Category: candy canes

Santa Claus is coming to town…

AND HE’S COMING IN 21 DAYS.

(Better pick up that phone…)

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Wow. So it’s really December! Holy crap, right? Thanksgiving has come & gone. Black Friday is over, as is Cyber Monday (which sounds very dirty to me, sorry I’m a child of the ’90′s when “cybersex” was the big parental fear, not “sexting”). The pumpkins are gone & being replaced with lights. ‘Tis the season of Christmas cookies, Hanukkah recipes & gifts of all shapes & sizes. ‘Tis the season of peppermint everything & mistletoe, snow & fireplaces, Christmas lists & long lines. Toys & sleds. Snow & red noses.

I love Christmas time, but really, it’s enough to make you want to crawl under a down comforter until February. So let’s ease into it all, shall we? How about easing into it with some polka dot cupcakes, and some hot cocoa? Sound good to you? Vanilla cupcakes, with little green dots made from the same vanilla batter. So easy!

(Mugs & plates from Target. And yes, the mugs & plates are small… the cupcakes aren’t huge!)

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It’s so simple. Here’s what you do:

  1. Just pick your favorite vanilla cupcake recipe, make it, then take about 1/2 cup of the batter, maybe even just 1/4 cup, and put in in a separate bowl.
  2. Tint it whatever color you want (you can also do a few different colors by dividing the batter further).
  3. Pour the plain vanilla batter into cupcake liners, as usual.
  4. Then take the colored batter & spoon it into a disposable pastry bag, snip off the very bottom and carefully pipe “dots” on to the tops of your unbaked cupcakes. Or, you could use a very small round piping tip if you have one. My dots were uneven… what else is new, haha- but once they were baked you couldn’t even tell anyway.
  5. You can do red & green dots on vanilla cupcakes, plain vanilla dots in red velvet cupcakes, chocolate dots in vanilla cupcakes, vanilla dots in red velvet cupcakes, red dots in chocolate cupcakes, etc, etc, etc. The possibilities are endless!

I didn’t frost mine so the dots were visible. If you want, you could probably pipe the dots in layers so that you get polka dots all the way through the cupcakes. Never done it myself, but it’s worth a shot. The liners are from Michael’s, not sure what brand they are. You can definitely get similar red/white polka dot liners at any number of places, though: sweet estelle baking supply, Layer Cake Shop, Bake it Pretty, The Cupcake Social, Sweet Cuppin Cakes. Wherever you like to shop. I think dotted liners in a contrasting color look so cute, but stripes would be adorable too!

And of course… the cupcakes wouldn’t be complete without some hot cocoa!

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CUPCAKE REHAB’S HOT COCOA*

Makes about 6 servings, depending on the size of your mugs *wink*

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (you can use dark, too)
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • Candy canes, mini marshmallows, whipped cream & peppermint schnapps/peppermint syrup (all optional)

Directions:

  1. Mix dry ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir in the hot water & bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  2. Stir in milk and heat, but do not boil. Remove from the heat & add vanilla. Pour into mugs.
  3. Add a dash of peppermint schnapps, if desired, then add whatever you like on top: whipped cream, mini marshmallows or both. Add a candy cane stirrer (or crushed candy canes on top) & enjoy!
*this hot cocoa also works well with a dash of cinnamon sugar & a pinch of cayenne pepper instead of peppermint schnapps & candy canes.

If you’re caught without candy canes (hey, it’s only the BEGINNING OF DECEMBER!), some hard peppermint candies will, when smashed, work the same way. Or, you can use a squirt of peppermint syrup in the cocoa and skip the crushed candies on top. The peppermint is optional altogether, however, so don’t sweat it. I personally like a little peppermint in my hot chocolate, but this cocoa happens to be good enough on it’s own to stand up without any fancy stuff.

On that note, I look forward to spending another holiday season with all of you. Sláinte!

A new year & peppermint bark.

