02 February


Margarita Cupcakes

Margarita Cupcakes 
February 22: National Margarita Day 

When we go out to eat with our Tex-Mex neighbors, Glenn and Ana Maria B., who like to take advantage of happy hour prices at their favorite authentic Mexican restaurants in San Antonio, Texas, Highlander would order a cerveza (beer) while Islander tries a margarita. She personally finds the alcohol too strong for her tastes. But she likes margarita cupcakes over the cocktail and often bakes this boozy dessert for fiestas and get-togethers. Make margarita cupcakes for National Margarita Day. Son muy deliciosos.

Recipe

(Adapted from Diana’s Desserts)

For the margarita cupcakes

  • 1 box white cake mix (we used Duncan Hines brand)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 (10 ounces) can of non-alcoholic lime margarita mix, thawed (we used Bacardi brand), divided use (3/4 cup for the cupcakes, remainder for the frosting)
  • 3 tablespoons orange liqueur (we used Triple Sec)
  • 1 tablespoon tequila
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 4-5 drops of green food coloring

Directions

Zest the lime and set aside. Separate the eggs, reserving the yolks for another recipe.

Margarita Cupcakes

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix and egg whites. Add the lime margarita mix, orange liqueur, tequila and vegetable oil. Mix in the lime zest.

Margarita Cupcakes

Tint the batter with green food coloring. Blend until smooth. Scoop batter into cupcakes papers lining a muffin pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, or until done. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Yield: 2 dozen. 

Margarita Cupcakes

For the frosting

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (we used Wilton brand clear vanilla)
  • 2-3 tablespoons non-alcoholic lime margarita mix, thawed (from the cupcake ingredients above)
  • lime wedges/half slices or curly peel (optional garnish)
  • green sugar sprinkles (optional decorations)

Directions

Cream the butter. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla. Thin with 2-3 tablespoons of lime margarita mix until the frosting is a spreadable consistency.

Margarita Cupcakes

Frost the cupcakes (or fill a pastry bag with frosting and decorate with a swirl on top; we used Wilton tip 1M). Garnish with a lime wedge/slice. Sprinkle green sugar on top. Refrigerate to set. Thaw at room temperature before serving.

Margarita Cupcakes 

Notes

  • Also try our Texas Margarita Pie recipe for National Margarita Day. 
  • Search our blog for other Mexican-inspired recipes.

Gumdrop Cookies

Gumdrop Cookies

February 15: National Gumdrop Day

We used to play the board game, Candy Land, when we were kids. In the vintage version, our game pieces traveled through Gumdrop Mountains. In newer layouts of the game, the journey through Candy Land took players through Gumdrop Pass. We are not sure if gumdrop locations still exist in the newer and online editions. But gumdrops, in all its colorful, sugar-coated gummy goodness, are a classic candy! Whenever we bake them in cookies, kids and kids-at-heart enjoy the crisp confection with chewy-gooey gumdrops. These sweet snacks are a treat to eat while playing Candy Land and celebrating National Gumdrop Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Taste of Home)

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar, divided use
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup gumdrop candies (spiced or fruit-flavored), chopped
  • 2 egg whites

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening with ¾ cup sugar. Stir in the almond extract. In a separate bowl, combine the flour with the baking soda and salt. Gradually mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones (the dough will be dry).

Gumdrop Cookies

Mix in the chopped gumdrops. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Then gradually add the remaining ¼ cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the dough until moistened.

Gumdrop Cookies

On foil-lined ungreased cookie sheets, drop by teaspoonsful about two inches apart. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool to a crisp. Yield: Approximately 2 ½ – 3 dozen gumdrop cookies.

Gumdrop Cookies

Notes

  • For bigger mounds of gumdrop cookies, scoop tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheet and bake for another 5 minutes. For flatter cookies, press down on the dough before baking.
  • For holiday baking, change the colors of the gumdrops to black and orange for Halloween and red and green for Christmas.

