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Preview: Ice Cream Before Dinner

Ice Cream Before Dinner

Updated: 2018-03-06T07:39:25.534-05:00


Buttermilk Cornbread


Recently, I had my sister and her boyfriend visiting from New York.  It was so much fun having them in town, I didn't want them to leave!  On their last night with us, we had an easy night in with a delicious homemade dinner and a competitive game of scrabble.  We prepared a Chicken and Spicy Sausage Paella with Mushrooms, and whipped up some Buttermilk Cornbread to go with it.  Both dishes were delicious, in fact we have made the paella a regular dish in our home.  But the Cornbread…  ooh the cornbread.  It reminded me of the corn muffins I used to eat as a kid (I have spoken of my childhood love for mass-produced corn muffins on the blog before - here).  In fact, the next morning I couldn't resist toasting up some of the leftovers with butter for breakfast.  These were a huge improvement from the Entenmann's corn muffins I ate growing up.  Buttermilk Cornbread, slightly adapted from Allrecipes.com1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter2/3 cup granulated sugar2 eggs, room temperature1 cup buttermilk (I used low fat)1/2 teaspoon baking soda1 cup cornmeal1 cup all purpose flour1/2 teaspoon fine sea saltPreheat to 375° F. Line an 8 inch square pan with Perfect Parchment.  In a large skillet, melt the butter. Remove from heat and stir in sugar.  Quickly add eggs and beat just until combined. In a measuring cup (I used the same cup I measured the buttermilk in to save from washing more dishes), combine buttermilk with baking soda.  Add to butter-sugar mixture and stir to combine.  In another small bowl, whisk cornmeal, flour, and salt to combine.  Stir into buttermilk mixture until few lumps remain.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 - 40 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.Allow to cool most of the way before removing from the pan.[...]

Nutella-Filled Chocolate-Nutella Cupcakes


Recently, we welcomed another niece into the family.  For the then mom-to-be's baby shower, we made cupcakes we knew the mommy would love: Nutella Cupcakes!  In this recipe, Nutella is mixed right into the batter.  The cake itself baked up wonderfully - light, fluffy and airy.  But I wanted to make sure that the nutella flavor was unmistakable and over the top, so I hollowed out the center of each cupcake and filled it with straight up nutella.  The chocolate-nutella cupcakes with the nutella center contrasted nicely with the vanilla buttercream frosting.  For a bit of decoration and added chocolate decadence, each cupcake was topped with a chocolate peanut butter heart.I will add more pictures soon so you can see the cupcakes in more detail.  For now, here is a sneak peek at how the cupcakes were all dolled up for this ultra girly, adorably pink baby shower.  What do you think of the personalized cupcake wrappers?  We made these to say "Welcome Mila" - our new niece's name.  These were our prototypes; these are not currently available for sale yet.  The baby shower guests loved them!  They wore them as tiaras when they were done with their cupcakes.  :) The simple addition of ribbon to the edges of a cupcake tower make for such an elegant display!Nutella-Filled Chocolate-Nutella Cupcakes adapted from Gimme Some OvenIngredients:1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature1 1/2 cups granulated sugar2 eggs, room temperature2 tsp vanilla extract1 1/2 cups all purpose flour1/2 cup hershey's special dark cocoa powder1 tsp baking soda1/4 tsp fine sea salt1/2 cup buttermilk1/2 cup lukewarm coffee1/4 cup nutellaAdditional nutella for filling (optional)Preheat to 375 and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners (around 24).  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the nutella.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla.In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk and coffee to combine.  Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk mixture.  Mix just until combined. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full with batter. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pan 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool the rest of the way.Once cupcakes are entirely cooled, using a sharp paring knife to cut a circle in the top of the cupcake.  (I do this by inserting the knife straight up and down in the cupcake center, and rotating the cupcake with my other hand.  The core will pop right out with a spoon… these are also a perfectly popable snack! :).  Scoop about 1/2 cup of nutella into a piping bag and fill the cupcakes with the nutella.My favorite vanilla buttercream frosting recipeIngredients:2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp4 cups confectioner's sugar2 tsp vanilla extractpinch of fine sea salt1/4 cup milk or heavy cream (optional)Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and turn the mixer on low.  Slowly add the confectioner's sugar.  When all the sugar is in, add the other ingredients: vanilla, salt, and if desired, the milk/heavy cream (this makes it a little creamier, but also slightly less stiff for piping. It tastes great both ways).Let mix on medium/high for 5 minutes.  Pipe onto completely cooled cupcakes with a piping bag.[...]

