Pumpkin Praline Cake

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Originally I was thinking that if Jesse wasn’t going to be home for Thanksgiving I would just fly back to Ohio. Unfortunately we found out too late and the cost of airlines tickets was outrageous. How annoying is it that the airlines can get away with charging so much more for tickets during the holidays? So I had to stay in San Diego for Thanksgiving.

Since a few friends were also staying in town, I decided to host a not-Thanksgiving dinner. Going in a completely different direction I planned a Mexican feast, complete with chicken enchiladas, shrimp enchiladas, black beans, and rice.The friends I had over were also at our turkey dinner 2 weeks earlier, so I don’t think they missed the traditional meal too much. And I have to say, I forgot how much I love enchiladas at home.

But when it came to dessert I couldn’t get the traditional pumpkin out of my head. I found this recipe and even though it didn’t really “go” with my theme, it was still awesome. Pumpkin cakes are always super moist, and the crunch from the pecans and the flavor of the caramel was perfect. And don’t even get me started on the cream cheese, whipped cream frosting fusion. Last minute I felt like the frosting needed a little kick so I sprinkled in some cinnamon and it was like heaven on a spoon when I tasted it.

Quick blog announcement: If you follow me on Facebook, then you already know this, but if you don’t (maybe you should :)) then I just want to share that starting Monday I am doing a week long feature on Christmas cookies! Stop by all next week for some Santa- friendly treats!


Pumpkin Praline Cake

Ingredients

Caramel Praline

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
3 Tbsp whipping cream
1 cup pecans chopped, and toasted

Cake
4 eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Frosting 4 ounces softened cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 – 1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter the parchment paper.

In a small sauce pan over low heat, stir together the brown sugar, butter and heavy whipping. Keep stirring occasionally until it has all melted together, about 5 minutes. Then divide the mixture between the two cake pans. Sprinkle the pecans into the cake pans, over the brown sugar mixture. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

In another bowl, with a hand held mixer (or standing mixer), beat together the eggs, vegetable oil and sugar until well blended. Slowly add the dry ingredients, and with the mixer on low speed, combine. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top of the cake is spongy and the edges start to pull away from the sides. Let the cakes cool in the pan or 5 minutes, then invert onto cooling racks*. Allow to cool until no longer warm to the touch, at least 1 1/2 hours, before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar until light and creamy. Add the whipping cream 1/4 cup at a time, beating on high speed until smooth, and scraping down sides of the bowl after each addition. After the last addition beat until it has the consistency of whipped cream. Finally stir in the cinnamon.

Frost the top of each cake then stack one on top of the other. Garnish with whole pecans.

Adapted from Beantown Baker

Red Velvet Cake

>As you slowly come out of your Thanksgiving food coma (or Black Friday shopping frenzy, for that matter) many of you are probably getting ready to shift into to Holiday gear. Now that Thanksgiving is over I feel like I can open up to you and confess that my tree has been up for 2 weeks. It’s always been my goal/tradition to put my tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving and this year we did ours early so, technically, my turkey was well respected. Plus I wanted Jesse to be able to enjoy it a little before he left for China. Oh, and my cats love it when the tree is up. They just curl up under the lights and sleep the days away. Just look at their little silhouettes.

I made this cake for a friends birthday, but how fun would this be at Christmas party? The festive white and red. Also, because our friend has a thing for cake balls, I saved a little cake batter and put it in a small ramekin and baked it, crumbled it and made a few cake balls to sit on top. Wouldn’t it be cool to roll them around in some sparkly sprinkles and make them look like snow balls? I know what I’m doing next time!


Red Velvet Cake

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 to 3 TBSP cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 tsp white vinegar
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
5/8 ounce bottle red food coloring (or 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp)
2-3 ounces white chocolate for melting and coating cake balls – optional

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter the parchment paper. Flour the pans (shake about 1 tablespoon of flour in each pan).

In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar, oil, eggs, and vinegar until light and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and beat to combine. While still beating, slowly add the buttermilk, then the vanilla and food coloring. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. To make the cake balls, reserve 1/3 cup of batter and place in a greased ramekin to be added to the oven in the last half of baking.

