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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Small Bites...On a Stick

Happy Halloween everyone! While the streets fill with spookiness and women dressed like sexy pizzas and sexy corns, you might want to consider staying in, greeting trick or treaters and baking something deeelish! Tonight's recipes are small, great for a party, and sit on a stick. That's right, tonight is all about the cake pop! If you've wanted to try to make these bad boys but are a bit intimidated, fear not! Start with the basic recipe, see how it works, then go crazy with some of the others!

Start with the basics...

Basic Cake Balls

**You know I normally don't suggest box mixes when it tastes 10 times better and is 100 times more satisfying when you do it from scratch, but if you're nervous about doing these, this is a good way to get used to it!**

  • 18.25-ounce box cake mix
  • 9-by-13-inch cake pan
  • Large mixing bowl
  • One 16-ounce container ready-made frosting
  • Large metal spoon
  • Wax paper
  • 2 baking sheets
  • Plastic wrap
  • 32 ounces (2 pounds) candy coating
  • Deep, microwave-safe plastic bowl
  • Toothpicks
  • Resealable plastic bag or squeeze bottle (optional)
  1. Bake the cake as directed on the box, using a 9-by-13-inch cake pan. Let cool completely.
  2. Once the cake is cooled, get organized and set aside plenty of time (at least an hour) to crumble, roll, and dip 4 dozen cake balls.
  3. Crumble the cooled cake into a large mixing bowl. The texture of the cake causes it to crumble easily. Just cut a baked 9-by-13-inch cake into 4 equal sections. Remove a section from the pan, break it in half, and rub the two pieces together over a large bowl, making sure to crumble any large pieces that fall off. You can also use a fork to break any larger pieces of cake apart. Repeat with each section until the entire cake is crumbled into a fine texture. If you have large pieces mixed in, the cake balls may turn out lumpy and bumpy. You should not see any large pieces of cake.
  4. Add three-quarters of the container of frosting. (You will not need the remaining frosting.) Mix it into the crumbled cake, using the back of a large metal spoon, until thoroughly combined. If you use the entire container, the cake balls will be too moist.
  5. The mixture should be moist enough to roll into 1 1/2-inch balls and still hold a round shape. After rolling the cake balls by hand, place them on a wax paper–covered baking sheet.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours in the refrigerator, or place in the freezer for about 15 minutes. You want the balls to be firm but not frozen.
  7. If you're making a project that calls for uncoated cake balls, stop here and proceed to decorate the cake balls, following the project instructions.
  8. Place the candy coating in a deep, microwave-safe plastic bowl. These bowls make it easier to cover the cake balls completely with candy coating while holding the bowl without burning your fingers. (I usually work with about 16 ounces of coating at a time.)
  9. Melt the candy coating, following the instructions on the package. Microwave on medium power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring with a spoon in between. You can also use a double boiler. Either way, make sure you do not overheat the coating.
  10. Now you're ready to coat. Take a few cake balls at a time out of the refrigerator or freezer to work with. If they’re in the freezer, transfer the rest of the balls to the refrigerator at this point, so they stay firm but do not freeze.
  11. Place one ball at a time into the bowl of candy coating. Spoon extra coating over any uncoated areas of the cake ball to make sure it is completely covered in candy coating. Then lift out the cake ball with your spoon. Avoid stirring it in the coating, because cake crumbs can fall off into the coating.
  12. Holding the spoon over the bowl, tap the handle of the spoon several times on the edge of the bowl until the excess coating falls off and back into the bowl. This technique also creates a smooth surface on the outside of the cake ball.
  13. Transfer the coated cake ball to another wax paper–covered baking sheet to dry. Let the coated cake ball slide right off the spoon. Some coating may pool around the base of the ball onto the wax paper. If so, simply take a toothpick and use it to draw a line around the base of the cake ball before the coating sets. Once the coating sets, you can break off any unwanted coating.
  14. Repeat with the remaining cake balls and let dry completely.
  15. If you have extra candy coating left over, pour it into a resealable plastic bag (and then snip off the corner) or into a squeeze bottle and drizzle it over the tops in a zigzag motion to decorate.
  16. You can make the cake balls ahead of time and store them in an airtight container on the counter or in the refrigerator for several days.
  1. The cake balls will be easier to roll if you wash and dry your hands periodically during the rolling process. Dry your hands completely each time, and make sure you don’t get water in the candy coating, as it can make it unusable.
  2. You can use a mini ice cream scoop to get uniform-size cake balls.
  3. If you don't need or want to make 48 cake balls, simply divide the cake in half for 24 cake balls or in quarters for 12 and freeze the remaining cake for later use. Remember to reduce the amount of frosting proportionally.

