SIMPLE VANILLA CHRISTMAS COOKIES!!!

December 16, 2014
vanilla cookie

In our quest to find EASY-TO-MAKE desserts with a BIG PAYOFF, we had to share this cookie recipe that came our way via our cupcake historian.

Every Christmas, for the past few years, our historian pal brings us a batch of ITALIAN VANILLA CHRISTMAS COOKIES that he makes himself, following his mother Anna’s recipe (which, to a large extent, was her mother’s recipe).  We always find these cookies incredibly addictive. And he never quite gives us enough of them. (Hint. Hint.)

They’re a very simple cookie, with just the right touch of sugar and vanilla. They taste great on their own, AND they’re also great for dunking.

In our OTHER quest—to try and stay up to date on the latest technology—we attempted to made our first VINE VIDEO (which can only be SIX SECONDS LONG). Here’s our historian demonstrating, in speedy Vine fashion, how these cookies come together.

For those who’d like to see the steps in a little slower fashion, here’s the full recipe:

Start with:

1 ¾ cups sugar (ever-so-slightly more sugar is okay)

2 ¾ teaspoons vanilla (a little more vanilla is good too)

6 eggs

Blend the eggs, sugar and vanilla together.

Then add 1 ½ cups Crisco. (Other shortening is okay, but Crisco works best.)

Mix until smooth. No lumps.

Then, in a separate bowl, sift:

6 cups flour (don’t overdo flour; better to slightly underdo)

6 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Then add the sifted ingredients to the egg blend. Mix thoroughly with whisk or wooden spoon. Then knead with hands till very smooth.

Roll strips of dough into “S” curved shapes. The strips should be on the smaller side, approx 1½ inches. Very big and plump strips will not cook through.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, depending on the oven.

Pull out when medium brown on bottom.

And that is that!

We promise you: you won’t be able to eat just one! And there’s a very good chance these cookies may become a holiday tradition of your own!

Happy Cookie-making,

Alan and Karen

THE FIRST NOEL CUPCAKE CAKE!!!

December 14, 2014
Noel Cake-blog image

Here’s a BRAND NEW HOLIDAY PROJECT we created just the other day—making its debut on the blog—and the blog only! Introducing our spectacular NOEL CUPCAKE CAKE!

We were looking at the word cloud on our blog and noticed how the words and letters come together in such playful ways. So we decided we wanted to try some kind of word cloud-inspired cake. We played around and after a while—with Christmas in mind—our Noel Cupcake Cake was born!

Here’s how it all came together:

We began by making the letters, using a familiar Hello Cupcake technique. We took green spice drops—4 or 5 at a time—and pressed them together. Then we rolled them in one of two colors of green sugar—one lighter and one darker. Then we cut several of each letter out of each color, using alphabet cookie cutters.

Noel Cake-how to for blog

 

We also made a batch of bright green candy clay and cut some letters from that—just for variety.

We decided to make it a cupcake cake because they are so much fun to serve and eat, but you could just as easily bake a 9 x 13 cake and cut it into the tree shape. We took 11 cupcakes, frosted the tops with vanilla frosting, and laid them out on a tray in a tree shape (as shown). Then we placed the letters on the cupcakes in a playful pattern to give it the feeling of a word cloud. Finally we added a few decorative Sixlets in red and gold.

For the tree trunk, we used a Cadbury Flake chocolate bar—because it looks like tree bark. (Of course, if you can’t find a Flake bar, feel free to substitute with another chocolate stick bar like a Kit Kat or a Nutty Bar.)

And there you have it—one sweetly satisfying Christmas tree!

It was so much fun to make. And because we are so into word play, we’re looking forward to making more word cloud-inspired projects in the new year!

Happy Holiday Cupcaking,

Alan and Karen

“HELLO CUPCAKE” HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS!!

December 11, 2014

Our new book isn’t quite ready for Christmas but there are a few gift ideas out there that feature us in one way or another. Here’s a quick list: just as a reminder.

Karen did the food styling and Alan took the photographs in Dorie Greenspan’s amazing new dessert book. It’s popping up on loads of best book lists for the year. And we’ve been hearing nothing but raves from friends who’ve tried the recipes. We wouldn’t expect anything less from Dorie. Personally, we can’t wait to make the rice pudding cake!

