Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies (aka Ugly Cookies)

It’s never a good day in my kitchen when baked goods come out of the oven ugly.  But I’ve found an exception to that rule.  These Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies (aka Ugly Cookies) are the most addictively delicious ugly cookies ever.  They’re crispy on the edges like a delicate thin sheet of caramelized sugar and chewy in the center with crunchy pockets of flavor speckled throughout from the Fruity Pebbles clusters.  From start to finish, these cookies take extra time, effort, and patience, but the enjoyment from eating them is endless.  IMG_9041[1]

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies (aka Ugly Cookies)

Makes approximately 15-20 large cookies or about 3 dozen smaller cookies
(from Milk Momofuku Milk Bar)

Ingredients

Fruity Pebble Crunch

1/4  (17-ounce) box (2 1/2 cups; 120g) Fruity Pebbles cereal
1/4 cup (20g) milk powder
1 tablespoon (12g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1g) kosher salt
6 tablespoons (85 g) butter, melted

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies

16 tablespoons (2 sticks; 225g) butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
2/3 cup tightly packed (150g) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon (2g) vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (240g) flour
1/2 teaspoon (2g) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1.5g) baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons (5g) kosher salt
1 recipe Fruity Pebbles Crunch
1 1/4 cups (65g) mini marshmallows (I used fruity marshmallows but regular mini’s work too. Make sure the marshmallows are not stuck together.)

Directions

Fruity Pebble Crunch

  1. Preheat the oven to 275°F.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the Fruity Pebbles, milk powder, sugar, and salt until well combined.
  3. Add the butter and mix until the cereal is fully covered.
  4. Spread the cereal mixture on a parchment or Silpat-lined sheet pan.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes until the cereal mixture looks toasted, smells buttery, and is crunchy when cooled slightly and chewed.
  6. Cool the Fruity Pebble crunch fully before storing or using in a recipe (this took about 15 minutes for me). (Note: the Fruity Pebble Crunch can  be stored in an air tight container at room temperature for about a week or in the fridge or freezer for about a month).

Fruity Pebbles Marshmallow Cookies

  1. Using a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and light brown sugar on medium-high for 2-3 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat for 7-8 minutes.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and mix until the dough comes together (no more than 1 minute).  Scrape down the bowl with a spatula,
  5. With the mixer on low speed, stir in the Fruity Pebble crunch until evenly distributed through the dough (30-45 seconds).
  6. Stir in the mini-marshmallows until incorporated.
  7. Using a cookie or ice cream scoop, portion the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.  Flatten the dough balls slightly.
  8. Wrap the sheet pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 week.  Or put the dough in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  (Important note: do not bake the cookies using room temperature dough.  They will spread too much and become a big mess.).
  9. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  10. Place the chilled dough disks at least 4 inches apart on a parchment or Silpat lined sheet pan (I usually only bake 6 cookies per sheet pan.)
  11. Bake the cookies (1 cookie sheet at a time, and rotate half way through baking time to ensure even baking) until the edges are slightly browned, and the center is no longer doughy (You will have to experiment with bake times.  If you refrigerated your cookie dought, the approximate bake time for 2 3/4 ounces dough discs is 18 minutes; bake time for a tablespoon cookie scoop is about 7 minutes.  If your cookie dough is frozen, add about 1 minute extra to the bake time.).
  12. Cool the cookies on the sheet pan.

Note: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Almond Flour Brownies (Gluten-Free)

I’ve been having some unusually good brownie karma lately.  After making an especially delicious batch of candied bacon brownies, I was emboldened to bake a batch of gluten-free brownies using almond flour.  In a word, these brownies are perfect.  They have a crispy, shiny top crust and an uber fudgey center.  The almond flour adds a “je ne sais quoi” overall richness to the chocolately flavor while keeping everything moist and tender.  If you don’t have almond flour in your pantry, it’s worth buying just to make this recipe.

