Bourbon Caramel Apple Upside Down Spice Cake

I’ve been willing Fall to get here for the past few weeks. I am sure I have mentioned it before, it’s my favorite season. Cooler weather, the leaves changing, baking without overheating my house, the list goes on and on. There are a few flavors synonymous with this time of year, mainly pumpkin and apples. And while I normally like to welcome Fall with a new pumpkin recipe, I decided to go with the apples this year for a Caramel Apple Bourbon Upside Down Spice Cake. A bit of a mouthful!

A little backstory on this cake. I got the idea from watching a Fall themed movie on Hallmark Channel back in the Spring. I wrote the idea on a post-it and finally revisited it a few weeks ago. And of course, there were a few fails before I finally ended up with a cake that looked and tasted delicious. My first cake collapsed in the middle. My cake tester led me astray! The cake was slightly undercooked in the middle and there was no saving it. The fail though led me to change the flavor of the cake so it was kind of a good thing. Initially I doctored a French vanilla cake mix and decided the flavor just wasn’t right, so I switched to a spice cake instead. That definitely screams Fall more so than French Vanilla. So, I bought a spice cake Mix and made a few tweaks to it. I also decided to bake the cake in a tube pan to ensure it would bake completely without drying out. Well, it still wasn’t quite right. I used heavy cream when I made my bourbon caramel sauce and I just didn’t like the way it looked after flipping the cake. And while the cake tasted good, I just wasn’t getting enough spice from it.

Thankfully my third attempt was a success! First, I decided to omit the heavy cream from my caramel sauce. Second, I went with a yellow cake mix and added in cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves (those yummy warm spices of the season) to really get a strong spice flavor. And third, after I poured the caramel and arranged the apples in the pan, I placed the pan in the refrigerator while I made the batter for the cake. This allowed the apples to set in the caramel so that they wouldn’t move when I poured the batter into the pan. This actually happened with my second attempt at this cake. I had arranged my apples in a nice design and they moved all around once I poured the batter in. I didn’t take any chances with my third attempt though. I spooned the batter into the pan just to be safe.

Just look at how the apples looked before I added the batter. I definitely wanted that look on top of my cake once it was done.

And thankfully since I made those tweaks my cake looked amazing once I flipped it out of the pan. YAY!!!

And even better, the taste and texture of the cake was spot on.

Happy Fall Y’all!

Bourbon Caramel Apple Upside Down Spice Cake

Ingredients:

For the Bourbon Caramel Apple:

1/2 cup light brown sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup bourbon

2 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (about 1/4 inch)

For the Spice Cake:

1 15.25 box of yellow cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

3 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup buttermilk*, at room temperature

1/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Make your own buttermilk by adding 4 teaspoons of vinegar to a measuring cup and then adding enough whole milk to make 3/4 cup. Let stand for 15 minutes at room temperature, or until the milk becomes thick and appears curdled.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a tube pan with baking spray and set aside. You could also use a Bundt pan.

For the Bourbon Caramel Sauce:

In a small saucepan combine the brown sugar and butter and melt over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture is melted and combined remove from the heat and add the bourbon. Return to the heat for about a minute and stir to combine. Let cool slightly.

Pour the caramel sauce into the prepared pan and arrange the apple slices in the sauce making sure to overlap them.

While you make the cake batter refrigerate the pan with the apples and caramel sauce so the sauce can set. This will help the apples stay in place when you add the batter.

For the Spice Cake:

In a medium bowl whisk together the yellow cake mix with the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer on low speed, beat the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, sour cream and vanilla extract until combined. Using a fine mesh sieve (or a sifter) sift the cake mix with the spices over the buttermilk mixture and then beat with the hand mixer on medium speed until just combined.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator and spoon the batter over the apples. Give the pan a few gentle taps on the counter to remove any air bubbles and then bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes and then invert onto a cake platter or other rimmed dish. Let the cake to cool to room temperature before slicing and enjoying. It’s important to let the cake cool before slicing so the apples can set on the cake. If you slice it too soon the apples will slide off.

