It may only be October, but it’s definitely NOT too early to start thinking about Christmas cookies. In fact, in my house, it’s apparently not too early to think about anything Christmas-related, especially presents. All of my kids have already made their Christmas lists, all of which basically read like Target ads. My middle son actually wrote “all items sold at Target” in large font at the top of his list. Got it, thanks, buddy.
As for me, though I thoroughly enjoy all things fall, I’m also excited about Christmastime. One of my favorite things to look forward to is our annual white elephant Christmas party, celebrating its 15th year this year! I love putting together a vibrant, eclectic menu to serve our guests, and I’d like to think it’s partly the food (and not just the terrible sci-fi DVDs, clown paintings, and poo-scented candles) that keeps people coming back year after year.
Probably my favorite portion of the menu to plan is the dessert spread–for which I believe these Apricot-Rosemary Thumbprint Cookies are a strong contender. I usually like to plan a mix of bars, candies, cookies, possibly a pie or trifle, and at least one show-stopping cheesecake for the event. Past favorite cookies have included mint chocolate candy cane cookies and pumpkin chocolate chip. But the unique hint of savoriness is where I think these apricot-rosemary thumbprints really shine, either on their own or as part of my larger holiday cookie combo.
These don’t take many ingredients, but fresh rosemary is essential. (I’m fortunate enough to have some in my garden, but if you don’t, you can always freeze it if you end up with too much from another recipe!) Also, as you’re making these, you may think, “Holy saturated fat, that’s a lot of butter for such a small batch.” And you’re right. But these come out sooooo perfectly rich and fluffy, I’d say they’re worth the hefty dose of butter. Combine that richness with the earthiness of the rosemary and the fruity sweetness of the apricot jam and you’ve got a Christmas cookie that will disappear fast.
Got a party coming up this holiday season? I’d love to hear if you try these thumbprints!
Apricot-Rosemary Thumbprint Cookies
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c. cornstarch
- 2 tsp. snipped fresh rosemary
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3/4 c. butter, softened
- 1/3 c. powdered sugar
- 1/8 tsp. almond extract
- 1/3 c. apricot jam
- extra powdered sugar for dusting
- In a small bowl stir together flour, cornstarch, rosemary, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat butter with a hand mixer for 30 seconds or until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and almond extract and beat again.
- Beat in as much of the flower mixture into the butter mixture as you can with the mixer. Work the rest in with a wooden spoon.
- Collect the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate one hour.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from fridge and form into about 16 balls, placing them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Press a divot into each cookie with your thumb or a spoon and fill in with a little apricot jam.
- Bake about 14 minutes. Cool, then sprinkle with additional powdered sugar.
A delicious, fruity Sangria Cake for any summer special occasion!
Did you know that August and September are the months with the most birthdays? It’s probably the result of couples getting cozy around Christmastime nine months earlier–or some science even suggests the body is biologically predisposed to procreate in the winter months. Whatever the reason, in my own family of origin, it rings true: Both my parents have August birthdays, and I’m right behind in September.
Every year I bake my mom’s birthday cake. It’s a super fun exercise in creativity because she gives me free reign to make whatever I like, from this Chocolate Mint Layer Cake to this Apple Cream Cheese Bundt Cake.
This year, inspired by some gorgeous cupcakes I saw awhile back, I thought a sangria cake sounded perfect. Fruity, colorful, and a little different, it seemed just right for a summer birthday.
Once made, the flavors in this cake were actually rather subtle–not overpowering, but definitely with a fruity depth and a hint of orange. I especially loved the frosting, which was pretty in pink and just the right level of sweet. And I must confess I geeked out over decorating the exterior with an arrangement of fresh fruit. With the alcohol baked into the cake and just two tablespoons in the frosting, even my kids were free to partake. (And I think my mom liked it, too!)
So, for a special celebration, give this sangria cake a try! (My birthday is next week, hint, hint…)
For the cake:
- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 3/4 c. butter, softened
- 1 1/2 c. white sugar
- zest of 1 orange
- 3 eggs
- 2 Tbsp. orange juice
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 c. room-temperature sangria
- 6 drops pink or red food coloring
For the frosting:
- 1/2 c. butter, softened
- 4 1/2 c. powdered sugar
- 2 1/2 Tbsp. orange juice
- 2 1/2 Tbsp. sangria
- 4 drops pink or red food coloring
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch cake pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in orange zest, then add eggs one at a time. Mix in orange juice and vanilla.