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Alan’s college buddy Yona Zeldis McDonough put him and “Hello Cupcake” into her wonderful new novel. It’s the moving story of a New York food editor who finds an abandoned baby on the subway. It’s garnered lots of five star reviews on Amazon. “I really loved it,” says Alan. “Even the pages I’m not on.”

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And finally, our new 2015 calendar is available. We’ve gone back to our classic dog cover for this one: Lucky and Bunny included. And there’s lots of fun stuff inside—including some original projects not seen in our books.

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calendar back

Of course, you can find all these gifts at Amazon. Just click here.

Hope we’ve helped with these last minute gift ideas.

Happy Holidays,

Alan and Karen

CHRISTMAS IN NEW YORK!!

December 10, 2014
tree

Hi, everyone. We were in Manhattan today having a meeting about our upcoming book. And we happened to go through Rockefeller Center.

It was snowing. A huge orchestra was playing holiday songs and show tunes. And this year’s giant tree looked beautiful.

It was such a special moment—the kind that really defines Christmas in New York! We had to take a photo to share with you.

Think of it as a preview of the cupcake tree we’ll be debuting on the blog any day now.

Hope your holiday season is going great so far!!

Alan and Karen

SANTA CLAUS CUPCAKES!!!

December 8, 2014
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We’ve been putting up our holiday decorations, a little every day. And this year, we’re going mostly with lights, lots of lights. No reindeer on the roof. And no Blow-Up Santa—except, that is, in the kitchen.

This BLOW-UP LAWN SANTA CUPCAKE is one of our most popular projects from WHAT’S NEW, CUPCAKE? And we find ourselves making it every year. It’s a real crowd pleaser—and kid pleaser—and proof of the fact that he’s definitely coming to town!

You’ll need jumbo cupcakes (for the body) and mini cupcakes (for the head) as well as some RED food coloring and RED sugar. After all, how can you create a Santa without the color red?!!

You can find the complete recipe in a few places. See pages 194-97 of WHAT’S NEW. Or find the instructions by going to one of our DUNCAN HINES pages. Simply click here.

More Happy Holiday Projects to come.

Happy Decorating,

Alan and Karen

HOW TO MAKE OUR HOLIDAY JOY CAKE!!!

December 5, 2014
Celebration Doves-03

Between the Rockefeller Center tree-lighting and this week’s live TV performance of PETER PAN, it’s really beginning to seem like Christmas around the Candy Lab. And here’s the perfect cake to start with. It captures our fondest wishes for you this holiday season–and ALL IN ONE WORD!

Best of all, our Ode to Joy is very easy to make.

We began with a chocolate sheet cake–which we covered in chocolate frosting.

Then we placed chocolate Ovation Sticks around the border, because they looked good–and because they helped hold the red and green Sixlets in place.

We used the red and green Sixlets to make some holiday stripes along the top of the cake.

Then we spelled out JOY using SweetWorks’ “Celebration Doves.” We used a dot of frosting to hold each Dove in place.

We finished up by putting a white Sixlet in each corner, and more white Sixlets around the base.

Simple as that.

We’ll be back ALL MONTH with more holiday ideas.

Till then,

Happy Decorating,

Alan and Karen

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GOOD-BYE TO A SWEET OLD FRIEND!

December 3, 2014

One of our favorite dessert places in all of New York is closing this Friday, December 5th—the classic DE ROBERTI’S PASTRY SHOPPE on First Avenue in the East Village.

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DeRoberti’s has been around since 1904. It’s where we learned to love CANNOLI, PASTACHOTE, SFOGLIATELLE and the entire range of Italian desserts—not to mention CAPPUCCINO!!

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It’s also been a meeting place for us and many friends and colleagues over the years. Entire friendships are based on meeting there–and STAYING there—seemingly for hours. It’s that kind of place. And I guess we’re not alone.  CLICK HERE to check out this great piece on De Roberti’s from the BEDFORD + BOWERY blog.

So long, old friend. We’ll definitely get there before Friday. Save us a piece of cheesecake (Italian, of course)!