Recipe first appeared on Bead Yarn & Spatula

Peach Blueberry Crumble

So last week I brought you a Peach Mango Pie and this week I am bringing you a Peach Blueberry Crumble. Besides the blueberries and it being a crumble the other big difference is that I used fresh fruit for this crumble.

First thing I needed to do was peel the peaches. To make it easy I opted to blanch them. I brought a pot of water to a boil and then added the peaches for about a minute. While the peaches were boiling, I placed a colander in my sink and ran cold water over it. Once the peaches were ready, I transferred them to the colander and let the cold water cool them down. It was then easy to peel off the skin using a paring knife and then slice the peaches into wedges. Along with the peaches, I folded together blueberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and flour. After letting it sit for a few minutes I transferred it to a 9-inch pie dish.

Next, I made the crumble topping. If you have a stand mixer, I highly suggest using it to make the topping. I opted to use my hand mixer instead and it took much longer to get the consistency – small peas – I needed and some of the mixture went flying out of the bowl while I was mixing it.

Once it was right though I used my fingers to create large crumbs and sprinkled it evenly over the fruit.

I baked it in a 350 F preheated oven until the topping turned a golden brown and the juices were bubbling. While this takes about 45-50 minutes to achieve, it won’t be that long before this dessert makes your home smell AH-MAZING! And since peach season is slowly winding down this would be a great dessert to make in the fall with apples and dried cranberries. I would just reduce the amount of cranberries to maybe 3/4 – 1 cup and the flour to 1/4 cup.

Peach & Blueberry Crumble

Ingredients:

For the Fruit:

3 large ripe peaches (about 2 lbs.)

1 pint of fresh blueberries (2 cups)

Zest & juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

For the Crumble Topping:

1 cup flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced

Vanilla Ice Cream, for serving

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the peaches and boil for 1 minute. Transfer them immediately to cold water. Peel the peaches and then slice them into thick wedges and place them in a large bowl. Add the blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and flour. Gently fold everything together using a rubber spatula. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes before transferring to a 9-inch pie dish.

Add the ingredients for the crumble topping to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture resembles peas. Using your fingers to clump the mixture together into large crumbles and sprinkle evenly over the fruit.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the crumble topping begins to brown and the juices from the fruit are bubbly.

Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

S’mores Cheesecake

Cheesecake is a versatile dessert. It tastes delicious with its simplest ingredients but can be easily transformed into something more with different variations. Have you seen the cheesecake menu at The Cheesecake Factory? To celebrate National S’mores Day today I am sharing with you a S’mores Cheesecake. A cheesecake with all the flavors and components of your favorite campfire treat. A graham cracker crust, a filling made with mini chocolate chips and marshmallows and finally a topping of toasted marshmallows with a drizzle of melted chocolate… Yum!

Up first, I made the crust. In my food processor I processed 2 sleeves of graham crackers into fine crumbs and then added in sugar and melted butter. Once everything was well combined, I transferred the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and pressed it along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. I used a 1 cup measuring cup to press the crumbs into the bottom in an even layer. While some recipes call for you to pre-bake your crust, I opted not to do that. I sometimes find that the crust gets a little too hard to slice then.

Next, I made the filling. After beating together cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract with a hand mixer I folded in mini marshmallows and mini semi-sweet chocolate chips with a rubber spatula. I then poured the filling into the prepared crust. I find that springform pans always seem to leak a little when baking so I placed it on a baking sheet before baking the cheesecake in a 325 F preheated oven for about 50 minutes.

I removed the cheesecake from the oven and sprinkled mini marshmallows on top and placed it back in the oven for an additional 5 minutes. At this point my marshmallows had puffed, but I wanted them to be toasted on top, so I switched my oven to broil for about 30 seconds. Even that was pushing it, marshmallows can go from toasted to burnt very quickly so it’s important to keep an eye on them if you opt to broil them.

