Sunday, December 22, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake with Cinnamon Eggnog Buttercream

During the holiday season, the house is filled with candies, cookies, cakes and more. While I am always a fan of the traditional desserts, I still like to mix things up, just a little, and create a new variation. This past week, my husband had his department Christmas party at work. When trying to decide what to make for the event, I considered brownies, cupcakes, and cookies, but I just wanted to expand my horizons a little. As I thought more about what to make, carrot cake came to mind.
My husband absolutely loves spiced cakes such as carrot cake, but is not a big fan of the rich cream cheese icing. I know, I know. Many of you are rubbing your eyes right now to make sure you read that last sentence correctly but it is true. He does not care for cream cheese icing. Imagine! Anyway, as I began to think about how I could change the recipe, I decided to make a pumpkin spice cake layered with a creamy eggnog buttercream that I developed last year. The result is delicious. Even if you do not like eggnog, you need to try this. Neither of us care for eggnog on it's own, but in this buttercream it is just a thick, vanilla flavored boost that makes this buttercream spectacular.


FOR THE CAKE
2 Cups Sugar
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
4 Large Eggs, Room Temperature
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
2 Cups Pumpkin Puree
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM
2 sticks Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature
6 Cups Powdered Sugar, Divided
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Eggnog
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar, oil, and eggs until smooth. 
2. In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients and spices together.
3. Slowly add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, half a cup at a time, making sure to mix well during each addition.
4. Add the pureed pumpkin to the batter. 
5. Mix until combined.
6. Prepare three 9-inch cake pans with non-stick baking spray with flour. 
7. Evenly divide the batter into the three pans.
8. Place into a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until lightly brown. You can use a toothpick to check for doneness, if you desire.
9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack for cooling. While the cakes cool, allow the butter to soften at room temperature.
10. Once the cakes are completely cool, approximately 1 hour, begin to make the buttercream icing.
11. In a large mixing bowl, beat 3 cups of powdered sugar with the remaining icing ingredients on high for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, slowly incorporate the remaining powdered sugar, whipping on high until fluffy.
12. Carefully assemble the cake. The layers are very tender so be careful when stacking. Smooth the buttercream between each layer. 
13. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to allow the buttercream to set.
14. Prior to serving, allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
15. Slice and enjoy!


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chocolate Lover's Cheesecake

So I have this theory about cheesecake consumers. All connoisseurs of this classic dessert fall into one of two categories; either you enjoy your dessert with a cool, creamy texture  or you love your cheesecake with a dense, thick texture. I am personally of the cool, creamy texture found in my never fail recipe. However, while my husband is never one to complain about my cheesecake, his own personal preference leans to the drier, thick texture in the dessert. In honor of my husband and his cheesecake preference, this recipe was developed. Not only do you get the delicious texture of the cheesecake but you get to savor a rich cookie crust, semi-sweet chocolate chips and a decadent ganache topping. If you love this style of baked cheesecake and you love chocolate, then this is for you!


FOR THE CRUST
2 Cups Crushed Oreo Crumbs
6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Melted
FOR THE FILLING
32 ounces Softened Cream Cheese
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
4 Eggs, Room Temperature
1 Cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips
FOR THE GANACHE
1 Cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips
2 Tablespoons Light Corn Syrup
1/2 Cup Milk

Preheat Oven Temperature: 325 degrees
1. In a bowl, combine the Oreo crumbs and melted butter. Stir until all the crumbs are moistened.
2. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan by lining the exterior with a double layer of aluminum foil.
3. Gently press the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan. Apply some pressure to pack the cookies into a firm, even layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
4. In the bowl of a large mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Carefully fold in the chocolate chips.
5. Pour the filling into the cooled crust.
6. Place the foil-wrapped springform pan into a large baking dish or roasting pan. Fill the pan with boiling water until 1-inch in depth.
7. Carefully place in the preheated oven. Bake for 80-90 minutes until completely set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the counter for 30 minutes.
8. Using a very sharp knife, gently run round the inside perimeter of the springform pan to release it from the sides.
9. Place in your refrigerator to chill overnight.
10. After the overnight refrigeration, you are ready for the ganache. Simply heat 1/2 cup of milk in the microwave for 90 seconds. In a large mixing cup, add the chocolate chips and corn syrup. Pour the hot milk over the chips. Using a whisk, continuously stir until completely smooth and glossy. Pour over the top of the cheesecake, reserving some for use during plating. Return to the refrigerator for an additional hour.
11. Prior to serving, allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the outer ring of the pan.
12. Slice and enjoy!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pieces Cookies

As you may or may not know, I am a school counselor at a high school about an hour away from my home. This weekend, I was preparing for the first annual Staff Bake Off. The money raised from this friendly competition is going towards my fund for needy children. This year alone we are sponsoring five children in need of a little Christmas cheer. While the students will never know that we purchased the gifts for them, their parents know that we are there to not only support their child's education but also make sure they have time to enjoy the magic of Christmas, no matter what their situation. Because of the wonderful people I work with, this event is definitely going to be a success.
When I was thinking about what to make, I considered making a decadent cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crust and a thick ganache. Now that will win it, I thought. However, the weather on Sunday was not very good and I was worried that we might end up not having school so I wanted to make something simple yet delicious that, if school were cancelled, I knew would get devoured right here at home. What to do? What to do? The answer, tender chocolate chip cookies with a crisp bottom and tender center complemented with miniature peanut butter pieces candies. Oh yeah! Not only are these cookies amazingly delicious, they are super simple. This basic dough recipe is my go to for any chip cookie I make. It is a never-fail. These would be perfect for Santa!!!

1/2 Cup Softened Butter
1/2 Cup Shortening
3/4 Cup Sugar
3/4 Cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla
2 1/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Miniature Peanut Butter Pieces Candies
Yield: 36 cookies
1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, shortening and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, whipping well between each. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet.
3. Add the chocolate chips and candies. Mix for 30 seconds, until combined.
4. Drop heaping tablespoon size scoops of dough onto and ungreased cookie sheet, placing at least 2 inches apart.
5. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Spiced Pumpkin Butter Spread

So a few Christmases ago, my cousin from Georgia brought my husband and me some pumpkin butter from a local boutique. I had never eaten pumpkin butter but have grown up loving apple butter, so this could not be much different. But, pumpkin??? I waited for a while before getting around to the jar but once I did, I was hooked.
Pumpkin butter is a delicious, thick pumpkin puree cooked down with spices. Imagine spreading a homemade pumpkin pie on your biscuits or toast in the morning. Who wouldn't like that??? I have also used the pumpkin butter to make homemade oatmeal breakfast bars. DELICIOUS!
I think one of the greatest things about this recipe is that not only does it use up the pumpkins harvested during the fall, but it also could not be easier. Additionally, this simple recipe makes more than enough to put in small jars for holiday gift giving.
I hope you will give this recipe a try. You will be amazed!
10 Cups Pureed Cooked Pumpkin
2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Nutmeg
1 teaspoon Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 Pound Light Brown Sugar
1. Place all ingredients into a large slow cooker. Stir to combine.
2. Cover with the lid and cook on LOW for 3 hours. Stir every 30 minutes.
3. Remove the lid and continue cooking on LOW for 1 hour or until thick.
4. Allow to cool.
5. Place in airtight containers and store in the refrigerator.