Best-Loved Holiday Recipes {a Round-Up}

Each year, as the holiday season begins, I encounter a predicament of sorts: do I use this festive time of family, friends, faith and food to bake new recipes, or do I make my favourites again–the ones that I’ve made (and loved) several times before? It’s a time when I sit and reflect on everything I’ve baked throughout the year and beyond, and decide what baked goods might brighten the holidays even more.  And even though I have some new festive sweets posts lined up for you, I thought it might be fun to share a round-up of some of the recipes that are on my holiday-baking-and-caking list this year. Am I the only one who starts thinking about this stuff somewhere around the day after Halloween? I didn’t think so. #bakerscurse

Winter Delight Peppermint Cake (above): This moist, deep dark domed chocolate layer caked filled with whipped peppermint frosting, crushed peppermint candies and topped with more frosting and sparkly sugar has my heart. I’ve secretly been waiting all year to make this again.

 

Red Velvet & Cinnamon Layer Cake: I have no idea what happened but I am just recently hooked on Red Velvet Cake. It’s rich hue and moist and decadent texture paired with cinnamon filling and classic rich cream cheese frosting is the ultimate holiday indulgence, if you ask me.

 

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes: I think what draws me back to these is the whole gingerbread buttercream thing, but combined with the chocolate cupcakes these were memorable for me. I think I just may need to make these happen again. (It could have something to do with dipping those teeny gingerbread houses into lusciously dark chocolate.)

 

The Perfect Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookie: These cookies are truly a blank canvas for countless holiday cookie decorating designs. They keep their shape; they are buttery, rich and chocolatey; and they look so pretty under wintery icing and sprinkles.

 

Little Hands Sugar Cookies & Cards: Speaking of cookies, these were one of my favourite cookie projects to date. Talk about “hands on.” My girls and I had so much fun tracing their hands, baking the cookies, and getting them ready for packaging–Reese loved making the cards to go along with them. We gave them to grandparents and teachers, and they were a hit!

 

And after that little cookie break, we’re back to cake. Lemon-Blueberry Macaron Delight Cake: So maybe the holidays don’t exactly shout “lemon!” and “blueberry!” but if there’s ever been a time when we can justify a rather time-consuming-but-totally-worth-it-and-dare-I-say-showstopping-cake, it’s the holidays. Since the macarons, lemon curd and the buttercream can all be made in advance, I say it’s a must.

 

The same goes for this Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Buttercream Cake with Ganache Drizzle: What’s a holiday dinner without a hint of drama? (And the good kind–not the kind Uncle Les creates after too many rum & eggnog.) This cake will forever be a favourite of mine,  and I’d like to make it forever & always.

 

Mascarpone Meringue Cake: I have to admit that sometimes I forget about this cake. I’m not sure how because it was one of the most incredible desserts I’ve ever made (honk, honk). Even my father-in-law claimed this as the “best dessert” he’s ever had. He had never said that to me before, and he hasn’t said it since. So either I need to improve on my baking ability or this cake was extra-special.

 

And let me say that no Christmas in our house would be complete without Cinnabon-Style Gourmet Cinnamon Buns. I started making these while we’re sort of unwinding after dinner on Christmas Eve, let them sit in the fridge overnight and then bake them in the morning while we’re drinking Bailey’s & coffee and unwrapping gifts. I think of these often throughout the year, and although I make them from time to time, it’s not nearly often enough. At least we always have that Christmas batch to look forward to. ♥

Now that we’ve looked back at some favourites, I will see you very soon with some of the new ideas I’ve been working on for this holiday season!

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Sweetapolita’s Best-Loved Bakers’ Gifts {Giveaway Winner Announced!}

The winner of Sweetapolita’s Best-Loved Bakers’ Gifts Giveaway is . . .

#318 Elizabeth @ The Collegiate Baker: “My favorite baking tool is definitely my grandmother’s kitchen aid mixer. My mom mentioned that it was stored in the basement one day after I’d been blogging for about six months and I couldn’t believe she hadn’t told me about it before! I don’t know what I would do without it, though. :)”

Congratulations, Elizabeth! You will also be notified by email.