Finally, I melted some semi-sweet chocolate chips and drizzled it on top of the marshmallows. I don’t know if it was because of the humidity in the air, or the chocolate chips themselves, but the melted chocolate was on the thicker side. In other words, it was going to be hard to drizzle it. So, I stirred in a little vegetable oil to thin it out. If you do this, you may notice that it will take longer for your chocolate to harden when left at room temperature. No need to fear, once you place the cheesecake in the refrigerator to cool the chocolate will harden.  

I let the cheesecake cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes and then I carefully removed the ring (only to put it back on again.) I basically didn’t want the melted marshmallows to get too stuck to the pan. So, before removing the ring I ran a small knife under hot water and carefully ran it along the sides of the pan to separate the crust and marshmallows from it. I wiped the knife and ran it under the hot water as necessary to repeat. Once I was able to easily remove the ring, I put it back on and allowed the cheesecake to cool for another hour before covering and refrigerating it overnight.

And to serve, since I removed the ring the day before it was a cinch to remove it prior to serving. Also, since I didn’t prebake my crust, it wasn’t a struggle to cut thru it. The cheesecake came out delicious and all the flavors of a S’more were there. And you might think that the cheesecake would be rich or overly sweet due to all the components, but it will satisfy your sweet tooth just perfectly! And you don’t have to worry about burning your fingers or mouth on a hot S’more!

Looking for some other ideas for Cheesecake or S’mores. Check out one of the recipes below.

Cherry Amaretto Cheesecake

Tiramisu Cheesecake

Mini Pumpkin Spice Latter Cheesecakes

S’mores Cupcakes

S’mores Icebox Cake

Malted S’mores Ice Cream

S’mores Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Graham Cracker Crust:

2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (2 sleeves of graham crackers)

1/3 cup sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake:

3 8oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup mini marshmallows

Topping:

1 1/4 cup mini marshmallows

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted*

*If you find the chocolate is too thick to drizzle add in a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil until you reach your desired consistency

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

In a medium bowl stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter. Transfer to a 9-inch springform pan and press into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar with a hand mixer on medium speed until combined. Add in the sour cream and vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Add the eggs 1 at a time and beat on low until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and marshmallows. Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust and bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes. Until the center is almost set.

Remove from the oven and top with the mini marshmallows. Return to the oven and bake an additional 4-6 minutes, or until the marshmallows are puffed. To get the marshmallows toasted on top switch your oven to broil for about a minute. Drizzle with the melted chocolate and allow to cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Recipe first appeared on Bead Yarn & Spatula

No Churn Peppermint Chip Ice Cream

When it comes to the weather this past week has been a brutal one by me. Days over 90’s with the feel like temperature even higher. Ugh! Needless to say, I have been avoiding turning on my oven at all costs. I was going to skip making something to celebrate Christmas in July this year, but then I decided to make something perfect for this time of year… ice cream. A No-Churn Peppermint Chip Ice Cream. Peppermint, the flavor synonymous with the holidays and one that is quite refreshing for these hot days.

I began by whipping heavy cream until stiff peaks formed. I then beat in sweetened condensed milk, the all-important peppermint extract and a few drops of red food coloring to give it a nice, but somewhat subtle, pink hue. The red food coloring is completely optional. Once everything was incorporated well, I folded in mini chocolate chips and then transferred the mixture to a loaf pan I lined with wax paper. I topped the ice cream with a few crushed peppermint candies. This is completely optional as well. You could also fold in some crushed peppermint candies into the ice cream along with the chocolate chips. I then covered the pan with a piece of wax paper and then aluminum foil and placed it in the freezer overnight.

And the next day I had a delicious (and cold) treat to help me beat the heat and celebrate Christmas in July!

No-Churn Peppermint Ice Cream

Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream

1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

5-6 drops red liquid food coloring, optional

3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1/4 cup crushed peppermint candies, optional

Directions:

Line a 9 x 5 -inch loaf pan with wax paper, leaving an overhang, and set aside.

