Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake

Drunken Pumpkin Bundt Cake

About a year ago, a good friend of ours left a bottle of spiced rum at our house, as a gift.

To be honest, neither of us are big cocktail drinkers. And so, the bottle of rum has gathered dust in the cabinet.

But then, as part of the Secret Recipe Club challenge for October, I stumbled across a pumpkin recipe I knew I had to try: drunken pumpkin cake. (At last, the spiced rum will have its day!)

You know I love baking with liquor. And you know I love anything to do with pumpkin.

This month for SRC, I was assigned Little Bit of Everything, written by Julie. Julie has been blogging since 2009, and she started her blog as a way to document her journey through her cookbook collection! I love how she keeps a list of the daring recipes she wants to try, because I do the same thing!

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Prosecco-Poached Salmon

Prosecco-Poached Salmon

Do you know what the definition of craziness is? It’s when you do the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

Let’s be honest: I have a preschooler and a baby, so my behavior may often seem quite insane, if you are watching.

But this amazing salmon marks an end to one particular crazy thing I’ve been doing for years! You see, for years I have been trying to make this perfect salmon poached in apple cider. It sounds amazing, right? Perfect for Fall! But it’s so sweet. It’s genuinely weird. And yet every year as the leaves start collecting on the ground I whip out the same recipe and take another whack at it.

Crazy.

But this month, as I was making plans to go buy some cider from my local pumpkin farm and hop on my regularly scheduled crazy train, I happened to find a recipe that made me breath a huge sigh of relief. Because prosecco!

It just sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Poaching salmon in a fizzy broth of sparkling wine and shallots! And let me tell you, it was absolutely perfect! Everything I’ve always dreamed poached salmon could be.

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Derby Pie

Derby Pie

Well, I missed the Kentucky Derby this year…both because I don’t really care for televised sports and because I had just had a baby.

So I suppose this shouldn’t really be called “Derby Pie.” I should probably call it something else…like “Pecan Pie Straight from Heaven,” or “Most Delicious Pie That Will Ever Cross Your Lips,” or “Why-Would-Anyone-Ever-Deign-to-Eat-Another-Pie-That-Doesn’t-Include-Bourbon Pie.”

Seriously. Where have chocolate and bourbon been all my life when I was eating plain, regular pecan pie? I have always loved pecan pie at Thanksgiving, but this pie is truly a marvel.

As Fall is pie season…I highly recommend you start baking.

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Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

It’s Pi Day again!

But this year, I thought I would do something a little unusual and make a savory pie. (Let’s face it: I do not need another reason to eat dessert at this stage in my pregnancy.)

Shepherd’s pie is a classic ground meat dish. It’s as meat and potatoes as you can get. But thank goodness for the Moosewood Restaurant in New York, where Mollie Katzen dreamed up a way to make a delicious meatless version! I actually think this veggie-friendly shepherd’s pie does a great job of mimicking its meatier friend by using shredded tofu, mushrooms, and soy sauce to build umami beneath a delightful layer of mashed potatoes.

So it’s not quite a pie. Let’s celebrate Pi Day anyway!

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How to Make a Wedding Cake: Baileys Cream Cheese Frosting

Textured Frosting

Woo-hoo, it’s time to frost a wedding cake!

You guys, this step is totally daunting. I’m not going to lie to you. The frosting is the part everyone sees! Everyone is going to judge your delicious wedding cake by its cover. So we had better make sure it’s a beautiful one!

What you see on this wedding cake is purely frosting. No fondant here! (I was very pleased that the bride asked me not to use fondant, because I think buttercreams and cream cheese frostings are way tastier than fondant…but I must admit that fondant is easier to smooth than frosting, so I had to bring my A-game.)

And let me tell you, this cream cheese frosting infused with a splash of Baileys Irish cream was divine!

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James Beard Pound Cake with Brandy Glaze

Drizzled Pound Cake

Pound cake sometimes gets a bad rap…which, honestly, I could never understand.

I grew up on church potlucks and friendship loaves. Pound cake was always prominently featured, and I looked forward to every dense bite!

The pound cakes of my childhood memories were never dry or boring. They were the reliable staples amid a table of lackluster mousse-topped cakes and overbaked brownies!

But as I’m thinking about it now, I wonder…if I ate those pound cakes today, would the chocolate marble not be chocolatey enough? The ubiquitous “pound cake flavor” both too sweet and too bland? The crumb too dense and too dry?