Meringue Kisses

Meringue Kisses

February 14: Valentine’s Day

If chocolate-covered strawberries are getting too cliché for Valentine’s Day, try strawberry-flavored meringue kisses instead. The latter are light-as-air, cute crispy-puffy, melt-in-your-mouth sweet treats. They are easy to make and yield several dozen cookies, which look perfect on party trays or in heart-shaped gift boxes. Show your love (of baking) and make meringue kisses for someone special. These bite-sized babies are sure to earn a kiss for the cook. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Recipe

(Adapted from McCormick)

Ingredients

  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¾ cup sugar, granulated white
  • 1 teaspoon flavoring/extract (vanilla, strawberry, cherry or raspberry)
  • red food coloring
  • Valentine-colored non-pareils (optional)

Directions

Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper. Set aside. In a grease-free bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and beat on high speed until glossy and stiff peaks form. Stir in the flavoring (we used strawberry extract).

Meringue Kisses

Fold the red food coloring into the meringue until the desired shade of pink is reached. Fill a pastry bag outfitted with a star tip or round nozzle and pipe two-inch rounds with peaks about two inches apart. Sprinkle with Valentine-colored non-pareils (optional).

Meringue Kisses

Bake in a preheated oven at 225 degrees F for one hour. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues there to cool without opening the door for another hour. Remove from the oven and carefully peel them from the parchment paper.

Meringue Kisses

Notes

  • Make more meringues for other holidays. For fiesta and Cinco de Mayo, make cactus meringue cookies. For Halloween, make meringue skeleton bones.
  • Avoid opening the oven door while the meringue cookies are baking land cooling so moisture does not interfere with the drying process.
  • Humidity affects making meringues. When the weather gets this way, the meringues become sticky and chewy.
  • This “kiss” name is probably descriptive of the slight touch of the pastry tip on the baking sheet. When piping out the meringue from the bag, squeeze then lift off gently to form the distinctive peak on top of the meringue cookie. The peak looks like the top on the tiny chocolate kiss candy as well. Both are delicious desserts for Valentine’s Day.

Rocky Road Nutella Squares

Rocky Road Nutella Treats

February 5: World Nutella Day

Chocolate Rice Krispies Treats, a childhood favorite, get a grown-up makeover with a Rocky Road topping. But it is the Nutella and chopped hazelnuts that give this confection a fuller flavor of filberts and chocolate!

Rocky Road refers to a decadent dessert that has a chocolate base (ice cream, cake, Chocolate Rice Krispies Treats, etc.) mixed with marshmallows and chopped nuts (usually walnuts, almonds or peanuts). Chocolate Rice Krispies Treats are made with cocoa rice cereal and marshmallows already. Adding Nutella and toasted hazelnuts/filberts give the treats a tasty twist to the traditional Rice Krispies Treats and Rocky Road.

For World Nutella Day, add the creamy chocolate hazelnut/filbert spread to chocolate rice cereal bars/squares and make Rocky Road Nutella Treats.

Recipe

(Adapted from Redbook magazine)

For the Chocolate-Nutella Rice Krispies Treats

  • ½ stick (¼ cup) butter, unsalted
  • 1 bag (10 ounces) mini marshmallows
  • 2/3 cup Nutella
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 cups chocolate rice cereal (we used Cocoa Krispies)
  • 1 jar marshmallow cream (we used Marshmallow Fluff)

For the Rocky Road topping

  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • ½ cup hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
  • ½ cup chocolate chips, semi-sweet

Directions

Line a 9×13” baking pan with foil, leaving some overhang on the edges. Mist with cooking spray. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat, swirling to coat the sides. Add the bag of marshmallows and stir until smooth. Mix in the Nutella.

Rocky Road Nutella Treats

Stir in the vanilla extract. Mix in the chocolate rice cereal and blend until well coated. Press evenly into the prepared pan. Cool completely before spreading the marshmallow cream over the top of the mixture.

Rocky Road Nutella Treats

Sprinkle the marshmallows and chocolate chips over the cream. Chop and toast the hazelnuts/filberts.

Rocky Road Nutella Treats

Scatter the cooled nuts over the empty spaces among the marshmallows and chocolate chips. Gently press down on the topping to make everything adhere to the surface. Using the foil “handles”, remove the dessert from the pan and peel away the foil. Cut into 24 squares and arrange on a platter, keeping them slightly apart so they do not stick to each other.

Rocky Road Nutella Treats

Notes

  • Be careful when cutting through the solid sweetness of the Rocky Road Nutella Treats. Use a large, sharp knife and press down hard to slice all the way through.
  • Rocky Road Nutella Treats are also terrific on National Cereal Day (March 7) and National Rocky Road Day (June 2).

