Chocolate Sugar Cookies with Pink Frosting and Sprinkles (over Times Square!)

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For my friend’s NYC bachelorette party I made some festive cookie favors!  I was running late for the bus so I didn’t realize until we arrived and checked into the hotel that I hadn’t snagged any photos yet.  As I was positioning the cookies near the window in order to capture some natural light I noticed a cool view of Times Square below.  How fun!

The cookies were light and cakey, not chewy, and the frosting paired perfectly!  Something to note: I chose to roll the cookie dough into little balls rather then roll it flat with a rolling pin and use cookie cutters.  They hardly spread at all so they ended up much smaller than I anticipated.  They were dainty little two-bite cookies–very light and delicious, I must say.  The ladies seemed to really enjoy them!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies with Pink Frosting and Sprinkles:

Cookies

  •  1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Blend butter and sugar on medium speed with an electric hand mixer or with the paddle in a standing mixer. Add egg and vanilla and blend. Mix dry ingredients and gradually mix in. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour. Remove from refrigerator and either roll out on a floured surface and use cookie cutters to cut shapes OR pinch about one tablespoon of dough, roll into a ball and bake on a parchment paper-lined baking tray in a preheated 375 degree oven for 12 to 14 minutes. 

 Pink Frosting

  • 4 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6-7 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup Crisco
  • a few drops of gel food coloring (I used the smallest drops of Wilton Creamy Peach)

Whip the meringue powder and water on high speed for several minutes until it’s fluffy and peaks form. Gradually add the remaining ingredients until desired consistency is reached.  Add more water if frosting is too thick and more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin.  Add food coloring and continue to beat until color is evenly distributed.

Assemble

When cookies are completely cool, use a small offset spatula to spread a thin layer of frosting on top if each cookie.  Frosting side down, dip cookie into a bowl of sprinkles.  (Or “jimmies” as we like to call them in Boston!)  Allow frosting to set before packaging.

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Adapted from The Decorated Cookie.

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Fresh Fruit Tart–And fun with tarts!

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Tarts are one of the most beautiful and versatile desserts.  There are so many options when it comes to making a tart and the end result (a lovely classic that transports well) is worth the effort. 

In most cases tarts are comprised of three (and a half) components.  By altering the choices you make for each component you can create a wide variety of flavors and textures. In other words, the possibilities really are endless.  The components can be adapted for any season or occasion! 

THE COMPONENTS:

(1) Crust, sometimes called the shell

Tart crust recipes can really run the gamut.  From your grandmother’s recipe for pate brise/pate sucre (pie crust) to simply tossing together any type of finely crushed cookie with melted butter, to using ground toasted nuts, there are many options that work well.

Examples of different crust types:

Banana Pudding Tart— Nilla wafer cookie crust

Raspberry Chocolate Tart— biscotti cookie crust

Plum Macadamia Nut Tart— macadamia nut crust

Apple and Meringue Tartlets— traditional pate sucre (pie crust)

(2) Filling

You will often see pastry cream or a simple custard as a tart filling.  However, while those might be the most common, there is no reason not to be adventurous!  Chocolate pudding, chocolate ganache, whipped cream, lemon curd, and almond paste all work well and provide a nice canvas for the layering of interesting flavors.   For some tarts, the fruit (often stewed with sugar and other spices) serves as the filling.  Again, the options are endless. 

(3) Fruit

 The fruit is what makes a tart so beautiful.  In other words, the fruit is the icing on the cake!  (Hahaha…excuse the dorky baker’s joke!)  The fruit you choose and how you position it on the tart will determine the tone of the tart.  Piles of sliced cinnamon and sugar-soaked apples will say rustic.  Daintily arranged delicate fruit like raspberries and blueberries will say elegant.  A cafe near my office sells fruit tarts brimming with every berry you can imagine.  To me it says I am fresh and delicious. All say eat me

Decide what you want the tone of your tart to be prior to arranging the fruit and then just go for it.  I think this certainly falls under the category of “the more the merrier.”  Need inspiration? Let the season guide you by selecting fruits that are bountiful simultaneously (think pears and figs) or that are contrasting or complementary in color (aren’t peaches and raspberries so pretty together?!). 

(3.5) Glaze

Don’t forget to dress your fruit!  Simply heat some apricot or seedless raspberry preserves in a saucepan over medium heat and brush across your fruit.  Don’t glob it on; a simple sweep of the pastry brush will suffice.  It is well worth the extra few minutes.  It will give your tart that polished look that says “somebody loves me.”