Bake the cakes for about 25 minutes, until the cake feels spongy and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then turn out the cakes onto the cooling racks.

Once the cake has cooled completely, place one of the cakes on a cake platter or cardboard circle, then spread 1/2 cup of frosting on top. Place the other cake on top and work the rest of the frosting over the top and sides of the cake. To make the cake balls, reserve a few tablespoons of frosting. Once the ramekin of cake has cooled, crumble the cake. Add the reserved frosting to the cake crumbles and shape into balls. Place in freezer for about 20 minutes. Then dip each of the balls into melted white chocolate and allow to cool/dry on sheets of parchment paper. Use any remaining cake crumbs (without frosting mixed in) to garnish the cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients
1 (8 ounce) block of cream cheese, softened
1 (4 ounce) stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 lb confectioners/powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 Tbsp milk
pinch of salt

Directions
Cream together the softened cream cheese and butter. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, increasing the speed as it becomes incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Before adding the last cup of sugar, add the vanilla, 1 tablespoon of milk, and pinch of salt. Beat to combine then finish adding the sugar. If the frosting seems too stiff, add the extra tablespoon of milk. If it seems too soft try adding a little more powdered sugar.

Cake recipe adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, Cream Cheese frosting as I always make adapted over time from many different sources


On a more somber note, if you have a minute to please say a prayer for a fellow food blogger, Annie of Annie’s Eats, her dad passed away very unexpectedly yesterday. I know he meant so much to her and by the way she has described him in her posts he sounded like a terrific man. Please keep her family in your thoughts as you celebrate this holiday with your families and give your loved ones an extra tight squeeze today. My heart is aching knowing this will be a rough road for Annie and her family.

Soft Pretzel Bites

I don’t think anyone will be more excited about this post than my dad. You see, last year, while I was living with my parents waiting to move to California, I made these pretzels to take to a friends house for some serious football watching. My dad had been telling me he wanted to learn how to bake bread and when he saw (and tasted) these he immediately said, “When can you teach me how to make these?!” I think he managed to wait 2 days before demanding to give them a try. Since that day he mentions “making pretzels” anytime we talk about food or cooking (which if you know me, you know happens often). And I know he was jealous when my sister and I told him we made them for Bayday during her visit.

When I taught my dad, I twisted the pretzels into sticks, but for Bayday Emilie and I cut them into bite size pieces that are perfect for snacking. I don’t know if that was a good idea or bad idea. These pretzels are already addicting, but when you can just pop one in your mouth any time you think about/see/smell them, you’re in trouble. They’re just that good. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!! (And as a bonus I’m including my recipe for Super Easy Beer Cheese, a-maz-ing with the preztels)

Soft Pretzel Bites

(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
2 egg whites
2 Tbsp butter, melted that has been cooled
Kosher salt, for topping
Parchment paper and cooking spray

Directions

In a measuring cup dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Set aside. (Mixture should become foamy, if it doesn’t your yeast may be bad or your water too hot)

In the bowl of a standing mixture fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, sugars, and salt on low speed. Turn off the mixer and pour the water/yeast mixture and melted butter into the bowl. Turn the mixer on and knead for 6-8 minutes until the dough is smooth. If the dough is too dry you can add extra water, a tablespoon at a time.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Remove the dough from the mixer and shape into a ball. Place the dough ball in the bowl, cover with a clean towel, and allow to rise for one hour (*or until double in size).

Towards the end of rising, preheat oven to 450 degrees and prepare baking sheets with parchment paper and cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the hot water and baking soda. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites and melted butter.

After the dough has risen, punch down the dough and then knead with hands for one minute. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide dough into 12 even portions. Now you can pick your shape. For pretzel bites roll each portion into a snake then cut the snake into bite size pieces, about 1 1/2 inches in width.

Dip the pieces in the baking soda water and place on the baking sheet (sometimes I dab the pretzels with a paper towel if they seem too wet). Brush each pretzel bite with egg whites/melted butter then sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake for 7-8 minutes, until browned.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

*I always let my dough rise in the (off) oven with the light on.

