2010 is almost a memory, and what remains is mostly the bitter-sweet disassembling of Christmas.  I've been finding pieces of packaging shrapnel from eager gift opening and the odd half-eaten piece of Christmas candy (a sure sign of overindulgence).  For me, these days-after feel a little awkward, but reflecting on the year fills my glass half-full again.  So many amazing things happened, and I am hopeful that 2011 will be even better!

I may even have a resolution or two.  Do you?

Though I'll miss the ornaments and lights, these cupcakes have plenty of sparkle to welcome in the new year.  They are festive little parcels that carry bright, fruity notes of champagne.

This will be brief.  I know you're probably just as busy as I am with Christmas a mere week away.  I can hardly believe how fast time has flown by this year!

While the weather outside has been truly frightful, (check out our ice-encased trees!) my kitchen has been cozy and delightful.  Here are a couple of easy Christmas treats that have warmed my home.

Edit: I nearly forgot! I'm blogging for Pixiq now!  I'll be doing future postings of food photography 101 and food styling tutorials. You can find my first article here.

This holiday season I've been baking more than ever, and my appliances are either rebelling or flat out giving up the ghost.  My Kitchen Aid mixer started making an unfamiliar noise yesterday, and my poor cheapo food processor died last week.  It's untimely demise was from the thick batter of a viking cake I'm making for the upcoming book.  Apropos, don't you think?

I don't even want to talk about my mini chopper (R.I.P.).  I really loved that thing.

Though I've clearly had some trials, I've not lost much time working.  I've got a really great support system, and Mr. Baird is handy indeed.  So, onward to the cake!

I've had the idea for this cake for some time now.  While thumbing through some old favorite recipes I came across the beloved Jello "poke cake".  This is my version, and though it's not made from a box mix, it's still pretty easy to put together.  In place of the jello, pomegranate juice and sugar are simmered together to make a syrup that soaks into the white cake layers. It reminds me of the sweet-tart flavor that a jam cake has.

I frosted the cake with cream cheese icing, but you could switch it out for buttercream if you prefer.

Many of you may already have this delicious cookie in your recipe arsenal.  It's an old favorite of mine, and their snowy appearance makes them perfect for Christmas festivities.  I like to compare them to Pecan Sandies, except they are softer and all the more lovely with a generous coat of confectioners' sugar.  The best part?  They are so easy to make!

Milk and cookies for Santa.
The icicle candy is a little more challenging.  Preparing the candy mixture is easy enough because you make it in the microwave.  I was worried because  (me) + (candy making) - (candy thermometer) =  disaster².  I'm not kidding.  I was sure I'd have a big lump of sugary mess stuck to the bottom of my glass measure.  In spite of my phobia, everything went as indicated in the recipe text.  The most challenging part is cutting the candy into strips and twisting them before they harden.

These are really pretty and would make a neat homemade gift.  If you plan to make them for this purpose then I would suggest making a trial batch.  You will learn much the first time around.  I fumbled with re-heating the candy and I twisted some of the candy too tightly.   Now that I know what I'm doing,  I'm ready to make my second batch!  I think they'd be cute in cello bags tied with pretty ribbon.

The weather was just a bit chilly last Saturday but I couldn't resist a walk in the woods behind our house. The fall canopy was so beautiful that I decided to grab my camera and set up a little impromptu dessert table.  It was the perfect backdrop for a new dessert.

I was asked a few weeks ago by Walker's Shortbread if I'd like to receive some of their products for recipe development.  Are you kidding me? I love shortbread!  In fact, I like to say that it saved my life when I traveled through part of Scotland feeling rather ill. It was the only thing that settled my stomach.

I love the Walker's brand, and if  you're not familiar with them then I must tell you, their shortbread is the best!  Just read the ingredients on the side of the box: wheat flour, butter, sugar, salt.   That's it folks!

Being on the cusp of the Christmas hustle and bustle, I decided to develop a festive eggnog pudding recipe and layer it between buttery shortbread crumbs.  It tastes much like an eggnog pie.

