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TIP OF THE DAY: Stack Cake Party

Stack Cake

Stack Cake

Stack Cake

Top: Strawberry Jam Stack Cake from Sweet Auburn Desserts, photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn. Here’s the recipe. Middle photo from TheSimpleElements.com. Here’s the recipe. Bottom photo from Maman Bakery Cafe | NYC.

 

Do you have plans for Valentine’s Day? If you have nothing going on, why not round up a group of friends and neighbors and have a stack cake party?

What’s a stack cake?

STACK CAKE HISTORY

Stack cake is an old-fashioned concept from the Southern Appalachian Mountains. It originated as a wedding cake alternative in that economically-challenged region.

Each guest or family would bring a layer for the cake, and the bride’s family would provide the filling. The layers would be assembled at the party.

The result: a rustic layer cake with no icing but lots of heart.

Beyond weddings, stack cake parties were another way for people to get together to exchange recipes and gossip.

Many types of cake layers could be brought, from sponge-like layers to cookie-like layers. In order stop the typical seven or eight layers from toppling over, each layer was sometimes pressed very flat.

These days, another un-iced cake, called naked cake, is enjoying its moment. Unlike stack cake, the whole naked cake is made by one person, in one flavor. The sides of the cake aren’t iced, although the top usually is.

Rather than an economical way to assemble a cake, naked cake economizes on calories and labor, by not frosting the sides.

YOUR STACK CAKE PARTY

You never knew exactly how the layers would add up. Even if you told everyone to bring an eight-inch layer of yellow cake or chocolate cake…well, what are the odds that they’d match, even if you provided a recipe?

Besides, isn’t it more fun if to have a pot luck cake with different layers: carrot, chocolate, devil’s food, gingerbread, red velvet, vanilla and, well, we’d like a layer with big chocolate chunks?

All you have to do is:

  • Tell everyone what size to make their layer cake (eight inches is standard).
  • You can cap the layers at four or five, or make two cakes.
  • You can assign flavors, or let the universe decide what you get.
  • You provide the filling and some icing to decorate the top.
  • Or you can delegate those, too, and just focus on the beverages.
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    PRODUCT: Mardi Gras King Cake Kit

    King Cake

    King Cake

    Here’s what you can make from the King Cake Kit. You can use the icing and sparkling sugars to create your own special design. Photos courtesy King Arthur Flour.

     

    Egad: It’s a perfect storm of food holidays! The Super Bowl is February 7th, Lunar New Year begins February 8th, Mardi Gras follows on February 9th, and Valentine’s Day is February 14th.

    We’re tackling them one by one. Here, an easy and most delicious King Cake kit from King Arthur Flour lets you celebrate in style. It has everything you need to make a fine King Cake. You can even host a King Cake party, as many do in Louisiana.

    Hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are eaten in Louisiana during the Carnival season: at home, in offices and at King Cake parties.

    While people in other parts of the country may order a King Cake from a baking company in Louisiana, making your own with a King Arthur product is likely to be tastier, not to mention less expensive and more fun.
     
    THE KING CAKE KIT

    What’s included:

  • 1-pound box of premium cake mix (an egg- and butter-rich yeasted sweet dough)
  • Almond paste for the filling
  • White icing mix
  • 2-ounce bag of each decorating sugar in the Mardi Gras colors of yellow, green and purple
  •  
    The traditional plastic baby is not included, but you can get one at the nearest party store (in the Baby Shower section).

    The kit is $19.95 at KingArthurFlour.com.

     
    ________________________________________
    *The colors were selected in 1872 to honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Alexis Alexandrovich Romanoff, whose house colors were purple, green and gold. Purple signifies justice, green represents faith and gold is for power.

     

    THE HISTORY OF KING CAKE

    The King Cake is an adaptation of the French Epiphany Cake. While an Epiphany Cake is subdued—a round of crisp brown pastry—the celebration cakes in New Orleans are decorated in the three official colors of Mardi Gras: purple, green and gold*.

    The cake itself is named for the three Wise Men, also called Magi or Kings. In France the Epiphany Cake is called galette des rois, king cake.

    The King Cake tradition is believed to have arrived in New Orleans around 1870. In France, puff pastry (pâte à choux) is filled with almond cream (frangipane). But in New Orleans, the concept took another direction.

    The first King Cakes for Mardi Gras were simple rings of yeast dough, some braided, with a small amount of decoration.

