Unicorn Birthday Cake

fullsizeoutput_18b2Apparently, unicorns don’t exist. Sort of like Bigfoot and the Lochness Monster…. despite countless accounts of their being, my wonderful husband just informed me that unicorns do not in fact exist. My bubble was burst.

fullsizeoutput_18e7But there is a magical world inside a 3 year old’s mind…. where Santa, Elsa, the Easter Bunny and Unicorns happily dance in an innocent waltz of childhood imagination. It’s magical in every sense of the word.

fullsizeoutput_18bfMy daughter turned 3 this month, and as part of the birthday celebrations, we had a family movie night and watched Disney’s Cinderella. My daughter’s eyes bulged as the fairy godmother transformed Cinderella into the belle of the ball. Bippity boppity boo! She’s been using the phrase for months but she never understand the magic behind the fairy godmother’s wand until watching the movie. Once again, magical in every sense of the word.

But the movie brought to light a host of topics beyond a 3 year old. Death…. Cinderella’s parents were both deceased… leaving her to be raised by an evil step-mother. Cruelty…. her step-sisters are jealous and vindictive. Lying…. several maids indicate the glass slipper is theirs, which is not true. None of these concepts exist in her beautiful innocent mind.

fullsizeoutput_18f6I’ve tried every which way to freeze her in time and keep her perfectly 3 years old forever. But she seems to keep growing up every day. 😩 I’m coming to terms with that, but for today….  let’s talk about a magical unicorn cake. Which, by the way, does exist and is truly magical.

For months, we’ve been talking about this unicorn cake. As far as cakes go, I had a lot of performance anxiety. When is last time you talked about a cake for months before it was baked? Maybe my wedding but honestly….  I don’t know I was as excited about that cake as I was about this one. Something about a 3 year old makes a cake more exciting, right??

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I used another recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. This cake is birthday cake the way it should be. Moist with a dense crumb that has you scraping the plate for every last bite. It’s a heavier cake than most… but in a good way. No… in a great way. I’ve made this cake countless times and come back to each birthday with such excitement. 

There are 5 eggs in the batter. It’s not quite the yellow cake you had growing up but its definitely heading in that direction. The cake uses buttermilk, a standard cake “moistener”. I actually didn’t have any on hand (oops!) so I used the DIY buttermilk recipe of whole milk mixed with lemon juice. It totally worked! I couldn’t taste a difference and the cake was just as moist.

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For the frosting, I adapted Sugarhero’s Easy Swiss Meringue frosting. That frosting is great but it’s just a touch too buttery for a 3 year old’s birthday cake. I add some additional powdered sugar (it’s a mountain of powdered sugar added to a mountain of butter) to cut down on the butteriness and make it a bit sweeter. We LOVE it and it is super silky smooth to pipe on a cake.

This cake is actually far easier than it seems. It’s generally pretty forgiving but I’ll summarize my tips for you here. It’s not complicated but I’ll try to spell it out for you. Also, I used this tutorial from Rosanna Pansino, which was very helpful (note I did not use her recipe).

