Marzipan-Filled Easter Pastries (Maltese Figolli)

Easter Figolli Cookies via Sweetapolita

Happy Easter!

Have you been dipping, baking, decorating, egging and basket-ing already this weekend? I’ve been baking some of my old favourites this week (which I sometimes forget to do) such as these and this, but I was also eager to try something completely new for Easter.

I can recall about a year and a half ago, right around the time when I started this blog, I was chatting with my cousin Julie and Aunt Edith about some possible Maltese baked good recipes they may have (I’m always on the hunt for interesting recipes, especially those with meaning). They told me about Figolli–traditional Easter treats of 2 cookie/pastry shapes sandwiched together with a marzipan-orange blossom filling, then baked, decorated and topped with a whole Easter egg, sometimes plain chocolate and sometimes wrapped in foil. Pretty much heaven–Maltese heaven.

See, my dad and his father’s side of the family are from Malta–a cluster of islands in the Mediterranean (located between Sicily and Northern Africa). It’s one of the most historically rich spots on the map (think 7,000 years of history). That being said, I visited during my teen years, and the nightlife is incredible *ahem* and much of the culture is very current, so it’s really the best of both worlds. And they created Figolla? It truly is an amazing place.

Easter Figolli Cookies via Sweetapolita

Why do I have no memory of ever eating Figolli? Perhaps because we lived in a town where we may have been the only people with Maltese heritage, but we did spend a lot of time visiting my relatives in Toronto where there are several Maltese bake shops, so it’s possible that I have but that it was just too long ago and I forget (kind of hard to imagine). The good news is that I now have the power to make and share them! Forever and ever. Isn’t that amazing when you grow up, become an avid baker (or cook) and realize that, if you set your mind to it, you can pretty much recreate any treat or yumminess from your childhood (or goodies you may have tragically missed out on)? It’s so liberating. So I decided it was definitely time to roll up my sleeves and try my hand at Figolli.

Easter Figolli via Sweetapolita

I’ve noticed that some recipes refer to Figolli as pastries, some cookies and some cakes, but no matter what we want to call them, they are freakin’ awesome. Now, because I’m blogging about these, and because it seems logical that I would tell you how amazing they are, or try to sell you on them, I fear that when I tell you that these are likely the yummiest pastry/cake/cookie treats I have ever eaten, you won’t believe me. Let me put this into perspective for you . . .

They are like soft, tender, lemony, melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies with a pastry texture, oozing with the glorious almond goodness of marzipan with a hint of orange, and topped with a thin layer of sweet crunchy royal icing. And who can forget the little chocolate Easter egg jewel that’s nested right on top of it all. Honestly, I love decorated sugar cookies, but these are like the pimped out version (think gourmet & global pop tart, and then pray for me that I didn’t just offend every Maltese person in all the land).

And good news–I looked into it, and you don’t need to be Maltese to make them or eat them. And I bet no one would mind if you made these at other times throughout the year. Think about it, you could be the “Figolli girl” or “Figolli guy,” and trust me when I say that everyone needs a Figolli girl or guy.

Easter Figolli Cookies via Sweetapolita

So it’s probably not a huge surprise that my cakelets went nuts for these, and so I’ve wrapped some up in fancy packaging for their Easter baskets. What was their favourite part? Yep, the little egg. But they loved the whole thing (even the marzipan, which surprised me). And then they loved it again. The girls went through their 75 animal cookie cutter collection and insisted on bunnies, which was good news to me. I’m not sure that Figolli armadillos would have had the same charm, but hey. We saw Marian’s classic bunny cookies on Pinterest and loved them, so we kept it simple and did our play on that. Bunnies? Easter? I know, I know, it’s groundbreaking over here.

Easter Figolli Cookies via Sweetapolita

The only thing I would do differently next time is fill the pastries with more of the marzipan filling than I did–I added too much liquid to the filling the first time and was afraid if I filled any more that it would squeeze out the sides while baking, so next time I will be sure it’s thick the way it should be, and fill them nice and plump. Just because. But, super plump or not, these are really a special treat.

Marzipan-Filled Easter Pastries (Maltese Figolli)

Yield: ~15 medium-sized filled pastries (2 shapes per pastry)

Ingredients

    For the Pastry:
  • 6-1/4 cups (800 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1-3/4 cups (400 g) unsalted butter, cool
  • 1-3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (2 g) salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Water to bind
  • For the Filling:
  • 6-3/4 cups (500 g) ground almonds
  • 4 cups (500 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) orange blossom water
  • You will Also Need:
  • Royal Icing for decorating
  • Small Easter eggs for decorating (foil or unwrapped chocolate eggs)