    The cakes became more festive over time, incorporating the Mardi Gras colors.

    In more recent years, the fillings have followed modern tastes. You can find them in chocolate, numerous fruit flavors, even cream cheese. Royal icing with the three official colors of sparkling sugar decorate the tops.

    Shapes have evolved, too: round, oval, square, and at fine restaurants, deconstructed. There are also cookie and macarons in purple, green and gold.

    The ubiquitous cakes range from garish supermarket options to elegant pastry from the best bakers.
     
    What About The Baby?

    The cake traditionally includes a small plastic baby representing Baby Jesus. The person who gets the piece of cake with the baby is said to have good luck for the next year.

    Note, however, that the lucky trinket has various privileges and obligations, which can include hosing next year’s party—or at least, bringing the cake.

    After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the “baby” is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar toppings in the Mardi Gras colors.

    Today, a tiny plastic baby is the common prize. At a party, the King Cake is sliced and served. Each person looks to see if their piece contains the “baby.” If so, then that person is named “King” for a day and bound by custom to host the next party and provide the King Cake.
     
    In earlier days, the baby might be made of porcelain, or even gold in wealthy homes.

    These days, since no one should bake plastic inside a cake, the trinket is typically inserted through the underside of the baked cake.

    In the past, as in France, other trinkets such as coins and charms could be baked into the cake. In humbler homes, a pecan, pea or bean could be baked in.

    Trinket or not, we look forward to a big slice of our King Arthur King Cake.

     

    King Cake

    Glamorous King Cake

    Deconstructed King Cake

    Baby Figurines

    Top: A nicely decorated King Cake from Hudson Valley Chocolates. Second: A glamorous King Cake from New Orleans confectioner Sucre. Third: Chef Ric Tramonto’s deconstructed King Cake at Restaurant R’evolution. Bottom: A baby figurine is inserted into the cake. These are from Wilton, but any party store should have them.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Soulfully Sweet Great Gluten-Free Cookies

    If you’re looking for a great gluten-free cookie, look no further than Soulfully Sweet.

    You can tell that many, many test batches were baked to find the magic mixture that makes these cookies taste so good.

    With the right mix of ingredients and technique, you can’t tell that baked goods are gluten free. Soulfully Sweet has pulled this off, creating crunchy, very flavorful cookies that easily pass for conventional gourmet cookies.

    The best ingredients are not inexpensive, so don’t be dismayed that a box of eight cookies (2-1/2 inches in diameter) is $10.99, and you’ll want all eight flavors. They are a find for the cookie-lover on a gluten-free diet. Once you taste them, you’ll be happy to give up something else to fit them into your budget.

    We loved every one of the eight flavors:

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Toasted Pecan Cookies
  • Double Chocolate Cookies For Chocoholics
  • Molasses Ginger Cookies With Spice Infusion
  • Oatmeal Cookies With Cherries & Chocolate Chips
  • Oatmeal Raisin Cookies With Toasted Walnuts
  • Orange Cookies With Pistachio & Cranberry Chunks & Orange Essence
  • Peanut Butter Cookies With A Peanut Avalanche
  •  
    In addition to gluten-free, the ingredients are non-GMO, mostly organic* and “virtually” soy-free. The cookies are preservative free and all natural.
     
    A taste is worth a thousand words, so head to SoulfullySweet.com and indulge your cookie passion.
    __________________________________
    *The combination of gluten-free and organic ingredients is often hard to find and very pricey when you do find it. The cookies range from 84% to 90% organic ingredients. This brand doesn’t cut back on the absolute best-tasting gluten-free ingredients, and that, plus the small batch artisanal production, is why the cookies are so expensive.

     

    Gluten Free Cookies

    Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Gluten Free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Soulfully Sweet cookies in three of the eight flavors: Molasses Ginger, Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Chip. Photos courtesy Soulfully Sweet.

     

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Biscotti Bites

    Biscotti Bites

    Almond Biscotti Bites

    Top: Each Biscotti Bite is a 12-calorie treat. Photo: Thomas Francois | FOT. Bottom: Almond, one of the three flavors of Biscotti Bites. Photo: The Bites Company.

     

    Every person who is mindful of calories searches for those magical foods that deliver the satisfaction without the calories. We discovered one such food in Biscotti Bites from The Bites Company.