In a medium bowl beat the heavy cream with a hand mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Add in the sweetened condensed milk, the peppermint extract and food coloring (if using) and continue beating on medium speed until well incorporated. Fold in the mini chocolate chips and then transfer the mixture to the prepared pan.

If desired, sprinkle crushed peppermint candies on top and then cover with a piece of wax paper and aluminum foil and freeze for 8 hours or overnight.

No-Knead Olive Bread

I love bread recipes that don’t require too much work. And if you agree with me, then No-Knead Bread recipes are perfect for you as well. Instead of having to knead the dough to form the gluten strands that give the bread its texture, you allow the dough to rest for 12-18 hours. And for someone who is never quite sure if they have kneaded their dough too long or too short this is the perfect method. Today I am sharing with you a No-Knead Olive Bread. Don’t like olives, read on to get ideas on other No-Knead Breads you can try instead.

To start, in a large bowl I mixed all the ingredients – flour, sea salt, yeast, oregano, garlic powder, chopped olives and water – together using a wooded spoon and then shaped the dough into a ball before covering it with a piece of plastic wrap and aluminum foil.

I let the dough rest on my counter for about 18 hours, I did peak at it a few times during those hours to make sure it was rising. Hence using a piece of plastic wrap and then aluminum foil on top. And I happy to say that it did rise considerably, although it didn’t have many air bubbles.

After shaping it again into a ball and letting it rest for an additional 30 minutes I baked it in my Dutch oven. And after letting it cool I had a delicious bread to slice into.

What’s great about this recipe is that it can easily be switched up. The base of it is the flour, sea salt & water. And from there you could add in anything to satisfy your taste buds. Think a Cranberry Walnut Bread, a Jalapeno Cheddar version, or maybe a Sun-Dried Tomato & Pesto one… The possibilities are endless.  

No-Knead Olive Bread

Ingredients:

3 cups + 2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 cup chopped olives*

1 1/2 cups warm water (95 F)

*I used 1/2 cup black olives and 1/2 cup pimento stuffed Manzanilla olives

Directions:

In a large bowl stir together the flour, sea salt, yeast, oregano, garlic powder and chopped olives. Add in the warm water and stir. The dough will be sticky. Shape into a ball and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Let it sit on the counter at room temperature for 12-18 hours. The dough will double in size and be covered in air bubbles.

Once the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 450 F.

Lightly dust your work space with flour and turn out the dough. Using lightly floured hands shape the dough into a ball and then transfer to a large piece of parchment paper*. You want your piece of parchment paper to be large enough to fit in your Dutch oven**.  Score an “X” into the top of the dough with a sharp knife and then cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap for 30 minutes. During these 30 minutes, place your Dutch oven in the preheated oven.

After the 30 minutes carefully remove your pot from the oven. Remove the plastic wrap from the top of your dough and place the dough, along with the parchment paper, into your Dutch oven. Cover and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the bread is golden brown on top. Remove the pot from the oven and transfer the bread, along with the parchment paper, to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes before slicing.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

*Make sure to check your parchment paper to see what the highest and safest temperature it can be used at.

**If you don’t have a Dutch oven you could also use a heavy-duty pot.

Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Cranberry Orange Walnut Muffins

Not sure why, but, I had two bags of dried cranberries in my pantry that were quickly approaching their expiration date. They were probably on sale or I was planning on eating more salads than I have been. Either way, I decided it was time to start using them before they did expire. Cranberries are always a good add in for baked goods since they offer a pop of sweetness and do have health benefits. I like to think they are still healthy even after they are baked into something sweet. I was debating between cookies or muffins, but, I opted to go with the muffins… A Cranberry-Orange Walnut Muffin.