Beer Cheese Dip

(Sunny Side Up original)

Ingredients

6 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup good quality beer
1 Tbsp horseradish
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2-3/4 cups cheddar cheese, grated

Directions

Microwave cream cheese for 30-45 seconds until very soft. Stir in the beer, horseradish, and garlic powder. Microwave again for 30-45 seconds. Add the grated cheese and stir until smooth, microwaving again if necessary.

 

Cinnamon Rolls

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I think I have found the last Cinnamon Roll recipe I will ever need to try. I’ve been searching for a long time and I’ve tried several. In fact I posted a recipe on this blog not too long ago. But this recipe is exceptional. The dough was an absolute dream, smooth, sturdy, and elastic. I was worried at first because the dough seemed sticky, but I’m quickly learning that usually when I think a dough is too sticky to start it’s perfect after a good long first rise. A long rise may seem daunting, but think of all things you can do during that time. While waiting for this particular batch to rise I went shopping and had a slice of pizza at my new favorite pizza place, Hoboken (if I’m not going to make my own pizza at home, this is where I want to go!!). See how productive that time can be?

The other upside of this recipe is that it can be made ahead of time. I made these on Wednesday evening and froze them, Saturday night I set them out on the counter to defrost and rise. Makes me want to keep a batch in my freezer at all times, just for the those days when I need a cinnamon roll.

But the best part about these rolls is the final product. The roll itself is as close to perfect as the world will allow you to get. Texture, flavor, sweet to spicy ratio, it all gets a 10 in my book.

Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls
(Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, originally from America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Handbook)

Rolls-
3/4 cup buttermilk, warm (you can warm this in the microwave at 50% power for 1 minute)
6 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs
4 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt

Filling-
1 stick (8 oz) butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Frosting-
Disclaimer – I’ve never followed a strict recipe when it comes to cream cheese frosting. I start with cream cheese and butter and I add sugar and other flavors to match whatever I am making the frosting for. Sometimes I add brown sugar sometimes I don’t. For these rolls this is flavor combination I came up with and I thought it went perfectly with the rolls. I taste along the way and work until I like the flavor and consistency. Please use this ingredient list as a guide and create your own perfect frosting.
1/2 Block (4 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp buttermilk
1-2 cups confectioners sugar (depending on how runny/stiff you like your frosting)
1/4 cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla

In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the warmed buttermilk and butter. In the bowl of a standing mixer (fitted with a dough hook), combine 4 cups of flour, sugar, yeast and salt. With the mixer still running on low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and eggs. Run for 2 minutes until well combined, then increase the speed to medium and allow to knead for 10-15 minutes. If after a few minutes the dough continues to stick to the sides of the bowl add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time, just until it stops sticking. The dough will still feel slightly sticky to the touch.

Remove the dough from the bowl and set aside on a lightly floured surface. Wipe out, then spray the mixing bowl with cooking spray, or rub lightly with oil, return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 2 to 2 1/2 hours in a draft free warm place (I turn the light on in my oven and keep it in there with the door closed).

When the dough has doubled in size remove from the bowl and place on a clean floured surface. Knead with hands for 2-3 minutes and then allow to rest for 2 minutes (during this short rest combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl). After the short rest shape the dough into a rectangle then roll out to approximately 16 inches by 12 inches.

Spread the softened butter on the dough leaving 1/2 inch border all around. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the butter and use hands to lightly press the sugar into the butter.

Beginning with the edge closest to you, roll the dough into a tight log. Once rolled, even out the log by pulling gently and patting in the edges.

Cut 1/2-1 inch off of each side of the log to even the ends. Then cut the log in half with a serrated knife. Cut each half into thirds and then each third in half, so you end up with 12 even rolls. (In the illustration below, red, then orange, then green)

Prepare a 9×13 baking dish by placing a sheet of fitted parchment paper in the bottom of dish and spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Place rolls in pan, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 hour. This is also the point where you can freeze the rolls. Just be sure to cover tightly with plastic wrap and foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes, until the rolls are lightly golden on top and cooked through but not overly browned.

For the frosting, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and buttermilk. Starting with a slow spead, add the brown sugar, confectioners sugar, and salt, and beat until well combined. Stir in the vanilla.

Add the frosting to the rolls while they are still warm so the gooey goodness starts to absorb into the rolls.