Biscoff Blossom Cookies


On our first business trip for The Smart Baker, we flew to California to visit a new distributor's facilities. It was also my first time ever in California. It was a trip full of firsts: first visit to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, driving through the mountains in California, going to Crumbs (actually, we happened upon the grand opening of the new LA location of Crumbs!), walking the Santa Monica pier and Venice Beach, and so much more.  While the trip was memorable for being the first Smart Baker business trip and our first trip to California together, it was always very memorable because it marks the occasion of my first BISCOFF COOKIE.  Flying home, they handed us each this little individually wrapped cookie … and I fell in love.  If you love Biscoff like me, you're sure to enjoy these cookies.  They are soft baked sugar cookies with   3/4 cup of biscoff spread mixed right into the dough.  I topped some of the cookies with a Wilbur Chocolate Bud, and others, I left without.   Both were completely wonderful, but I may have loved the ones without chocolate a little bit more. Biscoff Blossoms, adapted from Gimme Some OvenIngredients:1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp3/4 cup Biscoff spread1/3 cup brown sugar1/3 cup sugar1 large egg, room temp1 tsp vanilla extract2 cups flour1 tsp Baking soda1/2 tsp sea saltWilbur chocolate buds (or Hershey Kisses) optionalAbout 2/3 cups turbinado sugar for coatingPreheat the oven to 375 F.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter, biscoff, and both sugars.  Beat on medium-high until light and creamy (about 3-4 minutes).  Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add flour mixture into the butter mixture and beat until just combined.Roll dough to approximately 1 tablespoon sized balls.  Roll each ball in turbinado sugar and place on the parchment lined sheet approximately 2 inches apart.Bake until the cookies are just beginning to crack on the surface (around 10 minutes).  If topping with chocolate buds, gently press one into the center of each cookie immediately after removing from the oven.  After 5 minutes, remove to cool completely on a wire rack.  Also, if you happen to be reading this on the day it was posted (February 25, 2014) please be sure to tune in to CNBC tonight at 9pm eastern time to see our episode of Shark Tank!  [...]

Whole Wheat Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cinnamon Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting


With the holidays right around the corner, this is a great recipe to have in your back pocket.  Recently, I went to a little get-together and needed a quick and easy holiday treat.  I had a box of Whole Wheat Gingerbread mix from Hodgson Mill sitting in the pantry.  I'm generally kind of wary about any sort of baking mix, due to the chemicals and other weird things in the ingredients list.  Much to my surprise, when I looked at the ingredients list on the box of this Gingerbread mix, I saw only ingredients that I could easily pronounce… Whole grain whole wheat flour, molasses, brown sugar, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt and cloves.  Knowing everything in this mix was a normal baking ingredient I typically stock in my own pantry, I found this recipe for Whole Wheat Gingerbread Cupcakes on Hodgson Mill's website and set to work with no hesitation.   These have a wonderful texture, not something you'd expect from a whole wheat recipe.  And the little bit of cocoa added to the batter, along with the cinnamon brown sugar buttercream really make these something special. Whole Wheat Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cinnamon Brown Sugar Buttercream FrostingFor the cupcakes (makes 15 cupcakes)Ingredients:1 15oz box Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Gingerbread Mix2 tsp cocoa powder1 tsp baking powder1 tsp ground cinnamon1/4 cup light brown sugar1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly3 large eggs, room temperature3/4 cup water, room temperatureIn a medium bowl, whisk together the gingerbread mix, baking powder, cocoa powder and brown sugar, and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and eggs.  Using a large spoon, stir  the dry ingredients into the wet in three additions alternating with the water, beginning and ending with the dry mixture and stirring until it’s incorporated and the batter is smooth.  Fill a paper lined muffin tin ½ to 2/3 full with batter.  Bake cupcakes in a 350˚F oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Immediately remove the cupcakes from the pan and cool on a wire rack.  For the frostingIngredients:3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (1 1/2 sticks) 1/3 cup light brown sugarpinch of fine sea salt1/8 tsp vanilla extract1/2 tsp ground cinnamon3 cups powdered sugar1/8 - 1/4 cup milkIn a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy.  Add brown sugar, salt, vanilla and cinnamon beating until well incorporated.  Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time beating well after each addition.  One tablespoon at a time, add the milk and beat on high speed.  Add milk until the desired consistency is reached.  Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.[...]

