When I sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday, I know there's going to be a little more butter and cream in the mashed potatoes. The cornbread stuffing will have an extra dose of love (read: bacon fat) and I'll help myself to second servings (maybe thirds) of my mom's famous garlic cheese grits.

Admittedly, that's a lot of heavy food. That's why I'm bringing this chiffon cake for dessert. It's light and fluffy, and so fragrant with citrus that it perfumes its surroundings.

How do you feel about fresh cranberries? I've been a little wary of their tartness, so I've mostly avoided using them as a garnish. But these! They are delicious because they get a bath in hot sugar syrup and then a toss in sparkling sanding sugar. They are a perfect bite of tart, crunch and sweetness and they crack between your teeth which makes them addictively poppable. I love how they look like sparkling gems on top of this cake. It was fun making them because they are so simple and beautiful.

This cake is a nice, light addition to a Thanksgiving feast, but it will also beautiful on a Christmas dessert buffet (those cranberries!). If you've never made a chiffon cake, then you should know that there's quite a bit of egg-whipping involved. A standing mixer is helpful and preferred for this recipe.

I added marshmallow cream to the glaze on this cake, which is a good counter to all the feather-lightness. If marshmallow cream is not available to you, then it may be omitted from the recipe. This cake is still lovely with a basic confectioners' glaze.

Orange Chiffon Cake with Sparkling Cranberries
Yields one 10-inch cake

This recipe requires the use of a tube pan.

2 cups/240 g all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups/300g granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 eggs, separated
1/2 cup/125 ml orange juice (2 to 3 oranges, freshly squeezed)
1/2 cup/125 ml vegetable oil
1/4 cup/50 ml water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons orange extract
2 tablespoons orange peel
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup/130 g confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk (plus more for thinning, if needed)
3.5 ounces marshmallow cream (about half of a 7 ounce jar)
1/2 teaspoon orange extract

Cranberry garnish
1/2 cup/125 ml water
1/2 cup/100 g granulated sugar
8 ounces fresh cranberries
6 ounces sanding sugar
Grated orange peel, if desired

Sift the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl; make a well in the center. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until thickened and light yellow in color, about 7 minutes.
Beat in the orange juice, oil, water, vanilla, orange extract and orange peel. Pour the wet ingredients into the well of dry ingredients; combine with a large spoon or spatula until well incorporated.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar; beat until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold into batter with a large rubber spatula.

Transfer the batter to an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 325°F for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert cake; cool completely. Loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a butter knife; remove the cake and place on a serving platter. Let cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and whisk in the milk 1 tablespoon at a time. The mixture will be thick. Stir in the marshmallow cream and extract. Thin the mixture with additional milk, if needed. The mixture should be thick enough to fall in a thick ribbon from a spoon. Pour glaze evenly over the top of the cooled cake.

For the cranberry garnish, heat the water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Place the fresh cranberries in a shallow dish and pour the sugar syrup over them. Stir them gently, then transfer them to a wire rack placed over a length of parchment. Allow them to dry slightly before rolling them in the sanding sugar. Garnish the top of the cake with the cranberries. Add grated orange peel, if desired.

Store cake loosely covered on the counter top or under a glass cloche.

It's hard to believe we're getting ready to bid November farewell. I can almost hear those sleigh bells jingling, can you?

When it comes to party fare, I'm always searching for the perfect bite that will satisfy guests and make them feel special. But since it's also the busiest time of year - especially for home bakers - simplicity is key. That's why I love this recipe so much.

Creamy eggnog pudding takes all of five minutes to whip up, and after a quick chill, it's layered with prepared caramel in shot glasses. The shots are topped with whipped cream and Stacy's Salted Caramel Pita Chips - the latter provides a crunchy contrast to the creaminess of the pudding. If you're like me, you'll forgo the spoon entirely and use the chips instead - so keep a bowlful close by!

The chips have a rich, buttery, authentic caramel flavor (which is rare joy in a world of artificially flavored snack foods), and they have just the right amount of salt and sweet. They are certainly delicious enough to serve on their own, but their sturdiness makes them great for dipping.

These little desserts are about six-ish bites of salted caramel goodness, which is just enough to indulge your sweet tooth without overdoing it. They look elegant all lined up on a fancy serving tray and no one will guess that they took just minutes to put together!

Find out more about Stacy's Chips on their website or on their Facebook page. Stacy's Salted Caramel flavor is available for a limited time only - from November 2014 to December 2014, so be sure to look for them in the Deli section at your local grocery store.

Salted Caramel Eggnog Shooters
[click for printable version]
Yields six 2 ounce servings

1 cup commercially prepared eggnog
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
7 ounces caramel ice cream topping (the thick jarred variety)
3/4 cup whipped topping or homemade whipped cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
Stacy's Salted Caramel Pita Chips, for serving

Have ready six 2 ounce empty shot glasses.