  1. Weigh your cake batter to ensure even cake layers. How is this done? Weigh your empty mixing bowl before you start. Write that down. Make the batter. Now weigh the bowl again with the batter. Subtract the original weight of the bowl and you’ve got the weight of your batter. Now….divide by the number of layers you are planning. I did 4. You should probably round that number down a a bit because it’s always tricky to get every drop of batter in the pans. I dyed each layer a different color. Remember that the batter is very yellow due to the butter and egg yolks so your colors will be skewed by that. Have fun playing with the colors. My pink ended up peach and my blue ended up teal but 3 year olds aren’t picky when it comes to pastel cake batter colors. My colors were supposed to be pink, blue, dark purple and light purple (to match my frosting colors). They ended up teal, peach, dark purple and light purplish gray. Unfortunately, the batter is so yellow, it was hard to get a light purple color. Maybe next time, I’ll just add sprinkles to the batter and make it funfetti.
  2. Once the cakes are cooled, you’ll stack your layers with a healthy dose of frosting between each. I used white frosting for the filling and around the cake. Once your layers are stacked, take a serrated knife and level the sides. This is so nerve wracking! But honestly, if you want your cake to have super straight sides, you’ve got to cut the edges so they are straight. Does that make sense? They don’t need to perfectly round edges but you’ll need to cut off any edges that are sticking out too much. I’ve made many cakes where I swore the sides didn’t need to be leveled and then once you’ve got the frosting on, one level is noticeably sticking out beyond the others. Frustrating! So save your cake and take a knife across the sides. You’ll end up with little bit of cut cake to snack on…. you know…. quality control. Another note….the frosting is also a bit yellow from the butter. To make it look a whiter, a common trick is to add a dot (think toothpick dot) of purple food coloring. I learned this from “I am baker”. It’s not perfectly white but it does cut the yellowness.
  3. Once all the layers are stacked and you’ve leveled the sides with a knife, apply a crumb coat of frosting to the cake. This is a thin layer of white frosting that will hold all the crumbs from the cake. This cake is best frosted out of the fridge, so it’s nice and cold. But it will produce some crumbs when you level the sides, so a crumb coat is definitely needed. After the crumb coat is applied, stick it in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes to firm up the frosting. This will make it much easier to apply a nice smooth outer coat of frosting.
  4. Once the crumb coat feels firm to the touch, take it out of the fridge and apply a nice even coat of frosting to the outside of the cake. I use the piping tip 789, which is designed for frosting sides evenly. I find it helps a lot! Use a bench scraper to smooth the sides of the cake. If you are having trouble smoothing the sides, stick the bench scraper in very hot water to warm it before scraping the sides (dry it off before touching the cake!) A warm bench scraper will soften the butter in the frosting, making it smooth out nicely. Don’t worry too much about leveling the top because it will be covered in the rest of your frosting.
  5. Now, the fun part. You’ll need a second batch of frosting. (If you have leftover frosting from your first batch….save it in case you need to do a touchup later. It will match your existing frosting.) Make your second batch and add another dot of purple to help clear up the yellowness of the frosting. Divide into four bowls (or however many different colors you want…) and color each to your desired shade. I use Americolor Gel color which gets dark very quickly so add your colors slowly. I use toothpicks to dab the color in rather than squeezing it out of the bottle. Colors will also darken over time so tread lightly here.
  6. Once you’ve got your colors sorted out, get your piping bags and tips ready. I used three different tips: Wilton 1M, 2A and 2D. I started out with the front “roses”, in between the unicorn’s eye lashes (in purple) with the 1M. I then added more roses to the top and side “mane” in purple. Next, I added the pink roses on each side of the purple center rose and continued to add more to the top and the side “mane”. There wasn’t any rhyme or reason for my unicorn. Maybe you’d like yours to be symmetrical but I had fun and just added the flowers as I liked. Continue with the 2A and 2D tips. I recommend using each tip for more than one color. I think it added depth to see the colors repeating in different flowers. So once you’ve added a sufficient amount of 2A flowers in a certain color, squeeze the rest of the frosting back into the bowl and start again with 2D or 1M. Also, it’s always a good idea to practice a couple times before going on the cake. Just practice on parchment or even the side of the bowl and scrape it back into the bag. Also, if your frosting is too “soft”, put the bag in the fridge for a few minutes to make the butter harder. If it’s too hard, use your hands and massage the bag. The warmth of your hands will soften the butter.
  7. Once your flowers are complete, add the fondant horn, ears and eyelashes. I bought mine on Etsy from FondantandFrosting and man! Am I glad I did! They look beautiful and saved me so much headache. Fondant cannot be chilled (or maybe it can, but the colors run etc. when coming back to room temperature….) so I added mine right before our party. I used just some water and a small brush to stick the eyelashes on.
  8. Phew! Done! Sit back and enjoy!

 

Are you still with me??? If you are, thank you. And now, please go make a little magic for someone in your life.

XOXO

Marie

Unicorn Birthday Cake
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Yield: Serves 12-14 servings
Prep Time: 30 MINUTES
Cook Time: 25 MINUTES
Total time: 5 HOURS (including cooling)

Ingredients
3 and 3/4 cups (431g) sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks; 345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 and 3/4 cups (420ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
1/3 cup (50g) rainbow sprinkles (plus more for garnish)
Food coloring

Easy Swiss Meringue Frosting (you will need two batches)
Adapted from Sugar Hero

6 fl oz pasteurized liquid egg whites (3/4 cup)
28 oz powdered sugar
½ tsp salt
24 oz unsalted butter (3 cups) , at room temperature
2 TBSP vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (163°C). Lightly butter 4 8-in round cake pans and line with parchment paper rounds (optional but recommended). If you do not have 4 pans, you can bake two layers, let them cool for 10 minutes, turn the cooled cakes out on a wire rack and start again with the next layers. Washing the pan in cold water will cool it completely. Leave the batter out on the counters while the first batch cooks.

Bake the Cake:

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. On medium-high speed, add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not over mix this batter. The batter will be smooth, velvety, and slightly thick. Pour/spread batter evenly into prepared cake pans.
Bake for around 24-25 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.

Make the Frosting:

Combine the whites, powdered sugar, and salt in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix everything together on low speed until incorporated. Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula, then turn the mixer to medium speed. Beat on medium for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, turn the mixer to medium-low and start adding the softened room temperature butter, 1-2 tablespoons at a time. Once all of the butter is incorporated, add the vanilla extract and mix it in. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom and sides once more. Turn the speed to medium and beat the buttercream for 10 minutes. It can be used right away, or stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or the freezer for up to two months. If you have chilled the frosting, let it come to room temperature and then beat it for several minutes to smooth it out and restore its texture before using it. If your frosting has air bubbles, beat it at a low speed for several minutes to eliminate air bubbles. Finally, add a touch of purple food coloring to the buttercream to cut the yellowness out. Mix until fully incorporated.

