Category: decorations

DIY tree stump rustic candle holders.

Yes- this post is ALL about those tree trunk/tree branch candle holders you’ve seen at places like Terrain or on Pinterest or Etsy. It’s really easy to make them yourself, at home, if you have some basic tools.

DIY rustic tree stump/tree branch candle holder.

This idea all started when I asked Jay to make me & my mother some old fashioned Pagan-style Yule logs for Christmas.

The Yule Log started out, we believe, as part of Norse Winter Solstice celebrations. Back then, the longhouse would have a huge fireplace, and the flooring would be either stone or packed earth. Tradition says that the Yule Log began as a huge log, big enough to burn for the entire twelve-day festival. One end would be pushed into the fireplace, and as it burned away, you’d push it in some more until it was entirely consumed.

With fireplaces being less and less common these days, the practical Pagan has adapted. Some choose a small log, some twelve or sixteen inches in length, flatten it along one side to make a base, and drill from one to three holes into the top, suitable for the insertion of candles. The candles are generally (but not always) “fire” colors, with red being the most common. The log is decorated with greenery, sometimes real, sometimes artificial – pine, spruce, fir or other evergreen boughs, holly and mistletoe are a few possibilities – and the candles are lighted at sunset on the Winter Solstice. Tradition says they should burn through the night; but given safety considerations, most only allow it to burn so long as someone is around to keep an eye on it.

-JingleBell Junction

Pagan-style refers to how it’s a log with holes for candles, instead of a large log you burn in a fireplace. It’s also a more modern version. My dad made one when he was a kid out of a log with three holes on top. It isn’t just Pagan’s that use that style- lots of Christians have Yule logs in that way- but if I’m not mistaken, they started it.

So I had some wood in the garage that had been cut from branches that were hanging too low on trees in the backyard over the summer. I was saving it for our fire pit, but then the summer ended and the weather got too cold & they were shoved into the garage & forgotten. Then my mother mentioned she wanted a Yule log, and I realized I had the perfect pieces of wood for it. And then I decided I wanted one, but with tea lights instead of taper candles. I realized they’d look great with my winter tree!

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Gingerbread cake with marshmallow snow & paper trees.

For some reason, as I was writing the title of this post, I thought of the lyrics from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Odd.

Anyway, gingerbread is one of my favorite holiday treats. I love the cookies, I love it in a spicier form like pfeffernusse and I love gingerbread cake. I don’t make it nearly enough, though, even around the holidays. I have a favorite gingerbread cookie recipe & a favorite Guinness ginger cake recipe, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying others. So I thought that this year, I’d make a plain gingerbread cake- no Guinness, no chocolate- and top it with some fluffy white snow.

And trees. Gotta have trees.

Gingerbread cake with a marshmallow "snow" and paper cupcake liner trees. And elves!

For the trees, I got the how-to from The Cake Blog. Pretty self-explanatory, but still. It’s a fun & easy way to make cupcake or cake toppers.

It’s so retro-looking, isn’t it?

Cupcake liner Christmas trees!

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DIY magic: mason jar snow globes.

Oh, December. How I love you. Make no mistake- Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday. Hands down. However, it’s only acceptable for me to play White Christmas over & over again in December. I don’t mind watching it in February or July, but I find other people take issue. Or perhaps they just take issue with me singing all of the songs (particularly this one & this one) out loud at the top of my lungs? Anyway. I wait until at least after turkey day to break out the Bing! Also, December is the Mount Everest of baking/creating: the best crafts, recipes, and decorations are happening  right around now!

Like these…

DIY mason jar snowglobes. Easiest winter project ever!

This tutorial is something you’ve probably seen all over the internet.

No, not probably. Definitely.  I’ve seen this concept more times in the past two weeks than I’ve seen my fiancee, it seems. I’m just repeating it here to show you how stupidly easy it is. And how fun it is. And chances are, you’ve already got the materials- or most of them- laying around the house. It’s a knockoff of a product that Anthropologie made (they made salt shaker ones too), hence the lack of water.

DIY mason jar snowglobes.

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Sprinkles! A “rainbowlicious” book review & giveaway!