Cracker Jack Snacks and a GIVEAWAY


for the Whole Wheat Pumpkin Crumb Muffin with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling and Salted Caramel sauce recipe, click here.Those Whole Wheat Pumpkin Crumb muffins with from my last post were the perfect fall or winter breakfast (or snack… at any time of the day).  That was one of those recipes when I was really sad when they were gone.  I think I'll be making them again soon.  I have so many other plans for the Hodgson Mill flours sitting in my pantry, too!Want to try baking with Hodgson Mill's flours for yourself?  The nice people are Hodgson Mill are nice enough to offer a Prize-Pack giveaway for one lucky Ice Cream Before Dinner reader!  One lucky winner will receive a $25 value of assorted Hodgson Mill products, your choice of choice of gluten free or whole wheat products.Also, don't forget!  Hodgson Will is also doing a  “25 Days of GRAIN Holiday” Sweepstakes - One winner will be selected to win every day for 25 days – winner's choice of $25 worth of gluten free products or an assortment of whole wheat baking mixes and flours!  Plus, they're offering a $1 off coupon, good for any 5LB bag flour or cornmeal ( Rafflecopter giveaway*Details and rules:Open to residents of the U.S. onlyGiveaway will end Friday, June 28, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST.Giveaway will be conducted via rafflecopter ( will be announced by Tuesday, July 2nd, 11:59 PM EST.Winner will be notified by email and will have until Friday, July 5th to claim their prize and provide their mailing address, after which, if the winner does not respond with their mailing address, another winner will be selected.Winner will receive 6 bags of the 3 assorted flavors of Cracker Jack snacks provided directly from Cracker Jack brand.Disclosure:  The Cracker Jack snack products were provided to me by Cracker Jack brand for my participation in this blogging/trial program.  Any and all opinions posted on this blog are based on my own experiences with the Cracker Jack brand products.  Cracker Jack brand provided the product for the giveaway for my review on this blog and for the giveaway.  I was not compensated for my participation.[...]

Key Lime White Chocolate Chip Cookies


Recently, we took a weekend trip to the Sarasota area.  It's only about 2 1/2 hours away, yet we had never made the relatively short journey over.  I'm glad we finally decided to spend some time there because we loved it there.  In just a few days, we visited Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Siesta Key, and Longboat Key.  Some of our favorite things from our trip involve food (obviously).  First, we thoroughly enjoyed visiting The Lollicake Queen and Perq, and meeting the wonderful, kind, creative minds behind the two establishments (more on that to follow in a later blog post).  We're a bit jealous of people who live in Sarasota and get to have their lollicake cake pops whenever they want!  As you can see, we enjoyed our fair share of lollicakes :)We also enjoyed wonderful dinners at Indigenous, Owen's Fish Camp, and breakfast at Station 400, all of which we'd love to go back to again! Second, we loved shopping at the Sarasota farmer's market.  WOW!  I wish we had something like this in our immediate area, I'd visit all the time!  It was bustling with friendly vendors, tons of customers, and lots and lots of goodies.  One thing we just couldn't resist was a pound of fresh key limes.  With them, we whipped up this batch of soft Key Lime White Chocolate Chip cookies.  These didn't last very long... always a good sign :)PS - Do you follow us on Instagram yet?  Whenever we go on Foodventures like these, we always post pictures along the way!  Soft Key Lime White Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from Cookie MadnessIngredients:1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature1 cup granulated sugar1 large egg + 1 large yolk, room temperature1 1/2 cup all purpose flour1 teaspoon baking powder1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt1/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice1 1/2 teaspoons key lime zest3/4 cup white chocolate chipsPreheat oven to 350 F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy.  Then, add the egg and yolk.  Beat.In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and sea salt to combine.  Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture.  Next, add the lime juice and zest.  Add the chocolate chips and mix until just combined (do not over mix).  Roll dough until 1 to 1 1/2 inch balls and arrange on parchment lined baking sheets approximately 2 1/2 inches apart.  Bake for around 10 - 12 minutes or until edges just barely begin to brown.  [...]

Cowgirl Birthday Cupcake Tower


Here at The Smart Baker, we've made all different types of decorated cupcakes for parties.  Lately, rather than make a lot of time-consuming edible decorations I've been using Cupcake Picks as simple but chic cupcake toppers.  It is so easy to make the cupcakes match the theme of the party.  
This April was our niece Ella's 4th birthday, which she celebrated by having a party at the farm with a petting zoo and pony rides.  To go with the theme, we made her this Cowgirl Cupcake Tower.  There were chocolate and vanilla cupcakes in pink, blue and green gingham print liners, with contrasting color gingham cupcake picks with her name on them.