Instructions

    For the Pastry:
  1. Sift flour into a large mixing bowl and rub in the butter to a cornmeal consistency, or pulse in a food processor.
  2. Add the sugar and lemon zest and mix or pulse again. Mix in the egg yolks and enough water to make a stiff but pliable dough.
  3. Separate dough into 2 balls, wrap in plastic and press down gently so you have 2 discs of dough. Chill for 45 minutes.
  4. For the Filling:
  5. While the dough is chilling, make your filling. Mix the ground almonds and icing sugar (or ready-made marzipan), then add the egg whites and orange blossom water, mixing until incorporated.
  6. Assembly & Baking:
  7. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Remove one disc of dough from the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Place on top of a large piece of parchment paper (I use a silicone rolling mat underneath to ensure it doesn't slip while rolling, but you can even dampen counter so the parchment sticks a bit) and then place another sheet of parchment paper on top. You can also roll dough on a lightly floured surface (I just find this parchment method the most reliable).
  8. Roll dough (this will require a bit of elbow grease for the first few minutes until it softens up a bit) until it is about 1/8" thick.
  9. Preheat your oven to 350°F. While the oven is preheating, slide your parchment paper and dough onto a board, then place in refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Repeat with your second disc of dough.
  10. Remove from fridge, and cut your shapes using the cutters of your choice--you will need 2 identical pieces for each figolla. Place each shape on the lined baking sheet and spread a thick layer of the filling, leaving a 3/4" edge untouched, then cover each shape with its match, gently pressing down the edges to seal.
  11. Place the baking sheets of figolli in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking. Then bake until edges are light golden brown, about 15-18 minutes (this varies).
  12. Let cool on baking sheets on wire racks, then decorate each pastry with royal icing and don't forget the chocolate Easter egg!
  13. Decorating:
  14. With royal icing in a piping bag fitted with a small round tip (I used #3), outline the shape of the cookie (I do about 5 at a time). Let sit for a few minutes. *Cover the tip of the piping bag with a damp cloth when not using.
  15. Fill (aka flood) the cookie with the flood-consistency royal icing (same piping bag), gently pulling any open spots to the outline using a toothpick. Let sit for about a minute, and then place your chocolate or foil-covered egg directly onto the cookie (foil eggs stick beautifully and pop right off when you're ready to take them off the cookie to eat).
  16. Decorate the cookies any way you like. I added sprinkles for bunny eyes and noses, and then piped a small pink bow using pink royal icing and tip #2. After cookies have set for about an hour, you can add a bunny tail with stiff peak royal icing and a small open star tip. Let decorated pastries sit overnight before wrapping or packaging.
http://sweetapolita.com/2012/04/marzipan-filled-easter-pastries-figolla-from-malta/

[Adapted from europeancuisine.com]

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Orange Blossom Water is commonly used in Mediterranean (and more) desserts, Middle Eastern cooking and more. If you can’t find it, you can substitute it with orange zest or any of these options. You can find it in my shop or Middle Eastern grocers, and more.
  • You can use ready-made marzipan for the filling and simply add the egg whites and orange blossom water.
  • For the royal icing, I have tried many recipes for cookie decorating, but for these I used the version I use most often, which is one I learned at Bonnie Gordon College years ago. Because there is so much mixed emotion among cookie decorators about not only recipes, but method, I’m going to send you over to Callye for this Royal Icing recipe and info because her recipe is very similar to the one I’ve always used, and she gets into serious detail. The girl decorates cookies (the most gorgeous cookies) 24 hours a day, I’m convinced. Maybe more. I actually don’t know how she finds a way to even blog about them, but we’re sure happy she does.
  • For very specific info on decorating cookies with royal icing, I’ve included some links below. I’ve also linked to a recipe for royal icing from Callye from Sweet Sugar Belle. To learn more about outlining and flooding cookies with royal icing, check out this post (again, from Callye).
  • To learn more about decorating cookies with Royal Icing, check out some of these other amazing cookie goddesses: Bridget, Gail, Glory, and Marian.
  • You certainly don’t need to create perfect royal icing designs to make and enjoy these cookies–adding a nice layer of the royal icing and even sprinkles are perfect. Just don’t forget to add the chocolate egg!

And just for fun, here are a few interesting tidbits about Malta:

  • Maltese people have proven to be the most generous folk in the world, with 83% contributing to charity.
  • There is a good chance you’ve already seen Malta–on the big screen, that is: Many acclaimed (and even epic) films have been filmed in historic Malta, including Gladiator, Troy, The Da Vinci Code, Alexander, Munich, Midnight Express, Clash of the Titans, and let’s not forget Cutthroat Island–the movie that holds the title in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest box office flop of all time. Ouch.
  • Britney Spears and Bryan Adams are both of Maltese descent.
  • Pastizzi (a filling of ricotta or peas in puffy pastry) are the most popular snack in Malta, of which I have had many in my lifetime. My dad brings me these almost every time he comes to my house. It was just brought to my attention that these have 416 calories each, so about the same as 2 cupcakes. Oops!
  • Prior to the May 28, 2011 Maltese divorce referendum, Malta was one of only 3 countries in the world in which divorce was not permitted (the other two being Philippines and Vatican City).

And before I go, here are some other sweet deets (Did I actually just say “sweet deets?” Oy.):

  • UK friends, watch for one of my cakes in the May issue of Crafts Beautiful!
  • I just discovered a life-changing creative aid called Creative Whack Pack. It’s like religion for creatives and offers short hits (or whacks) of insight to help with creative block or just to get your wheels turning. I downloaded the app and use it a lot. And then I use it a bit more.
  • Congratulations to my talented friend, Courtney (of Pizzazzerie) for the release of her first book, Push-up Pops! This is one of the cutest books I’ve seen, and thanks to her I now have a new way to love and crave cake!