Olympic Medal Cookies

Olympic Medal Cookies

February: Winter Olympic Games

Be a winner when hosting an Olympic Games watch party by providing sugar cookie medals to guests. These gold, bronze and silver treats make impressive favors and desserts.

We actually gave out these Olympic medal cookies to winners of a bible trivia contest at a prayer social hosted by Islander’s brother’s student ministry group. Teams had to “compete for a cookie medal” and were very motivated to win these sweet treats. Students showed great sportsmanship, made new friends with their teammates and challenged themselves with bible knowledge (the use of smart phones disqualifies them!). Everyone had a lot of fun and looked forward to earning a custom cookie.

Create your own Olympic-style contest for a unique and enjoyable event and award the winners with sugar cookie medals.

Recipe

 (Adapted from Southern Living: Incredible Cookies)

 For the sugar cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract/flavoring
  • 3 cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the flour and salt. Blend well until a dough is formed.

Olympic Medal Cookies

Roll the dough into a ball and refrigerate for an hour. Cut the dough in half and roll each out into 1/4-inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut with 2 ½ or 3-inch rounds using a cookie cutter or rim of a glass/cup. Punch out holes using Wilton tip 2A.

Olympic Medal Cookies

Place the cookies onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet about an inch apart. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes before baking in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Bake until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Olympic Medal Cookies

For the fondant design

  • white fondant (we used Wilton brand)
  • water or clear piping gel (we used Wilton brand)
  • gold, silver and bronze edible dusting powders (we used CK Products brand)
  • tequila or vodka

Directions

Roll out fondant according to package directions. Using the same size round cutter and tip, cut out shapes and set aside.

Olympic Medal Cookies

Brush the surface of a cookie with water or piping gel. Adhere the fondant over the cookie, aligning with the hole punch. Smooth out edges with fingers. Imprint Olympic circles using the back end of another decorating tip.

Olympic Medal Cookies

Make a paste with the bronze/silver/gold dusting powder by mixing with a drop or two of tequila/vodka. Quickly paint over the surface of the fondant.

Olympic Medal Cookies

Let the cookies dry completely. Tie ribbons to the cookies (1 yard/3 feet long). Keep in a container until ready to present the medals.

Olympic Medal Cookies

Notes

  • Knead hardened fondant with a little vegetable shortening to soften and make more pliable. Dust a clean surface with powdered sugar to avoid the fondant from sticking.
  • Take care to choose edible and non-toxic dusting powders for painting the cookies. Some powders are made for sugar showpieces only and should not be eaten. They may be painted onto the fondant “dry” (without alcohol). However, the alcohol gives the powder a shinier metallic finish.
  • We used a 5/8-inch wide red-white-and-blue ribbon. Other ribbon substitutions could be made, such as blue for 1st place (gold), red for 2nd place (silver) and white for 3rd place (bronze).
  • The ribbons may be tied directly on the cookies. We used clear “twist ties” to attach the ribbons through the cookie holes.
  • Thanks to Lisa L. for gifting us with the cookie cookbook from where we got the recipe for the sugar cookie base.

Chocolate Cherry Cola Cupcakes

Chocolate Cherry Cola Cupcakes

February: Washington’s Birthday/Lincoln’s Birthday/Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February)

The first president of the United States of America is often associated with cherries. George Washington chopping down a cherry tree as a child and admitting the truth that he did it is actually a myth. His name is also linked to the state that is the largest supplier of the fruit in the country. The close dates of the birthdays of Washington (February 22, 1732) and another great and reputably honest president, Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809), are observed together annually as Presidents’ Day on the third Monday of February.

Pretty please, with a cherry on top, celebrate this national holiday with chocolate cherry cola cupcakes. We chose to make this dessert for this blog post because it is both National Cherry Month and National Chocolate Month as well. Two fabulous flavors, two presidential birthdays, one delightful dessert! Indulge!

Recipe

(Adapted from Betty Crocker)

For the chocolate cherry cola cupcakes

  • 2 jars of maraschino cherries (with or without stems)
  • 1 box devil’s food cake mix
  • 1 cup cherry cola carbonated beverage
  • ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 eggs

Directions

Drain the cherries, reserving some of the juice for the frosting recipe and also saving around 30 cherries for the topping. Chop the remaining cherries into little pieces and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix and moisten with cherry cola.