Highly Addictive Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark


I often make cakes, pies and tarts which require slicing before serving.  If someone wants a piece they need to very deliberately pick up a knife, grab a plate, slice and serve.  However, I really enjoy making things people can  casually snack on, too.  These things don't require knives for slicing, spoons for scooping, or even plates for serving.  These things can just be picked up and popped in one's mouth.  I think these types of things are usually the biggest hit (or at least the type with the least left over).  This is one of my top favorite "snacking" recipes.  It is pretty easy to prepare, and results in a bite-sized, sweet-n-salty, highly addictive snack.  I found this this recipe on Mama Say What!?  and I'm very glad I did, because this was thoroughly enjoyed by all who snacked on it.  My favorite way to enjoy it is straight out of the freezer!Salted Caramel Pretzel BarkIngredients:1/2 of a 1 lb bag of mini pretzels2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature1 cup lightly packed light brown sugar2 cups chocolate chips of your choice (I used semisweet)Fine sea salt (I always use Diamond Crystal)Preheat your oven to 350 F.Line a large jelly roll pan (or two 9x13 pans) with precut parchment paper.  Carefully, line the trays with the mini pretzels making neat rows, placing the pretzels right up against each other.  In a medium saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the brown sugar and stir.  Allow the sugar to dissolve and let it bowl gently just until it starts to stick to the bottom and it forms a nice smooth caramel.  Let it bubble and little and get nice and thick.Remove from heat, and pour evenly over the rows of pretzels.  Put in the preheated over for 5 minutes (this will help the caramel spread out even more evenly).  Remove from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top.  Place back in the oven for just 1 minute, and then spread the chocolate chips around with a offset spatula until mostly melted.  Sprinkle generously with sea salt, and allow to cool at room temperature for a few minutes.  Then place in the freezer for 2 to 3 hours, until completely frozen.  When frozen, break it up into pieces and serve.  (I like to keep it in the freezer until I serve it).  [...]

Toilet Humor... Crap, You're Old cake


Most of the time, I make Princess cakes, or Lightning McQueen cakes, or cupcake towers themed with cute little jungle animals or smiling ladybugs.  Recently, however, I made a cake quite different from the adorable desserts we're used to making.  We were requested to make a toilet shaped "Crap, You're Old" cake for our brother in law's 40th birthday... complete with a baby ruth sitting in the bowl.  Take a look for yourself... if you have a strong stomach.  Weak stomached readers, you may want to press the back button on your browser and skip this post. :)To create this unique shape, we used many different sizes and shapes for the baking pans.For the tank: We made two 8 inch square cakes, cut them in half and stack them on top of each other (making a four layer 8x4 inch cake)For the bowl: We did a two layer 8 inch round cake and carved down the sides to get the curvature at the bottom where it meets the base.  For the base under the bowl: We used one 6 inch round cakeAll of the cakes were frosted and covered in white fondant.  To make the blue "water" for the inside of the bowl, we simply tinted clear piping gel with food coloring and piped it into the bowl.  To make the... err.... "present" in the bowl, we microwaved a Baby Ruth candy bar for a few seconds and shaped it a little bit.  The cake was a pretty big hit at the party.  We asked the question "Funny or just gross?" on The Smart Baker's Facebook page and there were some pretty strong feelings about this one.  There were just as many people that thought it was hysterical as those who felt it was just too gross to eat.  What do you think?  Would you make this cake?  And would you actually eat it if it was served at a party? [...]

Sweet and Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


Are you into the Sweet and Salty trend?  We so completely are.  Every recipe I make includes fine sea salt in one way or another.  This new recipe, however, take it to a whole other level.  This is like a cross between a potato chip and a chocolate chip cookies... in a good way.  It has the sweet and chewiness of a oatmeal chocolate chip cookie combined with the salty addictiveness of a potato chip - I definitely "could not stop at just one".

*The basic oatmeal chocolate chip cookie dough recipe is formed into balls which is then rolled in a combination of Sugar in the Raw and fine Sea Salt.  The original recipe called for 1 1/2 Tablespoon of salt, but I found that to be just too much.  So, in the recipe below I reduced it to 1/2 Tablespoon.  If you find it to too salty / not salty enough, simply adjust the recipe to fit your tastes.

Sweet and Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies adapted from My Kitchen Addiction
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup raw sugar (such as Sugar in the Raw)
1/2 Tablespoon fine sea salt* (see note about salt amount above)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Add in egg and beat until smooth.  Add the corn syrup and vanilla, and beat until fully incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whisk to combine oats, flour, baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, mixing on low until the batter comes together.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Towards the end of chilling, preheat the oven to 375 and line several cookie sheets with pre-cut parchment.  In a small dish, combine raw sugar and fine sea salt.  Roll cookie dough balls to about 1 inch, and roll each in the sugar-salt mixture.  Using your palm or a flat spatula, press down gently to slightly flatten.  Bake 8 - 10 minutes or until edges are just barely golden - do not over bake!  Cool on pan about 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Berry Key Lime Cheesecake with Greek Yogurt


Sometimes, you just need a cheesecake.  Wouldn't you agree?  It's great when said cheesecake is made with Greek Yogurt, so even when you're indulging you can feel just a little bit better about it.

I'm kind of picky about my cheesecake.  I'd rather not eat it if it's not amazing.  Mediocre cheesecake isn't really worth it for me.  Next time I'm feeling cheesecake, I think I'll go the Greek Yogurt route again because it lent the cake such a wonderful texture.  It was nice and light, unlike some heavy dense cheesecakes I've eaten.  The flavor from the flavored greek yogurts (raspberry and key lime) was noticeable but not over the top strong.  Overall this was a great (and SUPER SUPER easy!!) dessert.  We had no problem getting rid of the left overs.

