Sugar Skull Butter Cookies

I really do need to chill with this preoccupation I have with collecting cookie stamps. I can admit that it’s starting to become an obsession. To my own credit though, I will say that I’ve kept it an inexpensive one. Most of the ones that I’m finding, buying and using are inexpensive and the results that they’ve been yielding are so great that I justify it to myself that it was too good of a deal to pass up.

Secondly, I also think that I just may be addicted to the actual process of making them. There’s something I’ve found to be very therapeutic to being alone in the kitchen, rolling out cookie dough, stamping out the design, transferring them to cookie sheets, chilling them, then baking them and seeing how pretty they turn out, all while music or a podcast plays in the background.

Third, whenever I’ve found a new stamp/mold and tested it out with stellar results, I’m always excited to pull out my camera to take pictures and write up a post so that I can show it off to all of you. That’s always lots of fun.

I’ve known I was going to do this post for months, which is when I first bought these cookie cutters/stamps from Amazon. They’d been on my wishlist for a while but they were at a price that I found to be….excessive. Fortunately my patience paid off because eventually it lowered waaaaay down to where they were practically a steal and I ordered them straightaway.

I’ve been baking for Dia de los Muertos for a few years on the blog. Both of those recipes were variations on the Pan de Muerto, which is a traditional bread that’s typically made and eaten for the holiday. Skeletons and elaborately designed sugar skulls are a huge part of the celebrations and overall aesthetic as well. So when I saw these cookie cutters, I knew at once that I would want to make them as both a Halloween and Dia de los Muerto post.

Y’all I’m so happy with these cookies. They came out EXACTLY like I wanted them to, and I have to attribute it to the consistency of the dough. As I’ve mentioned before, when making any stamped cookie, it’s important to work with a dough that isn’t going to spread or puff up so that the intricacy of your design will be preserved. Shortbread is perfect for this, as are most standard butter cookie recipes, like this one.

I really wanted the design of the cookie to be the star here, so I kept the flavor of these simple: two teaspoons of vanilla bean paste did the trick. Although, I could see almond, lemon or orange extracts working well too. The consistency is thick and soft, just how I like my sugar cookies to be.

Let me also say that although I did provide the link for where you guys can buy these cutters for yourself, this cookie recipe will work great for ANY cookie stamp/mold that you have. You also don’t have to use one at all; either just roll out the dough, cut out any shape you want or shape the whole thing into a log then cut off into rounds, and follow the directions for baking as usual. Either way, I guarantee that you’re going to love the cookies. Happy Halloween, Dia de lose Muertos and Fiesta Friday #195 co-hosted this week by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Sandhya @ Indfused!

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Sugar Skull Butter Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Springerle Joy

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Ingredients

  • 2 sticks, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened (250 grams)
  • 150 grams powdered sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 450 grams all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld mixer) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until combined.

Stir together the flour and salt in a small bowl. Add it to the wet ingredients in small increments until thoroughly combined. Scrape dough together into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least for one hour.

Sprinkle a clean surface (like a pastry mat or wax paper) with flour. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the dough you’re not using in the fridge while you work. Roll out each quarter to about 1/2 inch thickness. Sprinkle the surface the dough lightly with flour. Dip your cookie cutter into flour, then tap out to release excess. Firmly press the cutter into the dough, wiggle it around a little to release the excess, then lightly tap it down on counter to release the cookie.

Place stamped cookie onto a sheet pan you’ve lined with parchment paper. Keep the sheet pan in the fridge while you repeat the above process with the rest of the cookie dough. (Note: You MUST flour and tap out the excess of each mold, EACH time you stamp out a new cookie. If your dough is too soft, place it in the fridge until it hardens back up enough for you to cut it out.)

Allow the cookies to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take the sheet pan out of the fridge and bake on the middle rack for about 14-15 minutes, until the bottoms of cookies are just turning beginning to turn golden. Allow to sit on sheet pan for about 60 seconds before removing 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.)

Browned Butter Spice Cake

So…Amazon.

Amazon is a bookmarked tab on my web browser. I have the mobile app. I look on the website at least once a day. I can admit it: I’m slightly addicted. This addiction may be made even worse by the Wishlist feature. I feel like the Amazon Wishlist is a like the grown-up version of a kid’s Christmas List for Santa Claus.

The downside to that comparison is that when you’re an adult you’re (presumably) not going to believe in a rotund, elderly magical elf who visits your house on the night of December 24th to give you presents. You know that he doesn’t exist and that unless your loved ones decide to be gracious, you’re gonna have to shell out the money to buy yourself the things you want.