Fun for fall...

Pumpkin Cake Pops
Melissa d'Arabian

  • Unflavored nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup pecan halves, for decorating
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 pounds finely chopped white chocolate (or two 11-ounce bags white chocolate chips)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. For the cake: Lightly coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice together in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and sugars together. Stir in the milk and vanilla, and then add the oil. Whisk in the pumpkin puree and pour the liquid mixture over the dry mixture. Use a wooden spoon to stir the batter together, and then switch to a whisk and give the batter a good 3 or 4 beats before pouring it into the prepared baking dish. Use a rubber spatula to smooth out the batter and place it in the oven until the cake is golden and springs back to light pressure, 25 to 28 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
  3. Meanwhile, place the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast them until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a large plate to cool, then transfer to a cutting board and finely chop. Place the nuts in a medium bowl and set aside.
  4. Divide the cake into quarters and crumble it into a large bowl. Once all of the cake is crumbled, drag 2 forks through the cake in opposite directions to crumble it into a very fine crumb (you can also use a food processor to pulse the cake into fine crumbs). Set aside.
  5. For the frosting: Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper and set aside. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until airy, about 3 minutes. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat until combined. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stir the cream cheese frosting into the cake crumbs and, once the mixture looks like wet graham crackers crumbs, roll it into ping pong-size balls. Place the cake balls on the prepared baking sheet and freeze for 1 hour.
  6. Place the chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and melt at 50-percent power, stirring every 30 seconds until the chocolate is completely melted, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes (or melt the chocolate over a double boiler, stirring often, until the chocolate is melted).
  7. Remove the cake balls from the freezer and insert a lollypop stick or small appetizer-length skewer into the top of each one (stick it in far enough so it is more than halfway through but doesn't puncture the other side of the ball). Dip each ball into the white chocolate, using a spoon to help coat the underside. Tap the stick against the side of the bowl a few times and swirl the stick to encourage the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Dip the top of the ball into the nuts, and then place the cake pop back on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet, nut-side down (so the stick points straight up). Repeat with the remaining cake balls. Let the cake pops stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Serve that day or refrigerate for up to 3 days and then serve.

More than just cake...

Chocolate-Covered Pumpkin Cheesecake Pops
Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs

  • Special equipment: 9-inch glass pie plate; 1 1/2-inch-diameter ice cream scoop, holding about 1 tablespoon; 24 (6- to 8-inch) lollipop sticks (see Cooks' notes)
  1. Heat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Oil pie plate.
  2. Beat cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy and smooth, then beat in egg until combined. Add pumpkin, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice and mix on low speed until smooth.
  3. Pour batter into pie plate and bake until edges are set and center is still a little wobbly, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to let cool completely. (Cheesecake will set completely as it cools.)
  4. Cover cheesecake with a round of wax paper or parchment then wrap in plastic and chill until cold, at least 3 hours.
  5. Scoop out pumpkin cheesecake, packing cheesecake in ice cream scoop each time and leveling it off, then releasing it, flat side down, onto 2 small, wax paper–lined rimmed baking sheets. Freeze until frozen solid, at least 1 hour.
  6. Melt half of chocolate in a small, deep bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, then remove bowl from pan.
  7. Working with one pan of cheesecake balls at a time (and keeping the other pan frozen), rest a cheesecake scoop on a fork and lower it into chocolate, then spoon chocolate over it to coat it completely. Let excess chocolate drip off, then scrape bottom of fork against edge of bowl and return coated ball, flat-side down, to wax paper–lined pan. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs and push a lollipop stick 3/4 inch through ball. Repeat with remaining balls on first baking sheet. (If cheesecake begins to soften, return to freezer to harden.) Refrigerate finished pops.
  8. Melt remaining chocolate in another small deep bowl in same manner and coat remaining cheesecake balls.
  9. Keep pops refrigerated or frozen until serving.

Happy baking! BOO!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Creamy Yet Healthy Mac and Cheese: Beware. Might Be Finished in One Sitting.