Berry Key Lime Cheesecake, from Oikos
Crust -
9 Graham Crackers
2 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
4 Tbspn butter, melted
Filling -
2 (5.3 oz) single serve containers of Dannon Oikos Key Lime Greek Yogurt
2 (5.3 oz) single serve containers of Dannon Oikos Raspberry Greek Yogurt
4 eggs, rom temperature
1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 Tbsp All Purpose Flour

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse graham crackers, sugar and butter.  Pat the mixture into the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine key lime yogurts with 2 eggs, 2 Tbspn flour and half of the sweetened condensed milk.  If desired, add food coloring.
In a separate bowl combine raspberry greek yogurts with 2 eggs, 2 Tbspn flour and half of the sweetened condensed milk.  If desired, add food coloring.
Pour Berry mixture on top of the crust.  Then slowly pour the key lime mixture on top of that.  Swirl with a knife if desired.
Bake a 250 F for 30 - 40 minutes, until the center of set and edges are fully cooked.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or over-night before serving.

Apple Cinnamon Blondies


Hard to believe all the Holiday hub-bub is over.  Yesterday, we took down our Christmas tree and put away the last of the decorations.  I always feel a tiny bit sad when we do that, though it is nice to get that corner of the living room back.  Is everyone still in sugar shock from Holiday parties and dinners?  That's just not possible for us over here.  So if you're like me and you're not in a giving-up-sugar stage, then you may want to make these Apple Cinnamon Blondies.  It has all the comforting homeyness of apple pie, but is much much easier.  The end result is a moist, sweet, flavorful blondie that is just begging to be enjoyed with a scoop of ice cream on top :)  We put Sea Salt Caramel Gelato on top and that may just be one of the best decisions we made all week. Apple Cinnamon Blondies adapted from Baked by RachelIngredients:1 1/2 cups lightly packed light brown sugar1 stick unsalted butter1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour1 teaspoon fine sea salt1/2 teaspoon cinnamon1/2 teaspoon baking powder2 large eggs, room temperature1 teaspoon vanilla extract1 1/2 cups chopped granny smith apple, skin on (approx. 1 medium apple)1/2 cup cinnamon mini baking chips (I used King Arthur Flour)Directions:Pre-heat oven to 350; spray a 9.5-inch tart pan with non-stick cooking spray, and line 1 small baking dish (1 cupcake, 1 mini springform, etc.) with parchment and set on a large cookie sheet (this way if anything drips, it will fall on your cookie sheet and not the bottom of your oven).  Set aside.Melt butter and brown sugar in a heavy duty saucepan over medium heat stirring constantly; remove from heat and set aside.In a medium bowl, whisk flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. In a separate large bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla.  Add melted butter and sugar mixture and whisk until combined. Slowly whisk in dry ingredients just until combined. Fold in chopped apples and cinnamon chips.Pour batter into prepared baking pans and place cookie sheet in pre-heated oven for 25-35 minutes or until a knife comes out clean from center.  The small baking dish will most likely be finished a few minutes ahead of the 9.5 inch tart pan, so keep an eye on it.  Allow to cool almost entirely in the pan.  When ready to cut, separate pan by carefully running a knife around the edges and then pushing up from the center of the bottom of the pan.[...]

