Category: Gifting

make your own girl scout cookies: thin mints edition

homemade thin mints

I’m just gonna come right out and say it…these DIY thin mints are seriously the best things to come out of my kitchen in a while.

Thin Mints are not even my favorite of the Girl Scout cookie varieties. That gold medal goes to Samoas, which, although I’ve never tried, I am pretty convinced I could never accurately recreate because I love them so much. Why are there only 14 Samoas in a box?! Rude.

thin mints

This homemade version is surprisingly accurate (can you call a cookie accurate?) but also better than the original. Partially because you’re eating cookies wherein you can pronounce all of the ingredients, but even more so because the chocolate flavor is a bit darker and more intense without becoming too rich or overwhelming. There’s also the teensiest bit of saltiness to balance the chocolate, too. Continue reading

almond cake

cake 4-

Last weekend, I made a valentine cake. And it was delicious. I was impressed with myself.

I don’t typically make layer cakes. Mostly because transporting a layer cake is a huge pain-in-the-you-know-what, but also because…I am missing whatever gene is necessary to be a rockstar at fancy cake decorating. I am better at what we’ll call “rustic” cake decorating.Β  My version of rustic cake decorating is 1 part legit creativity and 2 parts preschool-style artwork. I’m totally okay with it. I own it. And oddly, I’m a pretty baller cupcake decorator. It’s weird how that pans out, huh?

almond cake

See what I did there with my new alphabet cookie cutters? So cheesy.

A few things about this cake:

  • You should absolutely make your own almond paste. It is SO MUCH TASTIER than the store bought stuff.Β  All you need is almonds, honey, water, and sugar. Here’s a link on how to do it — you can half the recipe and have way more than enough for this cake.
  • If you want to have a chocolate-almond layer like I did, bake half your batter as stated in the recipe, and then fold 1/4 to 1/3 cup of cocoa powder into the remaining half before you bake. I actually ended up baking about 2/3 of the batter in round one (plain almond) and 1/3 of the batter in round 2 (chocolate-almond). My chocolate layer was much thinner. Which is fine, as I didn’t want to overpower the plain almond layers. If you want an even showing of chocolate-almond and plain almond cake, divide your batter in half.
  • I baked my cake layers in an 8×8 square pan, and cut the layers in half to make a cake that was 8″ x 4″. If you do this, you’ll need to keep an eye on your cakes as your baking time might be a bit shorter.
  • For chocolate hearts — melt chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave, put it in a piping bag or a ziploc bag with one of the corners snipped off, and pipe directly onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I put mine in the freezer to help them solidify faster.
  • I also made my own sprinkles. It was fun? But store bought ones are just fine, and probably won’t start disintegrating into the frosting 5 hours after you make it.
  • According toΒ  Molly, this cake is not to be made at any other time of year than Valentine’s Day, but I can’t say that I’ll abide by that rule. It’s too good to wait a full year before making it again!
  • I added a thin layer of blackberry jam between my layers (in addition to the frosting).
  • The “frosting” on this cake is actually just whipped cream. It balances the cake out perfectly. Make sure you whip your cream thoroughly enough that it is structurally sound. Also, this means you can’t just leave this cake sitting out for long periods of time, lest your dairy spoil (ew) and whipped cream start to melt/un-whip itself (double ew).

cake 5-

Almond Cake

recipe, adapted slightly,Β  from My Name Is Yeh

for the cake:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
8 oz almond paste
6 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
pinch of salt
1/2 c sugar

for the “frosting”:
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
a few drops of food coloring, if you want to color your frosting (totally optional)

plus anything you want to use to decorate your cake! I used homemade sprinkles, edible glitter, and chocolate hearts.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare your cake pans and set aside.
  2. Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Beat almond paste and egg yolks until well blended, mix in vanilla and almond extract, and set aside.
  4. In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar one tablespoon at a time and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
  5. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture and then gradually fold in the flour mixture. pour batter into prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes, until a tooth pick comes out clean.
  6. Let cool completely. Sticking them in the freezer helps, and makes them easier to level and frost.
  7. For the frosting, whip up the whipping cream and add the extracts and food coloring.
  8. Level your cake layers (so you don’t end up with a leaning cake…unless you totally dig that kind of thing, and then more power to ya).
  9. Frost and decorate your cake!

chocolate heart

tiny maple pecan sandies

maple pecan sandies

 

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday season! πŸ™‚

These didn’t quite make it up in time for all those festive holiday recipe posts, but they’re still worth your while. Toasted pecans and maple syrup help give them a wintry, warm taste that is a great companion to your morning/afternoon/evening tea or coffee. Best of all, they’re TINY. Which means you can eat a few without feeling like you’ve ruined the age-old new year’s resolution of not eating junk food. Although, if you ask me, things made from scratch with real, pronounceable ingredients are hardly junk food. Besides, didn’t somebody somewhere sometime once say that if you don’t treat yourself once in a while, you’re twice as likely to “cheat” on any diet/exercise plan? Β Treat yo self.

In other news, it hasn’t stopped snowing in three days. Oh, and on Monday, the expected HIGH for the day is -8. Yeah. Continue reading

festive holiday recipe #19: bourbon vanilla caramels

bourbon vanilla caramels

Yep, another post about caramels. I saw the Bourbon Caramel recipe on Tracy’s blog, and immediately knew I had to try it. Typically, I make my caramels with cream and butter instead of condensed milk, but I was really happy to find that the process with the condensed milk moved a bit faster and yielded pretty much the perfect texture….soft, smooth, and chewy, but not so sticky you feel like your teeth are disintegrating. They kept their shapes incredibly well, and didn’t stick to the parchment wrappers either. Basically, these caramels are one gigantic WIN. Continue reading

festive holiday recipe #18: chocolate dipped cinnamon marshmallows

choco dipped cinnamon marshmallows

How pretty are these guys? Homemade marshmallows are always so much more gorgeous than store bought…more rustically decadent, maybe?

Making marshmallows is shockingly easy, and once you make your first batch, you’ll never go back. You can flavor them with any number of extracts or spices, too! These cinnamon marshmallows are the perfect accompaniment to hot chocolate, and a cool thing to be able to share with friends and family, and any hot chocolate loving kiddos (and adults) in your life. I sprinkled mine with some crushed gingersnaps, too, but you can do whatever you’d like. Sprinkles are a fun addition, especially for kids.Β  Continue reading