Poaching fruit is one of my favorite things to do when cold weather arrives.  It's so warming to stand over a boiling pot of fragrant spices and lose yourself in thought.  When I made these, I couldn't help but daydream as I stirred;  if I were a pear... I wouldn't want to spend my days on the shelf of a cold produce department.  I'd want to be taken to a warm home and placed in a jacuzzi of honey and spices.  I'd want to be wrapped in an extra long puff pastry scarf and baked until golden and toasty.

That sounds a little silly, but that's what I'd want... if I were a pear. 

The idea for these came from the Pepperidge Farm website.  They looked so much like little bee hives that I decided to poach them with honey. 

On a personal note, our Christmas tree is already up courtesy of  Mr. Baird.  I have (gratefully) been inundated with projects and handed the tree decorating baton over to him.  I am ashamed to say that I was hesitant to do this. I'm a little obsessive when it comes to decorating, and my past Christmas trees have been a little too "department-store looking" (his words).  I must say, his new ornament choices are charming, and have an almost Scandinavian feel.  I love it!

This biscuit post has been a long time coming.  Week after week, as I've decided on new blog entries I would always consider the beloved southern-style biscuit.  I dismissed it often because it seemed too daunting a task.  Why?  As a born-and-raised southerner, how could I possibly put into words something so deeply woven into the fabric of my life?  How could I tell you what my Grandmother's biscuits tasted like without also telling you about childhood summers on the farm, bottle feeding baby calves, gathering the daily eggs from nesting hens...

... falling and breaking said eggs and never once being chided for it; having tears wiped away and then being fed buttermilk biscuits with homemade apple butter.


I can't help but get a little misty-eyed, and simultaneously feel silly for having such emotion for the humble biscuit.  Clearly, it's more to me than just flour, fat and buttermilk.  It's the memory of happy times and a grandmother's love. As silly as I may feel, I know I'm not alone.  The countless blog-writers dedicated to the celebration, sharing and heritage of their own foods is perhaps the strongest testament to that.

I'm so happy to be able to share my regional food with you.  Just as I indulge my inner Parisian with financiers and the like, (but mostly by slaughtering their language) I hope you'll indulge your inner southerner with one of these down-home favorites.

Another food that is a big part of southern heritage is chocolate gravy.  It is a depression-era recipe that was most commonly eaten on big flaky biscuits for breakfast or dessert.  Although it stems from meager beginnings, it is absolutely indulgent!  My Aunt Grace would make this often and I'd always get excited to see it on her breakfast table. Chocolate for breakfast is a kid's dream come true, and  I must admit, I still find it quite exciting!

This past week I've pondered (as I convalesced *sniffle) what this little bake space is deficient of regarding well-loved desserts.  I had the startling realization that there is no brownie post to speak of!  I love them. What kind of show am I runnin' here anyway?

I decided if I was to attempt brownies while not feeling great, they would have to be well worth the effort.  There was no other way to make myself rise from the comfy indentation I had made in the couch. 

Oh, how I love this recipe.  It's one of the easiest I've ever made and it couldn't be more delicious.  I've been making the plain cream cheese version of this recipe for years and I've just recently concocted a pumpkin spice version.  It's a perfect little parcel of fall flavors and super easy to whip up when entertaining, especially as an easy breakfast for overnight guests. 

Before I get to the recipe, I'd like to tell you about this book!  Months ago I entered the Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest, where any submitting food blogger with a popular voted recipe could win a chance to be published.  The winners were chosen and then announced at the International Food Blogger Conference this year, and although I wasn't in attendance to hear the good news, I was notified soon after that I would be included!

This big, beautiful cookbook is chock-full of inspiration and delicious food from all over the world.

For Halloween this year I've decided to do a post about something that I find truly scary.  Spiders!  

Though I admire their handiwork, accidentally walking into a spider's web is a traumatic experience. (This happened recently, and I have yet to fully recover!)  As fall creeps in, it is more and more evident that these little guys are super busy.  I'm finding webs on my porch railing, on the hedgerow and worst of all, across the walkway to my house.  Going to the mailbox now requires a thorough inspection and at times, a broom.