Happy Friday all! This week has flown by and my days and nights have all been a jumble! Thanks for sticking with me as I've fallen off schedule. At any rate, this is one recipe you don't want to pass up. I looooove macaroni and cheese. LOVE. Unfortunately my stomach can't handle those creamy, rich, cheesy sauces that usually come with the territory. Luckily Ellie Krieger has come to my rescue once again! She has a recipe that tastes decadent but is much healthier than the original. While you may have seen similar recipes before, trust me when I say that none compare to this one (in my humble opinion). I make this recipe every fall, always substituting frozen squash with my favorite jars from Williams-Sonoma. Go to the supermarket ASAP and try this one at home!

Macaroni and 4 Cheeses
Ellie Krieger

Casserole cooling on a rack

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen pureed winter squash
  • 2 cups 1 percent lowfat milk
  • 4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 2 ounces Monterrey jack cheese, grated (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon powdered mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until tender but firm, about 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Meanwhile, place the frozen squash and milk into a large saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up the squash with a spoon until it is defrosted. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the Cheddar, jack cheese, ricotta cheese, salt, mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour cheese mixture over the macaroni and stir to combine. Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the baking dish.
  4. Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned.
I served mine with roasted broccoli and cauliflower
and sauteed onions and mushrooms. YUM.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fancy Shmancy for Fall AND Warm Ratatouille

Hello everyone! Today is a two for the price of one kinda post...I was home too late to post yesterday, so I'll bring you savory and sweet today! Woot woot. First, SWEET. Here are a few recipes for fall that are super duper fancy, but not too tricky...these are worth the effort.

Caramelized Pumpkin Trifle 
Rori Spinelli


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • *Pumpkin Bread or one 1 1/2 -pound loaf of gingerbread, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • *Candied Pumpkin
  • Softly whipped cream, for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger, for garnish
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish
*Recipes below as well.


  1. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in 1/3 cup of the half-and-half. In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the remaining 1 2/3 cups of half-and-half with the sugar mixture and the cinnamon. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the pudding thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the vanilla. Transfer the pudding to a bowl and press plastic wrap on the surface. Refrigerate until chilled.
  2. Arrange one-third of the Pumpkin Bread slices in a large glass bowl, overlapping them slightly. Spread one-third of the cinnamon pudding evenly on top. Top with one-third of the Candied Pumpkin with its syrup. Repeat the layering process two times. Garnish the trifle with a few dollops of whipped cream, the candied ginger and mint sprigs.
MAKE AHEAD The pudding can be refrigerated overnight.

Pumpkin Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup fresh or canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with wax paper. In a bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and baking powder.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat for 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in the pumpkin puree. Stir the vanilla into the milk. Beat in the dry ingredients in 3 additions at low speed, alternating with the milk mixture.
  3. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool.
Candied Pumpkin

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cups diced ( 1/2 inch) sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet. Add the pumpkin and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Stir in the maple syrup, ginger and cinnamon and remove from the heat. Let cool and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Apple Pithivier
Joanne Chang Flour, too

Vanilla Apple Butter
  • 6 apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, halved, cored, and roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp/55 g unsalted butter
  • 1 cup/200 g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1 batch Puff Pastry dough
  • 1 cup/240 ml Frangipane
  • 1 large egg
Special equipment: rimmed baking sheet, parchment paper, rolling pin, bench scraper (optional), offset spatula (optional), pastry brush

