Winter Holiday Favorites

Countdown Cupcakes (New Year's Eve)

New Year's Eve Countdown Clock Cupcakes Ring in the new year with these "Countdown Cupcakes" that are assembled to resemble a clock.  You can make them as fancy or as simple as you'd like.  I made a buttermilk cupcake recipe with a swiss meringue buttercream, but you could easily use a more simple box cake and just focus on decorating!

I covered a 12-inch cake board, and I covered it with silver lining paper.  (A 14-inch cake board would work fine, too. OR, you can simply cut out cardboard.   I then attached the hands of a clock.

vanilla cupcakes

I then iced the cupcakes and piped dark chocolate roman numerals onto the cupcakes: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, and XII.

Roman Numerals Piped onto Cupcakes

vanilla cupcake with vanilla icing

Simply assemble the cupcakes like the numbers on a clock.  You'll have a great centerpiece for your New Year's Party!

New Year's Eve Countdown Cupcakes

Red Velvet Pancakes

Red Velvet Pancakes: Cream Cheese Syrup These pancakes are a twist on red velvet cake, and they are just as delicious.  The bright red color makes them festive and perfect for a holiday brunch!  I recommend making them with a cream cheese syrup, but they would also be delicious with a chocolate sauce, freshly whipped cream, or plain ol' maple syrup.These pancakes are super rich, and they are great for special occasions.  They pair perfectly with a freshly-brewed cup of Community Coffee (which grew from a small country store in Baton Rouge 90+ years ago!)  Of course, mimosas or sparkling wine are also a great option for any brunch.

Tower of Red Velvet Pancakes

Red Velvet Pancakes Recipe, Adapted from The Loveless Cafe in Nashville.

Ingredients:

2 c. all purpose flour 1 c. powdered sugar 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. baking soda 1/2 tsp. salt 1 1/2 c. buttermilk 2 large eggs 1/2 c. granulated sugar 2 tablespoons red liquid food coloring cream cheese syrup (see recipe below)

1. Sift together flour, powdered sugar, unsweetened cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. [Sifting is important to break up any lumps in the powdered sugar, cocoa, baking powder, or baking soda.]

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).  Whisk in buttermilk until thoroughly combined.  Whisk in red dye.  [This step can be done with the whisk attachment on a stand mixer.]

3. Gradually stir buttermilk mixture into dry mixture, just until ingredients are moistened.  [The batter may be slightly lumpy.  Do no over mix on this step.  If you over mix, your pancakes will not be light and fluffy.]

4.  Pour 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto a hot, buttered griddle or a non-stick skillet.  [If using an electric skillet, set to 350 F.]  Cook until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look dry and cooked [about 3-4 minutes].  Turn and cook 3-4 minutes, or until done.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and keep warm in an oven at 200 F for up to 30 minutes.

Cream Cheese Syrup Recipe

Ingredients:

1 package cream cheese, softened (8 ounces) 1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks) 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted 1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended after each addition.  Add vanilla, beating until blended.

2. (Optional)  Gently heat for a more pourable consistency.

Aunt Albia's Cranberry Mold

This post is in memory of my Great-Aunt Albia Watts of Indianapolis.  I really do come from a family of chef extraordinaires, and Aunt Albia was no exception.  Her specialty was molds--creating both savory dishes and desserts that conformed to the shape of their container. The one mold that really stuck with my immediate family was her cranberry mold.  I make this dish every single Thanksgiving AND Christmas.  In our family, it replaces the traditional "cranberry sauce."  It pairs perfectly with turkey, cornbread dressing, and my Great-Great-Aunt Hester's homemade roll recipe.

The mold is a combination of cranberry sauce, pecans, apples, celery, and oranges, gelled together in a very pretty dish!

Buche de Noel (Yule Log)

Buche de Noel (Yule Log) Buche de Noel (Yule Log)

I love pies, cakes, and cookies at Christmastime.  But, I also like trying new things, and I wanted to bring a little bit of France with me home to Lousiana for the holidays.  The buche de noel (Yule Log) is a traditional Christmas dessert in France, Belgium, French Canada, Lebanon, and Vietnam.  It is traditionally made from a sponge cake , and filled with chocolate buttecream rolled up to ressemble a log.

I wanted to make one a little more–interesting. I found a recipe that combined Nutella, whipped cream, and toasted almonds. I couldn’t resist!

The toasted almonds really bring out the nuttiness of the Nutella, and compliment the Genoise cake splendidly.  The finished product is so festive and really adds a nice flair to any dining table set for Christmas dinner.  You can always enjoy a left over piece the next morning with coffee for holiday-only guilt-free breakfast ;)

This Yule Log recipe is particularly wintry since the whipped cream frosting symbolizes snow on the log.  Get creative and really create a winter wonderland! Enjoy!

Buche de Noel (Yule Log), courtesy Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

Nonstick cooking spray, for pan 4 large eggs, separated ¾ c. granulated sugar ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract ½ c. all purpose flour ¼ teaspoon salt Powdered Sugar, for dusting ½ c. sliced almonds, toasted Chocolate-hazlenut filling and whipped cream frosting (recipes below)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Coat a 10 x 15 inch jelly roll pan with nonstick cooking spray; line bottom of pan with parchment paper.  Coat parchment paper with cooking spray.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yoks with ½ c. granulated sugar until pale yellow.  Whisk in almond extract and flour just until combined (do not overmix!).  Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.  While beating, slowly add remaining ¼ c. granulated sugar (1 tablespoon at a time) and beat until stiff and glossy.  Whisk 1/3 of beaten egg whites into yolk mixture.  Gently fold in remaining egg whites with a rubber spatula.  Spread batter evenly in prepared pan; bake until center of cake springs back when lightly pressed, 15-17 minutes.

4. Immediately after removing cake from oven, run a knife around edge of pan.  Dust top of cake with powdered sugar.  Invert cake onto clean parchment paper and gently peel off the lining paper that is now the top of the cake.  Starting from short side of cake, gently roll cake, along with clean paper, into a log.  Let cool, seam side down, 30 minutes.

Once cake has cooled, prepare filling and frosting.  Gently unroll cake and spread with filling, leaving a ½ inch border.  Starting from a short side, carefully re-roll (do not roll paper in cake), and place, seam side down, on a baking sheet or serving platter.  Spread log with frosting; sprinkle with almonds.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Chocolate-Hazlenut Filling and Whipped Cream Frosting

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin ¼ c. Nutella 2 ¼ c. heavy cream ¼ c. sugar

  1. Place 2 tablespoons cold water in a small saucepan; sprinkle with gelatin, and set aside to soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk Nutella with ¼ cup heavy cream.  Set aide.
  3. Heat gelatin mixture very gently over low heat, stirring just until dissolved.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat remaining 2 cups heavy cream with sugar until soft peaks form.  While still beating, pour dissolved gelatin mixture over cream all at once (gently reheat gelatin mixture if it has stiffened).
  5. Fold half of whipped cream into Nutella mixture to finish the Chocolate-Hazlenut filling.  The remaining whipped cream is the whipped cream frosting.