All that spinning inspired me to do some of my own.  In this recipe, I've spun sugar across overturned bowls to create a candy spider's nest.  Below the sticky landscape I placed delicious "spider eggs" (cream puffs) that are filled with berry pastry cream and rolled in powdered sugar. 

I'll be the first to admit that I've been to Starbucks a little too often since the Pumpkin Spice Latte has been back on the market. There's something so lovely about spiced coffee... it makes you feel cozy and assures you that fall has truly arrived.  I've been so impressed with the many food bloggers who have tried their hand at a copycat recipe, and there are a few I can't wait to try. (Like this one!)

Needless to say, this dessert was inspired by that same cozy drink, and it was an instant favorite at my house.  I'll be bringing one (or two?) home for the Thanksgiving table this year.

Churro congratulates you #9 Megan Pires!!!

I will contact you today for delivery information.  Bakery item winners will also be contacted today via email!

Thanks to everyone who participated, and especially to those who shared special birthday memories!  I love every single one and I'd like to share a few of my favorites:

jilleh said...
My best Birthday cake was when I was seven..my mum spent hours making a doll cake, you remember those with a doll figure inside and the dress was the cake? I ran into my room and cried I was so happy. What I wouldn't do to go back to those times!

squirrelbread said... 
 ...it might sound silly, but my favorite cake was always a simple chocolate bundt i'd request from my dad. he would let me help make it from scratch. sometimes we'd top it with thick, rich chocolate frosting, sometimes we'd dust it with powdered sugar, and sometimes we'd leave it plain. i think it was more baking it with him that was special to me.

MerBella said...    
My favorite memory of my birthday and the cake I enjoyed was on my 10th year on this planet. I spent it with my beloved 94 year old grandmother on her patio on a warm, summery day. She had a delicate lemon custard tart special ordered from the local French bakery. It was so special and the sweetest memory to date!!
I have no less than 50 other favorites, so I'll stop with these 3.  I've learned that oftentimes it's less about how the birthday cake looked or even tasted, it's more about the sweet memory of that place in time in our lives.  Thanks to everyone who made the Sprinkle Bakes birthday so special!

One year seems to have flown by, and in another sense it feels as if I've been blogging about sweet confections for... well, forever!  One might say that it's easy to savor life when you measure your year in desserts.

I knew that the Sprinkle Bakes birthday cake could be no less than sprinkle encrusted.  It's even sprinkled on the inside!  For several years I've requested a Funfetti cake for my birthday, but now I've worked out a recipe for a scratch made version.  It is made with buttermilk, so it's extra moist and not overly sweet - but you couldn't tell from looking at it.  It's a visual sugar rush!

What would a birthday party be without gifts?  One lucky reader will receive a beautiful LeCreuset cast iron casserole.  Because I heart you.

 "A casserole made for special occasions or year round use. The perfect size for baking potatoes or soufflés. Enameled cast iron heats quickly and retains heat beautifully. Limited lifetime warranty."

* Can be used in the oven or on the stovetop

*Enameled cast iron efficiently conducts and  retains heat  

*Heavy, tight-fitting lid; knob on lid is ovenproof to 450 degrees F 

*Holds 2 quarts

Also, 12 of you will get a special baked treat delivered to your doorstep!  I wish I could tell you exactly what it is, but I will say that the recipe comes from my baking book that is due out next fall.  So, consider it a sneak peek at things to come!

(Contest entry form is at the bottom of this post.)

Apple season is here, and I love to see local harvests displayed at the market.  This small variety caught my eye, and I knew right away that they were destined for a candy coating.

Candied apples have a special place in my heart.  They bring back childhood memories of state fairs and playful times.  They are also incredibly beautiful and have an almost fairy tale magic with their glass-encased appearance.  Today I went foraging for twigs under the big oak tree on our property and came away with an interesting bunch of knobby stems.  I think they make a charming replacement for the standard Popsicle stick.

After covering the entire batch of apples, I had a good amount of candy coating left over.  To my delight, it spun easily into wispy angel hair-like nests.

I panicked a little when I realized these mild September days are almost over. Where did July and August go?  I think I had a birthday this year, I just don't remember what transpired.  In truth, the mid summer months were too hot to enjoy.  September has been temperate, and it makes me sorry that I didn't emerge from my air-conditioned cave to see the ocean this year. 

