A Very Baking Christmas

You may be saying to yourself: ‘Meris doesn’t care about her blog anymore…either that or she’s become a vegan and spends her time shunning technology in an Amish hideaway.’ Lies, all lies. Truth is, I’ve been baking up a storm the last few weeks, squirreling away recipes and hurried photos so that I can once again bombard the Internets. [*Sidenote: I don’t think the Amish are vegans, but whatevs]

To begin with, I made strawberry cupcakes from a box with jar icing for my coworker, Little Jake, who says this is his favorite kind of cake and icing. Behold, my foray back into Betty Crocker [I couldn’t help it-had to make little star decorations]:

xmas2Next came the holiday cupcakes for my office:

xmas6Everything was made with either gum paste or stiff buttercream.

xmas3

The snowman was everyone’s favorite. And yes, I realize that’s more pimp hat than snow hat.

xmasThe cupcakes are red velvet with cream cheese frosting and gingerbread with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. You can find the recipe for the red velvet cupcakes here and for the cream cheese frosting here. The gingerbread cupcake recipe is here at King Arthur Flour and I use my own cream cheese frosting I listed above rather than KAF’s, but change it a bit by adding cinnamon to taste.

xmas5Enough to please a crowd!

xmas4My editorial cohorts, Denny and Jake in their holiday finest ūüėČ

denny_jakeLaura and I in our 4-glasses-of-wine finest. I made duck face because I thought we were taking a funny photo…no one told me it wasn’t supposed to be funny o__0

laura_meAnd finally the B√Ľche de No√ęl (a French Yule Log) for my boyfriend’s family. [You can find my Frenchie mother’s handed-down-through-generations recipe here] Before I show you what I made this year, I thought I’d show you my very first try a few years back:

bucheAnd the B√Ľche de No√ęl of 2013! A little less cartoonish? My meringue mushrooms also don’t look like little albino poops. [You can find the fool-proof meringue mushroom recipe here]

xmas7I tried really hard to make a pine cone by just “winging it” and no research into how gum paste pine cones are actually made…sooooo it’s a flower-pine cone ūüėČ

xmas8The holly-looking decoration was made with gum paste.

xmas9Aerial view. The “bark” was made by melting chocolate onto a huge sheet of waxed paper, letting it dry ALMOST completely, then breaking it off randomly into chunks.

xmas10I apologize for the lack of quality photos this time, peeps! I really was in a huge rush making these things this year for some reason, so I snapped and wrapped without much thought. Future posts will have much better photos!

Speaking of future posts, stick around…burnt caramel custards are on the horizon. And by that I mean literally in the next few days and not another few months as has been my horrible habit lately ūüėČ

Happy belated holidays, everyone!

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Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frangelico Frosting

God bless the South and Southern Living magazine for keeping it real with alcoholic desserts and lots of sugar, spice, and everything gum-achingly, teeth-stained-ly nice.

While at home in Ohio for Thanksgiving break, lounging around in my pajamas for the third day straight,¬†eating cheetos with my dad as my overly-awesome mom washed my laundry and cooked my dinner [so good to be home…and an only child], I discovered this wonderful recipe for alcoholic frosting that’s just enough to stop adults from serving them to the kids’ table during the holidays. “Oh my goth!” I exclaimed, my mouth full of neon orange Chester, “thith lookths amathing!”

“Damn, straight, kiddo,” said my dad.

And so it was decided.

The red velvet cupcakes are extremely moist and just the right density to let people know they didn’t come from a box. And let’s face it: nothing says Merry Christmas like ganache and liqueur. I used Hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico), but Amaretto can also be used-basically, any type of¬†sweet liqueur¬†will do.

The little red edible decorating balls are all the rage this year with food magazines, Southern Living included, something which was annoying me¬†since they were¬†nowhere to be found. At least, that’s what I thought until I stepped into Crate & Barrel (of all places). As I was reaching to look at a ridiculous¬†Belgian waffle maker I have no business buying but crave nonetheless, BAM! red decorating balls.¬†So thanks, Crate & Barrel, for being so¬† eccentric¬†you¬†now sell designer cupcake accessories that cost more than my metro commute. But of course, could I live without them? “Are all 5 containers yours, ma’am?” Why yes, overly-holiday-cheerful employee, yes they are.

Equipment:

  • Electric or stand mixer
  • Whisk
  • Sifter

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes (can make about 30 when filled correctly: don’t fill these more than 2/3 full-they puff up nicely)

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar + 1 Tbl. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbl. cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk, rm. temp.
  • 2 large eggs, rm. temp.
  • Some red food coloring (use your judgement on this one)
  • 1 tsp. white distilled vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 2 (4 oz.) bars white chocolate
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, rm. temp.
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup Frangelico or Amaretto

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa in a medium bowl. In another large bowl, whisk oil, buttermilk, eggs, red food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla extract.

Mix the dry ingredients, in increments, into the wet ingredients with an electric mixer on low speed, just until combined and smooth, about 2 min. Pour into cupcake liners or greased pan and bake 20-25 min. Let cool completely.

For the frosting: Break both white chocolate bars into pieces and place in a microwave bowl. Add heavy cream and microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) 1 min. Take out and stir with a spatula. If not completely melted yet, keep microwaving on medium in increments of 30 seconds, stirring each time. Make sure the chocolate and cream have completely blended. Let cool to rm. temp.-about 30 min.

Beat butter and one cup of SIFTED powdered sugar at low speed with a stand or electric mixer until blended. Add 5 cups of sifted powdered sugar, alternating with the liqueur, beating at low speed until blended after each addition. Add white chocolate ganache and beat at medium speed until spreading consistency.

*Note: The frosting was piped with a large star tip and piping bag. The white chocolate star decorations were made by melting white chocolate in the microwave, then spreading it on waxed paper and putting it in the fridge to solidify. Once solid, use a star aspic cutter, or any other cutter to cut out shapes.