Combine the eggnog, sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a bubble while whisking constantly. When the mixture thickens, remove it from the heat and transfer to a bowl.
Cover the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap and let chill for 15 minutes. Stir the pudding and transfer to a piping bag or a zip-top bag with the corner snipped.
Transfer the caramel to a piping bag or zip-top bag with the corner snipped.
Pipe a little of the pudding into each shot glass, followed by the caramel. Alternate until all of the eggnog pudding and caramel is used.
Top each shot with the whipped topping and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. Just before serving, place a Stacy's Salted Caramel Pita Chip upright in each shooter.
Serve the shooters next to a bowlful of the pita chips for easy dipping and eating. Spoons are optional.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Stacy's Pita Chips. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Thank you for supporting our sponsors!

Thanksgiving day preparations are in full swing around these parts, and the Mister and I have more dinner invites than we can shake a stick at.  My contribution to the feast(s) will likely be dessert, so I figure now is a great time to brush up on my pie-making technique. It's also feels good to add a classic recipe to the blog roster.

Is there anything better than buttery, cinnamon-kissed, classic apple pie?  Maybe apple pie à la mode? Apple buttermilk pie? It's hard to say.

I'd like to tell you that I slaved over the leaf cut-out crust, but it's really quick work when you use these little gizmos. If you have experience cutting out sugar cookies, then you can certainly make this fancied-up pie crust. It's all a matter of layering the cut-outs near the edge of the pie, and working your way inward.

Making pie crust in the food processor is a snap, but if you consider it a chore then you can certainly substitute a ready-made crust. If you opt for the cut-outs then you'll need at least three refrigerated pie crusts (that's 1 1/2 boxes of refrigerated roll-out dough). That's a good thing to keep in mind when making your shopping list.

You'll need three large apples for this pie. I went for the largest, firmest apples I could find, which turned out to be Gala apples at my grocery store. Granny Smith is also an excellent choice for pies.

There are many ways to vary this pie, but I like it best with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. A drizzle of salted caramel never hurt anything, either.

Classic Apple Pie
[click for printable version]
Yields one 9-inch pie

Pie crust (yields 2 crusts)
2 1/2 cups/310 g all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
16 tablespoons/226 g cold unsalted butter, cubed
4 tablespoons ice water, additional as needed

In a food processor combine the flour, salt, and sugar; pulse several times to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with just a few pea-size pieces remaining.
Remove the lid and sprinkle 2 tablespoons ice water over the mixture. Re-attach lid and pulse until the dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed with fingers (if needed, add up to 2 tablespoons more ice water, a little at a time).
Turn dough out onto a work surface and divide in two equal pieces. Form each piece of dough into a 3/4-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
Unwrap dough; place on a floured surface. Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough to a 14-inch round. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and carefully unroll over a 9-inch pie plate. Gently fit into bottom and up sides of plate.

Trim overhang to 1 inch; fold overhang under itself. Re-roll the scraps into one long piece and cut into three even strands (use some of the reserved pie dough if you don’t have enough scrap dough); braid the strands together. Brush the edge of the fitted pie crust with water and lay the braid on top of the damp edge. Press gently to adhere.  Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

Pie filling
1/2 cup/100 g sugar
1/2 cup/65 g all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 cups thinly sliced peeled apples (about 3 large apples)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 425 F. 
Stir together the sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add the sliced apples and toss to coat. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust and dot with butter. Return to the refrigerator.

Remove the second pie crust from the refrigerator and roll to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a small cookie cutter (1 1/2 to 2-inch) cut as many shapes as you can from the dough. Re-roll crust and cut out more shapes; repeat until all the dough is used. Remove the pie from the refrigerator and layer the shapes on top of the pie starting at the outer edge and working inward. Using a pastry brush, lightly cover the entire crust with egg wash.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the juice is bubbling. 

Note: If you find the edge of the pie crust is becoming too brown, cover it gently with aluminum foil or a pie crust shield. 

Hi friends! I hope everyone is having a lovely autumn and baking up a storm. I've been a busy baker myself, finding inspiration in steaming mugs of cider, leathery fallen leaves and watching scant snow flurries dance around in the porch light.

I love finding inspiration close to home, and these acorn cookies were inspired by a hop over the fence and a walk through the woods behind our house. They're super easy to make and so season-appropriate. If you have little ones, they'll love helping you add "caps" to the acorns.

You can find the recipe along with step-by-step instructions here on the Etsy blog.

There's no shortage of inspiration when it comes to using classic fall flavors in my baking. I love cinnamon spiced apples, anything pumpkin-filled and I've been dreaming of what to do with a fat butternut squash that's been sitting on my kitchen counter for a good two weeks now. But after sampling some unique chocolates, I was inspired to make something a little less traditional this week.