Have a wonderful Easter, friends!

Good luck & enjoy,

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Choco Choco Birthday Cake

Choco Choco Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

Happy Birthday! Who’s birthday is it? I’m not sure, but it’s got to be someone’s birthday and I know they deserve this cake. Besides, any cake designated a birthday cake and adorned with candles just tastes better, in my opinion–especially chocolate cake.

Do you ever wake up in the morning and say, “That’s it, I’ve had quite enough chocolate in my lifetime. Please, whatever you do, don’t give me any more chocolate!”? Me neither. That would just be weird. And sometimes I wake up and realize that if I don’t have scale-tipping amounts of chocolate, most often in cake form, I may not make it through the day. Who’s with me? Is that a girl thing? A survival thing? A hormonal thing? Either way, that’s how this cake came to be, or at least how it came to be in my kitchen.

Choco Choco Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

It’s a super-chocolaty layer cake that has both dark chocolate and natural cocoa powder, as well as sour cream, butter, brown sugar and more. The frosting is as light as air and is made using a variation of the old-fashioned cooked flour & milk method, and it’s perfect for those who don’t like super sweet frosting, because it’s basically just creamy, chocolaty fluffiness (yes, I’m an adjective junkie). In addition to the flour and milk, it’s made using granulated sugar (no icing sugar), a double dose of dark chocolate (cocoa powder and melted chocolate), vanilla and glorious heaps of butter.

Choco Choco Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

So here’s what happened: I came across this recipe for this cake on epicurious one day, and it’s all I could think about for weeks (literally). I was really intrigued by not only the name (mile-high chocolate cake), the yummy photo and the very thought of all of that chocolate in one cake, but by the mixed reviews. It was so divided, and those who liked it, loved it and those who didn’t, really didn’t. This always fascinates me. I know it’s human nature to have a unique opinion, but how could it be so varied? It seems that those who didn’t love it had some issues with preparation, so that would explain that, but since several others loved it, I couldn’t resist giving it a try.

Choco Choco Birthday Cake via Sweetapolita

Okay, so the cake layers do take quite a bit more time than the beloved one-bowl chocolate cake layers, for certain, but I really loved the taste and texture of this cake. It’s dense and moist, but above all it was very, very chocolaty. The frosting is the lightest chocolate frosting I’ve ever eaten, and the not-so-sweet factor allowed the chocolate to come through in full force.

I’m really excited to make another batch of this frosting again for a close friend, Danielle, who finds sugary frosting almost impossible to eat, yet appreciates chocolaty desserts. There’s also a good chance that I will make another batch simply for me to bathe in.

Instead of baking the cake layers in 2 standard round cake pans, I did 1 standard round cake pan and 1 contour cake pan, so that the top would be slightly domed, because I had other plans for decorating this cake, but when I started to frost it, I couldn’t get over how light the frosting was, and it just desperately wanted to be swirled by the spoonful onto the cake. So, next time I would probably stick with the 2 standard round cake pans. Turns out it’s simply one of those cakes that doesn’t want to be structured and fancy–it just wants to be rich & chocolaty.

So this weekend, whether you’re baking this or anything at all, bake up some memories–it’s good for the soul (yours and others’).

Or just let it all go and get wild.

Or both.

In other exciting news:

  • Check out this fun interview I did for the M.I.S.S. feature, “Women Making History.” I found their questions so refreshing!
  • My talented blogger friend, Heather from Sprinkle Bakes, is only weeks away (May 1st) from her new book release: SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist, but it is now available for pre-order. This book will be something special, I can guarantee it. Congratulations, Heather!
  • I’m working my through Ree’s new cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier, recipe by recipe, and I can honestly say that because of her and her books, my friends and family are starting to think I can actually cook.
  • I’m not sure how I just discovered it, but I’m loving HeyYoYo on esty for super-fun party and cake decorating doodads. Not only does she have an amazing array of goods, but she ships all over the world and for a really reasonable price. As someone in the seemingly far away land that is Canada, I so appreciate that shop-owner Amanda recognizes that shipping here for less than a fortune is doable. And her stuff is just way too fun.

So, here’s the recipe for this choco choco cake, and what I’ve done is listed the ingredients as found in the original recipe, and then added the weight measurements and my own method and notes. It may or may not be the messiest cake I’ve ever made, as far as the prep goes. I’ve no idea how or why, but my kitchen was invaded with chocolate and dishes, but it was worth it. As it always is.

Choco Choco Birthday Cake          {click to print}

(aka Mile-High Chocolate Cake from epicurious.com)

Yield 10 to 12 servings

Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 3 1/2 hours

Ingredients

For the cake:

5 ounces (145 grams) good-quality dark or extra dark chocolate (semisweet or bittersweet), chopped (I used Callebaut Dark Callets)

2 1/4 sticks (9 ounces/260 grams) unsalted butter, softened

2 3/4 cups (11 ounces/315 grams) cake flour (not self-rising), sifted *see notes

1/4 cup (24 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process, such as Ghirardelli Chocolate Baking Cocoa)

2 teaspoons (12 grams) baking soda

1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder

1/2 teaspoon (4 grams) salt

4 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes

1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) granulated sugar

1 cup (7.5 ounces/220 grams) packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanilla)