    Before we wax poetic, note that other companies market products called Biscotti Bites. Some are miniature biscotti like Nonni’s Biscotti Bites, a product we enjoy very much.

    But The Bites Company makes little round cookies, just 1-3/8 inches in diameter.

    They’re less dense than biscotti yet still crunchy. And they deliver lovely biscotti flavor in in Almond, Cocoa and Lemon.

    Company founder Dana Upton had made traditional biscotti for 30 years. She reworked her recipe so that her cookies would still deliver a biscotti experience at 12 calories a bite.

    The recommended serving size is 10 cookies for 120 calories; 9 cookies have 3 Weight Watchers points.

    The cookies are all natural, made in small batches from scratch with top-quality ingredients. The Almond flavor evokes traditional biscotti. The Lemon flavor contains fresh lemon peel, for a lilting lemon flavor. The Cocoa flavor is more subtle; we prefer the first two.

    As for nutrition, Biscotti Bites are:

  • Are low in sodium, with no added salt.
  • Have less than 1 gram of sugar in each cookie.
  • Have the right “no” list: no canola oil, no GMOs, no high fructose corn syrup, no MSG, no soy, no trans fat.
  •  
    They are also kosher-certified, although the company is using up its supply of packaging without the hechsher.

    Biscotti Bites are sold in 4.5-ounce bags, and the Almond variety is available in 1-ounce single serve bags. You can buy them on the company website, TheBitesCompany.com, or head to Amazon for:

  • Almond Biscotti Bites
  • Cocoa Biscotti Bites
  • Lemon Biscotti Bites
  •  

     
    The MSRP for single packages is $5.99; a three-pack is $15.00. We promise, they’re worth every penny.

    They are so delicious that you can’t eat just one. Fortunately, you can have 10 at a time.
     
    BISCOTTI TRIVIA

    Biscotti date back to ancient Rome. They were originally made not for a leisurely snack with an espresso, but as a long-shelf-life food that could be carried by travelers, back in the day when you were not likely to find food on the road.

    Among the travelers who took biscotti with them were the Roman Legions. Here’s the history of biscotti.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: White Whole Wheat

    White Whole Wheat Flour

    White Whole Wheat Flour Comparison

    Top photo: White whole wheat flour may
    soon become one of the hot “better for you”
    foods. Bottom photo: white whole wheat
    flour compared to whole wheat flour from red
    wheat. Photos courtesy King Arthur Flour.

     

    We always start January with better-for-you tips of the day. There are a few weeks between the holidays and Valentine’s Day temptations where we can actually focus on better-for-you foods.

    Americans say that their number one resolution for the new year is to lose weight. “Eat healthier” is in the top five.

    One of the easiest switches Americans can make is to whole wheat flour in daily bread products—bagels, sandwiches, pasta, pizza crusts; baked goods like chocolate chip cookies and brownies; and family favorites like pancakes and waffles. Whole wheat provides lots of nutritional benefits and helps to mitigate the guilt of enjoying carbs.

    But many Americans don’t like the stronger taste of whole wheat.

    Enter white whole wheat flour, also called whole white wheat flour and marketed by some bread manufacturers as whole grain white bread. It’s milder in flavor and whiter in color than conventional whole wheat, and is a terrific option for nutrition-oriented people who aren’t crazy about the flavor of conventional whole wheat.

    Aren’t “white whole wheat” and “whole grain white bread” contradictions in terms?

    Friends, it’s only confusing at first. Just think of white whole wheat as “albino whole wheat.”

    WHAT IS WHITE WHOLE WHEAT?

    Most of the wheat grown in the U.S. is hard red winter wheat. In Australia, most of the wheat grown is hard white spring wheat. Both genuses of wheat are milled into whole grain flour (containing the bran, endosperm and germ) that is equally nutritious.

    While white wheat has been grown in Australia for decades, different varieties needed to be developed to do well in American soil and climate. It has been slowly creeping into retail America, both in sacks of flour and baked goods. Even Wonder Bread now sells whole grain white bread!

    Why is it whiter?

    Hard white wheat lacks the genes for bran color. Traditional red wheat has one to three bran color genes.

     
    The bran of white wheat is not only lighter in color but it’s also milder in flavor, because it also lacks the strongly-flavored phenolic compounds in red wheat. The milder flavor also means that products made with white whole wheat require less added sweetener to attain the same level of perceived sweetness.