 

 

While this is a very simplistic overview, note that tarts bear endless potential.  (I haven’t been saying that over and over for nothing!) And that is exactly my point for writing this!  Don’t be afraid to try fresh combinations of fillings and exotic  fruit  and nuts. Mix and match recipes for new and exciting flavors!  Have fun!

Fresh Fruit Tart:

(pictured above)

crust

  • 2 cups Nilla wafers, crushed into fine crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all crust ingredients and stir with a fork until mixture is moist, like wet sand. Pour into a well-buttered 9- or 10-inch tart pan and press into an even layer, going up the sides of the tart.
Bake for 12-14 minutes, until crust is just starting to brown at the edges. Cool completely.

filling

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups light cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extractIn a saucepan bring the butter, milk, and light cream to a boil. While this mixture is cooking, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and eggs in a bowl and whip using a whisk.

    When the cream/ milk/butter mixture reaches the boiling point, whisk in the egg mixture and cook to boiling.  Stir constantly with a wooden spoon.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent it from burning.  As it begins to thicken, clumps may form.  Use a whisk to smooth it out. Boil for 1 minute. Use a rubber spatula to press the pastry cream through a strainer into a bowl.  Whisk in vanilla extract. Cover the surface with plastic wrap touching the pudding.  (This prevents a film from forming.)  Chill overnight if possible, or for at least a few hours. 

  • assemble

    • fresh fruit (kiwi slices, raspberries, and halved strawberries work well)
    • 1/2 cup apricot preserves

    Spread filling into cooled crust.  Arrange fruit on top.  Melt preserves in a saucepan and lightly brush over fruit.

    Kitchen Sink Cookies

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    On Saturday I attended the Healthy Living Summit for Bloggers.  As part of the event, the planners organized a Team in Training bake sale silent auction where all proceeds benefitted the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  As my contribution to the bake sale I made Kitchen Sink Cookies.  (I also made a second batch for my sister-in-law’s 30th birthday!) 

    They are called Kitchen Sink Cookies because in them is “everything but the kitchen sink.”  I used Martha Stewart’s recipe and found it to be nice and adaptable so go ahead and swap cookie condiments you like with those you don’t.  (Or just use whatever you have on hand!) 

    I decided to use oatmeal, semi-sweet mini-chocolate chips, milk chocolate chunks, butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips, mini-M&Ms, and currants.   Martha called for coconut and walnuts, which I omitted.  If you are going to make these cookies on the smaller side of the cookie spectrum you may want to use mini-sized cookie condiments like mini-chocolate chips, mini-M&Ms and currants instead of raisins.  However if you are going to make monster cookies the full-size cookie condiments work well.  The idea is that each bite contains a little bit of each ingredient.  If you make small cookies using full size M&Ms, the entire cookie could end up with two big M&Ms and nothing else!    

    I really enjoy foods that have lots of texture and “chunks” so these cookies were right up my alley!  (I may or may not have eaten more than one of these cookies before wrapping them…cookies go down so easily!)  I wrapped these in the same way I wrapped the Better than Brownie Cookie Peanut Butter Sandwiches.

    Kitchen Sink Cookies:

    •  1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon  baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
    • 2 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 1 cup mini M&Ms
    • 1 cup butterscotch chips
    • 1 cup white chocolate chips
    • 1 cup currants

    Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper.

    In a large bowl with a wooden spoon (or in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment) beat butter, sugar and brown sugar together until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Stir in vanilla.

    In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gradually stir into butter mixture until well blended.  Remove bowl from mixer and add oats, chips, M&Ms, and currants.  Stir until well blended.

    Drop batter by heaping tablespoons onto silpat about 2 inches apart. Press tops down with the bottom of a glass to flatten cookies evenly. Bake until golden, about 16 to 18 minutes. Cool on pan for 2 minutes. Remove from pan, and finish cooling completely on wire rack.

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    Adapted from recipe found here on Martha Stewart.com.

    Carnival Cupcakes Galore

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    As you know, I baked clown cakes for my nephew’s carnival-themed first birthday party.  Because I have never baked for such a large crowd, I worried that the cake would not be enough so I decided to also make some cupcakes.  Compared to the cakes these cupcakes were easy breezy!  I baked a batch of butter cake cupcakes and a batch of chocolate cupcakes and then decorated them with Hershey’s frosting, mini M&Ms, glitter icing, gummy bears, and sprinkles.  I think the monkey cupcakes and the lion cupcakes were especially cute!    

     Carnival Cupcakes:

    Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Insert cupcake liners into pans.

    Stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).  Pour batter into pans.

    Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks.  Cool completely before frosting.

    Hershey’s Frosting

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • Melt the butter in a medium bowl.  Stir in the cocoa.  Alternately add confectioners’ sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.  Add small amount additional milk, if needed.  Stir in vanilla.