2 cups (475 mL) sour cream

For frosting

1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) granulated sugar

6 tablespoons (47 grams) all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons (36 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural, not Dutch-process, such as such as Ghirardelli Chocolate Baking Cocoa) *see notes

1 1/2 cups (360 mL) whole milk

4 ounces (115 grams) good-quality dark or extra dark (semisweet or bittersweet) chocolate, finely chopped (I used Callebaut Dark Callets)

1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract (I used Nielsen-Massey Vanilla)

6 sticks (1.5 pound/680 grams/3 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Method

Make the cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and put oven rack in the middle. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, dust with flour or cocoa powder, tap out excess and set aside.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter until smooth. You can do this in the microwave in 20 second intervals, or in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water (be sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl). Let cool.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla on medium speed (I use #4 on KitchenAid) until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.

5. At low speed (I use #2 on my KitchenAid), mix in melted chocolate until incorporated, followed by dry ingredients in 3 batches alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with dry ingredients and mixing until each addition is just incorporated. *Don’t over-mix.

6. Spread batter evenly in pans (you can weigh batter in pans for perfectly even layers) using a small offset spatula. Rap pans several times on counter to eliminate any air bubble and bake on center rack until a toothpick comes clean and remove cakes from oven, about 35-40 minutes. *Be sure to not open oven before 2o minutes (with these cakes, ideally 30 minutes) to check cakes and take care to not over-bake.

7. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks for about 10 minutes, and then carefully loosen them from the edges of the cake pans with your small palette knife and gently invert cakes onto racks to cool completely (about an hour).

Make frosting:

1. Whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt in a  small heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add milk and cook, whisking  constantly, until mixture boils and is smooth and thick (5-8 minutes).

2. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in chocolate and vanilla, until smooth. Transfer mixture to a heatproof bowl to cool to room temperature, covering surface with parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming.

3. In electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until creamy, about 5 minutes, then gradually add cooled chocolate mixture, beating until frosting is fluffy and spreadable.

Assembly of the Double Chocolate Birthday Cake:

1. Cut each cake with one horizontal cut using a long serrated knife (I use the Mac Bread Knife for all my cake layering and trimming).

2. Put 1 layer on a cake stand or large plate (cut side up) and spread top with 1 1/4 cups frosting using an offset spatula (such as this Offset Spatula)

3. Repeat with 2 more layers, then add remaining layer (cut side down) and spread top and side of cake with remaining frosting. If frosting is too soft, put it in the refrigerator for a few moments, remove and carry on.

Sweetapolita’s Notes

  • This cake is dense in nature, but moist and very chocolaty.
  • To learn more about cake flour (and many others) or to make your own cake flour, check out this previous post).
  • If you don’t have unsweetened natural cocoa, and only Dutch process (cocoa that’s been treated with an alkalizing agent to neutralize the natural acidity of cocoa powder), you can make an adjustment and use it, but don’t straight out substitute it. You can add 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar, or 1/8  teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar, for every 3 tablespoons (18 grams) of Dutch process in the recipe to balance it out (thank Joy of Baking for that tip!).
  • I made the cake 2 days ahead and wrapped the uncut layers tightly in plastic wrap and kept on the counter (room temp).
  • I made the frosting right before needing it, but the recipe notes that frosting can be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered–bring to room temperature (about 1 hour) and beat until fluffy before using.
  • I frosted the cake and covered and chilled it (because of the sour cream and soft nature of the frosting) overnight, and it was still moist.
  • I found the small alphabet candles at a local bakery, but I can’t seem to find the same ones online for you to source (for those of you who may want to know). I’ll keep checking, because they’re so cute and fun.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Homemade Puffy Cloud S’mores

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

S’mores are a dessert phenomenon, really. S’mores are the beloved treat made from graham crackers, marshmallow and melted chocolate, typically put together and enjoyed fireside. It’s definitely a delightful idea. They say that the first recorded version of the recipe can be found in a 1927 Girl Scout publication, which would make a lot of sense. If you put enough girls around a fire, someone is going to come up with a way to make dessert happen, one way or another.

The thing is I’ve never been a S’mores girl (until now), and yet I didn’t know why. It seemed like everything was there on paper: my like for graham crackers, check; my love for chocolate, check; my obsession with toasted marshmallows, double check. But put it all together, and it just never excited me (however, I’ve also never understood the whole Brad Pitt thing, so it’s possible I come from the far away land of backwards). Come to think of it, I’m nearing my 100th blog post and 38th birthday and I’m pretty sure that I have just written “s’mores” for the first time in my existence. Make that the second time. And for the record, this cake or these cupcakes aren’t “s’mores cake” or “s’mores cupcakes” since there’s no graham representation. Okay, I finally got that off my chest.

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

So then why am I sharing Homemade Puffy Cloud S’mores with you? Because I realized what’d been missing all of this time was the homemade factor. It changes everything in the mysterious my-not-loving-s’mores case. See, what happened was that I received my much-awaited copy of my good friend Shauna Sever’s new book, Marshmallow Madness!: Dozens of Puffalicious Recipes a few weeks ago, and even though I knew it would be fabulous, I didn’t expect to be so very inspired to make homemade marshmallows.

