Holiday Dessert & Hot Cocoa Bar

This time of year, is a crafty girl’s time to shine!  With so many yummy things to eat getting passed  around, it’s hard to choose what to bake.  You want to do something different and something that will stick in the memory of the recipient.   What do I do?  Just try to make it all!  It’s a downfall of mine, I will find 2-5 new recipes every few days while blog surfin’, and I will want to try them all.   I love trying new recipes and flavors, and this time of year is a perfect excuse to bake away! 

It seems that people are more likely to eat baked goods or “cheat” during this time of year, and I take advantage of that!  Co-workers, neighbors, family and friends are some of my victims!  They just can’t resist! 

Every year, my dear mother in law host’s the “Very Von Christmas”.   The Von crew gets together for tasty appetizers, wine and desserts .  We get to catch up and spend time together, without the presents.  It makes for such a fun time!  Since this was the first year having Christmas in their new home, I knew that I had to have an awesome dessert spread!  We had about 20 people, so it was super difficult to choose what to make!  I am used to making so many different things which is easy, because I can choose a few recipes, which make about 2 dozen cupcakes each.  Well, I know that I can pass on the left overs, but 4 dozen cupcakes is a lot! 

So, I decided on this:  Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, Ginger Bread Cupcakes, Egg Nog Cupcakes, and a Hot Cocoa Bar.  Yummo!

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I think that it turned out pretty good!  There were some more details that I could have incorporated, but I am happy with it!

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I am in love with apothecary jars, just saying!  They have so many possibilities!   I use them around the house and they look awesome for dessert tables or parties!  I have several different styles and sizes, I got them at Home Goods, a few at a time.  They are about 12-18 dollars a piece.  Jumbo marshmallows are super cheap and fill a large jar and then some!  You can also tie a cute ribbon or some raffia around them if you want to add that extra pop of color!  If you are tight on storage space and want to keep costs down, try going in on these pieces with family or friends, and just trade-off as you need them!  Mama Von and I just started doing this, and it makes the men of our houses very happy!

Keep your table linen simple,  think of it  like a blank canvas.  Starting off with a fresh,blank slate to work on will keep the eyes where they matter, on the delicious, sugary stuff!  Use table runners or fun placemats to add color and character. 

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Not the gum drop buttons!  I am in love with this little guy!  He was another Home Goods find at $12.99.  And yes, you can take his head off, and put some goodies inside!  Those beauties next to him would be the Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cinnamon Brown Sugar Frosting.  Ahhh so yummy!   

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I just added these little cake stands to my crafty arsenal.  They were $7.99 at Home Goods, and you can change out the ribbon!  I pulled the blah blue ribbon out and wove in some of my gingie bread man gross grain!  In love!

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I love the color that these came out, I sprinkled a little nutmeg on top.  I did tweak the recipe slightly,    here’s the original link .  I followed the cupcake recipe almost exactly, I did use vegetable oil because I didn’t have any canola.  The frosting I did change quite a bit.   I just used a little bit of butter, I don’t really like this kind of butter cream, I hate using it because it doesn’t hold its shape as well as a cream cheese based frosting or a real butter cream does.  And I don’t know how I feel about putting shortening in a frosting, but I will have to give it a shot some day!  Gotta go with what ya know!

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I do wish that I had time to put a wee lil’ gingie bread man on top, but with the way they taste, no one cared!  Here’s what you will need to make 1 dozen cupcakes

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cinnamon Brown Sugar

  • 1/2 cup canola oil, I used vegetable
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg, room temp and beaten
  • 1-1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda

Pre-heat at 325.  Put flour, ginger, cinnamon,salt and ground cloves in a large bowl and mix.  In your mixing bowl, mix oil, sugar and molasses, mix together, adding the egg, until well combined.  Add the dry ingredients to the molasses mixture.  Boil the water, I just used the kettle, way fast!  Pour the water into a bowl with baking soda and mix well.  It’s a beautiful caramel color!

Use your ice cream scoop and scoop into liners.   Bake at 325 for 22 mins, or until your tooth pick comes out clean.  Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then place on a cooling rack.  On to the frosting!