Best Rolled Sugar Cookies


Do you and your family decorate cookies for the holidays?  I'm not sure if it is the extra humidity in the air here in Florida, or if it is my short temper with all things that involve a rolling pin, but the process of rolling out cookies is not one that usually occurs without some kicking and screaming.  No matter how much flouring of the rolling pin and the counter that goes on, and no matter how thorough and frequent the dough chilling is, everything always sticks to what it is not supposed to and the cookie cutters never work like they're supposed to.  So, Daniel and I have developed the slightly wasteful yet much less frustrating and MUCH quicker method of using cookie cutters.  I wish I had taken pictures along the way, but I'll just have to explain as best as I can...Chill your cookie dough in the refrigeratorRoll out cookie dough in between two sheets of Pre-Cut parchment that fit the size cookie sheet you are using. (By rolling the dough between two sheets of parchment, you won't have to worry about the dough sticking to your rolling pin!). Put the cookie sheet back in the fridge to re-chill a little bit. (This step helps the top layer of parchment peel off easily and cleanly so it can be re-used).Place cookie sheet in the preheated oven to bake one large cookie the size of your cookie sheet.Immediately when your cookie dough is done baking, remove from the oven and slide the parchment to a heat-proof surface (I slide it on to our granite countertops).  While the cookie is still soft, use the cookie cutters to cut cookie shapes out of the baked cookie dough.Not only is this method quicker and easier, but you end up with tons of cookie scraps to eat! Ok, so it does "waste" some cookie dough, but I use the term "waste" lightly because Daniel and I ate the cookie scraps for days after.  Another nice thing about this method is that you don't have to worry about the cookie dough puffing during baking and ruining the cute cookie-cutter shape you worked so hard to cut.  What do you think?  Is this method too wasteful for you or do you think it would keep the peace during all of your holiday baking?  For me, I find it saves my sanity so it is worth losing a few cookies worth of dough due to the cookie scraps byproduct.  Cookie scraps!Anyway, this is a new-to-me cookie recipe that I'm quite happy with.  The cookies are nice and soft (a quality many people commented on, "how do you get them so soft??") and flavorful.  I'd say this is a very good basic sugar cookie recipe.The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies adapted from Allrecipes.comIngredients:1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened2 cups white sugar4 eggs, room temperature1 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract5 cups all purpose flour2 teaspoons baking powder1 teaspoon fine sea saltIn the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour.Place about 1/3 of the dough in between two 9x13 sheets of parchment paper.  Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Place dough back on a cookie sheet and place in the fridge for a few moment to re-chill the dough and allow the top layer of parchment to peel off cleanly. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake cookies about 8 to 12 minutes or until the dough just barely starts to brown at the edges.  Remove from oven, slide the parchment on to a heat proof surface such as granite countertops or a wooden cutting board and immediately cut the soft cookie into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place on a cooling rack to cool completely.  [...]

Little Girl Cupcake Towers


Not sure why I never posted these photos!  In April, both of our nieces have their birthdays.  This year, we celebrated a third birthday, and the girl of honor wanted a pink and purple Princess themed Cupcake Tower.  This is the Princess Cupcake Tower we made for her big day:We used an 8 inch cake as the top tier...And cupcakes with paper and fondant toppers as the next two tiers...We also celebrated a first birthday!  For this, we made an Owl theme cupcake display with a similar color scheme. This is the Owl First Birthday Cupcake tower we created for this special little girl...This one had a 6 inch cake as the top tier with a fondant Owl and a fondant One cupcake topper.  The cupcakes all have little fondant flower toppers, too. For both of these, I used The Smart Baker's Five Tier Round Cupcake Tower.  It was so much fun to work with such girly colors and themes!  I'm so excited to continue using their girly party themes as cake inspiration as the years go on![...]

Soft Gingerbread Blossoms


I live practically across the street from a grocery store.  Two grocery stores in fact.  They're less than a 1/4 of a mile away.  Many, many times I have had to turn the kitchenaid mixer off while preparing a dough or batter to make a quick run to go get more eggs or milk that I forgot to buy.  Case in point - these cookies.  I didn't realize until the last minute, after 4 hours of dough chilling, that I needed white chocolate chips to stuff in the freshly baked cookies.  At this point, it was already getting "late" (well, late for me) and I needed to have these finished for work the next day.  Ug!  But luckily, I'm able to hop on over to the store and be back in the kitchen baking within 10 minutes.  Over the almost 5 years of living in this house, I would have ruined many a bowl of batter if I didn't live so close.  Anyone else do this?  I do it a few times a month!These cookies are definitely worth a trip to the grocery store, even if it's more than 1/4 mile away.  They are soft and tender, and not overly gingery or molassesy.  They're more like a hybrid of gingerbread and a snickerdoodle.  Even non-gingerbread lovers enjoyed these cookies.  Perfect for the upcoming holidays!  Maybe these will find their way to your cookie platters this season.  Gingerbread Blossoms adapted from Culinary Concoctions by PeabodyIngredients:3 cups flour2 tsp. ground ginger 1 tsp. ground cinnamon1 tsp. baking soda1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg1/4 tsp fine sea salt1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar1/4 cup molasses1/4 cup maple syrup1 egg1/4 cup granulated sugar1 tsp. pure vanilla extractapprox. 1 cup white chocolate chipsIn a large bowl, whisk to combine flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt.Beat butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.Add molasses, maple syrup, egg and vanilla; beat well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed. Wrap top of bowl in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours.Preheat oven to 350°F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies just barely begin to brown. Immediately press about 5-6 white chocolate chips into center of each cookie. Allow to cool completely.[...]

