Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Few More Christmas Things

All right, now that there is snow (not much, but some white aroud here), the mood is starting to set in. So here are a few of my favorite things to make, do, or listen to:

1) Make an igloo:

2) Listen to A Christmas Carol (Lionel Barrymore and Orson Welles): FREE here:

3) Cookies, bars, and fattening treats, oh my!

These are all from a little book I put together for the fam:

The CAKE ~ Triple-Chocolate Cake with Chocolate-Peppermint Filling

This is referred to simply as “THE CAKE!” by my family. It is overly rich, delicious, fattening, and phenomenal. It’s a hell of a lot of work, but it’s worth it.


8 oz Lindt chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup whipping cream
1 T light corn syrup
½ tsp peppermint extract


1 cup sifted all purpose flour
cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½  teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips
Chopped up candy canes for garnish


8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
¾ teaspoon peppermint extract

For filling:

Place chocolate in medium bowl. Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan. Pour hot mixture over chocolate; add extract and let stand 1 minute. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Let filling stand at room temperature while cake is baking and cooling.

For cake:

Position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides. Line bottom with parchment paper. Butter parchment. Dust pan with flour. Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in both sugars, then vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions each. Mix in chocolate chips.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 5 minutes. Turn out cake onto rack. Peel off parchment. Cool completely.

Using electric mixer, beat filling until fluffy and lightened in color, about 30 seconds. Using serrated knife, cut cake horizontally in half. Place 1 layer, cut side up, on rack set over baking sheet. Spread filling over. Top with second layer, cut side down. Chill filled cake 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare glaze:

Stir chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in heavy small saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Mix in extract. Cool glaze until just lukewarm but still pour able, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Pour 1/2 cup glaze over center of cake. Spread over top and sides of cake. Chill until glaze sets, about 15 minutes. Pour remaining glaze over center of cake, then spread quickly over top and sides. Chill until glaze sets, about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; chill. Before continuing, let stand at room temperature until softened, about 4 hours.)

Sprinkle candies around top edge of cake. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.


“Pepper nuts” or “spiced nut”. These little cookies are a favorite during the holidays. Not too sweet, not too spicy, and rolled in copious amounts of powdered sugar, they go well with strong black coffee.

Sift together:

2 cups plus 2 T sifted all-purpose flour
¾ tsp double-acting baking powder
⅛ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper


¼ tsp nutmeg (use ½ tsp if using freshly grated nutmeg)
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp anise seeds
1 tsp cardamom

Cream together:

½ cup butter
⅓ cup sugar

Add and bet well until light:

1 egg


¼ cup finely chopped almonds
1 T finely chopped citron
¼ cup finely chopped candied orange peel

Add the flour mixture to the above ingredients in thirds, alternately with:

⅓ cup molasses
1 T corn syrup
¼ tsp brandy extract
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 T lemon juice

Beat well, then set aside overnight. Preheat oven to 350. Shape into 1-inch balls and bake on a greased cookie sheet 10 to 15 minutes. Roll while warm in a vat of powdered sugar.

Non’s Sugar Cookies

Nellie (“Non”) Finnane was my great-aunt and I didn’t know her long as she died when I was a child. But we still have her recipe for sugar cookies. She would not use a butter cream frosting, but instead sprinkle sugar over the still-warm cookies out of the oven. I’ve added the frosting recipe because it’s pretty damn good, too.

Oven to 375°

3 cups flour
1 cup butter
1 tsp salt
⅛ tsp cream of tartar

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla

1 tsp nutmeg (double if using freshly grated)
4 T. milk
½ tsp baking soda

Cream together butter, flour, salt, and tartar. The mixture should like the beginnings of a pie crust. Add nutmeg, milk, and baking soda and mix well. Then add eggs, sugar, and vanilla.  This mixture keeps one week to one month.

Bake on greased cookie sheets 10 to 15 minutes.

Optional: Butter Frosting

Cream together 2 cups powdered sugar, ⅓ cup butter, 2 T milk, and ½ tsp vanilla. Add more milk if mixture is too thick.

Peanut Blossoms

A holiday favorite!

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking soda
4 T. milk
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups plus ⅔ cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 bag chocolate kisses

Mix peanut butter and butter and add in the sugars. Beat eggs, milk, and vanilla into mixture. Add dry ingredients. Form spoonfuls of dough into a ball and roll in sugar. Bake 8 minutes at 375° and press chocolate candy into each one. Cook another 2 to 5 minutes.

Nut Bars

Now this is a holiday bar! It beats any other bar, hands down. Something special happens with the butterscotch and corn syrup that transforms them into one of my favorite naughty treats. Of course, they are loaded with nuts and butter, but these marvelous nuggets are a special occasion dessert, anyway.

1 ½ cups flour
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ plus 2 T. cold butter
1 can (11 ½ oz) mixed nuts
1 cup butterscotch chips
½ cup light corn syrup

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Cut in ½ cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with nuts. Melt chips in a small saucepan and add remaining butter. Mix well. Pour over nuts. Bake another 10 minutes. Cool and cut.


  1. The recipes sound delightful and your book sounds very interesting. I'm hoping for a Kindle for Christmas so I can read a little more affordably. Following by email and I'll put your book on my Amazon wish list.