- Mix in dry ingredients and sangria, alternating between the two, until fully incorporated. Stir in food coloring until well mixed. Divide between cake pans and bake 30-35 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make frosting: In a large bowl combine butter and powdered sugar. Add orange juice and sangria and mix until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Once cake is done, let cool at least two hours. When cake has cooled, frost to your liking.
Need a dessert to feed a crowd? This Orange Olive Oil Bundt Cake with yogurt icing is just the ticket!
Every other Sunday for the last fifteen years, my husband and I have had Sunday dinner with his family. Coming from a New York Italian family as he does, Sunday dinner is almost more of a religious observance than a simple meal. Barring an act of God, it WILL happen. And it will probably involve sausage.
Over the years, as we’ve gotten together, the family has seen many changes. While Sunday dinner started out at his parents’ house every week, we’ve now transitioned to rotating between the homes of his mom and his siblings. And whereas, fifteen years ago, there were seven of us around the dinner table, there are now eighteen adults and kids. When it’s our turn to host, you can find me searching for recipes that feed a crowd.
I’ve assembled a handful of go-to entrees to serve for dinner, from chili to casseroles to barbecue chicken sandwiches (thank God for the Crock Pot). But sometimes the course that leaves me stumped is dessert. A single pan of brownies no longer suffices for this many people, and forget about a single pie–or even two. One dessert I come back to time and again is the ample, flexible bundt cake. It’s easy to slice and serve for any portion size, it doesn’t require the effort of frosting of a layer cake, and it always turns out so pretty. Plus, who doesn’t like cake?
I made this Orange Olive Oil Bundt Cake for our most recent Sunday dinner. Lately I’ve been digging in to a bit of “research” (aka baking and eating) on replacing butter or other fats with heart-healthier olive oil. This particular olive oil baking experiment was certainly a success! The cake turned out slightly–but not overly–dense, with a delightfully almost-crunchy crust. Drizzled with a yogurt icing with a hint of orange, each slice was a little bit of citrus heaven, especially when accompanied by a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
To complete a Mediterranean-themed meal, I served this after my Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale. (See? I told you sausage would be involved.) For Sunday dinner or to feed any crowd, I’d say you can’t go wrong with bundt cake–especially this one.
Orange Olive Oil Bundt Cake
For the cake:
- 1 1/2 c. white sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2/3 c. high quality extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. orange extract (optional)
- 2 Tbsp. fresh orange zest
- 6 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
For the orange-yogurt glaze
- 2 c. powdered sugar
- 3 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 1 Tbsp. full-fat plain yogurt
- extra orange zest for garnish
Make the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously grease a 12-cup bundt pan.
- In a large bowl, mix sugar and eggs with a hand mixer on medium speed. Add olive oil, vanilla, and orange extract and mix until smooth, then repeat with orange zest and juice.
- Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and mix with hand mixer until no lumps remain.
- Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake 40-45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool completely before frosting.
Make the glaze:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, orange juice, and yogurt until smooth.
- Drizzle icing over cooled cake. Garnish with additional orange zest. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Who’s ready for Thanksgiving? Know what you’re making? Need a last-minute dessert? These Maple Pumpkin Pots de Creme could be the impressive after-dinner sweet your gathering needs.
I was chatting with a friend the other day and told her all I have to do for the big day is provide a salad for my husband’s family’s get-together. “How did you get off so easy?” she asked. I hadn’t thought much about it, but she’s right: since I don’t host Thanksgiving, I don’t have to worry about cleaning my house, don’t have to provide a slew of side dishes, and I certainly don’t have to get up in the wee hours to put a turkey in the oven.
Still, since I so enjoy cooking–and the many delicious flavors of the holiday season–I’m actually happy to make additional dishes for Thanksgiving. Though pots de creme (a velvety, creamy pudding, if you’re not familiar with the term) is traditionally made with chocolate (recipe here if you happen to need one!), this unique boasts the flavors of pumpkin and maple syrup. It’s not unlike a crustless pumpkin pie, just creamier and richer. And it’s surprisingly simple to make, with just seven easy ingredients.