    The flavor of whole white wheat flour is more appealing to people who prefer refined white flour. If that’s you, you can now have your cake [or bread] and eat it, too.

    In sum:

  • Hard white spring wheat flour yields milder-tasting baked goods than the red winter wheat flour traditionally used in the U.S.
  • Breads and cakes made with whole white wheat flour are lighter in color than those made with whole red winter wheat.
  • White whole wheat provides the same nutrition and fiber as flour made from red winter wheat.
  •  
    Here’s more information from The Whole Grains Council.

     

    TIPS FOR BAKING WITH WHITE WHOLE WHEAT

    Use it as you would regular whole wheat flour. Try these tips from King Arthur Flour, useful for both red and white whole wheat flours:

  • If you substitute whole wheat flour in a yeast bread recipe calling for refined white flour, let the dough rest for 15 minutes before kneading.
  • Substituting orange juice for some of the water in a whole wheat bread recipe tempers any potential strong flavor in the wheat.
  • Whole wheat dough shouldn’t be kneaded as long or as vigorously as dough made with all-purpose flour. That’s because whole wheat bran particles are sharp, and can potentially cut the developing gluten strands if the dough is handled roughly.
  • If the recipe is a bit too sweet (from the naturally sweeter white flour), cut down on the sugar next time.
  •  

    Cinnamon Swirl Bread

    Plan ahead for brunch next weekend: Try this cinnamon swirl bread recipe from King Arthur Flour.

     
    YOUR NEXT STEP

    Pick up a sack of white whole wheat flour and try it with some favorite recipes. See if you can tell the difference in flavor.

    If you can’t find it at your supermarket, look at natural food stores.

    Get yours at KingArthurFlour.com.

      

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    RECIPE: The Easiest Seasonal Bundt Cake

    If you’re home from work for the holidays with guests dropping by, here’s a very easy seasonal bundt cake recipe. It freezes well, so you can stick it in the freezer and cut slices whenever you need them. It’s a delicious alternative to coffee cake, and a homey cake to bake for friends.

    What makes it so easy is starting with a cinnamon bundt cake mix. The best one we’ve tried is the Cinnamon Streusel Bundt Mix from Nordicware, makers of the bundt pan. At $15 a box it isn’t inexpensive, but it’s as good as homemade. As an alternative, Krusteaz and Betty Crocker have a mix for $2.50.

    For a seasonal touch, Chef Tom Fraker of Melissas.com added dried cranberries; we added pecans.

    For a fancier dessert, you can drizzle the slices with butterscotch or caramel sauce and garnish with whipped cream or mascarpone.

    RECIPE: CRANBERRY-APPLE CINNAMON BUNDT CAKE

    Ingredients

  • 1 box cinnamon bundt cake mix
  • Eggs, milk, and butter per cake mix directions
  • 2 Gala* apples, peeled and diced small
  • All-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • Optional garnish: powdered sugar
  •  

    Cranberry Apple Bundt Cake

    A cinnamon streusel bundt, loaded with seasonal cranberries and pecans. Photo courtesy Melissas.

     
    *You can substitute the more tart Granny Smith or the more sweet Empire apples. All three hold their shape when baked.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the cake batter according to package instructions.

    2. TOSS the diced apples in flour and shake off the excess. Fold the apples, cranberries and pecans into the cake batter. Bake the cake as directed on the package.

    3. DUST the cake with powdered sugar right before serving (otherwise it will absorb into the cake). Place the sugar in a small sieve (mini strainer), hold it over the cake and tap it to dust the top.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: What To Do With Your Panettone Or Pandoro

    Some people don’t know the delights of panettone and pandoro, Italian Christmas breads that are now in stores nationwide from. In Italy they’re Christmas and New Year’s staples, given as holiday gifts. Some Americans have adopted the tradition.

    For years we had friends who’d receive them as gifts, then put them aside like so much fruitcake. We started a Panettone Rescue Mission, to take those panettones and return them as bread pudding or another dessert.

