honey and cinnamon makes it so that the overall sandwich isn’t too ‘one-note’ in flavor. Spoiler alert: it works. Really well.

I don’t know if there are words that can adequately describe what this tastes like when it’s warmed up in the microwave. You know, where the cookies are just on the verge of falling apart from softness of the crumb, and the filling is gooey and sticky so that the whole thing just kinda melts together in your mouth and–

Yeah, let me just stop now.

My twin sister pronounced these as some of “the best PB cookies” she’s ever had, and I really can’t say that she’s too far off on that assesment.

Guess that means I’ve got Nutter Butters beat, huh? Rah rah sis boom bah.

Linking up this post to Fiesta Friday #156.

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PB Sandwich Cookies (with Honey-Cinnamon Filling)

Recipe Adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

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Ingredients

For the Cookies:

  • 1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) honey roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter,melted
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 large egg

For the Filling

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 5 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pulse peanuts in food processor until finely chopped, about 8 pulses.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in bowl. Whisk melted butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, milk and egg together in second bowl. Stir flour mixture into peanut butter mixture with rubber spatula until combined. Stir in peanuts until evenly distributed.

Using a tablespoon measure, place 12 mounds, evenly spaced on each prepared baking sheet. Using dampened hand, flatten mounds until about 2 inches in diameter.

Bake until deep golden brown and firm to touch, 15 to 18 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Repeat portioning and baking remaining dough.

For the Filling:

Microwave peanut butter until melted and warm, about 40 seconds. Stir honey and ground cinnamon into the warm peanut butter before using a rubber spatula to stir in the confectioner’s sugar.

Place 24 cookies upside down on counter. Place 1 level tablespoon of warm filling in the center of each cookie. Place second cookie on top of filling, right side up, pressing gently until filling spreads to edges. Allow filling to set for 1 hour before serving. Assembled cookies can be stored at room temp for up to 3 days.

   

Heavenly Candy Bar Cake

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Today’s post and recipe are going to be dedicated to several folks. So, shout out(s) to:

Will Smith, Avril Lavigne,  Serena Williams, Michael Buble, Gloria Estefan, Zendaya Coleman, Beyonce Knowles Carter, Alecia “Pink” Moore Hart, Avicii, Michelle Williams, Jennifer Hudson, Emmy Rossum, Barry White, Amy Winehouse, Tom Hardy, Tommy Lee Jones, BB King, Scott Hoying, Stephen King, Jason Derulo, Alfonso Ribeiro, Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles, Anthony Mackie and Catherine Zeta Jones.

It’s quite a diverse list, but still: I’m sure most of you can guess what all these folks have in common, right?

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All of the above had the great privilege of being born in the month of September.

Just like yours truly.

My birthday is coming up again guys. On September 27th (at 9:01 a.m., to be exact) I’ll be twenty seven.

I don’t feel twenty seven (three years away from 30, yikes.) Being completely honest I sometimes forget how old I am. It’s a day that mostly passes with little fanfare or to-do. I’ve never had a birthday party and twenty seven seems like a little late to start up the practice. But that’s fine by me. I don’t much like parties anyway.

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There is however, one thing  that so far as the birthday tradition goes, even I am unwilling to do without: a fantastic birthday cake.

That’s something that EVERYONE is entitled to. That’s something that EVERYONE ought to get.

Not to blow my own horn too loud, but… baking fantastic cakes is something that I think I kiiiinda know a little something about. Especially this one. This one’s going up there with the best of the best cakes to come outta my kitchen.

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So, the inspiration for this recipe comes out of a Southern Cake cookbook that my mom bought for me a little ways back. From the minute I first saw it, I immediately put a bookmark on the page, determined to bake it for myself once just the right special occasion came around.

If my own birthday isn’t a special enough occasion, then I think it’s safe to say that the birthdays of all the above mentioned stars certainly does. You’ll be seeing stars after the first bite of this cake, I’ll tell you that.

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If you were to ask most people- not all, but MOST people- they’d tell you that their favorite candy car is a certain kind made with milk chocolate, caramel, chopped peanuts and nougat. One with huge block letters with the commercials that ask you if you’re hungry, then tell you to grab one.