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Almond Flour Brownies

Makes 16 brownies
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) butter, melted
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups (2 1/4 ounces) cocoa powder, Dutch-process or natural
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (5 1/8 ounces) almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease or line with parchment an 8″ square pan that’s at least 2″ deep.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and eggs.
  4. In a medium size bowl, stir together the almond flour, cocoa, and baking powder.
  5. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well mixed.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges.
  7. Bake the brownies for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few damp crumbs.  Do not overbake, or the brownies will be dry.
  8. Remove the brownies from the oven, and cool for about 15 minutes before cutting.

Note: Store the brownies in an airtight container at room temperature for several days or freeze for longer storage.

Candied Bacon Brownies

THIS is how you make brownies epic-ly delicious – swirl candied bacon throughout the brownie batter and sprinkle even more candied bacon on top.  The result is a fudgey, chewy, rich brownie with a smoky, salty kick.  Never have pork and chocolate tasted so good together.

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Candied Bacon Brownies

Makes one 9×13″ pan of brownies
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

Candied Bacon

12 ounces thick cut, uncooked bacon
light brown sugar, to coat

Brownies

1 cup Dutch-process cocoa
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon espresso powder, optional; for enhanced chocolate flavor
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons water

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a 9×13″ pan with aluminum foil and grease lightly, or line with parchment paper (I prefer to line with parchment paper because it’s less mess to clean up, and it’s easy to lift the brownies out of the pan).

Candied Bacon

  1. Spread the bacon in a single layer on a wire racked placed over a large, rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Coat the strips of bacon with a heavy sprinkling of brown sugar.
  3. Bake the bacon until it’s crisp but not totally browned (about 20 to 25 minutes).
  4. Remove the candied bacon from the oven, and place it on a plate or parchment to cool. Do not cool the bacon on paper towels as it will stick. When the bacon is cool, crumble or chop it coarsely.

Brownies

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugars, salt, flour, and espresso powder.
  2. Add the eggs, oil, and water, mixing just until smooth.
  3. Stir half of the chopped candied bacon into the brownie batter.
  4. Spoon the brownie batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining candied bacon on top of the brownie batter.
  6. Bake the brownies for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, with a few wet crumbs clinging to it.

Note: Brownies should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for no more than 4-5 days.

Caramel Candy Bars

I’ve reached the point in my baking repertoire where a shortbread cookie layer topped with caramel and finished off with a rich layer of chocolate has become a bit mundane.  It’s delicious, but where’s the fun in so much predictability?  These Caramel Candy Bars provide a refreshing deviation from the norm with the addition of all things almond, including almond extract,  almond flour, and chopped almonds.  In a further unexpected twist, half of the shortbread dough is sprinkled on top of the caramel to create a streusel layer that is then topped off by a generous layer of chocolate and toasted almonds.  While these Caramel Candy Bars require a bit of time and work, the results are anything but ordinary.
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Caramel Candy Bars

Makes one 9×13 inch pan
(from King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook)

Ingredients

Crust

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (5 1/2 ounces) brown sugar
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar (also known as powdered sugar)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg
2 3/4 cups (11 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
1 cup (3 1/4 ounces) toasted almond flour or finely ground toasted almonds

Filling

2 cups (16 ounces) firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (11 ounces) light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick; 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup (8 ounces) cream (light, heavy, or whipping) or evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Frosting

1 cup (6 ounces) chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips
3 tablespoons (2 ounces) light corn syrup
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) chopped toasted almonds

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch pan and line the pan with lightly greased aluminum foil.

Crust

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and confectioners’ sugar until well combined.
  2. Beat in the egg, and scrape the bowl as needed.
  3. Add the vanilla and almond extract, and mix until well blended.
  4. In a separate bowl, stir together the four, salt, baking powder, and almond flour until well combined.
  5. Stir the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture, and mix until well combined.
  6. Divide the dough in half.  Press half the mixture into the prepared pan.  Save the remaining half to use as the streusel topping (Press the dough into a log, and freeze it while making the caramel.)
  7. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until it’s lightly browned around the edges.  Remove it from the oven, and cool slightly while making the filling.