I don’t know about you guys but with the number of items that are currently saved on my wishlist (also taking into consideration the condition of moi’s funds), let’s just say that ‘WISH’ is the operative word of the term. Most of the time my visits to Amazon are spent browsing or just looking at all the items on my wishlist for the umpteenth time, as if by some miracle the necessary funds will appear in my bank account to afford them all.

It still hasn’t happened yet.

But occasionally, at times when it isn’t Christmas or your birthday where you may be gifted with something you want from someone else, you just want to play Santa and spoil yourself with a gift that you really want. I don’t do this often, but if I’m feeling like ‘loving on myself’ and the timing and price is right (meaning low enough) on a particular item on the Wish List…I’ll spoil myself.

That’s kinda what happened here.

When we moved out here to the West coast, I had to leave behind all of the lovely bundt pans in my mom’s collection that I would borrow to bake in.  That was harder than I thought it would be. I had two loaf pans and three round cake pans of my own to bring with me, but I still found myself missing baking with the bundt pans. They help cakes to bake so much more evenly, and some of the more intricate ones give them such a pretty shape when they come out.  I have several saved to my Amazon Wishlist. When I got a notification that two of them had their prices lowered, it so happened to come on a day when I felt like ‘spoiling myself’ so I went ahead and got them. One was a simple round bundt pan, the other had the beautiful swirled fan design that you see in this cake.

This cake. Let’s talk about that now.

I’ve already let you guys in on the best kept secret of browned butter in chocolate chip cookies and banana bread. Now you get to find out how awesome it can be in cake. As I’ve said before, browned butter has a very rich, nutty and toasted smell/flavor that comes through in whatever you put it in. That toasty caramelized flavor gets combined with a combination of warm spices that complement the approach of autumn: cinnamon, coriander, cloves, nutmeg. All that good stuff.

All of THAT good stuff combines together to form the VERY good stuff that is this cake. If your eyes aren’t doing enough of a job to convince you, get them checked. This cake is every bit as delicious as it looks. It’s moist. It’s sweet. It’s slightly spicy. It came from a bundt pan that was worth every penny. However, if you don’t have the one I do, don’t let that dissuade you from making this: any standard 10 cup cake pan will do, OR two loaf pans with the batter divided between them. Try this. Kinda not asking or suggesting.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #190, co-hosted  this week by Shinta @ Caramel Tinted Life and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

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Browned Butter Spice Cake

Recipe Adapted from Lauren Chattman

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Ingredients

For Cake

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 (2 sticks) cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup whole milk

For Glaze

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease or spray with cooking spray, a 10-cup Bundt or tube pan (you can also use two loaf pans). Sprinkle with flour & tap out excess. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, coriander, cloves and nutmeg. Set aside 1/2 teaspoon of this mixture for the glaze.

Heat the 1 cup of butter in a saucepan over medium heat, about 5-7 minutes, or until the milk solids on the bottom are dark brown and the mixture smells nutty& caramelized. Stir the rest of the spice mixture into the butter and let cook for about 10 more seconds. Immediately pour into a shallow dish and place in the freezer. Leave in there until the mixture is firm, like the texture of regular butter, about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

When the browned butter has become firm enough, place it in bowl of a standing mixer or a large bowl. Add the light brown sugar, then use the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer) to beat at medium speed until creamed, light & fluffy. At medium low speed, add the eggs and egg yolks (one at a time EACH and beating well after each addition). Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl down regularly to make sure the ingredients are well combined. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Alternate between adding the flour mixture & the whole milk to the batter, starting and ending with the flour mixture. After last addition, turn up to medium speed and beat for about 30 final seconds. Spread the batter in the pan, using the spatula to smooth the top out. Lift the pan up and tap it onto the countertop 2-3 times to prevent air bubbles while baking. Place the pan on a sheet pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown, toothpick inserted in center comes out clean & inner temp reaches 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For Glaze: heat 1/4 cup butter in small saucepan over medium heat until milk solids on the bottom are dark brown and the mixture smells nutty& caramelized. Remove from heat & slight cool. Use a fork or a whisk to mix in the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon of milk, lemon juice, salt and reserved 1/2 teaspoon of spice mixture. Adjust the thickness and thinness of glaze to your desired consistency. Use the tines of a fork to drizzle over the cake. Allow to set for about 40 minutes before serving.

Cookies n’ Cream Layer Cake

There is a tangible difference in food that’s been made with care and love versus food that’s been made without them and don’t you let anyone tell you there isn’t. Anyone who says there isn’t has never had food made for them with love, and that’s truly unfortunate. When I was younger, I thought it just boiled down to some people were good cooks and some people weren’t–now that I’m older and that I’ve learned how to cook and bake rather well myself I understand that it’s a bit more complicated than that.