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    Clown Birthday Cake with Chocolate Pudding Filling

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    Do you remember when a new cuddly cub was born and we welcomed him home from the hospital with Teddy Bear Cupcakes?  Well, my friends, that was one year ago.  I know—I can’t believe it either.  Boy does time fly.  Our little one is scampering around, pulling himself up on every piece of furniture, teasing us, laughing his head off at just about anything, wooing us with his dimple, his sparkling blue eyes, his tiny-toothed grin and charming personality.  He is a snuggler by nature and when he buries his head into my collar I am smitten.  (Geez–I am a sappy and nostalgic wreck these days!) 

    I was elated when the parents asked me to make the birthday cake for his carnival party.  I tend to get so overly excited about projects like this that it is nearly impossible for me to settle on a recipe.  I think my favorite part about baking is that the possibilities are endless!  The colors, the flavors, the textures!  A slight variation in one and you end up with a completely different product.  So many decisions, so many options!  My mind was BURSTING with ideas! 

    Strawberry curd filling, no lemon curd, no kids don’t like lemon, but parents do, no I should do strawberry, but aren’t there a lot of strawberry allergies in kids these days? Peanut butter!  Kids love peanut butter!  That’s it; I have to incorporate peanut butter!  But what about peanut allergies? Damn allergies!  Well how about cookies inside the layers of the cake? Both adults and kids like cookies!  But I just made cookies inside a caketwice

    Oh dear.  I needed to real myself in and make some decisions if the cake were going to be made in time. 

    Here’s what I knew:

    1. I wanted this cake to be moist–It was incredibly important to me that this cake be moist.  In my opinion that is the most important advantage that home-made cakes have over store bought cakes.  Who cares how pretty a cake appears if it goes down like tree moss!?
    2. I wanted this cake to have a unique filling–I did not want to use plain old frosting as the filling. 
    3. I wanted this cake to be frosted in white with primary color accents–Carnival was the theme of the party and though I love chocolate frosting (Hershey’s recipe is my latest favorite) it just wouldn’t be right to serve a brown cake amidst the bright yellow, green, blue and red decorations.  However, I don’t have a butter cream recipe that I love and Wilton’s recipe, though tried and true by many, kind of scares me.

       And those led to these decisions:

    1. Butter cake.  Except, to ensure the moistness factor, I replaced half of the granulated sugar with brown sugar.
    2. Chocolate pudding filling.  Everyone loves chocolate pudding!
    3. Trust Wilton–kind of.  I used Wilton’s “butter cream” as a guide but replaced half of the shortening with butter and the water with heavy cream.

     The results:

    1. Success on officially the largest cake I have ever made!  (I used two 15-inch pans.)
    2. A very odd-colored cake.  I wish I remembered to take a photo.  Because of the extra brown sugar, the color of the cake was probably the least appealing aspect.  It was a dull beige–not at all the happy yellow birthday cake we see in cookbooks.  Guests were really intrigued and many people asked what kind of cake it was…and, what was that flavor that they just couldn’t put their finger on?
    3. MOIST.  The moistness factor was off the charts.  Mission accomplished.
    4. Decent frosting.  I love how it spread nice and smoothly and did not melt even after sitting outside on a warm day for several hours.  (Thanks Crisco!) I am just warming up to the Wilton frosting concept but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that in this case the frosting worked pretty well.
    5. Lots of compliments.  People are so nice!  Everyone really seemed to enjoy the cake!  And at the end of the day, that is, after all, what the idea is!

    Butter Cake

    (I doubled the below recipe for each 15-inch pan.  As-is, this recipe yields enough batter for two 8 or 9-inch cakes)

    • shortening and flour for pan prep
    • 1/2  cup  butter, melted
    • 8 oz.  sour cream
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 3/4  cup  granulated sugar
    • 2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs 
    • 2  cups  all-purpose flour
    • 1  teaspoon  baking soda
    • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
    • 3/4  cup buttermilk

     Preheat oven to 350 F.

    Rub shortening on the bottom of cake pans.  Sprinkle with flour.  Set aside.

    Combine melted butter and sour cream in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add sugars and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Beat with a mixer at medium speed 3 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs; beat 2 minutes or until well blended.

    Lightly spoon 2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 2 cups flour, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Pour batter into prepared pan(s). Sharply tap pan once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350 F for 27-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

    Chocolate Pudding (filling):

    • 4 large egg yolks
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1 cup whipping cream
    • 9 ounces (2 cups) chopped semi-sweet and milk chocolate
    •  2 teaspoons sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Whisk together yolks, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl until blended.  Combine milk and cream in medium saucepan, and cook over medium heat until hot. Gradually pour hot milk mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula, for 5 minutes or until mixture thickens and coats the spatula or until a thermometer reads 180°.  Remove saucepan from heat. Add chocolate, and let stand 10 seconds; whisk until smooth. Transfer chocolate cream to a clean bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream, and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours.

