My week to host Project Pastry Queen fell during Christmas so I picked the most Christmasy recipe I could find: Glazed Lemon-Cranberry Loaf Cake.
It’s “just” a small loaf cake scented with lemon zest, studded with fresh cranberries, and topped with a lemon syrup that soaks into the cake. I brought the cake to Christmas Eve dinner and it “just” went over really well.
I stayed true to the recipe but have no doubt it would work as beautifully with orange instead of lemon.
Glazed Lemon-Cranberry Loaf Cake
A moist lemony cake studded with fresh cranberries and glazed with a lemon syrup.
For the cake:
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 2/3 cup flour + 1 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup butter, at room temp
1 cup sugar (I reduced to 2/3 cup)
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk (I used 0% fage)
For the glaze:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 350.
Spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
Toss the cranberries with 1 Tbsp flour and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
Add the eggs and lemon zest and beat until thoroughly combined.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add half of the mixture and mix on low speed just until combined.
Add half of the milk and mix on low speed just until combined.
Add the remaining flour, mixing just until combined, and then the remaining milk.
Add cranberries and mix a few seconds longer.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake 45-60 minutes, until a skewer comes out with moist crumbs attached.
Cool the cake for 15 minutes and then remove it from the pan.
To make the lemon glaze, combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan.
Bring the mixture to a boil for 30 seconds.
Remove the pan from the heat.
Gently pierce the top of the loaf cake many times with a toothpick.
Use a pastry brush to apply the warm glaze evenly over the top of the loaf.
Slice into ~10 slices to serve.
Store leftovers tightly wrapped, will keep ~3 days.
One last Christmas treat. Just one, I promise! Because by the time you read this, I’ll very likely be running around like a crazy woman just before our trip to Indianapolis to see the Texans & Colts play. A trip that heavily relies on the weather to keep us from celebrating Christmas snowed-in in an airport in Missouri, without our kiddo. As soon as I finish packing, I plan on taping all of my fingers crossed.
So you remember that cookie exchange that I went to a couple of weekends ago? The one I’ve been talking about nonstop? Well, these brownies are one of the reasons I can’t shut up.
My friend Viula’s contribution to the exchange were brownies, topped with a peppermint frosting, ganache, and candy cane pieces.
If you are a chocolate + peppermint fiend like I am – and will continue to be for approximately another 5 days – you’re going to want to give these a try. They’re really easy to pull together, I didn’t even use a mixer. You simply bake up your favorite brownie (I used the box of Ghiradelli brownies that I keep hidden in the back of my pantry for emergencies. Because this was clearly an emergency.) and top it with a peppermint frosting, melted chocolate, and some crushed candy.
Your friends will love you. Your family will, too. And you’ll get a little more mileage out of those stretchy-waisted pants until the new diet starts on January 2nd.
Peppermint Frosted Brownies
Your favorite brownie dressed up for the holidays: topped with peppermint frosting, ganache, and peppermint candies.
Your favorite brownie recipe or mix (for an 8x8 pan), baked and cooled
For the mint frosting:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 Tbsp milk (I used skim)
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1-2 drops red or pink food coloring
For the topping
3/4 cups chocolate chips
3 Tbsp butter
12 peppermint candies, roughly chopped (optional)
Bake your favorite brownie recipe/mix in an 8x8 pan, according to package directions.
Remove from oven and let cool to room temp.
Melt butter in a medium bowl and add milk and peppermint extract.
Whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth.
Add 1-2 drops of food coloring, just enough to tint the frosting pink.
Spread over the brownies in an even layer and let sit until the frosting has crusted, about 10 minutes (it won't stick to your finger when you touch it).
Melt remaining butter and chocolate chips in a small bowl.
Pour over the frosted brownies and spread evenly, and then sprinkle with candy pieces, if using. (When stored, the candy will absorb moisture and start to melt. If not serving by the next day, consider adding the candy pieces just before cutting and serving or omitting.)
Refrigerate until set. Cut with a sharp knife, dipping in hot water and wiping dry between cuts for a crisp, clean cut.
Will keep 5 days in an airtight container without candy pieces, 3 days with.
I love chocolate with just about anything. With peanut butter, with cherries, with sea salt, with caramel, and with dulce de leche. With bacon. The chocolate + mint combo doesn’t usually send me running for the kitchen but there’s just something about this time of year that temporarily wins me over.