Black truffles are most commonly used in savory dishes, but chocolatiers (such as the handsomely bearded Mast Brothers) have been incorporating them into chocolate. After sampling some, I was instantly smitten. Black truffles have a deep, earthy flavor that, to me, evokes feelings of the fall season. Depending on the variety, they've been described as "reminiscent of undergrowth, wet earth ... or dried fruit with a hint of cocoa". The trouble is, truffles are expensive, but luckily there are less expensive ways to incorporate them into your confectionery.

First of all, the cake is topped with Urbani's black truffle bonbons (I bought mine here). They're small, dense little candies filled with black truffle pieces, nuts and chocolate. They're rich and earthy, and after tasting one I knew they were destined to adorn a chocolate cake filled with pistachio cream.

Secondly, the chocolate frosting is infused with a small amount of black truffle oil. Now, as far as I know, da Rosario is the only brand of truffle oil that is 100% organic and natural. Most other truffle oils contain no real truffles and instead are made with synthetic flavoring. That said, only a very small amount of truffle oil is used in the frosting, so purchase what your budget will allow. In general, real is always better than fake, but I view using the oil in the same way I view using artificial candy flavorings. It's okay to use in small quantities, and when options are limited.

The pistachio filling is one of my favorite elements of this cake. It's hugely rich with pistachio flavor, and that's thanks to 11 ounces of pure pistachio paste. I couldn't find it locally, so I ordered it online. You can find it here or in bulk here. It's truly worth seeking out!

I really love the way this cake turned out. In fact, I told my husband I might enter it in the Tennessee State Fair next year. The black truffle flavors mixed with pistachio makes me think it'd be right at home at a fine Italian restaurant. Yesterday I had a slice with strong coffee, and let me tell you, I'm having trouble imagining anything better!

If you're new to the flavor of black truffles, I suggest you familiarize yourself with it before embarking upon this cake. It's an acquired taste for some people. Kitchen specialty shops often have oil tasting stations, which is a good way to explore their savory notes as the oils are usually served with garlicky seasonings and baguette rounds. To get an idea of how the flavor will taste in chocolate frosting, seek out a small chocolate bar or bonbons with black truffle shavings incorporated.

Black Truffle-Pistachio Chocolate Cake
[click for printable version]
Source: Recipe by Heather
Yields one 9-inch triple layer cake

I recommend da Rasario 100% organic black truffle oil for the frosting. Truffle Hunter black truffle oil is also good and made with real black truffles, but be aware its flavor is also enhanced synthetically. Pungent oils must be used sparingly. If your truffle oil is mild, then the amount of oil added to the frosting can be increased to taste.

Dark chocolate cake
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup/113 g butter, softened
2 cups/440 g light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups/310 g all-purpose flour
1/4 cup/30 g dark cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup/121 g buttermilk
1 cup/235 ml piping hot water

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease three 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper.
Melt chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, or melt in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl at 30 second intervals. Set aside.
Beat the butter with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar and beat until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating each until just incorporated. Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and sea salt; add to the butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. With the mixer running, gradually add in the hot water. Mix until the batter in consistent (batter will be thin).
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove cakes from the pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Pistachio filling
1/4 cup/32g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine grain sea  salt
2 cups/460g buttermilk or whole milk
2 cups/1 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 cup/200g granulated sugar
1 can (11 ounces) pistachio nut paste

In a medium saucepan, whisk together flour and 1/2 cup of the milk until smooth. Set over medium heat and let cook for 3 minutes, or until slightly hot. Whisk in remaining milk and salt. Whisk constantly until the mixture is thickened (almost like pudding). Remove from heat and pour into a separate bowl. Place in the refrigerator until completely chilled. When cool, mixture will be thick like set custard.
In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer, if you have one) beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in chilled flour mixture one tablespoon at a time on medium-high speed. When all the flour mixture is added beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes. Rub a little frosting between your fingers, if sugar granules remain, beat for 4 more minutes, or until granules cannot be detected with fingers. Beat in the pistachio paste a little at a time until well incorporated.
Place a chocolate cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate and top with three cups of pistachio filling. Top with another cake layer and spread the remaining 3 cups of filling over the second layer. Top with the third and final layer. Refrigerate the filled cake while you make the frosting.

