Holiday Baking

This year I decided to do a lot of baking for the holidays. Last year, I made Milk Chocolate Espresso Cookies and Lemon Rings. I chose to make EggNog Cupcakes, Snowball Cupcakes, Milk Chocolate Espresso Cookies and Linzer Cookies using four different kinds of filling.

Here are the recipes (to be followed by pictures):

EggNog Cupcakes with EggNog Pastry Cream Filling and Spiced Rum Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

These were absolutely delicious, but they took a long time to make! I think I spent about two hours making all of the components of the filling and frosting, not to mention that hand-dyed and cut fondant. I was quite surprised at the strength of the egg nog flavor, but not sure that all the effort was worth the result. I’d buy these, but not make them again (unless requested).

Snowball Cupcakes (Failed)

The cupcakes themselves turned out alright. They tasted pretty dense, like brownies. Unfortunately, the frosting refused to come together. Even though I followed the directions, the egg whites refused to solidify. I tried making chocolate whipped cream frosting, but my beaters were too fast (and my whisking arm too slow). In the end, I just drizzled the failed whipped frosting on top and plopped some chocolate chips on top.

Linzer Cookies

I absolutely love the Linzer cookies from La Madeline. I tried to find an easy Linzer recipe that didn’t involve anything weird like nuts or specific extracts or flours. My friend, Stephanie, went to Catoctin Mountain Orchard during the fall and brought me back Peach Brandy Jam and Blackberry Preserves–I thought this was the perfect opportunity to put them to good use (besides me eating them of course)! I also used Strawberry Rhubarb preserves and Ginger preserves. Unfortunately, there was no more strawberry jam, or else these would have been 100% homemade.

Since the recipe made so much dough and I was the only one rolling, flouring, cutting, sugaring, baking, spreading, and stacking these, it took a long time. Probably about 3 hours, plus some recon work the next day to finish a few that cooled overnight when I was too tired to continue. Everyone seemed to like these more than the espresso cookies, which was fine because I love the espresso cookies! Then again, who could resist a cute heart, star, bunny, or bear cookie when faced with an alternative that looks like a lump of coal. The box below is what made it to my house for Christmas; the box I took to work was half espresso cookies and half linzer.

These cookie cutters are from Japan. I wouldn’t recommend getting them. Even though their use is for linzer cookies, the dough doesn’t pop out of the cutter that well and you have to tap on the side of the counter to get them out. Note to self: use open cookie cutters if I ever make these in the future.

 This recipe has been deemed a "hit at home" and is one of the tastiest recipes on Hapa-tite!

That wraps up the baking for this year! I didn’t talk about the espresso cookies since I documented them last year.

I think I’ll be able to escape the rest of the year without baking anything else, but I have a feeling I’ll be baking on the 1st of the year for my family’s Chinese New Year feast. Wish me luck!

Cupcake Exchange: Chocolate Chai Spice

The first snow of the year! (Dec 5th)

I went to a Cupcake Exchange/Bake-Off as part of a Yelp event. I really like Chai, but I don’t like buttercream frosting, so I was interested as to how these would turn out. The recipe, from The Cupcake Blog, had a recipe to make your own chai spice, but I chose to buy Chai teabags and cut them open.

These cupcakes turned out surprisingly delicious! The chocolate wasn’t too deep and the cake was firm (with a crust on top) yet soft on the inside. I didn’t really get the chai flavor, but it might be because of the chai that I used and the fact that this was a chocolate cake.

This was also my first attempt at piping frosting (which I think turned out alright). I tried to make chocolate mint leaves, but I didn’t put enough chocolate on the leaves so when I peeled the chocolate off, the leaves broke. I was able to salvage about three leaves from the fifty I attempted to make and put silver dragees on the rest.

I didn’t win first place, but I did win third (which I later learned was actually 4th place after some math was recalculated). The first place winner was a blow-torched graham cracker crust S’mores cupcake and second place was an Irish Car Bomb cupcake, which I couldn’t really compete with. If I had a molten lava center to this cake, I’m sure I would have won!

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Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate Mix

I gave these out this year for Christmas presents. It was a great project because I was able to give something handmade and also use up some of the fabric that I bought in Japan two years ago.

Glass jars can be found in various sizes in the produce section of supermarkets during canning season. They’re pretty cheap when bought by case like this. If you have to buy individual jars, they’re usually expensive and the incorrect size, so try to stock up during the summer and fall!

I made two versions that had vegetarian marshmallows in them. I also ran out of jars, so I purchased some plastic hinge ones from the Container Store (expensive and they were a different size). Some were packaged in plastic bags, some weren’t. I also included recipe cards for some people.

Thanksgiving Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes November 23rd, the Monday before Thanksgiving. My office was having a Thanksgiving potluck and I did bring Brown Sugar Roasted Acorn Squash & Sweet Potatoes, but just in case that flopped, I brought these.

They may look entirely homemade, but they’re not! I used a Sprinkles Banana Cupcake mix that I found at the Williams Sonoma outlet and used canned cream cheese frosting. All of my effort went into making the decorations. I dyed half the frosting orange and paired those cupcakes up with lighter-dyed fondant flowers. The darker flowers were paired with the original frosting. I had leftover wax-lined (read: not safe for baking!) party cups, so I poked holes through them and tied them with orange curling ribbon.

I used the smallest biscuit cutter from this set to make the flower, and the diamond from this bento cutter set. The brown/yellow circles came with the Sprinkles set as decoration.

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