You know which one I mean. That one. It’s certainly MY favorite. So, I kinda went ahead and made it the focal point of the cake along with another certain candy bar that consists of milk chocolate and almonds. If you prefer another kind of candy bar; say the one that’s made with milk chocolate, caramel and nougat, OR the one with just milk chocolate and nougat that’s named after the book by Alexandre Dumas then I think those would work just as well with this cake as well.

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The base is a standard vanilla and it actually has melted candy bars in it, giving just a hint of the chocolate flavor without quite being a marble cake. It comes out oh-so moist, fluffy and of course, rich. The original recipe called for a chocolate marshmallow icing to go in between the cake layers but personally, I thought that was a little bit TOO sweet so, I diverted to my go-to chocolate buttercream that I used for my Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake instead. After that, I took the leftover fun-size candy bars I had, chopped them into quarters and pressed the quarters into the sides of the cake to give it a ‘brickle’ kind of effect. The crumbs from the almond chocolate got sprinkled around the rim of the top.

Now c’mon guys tell me honestly: is this a cake, or is this a CAKE?

(Linking this post to Fiesta Friday #138, co-hosted this week by  Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau and Johanne @ French Gardener Dishes.)

Heavenly Candy Bar Cake

Recipe Adapted from The Southern Cake Book

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Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 9 fun-size or 21 mini chocolate-coated caramel and/or creamy nougat bars (I used Snickers minis and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds Nuggets)
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting

  • 20 tbsp. (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioner’s sugar
  • 3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • Pinch table salt
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
  • About 15-20 mini chocolate-coated caramel and/or creamy nougat bars (I used Snickers minis and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds Nuggets), chopped

 Directions

For Cake:

Melt candy bars and butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat about 5 minutes, stirring until smooth. Set aside.

Beat sugar and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer about 3 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Combine flour and salt. Stir together buttermilk and baking soda. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture, alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in melted candy bar mixture and vanilla. Spoon batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch cakepans.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove cakes from pans, and let cool completely on wire rack. Spread half of Chocolate-Marshmallow Frosting evenly between cake layers. Spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake. Garnish, if desired.

For Frosting:

Using a standing or hand held mixer, cream the butter, confectioner’s sugar, cocoa and salt together until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and mix until just combined, about 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the chocolate and mix together until smooth and creamy, about 10-15-seconds.

Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one (evenly leveled) cake layer on the platter. Spread about 1 cup of the frosting evenly across the top of the cake with a spatula. Place the second cake layer on top, then spread another cup of the frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Place the third layer on top, then spread a very thin layer of frosting around the top and all sides in a crumb coat. Refrigerate cake for about 1 hour, then frost cake with remaining frosting.

Using the chopped candy bars, press into the sides of the cake gently. Refrigerate for about thirty minutes to set.

Remove the parchment strips from the platter before serving.

  

Chocolate Chip Cookie Icebox Cake

CCC Icebox Cake6

Hey guys.

Greetings from the West Coast.

I made it to California on Sunday and have spent the last few days getting settled and doing some exploring of the area. I gotta say, Michigan this place is NOT. It’s sooooo different in so many ways.

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The first most obvious difference is the climate. It’s the beginning of September which for Michigan would mean that very soon (if not already)the temperature would begin to drop and give way to autumn.  We also see our fair share of rain in the Mitten.

Well, I may have only been here three and a half days but I’ve checked the forecast for the next 10 and so far The Weather Channel says that there’s nothing but sunny skies ahead with the temperature in the upper 70’s and 80’s. The ‘heat’ here is even different. You feel it, but unlike in Michigan, Calif heat as I’ve experienced it isn’t oppressive/humid/muggy. There’s usually a breeze that comes up to temper the heat from the sun. It’s nice.

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The city I’m living in was literally built in the middle of a desert valley, so at any moment, in just about any place you’re at, you can look off in the distance and see the tall, rolling mountains surrounding you. This may seem commonplace and un-extraordinary if you’re used to it, but I’m not, so I think it’s pretty awesome and beautiful.

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Perhaps most importantly…OMG, there are SO many different restaurants/food options out here! Back where I’m from in Michigan we really only had a handful of independently owned restaurants/joints besides the major chains. Not the case out here. I’ve had to add the Yelp app back onto my phone just to be able to pinpoint the highest rated places around where we are (and there are plenty). I’m excited to be able to try them out on the days when I don’t cook and/or have leftovers in the fridge.