I literally couldn’t wait to make them, so I started with a batch of the Classic Vanilla (seemed like a great place to start). I was a little unsure what to expect, but I discovered that it was simple, fun and downright rewarding to successfully make a batch of homemade puffy, gooey, vanilla marshmallows. Then I spotted her recipe for Homemade Graham Crackers in the book, and I knew they were going to be yummy. So there it was: I was about to be s’mored. Or s’more someone else. Or worse. Little did I know that I was going to add a new sweet addiction to my collection, or that I was going to create crazed little cakelet girls who would literally follow me around with “Shauna’s book” begging me to make more “clouds.”

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

Yep, clouds. Why not, right? I just knew that cloud-shaped anything would likely taste a smidge better than square, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. I didn’t have a cloud cutter on hand, but when this girl wants cloud s’mores, she gets cloud S’mores. I took the largest of the a set of this popular daisy-style cutters (Wilton Set of 3 Flower Cut Outs) that I knew I’d likely never use, and MacGyver’d it to make a cloud cutter by squishing it ever so slightly (I’ve also had my eye on this gorgeous Cloud Cookie Cutter). I used it for the graham clouds (above) and, of course, the marshmallow clouds.

I should tell you that even if you get a chance to only make one of these two components (homemade graham crackers or the homemade marshmallows), you can’t lose. The graham cracker were, thanks to Shauna’s fabulous recipe and easy-to-follow directions, simple to do and so tasty. Much like the marshmallows, I had never thought to make my own graham crackers before, and I am excited to add these to my cookie repertoire. They’re buttery, rich and kind of cute really.

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

Simply put, the marshmallows are heaven. I’ve already made 3 batches of vanilla bean, and I’m not only ready to try all of her unique variations, but I’m inspired to start experimenting. I think what surprised me the most about making homemade marshmallows is that the active time is minimal (it was 20-30 minutes), the process is straight-forward, and they are so easy to work with once they’re set. I literally just pulled the entire square slab from the pan in one piece, placed it on a cutting board and cut my clouds with ease. For some reason, I envisioned a sticky mess of sorts. I made these with pure vanilla extract and the addition of a vanilla bean–I am a huge vanilla bean lover, and I knew it would heighten the vanilla flavour and would be a lovely visual (who doesn’t love those glorious vanilla bean flecks?).

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

I decided to coat the entire cookies in milk or dark chocolate (I was inspired by these adorable bits of awesomeness) and then sandwich them together, in typical s’more fashion. My cakelets went crazy for these, and so did I. The homemade quality to it all really converted me, and I’ll never look back. Ever.

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

Because these keep well for several days, they make super gifts. I built each one in a mini loaf liner and then boxed some up for a friend, and she loved it. Or, of course you can always just keep’em around in case of emergencies.

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

On repeat: “Mum, can I have more clouds?” I may have created little cloud s’more monsters, but they sure had fun while it lasted.

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

Who doesn’t love dessert clouds?

cover photo (and all book photography) by Leigh Beisch

So here’s where the magic begins! How beyond adorable is the Marshmallow Madness! book cover? And the name? The colours? I love it all. Packed with approachable-yet-unique recipes and techniques (think Key Lime Pie Marshmallows, Sea Salt Caramel Swirl Marshmallows, Homemade Marshmallow Creme and so much more) and more visual yumminess than I ever imagined, this book is a new favourite around our house. I took away more than just the ability to make these recipes, but I acquired a versatile new skill. Love that.

I think what makes this book extra special is Shauna’s warmth, humour and innate ability to put people at ease (aside from her incredible talent). You simply want to be around her. I first “met” Shauna when she left a blog comment on one of my posts not long after I first started this blog at the end of 2010, and even after that first comment I knew she was going to be a friend. And she is. You can learn more about her over on her website and blog. And what’s more? She has a new book, Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques, available for pre-order now and released November 6th, 2012. Congratulations, Shauna! xo

So, using 2 of the sweet and simple recipes found her book, here are the recipes and details on making these Homemade Puffy Cloud S’mores. I realize this looks like so much info and so much work, but it’s really not. I promise.

Homemade Puffy Cloud S’mores

Yield: 15 Smores plus additional 18 graham crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 batch Classic Vanilla Marshmallows (below)
  • 1 batch Homemade Graham Crackers (below)
  • 8 oz best-quality chocolate (extra dark, dark or milk)

Instructions

  1. Follow the instructions for the Classic Vanilla Marshmallows.
  2. Follow the instructions for the Homemade Graham Crackers.
  3. Coat the Graham Crackers in Chocolate:
  4. Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper or silicone mats. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl in microwave, or in a heatproof bowl over a small pot of barely simmering water.
  5. Dip cookies into chocolate using two forks (or if you have a chocolate-dipping fork), covering entire cookie, letting the excess chocolate drip back into bowl. Place on Silpat or wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Place filled sheet in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set.
  6. Assembly of the Homemade Puffy Cloud S'mores:
  7. Place one chocolate-covered graham cloud (be sure the chocolate is set) smooth side down into a baking liner (I used White Petite Loaf Baking Cups) or plate (you can even use cupcake liners, but depending on your cloud cutter, they may be too small). I popped mine in the freezer for a few moments before assembling them, to firm up the chocolate.
  8. Place cloud cut marshmallow (one side should be sticky) on top. Place second chocolate-covered graham cloud on top, smooth side up. If you need the top of the "sandwich" to stick to the marshmallow, you can try adding a dab of melted chocolate and letting set.