I’ll be back later today with another recipe! 

. . . 

1. icemilk aprons 2. i do dishtowel 3. pom pom flower treat boxes 4. pink stripe cupcake box 5. cupcake measuring cups 6. whisk pendant (sterling or 18k dipped gold)

7. yum yum ice cream serving party pack 8. marshmallow madness cookbook 9. turquoise escali baking scale 10. pure vanilla cookbook 11. lite bites candle forks 12. ms. food face plate 13. fete origin iPhone case

Hello, my friends! Today’s a special day here on this little old blog. We’re talking fabulous gifts for bakers (and lovers of pretty things) and to make matters more exciting, one super-lucky reader will receive ALL of these goodies! Not one, or two, but all. Kind of awesome, right?

See, the thing is I love stuff. I love looking at pretty things, I love buying pretty things and I most definitely love giving pretty things–throughout the year and beyond. With the holidays just around the corner, it has me thinking even more gift-giving thoughts, so I figured I’d compile a bunch of my favourites–things that I currently own and adore.

Sweetapolita Loves: 

1. IceMilk Aprons: Aprons are always a hit with bakers, and I positively adore these. I own the monogrammed Frosty Tin Marshmallows style and have gifted several other styles to family. Embracing style, quality and tradition all with an heirloom theme, each apron is packaged in a preserves jar and comes with an apron story card, 3 blank recipe cards and signature heritage tag. These aprons are a truly special gift.

2. I Do Dishtowel: Lovely kitchen linens are always appreciated, but one adorned with confectionery dots and wedding cake? Yes, please.

3. Pom Pom Flower Treat Boxes: Don’t feel that you always have to gift treat boxes filled with treats (although that never disappoints)–pretty treat packaging itself is such a great way to inspire bakers, and is something some of us have a hard time buying ourselves. Besides, you never know–you just might see that treat-filled box back under the tree with your name on it.

4. Pink Stripe Cupcake Box: Again, I love getting and giving pretty packaging for gifts, inspiring the recipient to bake and create. Boxes like this make home bakers feel as though they’re running the sweetest shoppe in town.

5. Cupcake Measuring Spoons: I probably don’t need to explain why these made the list, but I have these and they make every measure that much sweeter. You can find these and at one of my favourite online shops, I’m With Cupcake. With everything from much-loved stripey paper party straws and balloons to milk bottles and pretty packaging, this shop just shouts happy. Sweetapolita readers receive 20% discount off $10+ orders when you enter the promo code “SWEETAPOLITA.”

6. Whisk Pendant/Charm: Where do I even begin? When my talented friend Sweet Paul discovered and shared these from Frances & Co Pendants awhile back, I bought one right away and haven’t taken it off since. The talented artisan, Frances, creates this irresistible whisk in both sterling silver and 18k gold-dipped options strung on an 18-inch box chain, and it simply makes the perfect baker’s gift. I cherish mine and have had everyone from postmen to passersby notice & compliment it.

♥ ♥ ♥

7. Yum Yum Ice Cream Serving Party Pack: If this adorable polka-dotted and striped ice cream serving ensemble from Sucre Shop doesn’t make your giftee twinkle, I’ll give up cake for a year. What better incentive to throw an ice cream party (and invite you) than the sweetest eco-friendly serving supplies all ready to go? Brooke Pratt, the celebrated artisan behind this array of stylish wooden utensils, creates the cutest party designs on everything from ice cream scoops to forks and can customize colours, images and sayings for any event.

8. Marshmallow Madness!: Dozens of Puffalicious Recipes: I really wasn’t kidding back in this post when I swore by this book. Shauna Sever gives readers the know-how and inspiration to create gourmet homemade marshmallows at home, and I have made them countless times. The recipes are simple, super-fun and delicious. Paired with the puffy pastel marshmallow medley of a cover, this book is total shelf candy.