Back in 2011, Quirk Books sent me a delicious cookbook (this one) to review & do a giveaway for. I loved the book & every recipe in it! The frosted maple pecan cookies are some of Jay’s favorite cookies ever. So when they asked me to do a review for a new book, Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts, I totally had to say yes!

And I had to ask if I could give one of YOU a copy as well!

Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts! Makes a great Christmas gift.

I love cookbooks. I love books in general, really- especially cookbooks, how-to books or DIY/craft books. I’m in the middle of redoing things around the ol’ homestead, so I don’t have easy access to them right now. Which is another reason why I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a new one.

But the main reason? It’s December! It’s time to start thinking about Christmas baking & Christmas presents. Cookbooks like this make not only amazing gifts, but provide some inspiration when we get a little stuck for holiday treats.

A review of: Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts.

Sprinkles! Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts: Here’s a guide to baking and decorating delicious desserts with a colorful twist: sprinkles! Of course you can scatter them over cakes and pies–but you can also swirl them into waffles, “embroider” them on cookies, and freeze them in pretty popsicles. Jackie Alpers shares dozens of creative, colorful, super-fun recipes, plus quick-and-easy projects (ideal for little kids), holiday treats, party-perfect sprinkles crafts (great for gifting!). She also offers simple tutorials for tinting sparkling sugars, concocting homemade pop rocks, and even crafting your own sprinkles from scratch. Sprinkles! is an awesome rainbow explosion of a cookbook you won’t want to miss.”

The first thing that you need to know is that the photography in the book (& on the front & back covers) is beautiful. Beautiful colors & beautiful layouts. It’s enough to make a food blogger a little jealous.

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Spinning a web of sweetness.

BOO!

 

Not sure what your day is going to consist of come the 31st, but mine? Candy, candy, and more candy. Maybe candy corn vodka. Maybe trick-or-treat Halloween candy cupcakes. Maybe none of the above- maybe just handfuls upon handfuls of chocolates & bubble gum & sugar. These cupcakes here are just an early treat!

Oh and pizza. There will most likely be pizza.

See, I’m determined to enjoy this Halloween. Being that it’s my favorite holiday, I am DETERMINED to not let anything ruin it this year. So determined, I made these JUST to snack on in anticipation! Last year my Halloween was ruined when that bitch Sandy blew in here & wrecked everything- knocking out my power for a week. So this year I am sitting on my ass, eating junk with my TV playing all the horror movies I want… but anyway, let me get back to the cakes.

Easy spiderweb cupcakes for Halloween!I know, the cake stand rocks…

 

These cupcakes are just vanilla cakes with vanilla frosting, topped with black “spiderwebs” I made from Wilton Candy Melts. See? You don’t have to go crazy or over the top to make cute Halloween cupcakes!

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The wicked witch of the cupcake.

Vintage postcard: flying witches.

Yeah. That’s right. Today we’re talking about witches. Because in case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s October, and that means one thing to me: Halloween.

Ohh, Halloween. My favorite time of year. The leaves changing (hopefully) & crunching beneath my boots, the air getting brisker, the wind kicking up. The costumes & makeup start appearing in stores earlier & earlier nowadays, but I reserve my Halloween excitement for the first week in October. I refuse to do ANYTHING Halloween-related before October 1st. Yes, it’s my favorite holiday & yes, I’m excited. But it’s like buying Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving; it’s just wrong to me. I’ll wait until October to celebrate Halloween… & I’ll wait until December 1st for Christmas, thanks.

That being said, I was super psyched to post this little cupcake topper how-to. I couldn’t wait any longer! I didn’t come up with this idea myself (unfortunately) but I did somewhat modify it from the original directions. I did that because I didn’t have matching mini cupcake liners & regular liners. I don’t do many mini cupcakes, so I never buy the liners. I adapted the directions to suit me & my materials, and with just a little bit more work put in I think they look just as cute. Ladies & germs, I give you…

Cupcake…

liner…

witches’

hats!

Easy DIY witch hat cupcake toppers made from cupcake liners!

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I like cupcakes & I don’t care if you don’t.