Notes

I used both Callebaut Dark Chocolate Callets (dark) as well as Callebaut Milk Callets (milk) and dipped half of my graham cracker batch in dark and the other half in milk chocolate .

http://sweetapolita.com/2012/03/homemade-puffy-cloud-smores/

Classic Vanilla Marshmallows

Yield: About 2 dozen 1 1/2"-inch mallows

shared with permission, as written in the book Marshmallow Madness!: Dozens of Puffalicious Recipes by Shauna Sever

Ingredients

    For the Marshmallow:
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Classic Coating, plus more for dusting
  • For the Classic Coating:
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup cornstarch or potato starch

Instructions

    For the Marshmallow:
  1. Lightly coat an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together the gelatin and cold water in a small bowl and let soften for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir together the sugar, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup, water, and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 240°F. Meanwhile, pour remaining 1/4 cup corn syrup into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Microwave gelatin on high until completely melted, about 30 seconds. Pour into the mixer bowl. Set the mixer speed to low and keep it running.
  4. When the syrup reaches 240°F, slowly pour it into the mixer bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes. Increase to medium-high and beat for 5 more minutes. Beat on the highest setting for 1 to 2 minutes more and beat in the vanilla; finished marshmallow will be opaque white, fluffy, and tripled in volume. Pour it into the prepared pan, using an offset spatula to smooth it into the corners. Sift coating evenly and generously over top. Let set for at least 6 hours in a cool, dry place.
  5. Use knife to loosen the marshmallow from the edges of the pan. Invert the slab onto a coating-dusted work surface and dust it with more coating. Cut into whatever size pieces you wish (a pizza cutter works great for squares). Dip the sticky edges of the marshmallows in more coating, patting off the excess.
  6. Super vanilla-ize these mallows by adding a scraped vanilla bean or dab of pure vanilla bean paste along with the vanilla extract.
  7. For the Classic Coating:
  8. Sift the ingredients together in a large bowl or combine them in a food processor. I tend to make several cups' worth at a time and store it in an airtight container; it keeps forever.

Notes

For the my cloud s'mores I did the vanilla bean version of these, so in addition to the pure vanilla extract I added one scraped vanilla bean. It makes the vanilla flavour even more heavenly, and those beloved little black vanilla flecks are gorgeous in these puffy, pure white cloud marshmallows.

I used Knox brand gelatin.

I used a 9" square pan, rather than 8" so they would slightly shorter for the cloud s'mores. This yields about 15 2" x 3" clouds.

The first batch I made took about 30 minutes active time, but after I got the hang of it, the following batches took about 20 minutes.

For sandwiching the mallows in the s'mores, I only coated the top of the mallow batch while it sets, but didn't coat the underside, so that they would stick to the cookies.

I let the pan of marshmallows set overnight, for about 9 hours, and then removed it in one big slab from the pan, onto a cutting board, then cut into clouds (you could do any shape you like) using a cookie cutter.

http://sweetapolita.com/2012/03/homemade-puffy-cloud-smores/

Homemade Graham Crackers

shared with permission, as written in the book Marshmallow Madness!: Dozens of Puffalicious Recipes by Shauna Sever

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, blend together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add the butter pieces and the honey and blend until the mixtures comes together. Scrape out the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat it into a rectangular shape; wrap well. Refrigerate until firm, but still pliable, about 1 hour.
  2. Position an oven rack in the center position and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out thinly, about 1/8 inch thick (you can gather the dough scraps and reroll as necessary).
  3. Cut out crackers with a 2- to 3-inch cookie cutter (or cut into squares with a pizza cutter) and place pieces on the prepared baking sheets, a dozen per sheet. Prick each one several times with a fork and sprinkle with turbinado sugar, if desired. Chill the pieces on the sheets for at least 15 minutes before baking. bake for 14 to 16 minutes until golden. Let set for 1 minute before transferring the crackers to a rack to cool completely.

Notes

I used standard whole-wheat flour (because it's what I had on hand) and it worked fine, but you can find the stone ground variety here: Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour. I'll try it this way next time.

I rolled the dough, as I do most rolled cookie dough, between two sheets of parchment paper on top of a slip-free mat (I use my Fondant Work Mat for everything).

I chilled the rolled dough for 15 minutes in the freezer before cutting with the cloud cookie cutter, then put the baking trays back in the freezer for another 15 or so before baking.

I didn't sprinkle with turbinado sugar (since I was covering them with chocolate).

This batch yields about 4 dozen 2"x 3" graham clouds.