Alan and Karen

A SAVORY BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR KAREN!!

December 1, 2014
karen cake

When Karen and I work in the Candy Lab, we’re surrounded by candy ALL DAY LONG. And, believe me, sometimes it’s hard to keep ourselves from eating all our decorating ingredients.

So in order to balance our diet—and keep our palettes alert—we make sure there are lots of salty, savory treats around—pretzels, pickles, etc. And over the years, I couldn’t help but notice which ones were Karen’s favorites.

So when her birthday rolled around, I thought it would be a fun surprise to create a birthday treat out of all her favorite SAVORY snacks. You might call it our first “HELLO, PRETZEL” cake!

karen with cake

Here’s what I did to make it. It was a SUSPENSE-FILLED project, because I had no idea if it would all work out:

First, for the bottom crust, I took a cup of CRUSHED PRETZELS and added 3 tablespoons of BUTTER and an EGG WHITE.

I mixed them together and pressed the mixture into the bottom of a greased soufflé dish. I baked the crust at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and then pulled it out to cool.

For the “cake,” I blended three 8 ounce packages of CREAM CHEESE, 1/2 cup SOUR CREAM, 3 tablespoons of CORN STARCH, a pinch of SALT and 2 beaten EGGS.

Next I added bits of Karen’s favorite snacks: PIMENTOS, CAPER BERRIES, SALTED PUMPKIN SEEDS, and even ANCHOVY STUFFED OLIVES. Lastly—with a BAM!—I added her secret passion: SPAM!!

I lined the sides of the soufflé dish with strips of oiled parchment. Then I poured the cream cheese mixture into the dish and baked the cake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Lo and behold, the whole crazy concoction worked!!

Once it cooled, it slid right out of the soufflé dish! It looked like a cake!! And it tasted great too!!!

So Happy Birthday, Karen!! Here’s to many more sweet—and savory—moments!

Your pal and partner,

Alan 

FIVE FUN FACTS ABOUT PUMPKIN PIE!

November 25, 2014

When we called our cupcake historian to invite him to Thanksgiving dinner, he regaled us with a few fun facts about pumpkin pie. We thought we’d share the five best facts. That way, we can all seem like the SMARTEST person at the dinner table.

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Did you know that the pilgrims did NOT necessarily eat pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving? Many sources say that pumpkin pie was not introduced until the SECOND Thanksgiving in 1623 (although pumpkins were always a staple of the Native American diet). (It’s even said that Native Americans fed pumpkin to their horses.)

Did you know that the FIRST pumpkin pies were actually WHOLE BAKED PUMPKINS stuffed with assorted spices and apples? The first recipe for our kind of pumpkin pie (“pumpkin pudding baked in a crust”) doesn’t appear until the LATE 18th CENTURY (a mere 215 years ago) in a book entitled AMERICAN COOKERY by Amelia Simmons.

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Did you know 50 million pumpkins pies are baked every year?

The LARGEST PUMPKIN PIE on record was five feet around. It used 80 pounds of pumpkin and baked for six hours!

And last but not least, according to the American Pie Council, 1 out of 5 Americans has eaten an ENTIRE pumpkin pie by themselves.

Illinois, by the way, is where the most pumpkins are produced.

Okay. So that’s SIX facts. Well, Thanksgiving is always a time to OVERDO.

Have a great, warm, food-and-love-filled holiday. Thanks to all of you for your support over the years.

See you next week.

Alan and Karen

THE TURKEY VARIATIONS!

November 24, 2014
turkey

We figure: There can never be too many turkey cake ideas out there this time of year. But we wanted to do something truly unique. So we set ourselves the goal of coming up with the most REALISTIC TURKEY CAKE we could imagine.

Yes. Believe it or not, that’s a picture of a cake up there. (Photo by Andrew Purcell for PARADE magazine.)

CARAMEL is the key.

You can get the complete instructions by clicking here.

At that link, you’ll also find a fun STOP-MOTION ANIMATION that’ll show you how the entire cake comes together.

Have fun crafting this BIG BIRD—along with your other big bird!

Alan and Karen

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