There are certain unalienable rights that i believe we have as humans- from the time we’re born until the moment our heart beats for the last time. You may know some of these from the Declaration of Independence; i.e. life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. But as far as I’m concerned, and perhaps this fits in with ‘life’ or ‘liberty’ or more likely ‘the pursuit of happiness’… but to me, one of those rights is the right to love certain things (or people!) without being judged/mocked/hated/etc. This isn’t just a marriage equality thing I’m talking about, although obviously it goes for that too, without saying. But really it goes beyond that, sneaking into all of our lives, even into the smallest & most seemingly unimportant things.

If you love something, it’s guaranteed someone else is gonna hate it, and chances are they’re going to try & make you feel stupid or wrong for liking it in the first place.

Ooh.. what's going on here? Candied pansies!

I can hear it now: “Oh no… not only is this bitch gonna rant now, but based on that picture, obviously she’s gonna post a cupcake recipe too…”

For example, here are some things I love, things which include but are not limited to:

Pink hair. All shades, but most especially that soft cupcakey, Marie Antoinette-pink that almost looks faded. Oh, how I miss my pink hair days (although mine was more magenta)…

Pizza. Again, all kinds; but margherita pizza has the ability to cure the grumpiest of my moods.

Sleeping animals. If there’s a sleeping pet around, I will get down to wherever they are & harass them, squealing over their cuteness. I don’t do this with wild animals, but there have been occasions where Jay has had to convince me not to chase rabbits or feral cats/ kittens & shove them in my pockets to bring them home.

I love my nose ring. I mean, I love my nose piercing in general, but I really love wearing a ring in it instead of a smaller screw. I don’t know why. I think maybe I feel too conservative or ‘sorority girl’ with a small one. *shrugs*

Uggs. They’re warm. They’re comfy. So listen, I don’t give two shits- when it’s 24° F, snowing, I need to run to the store & I’m already wearing sweatpants, I don’t care if Carrie Bradshaw would gasp at my outfit. Screw her & her Jimmy Choos. Step in a snow bank in those & then lemme know if you wanna borrow my fleece-lined, suede & wool hamburger bun boots. (I’ll say no)

Le Creuset pots, skillets, mugs, baking dishes & French ovens, in all colors, in one photo together. It makes me smile.

Cooking shows. No, I don’t care that you hate Paula Deen and no, I’ll never get tired of seeing anyone bake anything on TV. Go watch intelligent things like the Kardashian’s and leave me alone, thanks.

Neck tattoos. That’s all. Just…. neck tattoos.

Okay, this one is more sarcastic, but I love when they say that PopTarts are “crazy good” in the new commercial. Now… I’m not above eating a s’mores PopTart once in a blue moon but crazy good? No, truffle macaroni & cheese is crazy good. PopTarts are a lazy breakfast option for kids or snack option for adults who smoke funny cigarettes.

Early ’90′s Hole.

And cupcakes. SO… MUCH… BETTER than full-size cakes. Eff cakes. Cakes are like, the utmost in drama & needless steps- like extra frosting (crumb coats?! WTF is that about?!). And fondant tastes like feet. Not that I know what feet taste like, but I can imagine.

And at this point, everyone’s all like “Oh I am SOOOOO over cupcakes!” And I’m pretty much like, “Uh… Who asked you?” Not me.

Rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes, topped with a green-colored vanilla buttercream & sugared pansies!

See, first off: I care not what your opinion is of something I enjoy. When I make fun of your ugly chair or hideous choice in clothes, and you didn’t ask what I thought, and then you feel put out or insulted… remember that. Cause see, we’re all entitled to opinions. But if you say “I LOVE LOLLIPOPS!” and I say “Ugh, lollipops are for losers, they’re total shit! They’re made with high fructose corn syrup, and only a total idiot would eat them knowing that!” that’s me making you feel bad for liking them, and I’m a dick. If I say, “Eh, they’re not my thing”, or “I don’t see the appeal”, that’s different. Giving your opinion in a way that doesn’t make someone else feel stupid is one thing. Telling them that they’re an idiot for liking whatever it is they like… that’s shitty. Stop doing that, guys.

Because bottom line: no one should make you feel bad about liking/loving whomever or whatever you choose.