These are so tasty, even on their own! They make a great snack for kids, and they keep well in a sealed plastic bag at room temperature.

http://sweetapolita.com/2012/03/homemade-puffy-cloud-smores/

Sweetapolita’s Notes (a few more):
  • For my clouds, I simply bent these cutters so they were cloud-like, but you can also buy a Cloud Cookie Cutter.
  • These are incredible on their own, so if you opt for making just the marshmallows, once you’ve cut them you can keep in single layers in an airtight container (with one corner cracked ) somewhere cool and dry (not the refrigerator).
  • You can watch Shauna make these marshmallows here.
  • I used both Callebaut Dark Chocolate Callets (dark) as well as Callebaut Milk Callets (milk) and dipped half of my graham cracker batch in dark and the other half in milk chocolate .
  • Timing of the Homemade Puffy Cloud S’mores Prep: I made the marshmallow batch first (and set the pan aside overnight). I made the graham clouds that same day and sealed them in an airtight bag overnight. The next morning I dipped them graham clouds in chocolate and let them set. Later that morning I cut the marshmallow clouds and assembled the s’mores.
  • The cloud cutter I used is about 3″ by 2″.
  • These finished s’mores are best stored in an airtight container at room temperature, and will last for several days.
  • Milk chocolate is a lot softer to work with than dark, so when assembling the s’mores you’ll likely need to put the tray in the freezer for a few moments when needed.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Boozy Birthday Cake Shots

Boozy Birthday Cake Shots via Sweetapolita

Happy St. Patty’s Day to you! So this won’t be the longest post I’ve ever written, or the most Irish (aside from the fact that I really am 25% Irish) for that matter, but I wanted you to know that I’m here (bearing sprinkly booze), and I’m back in action. Over the past few months I’ve been working on some projects that are sort of behind-the-scenes (and I hope to soon share), and it’s meant less frequent blog posts, so thanks for being patient with me. I’m happy to say that I’m almost caught up and ready for a new phase!

I wanted to share this boozy delight with you to get the weekend off to the right start, because it’s just too much fun not to. Remember I mentioned in my last post, that some girlfriends and I had some fun with Birthday Cake Shots a recent birthday get-together? I discovered cake shots after perusing the Pinnacle vodka site while I was planning cakey drinks to make at the party, and there was no way I was letting that go. I probably don’t have to tell you that bringing out cake vodka, whipped cream, sprinkles and more during a birthday party (or anytime) will definitely elicit some serious party-goer enthusiasm.

Boozy Birthday Cake Shots via Sweetapolita

Even though I’m not a frequent alcohol drinker, discovering cake flavoured vodka has been a pretty life-changing experience. I suddenly find myself randomly texting friends & family when I discover a new cake martini variation and googling things like “cake shooter recipes.” And I may or may not have started to carry sprinkles in my evening bag. Oh wait, I was already doing that.

Too. Much. Cakey. Sprinkly. Boozy. Fun.

Here’s the recipe for the cake shots I made, as well as a handful of boozy treat links from some blogging friends (below):

Boozy Birthday Cake Shots

Yield: 1 shot (easily multiplied)

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce (30 ml) cake-flavoured vodka (e.g. Pinnacle or Three Olives)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) dry white cake mix
  • 1/2 ounce (15 ml) chocolate liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce (15 ml) half & half (10.5-18% fat cream)
  • whipped cream (for topping)
  • sprinkles (for topping)

Instructions

  1. Shake all ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and strain into sprinkle-rimmed (optional) shooter or shot glass and top with whipped cream and more sprinkles.
http://sweetapolita.com/2012/03/boozy-birthday-cake-shots/

Sweetapolita’s Notes

  • The dry cake mix dissolves right into the drink when you shake it up in the martini shaker, I promise.
  • If you can only find the cake vodka, you can always use more in place of the whipped cream vodka or chocolate liqueur–it’s good both ways! Or, so they tell me. *ahem* You actually can’t go wrong–you can improvise with any sweet liqueur along with the cake vodka. For some reason it all seems to work. Again, so they tell me.
  • Okay, I know I now sound like the Pinnacle poster girl, but if you click here, you can find 5 pages of cake vodka drink recipes!
  • Please don’t cake & drive. xo

For other boozy delights from fellow bloggers, check out this yumminess:

Jessica’s Cake Batter Martini’s

Michael’s Chocolate & Bourbon Pudding

Naomi’s Thin Mint & Bailey’s Chocolate Floats

Steph’s Bourbon & Brown Butter Brownies

Naomi’s Irish Car Bombs Jell-o Shots

Good luck & enjoy!

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Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes with Nutella Cloud Frosting

Cupcakes galore! I think it’s safe to say that this layer-cake bakin’ girl has never before made so many cupcakes or used so many sprinkles in such a short span of time. Actually, maybe it’s not so much that I haven’t made so many in such a short time, but that I’ve never blogged about so many. The thing is that so often when I bake, I then eat, share, deliver…all with no time left to photograph or write about the recipes. This was going to be one of those times, but then after sharing a few Instagram shots of the cupcakes and receiving a flurry of requests to share what these cupcakes were all about, I thought I’d switch things up and do an all-iPhone shot post and go ahead and share!

So, a close friend of mine, Janin, was celebrating her birthday this past weekend, and we had a super-fun girls’ night on Friday night at her house (Birthday Cake Shooters, anyone?). Since she’s a relatively new friend (I just discovered how incredible it is finding such true friends at this stage in life.), I hadn’t yet met several of her hometown friends who were coming in to celebrate, so when trying to decide what birthday treats to make for the occasion, I figured if there’s anything that speaks to a gaggle of girls, it’s chocolate and sprinkles–lots of chocolate and sprinkles. You know, one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, is that sometimes keeping things classic and decadent can be as much of a crowd-pleaser as super-fancy, fondant-covered treats. You probably know by now that I am passionate about those as well, but I just feel that it totally depends on the situation. I used to feel that I had to go crazy decorating for days in order for birthday desserts to have wow-factor, but I’ve since discovered that’s not true.