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As for today’s post, this is actually a recipe that I made a couple weeks before I made the big move. I figured that I would be busy both right before I left and that I would also need some time to get settled in the new spot before I made my first meal in the new apartment and tried to put together new photoshoots and posts. My instincts were correct and although I plan to start cooking in the new spot tomorrow, I do have several back-up posts ready to share just in case I don’t get to take pics and write up recipes.

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An icebox ‘cake’ is probably the easiest type of cake to make there is (even easier than a box cake mix), since in most cases there is no baking involved at all. Really all it involves is the layering of cookies, ladyfingers, biscuits or pre-made cake in between whipped cream/custard or some other kind of filling. The mixture is allowed to rest overnight in the fridge and the filling softens the base carbs so that they become soft and chewy; like a ‘cake’.

It’s a stupid easy technique that can result in stupid delicious results. Like this one I’ve made for you guys today.

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If you’re new to icebox cakes, then let me make a staunch recommendation to you: start with a chocolate chip cookie one. Why?

Well #1, everyone loves chocolate chip cookies. Ev-ery-one. And if they don’t, well…maybe you shouldn’t know them. Number #2, this chocolate chip cookie recipe that I use is extremely simple to follow and tastes delicious; however, it’s also perfectly fine to use store-bought ones if you’re not in the mood for baking them beforehand. And CCCs are something that can be found in just about any grocery store. The flavors here are no-frills and pretty up front; chocolate chip cookies are sandwiched between layers of vanilla flavored whipped cream,then topped with more whipped cream, melted chocolate, sprinkles and crumbled chocolate chip cookies.

Guys. I mean…need I say more? Just *look* at it, will you? And yes, I guarantee it tastes every bit as delicious as it looks.

Happy Fiesta Friday #136, where I’ll be sharing this cake co-hosted this week by Judi @ CookingWithAuntJuJu.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Icebox Cake

Cookie Recipe Courtesy of Land O’ Lakes

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Ingredients

For the Cookies*:

  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (12-ounce) package (2 cups)real semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chocolate chips

(Note: You can completely bypass this step and buy storebought chocolate chip cookies if you prefer. I’d just make sure I had about 20-30 total to fill the entire pan.)

For Assembly:

  • 4 cups cold heavy cream
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
  • funfetti sprinkles, optional

Directions

 Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl; set aside.

 Combine butter, sugar and brown sugar in another bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy.

Add eggs and vanilla. Continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.

Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chunks.

Refrigerate dough for at least four hours, but preferably overnight.

Heat oven to 375°F.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-11 minutes or until light golden brown. (Do not overbake.) Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to cooling rack.

Whisk the heavy cream and cream cheese together in a standing mixer using the wire attachment until soft peaks form. Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla bean paste/vanilla extract and continue to whisk until medium-stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Note: make sure the cookies are COMPLETELY cool before beginning to assemble cake.)

Spray the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. (You can use a regular 9 inch pan, you just won’t be able to remove the whole cake and will have to cut it out piece by piece when ready to eat)

Place one layer of chocolate chip cookies down in the bottom of the pan, breaking apart into pieces to fill in the gaps if need be. Spread a thick layer of the whipped cream (about 1 cup) over the cookies using a spatula to spread smoothly and evenly. Repeat to form about 3-4 more layers, ending with a layer of whipped cream on top. (You’re probably going to have leftover cookies; that’s totally fine.)

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Take 1-2 of the leftover cookies and crumble between your fingers. Spread the chunks of cookie over the top center of the cake in a small pile.

Microwave the semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips in a glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cookie crumbs, then add the funfetti sprinkles if desired.

Refrigerate one more time, 30-minutes to an hour, just until chocolate/whipped cream has set and hardened. Unclasp the spring from the pan and gently lift out. Cut into slices and serve.

Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

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Back in the late 90’s early 2000s the Wrigley/Lifesavers candy company came out with this line of candy that they called Creame Savers.

You guys (at least those of you in the U.S.) remember those?