As someone who always likes to bake it better, I have certainly done my fair share of reading about pound cakes. They are no longer made with a pound each of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs, oh no! (Bad baking math!) Modern versions feature sugar syrups and whipped cream and liquor. And also, incidentally, a lot of work.

This pound cake is very delicious. But you do have to separate some eggs. And sift things. But it’s James Beard, folks. We trust him with our whisks and our cake pans, right? Plus, you get to break out the brandy! So there’s that.

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Decadent Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse in a Chocolate Bowl

I just had to share this dessert with you (even though I have posted nothing but sweets this whole month—I promise I’m not actually eating this much sugar all the time).

Chocolate mousse is my all-time most craved dessert at this time of year. Yes, I know mousse is passé. No, a dessert practically named after two woodland creatures (mouse? moose?) is not particularly romantic.

But this chocolate mousse is just so rich and silky, and every spoonful is just deliciously chocolatey, the way it melts in my mouth…I find it luscious. That is all.

I suspect the reason I am so ga-ga for chocolate mousse is that I had been all geared up to make it for our Valentine’s dinner two years ago…and then I discovered that Jake was on the way! Mousse = raw eggs = Melissa did not get to eat dessert for Valentine’s that year. I think that experience firmly planted in my subconscious a little timer that goes off around Valentine’s every year demanding chocolate mousse. Absence made the heart grow fonder?

Bottom line. Don’t eat this if you are expecting. But if you are not…go make this mousse right away! It’s way easier than you think.

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Honey Ginger Cheesecakes with Caramel Hearts

Honey Ginger Cheesecakes for Valentine's

It’s almost Valentine’s day. And if there were ever an occasion that just screamed for a delicious dessert, it’s a day centered around honoring your sweetie, right?

(Not that we really need an excuse to want dessert…)

Last week I was telling you about the valentine-themed cooking challenge I participated in. The mystery ingredient was honey, which I have never really liked. Honey is just way too sweet for me…and I really like sweets, so wrap your mind around that one. But I am super competitive, so I dug my heels in and determined to make the best gosh-darn honey dessert ever.

As I sat on my couch, examining my copy of the Flavor Bible, trying to figure out what kind of dessert I could possibly make that featured honey prominently but was well balanced, I suddenly realized that cheesecake would do the trick! Cheesecake is naturally tart, and the salt in cream cheese seemed like the ideal complement to the flowery saccharine flavor of honey.

These cheesecakes have several components (hey, it was a competition!), but in the end each piece is quite easy to carry out. They were so delicious, highlighting honey but also bringing in other strong flavors so the honey wouldn’t overwhelm. And guess what? I won the award for creativity!

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Brandied Honey Caramel Sauce

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You may be sensing a theme here with the honey recipes. So I will let you in on the fun.

But first, do you like watching cooking competitions? Like Iron Chef and Chopped? I do. Watching gifted cooks and bakers compete to create the most original, most delicious, most beautiful dish is inspiring!—and also makes me realize that I am very small and very feeble in comparison. Watching cooking competitions makes me realized I am a good cook, but not a great cook.

So lately, Dave and I have taken to pausing these shows right after the mystery ingredient is revealed to discuss what we would do if presented with that challenge. It’s an exercise in creativity! What could I actually dream up? What could I put together without the help of a recipe or Google?

When my sister-in-law suggested organizing a tasting party for friends and family based loosely on the cooking competitions I know and love, I thought it was a fabulous idea.

Enter honey! The mystery ingredient for our Very Valentine’s Mystery Ingredient party. I am still learning to like the flavor of honey, but I was excited to use this ingredient in baking because honey is so much healthier than refined sugar.

And when I started pondering what I would like to do with honey, one of the first things I thought of was making a delicious, salted caramel sauce using honey instead of sugar!

Holy moly. Was it ever good!

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Bourbon Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Bourbon Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Once upon a time I thought there must be a holy grail of chocolate chip cookie recipes out there somewhere. I thought that when I found the perfect one, it would fulfill all of my chocolate chip cookie needs, forever and ever.

What a foolish idea!

There must be about a million ways to make a fantastic chocolate chip cookie, each one more delightful than the last. I thought I had hit pay dirt a few years ago when I made cookies with brown butter for the first time, but holy moly, let’s go crazy and add bourbon, shall we?

This cookie is rich and buttery, accented by a slightly tangy caramel flavor left by the bourbon as it baked off. It’s full of dark, bittersweet chocolate chunks that melt in the oven and stay melty until you eat every last crumb.

You will not be able to eat just one of these!

I can’t wait to make them again…and I highly suggest you go buy some bourbon and whip up a batch as soon as possible!

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