Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Treats: Cranberry Upside-Down Cake with Cognac Whipped Cream

A few years ago we hosted Christmas for the first time, and I served this cake.

It. was. A.MAZ.ING!!! It's best warm, so if possible, make it the day of, between dinner and dessert. I know that sounds like a pain, but I combined all the dry ingredients in a ziplock bag ahead of time, so all I had to do was mix it up and bake it, and it actually was not at all stressful.

And SOOOOO worth it!!

This only makes an 8-inch square cake, so if you're having large crowd, you may want to double it and make 2, or you could try making one in a 9 x 13 pan, but you'd probably have to adjust the cooking time.

2 tablespoons butter, melted
Cooking spray
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup fat-free milk
2 large egg whites

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon cognac

Preheat oven to 350°.

Pour melted butter into an 8-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake at 350° for 2 minutes. Remove from oven, and top with pecans and cranberries.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; stir with whisk.

Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

Add flour mixture and milk alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Beat the egg whites with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form using clean, dry beaters; fold into batter. This part is important--if you don't beat the eggs enough the cake will be too dense.

Spread batter over cranberries. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Loosen edges of cake with a sharp knife. Place a plate upside down on top of cake pan; invert onto plate.

Combine whipping cream and cognac in medium bowl and beat until whipped cream reaches the desired consistency. Serve with warm cake. Do NOT skip this part!!

The original recipe had people just combine cognac and frozen whipped topping, but I do not believe in this stuff. Real whipped cream is absolutely worth it, and pretty easy if you have a mixer.

I can't wait until Christmas so I can have this again!!

Christmas Treats: Pumpkin Cake Roll

I began making this delicious treat right after I got married. Both my grandmother and my husband's grandmother bought me subscriptions to Taste of Home magazine, and this was in one of them. It freezes really well, so it's easy to make ahead and just remove from the freezer whenever needed. (It will keep in the freezer up to 3 months!)

3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar, divided
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Additional confectioners' sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 375.

Line a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan with waxed paper; grease the paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks on high speed until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and pumpkin, beating on high until sugar is almost dissolved.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold into egg yolk mixture.

Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; gently fold into pumpkin mixture. Spread into prepared pan.

Bake at 375° for 12-15 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.

Cool for 5 minutes.

Turn cake onto a clean kitchen towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Gently peel off waxed paper. Roll up cake in the towel jelly-roll style, starting with a short side (the towel will end up inside the cake--it's ok). Cool completely on a wire rack.

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until smooth.

Unroll cake; spread filling evenly to within 1/2 in. of edges. Roll up again. Before serving, dust with powdered sugar (optional, but it looks pretty).

You can eat this right away, or chill it in the fridge to eat later that day. OR you can freeze it.

Freezing instructions: Cover and freeze until firm. Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before cutting.

Christmas Treats: Peppermint Snowball Cookies

I've been making these for several years, and they're always a big hit. I also like them because it's easy to have kids help with them. They can roll the cookies into balls and then help with the candy and peppermint once they've cooled. Rich and crumbly with a cool kick of peppermint, these cookies are delicious!

2 cups butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
8 ounces white candy coating, coarsely chopped, or white chocolate chips
1/3 to 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy (I put mine in a little food processor) You could probably also just melt peppermint kisses and dip the cookies in those, but they wouldn't look as pretty.

In a large bowl, cream butter and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour and mix well. Stir in pecans. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until easy to handle.

Roll into 1-in. balls. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

In a microwave, melt candy coating/white chocolate; stir.

Dip the top of each cookie into the candy coating; allow excess to drip off. Dip into peppermint candy. Place on waxed paper; let stand until set.

This should make about 5 dozen cookies.

Christmas Treats: Pretzel Turtle Bites

This is by far the easiest candy ever. It's also delicious. The salt on the pretzel plus caramel and chocolate is divine, and the pecan on top just rounds it out perfectly. Great for those with little helpers because there's so much they can do!

rolo candies
small pretzels (with salt!)
pecan halves

You need one of each of the above per piece of candy, so get however many you want to make.

Preheat the oven to 250 and line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Do not skip the aluminum foil!

Place pretzels on foil. Unwrap rolos and place one on top of each pretzel.

Heat in oven for 4 minutes. Rolos will retain their original shapes.

Place a pecan half on top of each rolo and squish it down into the pretzel.

Repeat for as many candies as you're making.

Cool until caramel and chocolate harden.


Kids can unwrap rolos, place them on the pretzels, and even do the squishing!

I hear that you can use a peanut m&m if you don't like pecans, although I've never tried it.