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Frosting

  • 1/4 cup butter (softened)
  • 8 oz softened cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2  tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Whisk cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Mix in the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon,vanilla and butter.  Once combined, add in your powdered sugar.  I usually add in 1/2 cup at a time to prevent a scene from Scarface in my kitchen.  Plus Boston Terriers do not like powdered sugar, so I’d have to clean it myself.  Take a taste, and wrap them up in your frosting packets!  Put them in the fridge for a little while if they are too soft.  Once they are cool, frost them up!  Sprinkle with some nutmeg.   They looked and tasted amazing!

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So, when I bake, I try to use what I have on hand, unless I need to make something specific.  We had a bunch of egg nog left over that hadn’t been opened yet left over from Thanksgiving.   Pinterest has never let me down!  Here’s where I found it, and let me tell you!  These were rummy!  They tasted so good, and I hate eggnog! 

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I did alter the recipe a bit, based on what I had on hand & to my preference! 

Eggnog Cupcakes with Rum Butter Cream

Makes about 24 cupcakes

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup eggnog
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place flour in a large bowl.   In the mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, until mixed well.  Scrape your bowl before adding the dry ingredients. 

Mix in the flour, in parts, alternating with the eggnog.  This gives you  a nice, smooth batter.  Mix in the vanilla.  Use the ice cream scoop, fill up your liners, 1 scoop each.

Bake for 20-22 mins at 325, until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for a few minutes before transferring to the cooling rack. 

Now for the rummy frosting!  Like I had mentioned before, I am not a eggnog fan, but half the fam bam is, so I had to give this recipe a shot.  In the original posting, they used a beautiful gold sprinkle!  So pretty!  I did follow the frosting recipe exactly.  I am in love with this butter cream!  I think that I will use this method from now on and just change-up the flavors as needed!

Spice Rum Butter Cream

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, diced and softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup spiced rum, I used Captain Morgan.  Everyone needs a little captain in ya!

I used my double boiler, but you can also just use a bowl over simmering water to make this frosting.

Combine egg whites and sugar in a bowl in the double boiler.  Use your whisk and keep on whisking away until you get the mix to 160 degrees F.  Once you have reached that temp, place the mixture into your mixer bowl with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed, use either speed 6-8 on a Kitchen Aid mixer.  You will be mixing for quite some time, about 8-12 mins, until its light and fluffy and it has doubled its size, and it has stiff peaks.   This is a good time to start cleaning up! 

Once you have peaks, start adding in your butter, little by little.   Be patient!  I really took my time, adding just a few pieces of butter at a time, and the frosting was perfectly smooth and fluffy!

Now, put your leg up and Yarrgggh!  Put all that yummy rum inside the mix, and add the salt.  Mine curdled up a little, I just turned up the speed back to 8 and re-fluffed it. Ahh, crisis avoided!   They do have a strong rum taste, but not like throwing a shot of Captain back.  It’s the prefect amount!  Kiddo’s will probably not like the taste, but you can always use less rum and add as you go.

Get out your plastic wrap and wrap up in your frosting packets, and you are ready to frost these yummy cupcakes!

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In addition to all the baked goods, I wanted to do a Hot Cocoa Bar.  Well, I wanted to dip a bunch of stuff in chocolate actually so this seemed like a good excuse to try a few new culinary tricks.  

I added on the table some glass bottles filled with peppermint,vanilla and hazelnut extracts.  Whipped cream, sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, walnuts, peppermint chunks we amongst the fixin’s.

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Sugar coma!!!  It was so fun putting this together and everyone enjoyed it!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

This time of year, I always look forward to great times with family and friends, and of course, all the yummy food!!!  When it comes down to baking, pumpkin is one of the first things that comes to my mind!!!  With all the choices out there, what do you make?!  I love pumpkin pie, but sometimes its too expected.  Making the dough can be daunting to some people, to get that crust just right, can be tricky!!!  For me, I love-making pretty cupcakes.  So easy and they don’t take all that much time, don’t require utensils or plates, and they don’t require the possibility of leaving one of your beloved pans behind!  They can be frosted and decorated in so many different ways and cute cup cake liners.  They smell great, look great, and taste amazing!  Trust me, everyone will love this one and be very impressed!

I have used and tweaked this recipe a few times, and it’s always a hit!

