3/22/19

Soccer Season

For the soccer fans in my family, the season never ends. The serious ones are either practicing, playing, or watching soccer year round. Much sweat and devotion has been given to both the school team and the invitational team. Weekend getaways and vacations are planned around the MLS schedule.



To honor the school team, I've baked cupcakes and cookies. The cupcakes are chocolate sour cream with buttercream frosting and soccer rings. The cookies are vanilla almond sugar cookies with royal icing and sugar soccer balls. Like soccer, baking season never ends.


Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes

1 (18 ounce) box Dark Fudge cake mix (cake mixes have been downsized, so measure enough from a second cake mix to make up the difference)
1 1/3 cup water, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
8 ounces sour cream
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare cupcake pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, add cake mix, flour, sugar, and salt. Stir with a whisk to blend. Dissolve coffee granules in water. Add oil, eggs, sour cream, vanilla extract, and dissolved coffee to dry ingredients. Mix on low speed for one minute, scrape bowl and continue mixing for two more minutes. Spoon into prepared pans. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until cake tests done with a toothpick. Allow to cool before frosting.







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12/23/18

Spicy Pecans

Add some zip to your holiday appetizers this year with these spicy pecans. My first batch is already gone, but there's still time for round 2. These are easy to make, and your guests will love them.







Print Recipe

1 pound whole pecan halves (about 4 cups)
6 cups water
1/2 cup superfine sugar (or use regular sugar and whirl a few times in the food processor)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, bring water and pecans to a strong boil, then continue to boil for 1 minute. Drain well. In a large bowl, stir together sugar, melted butter, corn syrup, and vanilla. Toss hot pecans with the sugar mixture, mixing well. Cover and let sit for at least 12 hours, or up to 24 hours.

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread the pecans on prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Add more time in 5 minute increments, if necessary, until pecans are browned and crisp-looking. In a bowl, combine salt, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and pepper. As soon as the pecans are removed from oven, toss until well-coated with the combined spices. Return the pecans to the baking sheet and spread in a single layer to cool. After cooling, pecans may be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.




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12/7/18

Christmas Baking and Taking

Whether you need a treat to contribute to an office party or something to take to a family celebration, I've got you covered. At this time of year, time is the most precious commodity, so I've assembled some quick and easy treats for your baking and taking dilemmas.

1. Holiday bars





2. No-bake cookie balls



3. Chocolate cherry cookies



4. Christmas brownies



5. Fruit cookies



6. Peppermint snowballs



7. Christmas crack



8. Candy cane blossoms



9. Gingerbread truffles



10. Super duper chocolate kisses





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11/23/18

Reader Package Giveaway

There's a giveaway going on over on my writer blog. I'll be giving away a Reader Package, including a signed copy of The Legend of Sassafras House, a Sassafras house survivor t-shirt, a bookmark, and a key chain. Enter at http://www.anitastafford.com/2018/11/giveaway-legend-of-sassafras-house.html




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11/2/18

Chocolate Cage Cake

A cake enclosed with a chocolate cage makes an impressive presentation. When I read about making a chocolate cage for a cake, it sounded easy. The fact is, chocolate cages are not for scaredy-cat wimps. I suspect practice makes a lot of difference, but the first time you make one, expect to have some nervous perspiration.

This chocolate cage was made from a combination of white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate. I know candy melts are used for cages sometimes, but I wouldn't recommend them because the candy dries too hard and would be more prone to cracking. Stick to real chocolate.



This cake was baked using the white sour cream cake recipe and is four eight-inch layers. The texture of this cake makes multiple layers stack well. It is frosted with classic vanilla buttercream.

There are many tutorials on pinterest for making a chocolate cage. I recommend reading several of these to get all the information you can before making your first attempt. Start by measuring the circumference and height of the cake. Cut of piece of parchment paper the size of the measurements, plus a couple of inches. By adding to the height, the cage will extend higher than the cake. The circumference can be tricky, though. If the parchment is cut exactly to the measurement of the circumference, the finished cage will not reach around the cake. Because of the thickness of the chocolate on the paper, the parchment needs to be longer by an inch or two. How do I know? Trial and error.

Spread the parchment out on a flat surface. Melt the different chocolates and fill decorating bags. Snip the ends off the bags. Start with the dark chocolate, as it takes a bit longer to dry. Make random designs on the parchment paper, filling the paper. Follow with the milk chocolate, then the white chocolate, overlapping the design. Let the chocolate dry until it firms up. It will begin to lose its sheen when it is dry. This takes around 30 minutes. When the chocolate is dry and firm to the touch, apply the chocolate sheet to the side of the cake with the parchment paper on the outside. Press it gently into the frosting, so that it adheres. Refrigerate the cake for about 5 minutes, then carefully peel the parchment paper away. The cake is now enclosed in a chocolate cage.

The strawberries on top of this cake were washed, dried, and drizzled with the same melted chocolate that was used to make the cage. When the chocolate is firm on the strawberries, place on top of the cake. Use a small dollop of buttercream underneath the strawberries to add height and to adhere them to the cake.

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9/17/18

Flamingo Themed Baby Shower

I love to be involved with showers of any kind. I think it's important to acknowledge the important life events such as weddings and new babies. Just recently I helped my sister prepare food for a flamingo-themed baby shower. I didn't get pictures of everything, but I'm sharing some of the fun flamingo things we did.





These vanilla almond sugar cookies with royal icing in flamingo shapes were popular.

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This masterpiece cake was made by my sister.

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These strawberry cupcakes feature flamingos with fondant heads and wings.

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What's a party without flamingo-colored punch?

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The kids loved these dipped Oreos featuring flamingo faces.



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9/12/18

Madeleines

Most people, including me, call madeleines a cookie, but they're actually tiny French cakes. They bake up light and delicate with a rounded middle. They can be served as dessert, or they make a great combo with coffee or tea. Some bakers say these should be served immediately, but I like them best on the second day.




Print Recipe

Madeleines

2 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 pinch salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Additional butter and flour to grease pans
Melted chocolate or powdered sugar, if desired

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a small bowl, melt enough butter to grease pans. Stir in a small amount of flour, then brush madeleine pans with the mixture, set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar until blended. Beat in vanilla extract, lemon zest, and salt. Add flour, beating just until blended. Gradually add the melted butter, pouring down the side of the bowl in a steady stream, beating until blended. Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into indentations in prepared pan. Bake until puffed and brown, about 10 - 15 minutes. Remove from oven and invert pan to remove cookies to a wire rack. Allow to cool, then dip one end of each cookie in melted chocolate or dust with powdered sugar, if desired. Makes about 20 cookies.

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