And second: I’m personally “totally over” the following: pork belly, quinoa, mustaches on everything, high-waisted pants, kohlrabi, kombucha, kale & ANY MENTION OF THE PALEO DIET. Seriously. Every time I see one of those on a blog post, I want to scream & murder anyone within 40 feet of me. But yet I never say it. I don’t go around yelling at people to stop eating quinoa because it’s “played out” or “over done.” Who cares? It’s not up to me to tell you what to eat or do just because I’m tired of it. You love quinoa, eat it. You don’t, don’t.

And I happen to love cupcakes. Which is why I love this article by Allison Robicelli. She says everything I want to say right here, but better, with better examples, and more profanity than I’m currently using. I think I love her- but that’s another story. Like I said on Facebook, this blog isn’t a cupcake worship blog. It isn’t just ALL cupcakes, all the time. It’s about so much more than just one little cake. But it doesn’t even matter, because I reserve the right to love what I love either way. And also, like I said on Facebook, you judging other bloggers doesn’t make you look any cooler. As a matter of fact, you being an asshole about what I choose to do/like doesn’t make me look bad, it makes you look insipid.

So yes. I love cupcakes. I won’t apologize for it, I don’t feel bad when a snobby food blogger scoffs at them in favor of a green tea cookie with local honey glaze or lemon curry marmalade, and I don’t care if the people I reading this are tired of them. I am not. Besides, what is there NOT TO LIKE? It’s a small, individual cake. Just for you. That you don’t have to share (!). It’s an only child’s dream, which is probably why they struck a nerve with me. I am an only child, see. Anyway… I don’t care about snobby food bloggers who are “too good” for cupcakes. I can be snobby too. Better yet? I can make snobby cupcakes. Like these, rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes with sugared (or candied) pansies.

Rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes, topped with a green-colored vanilla buttercream & sugared pansies!

I think that’s just as good as a rhubarb shrub cocktail or kohlrabi summer salad, don’t you? Probably better, actually. Because I think kohlrabi is boring, and anyone can make a cocktail. Well, maybe not anyone; it’s generally frowned upon for children.

Okay, so, yeah. Cupcakes. Rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes, and sugared pansies. How pretty, springlike, and mature.

They really are mature, too. These aren’t for kids. Or picky eaters. Even though there’s only 1/4 teaspoon of rosewater in them, that 1/4 teaspoon packs a punch. There’s also both vanilla bean & vanilla extract in them, to kind of even out the rose, but it doesn’t eliminate it at all. So if you’re not a fan of roses, rosewater, or anything in the edible flower family I’m warning you now: stay away from these. These are not for you.

Rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes, topped with a green-colored vanilla buttercream & sugared pansies!

They’re gorgeous. I know. And yes, these were indeed my fall-back Mother’s Day dessert after that abysmal rhubarb failure. I really didn’t want to make anything similar to something I had already made, but I think these candied flowers bring it to a whole new level. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s totally different than the last time.

So here’s the recipe & the how-to on making sugared pansies (or flowers).

ROSEWATER-VANILLA BEAN CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon rosewater (I use Nielsen-Massey)
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with paper liners. Pur the milk into a glass measuring cup & scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the milk, set aside.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into large bowl. Beat butter and oil in a separate medium bowl. Add egg; blend.
  3. Whisk in milk, rosewater, & vanilla extract. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients; whisk just to blend.
  4. Divide batter among liners, filling them about 2/3-3/4 full.
  5. Put cupcakes in oven & reduce heat to 325°F. Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to racks; cool.

Rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes, topped with a green-colored vanilla buttercream & sugared pansies!

SUGARED FLOWERS (PANSIES)

Ingredients:

  • Edible flowers, such as pansies or rose petals
  • Granulated sugar, or superfine sugar
  • Pasteurized egg whites
  • Clear but opalescent edible glitter, luster dust or disco dust (optional)

Directions:

  1. Wash your flowers or petals carefully, and pat them dry. Spread newspaper on a table, then a few layers of paper towels. Place the flowers on the paper towels.
  2. Thoroughly coat the flowers with the egg wash (it’s best to use a small food safe paint brush). Sprinkle the sugar & edible glitter over them, and then gently shake off the excess.
  3. Let them dry for an hour before using. Flowers will last a few days if fresh, if dried then they’ll last up to 3 months in an air-tight container placed somewhere cool & dark.