Filling

  1. In a large (3 1/2 to 4-quart) heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the brown sugar and corn syrup.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes without stirring, to wash any sugar crystals off the  insides of the pan.
  2. Uncover the pan, stir in the butter, and continue to boil, stirring often, until the caramel reaches the soft ball stage, 234°F on a candy thermometer.
  3. While the syrup is boiling, gently heat the cream in the microwave or over low heat on the stovetop until it’s hot but not boiling.
  4. Remove the syrup from the heat, and slowly stir in the hot cream.  Be careful as the mixture will bubble up.
  5. Return to the heat and cook until the mixture reaches firm-ball stage, 245°F to 248°F.
  6.  Stir in the vanilla.
  7. Pour the caramel over the baked crust.  Let the filling cool for a few minutes.
  8. Remove the dough log from the freezer and use a coarse grater to grate the crumbs over the top of the hot caramel, or use your hands to crumble the reserved crust mixture over the hot caramel.
  9. Bake the bars for 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Remove the bars from the oven and cool them on a rack.

Frosting

  1. In a saucepan set over medium heat, or in the microwave, stir together the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter, until melted.
  2. Spread the frosting over the cooled bars.
  3. Sprinkle the almonds over the warm chocolate, and let the bars rest until the chocolate firms up, several hours or overnight.  You can refrigerate the bars to speed up the firming process.
  4. If you’ve refrigerated the bars, let the bars come to room temperature before cutting into 1 x 2-inch bars (if you cut the bars right out of the oven, they may be difficult to cut and break off unevenly).

Homemade Oreos

The grocery store cookie aisle is no longer the only place where you can find delicious Oreos, because this recipe for Homemade Oreos is one of those rare instances when a knockoff is a surprising improvement over the real thing.  These “Faux-re-os” taste just like Oreos, with a creamy vanilla filling sandwiched between two intensely dark, chocolately cookies.  The homemade version has a slightly softer texture and a more condensed, rich flavor. But just like store-bought Oreos, these cookies will transport you into a cookie eating twilight zone where you start off with eating one, and suddenly a whole row of them have disappeared.

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Homemade Oreos

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies, depending on the size
(from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer – All the Good Cookies)

Ingredients

Cookies

1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Black Cocoa but the orginal recipe also recommends Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Cocoa)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Filling

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions

Cookies

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the egg, and mix well.
  5. Add the egg yolk, and mix well.  Scrape down the sides as needed.
  6. Add the vanilla, and mix well.
  7. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and baking powder until well mixed.
  8. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the egg-sugar mixture, and beat until well combined.
  9. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again.
  10. Using a level small (2-teaspoon size) cookie scoop, drop the dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
  11. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough.
  12. Transfer to the oven, and bake until the edges begin to firm up, about 9 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets on the oven racks halfway through the baking time.
  13. Cool the cookies on the cookie sheets for 3 minutes.
  14. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and cool completely.
  15. Repeat with the remaining dough on cool cookie sheets.

Filling

  1. Place the butter and shortening in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk and beat until creamy.
  2. On low speed, add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, and beat until combined.
  3. Increase the spped of the mixer to high and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Assembling the Cookies

  1. Spread a scant teaspoonful of filling onto the bottom of half of a cookie, and top with another cookie.
  2. Gently squeeze the cookies together so the filling spreads to the edge.

Note: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or frozen up for to 3 months.

Apple Bourbon Bundt Cake

This Apple Bourbon Bundt Cake is especially dedicated to my friends who like a little booze in their baked goods.  I baked this cake a few months ago in December, and it tastes and smells just like the holiday season with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, and is extra moist and tender from the apples.  The bourbon glaze adds an adult kick to an otherwise wholesome cake.

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Apple Bourbon Bundt Cake

Makes one bundt cake
(from NY Times Cooking)
My notes are in [   ] below.