    They’re delicious simply sliced and served with a cup of coffee or tea. But they adapt well to popular recipes.
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PANDORO & PANETTONE

    Most regions of Italy have their own specialty Christmas sweet bread recipes. The three that are are imported to the U.S. include:

  • Pandoro, from Verona, an “Italian pound cake” made in an eight-pointed star shape, topped with icing or confectioners’ sugar. It is often flavored with lemon zest, although anisette and other flavors can be used.
  • Panettone, a Milanese specialty, a tall yeast bread packed with candied fruits and raisins. Today there are also chocolate chip versions.
  • Panforte is short and dense. While the origins of a sweet leavened bread date back to Roman times, this dense mixture of almonds and candied fruit, sweetened with honey and flavored with spices, was born in 12th century Siena. Think of it as Italian fruitcake.
  •  
    While a plain slice is delicious as is, pandoro and panettone can be turned into more complex dishes. Bauli, the major exporter to the U.S. of pandoro and panettone, has developed numerous recipes.

    If you want to bake your own, there are plenty of recipes online.

       

    Panettone With Coffee

    Panettone Shortcake

    TOP: A panettone yeast loaf or cake. BOTTOM: Panettone sliced into a shortcake. Photos courtesy Bauli.

     
    You can use pandoro and panforte interchangeably in recipes, but they are different in texture and flavor. Here are some recipes from Bauli along with some of our own favorite uses.

    BREAKFAST & BRUNCH

  • Toasted with butter, cream cheese, jam or ricotta
  • French toast, including:
    • Baked French Toast With Custard Recipe
    • Eggnog French Toast Recipe
    • Pandoro Star-Shaped French Toast Recipe
    • Panettone French Toast With Mascarpone Recipe
    • Raspberry Jam & Hazelnut Spread Stuffed Panettone French Toast Recipe

  •  

    Pandoro On Plate

    Apple Bread Pudding

    TOP: The star-shaped pandoro. BOTTOM: Pandoro apple bread pudding. Photos
    courtesy Bauli.

     

    SNACK

  • A slice with coffee or tea
  • A slice with Nutella or chocolate spread (bananas optional)
  • Crostini (sliced thin and toasted), spread with fresh with goat cheese
  • Crostini with fruit and cheese
  •  
    DESSERT

  • Slice and layer with custard, fruit curd or icing into a stacked “Christmas tree” (scroll down here for a photo)
  • A slice for dessert with a glass of sweet wine; crème fraîche, mascarpone or whipped cream optional
  • Chocolate Fondue With Panettone Or Pandoro Recipe
  • Bread pudding or trifle. Try this Panettone Bread Pudding Recipe
  • Fabio Viviani’s Pandoro Tiramisu Recipe
  • Pandoro Apple Bread Pudding Recipe (see photo)
  • Panettone “Shortcake” with Berries and Orange Ricotta Recipe
  • Pandoro Strawberry Shortcake Recipe
  • Sundae: a slice topped with ice cream, chocolate or caramel sauce and whipped cream
  • Warmed Slice With Dessert Wine Recipe (mascarpone optional)
  •  
    TYPES OF CHRISTMAS BREADS

    During the Renaissance, different European countries and regions within them created their own specialty holiday breads. When the bread was sweetened, the terms “bread” and “cake” were used interchangeably.

    All are delicious with chai or other spiced tea like Constant Comment; or with a conventional black tea.

    If you want to put some spirit into your snack, dessert or tea time, serve the Christmas bread with mulled wine (warm spiced wine) or with a sweet dessert wine, such as Spumante or Moscato.

  • Gingerbread may be the best known Christmas “bread” in the U.S.; it originated in 15th-century Germany.
  • Pandoro is a star-shaped yeast bread sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, created in 19th-century Verona.
  • Panettone is a Milanese Christmas yeast bread, filled with candied fruits and raisins, that dates to medieval Italy. It is tall, dome-shaped and airy.
  • Panforte is short and dense. While the origins of a sweet leavened bread date back to Roman times, this dense mixture of almonds and candied fruit, sweetened with honey and flavored with spices, was born in 12th century Siena. Think of it as Italian fruitcake.
  • Stollen is the traditional German Christmas cake or “bread,” created outside of Dresden, Germany in 1437 (not in Dresden itself, a point of historic contention). It is so prized that the city has trademarked the name, Dresden Stollen. The oval shape, covered with powdered sugar, is said to represent the diaper of Baby Jesus!
  •  
    Here are more Christmas breads, with beautiful photos.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Holiday Cupcakes

    December 15th is National Cupcake Day.

    When a holiday like this falls right before Christmas, there’s only one direction to pursue: Christmas cupcakes.