Chocolate Truffle Cookies with Sea Salt


Today is October 28th.  Halloween is just around the corner... and there are already Christmas decorations and advertisements all over the stores and TV.  It does feel like Fall gets a little bit rushed, especially after Halloween is over.  Oh well, might as well start planning those Christmas cookies now then, right? :)These unique Chocolate Truffle Cookies would be a great addition to any Christmas cookie platter.  They have a nice shiny "crust" (similar to the top of a brownie) and the inside has a texture that combines a chocolate cookie, a rich fudgy brownie, and a chocolate truffle.  And BONUS - they're super easy to make.  do you see the napping doggy in the picture above?Chocolate Truffle Cookies with Sea Salt, adapted from GhirardelliIngredients¼ cup all purpose flour¼ teaspoon baking powder¼ teaspoon salt1 ½ cups dark chocolate chips2 tablespoon unsalted butter2 eggs, room temp½ cup granulated sugar1 teaspoon pure vanilla extractfine Diamond Crystal sea salt for sprinklingadditional 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (optional) for mixing into prepared doughPrepare cookie sheets with Precut Parchment paper. Set aside.In the top of a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter until smooth. Turn off the heat and let chocolate sit over warm water. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt and mix to combine. In another bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs.  Slowly add the warm chocolate mixture. Stir to combine. Add vanilla and mix. Stir in flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated, do not over mix. If adding chocolate chips to the batter, allow to cool for a few minutes (if batter is too warm, the chocolate chips will melt). Stir in chocolate chips. Then chill for at least 10-15 minutes.Preheat oven to 350°F. Scoop rounded tablespoons of batter and place on prepared cookie sheet. Sprinkle each cookie lightly with sea salt. Bake for approximately 7-8 minutes until the outside looks slightly cracked. Do not over bake because they will continue to bake a little as they cool once removed from the oven. Cookies should be soft and gooey in the center.[...]

Friday Giveaway!


It's Facebook Friday Giveaway time! We are excited to announce our first super duper collaborative Giveaway from The Smart Baker AND Just Sugar Coat It. Just Sugar Coat It, the place for all things baking, carries baking cups, cookie cutters, tulip cups, and individual cupcake stands and much more! Check out some of the goodies they carry and enter for your chance to win a $40 credit to Just Sugar Coat It. All you have to do is go to and comment on our facebook post with what you would get from them if you won the gift certificate AND like them on Facebook ( While you’re there be sure to enter their giveaway for your chance to win a $40 credit from The Smart Baker. Winner will be announce on Friday Nov. 2nd, so get your entry in. (Winner will be chosen at random and must comment on this post and be a "liker" of Just Sugar Coat It)Also, Facebook has recently changed how fan pages are able to reach out to their audience. Only about 10% of our fans are currently receiving posts. TO CONTINUE TO RECEIVE OUR POSTS, move the mouse near the "Like" button on the gear symbol ... Click on it and select "ADD TO THE INTEREST LISTS"...This will allow you to continue receiving our posts. Thanks everyone![...]

Honey Corn Muffins


When I was younger, I lived on Entenmann's Corn Muffins.  My mom would cut them in half, butter then, and put them in the broiler until they were perfection.  The little brown toasty bits at the edges were my favorite, I'd pick those off and eat those first.  Sometimes, instead of those corn muffins, I'd eat Thomas' Toast R Cakes Corn Muffins (or as little Stephanie referred to them, "flat corn muffins").  I guess you could have called my younger self a mass produced corn muffin connoisseur. Grown-up Stephanie still appreciates a good corn muffin.  I'm not going to pretend I didn't ask my mom to pick up a box of my beloved flat corn muffins when I went home to NY this past summer.  But for some reason, I've never made them from scratch before.  After baking this recipe from Baked Explorations, I have no idea why, seeing as they were so quick to throw together.  This recipe baked up delicious little corn muffins.  I'm not sure I'll ever need to try another recipe since this one was just so good.  Buttery with a perfectly dense crumb.  I ate one (or two) plain without butter or honey, but I think if I were to toast and butter one up, I might just experience flashbacks to my afternoons after getting home from Kindergarten sitting on the couch in my den watching Match Game re-runs.  Rather than baking them in standard cupcake liners, I used these adorable mini brioche style liners from Just Sugar Coat It.  Instead of 12, I was able to get 18 small muffins (perfect size!).  Let me tell you, I love these liners! They are stiff and hold up well, and make something as plain as a corn muffin look quite fancy.For the recipe, look to Baked Explorations, or Karen's Cookies Cakes and More. Make sure you visit the blogroll and see how these muffins came out for the other Club Baked bakers. [...]