Well it’s a new year and with a new year comes… a new copyright logo on the bottom of my pictures (which you may have seen on my champagne cupcakes)! In case you aren’t aware, I went about 3 years having this blog without needing to (or feeling the need to) copyright my photos, and then some dipshit named Sharon Louann Swann Stallings went and stole a bunch of them and used them as advertisements for her “up & coming baking business” on Craigslist & Facebook. Yeah, like I said, dipshit. Anyway, after that, in September or October of 2010, I decided I better tag ‘em with my blog name so that when they’re stolen, people will know, unless these dipshits have the ability to crop in Photoshop, which I highly doubt. So for the next 12 months you’ll see this new copyright on the bottom of the photos. It’s a shame I need to do this at all, I hope someday I can remove this step in my photo editing for good. But for now, it stays, just updated for 2011 and with all this other newness, comes a new recipe!

Most people think of peppermint bark as a Christmas-y treat, however, I think it’s also a great way to use up all your leftover candy canes after Christmas. Although, to me & my family, Christmas lasts until tomorrow which is Little Christmas, so it’s still appropriate to make it with those. You’ll never catch us taking our tree down before tomorrow! If anything, it’s up another week or two. The outside decorations, that’s a bit different. They had to come down before we’re hit with another blizzard.

Peppermint bark is a chocolate confection. Generally it consists of peppermint candy pieces in white chocolate on top of dark chocolate, but peppermint bark can refer to any chocolate with peppermint candy pieces in it.

It is especially popular around the Christmas season. Companies known for selling it seasonally include Williams-Sonoma, Ghirardelli, and Dove. Though they do not label it as peppermint bark, Hershey’s also sells peppermint Hershey’s kisses.

Peppermint + chocolate = wonderful. Funny story; Jay never liked the mint/chocolate combo until eating these. He’ll probably still deny liking it, though. I saw him smile when he ate a piece on Christmas- he can’t fool me.

Needless to say, I did indeed make mine for Christmas, and I put it in Martha Stewart treat bags and used them as place settings for the table on Christmas Day. This way, everyone could take theirs home with them and enjoy it. Although like I said, I think it’s a sweet way to use up your candy canes when the holiday is over, and I think it’d be equally sweet for Valentine’s Day, perhaps using white chocolate colored pink? Or even better: use white chocolate & pink Candy Melts with dried cherries. Or try making it with all white chocolate and crushed starlight mints, then drizzling melted pink candy melts over the top? Or for St. Patrick’s Day; white chocolate with crushed spearmint starlight mints or crushed green candies. You can do it in any way you like, for any holiday, even with cherry or blueberry or fruit-flavored candy canes.

My recipe is just a basic one, very simple. There are tons of them out there, and there are also commercially made pre-packaged ones that usually cost a pretty penny. Williams-Sonoma makes a fantastic one, but buying it really takes the fun out of it to me. This is a project kids would love- it takes no time at all, lots of smashing (the candy canes), very little cooking, no baking, and the end result is delicious.

PEPPERMINT BARK

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 6 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup crushed candy canes

Directions:

  1. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, smoothing out any wrinkles.
  2. Melt the semi sweet chocolate and 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Immediately pour the melted chocolate into the prepared pan and tilt the pan so the chocolate makes an even layer. Place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or until the chocolate has set.
  3. Then, melt the white chocolate and remaining 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Immediately pour the melted white chocolate over the dark chocolate and tilt the pan so the chocolate is in an even layer. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes evenly over the white chocolate. Place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or until the chocolate has set.
  4. Remove the Peppermint Bark from the pan by lifting the edges of the aluminum foil. Peel back the foil and break the bark into small irregular pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Makes about 25 pieces, depending on how large you break it up and whether or not you double the recipe.

NOMS! CRUNCHY CHOCOLATEY PEPPERMINT NOMS ALL IN YOUR FACE!


If you like more peppermint flavor in your bark, stir some peppermint oil (not extract), maybe ¼ – ½ teaspoon, into the white chocolate before pouring it on top of the other chocolate. You can also put more melted chocolate over the top, like a drizzle. I split my chocolate up unevenly, so the semi-sweet chocolate layer is thicker than the white, and used some mini chips in the semi-sweet layer that I didn’t allow to melt completely, so that layer is a little chunky. See? So many possibilities! You could even use white chocolate chips in regular chocolate… whatever your imagination can come up with, it’ll work.