The recipe for these is pretty straight forward. Next time I make them though I will cut the sugar in half (1/2 cup as opposed to a 1 cup). They were delicious, but, I just found them to be a tad bit sweet and since I normally eat muffins for breakfast and I am not big into sweets for breakfast I think I would enjoy them more with less sugar. Also, since you are using freshly squeezed orange juice and if your orange is sweet and then you add sugar and dried cranberries on top of that you are getting sugar from all sides so it’s best to cut back on the actual sugar you are adding in. They will still be delicious and even a bit better for you. And while the original recipe called to make these in a 12-cup cupcake tin, I opted to bake them in 6-cup muffin tin instead. I prefer bakery sized muffins than cupcake sized ones. To accommodate the extra batter, I placed my muffin liners in ramekins on a baking sheet and baked them as normal.

Cranberry Orange Walnut Muffins

  • Servings: 8 Large Muffins / 12 Small Muffins
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Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 large

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice*

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

*I used 3 large navel oranges

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a muffin/cupcake pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder & soda together. Set aside.

In a small bowl stir together the orange juice & zest. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar using a handheld mixer on medium speed. Add the egg and continue beating until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture in three parts alternating with the orange juice mixture. Stir in the cranberries and walnuts.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-25 minutes for smaller muffins and 30-35 minutes for larger muffins. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes before removing muffins from pans and cooling completely on a wire rack.

Recipe from Fisher Nuts

Cherry Amaretto Cheesecake

The idea for this cheesecake came to me after making the Almond Tiramisu I posted about last month. I had another package of Amaretti cookies and while the Almond Tiramisu was delicious I didn’t want to make another one so soon and while I could have just eaten the cookies I thought to myself that there had to be something yummy I could make with them. Initially I was thinking raspberries instead of cherries for this cheesecake, but, I thought cherries would be a better complement to the almond flavors in the cheesecake. And I was right! Since cherries aren’t currently in season I opted to use frozen ones, but, with summer just around the corner you could make this with a fresh batch of cherries that are sure to be hitting the produce department of your local supermarkets in no time.

I started off by making the crust. In the bowl of my food processor I processed 7oz. of Amaretti cookies into fine crumbs. I then added in melted butter and pulsed everything together a few times. Finally, I pressed the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie dish I sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

I set the crust aside and made the filling for the cheesecake. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer on medium speed, I beat together cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, almond & vanilla extract and Amaretto liqueur until it was well combined. I then added in 2 eggs and continued to beat the mixture until it was smooth. Once the cheesecake mixture was ready I poured it into the prepared crust and placed it in a 325 F preheated oven for about 45 minutes. I knew the cheesecake was done once the center was just about set. I let the cheesecake cool on a wire rack before refrigerating it overnight.

While the cheesecake was cooling on the wire rack I made the cherry topping. In a medium saucepan I whisked together water, cornstarch, lemon juice and sugar (a slurry). I then heated the mixture over medium heat and stirred it until it started to thicken. Once it did, I added in the cherries. I stirred the mixture occasionally. You may think that your cornstarch mixture isn’t enough for the cherries, but, as the cherries cook they will let out their own juices. If you opt to use frozen cherries as I did, do not defrost them beforehand. Once the sauce begins to boil and thickens remove it from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Make sure to taste the mixture. If your cherries aren’t very sweet you may need to add more sugar to bring out their flavor. Once the mixture was cool, I transferred it to a resealable container and refrigerated it overnight.

The following day, before serving the cheesecake I spooned the cherry mixture over it. This was a hit with everyone who tried it.

And I must say, that it tasted even better a day or two afterwards. I think the almond flavor from the cheesecake seeped into the cherry topping and it really brought all the flavors together!

Cherry Amaretto Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Crust:

7oz. package Amaretti cookies

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake:

2 8oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur

2 large eggs, at room temperature

Cherry Topping:

3 cups frozen (or fresh) cherries

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons sugar*

*You may need to add additional sugar if your cherries aren’t sweet

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 F.

For the crust: In the bowl of a food processor process the cookies into fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse a few times to combine. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie dish sprayed with non-stick spray.