Assemble the Cake:

See notes above for tips on decorating cake.

Once cakes are fully cooled, level them with a cake leveler. Stack cakes on a cake board, making sure to frost between each layer. Use a cake turntable to smooth white frosting over the entire cake. Make a second batch of frosting, dye to desired colors and pipe rosettes on the top and along one side of the cake using the pink and dark purple frostings each fitted with a 1M tip. Add dollops of details using the pink, light purple and blue frostings each fitted with a #2A and 2D tip and the blue and dark purple frosting each fitted with a #2A tip. You can use any combination of colors and tips that you prefer. Place horn on the top center of the cake and the ears on either side of the horn. Use some water and a small paint brush to attach fondant eyes to the cake. Finally, snap a pic of your creation!

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Cookie Butter Bars

Have you ever heard of a one-pot meal? Of course! We all love less dishes and with the new Instant Pot phenomenon going on, it seems one-pot meals are only gaining popularity. I’ll be honest, this recipe is not that….Nope!

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You will in fact need two bowls. One for our butters (yes, plural types of butter) and one for our chocolate.

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But I’ve got something better for you! This is a one-hand recipe. What’s that you ask?? It’s the recipe you pull out when you’ve got one hand. What happened to your other hand? It’s busy…. holding an 18-pound Tazmanian Devil known as my second-born child. Yep… I made these luscious, sophisticated, decadent treats all while holding a teething 9 month old. 

Every new mom knows the phase I’m talking about. We’ve got crawling down. That’s old news. Next skill to master? Crawling up Mom’s leg any time she tries to attempt anything productive. This child lives and breathes to be held by me right now. Which is wonderful. Adorable. So darn precious. Except it happens to be the first week of December, the start of holiday baking season. Cookie dough is ready, the oven is warm and the little guy just wants to be held.

There are a lot of things you can do one-handed. Laundry, sure. Put the dishes away, yep only one hand required. You can even make the bed one-handed. I’ve done it every day this week. But then there’s those things you just can’t do. Like put cookies in a hot oven. Even the messiest of pony tails requries two hands. Zipping up an almost three year old’s coat…. impossible with one hand.

I could go on….. Brush your teeth? Easy with a little guy on your hip. But put contacts in? I don’t recommend trying it. I’ve done it and ended up squinting one eye the rest of the day.

So here you are… my very best one-hand, no-bake Cookie Butter Bars. For those days when it feels like you are walking around with one hand and half your sanity.

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These guys are so darn good… using my all-time favorite…. Cookie butter. This stuff is seriously my Achilles heel. I’m so ashamed of this, but I hid some of these guys away, didn’t tell a soul about them, and snacked on them all day today. 😦 What self-respecting wife and mother does this? I have no explanation but to say I have a problem.

But it’s a good problem to have 😊

Steps are so simple, but let’s review for fun.

First, melt butter and cookie butter together in a bowl. Add powdered sugar and mix the goodness together.

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Second… melt chocolate and butter (peanut, almond, cookie, anything will do…or you can leave it out and just melt the chocolate….you really can’t go wrong.) Mix together a second bowl of goodness.

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Next… pour the first bowl into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and pat down with your hand or the back of measuring cup. Should look like this!

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And then… pour melted chocolate on top and spread it around.

Finally, sprinkle the top with sea salt (BTW- this is the easiest way to up your baking game…sea salt is a game changer. And very easy to sprinkle one handed 😉 )

fullsizeoutput_1226Stick the whole thing in the fridge for a bit to set. This is a good time to set someone down for a nap… or pull your hair out trying 😊.

Now, the fun part.. cut and enjoy! If you are like me and really can’t wait to dive in, your chocolate might split when cutting a tiny bit. Best advice is to wait for about 10 minutes out at room temperature until the chocolate has a chance to warm up. Otherwise, you might have a few cracks. No biggie if you do! I like to sample those pieces 😉

Holiday baking is by far my favorite kind. Amid all the other distractions of the season, I truly feel so much joy spreading ridiculous amounts of goodies around to all my loved ones. While this year may bring some unique baking challenges for me, I know it’s worth the craziness I sometimes inflict on my household. So I encourage you to join in the fun….you may find the best part is sharing with those you love.

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Enjoy!

XOXO
Marie

 

Cookie Butter Bars

Yield: 24 bars

Prep Time: 10 MINUTES

Total Time: 3 HOURS , 10 MINUTES (includes chilling)

Ingredients:
1 cup (227g or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 and 3/4 cup (14 oz) cookie butter
3 cups (360g) confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
7 ounces (198g) semi-sweet chocolate
3 tablespoons cookie or peanut butter
Sea salt

Directions:

Line a 9 x13 in baking pan with parchment paper. Leave enough paper to overhang the sides of the pan. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter, vanilla, cookie butter, and powdered sugar together until combined. Spread into prepared baking pan and pat down evenly with your hands.
In a small bowl, microwave 3 tablespoons of cookie or peanut butter with the chocolate until melted. Microwave in 30 seconds bursts so you do not scorch the chocolate. Stir until smooth. Spread over peanut butter layer. Sprinkle with sea salt.
Chill until completely firm, at least 3 hours. Allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting. Otherwise your chocolate may be brittle and crack as you slice it.
Bars will stay fresh for 5-7 days stored in the refrigerator. Bars can be frozen up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Nana’s Pound Cake

Sometimes, the best things in life are so simple.