    Whether you bake them from scratch or buy plain cupcakes to decorate, here are 10 easy approaches:

  • Candy cane cupcakes: Crushed red and white peppermints on chocolate or vanilla iced cupcakes (see photo).
  • Coconut “snowball” cupcakes: Chredded coconut on vanilla icing, plain or decorated with a mini candy cane or other Christmas candy.
  • Cone Christmas tree cupcakes: Cover a small ice cream cone with green frosting and invert on top of a cupcake. Add sprinkles or dragées for “ornaments.”
  • Dragée-dotted cupcakes: A sophisticated approach using metallic-colored gold and/or silver balls.
  • Frosty The Snowman cupcakes: Use black and orange gels or icing to create Frosty’s face atop flat-iced white cupcakes: eyes, nose and mouth (see photo).
  • Holly cupcakes: Use real or candy mint leaves and mini red candies to create a holly sprig.
  • Red and green icing: Use food color to tint icing, store-bought or homemade. Serve as is or with decorations of choice. Check out the special Christmas-wrap Hershey’s Kisses.
  • Rudolph cupcakes: To a chocolate-frostrf cupcake, add white frosting eyes or candy eyes, a red candy nose and pretzel antlers (see photo).
  • Sprinkles cupcakes: Garnish iced cupcakes with red and green sprinkles, confetti, stars or Christmas trees.
  • Star cupcakes: Crown cupcakes with foil-wrapped chocolate stars or red and green gummy stars.
  •  
    CUPCAKE HISTORY

    Before the advent of muffin tins, cupcakes were baked in individual tea cups (hence “cup” cakes) or ramekins. The first reference to the miniature cakes dates to 1796, when a recipe for “cake to be baked in small cups” appeared in the cookbook, “American Cookery.” The earliest documentation of the term “cupcake” was in Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook in 1828 (receipt is an earlier term for recipe). [Source]

    Back then, cupcakes were easier to make than cakes because they cooked much faster. It took a long time to bake a cake in a hearth oven; cupcakes were ready in a fraction of the time. [Source]

     

    Candy Cane Cupcake

    Snowman-Cupcake-c-createdbydiane-230b

    Reindeer Cupcake

    TOP PHOTO: Crushed peppermint and a mini candy cane, at Trophy Cupcakes. MIDDLE PHOTO: Snowman cupcakes © CreatedByDiane.com. BOTTOM PHOTO: Rudolph cupcake at Trophy Cupcakes,

     
    Muffin tins (doing double duty as cupcake tins) became widely available around the turn of the 20th century, and offered a new convenience to bakers of muffins and cupcakes. But the next convenience took a while longer:

    For easier removal of cupcakes from the pan, paper and foil cupcake pan liners were created after World War II. An artillery manufacturer, the James River Corporation, began to manufacture cupcake liners when its military markets diminished. By 1969, they left artillery manufacturing behind and became a paper manufacturer.

    During the 1950s, the new paper baking cup gained popularity as U.S. housewives purchased them for convenience. Their flexibility grew when bakers realized that they could bake muffins as well as cupcakes in the baking cups. [Source]

    Cupcakes evolved into children’s party fare, but in the last decade have taken a more sophisticated turn. First, some younger couples began to choose “cupcake trees” instead of conventional wedding cakes. This prompted a flurry of cupcake articles and recipes, and ultimately the opening of boutique cupcake bakeries nationwide, offering what has become an everyday treat.

    In 2005, Sprinkles Cupcakes, the first cupcakes-only bakery in the world, opened in New York City in 2005. Now, cupcake boutiques are ubiquitous. Get your share, and have a happy National Cupcake Day.
     
    ___________________________

    *Both receipt and recipe derive from the Latin recipere, to receive or take. Receipt was originally used in medieval English to designate a formula or prescription for a medicinal preparation, and the symbol Rx emerged in medieval times. The sense of receipt as a written statement that money or goods have been received emerged later, at the beginning of the 17th century. In terms of cooking instructions, recipe became an alternative to receipt in the 18th century, gradually replacing it over time. Here’s more.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Wreath Cake

    You may not feel up to making a Bûche de Noël (Yule Log Cake), but you can certainly make a wreath cake.

    While there is trend to pull-apart cupcake wreath cakes, we decided to try a traditional one.

    This recipe was adapted by Audra, The Baker Chick from one on AllRecipes.com. It’s the third photo, requires no piping skills, and although it’s not as showy, it’s much easier to serve and eat.