And you’re done. Make sure the flowers you use are not only organic, but meant for eating. DO NOT USE FLOWERS TREATED FOR BUGS. You’ll be ingesting chemicals. Make sure you specifically purchase or pick flowers meant for this purpose. If you grow roses, and you know for certain they’re not coated in any kind of bug spray or insecticide, then that’s okay. Just don’t pick roses in someone else’s yard unless you’re sure of the same. You can also buy edible flowers at certain markets.

Rosewater-vanilla bean cupcakes, topped with a green-colored vanilla buttercream & sugared pansies!
Magenta (or purple) liners from this multipack at the Layer Cake Shop!

As far as frosting, I used a plain ol’ vanilla buttercream tinted green, nothing fancy. It’s better with these cupcakes to use a plain vanilla frosting, or else it can be too much. You don’t want to overwhelm anyone. Keep it simple. You’re already giving them rosewater in the cakes, and a candied flower on top.

And by the way… any and all cupcake hatred can be directed to my e-mail, and all will be answered with the same thing: “You’re an idiot.”

Find the gold at the end of the rainbow cupcake.

Something I always loved was the way layered, multi-colored cupcakes look. I thought I’d give them a shot a while back (I think when New York passed the gay marriage bill thingy) and never did. I know they’re all over the internet, and there are a gazillion bajillion ways to make them. And I know this blog post is really nothing new.

But it’s cute, right?

I think it’s cute. And what better occasion (other than gay marriage legalized, I mean) could there be than St. Patrick’s Day? You know that old legend, finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow:

Dating back to Old Europe, the legend of the pot of gold is claimed enthusiastically by the Irish. They’ll tell you that fairies put the gold there and then the leprechauns guard it. This folklore has become part of the symbolism of St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday that celebrates everything Irish including the hope and luck it takes to find that elusive pot of gold.

The famous Irish lore is based on a bit of eye trickery. In case you didn’t know, there really is no end to a rainbow. The way the physics work, rainbows are actually full circles, except the Earth itself gets in the way of us seeing the complete circle. As humans, our vision is limited to only as far as the horizon.

One of the biggest signs that a Leprechaun is near by is from the rainbow shining from the leprechauns’ pot of gold.

One good tip, a leprechaun is sure to be found near his pot of gold. One needs to be careful when approaching any leprechaun as they are extremely quick and will vanish at the sight of any humans close by, but you can manage to creep up behind him with a net in hope to get the pot of gold or three wishes. Be careful what you wish for though, as Leprechaun’s are smarter than us humans and are known to trick people.

To protect the leprechaun’s pot of gold the Irish fairies gave them magical powers to use if ever captured by a human or an animal. Such magic an Irish leprechaun would perform would be to grant three wishes or to vanish into thin air!

When the Vikings inhabited Ireland, they stored hordes of treasure all over the land. According to the legends, when they left, they forgot to take several stashes of gold with them.

The leprechauns found the gold and divided it among themselves. But they knew the riches of the Vikings had been collected through wicked deeds, and this deepened their mistrust of humans.

The leprechauns decided that humans could not have the gold because of what their greed would make them do. They stored the coins in pots and buried them deep underground where humans could not find them. However, according to the stories, a rainbow will end where a leprechaun has hidden his pot of gold.

- Mystical Mythology from Around the World

 

And I can’t really think of a better representation of a rainbow than a rainbow cupcake. There are a few ways to top them, you know, to keep with the “pot of gold” theme. I chose a less obvious way- gold crystal sugar & edible gold pearl dust with some shamrock sprinkles (you can use edible glitter, too). Another way would be to get those little chocolate gold foil-covered coins (or even individually wrapped Rolo’s) and put one on top of each cupcake, or you can get even more literal and get actual little pots of gold (edible or not). Oh! You know what else would be cute? Lucky Charms. You could put some Lucky Charms cereal on top of them.

But no matter how you top ‘em, you have to make the rainbow itself the same way:

1. One yellow cupcake or white cupcake recipe, divided into 6 bowls and then tinted. Each bowl ends up a different color- red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. If you want to get really crazy, you can follow ROY G. BIV to the tee, including not just blue but “indigo”, or you can throw in some pink. I kept it simple- as it is, the red and orange weren’t very different once baked. That was user error, aka my fault. Not enough yellow in the orange. BAD TRADITIONALLY-TRAINED ARTIST! I should know better.