I’ve eaten in swank restaurants where the food was both expensive and undoubtedly delicious, but given the choice I still would’ve rather been in my grandma’s house eating a dish of her smothered steak and gravy.  I would take her Lemon Pound Cake over the most pricey, fancy souffle from the best pastry chef in the world ANY DAY.

Know why? Because regardless of whether or not the fancy food tastes delicious, I know for a fact that there is more love for ME personally in her dishes than anything a chef that doesn’t know me from Eve can put into his food, no matter how technically flawless it is. It may sound corny, but for me, food made with love tastes like home; the taste that gives you the ‘itis’ where you’re full, satisfied, and want to take a nap afterwards, then wake up and have a little bit more.

The only thing more gratifying for me than eating food made with love is being the one to make it for my loved ones, especially when it’s a special request/favorite of theirs. Because I know them, I know exactly what they want and how they’re going to want the food to taste and that knowledge makes me all the more determined to put as much care and consideration into what I’m doing to make sure the food meets their anticipation for it. My fellow food bloggers/cooks out there will know the immense feeling of satisfaction that comes with watching someone you love eat and rave over their favorite food and know that YOU were the one to make it for them. It’s a wonderful thing.

My twin sister came out to visit us a few months ago. There’s little to nothing that I don’t know about her, including the fact that she loves practically ANYTHING cookies and cream flavored. The Cookies and Cream flavor is best described as that of the Oreo sandwich cookie: a sweet vanilla base mixed with chocolate. She mostly eats ice cream, and we very well could’ve just got a pint of it to keep in the freezer but when she booked her flight to come out here I decided to make something that was bit more special than ice cream to surprise her with.

This may be the easiest layer cake I’ve ever made. Unlike most others that have lengthy ingredients and complex instructions this cake is so simple it doesn’t even require a standing or hand held mixer. If you’ve got a large bowl, a whisk (or even a fork), you can make this cake and have it baking in the oven in less than ten minutes, no joke. The recipe that I included does give instructions for making whipped cream from scratch. However. In the case that you don’t have a standing or handheld mixer….lean in closer. A little bit closer. Little bit closer.

*whisper*  You can buy pre-made cool whip that you thaw and it will still work out fine.

The finished product is what is probably the most “Cookies and Cream”-y thing I’ve ever seen or tasted. Normally I’m not even a huge fan of chocolate cake, but the combination of the cake with the cookies and cream whipped cream filling just really works. The cake texture itself is very moist, the chocolate flavor isn’t overwhelming and there’s a fluffiness in the whipped cream that adds lightness to the cake that cuts some of its richness. Then again, I DID make it with lots of love. That was bound to have an effect on the tastebuds.

Sharing this cake at this week’s Fiesta Friday #180  co-hosted this week by Tracey @ My Baja Kitchen and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Cookies n' Cream Layer Cake

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

For Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus two tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 cup plus two tablespoons sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For Whipped Cream

  • 50 Oreo cookies
  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9 inch cake pans with cooking spray, then line with wax or parchment paper; spray the paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt with a fork or wire whisk and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla and beat with a fork or a whisk. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones and mix thoroughly.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and place the pans on a large sheet pan. Bake in the oven until cake separates from the sides of the pans and a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.

Allow cakes to cool in pans for about ten minutes, then turn out and allow to cool completely on wire racks.

Take a knife and cut 10 of the Oreos in half and set aside. Put the rest of the cookies in a Ziploc plastic bag and use a rolling pin or the bottom of a glass to crush into crumbs.

In a mixing bowl beat the heavy cream in 2 batches, 2 cups at a time until the cream has stiff peaks. Beat the vanilla and powdered sugar in with the second batch, then combine them together. Reserve about 3/4 cup of whipped cream in a small bowl in the fridge.  Gently fold in all but about 1 cup of the crushed Oreo cookie crumbs with a spatula.

Level both cakes so that they are flat on the tops. 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.  Spread about half of the Oreo whipped cream onto the cake, then place the second cake layer on top. Use a spatula to cover the tops and sides of the cakes with a thin layer of the cream, then refrigerate for about 1 hour until the layer is firm, to allow a crumb coat to form.