    RECIPE: CRANBERRY BUTTERMILK UPSIDE DOWN WREATH CAKE

    Prep time is 15 minutes, bake time is 50 minutes.

    Ingredients For 10 Servings

  • ½ cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, separated
  • ¾ cup plus ½ cup white sugar, separated
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, separated
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 bag (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk*
  •  
    For The Decoration

  • Frosted grapes
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs (instead of the evergreen† shown)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Spray or grease a 10-inch ring pan thoroughly‡.

    2. COMBINE the half stick of butter, 3/4 cup white sugar, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the butter has melted; then add the cranberries, tossing until they are coated in the butter mixture. Pour into the bottom of the cake pan and set aside.

    3. CREAM together the 6 tablespoons of butter with the remaining ½ cup of white sugar and the brown sugar in a large mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the eggs, one at a time, the rest of the vanilla and the buttermilk.

     

    wreath-cake-frederickspastry-pastry.net-230w

    wreath-cake-cupcakes-beautifullife.info-230

    Cranberry Christmas Wreath Cake

    TOP PHOTO: A professional wreath cake from Frederick’s Pastry. MIDDLE PHOTO: A wreath of cupcakes from BeautifulLife.info. BOTTOM PHOTO: An easier-to-make wreath cake from TheBakerChick.com.

     
    4. WHISK together the dry ingredients and slowly add to the butter mixture, mixing on low speed until well combined. Pour/scoop the batter over the cranberry mixture and use the back of a spoon to smooth as needed.

    5. BAKE for 35-50 minutes, depending on your oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

    6. MAKE the frosted grapes. Garnish before serving.
    ____________________________
     
    *If you don’t have buttermilk, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar to enough milk to make 1 cup.

    †Fresh evergreen can impart strong sap or needles.

    ‡There is not enough batter to fully fill out a bundt pan.

      

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    RECIPE: Peppermint White Hot Chocolate & Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

    Christmas season is a bonanza for peppermint lovers, from candy canes to peppermint bark to chocolate-peppermint everything.

    Now, have a cup of peppermint white hot chocolate with a dark chocolate peppermint brownie. Both recipes are from McCormick.

    While together they create a chocolate-peppermint symphony, they can be split up and paired with non-peppermint, non-chocolate beverages and cookies.

    RECIPE: PEPPERMINT WHITE HOT CHOCOLATE

    Ingredients For 6 One-Cup Servings

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces white chocolate*, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cups half-and-half
  • 1/4 teaspoon McCormick Pure Peppermint Extract
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream
  •  
    *We chop up white chocolate bars from Green & Black’s or Lindt.
     
    Preparation

       

    white-hot-choc-peppermint-bars-mccormick-230

    If you’re a big fan of peppermint, this dessert is for you: white peppermint hot chocolate with chocolate peppermint bars. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    1. PLACE the heavy cream and chocolate in medium saucepan. Cook and stir on medium heat until chocolate is melted.

    2. STIR in half-and-half and peppermint extract. Cook and stir until heated through. Pour into serving cups. Garnish with whipped cream if desired.
     
    25+ HOT CHOCOLATE VARIATIONS

    There’s a recipe for every day of the month. See all the hot chocolate ideas.

    Here’s the difference between hot chocolate and cocoa.

     

    peppermint-cream-brownies-mccormick-a-kitchen-addiction-230

    Top chocolate brownies with peppermint
    cream and chocolate ganache. Photo
    courtesy A Kitchen Addiction.

     

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT BARS

    This fudgy brownie is layered with peppermint frosting and a rich chocolate glaze. Prep time is 15 minutes, bake time is 15 minutes.

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT BARS

    Ingredients For 36 Bars

  • 1 package (family-size) fudge brownie mix or your own brownie recipe
  • 2-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 7 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • Crushed peppermint candies
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Prepare the brownie mix as directed on the package. Spread in greased foil-lined 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost clean. Cool in the pan on wire rack. Meanwhile…

    2. BEAT the confectioners’ sugar, 7 tablespoons of the butter (melted), cream and peppermint extract in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended and smooth. Spread evenly over the cooled pan of brownies. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    3. MICROWAVE the chocolate and the remaining 1/2 cup (1 stick)pf butter in large microwavable bowl on HIGH, for 2 minutes or until the butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Spread over top of chilled brownie.

    4. SPRINKLE with the crushed peppermint candies. Cut into bars.

      

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