I didn’t think you needed photos of all that. I figured you could handle it on your own.

Six bowls, equally divided vanilla cupcake batter in each, then each one colored a different color. Simple.

(Pssst- I used white liners so the color could be seen through them, but black liners would be awesome, kinda like a black pot of gold. Plus that way it’d be like a surprise when they’re unwrapped!)

2. After you’ve got your bowls all colored to the shades you want, then you start making your cupcakes. Line your muffin tins, then get six spoons ready. I say six spoons because you’re not going to want to use the same spoon in, say, both the blue and yellow batters, etc. Now you’re ready to make a rainbow.

3. Spoon the first color in to the liners. I’d say about a teaspoon of each color is fine, but do a “test cupcake” just to see how they rise, etc. I did one and it helped me figure out how much of each color and also showed me that the darker colors looked better on the bottom. Therefore, I did it in reverse ROY G. BIV; violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and lastly the red. Try and spoon it in evenly, so that the bottom is covered. Don’t use more batter than you need to, just smooth the batter out with the spoon. My rainbows aren’t perfectly lined up, but that’s okay. Who needs perfect!? Once every cupcake liner is filled, tap the tin on the counter just to even the batter out a bit. Pop ‘em in the oven and that’s it.

Once they’re out, cool ‘em, frost ‘em, and decorate ‘em. I used this tip & a plain vanilla confectioner’s sugar buttercream.

However you choose to do it, I guarantee you your audience will enjoy these. They just make anyone- even the most hard, cold or miserable among us- smile.

And to all a good night!

Welp, today is Christmas Eve.

That came super quick, didn’t it? Or maybe it’s just me.

Regardless, it’s here now. And on Christmas Eve I have a few family traditions: making the last of my Christmas Day treats (usually more fudge), pre-cooking whatever has to be done for Christmas Day (if anything), wrapping up any last minute gifts, and a eating a dinner made up of a variety of appetizers while drinking cocktails & watching A Christmas Carol; more specifically, the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim (the best version, in my humble opinion). Sometimes there’s a big, gigantic tin of assorted flavor popcorn thrown in there as well. That’s been the tradition in my house for as long as I can remember. When Jay came into the family, we had to work around his schedule as well as everyone else’s, which wasn’t really an issue until he became a cop. Then that kind of really threw a monkey wrench into things. And I don’t say that negatively; I say it meaning sometimes the Christmas Eve traditions end up being on Christmas Day, while the Christmas Day dinner ends up on Christmas Eve. Or sometimes, the big family Christmas dinner is pushed forward to the 26th or 27th. But that’s totally fine with me. I’m adaptable. I like having multiple celebrations, anyway… it’s fun to spread out the awesomeness for a few days!

(Pardon these photos… the lighting was poor & I was kind of rushing. I hope you get the gist of it, and can enjoy them anyway)

I had to make cupcakes for Christmas, that’s obvious. So I baked up those delicious Stollen-inspired cupcakes, courtesy of the Food Network magazine.

A Stollen is a fruit cake containing dried fruit and covered with sugar, powdered sugar or icing sugar. The cake is usually made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts and spices. Stollen is a traditional German cake, usually eaten during the Christmas season, when called Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen.

Stollen is a bread-like fruitcake made with yeast, water and flour, and usually with zest added to the dough. Candied orange peel and candied citrus peel (Zitronat),[1] raisins and almonds, and different spices such as cardamom and cinnamon are added. Other ingredients, such as milk, sugar, butter, salt, rum, eggs,[2] vanilla,[3] other dried fruits and nuts and marzipan may also be added to the Stollen dough. Except for the fruit added, the dough is quite low in sugar. The finished cake is sprinkled with icing sugar. The traditional weight of a Stollen is around 4.4 pounds (2 kg), but smaller sizes are now available.