For the cheesecake: In a large bowl combine the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, almond & vanilla extracts and the Amaretto and beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue beating until the mixture is smooth.

Transfer the cheesecake batter to the prepared pie crust and bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

For the cherry topping: While the cheesecake is cooling, whisk together the water, cornstarch, lemon juice and sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat and stir until the mixture begins to thicken. Add the cherries and stir occasionally until the sauce begins to boil and has thickened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to use. The mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.

To serve, spoon the cherry mixture over the cheesecake and slice. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Recipe first appeared on Bead Yarn & Spatula

Spice Market Carrot Cake

I’ve been using the same recipe for carrot cake for years. It’s a basic recipe with the only add-in being walnuts. No pineapple, coconut and/or raisins that you find in some recipes, but it’s delicious and moist nonetheless. I did try a different recipe a year or two ago and it just wasn’t that good. One of the reasons it never made it on here. I recently came across a recipe though that was completely different from any one I had seen before, a Spice Market Carrot Cake, that I instantly knew I wanted to try. I decided to make it for Easter this year. Which led me to wonder why is carrot cake so popular for Easter? Does it have anything to do with rabbits and their affinity to carrots? While I couldn’t find a definitive answer, I did learn this tidbit…  Carrot cake became popular in the 1970’s during the dieting craze. People apparently thought that by using carrots in a cake it would make the dessert seem healthier. I can get behind that. It’s like the theory that chocolate is a vegetable (some say fruit) since it’s a product of the cacao bean.

So, what makes the Spice Market Carrot Cake so special? It has a Moroccan-inspired flair thanks to the addition of ras el hanout – a Moroccan spice blend – and dried fruit (for the cake I made I went with apricots, but, you could use pitted dates instead).  Thankfully I didn’t need to go in search of ras el hanout and was able to make the blend myself using allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric and nutmeg. And to top the cake off, a twist on the traditional cream cheese frosting that I personally think is the best frosting for carrot cake, a Ginger-Orange Cream Cheese Frosting that includes ground ginger and the zest and juice of an orange.

This cake was a hit! All the flavors worked well together, and while I normally love nuts in my desserts, especially walnuts, I didn’t miss them one bit in this cake!

Spice Market Carrot Cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon ras el hanout*

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten

3 cups (1 lb.) finely shredded carrots

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup honey

1 cup chopped dried apricots

For the Frosting:

1 orange – remove 2 teaspoons of zest and squeeze for 2 tablespoons of juice

1 8oz package cream cheese, at room temperature

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 – 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

*To make the ras el hanout stir together 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon & turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon each of black pepper, coriander, nutmeg and allspice.  

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray 3 8-inch round baking pans with baking spray.

To make the cake: In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, ras el hanout, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl stir together the eggs, carrots, oil and honey.

Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until combined and then stir in the chopped apricots. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and then bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

I like to wrap my cakes in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight before frosting, but, you can frost them once they are completely cooled.

To make the frosting: In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter and beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in the orange juice and ground ginger and continue beating until both are incorporate. Switch the speed to low and gradually add in 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar. Continue beating until well incorporated. Gradually add in an additional 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar until the frosting is spreadable. Stir in zest.

Frost and stack the cakes and then decorate as desired. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Recipe from Better Homes & Gardens

Cookie Palooza: Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cookies

I hope you have enjoyed this year’s Cookie Palooza. I’m closing it out with a cookie that is inspired by my favorite holiday beverage. While I’m not a coffee drinker, around this time of the year I make frequent visits to Starbucks to get a Peppermint Hot Chocolate. And while you can order one any time of the year, there’s just something extra special about it during the holidays. I love having one while I am running holiday errands or doing some Christmas shopping.

