Pink Peppercorn Cake with Raspberries and Rose Buttercream

So this was one of the treats I brought with me to my casting session for The Great American Baking Show. Given the timeframe I really only had a day or two to come up with the idea, but the flavor profile had been marinating in my head for a while, so it only remained to figure out how to implement it!

After some experiments with flavoring I concluded that rose-flavored cake was only mediocre and the pepper didn’t come through all that well in the frosting, so I used crushed pink peppercorns (which are really not peppercorns but are an unrelated berry) in the cake batter and made a buttercream flavored with rosewater to set it off. The floral notes really complement each other well (pink peppercorn cake may be a new favorite of mine), and adding fresh raspberries really added a punch of flavor to make it light and refreshing. I really, really like this cake as a whole, and will totally be making it again at some point.

I confess that out of paranoia over flavor and texture, I eventually made no fewer than four different versions of my cake layers for the big day, deciding at the last minute which one to use (the first one– go figure). And then my favorite cooked-flour frosting was too loose to properly frost the outside of my cake, so I had to make a second batch of frosting, this time with powdered sugar, for the outside. And while I made my initial batch of meringues with freeze-dried raspberry powder, the resulting grayish-purple color was very unattractive, so I made a second batch that was plain vanilla. So to summarize, there was a LOT of stuff leftover from making this perfect-looking cake!

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No-Bake Oatmeal/Coconut (Wookie) Cookies

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So remember how I made the porg rice balls for at May 4th Star Wars party? I also made these Wookie Cookies. Mostly they were an excuse to use up some of the quick-cooking oats in my pantry (I’ve decided that they’re too gluey to make oatmeal out of), but they turned out really well, especially for a no-bake recipe. They’re extremely sweet (to be expected) but they have a great texture and are kind of addictive.

Unlike what appears to be the “standard” no-bake oatmeal cookie recipe, these do not have peanut butter in them, and they include marshmallows (melted in to give a chewy texture). I’m not sure if I’d prefer the original recipe– I’ll have to try it sometime– but these were good and I particularly liked the addition of coconut to add some dimension to the vaguely chocolate-y flavor of the base cookie. Admittedly, the chocolate chips didn’t really make them look all that much like Wookies, but they were close enough.

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Unicorn/Pegasus Cookies

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So remember the Parry Gripp birthday party? To go with the theme we made themed cookies– Neon Pegasus and Space Unicorn.

Image result for neon pegasus space unicorn

I used the same cutter for both– a unicorn cutter– and made a few adjustments for the pegasus cookies, cutting off the horn and adding a wedge-shaped piece of dough for a wing. My standard chocolate cutout recipe worked out fine– the slight spreading made the cookies less prone to breakage anyway.

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I mixed up a batch of glaze icing to decorate with, separating out a portion to stir in some cocoa and black food coloring to make the dark chocolate glaze for the pegasus cookies. The rest got tinted in small batches to make all of the colors. A single batch of glaze icing was enough to cover 28 cookies with some to spare.

I accented the icing with some edible glitter– also for the space unicorn helmets I mixed some silver luster dust with vodka and painted them for some extra shimmer.

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These weren’t perfect replicas, and the piping wasn’t the neatest, but they were at least recognizable and pretty cute!

 

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Stuffed Cookies

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So the first time I made these, it was a snowy day. A very snowy day, as evidenced by the closing of schools and offices everywhere and the piles of snow accumulating on all windows, roofs, and visible scenery (not to mention blowing horizontally through the air). And what does one do on a snow day? Bake, of course!

I know that I often re-post Smitten Kitchen’s recipes, mostly only slightly revised, but this time I’m just going to refer you to her page directly for the recipe for these fabulous cookies. Why, you ask? Because I didn’t really change the recipe much, plus my photos turned out terribly and didn’t add anything to the explanatory process that wasn’t already clearly set out in her photos. It hardly seems worth it when the only thing I did to alter the recipe was use extra-crunchy peanut butter instead of creamy. To be fair, I had to use a bit *more* peanut butter and a splash of milk to make up for the lack of moisture caused by the inclusion of peanut chunks, but that was about it.

I got 24 cookies out of this recipe, using a level mini-cookie-scoop (just over a teaspoon) to scoop the peanut butter filling, and then dividing up the chocolate dough into 24 pieces of about 30g each. I baked them for exactly 10 minutes and they came out perfectly– don’t worry about underbaking!

Anyway, these are good. Very good. My peanut butter/chocolate loving husband proclaimed them to be excellent. They’re best slightly warm, but straight out of the freezer is a close second. Either way, you’ll want a tall glass of milk to go along with them.

Spiced Pear-Oat Bars

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So it’s definitely fall, and to me that means desserts full of spices, oatmeal, and fruit. These bars have all of those things– the finely-diced pears form little pockets of sweetness, the walnuts give some crunch, and the oats and cinnamon provide a nice, warm background for everything. They’re more breakfast-y than dessert-y, in my opinion, mostly due to the oatmeal, but that doesn’t make them bad. I’d classify them as a good fall snack, though they fall apart a little too easily for just carrying around and munching. They’d be fabulous with a nice cup of hot apple cider… I may try that myself tonight!

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Raspberry-Rose Linzer Cookies

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The other day I was at Roche Brothers in the cheese section, when I spied a jar of jam.

I was immediately intrigued, as my love of the raspberry-rose (and often lychee) combination is well-known. I experienced momentary confusion as to whether it was quince and apple jam (due to the brand name) or raspberry-rose jam, but determined that it was the latter and decided to try it.

It’s really excellent– the raspberry is nice and bright, and the rose comes through just enough to avoid being overly floral. But what to do with it? It seemed a waste to spread it on toast, and I worried that the delicate flavor would be lost if I used it in a layer cake. But then I saw these lovely linzer cookies from Brina’s BitesĀ and knew exactly what to do with it.

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Mexican Wedding “Hosts”

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If you’re confused by the title (and are not averse to a little blasphemy), I encourage you to go read this and then come back. I came across it a few weeks ago and laughed until I cried. And then I promptly decided that I needed to make some of my own in time for Easter.

Not a full bread sculpture (though I’m not ruling that out for some time in the future), but Mexican wedding cookies, complete with rainbow sprinkles. They sounded pretty good, actually.

I’ve made Mexican wedding cookies before– with sprinkles, even– when I made those adorable Hedgehog Cookies. They were tender and delicious, and I knew they’d make the perfect base for these. Really, I didn’t do much to alter the recipe, except add rainbow sprinkles both inside and out. I did leave a few of the cookies plain on the outside so I could roll them in powdered sugar, per tradition. I think I liked those best of all, and they’re not quite as garish as the sprinkle-bedecked cookies so beloved by my kindergartener.

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