I also want to say that these candy canes were the best ever. I got them at Target and the flavor wasn’t too peppermint-y, it was a perfect balance of sweet and mint. Which made them perfect for peppermint bark. It’s a shame I now have to wait almost a whole year to buy them again. But on the plus side… Valentine’s Day will be here before you know it.

I think I’ll keep the snow up on the blog for a few more weeks, or maybe all through winter.

Candy Cane cupcakes.

You know what a gingerbread man uses when he has trouble walking? A candy cane! HAHAHA. I know, I’m hilarious, especially to the 5-year-old set. But if you’re a hit with them, you’re golden. They’re the best audience to gain favor with! They’ve got all the fun toys and candy.

Speaking of candy.. er, candy canes:

A candy cane is a hard cane-shaped candy stick. It is traditionally white with red stripes and flavored with peppermint or cinnamon (also known respectively as a peppermint stick or cinnamon stick);[citation needed] however, it is also made in a variety of other flavors and may be decorated with stripes of different colors and thicknesses. The candy cane is available year-round, but traditionally surrounds the Christmas holiday, particularly in the Western world.

In its early form, the candy cane began as a simple white stick of sugar for children to enjoy – there was no “cane” shape or stripes to speak of. While it is uncertain where the first canes originated, it is clear that by the mid-17th century, if not earlier, its use had already become widespread across Europe.[1] These were made by confectioners who had to pull, cut, twist, and (in later years) bend the sugar sticks by hand, making it a time-intensive process. Candy cane production had to be done locally, since they were easily damaged and vulnerable to moisture.[3] The labour required, and difficulty of storage, combined to make these candies relatively hard to get, although popular.[4]

The distinctive “hook” shape associated with candy canes is traditionally credited to a choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral in Germany, who, legend has it, in 1670 bent straight candy sticks into canes to represent a shepherd‘s crook, and gave them to children at church services.[5] The shepherd’s staff is often used in Christianity as a metaphor for The Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. It is also possible that, as people decorated their Yule trees with food, the bent candy cane was invented as a functional solution.[6]

The stripes are made similar in fashion to a barber’s pole, with the red stripes twisting around the white stick of sugar.[9] These signature stripes did not become part of the candy cane until the 20th century.[10][11] It is uncertain who first started using the stripes, but evidence of their use only appears after the turn of the century. At around this time, candy makers began using peppermint as a flavor.[12]

Nowadays, candy canes come in just about every color and flavor you can imagine. I’m still a big fan of the original but I enjoy the spearmint ones, Jay loved this Hawaiian Punch kind I bought him a few years ago (but sadly haven’t found ever again), and I know someone from High School who used to like the Sweettart ones. However, I happen to think the more Christmas-y of the lot are the red & white OG canes. This recipe is from the book 125 Best Cupcake Recipes by Julie Hasson, which some people look at as a kind of cupcake bible. She calls them Peppermint Candy Cupcakes, but for our purposes, and the season, let’s go with Candy Cane cupcakes, shall we?

As I mentioned once before, I’m playing with the settings on my camera so bear with me if the quality of the pictures vary in each post. I can’t seem to find the perfect setting…

And do you see the adorable big Christmas cupcake there!? Isn’t that cute? It’s weird, I hate Kohl’s, but every time my mother gets me a cute cupcake item it’s usually from there. That just so happens to be a candle- you take off the “frosting” and light it. So cute. Maybe I judge them too harshly? It’s just that every time I’ve been in there, the clothing has been horrendous, the shoes were a joke, and the only thing worthwhile was the housewares department. Oh, and the decorations. They have cute holiday stuff. Remember my Halloween cupcake cookie jar?

You can also make these with starlight mints, either the spearmint or the plain peppermint ones. But it’s more fun to use candy canes, especially now. So this is the kickoff to my holiday 2010 cupcakes & confections! Aren’t you excited?

CANDY CANE CUPCAKES

Get yourself this here stuff:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp  baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped candy canes (about 4 medium)
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped white chocolate
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • ½ cup  buttermilk

And then:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.
  2. In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in chopped candy canes and chocolate.
  3. In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter until well combined. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk, making three additions of flour mixture and two of buttermilk, beating until smooth.
  4. Scoop batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting.