9. Escali Arti Glass Kitchen Scale: With a rainbow of colours to choose from and state-of-the-art scale design at an affordable price, this scale will take home bakers to the next level and make them smile every time they use it. Throughout this blog I’ve expressed my feelings on how important it is to weigh your baking ingredients for best results, and now we can all do it in colourful style.

10. Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques: Okay, the girl is on a roll. Shauna Sever‘s latest book, and likely the book that holds the record for most recipes I’ve ever made from a single book in a week, Pure Vanilla makes a gorgeous gift. With everything from Buttery Baked Vanilla Bean French Toast to Vanilla Lollipops, as well as endless information on vanilla itself, this book is anything but, well, vanilla.

11. Lite Bites Candle Forks: More awesomeness that I found on I’m With Cupcake. Sometimes quirky candles are all you need to make a classic cake a show-stopper, and I think these make the cutest gifts! Fun candles are another thing that bakers just don’t tend to buy themselves, or at least I seem to neglect them at times, and yet they can totally make the cake.

12. Ms. Food Face Plate: We have the boy version of this plate (you might remember this and this), but I’ve just bought this Ms. version for my cakelets for Christmas. Okay, so this isn’t really a baking-themed gift, but it sure makes life that much more fun. Kids, of course, adore this and every meal yields a different work of art, but sometimes big kids (like me) also love playing with their food.

13. Fete Origin iPhone Case: Last but so, so not least, the most gorgeous iPhone case I’ve seen in all of my existence. And it just so happens to be the one I chose for my newly upgraded iPhone a few weeks ago when I literally went through every one of the thousands of options on Society6. Designed by the super-talented Jacqueline Maldonado, this artsy case may not be a literal depiction of confection, but to me it’s the most delicious looking colour-combination and pattern ever (you can even find her incredible artwork on bedding, shower curtains and more). I may not use my iPhone to bake, but it’s always in arms’ reach providing the soundtrack to all of my baking adventures and ready for snapping Instagrams. With its sturdy impact-resistant and flexible hard plastic case, this is an all-around winner.

Speaking of Instagrams, even though these didn’t make the giveaway (would have been logistically tricky), I can’t leave out the awesomeness that is StickyGram–your Instagram photos printed as adorable square magnets. (Use my friend code FRIENDD5QH and get $2.00 off your first sheet!) Probably one of my personal favourite options for gifting. With free worldwide shipping and only $14.99/sheet of 9 magnets ($12.99 when you use my discount code) you honestly can’t go wrong. I ordered a bunch of these, and can’t wait to order more for holiday gifts. Perfect for grandparents, friends and more.

So onto this super-awesome giveaway of all my best-loved goodies!

Here’s what one lucky reader is going to receive:

Giveaway is now closed. 

TO ENTER:

To enter the Sweetapolita’s Best-Loved Bakers’ Gifts Giveaway, simply answer the question below in the comments section of this post:

What’s your best-loved baking tool/item? 

  • For an extra entry, come over to Facebook and “like” Sweetapolita, and then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so. That comment will count as your extra entry.
  • For an additional entry share the Sweetapolita Facebook Giveaway post on your own Facebook page, and then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so. That comment will count as your extra entry.
  • For an additional entry, share this post on Twitter and include @sweetapolita, and then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so. That comment will count as your extra entry.

 THE RULES:

  • One entry per person, plus additional qualified bonus entries (mentioned above). Your comment may take a few moments to appear. 
  • Giveaway open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.
  • Winners will be announced Wednesday, November 21st, 2012.

Best of luck & happy gifting!