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Pound cake is most certainly one of those things. Rich, yet somehow light, simple yet elegant, straightforward and still complex. There is something so deeply profound about cooking one of your grandmother’s recipes. It almost feels ritualistic….passing down a recipe to another generation….memories, smells and tastes that are the essence of our experience with family, and the food we enjoy together.

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Nana’s pound cake was a Christmastime staple in my family growing up and when I smell it in the oven, it feels like home. I never knew my Nana well but when I bake this cake, I feel like she is with me, probably giving me pointers here and there…and relishing the fact that her granddaughter is still baking her pound cake after all these years. 

This cake feels like a time travel back to a simpler moment, when baked goods called for basic ingredients, prepared in a very straightforward way and presented in a beautifully elegant manner. I have to marvel at all the celebrations, graduations, baptisms and holidays this cake celebrated. It’s had a good life and it’s still kicking!

The cake is almost indescribable, other than to say it is cake in its truest form. Wholesomely rich, with a deep crumb. It’s so dense you really should pick it up and eat it with your hand. No fork is needed. It’s richness needs no more than a dusting of powdered sugar, but somehow it feels light enough to enjoy with a morning coffee. If there is a mother of all cakes, this is it. As my almost three year old eloquently put it, this cake is “better than frosting”. That says a lot coming from her!

Nana was a smart cookie and kept the method, ingredients and presentation very simple. Who has time to bake an elaborate cake on Christmas Eve? The best part? It comes together in about 15 minutes, takes about an hour to hang out in the oven (bundts don’t like to be rushed!) and then takes another nano-second to decorate.

Doesn’t the powdered sugar remind you of a sprinkling of newly fallen snow? Perfect for the holidays.

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The one wild card in this recipe is a spice called mace. It’s a cousin to nutmeg. It’s considered more subtle and delicate than the other traditional fall spices we commonly use. To quote Serious Eats

“Imagine a cross between nutmeg and coriander, tinged with citrus and cinnamon. Add to that the same nostril-widening properties that nutmeg, mint, and basil share. Then add the complexity of raw sugar.”

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I highly recommend trying it. If you can’t find it, nutmeg is a great substitute.

Bundts can be a little intimidating. What if it gets stuck? How will I know it’s done? I recently received a new bundt pan from Nordicware and the packaging included some great tips:

  1. Grease and flour the pan. Get every little crevice. You can use those cooking sprays that contain flour, but I always feel like I’m cheating a little when I use them. Maybe because Nana is watching.
  2. Spoon the batter into the pan. This will help ensure there are no air bubbles that could disrupt the beautiful shape of the cake.
  3. Turn the cake out on a wire rack about 10 minutes after taking it out of the oven. Don’t let it cool completely in the pan.
  4. Test for doneness just as you would test any other cake. The toothpick does not lie!

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I’ve never had a bundt stick to the pan, but I’m sure its traumatizing! I think if you butter and flour your pan and it still sticks….it’s time to consider an upgrade. These pans are not your Nana’s bundt! And that might be a good thing. But you can still make your Nana’s pound cake in them  🙂

I love this recipe so much and it will definitely be on our holiday menu for years to come. My Nana was born in 1904, raised before the dawn of the world we know today. And while my children never met her, they have enjoyed her cake….and isn’t that the sweetest gift she can leave behind?

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Enjoy!
XOXO
Marie

 

Yield: Serves 12-14 servings
Prep Time: 15 MINUTES
Cook Time: 60-75 MINUTES
Total Time: 4 HOURS (including cooling)

Ingredients

3 cups (360g) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon mace or nutmeg (see note below)
1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 3/4 cups (546 g) granulated sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (240 g) sour cream, at room temperature

Garnish
Powdered sugar

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Lightly butter and flour a 10-cup bundt cake pan.

Bake the Cake:

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and mace together. Set aside.

Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. (I used 6 on KitchenAid Mixer) Scrape down the sides and add the sugar. Beat again for another 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and slowly beat until combined. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Slowly add dry ingredients, alternating with sour cream and beat until just combined. Spoon into prepared pan (spooning will help prevent bubbles and help maintain the bundt’s shape).

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (65-75 minutes). Watch this closely as the oven temperatures can vary greatly.

 

Butterscotch Bread Pudding

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WOW!

All I can say after a bite of this bread pudding. Well, actually not much is coming from my mouth because I am busy gobbling, chewing, mmmm-ing, you get the idea….

