Saturday, January 29, 2011

Christmas Wreath Cupcakes

For our annual Christmas Open House I also made cupcakes.  I found the design and recipe in my Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book that I received for my birthday last summer.  Now before I show and tell you about these cupcakes, please remember... I am no Martha Stewart!  I'm probably a little more like Erma Bombeck if truth be told!

I started off baking regular cupcakes from a mix:  chocolate for the Dec 18th party; french vanilla for Dec 27th.  After letting them cool completely, I iced them.  I used a regular Buttercream frosting for the Dec 18th cupcakes.  This worked well, but because of the nature of the frosting it tended to dry and break off a bit.  Still very delicious though.

Dec 18th Wreath Cupcakes

For the 27th party, I really wanted to give the recipe Martha used for these cupcakes a try.  It was a Swiss Meringue Buttercream, very different from the regular buttercream in that it doesn't contain any icing sugar, and it does contain... an entire POUND of butter.  Don't let that deter you from trying this frosting at least once though.  It is beyond creamy in texture and not too sweet for those who don't like sweet icing.  Follow the link above to Martha's site for the recipe!

Dec 27th Wreath Cupcakes

The Swiss Meringue was much easier to work with in the icing bag, but the cupcakes  needed to remain refrigerated until ready to serve as the butter would soften at room temperature.  

How to frost them?  Using the pre-tinted frosting, cover the tops of each cupcake, spreading the frosting as smooth as you can.  Next, color your remaining frosting in the green leaf color of your choice.  Put the frosting in your icing bag, using the #69 tip to make the leaves.  Starting on the outside of the cupcake, ice leaves on in a round pattern and then make a second (or third) row of leaves to complete the wreath.

For the little red "berries" on both sets of wreaths, I used a red "glitter" icing gel.  Not the best, but the best I could find at the time.  Ideally little red balls would be perfect but hard to come by.  And there you have them... Christmas Wreaths good enough to eat!

Christmas Sugar Cookies

This Christmas, in order to see my entire extended family (siblings and niblings), Hubby and I decided to host two evenings of our annual family open house.  Because these dates were 9 days apart, I knew I would need to bake twice for freshness purposes.  Nothing like a hard, stale, Sugar Cookie to turn people off.

I used my Mom's standard Sugar Cookie recipe.  I used a Poured Cookie Icing to give the cookies a shiny, hard surface.  Here's the simple recipe for that:

Poured Cookie Icing

1 cup icing sugar
2 tsp milk
2 tsp light corn syrup
extract of your choice ~ peppermint, almond, vanilla, etc

Place sugar and milk in bowl.  Stir until mixed thoroughly.
Add corn syrup and extract.  Mix well.

For filling in areas, use thinned icing (add small amounts of light corn syrup or hot water until desired consistency is reached).

I used different colors of food color paste for each batch.  I also used different sized tips for the tubing.  You can see the difference in each case.  For the latter cookies I used #1 round (which I'd received for Christmas... along with the mini cookie cutters).

Dec 18 batch

Dec 27 batch

Christmas Standards

I am so behind in my baking blog entries, but before January is completely gone, let me take you back to my Christmas baking.  I will try as best I can to give you the information you need to recreate some of these delectable goodies for yourself next Christmas.

Here are some of the annual treats I bake each Christmas:

A)  Honey Biscuits
B)  Empire Cookies
C)  EggNog Thumbprints

A:  Honey Biscuits

This recipe is a family favorite I got from my sister, Cathy. These delicious spice cookies with lemon glaze icing are addictive! Mixing this recipe is not for the faint of heart though... it takes a LOT of elbow grease to stir in the total amount of flour. Once I broke a wooden spoon trying to mix it. Now I use plastic surgical gloves so I can get my hands in there without fear of honey sticking my fingers together. Here's how you make these:

2 cups liquid honey
1 cup packed brown sugar
2TBSP butter
1 tsp each of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and mace
1 egg, beaten
rind of 1 lemon
5 to 5-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda

Heat in Dutch Oven pot, until just boiling, the honey, brown sugar and butter.
Then add the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and mace.
Remove from stove and place pot in a sink of about 2-3 in of cold water to cool
Once cool, mix in the beaten egg and lemon rind.
Sift together the flour and baking soda.
Add flour to honey mixture, stirring well, adding flour until dough is workable (usually 5 cups)
Roll out and cut with cookie cutter (I use a round fluted cookie cutter)

Note: The dough is quite sticky so be sure to flour your surface very well (using the last 1/2-1 cup of flour)
Press a raisin (almond or what I like to use, a Cranraisin) in the center of the cookie.

Bake at 325F for 10-15 minutes on greased cookie sheet (or until edges turn brown). Brush with lemon glaze while still warm.

Lemon Glaze:

2 cups icing sugar juice of 1 lemon hot water as needed to thin 
Brush glaze over warm honey biscuits

B: Empire Cookies

These are some of Hubby's favorite cookies. I think I got this recipe from my Mom years ago, but I'm not sure I'm 100% happy with the cookie texture and taste. I'll be looking for (and experimenting with) a new recipe before next Christmas. Perhaps a more "shortbread" type cookie would work best.


1/2 cup butter, softened 
1/2 cup white sugar 
1 egg 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 tsp baking powder 

Cream butter.  Add sugar, creaming well.  Beat in egg and vanilla.
Combine flour and baking powder and add gradually to creamed mixture. 
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 in. thickness.  Cut into 2 in. rounds
(or whatever shape you choose) and place on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake at 350F for 10 minutes or until very lightly browned at edges.  Cool thoroughly. 

Filling and Frosting 

1/2 cup raspberry jam 
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract 
1 TBSP hot water
1/4 cup candied cherries chopped
Spread half of the cookies with raspberry jam and top with remaining cookies. 
Combine icing sugar, almond extract and enough hot water to make a thin icing.  Frost tops of cookies. 
Top each cookie with a small piece of candied cherry.  Makes approximately a dozen cookies.

C: Eggnog Thumbprints

This is one of my all-time favorite (and easy) recipes. I found this delicious cookie online years ago, at a friend's website and it was a huge hit. Similar to a cookie my Mom used to make, I think it's the "rum" flavored icing that tops off the taste!

Ingredients 3/4 cup butter or margarine 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 cup packed brown sugar 1 egg 1/2 tsp vanilla 1/4 tsp salt 2 cups All-purpose flour In a large mixer bowl, beat butter until softened. Add sugar, brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, salt and beat well. Add flour and beat until well mixed. Cover and chill for about 1 hr or until easy to handle. Shape into 1" balls. Place 2" apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Press down centers with thumb. Bake in 350F oven for approx 12 minutes. Remove and cool. Filling 1/4 cup butter or margarine 1 cup sifted icing sugar 2 TBSP milk 1/4 tsp rum extract For the filling, in a small mixer bowl beat butter until softened. Add powdered sugar and beat until fluffy. Add rum extract and beat well. Spoon 1/2 tsp of filling into the thumbhole of each cookie. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Chill until filling is firm. Makes about 50 cookies