    Frosting (I made this recipe about three times for this cake):

    • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
    • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
    • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
    • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
    • 1/2 teaspoon meringue powder (this stuff is a little weird…)

    Cream together shortening and butter using an electric mixer.  Add vanilla. Add confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time and continue to beat with mixer.  Add cream and meringue powder.  Add more confectioners’ sugar or more cream to reach desired consistency.  

    Assembly:

    Place first cake layer on cake board. Pipe a thick layer of frosting around the entire edge of cake.  Scoop one big even layer of pudding onto cake.  Top with second cake. Frost top and sides of cake for crumb coat.  Place entire cake in fridge for at least 10 minutes. Finish frosting cake with another thick layer of frosting and decorate with piped frosting.

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    Cake for the guests + cake for the birthday boy!

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    The birthday boy’s cake before!

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    The birthday boy’s cake after!

    Recipes adapted from: MyRecipes.com and Wilton.

    Cookies and Cream Cake

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    I made the above Cookies and Cream Cake on the same day that I made the Cookies and Cream Fire Engine Birthday Cake below.  You see, a small group in my office organized a bake-off and this cake was my submission to the finals.  It just so happened to be the same day as my nephew’s birthday, which worked out perfectly.  I was able to bake the first cake in the morning as sort of a trial run (and to get the extremely important feedback from our family!) and then come home and bake this cake for the bake-off.  Make sense?  So while I didn’t really make any adjustments the first time around, I decided to do one part differently the second time.  Instead of only incorporating one layer of filling between the two cakes, I sliced both cakes in half so that there were three layers of filling (plus on top).  YUM. 

    In this case, I didn’t have to make extra filling because I had leftover filling that I did not use on top of the fire engine cake.  However, if you are going to make the cake into four layers I suggest making one and a half times the filling recipe below. 

    And now I am sure you are just dying to know the result of the bake-off…wellllll…I won!  Thank you Annie!

    Cookies and Cream Cake:

    For the cake:

    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
    • ¾ cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
    • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • ½ cup vegetable oil
    • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 cup boiling water

    For the filling:

    • 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
    • 1/8 cup confectioners’ sugar
    • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 10-20 chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreos!),  chopped 

    For the frosting:

    • ½ cup unsalted butter
    • 2/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
    • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
    • 1/3 cup milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

    To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease and flour two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans.

    Stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).  Pour batter into prepared pans.

    Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks.  Cool completely.

     To make the filling, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla.  Beat on low speed until all sugar is incorporated; increase speed to high and whisk until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in chopped cookie pieces with a rubber spatula.

     To make the frosting, melt the butter in a medium bowl.  Stir in the cocoa.  Alternately add confectioners’ sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.  Add small amount additional milk, if needed.  Stir in vanilla.

     To assemble the cake, slice two cakes in half cross-wise using a serrated knife.  Place one cake layer on a cardboard cake circle.  Pipe a ring of the chocolate frosting around the outside edge of the cake.  Fill the area inside the ring of frosting with a thick layer of the cookies and cream mixture.  Repeat with remaining layers. Place the last cake layer on top.  Frost the sides of the cake layers with chocolate frosting.  Pipe a decorative border of the chocolate frosting on top of the cake.  Fill the area inside this border with a thick layer of the cookies and cream mixture.  Garnish with extra chocolate sandwich cookies and chocolate frosting.

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    Adapted from Annie’s Eats.

    Cookies and Cream Fire Engine Birthday Cake

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    Is it me, or does it seem like it was just yesterday that a certain adorable little guy turned one and we celebrated with monkey cakes?  His auntie is finding herself quite nostalgic—he is growing up so  fast!  I remember the details of the day he was born and the first time I saw him like it happened this morning. And then woooosh.  Two years pass and our little bug is running around, jumping on the sofa, “vrooom vroooming” his trucks, hugging (and kissing!) little girls, playing dress up, riding a trike, and capturing our hearts over and over with each little smile, giggle, and silly voice.

    (I’d better move on to discussing the cake before I am a weeping mess!)

    I made this year’s fire truck cake using  Annie’s Cookies and Cream recipe.  The one and only adjustment I made is that I did not top the cake with the filling.  (I needed a place for a shiny red fire truck!) 

    I found this cake to be exceptionally rich, moist, and delicious!

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