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My husband had been urging me to make bread pudding my next baking conquest. We’ve frequented a certain restaurant in Boston, Eastern Standard, that serves a Butterscotch Bread Pudding on their menu. Whenever we have an opportunity for a date night, Eastern Standard is a top choice. They’ve got great drinks, good food and an incredible bread pudding. The first time we had it, we literally licked the bowl. I had to recreate it. Since I’d never made bread pudding before….this was an interesting task.

Step 1: Understand bread pudding.
Step 2: Master butterscotch sauce.
Step 3: Put them together and start swooning.

What makes a great bread pudding? I played with the mix of key ingredients (cream, sugar, eggs, bread) and this is what I found:

  1. You want a good crusty bread. Otherwise, your pudding will be mushy, mushy, mushy. The crustier, the better. I used this wonderful cranberry walnut bread from Costco. I think any bread with a nice crust will do great. Just stay away from anything in the bread aisle. Go for bakery bread here.
  2. Eggs. Too much and you’ve got French Toast. Too little and your pudding just won’t come together well. More mush. 6 eggs was perfect.
  3. Soaking your bread. Don’t rush that step. Put your bread/ custard mixture together and let it sit overnight if you can. Pudding is not for people in a rush.
  4. Butterscotch sauce. Enough said.

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Bread pudding has become a sweetheart of mine since making it 4 times in the last 2 weeks. Why? It’s so unassuming, easy enough for anyone to conquer, made with items everyone has in the pantry and a bit eccentric as far as desserts go. It refuses to fall into any of the traditional categories of dessert.

…and while we’ve all had a cookie, pie, cake, cupcake or brownie numerous times over recent memory….how many times have you had bread pudding recently? Probably not as often. It’s easy enough to make for yourself and special enough for a grand sit-down feast.

This recipe is so easy you could literally commit it to memory. And the butterscotch sauce….WAIT….stop what you are doing and go make that sauce…..is basically your diet’s worst enemy. Definitely had an OMG moment when I first tried it. (OMG moments are when I realize I’m onto something really good). I used this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker. The sauce has a salty-sweet combination that makes your tongue go nuts for more. Y-U-M-M-Y.

I wish I could say my bread pudding is just as good without this sauce….but that would be a flat-out lie. My pudding needs this sauce the way French fries need ketchup (weird analogy I know…)…but really, go make the sauce.

So we take a nice crusty bread, add some brown sugar, eggs, cream, nuts and butterscotch sauce. Throw it all together and wait a little while for the mixture to become pudding-y.

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Then throw it in oven and do a little dance because you just made the most scrumptiously easy dessert…

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I used ramekins simply out of vanity. So pretty and fancy! And a personalized portion of dessert is usually a good thing.

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Yep. A very good thing.

Definitely recommend saving some sauce to go on top of your final product. Oh and vanilla ice cream is a must here as well. Why start skimping on calories now??

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Final step? Go grab a spoon and share a bowl with your sweetheart. I promise you’ll both be licking the bowl.

Enjoy!!

XOXO Marie

 

Butterscotch Bread Pudding

Yield: Serves 8
Prep Time: 15 MINUTES
Cook Time: 35-40 MINUTES
Total time: 5 HOURS (including pudding soak)

Ingredients

1 lb (16 oz) crusty or day old bread, cut into 1-in pieces
2 cups (426 g) light or dark brown sugar
6 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups (948 ml) heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup (113g) chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup Homemade Butterscotch Sauce (recipe below)

Garnish
Vanilla Ice Cream
Homemade Butterscotch Sauce

 

Homemade Butterscotch Sauce
1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (213 g) dark brown sugar
1 cup (236 ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

 

Directions:

Prepare the Sauce:

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, cream and salt, and whisk until well blended. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat slightly, continuing to stir. Gently boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Serve warm or at room temperature (the sauce will thicken as it cools). Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and re-warm before using.

Prepare the Custard:

In a large bowl, combine sugar, cream, eggs, vanilla, butterscotch sauce and nuts until thoroughly combined. Add bread cubes and stir until the bread is completely covered with the custard. Pour into a 9 by 13 inch dish and press the bread into the custard mixture. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight (overnight is preferred if possible!). The bread will soak up the custard and become amazing. You can even leave it for 48 hours before baking if you wish.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Lightly butter 8 8-ounce ramekins or a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Fill with bread pudding. If using ramekins, set ramekins inside a baking dish and pour boiling water around the ramekins until the water is halfway up the side of the ramekins to create a water bath (see picture). Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of pudding comes out clean.

Serve warm, room temperature or cold, topped with your favorite vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce on top. If you wish to invert the pudding from the ramekin into a larger dish, I found it was significantly easier once the pudding was chilled.

 

Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter Balls

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It may be a little weird, but I seriously hate wasting canned pumpkin. You know what I mean? It’s one of those ingredients that you buy only once in a while and unless you use the whole can…you are stuck with half a can of pumpkin sitting in the fridge. I recently joined Costco, where the canned pumpkin is sold in 29 oz containers! What does one do with that much pumpkin??? I started feeding my 8-month old the leftovers, but noticed a significant increase in my poopy diaper workload (a little ewww to be discussing this but moms can relate). So… I decided I had better find a more enjoyable home for the leftover canned pumpkin in my fridge.