Though fall baking is in my heart (and kitchen),  I feel that summer deserves one last hurrah, and these little barnacled Madeleines are the perfect way to soothe a land-locked soul.

It seems I have made it my personal mission to create cohesive marriages between foods that are separate entities, but are commonly eaten together.

Coffee, do you take Donuts to be your lawfully wedded wife(s)?  Of course you do.  You were made for each other!

The idea for this cake first came to me when I found this recipe, originally from Gourmet magazine. I figure 1389 reviewers can't be wrong.  If a whopping 91% would make it again, then I should at least try it once.  I'm happy to report I'll be adding my 4-fork review very soon!  The cake batter gets a good dose of brewed coffee, so I began searching for a complimentary coffee buttercream icing.  Amongst the searching I found a new baked donut recipe I was eager to try.  I decided to combine everything together in one big over-the-top cake - and what better pairing than coffee and donuts (...and chocolate cake and buttercream icing)?

This may be a tiny bit early but I figure, school's in and the weather is changing... it's time.  I've already started Autumnal baking.  This means cinnamon scents and pumpkin flavored treats are well underway.  Though I'm saving my pumpkin stash for goodies like this, I'll gladly take sweet potatoes as a very Southern stand-in. 

This was my first batch of Whoopie pies ever.  After mixing and piping the batter, the mounds looked suspect to run or spread out of shape while baking.  I was afraid my sweet potato substitution for pumpkin had failed.  I certainly didn't expect to get the perfect disks of cake that resulted. With the maple marshmallow filling,  they are like Little Debbie cakes on steroids.  Or maybe better.  They are extra soft and pillowy, and my first batch of assembled cakes were the size of Big Macs!  I scaled down the next batch by half.

With all the baking I've been doing lately for the book, there's always a bit of extra fondant or nonpareils hanging around here and there.  I decided to make jeweled flowers out of fondant and sanding sugar.  Just brush the surface of the fondant with water before you dip it in the sugar.  Glue them to the surface of the pies with a dot of icing.

You know the old saying "two heads are better than one"?  This was certainly the case when I collaborated with Bird,  the creator of Dog 'n Bird Artful Wedding.  Come check out her beautiful site and the recipe I developed for her innovative idea: The Wedding Toast Truffle.

Note: Several people have asked for the recipe because the Dog 'n Bird site is no longer in operation. A very nice commenter helped me locate the original truffle recipe. Enjoy!

Sprinkle Bakes' Wedding Toast Truffles      
                                                                                                                                 [click for printable recipe]
- 7 oz. high quality white chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup pink champagne such as KORBEL Brut Rosé
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- 1 tsp red flavored gelatin (strawberry or raspberry)
- Confectioners sugar
1. Pour the pink champagne into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until champagne has reduced to 1 teaspoon. Set aside and let cool slightly.
2. Set a heat proof bowl over a small pot of simmering water. Add the heavy cream and champagne reduction to the bowl and stir until combined and hot. Gradually add the white chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
3. Sprinkle over the gelatin and mix with a rubber spatula until combined. Mixture will thicken slightly and a little of the cocoa butter may rise to the top (pour this off). Cover and chill.
4. Check for firmness at 5-10 minutes. This mixture firms up quickly and should not be left in the refrigerator for too long.
5. Roll the scooped chocolate with your hands into small balls (about the size of a large grape) and roll into powdered sugar. Serve truffles in fancy candy foils with a glass of champagne for the toast.
Makes 12 small toasting truffles.

Even though I've been a busy girl lately, I'm never too busy for a doughnut break!  I especially love the mini variety.  These are extra light and have a double dose of vanilla goodness. 

The idea for these came from the Starbucks Birthday Cake Doughnut, a very dense doughnut that is eye-catching with pink icing and tiny white nonpareils.  Since my recipe turned out very light and fluffy (the exact opposite of Starbucks) I made them in my favorite shade of blue.  The texture was not at all what I expected from a baked doughnut.  I love them so much, I had to share!

Newborn baby doughnuts... aren't they cute?

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