It’s 70 degrees today but I didn’t let that get in the way of a little Christmas-inspired baking. I opened the windows, cranked up the Christmas music, and hit the kitchen to bake brownies. And if you happened to walk by my house during O Holy Night, I apologize. I don’t really have that kind of range… and I don’t really let it stop me
These bad boys consist of a chocolatey brownie that is swirled with a cheesecake mixture flavored with peppermint extract and crushed peppermint candies. It’s rich. It’s sweet. And it’s chock full of holiday spirit.
Peppermint Cheesecake Brownies
The perfect holiday treat: moist chocolate brownies swirled with peppermint cheesecake.
For the brownies:
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
8 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs
For the peppermint cheesecake swirl:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
10 peppermint candies, unwrapped and finely crushed
1 tsp peppermint extract
Preheat oven to 350.
Spray an 8- or 9-inch square pan with baking spray and set aside.
To make the brownies, place butter and chocolate in a large bowl and microwave for 1 minute.
Stir and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
Add sugar and mix to combine.
Add eggs one at a time, whisking in between.
Add flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, and mix just until all dry ingredients are incorporated.
Pour into the prepared pan and spread the batter to cover the bottom of the pan but don't worry about it being even.
To make the cream cheese mixture, beat cream cheese, butter, and sugar together until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.
Add sugar, egg, and flour and mix.
Add the peppermint extract and crushed peppermint candies to the mixture and mix until evenly distributed.
Using a spoon or rubber spatula, create wells in the top of the brownie batter. Spoon the cheesecake mixture into the wells. Use the tip of a knife to swirl the chocolate and peppermint cheesecake together. (The two batters have slightly different consistencies so use a swirl-and-fold motion to bring the chocolate swirl to the top.)
Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, ~45 minutes. Cool in pan for 30 minutes before cutting into 9-16 squares and serving.
Leftovers will keep in a covered cake plate for 3-4 days. They can also be wrapped and frozen.
Yields: 9-16 servings
Adapted from Everyday Food's Cream Cheese Brownies
It’s my turn to host Project Pastry Queen so I chose the very first recipe that I ever baked from the book – the reason I bought the book – the Tuxedo Cake.
People have always gone nuts over this cake, even before taking a bite into it. The mile high cake, the fluffy white frosting, and the beautifully contrasting chocolate glaze is an impressive sight. Inside is a moist chocolate cake filled with more fluffy white frosting.
The only changes I made to the original recipe was that I reduced the sugar from 4 cups and replaced the buttermilk with fat-free Greek yogurt (0% Fage). I love using it in baked goods because it keeps all the moisture in the cake without any of the fat. The recipe does call for one potentially hard-to-find ingredient: golden syrup. I fell in love with it and use it nearly exclusively in place of corn syrup now. You might try looking near the honey and syrup, on the International food aisle if you have a larger grocery store (it’s with the British foods in my store), or on the baking aisle near the corn syrup. If you can’t find it, this site has a suggested substitute (though I’ve never tried it).
To make the cake, spray 3 9-inch pans (or two 10-inch pans) with nonstick spray and preheat oven to 350.
Combine the butter, water, and canola oil in a medium sauce pan set over medium heat and cook just until butter has melted.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the sugar, flour, and cocoa.
Pour the butter mixture into the flour mixture and mix on low.
Increase to medium and add one egg at a time.
Add the buttermilk (or yogurt), followed by the baking soda, salt, and vanilla.
Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center of the cakes comes out with moist crumbs attached.
Let cool 10 minutes in pan and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely, about one hour.
To make the frosting, whip the heavy cream on high until soft peaks form.
Add the powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form.
Level the cake layers, if necessary.
Top the first layer with ~1/2-2/3 cup frosting, spread evenly, and then top with the second cake layer.
Repeat and then cover the cake with remaining frosting.
Refrigerate for one hour.
Heat chopped chocolate, heavy cream, and golden syrup in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second intervals until completely melted, stirring in between.
Stir in vanilla and stick in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to cool.
Stir after chilling. The glaze should be pourable but very thick. I test a small spoonful down one side of the cake - if it stops running before it hits the bottom or just as it hits the bottom, it's done. If it's too thick, add a Tbsp or two more golden syrup or heat for 10 seconds in the microwave.
Pour the thickened glaze over the top, gently pushing it towards the edges so it will overflow.
Refrigerate until time to serve.
Serve with chocolate-covered strawberries (optional). Leftovers will keep in a covered container in the fridge for a few days.