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This recipe is based on a classic from my sister-in-law, Mary Pat. She has always made peanut butter balls around Christmastime and I enjoy continuing that tradition. It’s the perfect sweet mix of peanut butter and powdered sugar, covered with your favorite chocolate.

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I took that exact recipe and added 1/2 cup of pumpkin and 2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice. Peanut butter and pumpkin might not initially sound like the perfect combination but everyone I’ve shared these with has been truly wowed. The pumpkin adds a creamy softness and the spices are so perfectly paired with the sweetness of the original recipe. I could eat a dozen….ok maybe I have eaten a dozen.

This recipe took five tries to get right! I really loved the softness of the pumpkin puree. But I kept adding too much and it was not the right consistency when paired with the chocolate. I also tried it as a peanut butter cup and while I think it would work, they just weren’t as beautiful. I kept trying different techniques and ratios until I finally arrived at this recipe.

The majority of the “pumpkin” taste comes from the spices. Which makes sense because canned pumpkin doesn’t really taste like much until you add the spices. Sort of a goopy mess until you bake it or mix it with something delish.

I topped these festive little guys with a fun mix of brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice and edible gold leaf. I’ll definitely be using gold leaf more in my decorating because it instantly makes an ordinary piece of chocolate look so much more fancy.  The pieces of gold leaf are a little fragile, so I took small pieces and mixed them in with brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. I also kept a few pieces whole.  So fun to work with and even better to look at!

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It’s Halloween night and I can’t help but be excited for the coming weeks! While I wouldn’t consider this the official start of the Christmas season, I do believe that we can start looking towards the holiday season…and start planning our Thanksgiving menus. This one will definitely be on mine! A perfect bite of fall that takes a step into the holiday baking season.

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Enjoy! 

XOXO Marie

 

Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter Balls

Yield: 60 balls (yes you can halve this recipe if you want!)
Prep Time: 20 MINUTES
Chill Time: 4 HOURS OR OVERNIGHT
Total Time: 6 HOURS (includes chilling)

1 cup (226 g) butter, softened to room temperature
16 ounces (454 g) peanut butter, creamy style (not natural peanut butter)
24 ounces (680 g) powdered sugar
1/2 cup (134 g) pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
20 ounces, high quality chocolate (white, dark or semi-sweet, your choice)
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

Garnish
Dark Brown Sugar (I used Wholesome Brand and liked it a lot!)
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Gold leaf

Directions:
Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat softened butter, peanut butter and pumpkin puree together until combined. Slowly add powdered sugar until combined. Add vanilla and pumpkin spice until combined.

Roll the mixture into balls, approximately 1 inch in diameter. Use a cookie or ice cream scoop to ensure the balls are uniform in size and shape. Freeze balls for about 4 hours or overnight.

Mix brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice and gold leaf together in a small bowl.

 In a double-boiler (or microwave using short bursts to slowly heat), melt chocolate and vegetable shortening together until completely melted. Allow to cool for about 3 minutes. Using a toothpick or dipping tool, dip the frozen balls in the melted chocolate. Work in batches to keep balls cold until they are ready to be dipped (if they get too soft it will be harder to keep their shape in the warm chocolate). Remove from chocolate and tap lightly to remove excess. Place on parchment paper and top with gold leaf/brown sugar/ spice garnish. Refrigerate to set. Can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

 

Milk and Cookies Cake

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Milk and Cookies….what an amazing flavor combination. Whenever I give my daughter a cookie, I watch with fondness as she guzzles her milk. What is it about a cookie that absolutely requires a glass of milk? It’s almost built into our DNA to crave that feeling that milk gives you when it’s following a cookie. And the best part? The milk cuts that sweetness so well… milk makes room for another cookie. There are not many other flavor combinations that can stand up to this duo…

Well, if you took those flavors and married them together, you’d probably end up with a baby that looked something like this….

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A match made in heaven! I consider this a fantasy cake. You know, the cake you dream up when you’re up at 4am, feeding an 8 month old and your mind starts to wonder….. (what…that doesn’t happen to you??)

 Growing up, homemade chocolate chip cookies were a staple in our home. I can distinctly remember the wonderful feeling of eating a homemade cookie. My mom always required a glass of milk to accompany our goodies.

When I recently came across this cake from Sprinkle Bakes, I knew I had to try it. That cake was delicious, but I felt the need to make a couple edits to bring the “Milk and Cookies” combination to life.

First of all, I wanted the cake to be as light and refreshing as a glass of milk. Why? Because sandwiched between that light “milky” cake is a super sweet cookie dough “filling”. The filling should really be considered a layer of its own, because it’s more than a side note in this cake. It stands out so much and pairs so well with each bite of cake.