Brown Butter Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars


Are you a soft, chewy cookie person or a crunchy person?  I'm both (darn. I just love cookies) but Daniel is a soft cookie person true and true.  We both love cinnamon so soft cinnamon-sugary Snickerdoodles are a favorite around here.  But to be honest, a lot of the time I am just too lazy to individually roll each dough ball in cinnamon sugar.  It takes a while and I usually make quite the mess in the process (though, to be fair, I make a mess in the kitchen no matter what I'm doing).  So recently when I was in the mood for snickerdoodles but just couldn't get the motivation to go through the cinnamon sugar rolling process, I decided to just press the dough into a 8 inch cake pan.  What a beautiful decision that turned out to be because these Snickerdoodles came out nice and tall and soft.   Lesson learned - take the easy, lazy way out and sometimes, just sometimes, it works out.Brown Butter Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars, adapted from BAKED Elements, Matt Lewis and Renato PoliafitoIngredients:2 sticks unsalted butter2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour2 ½ tsp cream of tartar1 tsp baking soda1 Tablespoon plus 2 tsp. cinnamon, divided¾ tsp freshly ground nutmeg½ tsp fine sea salt2 large eggs, room temp1 Tablespoon whole milk1 cup plus 3 Tablespoon granulated sugar, divided½ cup firmly packed light brown sugarIn a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat swirling the pan occasionally until the foam subsides and the butter browns, about 8 to 10 minutes. Pour the browned butter through a strainer directly into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the butter on low speed to release the heat and bring it to room temperature, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, tartar, baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.In a small bowl, combine eggs and milk.  Whisk lightly.Once butter has cooled, turn off mixer and add 1 cup of the granulated sugar and the brown sugar, and beat on medium for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again for a few seconds. Turn the mixer to low and stream in the egg mixture, continue beating on medium until thoroughly combined.Add the flour mixture in three parts, beating after each addition for 10 to 15 seconds, or until just barely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and gather the dough into a mound in the middle. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 inch cake pan with pre-cut parchment paper.Gently press the cookie dough into the prepared cake pan.  In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of cinnamon until the mixture is uniform in color.  Sprinkle over the cookie dough.  Bake until a cake tester inserted into the dough comes out clean.  I think mine took about 20 minutes, but I would start checking at about 15 minutes if you want a soft, not dry cookie.Set the pans on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Use the parchment tabs to lift the cookie out of the pan and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.[...]

Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake with Caramel Rum Frosting


Burnt Sugar cake?  I've never tasted anything with "Burnt" intentionally in the name (though I've sampled my share of accidentally "burnt" recipes).  The title had me intrigued.  Browed butter (which is kind of "burnt" I guess) adds a delicious nutty flavor to recipes, so I thought Burnt Sugar must do something similarly magical, right?In this recipe from Baked Explorations, the directions said to melt sugar (just sugar) slowly on medium heat on the stove top.  I was a little scared that I'd burn it, even though the recipe is called "Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake".   I think I've always had something else in with the sugar when I've melted it, like corn syrup or water so the idea of melting sugar and sugar alone had me concerned.  But my fears were all unwarranted because it really was simple.  The sugar melted slowly and without one single problem.  It turned into a delicious smelling caramel after the addition of coconut milk, heavy cream and lemon juice.The rest of the cake went off without a hitch, too.  Half of the homemade caramel is added right into the cake batter, and the other half is turned into a frosting (though mine was much runnier, and more of an icing or a glaze than a frosting).  With a somewhat intimidating sounding title, the cake really was pretty easy to put together.I let it rest for one day before serving it (willpower!).  We found it deliciously simple, and I mean that in a good way.  The cake itself it is like a moist, but not at all dense pound cake with a subtle taste of caramel/burnt sugar.  The frosting is very sweet and compliments the cake perfectly.  Everyone will enjoy the flavor of this cake, even the kiddies if you choose to make the caramel rum frosting into a caramel vanilla frosting like I did...simply use 1 tsp pure vanilla instead of 2 Tbsp rum.  Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake RecipeIngredientsFor the Burnt Sugar Liquid½ cup granulated sugar½ cup heavy creamapprox. 3/4 cup coconut milk1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juiceFor the Bundt Cake3 cups all-purpose flour1 teaspoon baking powder½ teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon salt1 ¼  cups unsalted butter (2 ½ sticks), room temperature2 cups granulated sugar4 large eggs, room temperature1 teaspoon pure vanilla extractBurnt Sugar Liquid (see above)For the Caramel Rum Frosting1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter2 tablespoons dark rum (OR 1 tsp pure vanilla extract for an alcohol free version)2 1⁄3 cups confectioners’ sugarBurnt Sugar Liquid (see above)Make the Burnt Sugar LiquidIn a medium saucepan over medium heat, slowly melt the sugar. Use a wooden spoon to stir it continuously to ensure even melting. When the sugar turns a dark caramel color, remove the pan from the heat and slowly stream in the cream while continuing to stir (don’t worry if mixture starts to clump). Return the pan to medium heat and stir until completely combined; cook for 2 minutes longer, stirring. Transfer the burnt caramel mixture to at least a 2-cup heatproof liquid measuring cup (like Pyrex) and add enough coconut milk to make 1 1/4 cups liquid. Add the lemon juice. Whisk to combine, divide the mixture in half, and set both portions aside.Make the Bundt CakePreheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously spray the inside of a 10-inch Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray; alternatively, butter it thoroughly, dust it with flour, and knock out the excess flour. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Se[...]