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Winter Delight Peppermint Cake

Earlier this season, the stunning, elegant and fabulously talented Camille from the entertaining site Camille Styles asked me to contribute to her 12 Tastes of Christmas series (which has been amazing so far, filled with everything from Candied Orange Peel to Winter Citrus Curd). Camille’s work and blog are centered around “creative parties and inspired entertaining,” so I knew that I wanted to create a little something special that I would like to serve at a holiday dinner or party, but that did not take hours and hours to prepare. So, I came up with this Winter Delight Peppermint Cake. Isn’t it funny how the moment the holiday season arrives, we seem to yearn for minty confections? And chocolate? And sparkles? Well, actually, that may be an all-year-long thing, but it’s definitely a much-welcomed winter treat, and I love bringing these flavours together with some contrast: dark fudgy chocolate layer cake filled with fluffy pastel mint frosting, fine-crushed peppermint candy (or as I like to call it, Peppermint Pixie Dust), and a generous coating of sanding sugar. In other words, winter in a cake!

Image Source 

Remember a little while ago, I was writing about some of the sources of inspiration I love? Well, among those was Pinterest, of course, where I came across this vintage Christmas card (a scanned childhood Christmas card of a fellow Flickr member). When I saw that beautiful holly & ivy-adorned glisteny dome (yes, I am creatively writing to avoid the word “muff,” forgive me!), I was suddenly needing to make a domed-style layer cake. I love the retro quality to it all, and it takes no extra time to make, bake, or frost, so why not? Sometimes I think the classic layer cake needs a twist, don’t you?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a flurry of baking (and other things) on the go at this time of year, so you might agree that fancy-but-fuss-free is a great approach to holiday dessert. Sure, we could stick with just fuss-free, but who doesn’t want to infuse a little fanciness into their holiday? With a simple (but delicious) one-bowl chocolate cake and a whipped version of a classic bakery frosting, I find this cake to be just the answer (not entirely fuss-free, but pretty close if you go with a simple topper). The cake’s unique dome shape paired with the sparkly sprinkling of white sanding sugar gives it a pretty finish that is actually pretty quick and easy to do. A contour cake pan is the easy trick (I used the 8″ Contour Cake Pan with Rounded Bottom Edge, 8 Inch x 3 Inch) to quickly achieving this shape with no carving (I avoid this at all costs), a generous sprinkling of the crushed peppermint candy between the layers and a simple “tossing” of coarse sugar onto the frosted cake adds a snowy twinkle (and a delightful sugar crunch!).

And of course fuss-free really does matter, because there’s just never enough time to get everything done over the holidays, particularly if you are entertaining (you know…planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, baking, cleaning, setting, decorating, hosting–no biggie, right?), but it’s wonderful when fuss-free tastes so good and pleases your crowd (a few oohs and aahs never hurts a hostess’ feelings either). This old-fashioned chocolate cake is dark and decadent (a good quality dark cocoa powder is key), and the whipped minted frosting is light with a supreme fluffiness (a simple extended whipping of the butter is to thank for this texture)–all with a subtle peppermint candy crunch hidden on top of each filling layer. From what I can tell, this combination never disappoints.

You can also add some glittery holly and ivy decorations for some fun and wintery vintage flair (you can even buy a faux-floral decoration or use your imagination–I think even a quirky ornament would be a cute topper!). I made mine by tinting a small bit of fondant raspberry pink and rolling 3 small “holly berries,” and then some green to cut 3 ivy leaves. I let dry and then dusted with edible glitter. I bet any sparkly little cake topper would add a unique touch, sugar or otherwise. I also loved the look of the sugary mint green cake sans adornment, so you truly can’t go wrong.

Happy Holidays!

Winter Delight Peppermint Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 8-inch round, domed cake (serves 10)

Moist, dark chocolate cake filled with fluffy peppermint frosting, crushed peppermint candy, and topped with sugar-coated peppermint frosting. The holidays in a cake!