The Dresden Stollen (originally Striezel), a moist, heavy bread filled with fruit, was first mentioned in an official document in 1474,[4] and the most famous Stollen is still the Dresdner Stollen,[5] sold, amongst other places, at the local Christmas market, Striezelmarkt. Dresden Stollen is produced in the city of Dresden and distinguished by a special seal depicting King Augustus II the Strong. This “official” Stollen is produced by only 150 Dresden bakers.

-Wikipedia

So of course, these cupcakes aren’t genuine Stollen. They’re just inspired by it, and because I have this weird thing where my cupcakes have to have frosting, I added a vanilla whipped cream-ish frosting. I swear, making these cupcakes with no frosting almost killed me. I absolutely HAD to frost them! However, if you aren’t as opposed to frosting-less cupcakes, you can leave it at the confectioner’s sugar, or make a simple icing with heavy cream, rum & confectioner’s sugar to drizzle on top.

Also, that tablecloth in the photos was handmade by my mother when she was 10 years old. It’s red felt, with a little white fringed edge, and cut out green felt trees decorated with glitter, beads, sequins, & paillettes. That tablecloth plus my grandmother’s “spaghetti ware” Santas, the retro-y Meri Meri Merry & Bright Christmas cupcake kit I had & the stollen-inspired cupcakes (stollen always seems like an old fashioned dessert/bread to me), really made it feel like a vintage Christmas.

STOLLEN-INSPIRED CUPCAKES (adapted from the Food Network magazine, Dec. 2012)

Makes about 1 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of a mix of citron, dried currants, dried cranberries & raisins, or whatever you like (optional)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup marzipan, room temperature & softened slightly
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted (for topping)
  • confectioner’s sugar (for dusting)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a larger bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), beat the softened butter with the marzipan and sugar until fluffy. Then beat in the 2 eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla & almond extract.
  3. Slowly beat in the flour mixture and 1/3 cup milk in alternating batches. Divide among 12 prepared muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full, and bake 20-25 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and set aside for five minutes. Brush with melted butter while still warm, but not hot, and dust with confectioner’s sugar. When 100% cooled, then frost.

WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING (adapted from The Food Pusher)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
  • 2 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whipping cream (regular or heavy, I used heavy)
  • pinch salt
  • 5 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in small bowl to soften.
  2. Scald 2 tablespoon of the cream; pour over gelatin, stirring till dissolved.
  3. Refrigerate until consistency of unbeaten egg white. (This takes about 10-15 minutes.) Then, with a whisk, beat until smooth.In a stand mixer with a whip attachment, or with a hand beater, whip remaining cream, salt and sugar; whip in the smoothed gelatin mixture, stopping to scrape the bowl twice.
  4. This recipe stands up well, even in warm weather. Keep leftover frosting and any product topped with it in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

I’ll avoid any overly sappy holiday messages… all I will say is that this Christmas we all have so much to be thankful for. After the Newtown, CT shooting I’m sure we all had a little wakeup call about that. I know all the parents that I know certainly did, and me too. I may not be a parent- but life is short, and you should appreciate what you have while you have it. You just never know what may come tomorrow. So be thankful for your family & friends & pets, tell them you love them every chance you get & don’t let fear get the best of you. I had to remind myself that after being in NYC during the 9/11 attacks- when it was time to get back on that train, it was kind of hard to do. Fear of what could happen should never take away from your life, or interfere with you living. And I know there are some parents who might feel a form of survivor’s guilt; why did their child live? How did they get to be so lucky when others were so terribly devastatingly ruined by this? I don’t know why or how, but I do know that you should just be thankful & not let that guilt or those questions take one minute of time away from you enjoying your family as much as possible. I don’t have the answers. And I don’t really have anything to say that can solve this, provide comfort, or take pain away from anyone. I do know that sweets make people happy. And when I make people happy, it gives me solace that my one little tiny act of baking a cake or pressing “publish”  can maybe help make someone smile in an otherwise shitty situation. So in that vein, I’m continuing to light up my little section of the web with deliciousness (& hopefully a few laughs). Food can sometimes give the comfort words themselves can’t.

I’ll leave it at that and I’ll just get right to the point…

Merry Christmas to all… and to all a good night.

Santa Claus is coming to town…

AND HE’S COMING IN 21 DAYS.

(Better pick up that phone…)

;

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!)

;

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!

;

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!