I’m going to say what maybe some of you have also thought: Christmas has been making me a little nervous since last January. Christmas is a season of joy and light and life! And cookies. And parties. And desserts. And indulgence with family and friends.
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!
Three years ago, I made cinnamon buns for the first time.
And the first time I made them, I must admit, it was a bit of a gory experience. Butter and sugar were all over the counters and my clothes and I was furiously beating confectioner’s sugar into glaze by hand at 2am.
Since then, I have made glazed cinnamon buns more times than I can count. Out of everything I bake, this is the recipe that friends and family request the most! But my first post about it is…well…awkward. Awkward photography and awkward ranting.
You deserve better.
So I’m dusting off the cinnamon bun recipe, sharing a few tips and tricks, and hopefully making your mornings more delicious!
I have a new favorite dessert.
Them be fighting words, people. Favorite is a strong statement.
It’s almond butter cups. You know, like peanut butter cups, but with almonds. And, surprise! Oats! And coconut oil! And maple syrup! Instead of a dry, crumbly nut center, these cups have an almost cookie-like base with homemade chocolate on top.
And the kicker is that they are actually good for you, as far as desserts go! You see, they are full of healthy ingredients like raw cacao powder and raw nuts and unsaturated fats.
I swear no one will never eat one of these and think, “This dessert must be healthy.” Every time I set them out for a group of friends, they disappear practically in the blink of an eye. You should make these. You should make them right away!
Yesterday, Jake decided to read all of my cookbooks. He pulled pretty much every single book off the shelf, one at a time, to ooh and aah over the glorious photos and recite every single letter in every single recipe title.
That kid. Adorable.
Somehow in the middle of this, I developed a hankering for peanut butter cookies. I’m pretty sure that was Jake’s goal all along.
These are not your average criss-cross peanut butter cookie, oh no. These are thin, crispy-edged delights with soft, gooey centers. These are milk chocolate chip cookies to the max, plus a hint of snickerdoodle. In short, these peanut butter beauties are all kinds of amazing.
I have noticed a change in myself recently.
The longer I do this blogging thing, the more I bake and cook and try new things, the less I am daunted by recipes that have many steps or seem like they may take a while. I am no longer irritated by sifting. I expect to leave a mountain of dirty dishes in my wake…it doesn’t even seem like a deterrent anymore.
Surprisingly, recipes that I once thought of as time-consuming actually go faster! (I think I finally gained some knife skills, y’all.)
I have become more of a perfectionist, more critical of the foods I produce…because I can actually think of a dozen ways to balance the flavors or improve the texture! (Consequently, I no longer even bother to photograph every new dish I make, because I know I will want to tweak it before I share it.)
Last week, someone sent me a recipe that was literally just a list of ingredients. And I made a pretty amazing cake out of it without batting an eye or consulting any cookbooks.
I feel almost like a different person…I have started to trust myself in the kitchen. I have started to listen to my instincts more and have fewer facepalm moments.
I realized all of this due in large part to this cake. (Thank you, cake, and thank you, mom’s birthday!)
This cake is nothing short of delicious. It’s tender and airy, richly cinnamon and sweet. It tastes like a crisp snickerdoodle cookie. Oh, and it’s made entirely without wheat or dairy. Woot!
I’ve been feeling pretty grinchy this Christmas season.
This isn’t a fun time of year to be forbidden from eating any dairy of any kind. I have been lusting after trays of cookies and holiday cheese balls and getting grumpier and grumpier.
But I just can’t imagine Christmastime without holiday baking, even if I can’t eat the spoils myself.
And wouldn’t you know it, the cookie that was at the top of my list to try this year actually turned out to be dairy free! And gluten free!
These cinnamon stars (little German lesson for you: Zimt = cinnamon, Sterne = stars. Literal naming at work…) are chewy and moist and simply amazing. Especially if you thought you were staring down a month without cookies. If you know anyone with food sensitivities, make these immediately. They will be so grateful!
When I was a kid and someone brought out a carrot cake at a birthday party or celebration, I would seriously mope. No offense if carrot cake is your favorite…but who wants vegetable-flavored cake? Not even cream cheese frosting can redeem that.
Cake should be rich and sweet with a light but even crumb. There should be no carrots.
But I read recently that carrots are the only vegetable in season where I live during the month of October. So I made you some morning glory muffins—which, of course, is what we call carrot cake when we eat it for breakfast, which we should all agree is a much better time to eat “cake” made of carrots!
I love the idea of a healthy muffin, and these muffins really are pretty glorious: they have no refined sugar, they use whole grain flour, and they are full of shredded fresh carrots and apples, as well as coconut and pecans!
My son begs for these muffins, and I love to indulge him! Hiding a vegetable in plain sight while my son scarfs it down? Yes please.
This past weekend, my nephew came to stay with us. He is just 3 weeks younger than Jake, so they have been lifelong buddies! Actually, they are about as different as can be: Jake loves animals and M is crazy about vehicles; M is a quiet daredevil and Jake is cautious but loquacious.
And my nephew is deathly allergic to dairy.
So I had just finished scrubbing the kitchen and hiding all the cheese when I realized that I hadn’t yet baked anything for the March Secret Recipe Club challenge! Happily, Jessie of The Vanderbilt Wife had just the recipe for me to try: sweet breakfast rolls made with coconut! This recipe is even related to my very favorite cinnamon bun recipe, so I knew it would be a winner. Given that I had been in a panic about how to serve breakfast without any milk or butter already, I was so happy that these rolls swept in and saved the day!
So…it’s been a while since I started sharing the process of making a wedding cake with you. A lot has been going on around our house, and I will tell you all about it soon, hopefully amid oodles of Christmas recipes.
But for now, let’s get back to a very important job: making a wedding cake. It’s cake baking day!
Just to refresh your memory, we are smack dab in the middle of making a wedding cake: three tiers consisting of pumpkin cake filled with cheesecake and frosted with Baileys cream cheese frosting.
Baking the actual cake is obviously a big deal. But I found this to be the easiest and least stressful step!
The cake recipe I used was originally meant for cupcakes. Often, cupcake recipes don’t translate well into larger layer cakes, because they aren’t always leavened properly to rise well in different size pans. But this recipe, kept moist by the pumpkin even under long baking times, always came out perfectly!
This cake is probably the simplest from-scratch cake I’ve ever baked. It’s not fussy at all! There is no creaming, no sifting, and no alternating of wet and dry ingredients. It’s basically a dream cake…and I think we should take this recipe and turn it into a dream wedding cake!