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 3 cups (360 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 3/4 cups (550 g) white sugar
  • 1 cup (120 g) dark unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Cacao Barry Extra Dark
  • 2.5 teaspoons (12 g) baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon (10 g) baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon (14 g) salt
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (280 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (280 ml) hot brewed coffee or espresso
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (150 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Frosting:
  • 4.5 sticks (563 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 4.5 cups (720 g) confectioners' sugar (icing, powdered), sifted
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) milk
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.75 ml) peppermint extract
  • pinch of salt
  • Few drops of green food colour + a few drops of pink (or a drop of red) food colour
  • Crushed peppermint candy, for sprinkling over each layer of filling
  • White sanding sugar for outside of cake (optional)

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare one round 8-inch cake pan with butter, a parchment paper round and cocoa powder. Tap out excess. Prepare an 8-inch contour pan with a generous greasing of butter and cocoa powder (or flour), and tap out excess.
  2. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift and add all dry ingredients. In a larger measuring cup gently whisk together all remaining ingredients.
  3. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and mix on medium for 2 minutes (you will need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer). Pour into prepared pans--fill the cake pans 2/3 full. Batter will be liquidy.
  4. Bake until a toothpick or skewer comes almost clean, about 30 minutes (this is approximate and can vary) for the standard cake pan and about 40 minutes for the contour pan. Avoid opening oven door during the first 20 minutes of baking, and try not to over-bake.
  5. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes, then loosen edges with a small palette knife, and gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
  6. For the Frosting:
  7. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use "4" on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  8. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low for 1 minute, then on medium for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
  9. If desired, tint ~2 cups of frosting pink (for filling) and remaining frosting mint green (for outside of cake).
  10. For a thicker frosting, you can add and whip in small amounts of icing sugar; for thinner frosting, you can add a touch more milk until it reaches desired consistency.
  11. Assembly of the Winter Delight Cake:
  12. Spread a small dollop of pink frosting onto desired cake plate or cake board (this keeps cake from shifting) and place your 8-inch cake layer (standard round), top-side facing up and trim top until flat, if necessary, using a long sharp serrated knife.
  13. Take your 8-inch contour cake, with bottom up, and trim any doming (from the the flat side), and then make 1 horizontal slice in the middle, resulting in 2 layers. You should now have 1 standard 8" layer and 2 layers from the contour pan, totaling 3 cake layers.
  14. Place 1 cup of peppermint frosting on top of your first layer and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife.Sprinkle a generous layer of the crushed peppermint candy on top of the frosting (I like it really fine, like peppermint a "pixie dust" of sorts, but slightly bigger pieces would be great too, giving more crunch), leaving about a 1" edge un-sprinkled.
  15. Gently place the next cake layer on top, with the more narrow end (contour side) up, then repeat previous step. Gently place the final cake layer, smooth domed side up, on top.
  16. Put a very generous scoop of mint green frosting on top, spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. You will want to start with very generous additions of frosting, as much of it will be scraped off with your palette knife when smoothing. To keep the distinct rounded top, be sure to smooth over the domed top as much as possible. Chill until set -- about 30 minutes in refrigerator or 15 minutes in freezer.
  17. Remove from refrigerator/freezer and cover with remaining mint green frosting. Once your cake is frosted, you can place it (cake stand and all) over a cookie sheet and generously sprinkle with sanding sugar for an icy effect (you will actually need to "toss" sugar at the sides, but your cookie sheet will catch excess, allowing you to return remaining sugar to container when finished). Add wintery topper decoration, if desired.
  18. Store in a cake keeper at room temperature for up to 2 days or refrigerator for 5 days. Best enjoyed at room temperature.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Contour cake pans are available in many sizes at baking supply shops. I used 8″ Contour Cake Pan with Rounded Bottom Edge, 8 Inch x 3 Inch
  • You can also bake the cake layers in 3 standard 8″ pans, if you don’t have a contour pan or if you prefer a more classic cake shape.
  • The chocolate cake batter also makes delicious cupcakes. For a Winter Delight Peppermint Cupcakes, you can add a generous swirl of minty frosting and sprinkle with the crushed peppermint candy.
  • For a quick and tidy candy-crushing method (and to get out all of your holiday-induced stress), place your candy on a large cutting board with a tea towel on top and crush away using a meat pounder, or the like. The more you crush it, the finer it will be. Lift towel, and voila!
Good luck & enjoy!



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