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They are equal partners on this trip down memory lane. When I bite into the cookie dough, all I remember is the feeling of being a child again, sneaking a teaspoon or maybe even a tablespoon of my mom’s cookie dough. It has a sugary grittiness that only real cookie dough has. The stuff in your ice cream loses that grittiness and when you taste it, you’ll remember what real cookie dough tastes like. We make it without eggs, so it’s safer than the real stuff (although raw eggs have never turned me off from a nice pinch of cookie dough….)

So, we’ve got this super sweet cookie dough sandwiched between a lovely milk cake. So dreamy…. Truly a fantasy cake in my opinion. To top it off, I decided Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream would make a perfect frosting. If that sounds like a mouthful, you are right. But anything sweet that begins with the adjective Swiss is probably pretty darn good. Probably significantly better than the American counterpart. The best way to describe it is..…take your favorite (or your sweetie’s) best, most sexiest silk jammies…now imagine that….as a bowl of frosting. That is literally what it looks like in the mixing bowl. I kid you not. I wish I had taken a picture of the bowl but it was nap time and I was in mommy get ‘er done mode.

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It’s downright decadent, but not the slightest bit too sweet. Buttery, light, creamy, dreamy, silky….you get the idea. It might take a moment longer than your average frosting, because it’s made by heating egg whites and sugar together before whipping them into a silky oblivion. From there, you’ll add a somewhat maddening amount of butter (6 sticks…..if you are like me, by the third stick, you’ll start to wonder what on earth would require that much butter…..) but the result will wow every single person who tries it. I promise. And I know from personal experience, it can be completed in one nap time. Good to know, am I right???

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You can read some excellent tutorials here and here on how to achieve the perfect meringue. I used a combination of both these recipes to make my own. I really wanted the cake to achieve a “cookie” look, so I kept the frosting more rustic. This buttercream is excellent for achieving any look you desire. It pipes so well and is the “go-to” for most professional cake decorators. It is significantly less sweet than the American buttercream you may be familiar with….if you love super sweet frosting, this might be too “buttery” for you. I added some molasses to my buttercream here to bump up the brown sugar flavor/ color and was super pleased with that addition. But if molasses ain’t your thang….leave it out.

I wish Apple had released a “tasteogram” app with this latest OS update, but in the meantime, go charge your phone, bake this cake, and make some childhood memories come to life.

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Enjoy!

XOXO Marie

Milk and Cookies Cake

Yield: Serves 16
Prep Time: 4 HOURS (including cooling)
Cook Time: 30-40 MINUTES
Total Time: 4 HOURS 35 MINUTES (including cooling and decorating)

Ingredients

3 cups (360g) cake flour (see note below)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups (339 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 1/2 cups (495 g) granulated sugar
6 large eggs whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 g) sour cream, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk, at room temperature

Cookie Dough Filling
1 cup (213 g) packed light or dark brown sugar
1 cup (198 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (226 g) butter, softened to room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (300 g) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
10 oz mini chocolate chips (yes, the whole bag!)

Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream
3 cups (339 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) egg whites (about 6 to 8 large eggs)
2 cups (426 g) packed light or dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons molasses (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Garnish
Mini chocolate chips
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Lightly butter 3 8-in round cake pans and line with parchment paper rounds (optional but recommended).

Bake the Cake:

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat 1 1/2 cups of butter on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. (I used 6 on KitchenAid Mixer) Scrape down the sides and add the sugar. Beat again for another 4-5 minutes until smooth. Butter and sugar should be light and fluffy. Add the egg whites and beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides again and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and sour cream and beat until just combined. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Slowly pour in the milk and hand mix until just combined. Pour into prepared pans. If possible, weigh each pan to ensure evenly distributed batter.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (30 – 40 minutes). Cake will pull away from sides and bounce back to the touch. Watch this closely as the oven temperatures can vary greatly.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack before frosting and serving.

Make the Cookie Dough Filling:

Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the sugars and butter together in a bowl until fluffy, about 2 minutes Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour and salt and mix until combined. Add cream a little at a time until the mixture is spreading consistency (you may not have to use all of the cream). Add chocolate chips and mix until combined.

Make the Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg whites and brown sugar.  Whisk them together briefly by hand, just until they are combined. Fill a sauce pan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer.  Place the mixer bowl with the egg white mixture on top to create a double-boiler. The water should be kept at a simmer but should not touch the bottom of the bowl.  The double-boiler will warm the egg white mixture. Occasionally stirring, heat the egg white mixture until it reaches 155 to 160 degrees F on a candy thermometer.  The mixture should be very hot to the touch and the sugar should have dissolved. Once the egg white mixture is hot, carefully return the bowl to the stand mixer.  Fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the mixture on high speed for about 8 -10 minutes.  When done, the meringue should hold shiny, medium-stiff peaks and be cooled to room temperature. Feel the side of the bowl to ensure it has cooled. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, begin adding in the butter a couple tablespoons at a time. The butter must be room temperature in order to incorporate with the meringue. Once the butter has been mixed in, add the vanilla extract and molasses. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and mix for 3-5 until silky smooth.  This may take a few minutes, but continue to mix until light, creamy. Frosting can be stored in an airtight container for up to 10 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.

