December 20, 2017

Italian Tri-Color Cookies

I'll be honest with you, I definitely had a lot of hesitation when making these Italian Tri-Color Cookies, also called Rainbow Cookies or 7-Layer Cookies.  Why, you may ask?  Because the first time I attempted them it was a horrible failure.  My Achilles heel was the chocolate coating on the top and bottom.  When I tried cutting the cookies in to bite sized pieces the chocolate completely fell apart and separated from the almond layers.  The perfectionist in me was devastated, to say the least.

But recently I was asked by my friend Maria if I knew how to make them.  Maria grew up on the East Coast (New York City to be exact) and apparently these cookies are ubiquitous staples in every Italian bakery there.  Unfortunately they're not so easily found out here on the West Coast.  Every now and then Maria has a craving for these cookies so I thought I would give it another go and try to give her a taste of home.

Never one to be defeated I set about looking for a "foolproof" recipe - or at least something close to it.  I stumbled upon Smitten Kitchen's recipe and had a very strong feeling they would turn out great.  I'd had previous success with her tres leches cake, one of my absolute favorites.  Just reading through Deb's helpful tips gave me the reassurance I needed.  Be forewarned though: these cookies aren't hard to make but they require some time, most of it inactive though.  

If you like almond flavor these tri-colors are for you!  The festive colors and almond flavor make them the perfect holiday cookie to add to your repertoire.  The true test though would be Maria's review.  I gave her a sample and she said they tasted pretty authentic to her.  Her hubby Lou said the chocolate needed to be thicker..hahaha...I'll remember that for next time! 

December 17, 2017

Ugly XMAS Sweater Cake

Have you noticed how mainstream ugly XMAS sweaters have become?  What used to be the domain of eccentric elementary school teachers and the likes of Mrs. Roper has now become fashion for the masses during the holiday season. 

As someone who's other passion, besides baking, is fashion I cringe at the idea.  In earnest, I hope you don't brand me a snob because I really don't mean to be.  I just don't understand why anyone would want to dress badly on purpose.   I know, I know....just loosen up, it's all in fun!

So when the dress code for my friend Bibsy's holiday party was a choice between ugly XMAS sweater or XMAS pajamas you better believe I chose the former rather than the latter.  While I LOVE lounging around in pajamas at home I certainly wouldn't choose to be caught wearing them outside.  Luckily another friend was able to lend me her sister's ugly sweater so that I didn't have to go through the trouble (or spend the money) to get one myself.

For dessert Bibsy requested that I make an ugly XMAS sweater cake.   This was definitely something I'd never made before but I was up for the challenge.  To me it was a win-win situation; no matter how bad it turned out it would fit the brief of "being ugly" perfectly.

For the cake you see here I baked two 9x13 size sheet cakes, split each cake in half and filled with Swiss meringue buttercream.  I laid the filled cakes side by side on the cake board.  For the "ugly" part I frosted the exterior with colored Swiss meringue buttercream and piped the most garish design I could think of.  To finish it off I stuck a bunch of Wilton holiday cake decorations all over.  Easy peasy!

December 9, 2017

Gnome Sugar Cookie

The holiday season doesn't start for me until I decorate the Christmas tree and bring out my beloved collection of Scandinavian gnomes.  I first fell in love with these adorable felt figures many, many years ago when they festooned my honorary Norwegian mamma's cabin in the mountains outside of Oslo.  Mamma G (aka "MG") loves to decorate at Christmas, no one can hold a candle to her in this regard, and the gnomes are the star centerpieces.  

How ecstatic was I last Christmas when she gifted me with an entire family of white and grey gnomes of my very own!  Little did she know at the time that her generous gift was the start of my ever growing gnome collection.  You might say I have a slight obsession, but I can't help it, they are just so darn cute! I've found some great ones at Zara Home, Swedish Inspirations, IKEA and Heath Ceramics.

So when I happened upon Sweet Sugarbelle's gnome cookies I knew I had to make them.  They were literally screaming my name.  Callye is such a baking inspiration for me and her creativity has no bounds.  She ingeniously used one of her brand's ghost cookie cutters and transformed it in to the gnome.  Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to buy her Halloween cutter collection when it was in stores but I found this great alternative at Truly Mad Plastics.

I just love how the gnomes turned out.  In fact, I love them so much I'm using "gnomes" as the theme for the holiday treats that I'll be gifting this year.

December 3, 2017

Tunnel of Fudge Cake

My friend Link texted me a few weeks ago in search of a chocolate bundt recipe.  I initially referred him to this post already on my blog for deep chocolate sour cream cake.  Then I thought to myself, what if you didn't have sour cream and just wanted to make a cake with ingredients you normally already had on hand?

In search for something easier, I was thumbing through my copy of this Cook's Country cookbook and fortuitously happened upon a recipe for Tunnel of Fudge Cake.  I loved the idea of a moist chocolate bundt with a fudgy center.   I've never made this cake before and I don't recall having tasted one either so that was enough motivation for me to try the recipe.

After reviewing the list of ingredients I do admit I was concerned about the copious amounts of sugar it has: granulated, brown and powdered!  My anxiety was quickly alleviated once I tasted the finished cake as I found the rich chocolate flavor tempered any sweetness I had feared.   

The key to success with this cake is to make sure you don't over bake it, otherwise you won't get the lovely "tunnel of fudge."  Follow what the recipe says and test that it's done by gently pressing your finger on the surface of the cake and it springs back gently.  Also, I only used half the chocolate glaze, which was more than enough, so I ended up baking a second cake a few days later! 

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