First things first, always make sure you let everything get to room temp and make sure your butter and cream cheese is soft!  Have you ever had lumpy cake or frosting?!  Ick!  Tips and tricks make the process easy, fun, and always come out with consistent results.  Over many years of baking and trials, it really does make a difference using quality ingredients.  Investing in quality vanilla,sifting your flour, and good spices is a must in my book!!!   Here’s what ya’ll will need:

Pumpkin Cupcakes     

Makes about 30 cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp

1 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 cup of milk, or heavy cream

2 cups pumpkin puree

Pre heat the oven to 325.  Oven temps vary, but it’s always a good idea when reading recipes for baking to set the oven to a lower temperature.  Most recipes always say 350 for baking cupcakes and cakes, but lowering the temp and cooking for a little bit longer makes a difference!  This will always give you a nice, moist cupcake.  Theres nothing worse than seeing a beautiful cupcake and biting into a dry hard mess!

Grab a large bowl for your dry ingredients.  Mix in flour,baking soda & baking powder, salt,cinnamon,ginger and nutmeg.

Take a whisk or your spatula and give it a little mixin’

Place the butter in the mixer, and let er rip!  I like to mix up the butter and get it all fluffy in there!  Add the sugar and brown sugar until nice and creamy.

Add your eggs, one at a time, mixin’ it well before adding the next.

Next, add your mixture of all the dry ingredients, alternating with milk until its well mixed.  Have your spatula handy, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go.  Adding, alternating and scraping as you go will give you a nice, creamy mixture minus all the lumpy’s.

Mix in that yummy pumpkin!

Grab your cupcake pan and fill with liners.  Having good cupcake liners is a must!  Have you ever baked and had a super oily bottom on the outside?  Those cheap liners are hard to pass up, but when cookin’ with butter, its nice to have a thick quality liner so you don’t have a hot, oily mess under your delicious goodie!

Use an ice cream scoop to scoop up the batter and plop in your liner.  This gives you a perfect sized cupcake, and its way easier than using a spoon.

Pop em’ into the oven, at 325 for 20 mins.  If you aren’t sure how your oven’s runnin’, I would check them with a tooth pick at about 17 minutes, just in case.  I check them at 20 mins, if it’s coming out clean, take them out, let cool in the pans for 5 mins.  Place them on a cooling rack to finish cooling down.

Now, for the even yummier part!  Frosting!!!

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, softened

4 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 tsp of vanilla bean paste, if you don’t have it, you can use 2 tsp of vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg

Place the cream cheese in the mixer, give it a quick whip and soften it up.

Add the confectioners sugar in sections, and make sure that your speed isn’t at  80 mph, or you will have a huge mess!  After you have all the sugar mixed in, add the vanilla bean paste, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Mix until nice and creamy!  The color is beautiful!  I love the look of the vanilla bean!

Ok, so here’s a trick that I learned awhile back, that makes frosting cupcakes easy and quick!!!  Makes for easy storage too, or if your frosting is a little too soft, you can stick these nifty little packs into the fridge to get a little firmer, or to save that extra deliciousness!

Grab your frosting, a spatula and some good plastic wrap.  From personal experience and recent explosion all over the kitchen, trust me on this one!!

Pull out about a 1-1 1/2 foot size piece and lay it on the counter.  Make sure its nice and flat.  Scoop out some frosting and place it in the middle of the plastic wrap, taking care not to spread it out too far.  You may want to just use a little bit of frosting when you first try this trick, if not, you may have a frosted ceiling.

Fold the plastic wrap up one side at a time, wrapping the frosting into a nice, compact package. Fold ends.

Now, don’t go getting all crazy on me here, take your time and make sure you have folded the wrap up so it’s completly covered!  Grab the ends and gently swing the wrap around like a jump rope.  This will give you frosting packet.

When you are ready to frost, get your piping bag ready, cut one end of the frosting wrap off, close to but not at the end, and drop into your piping bag.  Gently give it a squeeze and your frosting is ready to go!  When you are done with that bag, you can just pull the empty plastic wrap out, and repeat!  Your piping bag stays clean and its much easier to refill than scooping it into a frosted bag that sticks.  It’s so fast!  You can even change tips in between without washing out the bag!

Frost up these yummy cupcakes!!!  And eat one.  Or two!

Enjoy!