Black Truffle Chocolate Frosting
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon black truffle oil (add more to taste, but be careful – it’s strong stuff!)
12 black truffle bonbons (such as Urbani) or black truffle chocolate squares (such as Mast Brothers)
4 ounces ground pistachios

Combine the chocolate and whipping cream in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally. When the mixture is steaming and the chocolate is melted remove from the heat. Add the truffle oil (add more to taste, but be careful – it’s strong stuff!).  Whisk the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated into the cream. Pour into a shallow dish and chill until the mixture reaches a pudding-like consistency, about 1 hour.
Beat the mixture with an electric mixer until it is thick and spreadable. Transfer 2/3 cup of frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Frost the cake evenly with the remaining icing and pipe rosettes around the top edge of the cake.  Top every other piped rosette with a black truffle bonbon. Sprinkle the top with ground pistachios. Place the cake on a large baking sheet and toss ground pistachios along the bottom edge of the cake, allowing the excess to fall back into the pan.

Store the cake in the refrigerator.  Serve chilled or let slices come to room temperature before serving – it’s good both ways!

I'm super excited about today's blog post because, not only do I get to share confetti cupcakes with you (which are my favorite!), but we're also having a virtual baby shower! My blog buddy Jessica of How Sweet It Is will welcome her new baby in December, so a whole bunch of us food bloggers are throwing her an online shindig. I know she'll be the best mama ever, and good gracious will that child ever be well fed!

The theme of the shower is trashed up foods - and who doesn't love a good homemade Funfetti cupcake with too many (and I mean waaaay too many) sprinkles.  So no, It wasn't difficult to decide what to make for Jessica. We share an intense (insane?) love of sprinkles and confetti cupcakes seemed just perfect to me. This recipe is a riff on her One Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes for Two. Since her family is increasing from two to three (er, I'm assuming), I decided to develop a recipe that makes exactly three cupcakes.

Now, I realize it will be a good long while before the baby will be eating cupcakes, but it's good to think ahead, right? And something tells me this kid will be introduced to sprinkles early on.

As for the cake batter frosting? It was also inspired by Jessica's magic, specifically this sprinkled Cake Batter treat. I try to avoid eating buttercream straight from the bowl (hehe, yeah right) but this one is irresistible!  I already have plans to shmear it over a batch of Rice Krispy treats.

Also, friends, please take a gander at all the fabulous trashed up (read: freaking delicious) foods that my blog buddies have created. You'll find the entire list with links just below the cupcake recipe.

The only important thing I have left to say is - Congratulations Jessica! We're all so excited for you! 

Confetti Cupcakes with Cake Batter Frosting for Three
[click for printable version]
Yields 3 standard-size cupcakes
Total time 25 minutes

I like a lot of frosting on my cupcakes, especially when it tastes like cake batter. If you're less inclined to eat so much frosting, the recipe can be halved.

1 large egg
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup/60 g all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons confetti sprinkles, plus more for garnish

Cake batter frosting
1/2 cup/113 g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup/120 g confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 1/2 tablespoons French Vanilla cake mix (I use Betty Crocker, of course!)
1 to 2 tablespoons milk, if needed

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with three cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, combine the egg, sugar and vanilla using a whisk. Whisk in the oil. Add the flour, baking powder and salt; stir together until just combined, then add the milk. Fold in the two tablespoons of confetti sprinkles. Divide the batter between the three cupcake liners, filling them no more than 3/4 full.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the cupcakes have fully crowned and spring back when pressed in the center. Let cool completely.

Make the frosting: Cream the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat to combine. Beat in the vanilla.

Add the pinch of salt and cake mix; beat together. Add milk one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is lax enough to pipe. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Garnish with sprinkles.

It's that time of year again when we're all staring down a bowlful leftover Halloween candy and feeling some ambivalence. We certainly can't eat it all, right? But tossing out perfectly good candy is not an option. This year I decided to put my leftovers to good use and make something that's truly share-worthy. I present to you, Candy Bar Cheesecake Brownie Mountain.

I often gush about new recipes, but I'm not exaggerating when I say this one is TOPS. It's so easy to make and crazy town delicious. The brownie and cheesecake both have mini chocolate bars baked inside. You can use just about any fun-size chocolate bar you have on hand. My brownie mountain contains a medley of Reese's Cups, Snickers, Milky Ways, Kit Kats and Rolo's (clearly, I have no self-restraint when it comes to these things... sorry not sorry).

The entire dessert is finished with caramel sauce, roasted salted peanuts and more mini candy bars. Cutting this "Mountain" into pieces is half of the fun, because it's like a candy bar treasure hunt. Each slice is a little different. My first piece had half a Reese's cup and part of a Snickers bar, mmmm-mmm!

I took plenty of step-by-step pictures to show you how to make your own. Like I said, it's easy - easier than you'd think! You'll need an 8x8-inch square pan to get started.

First, make the brownie layer. After you mix up the brownie batter, spread half of it in a pan and top with your choice of mini candy bars (I used about 10). Top with the remaining batter and bake!

Bake the cheesecake layer in the same pan, or in an identical pan to the one you used to bake the brownie layer. Mix up the cheesecake batter, pour it in the pan and press in about 10 mini candy bars. Bake!

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