Ingredients

Cake

2 sticks unsalted butter (226 grams) at room temperature, plus more to grease pan
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (315 grams) plus more to dust the pan
3 tablespoons (30 grams) bourbon or rye whiskey 
½ cup (90 grams) candied ginger, chopped
1 ¾ cup (330 grams) light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons (3 grams) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (5 grams) fine sea salt
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup (227 grams) sour cream
1 tablespoon (15 grams) vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoon (5 grams) finely grated lemon zest
2 medium Granny Smith apples about a pound (454 grams) peeled, cored, and coarsely grated
1 cup (120 grams) finely chopped, toasted pecans

Bourbon Syrup

1/2 cup (80 grams) bourbon or rye whiskey [use a good quality bourbon]
½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon (20 grams)

Directions

Cake

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. [Make sure to thoroughly prepare the pan as this cake can be a little delicate and stick to the pan after baking.]
  3. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons bourbon and the candied ginger. Let stand 10 minutes.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the brown sugar and the 2 sticks of butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated.
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg.
  7. In another bowl, whisk together the sour cream and vanilla.
  8. Pour in the bourbon from the ginger mixture (reserve ginger) into the sour cream and vanilla mixture, and whisk until smooth. Stir in the lemon zest.
  9. With the mixer on medium speed, add the dry mixture and sour cream mixture to the wet mixture in three additions, alternating between the two.
  10. Fold in the ginger, apples, and pecans.
  11. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out dry, about 1 hour 10 minutes.
  12. Cool in the pan 20 minutes, then run a paring knife around the sides of the pan to release the cake; cool, flat side down, on a wire rack.

Bourbon Syrup

  1. While the cake cools, combine the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup bourbon in a small saucepan. Over low heat, gently stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the lemon juice and take off the heat.
  2. While the cake cools, make 10 slits on top with a paring knife and pour half the bourbon-sugar mixture on the still-warm cake. When the cake is fully cool, flip it and pour the rest of the glaze on the other side, then flip again to serve. [I only used half of the glaze as I found the alcohol flavor a bit overwhelming, but that’s expected as I don’t drink alcohol.]

Citrus Butter Cake

My little citrus tree is a few years away from producing a solid crop, but luckily I have fantastic neighbors who keep me stocked with lemons from their backyard tree.  This flavorful lemon and orange pound cake has a dense and tender texture, and the glaze creates the most crave worthy, chewy, slightly caramelized top .  Since I had lemons to spare, I also made some lemon curd and slathered it on top of a slice of toasted citrus butter cake for an extra decadent breakfast.
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Citrus Butter Loaf Cake

(from Johnny Iuzzini’s Sugar Rush: Master Tips, Techniques, and Recipes for Sweet Baking)
Makes one 41⁄2 × 81⁄2-inch loaf cake (or one 9-inch round cake); serves 8 to 10

Ingredients

Cake

1⁄2 pound (2 sticks; 226 g) cold unsalted butter, diced, plus more for the pan
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1 1⁄2 cups (300 g) sugar
Grated zest of 2 lemons
Grated zest of 1 orange
5 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons (45 g) buttermilk, at room temperature (I rarely have fresh buttermilk on hand so I use dried buttermilk powder)
3 tablespoons (45 g) fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons (45 g) fresh orange juice
1 1⁄2 teaspoons (6 g) baking powder
1 teaspoon (4 g) kosher salt

Glaze

2 tablespoons buttermilk (30 g)
1 tablespoon honey (20 g)

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Butter and flour a 41⁄2 × 81⁄2-inch loaf pan.  Using this combination of butter and flour ensures that the sides will brown nicely.
  3. Stir together (by hand) the butter, sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer until the butter is coated.
  4. Attach the bowl to the mixer and using the paddle, beat the butter-sugar mixture on medium speed until it is well combined, and no lumps of butter remain, 5 minutes.
  5. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula between additions.
  6. In a separate bowl, stir together the buttermilk, lemon juice, and orange juice.
  7. In another bowl, sift together the 2 cups (250 g) flour and the baking powder in a bowl.  Sprinkle the salt over the top.
  8. With the mixer on low speed, alternate between adding the dry and wet ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 additions (begin and end with the dry ingredients).
  9. Scrape down the bowl several times, and mix the batter just until smooth.
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top with a spatula.  On the middle rack of the oven, bake for 15 minutes (this step helps ensure a browned top).  (For a 9-inch cake, bake at 375°F for 40 minutes, brush the top of the cake with the glaze, and then bake for an additional 5 minutes.)
  11. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F, and bake for an additional 35 to 40 minutes until the cake is golden brown, and a tester inserted into the thickest part comes out clean.  Make sure not to underbake the cake, otherwise it will get even mushier as it cools.  Rotate the pan halfway through to ensure even baking. Leave the oven on (as you’ll need to bake an additional few minutes after adding the glaze).