ITALIAN MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients:

Makes 4 1/2 cups

  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 5 large egg whites
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Continue boiling until syrup reaches 238° degrees.on a candy thermometer (soft-ball stage).
  2. Meanwhile, place egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat on medium-high speed until stiff but not dry; do not overbeat.
  3. With mixer running, add syrup to whites in a stream, beating on high speed until no longer steaming, about 3 minutes. Add butter bit by bit, beating until spreadable, 3 to 5 minutes; beat in vanilla. If icing curdles, keep beating until smooth.

The liners, with their little canes & candies…

……

Okay so, these are sticky. Well, no, not sticky exactly. They were just very… moist? Alright, yeah, who am I kidding. They’re friggin’ sticky. The candy canes make them pretty hard to eat in one piece. They taste wonderful, I loved them and so did everyone else, but they’re tricky to eat. I topped them with a peppermint Italian meringue buttercream (Martha’s recipe, I halved it and got more than enough for the 16 cupcakes the cupcake recipe made) and more crushed candy canes. red & white sparkling sugar and peppermint candy toppers. The liners have peppermint candies and candy canes on them too…  totally cute, right?

Let me say that Italian meringue, for some, can be an even bigger pain in the ass than Swiss meringue. But keep at it, it will eventually come together. If not, chill it for a while and try again. You can use any flavor extract in it, or even preserves for a fruit frosting. It’s delicious. I have to say, and I’m not being snooty here, I promise: I’ve never had a problem with it. Swiss meringue, yes, but only because I’ve attempted it on humid days (it just doesn’t happen). But Italian, no. Mainly because I only ever made it on dry days in the fall or winter. Both meringue buttercreams are the same amount of work, and yeah, the cooking takes time and so does the beating. But when it comes together it is so delicious you’ll be hesitant to make a confectioner’s sugar frosting ever again. Or at least until the humidity rises. If you have trouble with either of those buttercreams, or just have questions on storage, etc… this site is a great informational tool.

I went to the first Christmas party of the season last night at the Garden City Hotel, so that really means that the season has started! I didn’t really get into it despite seeing all the houses decorated right after Halloween- that turns me off. But now it’s December, and it’s time. So as hard as it is for me to believe that it’s Christmas-time,  my tree is up, my lights are lit, it’s snowing on the blog and I can’t wait to start making some more holiday treats.

Candy cane cupcakes & why Yoyo rocks (again).

I know, I’ve been MIA again. *sigh* I’ve just been really busy… its the holidays, and I’ve been preoccupied setting up my new blog at mariloca.com and writing and gathering pictures together for my Cupcakes Take the Cake guest blog (which will be on the 23rd- mark your calendars!) But alas, I’m here with a peace offering: some cupcake porn! Chocolate cupcakes with  pink vanilla-mint buttercream and topped with red sugar and crushed candy-canes on top. Its kind of a Christmas must-have to make something chocolate/mint, and while I have a few other tricks up my sleeve involving this combo for Christmas this year, who can turn down cupcakes? Because this is something I’ve done before many times, and I’ve used both of these recipes before, the recipes for both the cakes and the frosting can be found by clicking the ‘continue reading‘ link at the bottom of this post so they don’t clog up the page and waste space.

But I do have a little tip for you: if you don’t have cake flour, you can substitute all-purpose flour. Just use 7/8 cup all-purpose flour per cup of cake flour called for. The texture will not be the same, it won’t be as delicate, but in a pinch it’ll do. And most people probably won’t be able to tell the difference. You’d be surprised at how indelicate most peoples palates are. In chocolate cupcakes, like these for example, its not as big of a deal. They just come out denser and “thicker.” In vanilla cupcakes it kinda does make a difference.

I wanna thank the amazing Yoyo for the liners I used, they came today in a package she sent me!

It was filled with a homemade Christmas card…

Tons of handmade mini-tissue pack holders and Christmas cupcake liners, like these…

And an apron made out of a fabric very appropriate for me…

I’ll get better pics of the apron and hopefully a full-shot of it this week.

Thanks so much Yoyo! ♥

On that note, I’m off. I’ll be back with more Christmas-like recipes.

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