Place the rest of the cookie cream on top and on the sides of the cake. Take the reserved cookie crumbs and press evenly onto the sides of the cake with your fingers. (This may get a little messy so you can place a layer of foil or wax paper underneath the cake to pick up any of the spare crumbs.) Take the Oreos you’ve sliced in half and press onto the top of the cake. Remove the bottom strips of parchment paper. Take the reserved whipped cream and pipe small rosettes in between the sliced Oreos and along the bottom of the cake to form a border. You can also place one whole Oreo in the center of the cake and pipe rosettes around that, if you like.

Refrigerate for about 1 hour to allow whipped cream to set before slicing and serving. Keep cake refrigerated when not eating.

Vanilla Sugar Cookies

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Our current location is pretty convenient for several reasons. First, there’s a park nearby that me and my niece have gone to at least once a week since we moved out here. Second, we live a hop, skip and a jump away from a pretty dope children’s museum that my niece has become very fond of. Because the weather here’s been so hot and pretty much unbearable to play outside, we’ve been spending quite a bit of time at it. It’s a very nice museum, but it’s certainly not the biggest one that we’ve ever taken her to. You’d think that after going two or three times, a kid would get tired of it.

But…nope. Not ours.

The museum has the option to purchase what’s called a family membership where after paying one lump sum, you can go to the museum as many times as you like for an entire year. After our first two visits, her mother decided that she’d just go ahead and gift her with a membership. That way, on days when she doesn’t want to go to the park, or when stormy or hot weather doesn’t permit us to go (like nowadays) she still has a way to get out of the house and have some fun.

And boy, does she have fun. It’s become kind of amusing for me to see her go through the same exhibits, play with the same toys, see the exact same things and never seem to get tired of it–like, ever. Each time we go is like the first time for her.  In fact, she’s already asked me if we can go back there on Monday. I figure it beats standing out in the hot sun on a playground that has little to no trees for shade.

I said sure; why not?

Now that I think about it, I can’t really blame my niece for loving the museum that much. I can be like that in other ways about other things.

For instance, oh well…sugar cookies. I think my unending love and obsession for the sugar cookie has been well documented on this blog. There is no dessert or sweet that I love more. No matter how many different ones I’ve made, I’m always willing to try another recipe and try to either improve it or give it another creative twist.

Today’s recipe is kinda like yet another one of my niece’s visits to the museum: I’m showing up with yet another sugar cookie recipe. You all will not only deal, you will love it.

Ever since I bought my Springerle Cookie molds, I’ve developed a small obsession with making stamped/imprinted cookies.  They’re a really quick way to give your cookies a lift aesthetically and with some practice I’ve gotten pretty decent at getting the results that I want. The problem with Springerle molds is that because each one is hand carved, they’re not cheap. Right now I’ve only got two and because I wanted to widen my collection of cookie stamps, I knew I would have to try and find a cheaper alternative. A little digging on Amazon led me to some perfectly nice rubber ones from Tovolo. They came in a set of one plunger that fit three rubber stamps that could be switched out alternatively.

I used one of the stamps in the Tovolo set to make these very simple, but still sooooo delicious sugar cookies. Sugar cookies are one of the foods I love most. Baking itself is therapeutic for me, so I think that love just goes into it naturally. The stamp of choice just seemed appropriate. I would like to say though that although I used one for this recipe, these cookies DO NOT require you to use them for it to work. If you’re like me and are also obsessed with sugar cookies–especially ones heavily flavored with vanilla- but don’t have a cookie stamp, don’t worry about it. You can still make un-stamped but still perfectly fine vanilla sugar cookies. And I gotta say, in addition to being simple to put together, these ARE also pretty perfect.

Provided you roll the dough thick enough, these bake up soft and slightly chewy. The flavor I used was vanilla because that’s what I think works best with sugar cookies, but if there’s another flavor you’re fond of, like lemon or almond, I think that would work just as well.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #178.

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Vanilla Sugar Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Nordic Ware

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 2/ 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/ 2 teaspoon salt

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix just until combined.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt with a fork. Add this in batches to the wet ingredients, mixing just until combined.

Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour and up to overnight. Take out for about 10-20 minutes to allow to soften a little.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll dough out on a clean and floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Dip your cookie stamps into powdered sugar, then tap to remove excess. Press firmly into the dough. Use a slightly larger round cookie cutter to cut out shape, then transfer to cookie sheets. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the dough.*

Freeze cut out cookie dough for 30-45 minutes. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, just until bottoms start to turn golden brown. Allow to set on sheets for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

(Note: You don’t HAVE to use cookie stamps for this recipe. I think it would work just as well without it. Use whatever cookie cutters you have, or shape the dough into a log, freeze for about 30 minutes, then cut into slices and bake as directed. Also,  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.)

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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