Glaze

This glaze is absolutely delicious and creates a great texture for the top of the cake, so don’t skip this step.

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and honey until well combined.
  2. When the cake is done, brush the glaze evenly over the surface. Put the cake back into the oven, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the cake from the oven, and let it cool completely in the pan on a rack before turning it out of the pan.  Slice and serve.

Shortbread Toffee Bars

One of my favorite things to bake (and other people’s favorite thing to eat) is shortbread caramel bars.  Even though I’ve made countless variations, I can never resist trying a slightly different recipe.  These Shortbread Toffee Bars are very sweet and rich, and a little goes a long way.  The shortbread bottom and chocolate topping are typical of this type of recipe, but the center is less chewy and less caramely and more toffee-like with a slight crumbly texture.  Risk takers who enjoy baking on the edge may especially enjoy cooking the toffee center as the longer you cook it, the more toffee-like and rich-flavored it will be, but you also run a high risk of burning it.

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Shortbread Toffee Bars

Makes one 9×13 inch pan of bars
(from the kitchn)
I’ve made a few tweaks to the original recipe and added more details to the original directions.

Ingredients

Shortbread 

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) salted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour

Toffee

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) salted butter
1 cup sugar
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons maple syrup

Chocolate Topping

1 bag (10 ounces) good-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
Sea salt (optional)

Directions

Shortbread

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  If you would like really easy removal of your bars from the pan, you can line the pan with parchment paper.  I did not do that, and my bars came out of the pan fairly easily, but next time I’ll probably line with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the flour and beat on low speed until crumbly, making sure not to over-mix the dough.
  4. Press the dough into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and make sure to pack it down well.
  5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool while you’re making the toffee.

Toffee

  1. In a large saucepan over low heat, stir together the butter, sugar, condensed milk, and maple syrup until well combined.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  The mixture can burn quickly and easily, so make sure to keep stirring.  Continue to cook the mixture until it is thick and golden brown (but not burnt), about 8-10 minutes.  The deeper brown the toffee is, the more flavorful it will be.  Lighter colored toffee will taste more like sugar.
  3. Pour the toffee on top of the shortbread, and use an offset spatula to  spread the mixture to the edges.
  4. Allow the toffee to set at least an hour or overnight.

Chocolate Topping

  1. Melt the chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave.
  2. Pour the chocolate over the cooled toffee layer, and spread to the edges with and offset spatula.
  3. Sprinkle with sea salt (if using), and cool completely.  Since these bars are quite sweet, a sprinkle of sea salt would work well.  I forgot to sprinkle mine with sea salt.
  4. Once the mixture has a cooled a little, you can put the bars in the refrigerator to firm up the chocolate (this will also make cutting the bars a bit neater).
  5. Once everything has cooled completely, cut into squares (1 1/2 inch squares are a good size since these bars are so sweet and rich).  If you refrigerated your bars, let them sit out at room temperature to soften a little before cutting (if you cut the bars when they’re cold, the layers may separate and crumble).

Vanilla Cake with Sweet Cream Syrup & Butterscotch Frosting

This is a vanilla cake.  But it’s not just any old regular vanilla cake.  It’s a vanilla cake brushed with a sweet cream syrup, slathered with butterscotch frosting, and covered with nonpareils.  The recipe for this little beauty comes from Cake Magic: Mix & Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations, a cookbook that provide so many combinations of cake flavors, syrups, and frostings that you could bake a cake every day for several months and never make the same thing.