Chocolate Cherry Cola Cupcakes

Add the oil, eggs and ¼ cup cherry juice. Mix well. Fold in the chopped cherries.

Chocolate Cherry Cola Cupcakes

Scoop batter no more than 2/3 full into cupcake papers lining a muffin pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25-35 minutes, testing with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: Approximately 30 cupcakes.

Chocolate Cherry Cola Cupcakes

For the cherry buttercream frosting

  • 1 stick (½ cup) butter, softened
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon cherry flavor/extract
  • 4+ tablespoons maraschino cherry juice (reserved from above)
  • red food coloring (optional)

Directions

Cream the butter with the sugar until smooth. Add the cherry extract and mix well.

Chocolate Cherry Cola Cupcakes

Tint to the desired shade of pink with a few drops of red food coloring (optional). Thin the frosting to spreadable/piping consistency with the cherry juice. Frost the cupcakes (or use tip 1M and a pastry bag to pipe swirls).

Chocolate Cherry Cola Cupcakes

For the cherry topping and chocolate ganache drizzles

  • maraschino cherries, dried
  • 4 ounces chocolate (we used one bar of Baker’s brand chocolate)
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream

Directions

Wash and dry the remaining 30 maraschino cherries, gently squeezing out the excess juice. Dry on paper towels. Melt the chocolate. Stir in the cream until smooth and well blended.

Chocolate Cherry Cola Cupcakes

Allow the ganache to cool and thicken (this may take several minutes, depending on the room temperature; may speed up the process by refrigerating but watch carefully for the consistency). Pour a spoonful of the ganache over the chocolate and allow to drip down the sides. Top with a maraschino cherry.

Chocolate Cherry Cola Cupcakes 

Notes

  • Many boxed cake mixes used to by 18.25 ounces. Nowadays they are 15.25-16.5 ounces. Add six tablespoons of flour to the cake mix to compensate for the difference.
  • Double the recipe for the frosting and ganache if decorating the cupcakes in a full and fancy style.
  • The reserved maraschino cherry juice could be substituted for the cherry cola, kirsch or water.

 

Football Coffee Cookies

Football Cookies

February: Super Bowl

We sometimes host a small and simple Super Bowl Sunday social with our neighbors and watch the big football game at our home. Highlander grills the burgers, our neighbors bring fried chicken wings and beer and Islander prepares the snacks, sides and desserts.

Football-shaped cookies are a thematic dessert that can be easily made ahead of time so we can concentrate on getting the main foods ready and then focus on our friends and the game. Although a chocolate cookie recipe is often used to make the football cookies, we baked a fragrant and flavorful coffee cookie instead.

Support your favorite school or professional team and make football coffee cookies as tailgating treats or game day desserts during football season, especially for Super Bowl Sunday.

Recipe

(Adapted from Southern Living: Incredible Cookies)

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons coffee liqueur (Kahlua)
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup white chocolate, melted

Directions

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Set aside. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and blend well. In a cup, mix the coffee liqueur, instant coffee granules and vanilla extract.

Football Cookies

Blend coffee flavoring into the dough. Mix well and shape into a smooth ball. Refrigerate the dough for 10 minutes. Place flattened dough between two sheets of waxed paper. Roll no thicker than ¼ inches. Cut with football-shaped cookie cutter, re-rolling dough scraps as necessary.

Football Cookies

Place onto lightly greased cookie sheets about an inch apart.  Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until brown on the edges. Remove from the oven and let stand on the baking sheet for five more minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely and harden.

Football Cookies

Melt the white chocolate and place in a piping bag with a round tip. Draw the football stitching on the cooled cookies. Allow to dry completely. Yield: Approximately 14-16 football cookies.

Football Cookies

Notes

  • For an alternative to melted white chocolate, use tube icing, such as Wilton or Betty Crocker brands. Some of the ready-made frostings do not dry completely so avoid stacking the football cookies or the stitching design will stick to each other.
  • For crisper wafers, roll the dough into 1/8-inch thickness and bake for 7-10 minutes.
  • For a chocolate football cookie, use this recipe here.

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