For those that don’t know about/or remember them, the Creme Saver was similar to a Life Saver in that it was a fruit based hard candy except that the fruit flavor was combined with a cream that gave it a distinctive, rich/thicker texture when you sucked/bit on it. The first flavor that they put out was Strawberries and Creame, but it didn’t take very long before they became HUGELY popular, resulting in a rapid succession of other flavors: Oranges & Creame, Raspberries & Creame, even Chocolate & Creame. There was Creame Savers hard candy, Creame Savers soft chew candy, Creame Savers jello, and even Creame Savers flavored yogurt.

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For a while, it seemed like Cream Savers were just everywhere.

Then all of a sudden…they weren’t anymore. From what I understand Wrigly has recently started selling the Strawberry flavor in a new limited release in certain locations, but the Creme Saver craze has definitely died down from what it used to be. I’m not a huge candy fan, but I did like Creme Savers. When I was making today’s recipe, I thought about them and how much the combination of strawberries and cream is just always so much win.

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It’s one that was just made for summer. In summers like this when me and my sisters were younger we used to get cans of Reddi Whip whipped cream along with a carton of strawberries from the grocery store. We would wash/hull the berries, get out forks and take turns passing around the can of whipped cream, filling the berry cavities with whipped cream and eating them raw, just like that.

(I maaaaay or may not *still* do this myself sometimes. Maybe. I couldn’t possibly confirm at this time.)

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I may have lost my taste for Strawberries  and Creame candy, but I’ll never lose my love for strawberries and cream in shortcake or just all on their own.

Also, strawberries and cream in cupcakes. I will probably nevereverever lose my taste for cupcakes.

And if I ever do, somebody give me two tight slaps and ask me if I’ve lost my mind; the answer in that case would probably be a most definite “yes”. If there are some of you who may unfortunately think you’ve lost or never really had a taste for cupcakes, then don’t worry. I’m not going to give you two tight slaps and ask if you’ve lost your minds; I mean, I could. But I think a much better, more effective solution would be to just present you with these: Strawberries and Cream cupcakes.

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These cupcakes are very simple, no-frills and little fuss… but then, good things in life oftentimes are.

I will say one thing about this recipe though, and that I found that it made slightly more batter than I think is suitable for a 12 muffin cup pan. I tried containing it to just 12 cupcakes and what ended up happening was that before baking, the liners were fuller than what I was comfortable with. As a result, I had some spillage which is why the finished cupcakes settled a little flat rather than having domed tops. While that definitely didn’t affect the taste, it is a detail I think is worth pointing out. I think maybe just using 2 or 3 extra more muffin cups would produce the best results

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So, as I said before, this a very simple recipe. You can make these from start to finish in the space of about 1.5 hours. However, don’t let you think that that means the taste is simple.

It’s not.

The secret weapon in this recipe is the use of the fresh strawberry puree. It adds that tart strawberry flavor to the vanilla based-batter while also balancing the sweetness of the frosting beautifully, somehow managing to make it taste light and airy–the texture is actually very similar to whipped cream. Plus, doesn’t it make them look so pretty-in-pink?

I’ll be at the Fiesta Friday #130 party this week with these cupcakes. You should come out and get one while I’ve still got ’em.

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Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

For Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup strawberries, hulled
  • 1/2 cup milk

For Frosting

  • 1 1/2 sticks softened butter
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 cup Strawberry puree (see recipe)
  • About 6-8 Whole strawberries, sliced into quarters, optional
  • Strawberry rock candy (or sprinkles), optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium size bowl with a whisk or a fork and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy in a standing mixer on medium high speed. Add the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla.

Puree the strawberries until smooth. Add all EXCEPT 1/4 cup to the cupcake batter. Set aside the 1/4 cup in small bowl.

Carefully add the flour mixture to  the batter in medium increments until fully incorporated, alternating with the 1/2 cup of milk. (It’s best to start and end with the flour) Don’t over-mix.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake until tops spring back, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to baking rack and let cool 5 minutes in the pan before removing the cupcakes and letting them cool completely.

Beat the butter, confectioner’s sugar and salt with a mixer on medium speed  until just combined. Add the vanilla and beat on medium high until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the milk and 1/4 cup of strawberry puree beat for about 1 minute more until fluffy.

Spread frosting on top of cooled cupcakes. Top with sliced strawberries and strawberry rock candy/sprinkles if desired.