So even though I don’t technically have to make a dessert for the big feast, I don’t mind if I do!
Maple Pumpkin Pots de Creme
- 1 3/4 c. half and half
- 3/4 c. pure maple syrup
- 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
- 7 large egg yolks
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a heavy saucepan, whisk together half and half, maple syrup, and pumpkin. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- In a large bowl, combine egg yolks, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
- Slowly add hot pumpkin mixture to egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. For easy pouring, transfer to a large measuring cup with a pouring spout.
- Set out six ramekins and divide pumpkin mixture between them. Place ramekins in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, then carefully pour hot water into the space between ramekins until it reaches halfway up their sides.
- Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Chill at least two hours before serving. Dollop with whipped cream, if desired.
Hi, my name is Sarah and I’m a cake-aholic.
And I am also a nutritionist.
Do we have a problem here? Not necessarily. I mean, while I absolutely love cake, I don’t eat it every day, I maintain a healthy weight, and my diet is generally (I’d like to think) pretty healthy. In fact, I’m a big fan of the 80/20 principle when it comes to eating: stay on course nutritionally about 80% of the time, do what you like–within reason–the other 20% or so. (I even wrote an article about it here.) So do I feel bad posting a totally indulgent, party-perfect Chocolate Mint Layer Cake on the blog today?
No, I actually don’t. Especially because today is my birthday.
This cake isn’t actually for my birthday (mine will be a Neapolitan Strawberry-Vanilla-Chocolate sugar bomb I intend to make this afternoon), but rather, for my mom’s a few weeks ago. My mom and I have a little arrangement where, because I love making cakes and we both love eating them, I get to make her a cake of my choosing every year. Usually with chocolate.
This year mint chocolate was calling to me, and this recipe, modified from Lindsay over at Life, Love, and Sugar was exactly what I was looking for–except that with our family size, I didn’t actually need THREE layers. (Though I may have wanted them.) The cake came out fluffy and moist and kept well in the fridge, where it shockingly actually lasted a week. And though, with mint frosting, it can be tough to strike the right non-toothpaste-y, yet not-too-mild note, this stuff does so beautifully.
I’m no cake decorating expert–I’ve taken one single class at my local Michael’s with an instructor who was oddly enthusiastic about using Snickers to garnish cakes–but I have to say, I think this, with its pretty green color and tempting Andes mint pieces, turned out looking particularly appealing. And tasted amazing. What more does a birthday cake need?
P.S. I’m not including nutrition info for this one. It’s my birthday and I DON’T WANNA KNOW!
Chocolate Mint Layer Cake
For the cake:
- 1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/3 c. white sugar
- 1/2 c. cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- generous 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 egg white
- 2/3 c. milk
- 2/3 c. vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2/3 c. boiling water
For the frosting:
- 1 c. butter, softened
- 1 c. shortening (or another cup of butter)
- 7 1/2 c. powdered sugar
- 3 Tbsp. water or milk
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 tsp. peppermint extract
- green food coloring, to your preference
- yellow food coloring, to your preference
- Andes mints, for garnish
Make the chocolate cake:
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and grease two 9-inch cake pans well. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour through salt). Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add egg, egg white, milk, and vegetable oil. Mix to combine. Add vanilla and boiling water and mix until well incorporated.
- Divide batter evenly between the two pans and bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
Make the mint frosting:
- While the cakes cool, mix softened butter, shortening, and powdered sugar until smooth. Add water or milk, vanilla, and peppermint extract and mix again. Slowly add food coloring to your liking (I'd say go with about 2/3 green and 1/3 yellow) and mix until color is even.
- Place one layer of the cake on a platter and frost the top. Top with second layer of cake and frost the entire cake, reserving about 1 1/2 c. for extra frosting garnishes.
- To get the look pictured, use a cake decorating tip like Wilton 1M to pipe swirls around the outer edge of the cake's surface. Insert whole Andes mints into the swirls, press them into the base of the cake, or garnish however you like!