So I made two types of cupcakes, the first was Janin’s all-time favourite, banana cake with chocolate frosting (I ended up making that frosting a la Nutella), and the second was classic dark chocolate cupcakes with the same chocolate frosting, sans Nutella (an amazing option for the non-Nutella fan). When one of the girls took a bite and said, “Whoa, the frosting is like a chocolate cloud!” I knew I had to put that down on paper. Chocolate clouds? What my dreams are made of. The truth is, it really does have a billowy cloud-like texture, and as a girl very concerned about texture, particularly frosting texture (not to mention enticing baked good names), “chocolate cloud” spoke to my very core. Add the rich, satiny awesomeness that is Nutella to the mix, and I’m blogging an otherwise unblogged delight.

The cupcakes themselves are a classic, one-bowl dark chocolate cupcake recipe that never disappoints. It’s only slightly different than this recipe, but I love it (love them both–I just have a thing for experimenting). The frosting is a modified version of this previous frosting I posted, but the Nutella gives it this incredible taste and adds to the already creamy texture. Even if you don’t like Nutella, you can simply omit it for a classic chocolate cloud frosting.

Such a classic birthday treat! Did I mention how well they pair with Chocolate Whipped Cake Martinis & Chocolate Banana Cake Martinis?

Oh yes, they do. Just sayin’.

Here’s the recipe:

*Product notes: The Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark (my favourite) cocoa powder is what makes this chocolate cupcake recipe so incredible.

Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes with Nutella Cloud Frosting

Yield: 12 standard cupcakes

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 3/4 cup (95 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) dark cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) brewed coffee or espresso, hot
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Nutella Cloud Frosting:
  • 1 cup (227 g)(2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but cool
  • 1-1/2 cups (190 g) icing sugar (confectioners’), sifted
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (125 g) premium bittersweet chocolate, chopped, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/3 cup (100 g) Nutella
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and line a muffin/cupcake pan with your favourite cupcake liners.
  2. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, egg and vanilla.
  4. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splashguard that comes with mixer), Divide batter among (2/3 full or just less) liners. Batter will be liquidy, and cupcakes will rise.
  5. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs. Try not to over-bake. Carefully remove cupcakes from the pan immediately (it's hot!), and place them on a wire rack until completely cool.
  6. For the Nutella Cloud Frosting:
  7. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the icing sugar and butter and beat on low speed (I use #2 on my KitchenAid mixer) for about 1 minute.
  8. Add vanilla, and beat on low speed until well combined. Add the melted and slightly cooled chocolate and beat on medium speed (I use #4 on my KitchenAid mixer) until smooth, about 2 minutes).
  9. Add the Nutella, milk and pinch of salt, and beat on med-high speed for another minute.
http://sweetapolita.com/2012/03/chocolate-birthday-cupcakes-with-nutella-cloud-frosting/

Sweetapolita’s Notes on the Cupcakes:

  • For evenly-sized cupcakes, I always use a 50mm cookie scoop (it’s a bit trickier with this runnier batter, but it’s worth it).
  • You can substitute the Cacao Barry Extra Brute cocoa powder, but be sure to use a quality cocoa powder (Dutch-processed).
  • To see the baking ingredients, equipment and tools that I used for this recipe, check out my shop.
  • Even if you dislike coffee with a passion, please trust me–it simply enhances the rich chocolate flavour!
  • For tips for baking better cakes, check out this previous post.
  • This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.
  • Unlike vanilla cupcakes, these stay incredibly moist for several days, so I often bake them a day before I need them (unfrosted) and frost on the day I am serving them, but you can also frost them and keep them in an airtight container for up to 3 days, for convenience (if they last that long!).

Sweetapolita’s Notes on the Nutella Cloud Frosting:

  • For the purest at heart, you can make your own Nutella by following Stella’s Homemade Nutella recipe.
  • You can omit the Nutella and you have an incredible “classic chocolate cloud frosting.”
  • It’s ideal to make this frosting right before you need it, because you’ll find it’s an ideal consistency for piping and decorating, but once it’s on the cake or cupcakes, it stays perfectly smooth and fluffy for up to 3 days.
  • You can add small increments of more milk, if too thick, and blend until smooth.
  • If you find the frosting starts to get air bubbles while sitting (during the decorating process), use a rubber spatula to knock the air out of it, by stirring it with a back and forth paddling motion.
  • To frost the cupcakes in the photo, I inserted a large, plain round icing tip into an 18″ pastry bag and filled it with the frosting. I piped a large swirl starting from the outside of the cupcake, and, moving in a slow circular motion, worked my way to the center, and gently pulling the bag up and away from the cupcake. Then, using the underside of a small spoon (I used a baby spoon), I put slight pressure on the very top of the swirl and pull the spoon up and away. This creates a well for the sprinkles and gives the cupcake a classic but not-so-perfect look. Top with confetti quins or sprinkles for a fun birthday finish!

Good luck & enjoy!

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