To get the flavors of a peppermint hot chocolate, I added peppermint extract to chocolate cookie dough. I baked the cookies for 10 minutes and then removed them from the oven and pressed a large marshmallow cut in half in the center. I then returned the cookies to the oven to bake for an additional 2 minutes. I opted to use one large marshmallow as opposed to the traditional mini ones used in hot chocolate so that I could press them in and get the cookies back in the oven quickly. When you remove them from the oven after the 2 minutes the marshmallows will be soft, but they will still be puffy, they will flatten a bit as the cookies cool though so don’t be tempted to press them down. I let them cool on the pan for about a minute before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cookies were cool it was time to decorate them and amp up the peppermint hot chocolate flavor. I crushed peppermint candy (I used starlight mints, only because I couldn’t find candy canes) and melted semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave. I transferred the melted chocolate to a piping bag and snipped a small piece off the end. I drizzled each cookie with the melted chocolate and then sprinkled them with the crushed peppermint candy. I let the chocolate set for a few minutes and then popped the cookies in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes so it could set completely.

And I must say, these tasted spot on to my favorite holiday beverage!

Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cookies

  • Servings: 30 Cookies
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Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

15 large marshmallows, cut in half

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy (either candy canes or starlight mints)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer, beat both sugars and butter on medium speed until creamy. Add the eggs one at time, beating well after each addition. Then beat in both extracts.

With the mixer on low, add in the flour mixture and beat until combined.

Using a cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and press half of a marshmallow in the center of each cookie. Return to the oven for an additional 2 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on the pan for 1-2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cookies are cooled, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave. Microwave for :30 second intervals, stirring between each, until the chocolate is smooth.

Transfer the melted chocolate to a piping bag or a resealable bag and snip off the end and drizzle the chocolate over the cookies and then sprinkle with the crushed peppermint candy. Let the chocolate set before enjoying or storing. You can place them in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes to speed up the process.

Store in an airtight container.

Recipe first appeared on Bead Yarn & Spatula

Cookie Palooza: Gingersnaps

There are quite a few flavors that are synonymous with the holidays… Peppermint, Eggnog, Cranberry, Pumpkin, and so forth. A few flavors – molasses, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon – combine to create one of the most popular, gingerbread. For today’s Cookie Palooza recipe I am bringing you a variation on gingerbread cookies… Gingersnaps. So, what’s the difference between the two? Gingersnaps are dropped cookies that are crispy around the edges and chewy in the center whereas Gingerbread cookies are almost always shaped with cookie cutters after the dough is rolled out.

For these Gingersnaps, the dough needed to be refrigerated prior to baking. Refrigerating the dough helps to prevent the cookies from spreading too much while baking. I always find though that cookie dough is too hard to scoop once it has been refrigerated. So, I opted to shape tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet prior to refrigerating. I let the dough chill for about 4 hours.

I then rolled the dough balls in sugar and placed them back on parchment lined baking sheets 2-inches apart…

And then baked them in a 350 F preheated oven for about 10 minutes. After letting the cookies cool on the pan for 2 minutes so they could set I then transferred them to a wire rack to cool completely.

The texture of these Gingersnaps was spot on. Crispy around the edges and chewy in the middle. And since the recipe is for a small batch (just shy of 2 dozen) you may want to double it to make sure you have enough to share or maybe some extra to make ice cream sandwiches.  

Love the flavor of gingerbread? Check out the recipes below for a Gingerbread Cake and your traditional Gingerbread Men. You could also use the cookie recipe to make your own Gingerbread House.

Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread Men

Gingersnaps

  • Servings: About 2 Dozen
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Ingredients:

1/3 cup shortening

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

2 tablespoons molasses

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon salt

Additional sugar to roll the cookie dough

Directions:

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl beat the shortening and sugar together using a hand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and the molasses.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt.

With the mixer speed on low, gradually beat the flour mixture into the sugar mixture until incorporated.

Shape tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on the prepared baking sheets 2-inches apart. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Scoop 1/4 cup of sugar into a small bowl. Roll each of the dough balls in the sugar and return to the baking sheets. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.

Recipe from Taste of Home

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