Assemble the Cake:

Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with half the cookie dough filling. Top with 2nd layer and evenly cover the top with the remaining cookie dough filling. Finish with the third cake layer and spread frosting liberally all over the top and sides. For garnish, cover sides and top with mini (or regular chocolate chips). Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Notes:

Cake flour is readily available at most grocery stores. I’ve started using it in most of my cakes because it produces such a lovely texture. I highly recommend trying it. If you can’t find it, you can make your own using All-purpose flour and cornstarch. Here’s how to do it – Take one level cup of All-purpose flour, remove two tablespoons, and then add two tablespoons of cornstarch back in. 1 cup AP flour – 2 Tablespoons AP flour + 2 Tablespoons cornstarch = 1 cup cake flour. You will need to do this for 3 cups of cake flour, so repeat 3 times and sift together well.

 

Chewy Autumn Oatmeal Cookies

Fall weather is FINALLY here….at least somewhat….well ok, it was 80 degrees most of this week….but let’s just pretend it’s here and maybe sooner or later, it will arrive in full fashion. Speaking of fashion…these cookies are as warm and cozy as your favorite fall sweater. Soft, tender, full of warmth and comfort. I even considered naming them “Sweater Weather Cookies”.

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These cookies were the miraculous invention of a visit from Nana and Papa. I knew their cookie jar was running a little low and unless I did something about it, they might end up eating store-bought cookies (cringe…) I have this weird rule for myself about goodies for my parents. One batch of treats should be specifically catered to my dad’s taste. The next will be for my mom. I go back and forth between the two of them so they each have something special at any given moment. It never works out this perfectly but I try.

So on this given day, it was my dad’s turn for something special. My dad is an equal opportunity cookie eater but truth be told, Oatmeal Raisin is his fave. He also loves pumpkin so I decided that would be the base for my cookie endeavor.

Oatmeal + Raisin + Pumpkin = Fall cookie for my dad (my dad is a mathematician so he’ll love this math reference….  )

Somewhere in this equation, I decided to add a serious amount of Lotus Biscoff Cookie Butter, simply out of complete lack of will power. When that stuff is in my house, I need to include it in whatever I’m baking. Have you tried this magical stuff???

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I know Nutella is sort of a big deal but I honestly think this stuff just might be even better. Don’t get me wrong…Nutella is wonderful and all… but it might be a little too rich to eat directly from the jar. But Biscoff Cookie butter? I feel no shame in eating this stuff off the spoon. Well maybe a little but that’s only because I’m hiding it from my toddler 🙂

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It’s made out of a Belguim cookie called Speculoos. The name Biscoff is actually based on the words biscuit and coffee. The cookies are a perfect treat to enjoy with a cup of coffee, if you happen to have them. The cookie butter is wonderful combination of brown sugar and cinnamon, perfect for a fall treat. I find myself looking for ways to add it to recipes because I know it will make almost anything irresistible.

So I had some in the pantry that day and added a somewhat unhealthy portion to my oatmeal, raisin, pumpkin equation.

Then I went a little crazy and took the actual Biscoff cookie, ground that into a powder and added that to my flour. Yes, I added cookie to my cookie dough. Genius.

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The result was an overwhelming irresistible cookie. I wish I had some modicum of will power but I am telling you I could eat 10 of them in one sitting. I think I had about 6 that first day. Honestly, I wasn’t counting….. 🙂

They are soft, chewy, and get better with age. They are even good out of the fridge… they get chewier in there. If you are crispy edged fan, look elsewhere. But if chewy, soft, and moist describe your favorite cookie, well…let me introduce you to your new best friend.

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Enjoy!!!
XOXO Marie

Chewy Autumn Oatmeal Cookies

Yield: 32 Cookies
Prep Time: 20 MINUTES
Cook Time: 55 MINUTES
Total Time: 1 HOUR 15 MINUTES

Ingredients

2 cups + 1 Tablespoon (258g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/2 cups (248g) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (2 sticks; 230g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 Tablespoons (45ml) molasses
1 cup (180g) packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup (225g) pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (113g) chopped pecans
1 cup (149g) raisins
3 tablespoons light or dark rum (I used Captain Morgan)
1 cup (270g) cookie butter (I used Biscoff. Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter also works!)
10 Lotus Biscoff cookies, ground into a fine powder

 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
Combine raisins and rum in a small bowl and set aside to soak for 20-1 hour. Drain and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, spices, salt, ground cookie and oats together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Whisk the melted butter, molasses, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, pumpkin puree, cookie butter and vanilla extract together until combined. Pour into dry ingredients and mix everything together until completely combined. Add nuts and raisins and fold into dough.

Scoop cookie dough, about 2 Tablespoons of dough per cookie, and place on the baking sheets. Bake for 13-14 minutes or until lightly browned on the sides.
Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies will remain soft for days! Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.