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Vanilla Cake with Sweet Cream Syrup & Butterscotch Frosting

Makes one nine-inch, 2-layer cake
(from Cake Magic: Mix & Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations)
My notes are in [  ] below.

Ingredients

Cake

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup full-fat plain yogurt (not Greek yogurt)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, or 1 cup vegetable oil [I prefer butter because it’s provides a richer flavor.]
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Sweet Cream Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butterscotch Frosting

[I only made half of this frosting recipe.  It was enough frosting for a thin layer between the two layers, and fully frosting the top of the cake. For me it kept the cake from being too sweet.] 
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup malted milk powder [I used dry milk powder, without the malt]
Pinch of salt
4 cups (about 16 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon butterscotch flavor or to taste [I used Frontier Butterscotch Flavor.  You can use 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract if you want to make vanilla frosting]

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter the bottom and the side of two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans [or a 10-inch Bundt cake pan, a 13×9 inch sheet cake pan, ).  Dust with flour to coat, then invert and tap out any excess.   24 cupcakes- use liners, no need for greasing and coating the tins.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
  3. Stir in the yogurt, butter, water, vanilla, and eggs until moistened and no lumps remain (be careful not to overmix).
  4. Divide the batter into the prepared pans.  Bake until the layers are domed and golden brown, and a few moist crumbs cling to a skewer interested in the center of the cake, 30-40 minutes (40-50 minutes for a Bundt, 25-30 minutes for a 13×9-inch cake, and 20-25 minutes for cupcakes).

Sweet Cream Syrup

  1. While the cake is baking, make the sweet cream syrup.
  2. Combine the sugar, cream, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Set aside to cool.
  4. Use the syrup warm or let it stand covered, until it reaches room temperature.  Note: Sweet cream syrup will keep, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week.  Reheat in a small saucepan over low heat before using.
  5. After removing the hot cake layers from the oven, pierce them, while still in their pans, at one-inch intervals with a skewer or a paring knife to create channels for the syrup to seep into the cakes.
  6. Pour or generously brush the syrup over the surface of the hot layers, dividing it between them as evenly as possible.
  7. Transfer the soaked layers (still in their pans) to a wire rack to cool completely (1 to 2 hours).  When they are cooled and no longer wet to touch, carefully turn them out of their pants and frost.

Butterscotch Frosting

  1. Make the frosting while the cake cools.
  2. Combine the butter, milk powder, salt, and two cups of the confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar, and beat on medium speed until the frosting is pale and no longer grainy, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the butterscotch flavor (or vanilla extract), and beat until frosting is very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Note: the frosting will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 1 week.  Before using, bring it back to room temperature and stir vigorously or beat it again for best results.
  5. Frost the cooled cake layers.

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

It’s the middle of the holiday rush, so let’s keep this short and sweet. This gingerbread cake is 100% verified delicious.  It’s easy to make, super flavorful, and tender, and has a slightly crispy top due to the gingerbread glaze.   And you can make it look fancy by baking it in a bundt cake pan (my favorite bundt cake pan makes four mini cakes).  Go bake this!

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

Makes one 9-cup bundt cake or four mini bundt cakes
(from King Arthur Flour)

Ingredients

Cake

2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) gingerbread spice; or 2 1/2 teaspoons ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (6 ounces) molasses
1 cup (8 ounces) water

Glaze

1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces) rum or water
1/2 teaspoon gingerbread spice; or 1/4 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly grease a 10- to 12-cup bundt-style pan or a 9-cup quartet bundt cake pan.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, gingerbread spice, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.
  6. Stir in the molasses.
  7. Add the flour mixture in three additions alternately with the water, starting and ending with the flour. Mix just until smooth.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
  9. Bake the cake for 55 to 65 minutes if using a 10-12 cup Bundt pan, or 30 minutes if using a quartet Bundt pan, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
  10. While the cake is baking, make the glaze.  Whisk together the water, spice, and sugar, and cook over medium-low heat until the sugar melts and the mixture thickens a little. Set aside.
  11. Remove the cake from the oven, cool it in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack.
  12. Brush the cake with the glaze, and allow it to cool completely before serving.