I've always had the opinion that red wine and chocolate were made for each other, so when I happened upon a recipe for chocolate red-wine cupcakes, all my other baking plans flew out the window. Now, I'm no wine connoisseur, but I do have a favorite red.  I keep a bottle of Chianti squirreled away in my wine cabinet for special occasions.  I couldn't wait to see how it tasted in cake form.

The red wine flavor in the chocolate cake is subtle, so I felt punching up the Chianti taste with frosting was an absolute necessity.  I made a simple confectioners' icing with a wine reduction and finished it with a few tablespoons of Chianti strait from the bottle.  I've made these twice; once as full size cupcakes and once (shown here) as minis.  I loved the minis, and could imagine them lined up on a fancy platter for the perfect sweet bite at a cocktail party.

I love a good pumpkin cheesecake, and this one is especially good.  The recipe comes from Food & Wine's Best of the Best Cookbook Volume 10.  The first thing about this dessert that piqued my interest was the sugared pumpkin seeds. I've sugared pecans plenty of times at Christmas (a tradition) but never pumpkin seeds!  Why didn't I think of that?!
Sunflower seeds, you're next.

I appreciate the nuances of flavor in the crust; slightly nutty with the addition of pecans and just a hint of ginger. Every component of this cheesecake is well composed.  It does take a little time to make, but it's the real deal.

Embrace the beauty of the water-bath method.  It's so worth the effort.

This is a fun cake to make.  I made my first Battenburg cake this past spring, and I've been itching to make another ever since. If you love the bright flavor of almond (like me!), then you'll love this cake. It has plenty of eye appeal, and will give any holiday dessert table an infusion of brilliant color.  I couldn't resist baking up a "Batty" version in Halloween hues.

The ghoulish green libation is a very basic party punch recipe.  I'm willing to bet that every hostess with the mostess has a version of this dog-eared. On party night, you may want to have ingredients for two batches on hand.  It is always guzzled down to the last drop, and refilling the entire punch bowl may be necessary.

I'm aware that the food world has no shortage of pumpkin cupcake recipes, but I'm sharing this one anyway. It's my favorite because it doesn't err on the "muffiny" side.  It is truly a pumpkin cupcake, and I cannot recommend them enough.  Make them!  Need some convincing?

  • Sour cream.  It does magical things to cake batter.  Any cupcake with sour cream as an ingredient is my favorite cupcake, and this one has it. 
  • Brown butter is pretty amazing in anything, but mix it up with pumpkin and spices... swoon 
  • You won't even have to break out the electric mixer for the cake batter.  If you have a whisk, a large bowl and a spoon - you're good to go.
  • Cooked cinnamon frosting. From the Red Hook guys, no less.

I love Fall, but it can be bittersweet if you are a gardener. I am not a gardener, but my mother is one of the extraordinary sort.  Her lawn is always impeccable and her flower beds are award-winning (no kidding!).  Lately she's been hard at work pulling up annuals and cleaning out the remnants of her vegetable garden. While I was assembling this dessert, it occurred to me that this might be something she would want to make in the colder months, when she's lonely for gardening. Small pears remind me of  flower bulbs, and here they are poached and "planted" on ready-made puff pastry. Once baked and cooled, they are sprinkled with"soil" (chocolate shavings), and a sprig of mint on top gives the effect of emerging leaves.

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