  1. To make the apple butter: In a large saucepan, combine the apples, butter, sugar, and salt. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds directly into the pan (save the pods for adding to a canister of granulated sugar for vanilla sugar). Place over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the apples break down and the mixture thickens and turns golden brown. The mixture will release a lot of water at first and bubble a lot and then it will slowly start to caramelize and get a bit darker; there may still be some pieces of whole apple, which is fine. Remove from the heat and let cool. (The apple butter can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.)
  2. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. On a well-floured work surface, roll the puff pastry into a rectangle about 24 in/61 cm wide and 12 in/30.5 cm from top to bottom. The dough may seem pretty tough and difficult to roll out at first. Don't be afraid to be firm with the dough as you roll it into the rectangle, flip it upside down, turn it side to side, pound it with the rolling pin to flatten it. Use a chef's knife to trim away any rough edges. Then, using the knife or a bench scraper, cut the dough in half vertically. You should have two 12-in/30.5-cm squares.
  3. Set one square aside and place the other square on the prepared baking sheet. In the center of the square, draw an 8-in/20-cm circle with your finger or lightly with a paring knife (without cutting all the way through). Using the offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the frangipane evenly on the pastry, filling just the circle. Top the frangipane with an even layer of the apple butter.
  4. Crack the egg into a small bowl and whisk with a fork. Using the pastry brush, brush some of the egg over the pastry around the circle.
  5. Again on a well-floured surface, roll the second puff pastry square so that it is slightly larger than 12-in/30.5-cm square. Drape the second square directly over the top of the first square. Using your fingers, press firmly all around the edges of the pastry to seal the two squares together. There will be a big mound in the center where the frangipane and apple butter are. Again, using your fingers, press firmly all around the circle; you want to enclose the frangipane and apple butter as much as you can within the circle.
  6. With a small paring knife, cut a scalloped petal pattern around the edge of the puff pastry to create a circle with a total of six or seven petals. Discard the puff pastry scraps (or save them for a quick treat: sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar and bake until golden. Refrigerate the pastry for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days to allow the puff to chill and relax. (If chilling for longer than 30 minutes, cover the pastry with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. At this point, you can also wrap the unbaked pastry well with plastic wrap and freeze it for up to 2 weeks.)
  7. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C, and place a rack in the center of the oven.
  8. Using the pastry brush, brush the entire top of the pastry, including the petals, with the remaining egg wash. Poke a hole in middle of the circular mound at the center of the pithivier and then, starting from the center of this hole, use the tip of the paring knife to trace a curved sun-ray pattern into the mound, spacing the rays 1/2 to 1 in/12 mm to 2.5 cm apart and covering the entire mound with the curved rays. You should have eighteen to twenty-four rays. Don't cut all the way through the puff; just lightly score the dough with the tip of the knife. Trace a crosshatch pattern on the petals.
  9. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the dough is entirely golden brown and baked through. Look at the sides of the pithivier where the puff pastry has puffed up to make sure the sides are also golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the filling to cool. This pastry is best served the same day, but you can hold it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days and then refresh it in a 300°F/150°C oven for 5 to 8 minutes before serving.

Noooow, for the savory. I must be on a ratatouille kick. This time I made a family favorite, healthy, easy, and delicious. Ellie Krieger has some really flavorful recipes that are low calorie/fat. She's definitely worth checking out! I used mahi mahi for this dish - it was on sale and really yummy. You choose what you like! There are no rules when it's going in your belly.

Ratatouille with Red Snapper
Ellie Krieger


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 pound), trimmed and cut into small dice (about 3 cups)
  • 1 medium onion, cut into small dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 medium zucchini (1 pound total), trimmed, cut into small dice (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme and 1/4 teaspoon each dried rosemary and dried marjoram)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 4 (5-ounce) fillets red snapper, skin on
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary (or other herb) infused olive oil, optional
  1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring, until eggplant has softened but not completely lost its shape, about 5 minutes. Remove the eggplant from skillet. Heat another tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and zucchini to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is soft, about 6 to 7 minutes. Return eggplant to pan and add tomatoes, herbs de Provence, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer approximately 10 minutes. Season with additional salt, to taste. Stir in basil and remove from heat.
  2. To cook fish, preheat broiler. Sprinkle fillets with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Combine the remaining tablespoon olive oil with the lemon juice and brush on fillets. Broil until fish is cooked and firm, about 7 minutes.
  3. Mound 1 cup ratatouille on 4 plates; top each mound with 1 fish fillet and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon herb infused oil, if using. Garnish with additional basil.
Lizzy Bee's Note: In Ellie's book, she serves this with herb goat cheese crostini - broil slices of baguette rubbed with garlic and topped with herb goat cheese until warm and crispy.

Happy baking AND cooking!

Friday, October 18, 2013

One Year Older and a Tummy MUCH Fuller!

TGIF y'all! (Thank Goodness It's Friday, in case that's new to you!) As promised, I have lovely pics from my hub-a-dub's birthday festivities. We had homemade butternut squash ravioli in sage butter sauce, roasted broccoli, and grilled steak. For dessert Alex requested ricotta ice cream (fresh ricotta of course) and old fashioned crumbly sweet crumb blanketing a warm yellow cake...that'd be crumb cake if you don't like my flourishes. So with that, I bring you pictures! I hope you enjoy as much as we did (well, without being able to try it at any rate.) Enjoy your weekend!

Alex's big ol' plate of delicious pasta and grilled sirloin.

You can put candles in anything!

Delicious by the generous slice with a
dollop of deliciously melting ricotta ice cream!
I'm salivating as I think about it...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Boo! Scary Sweets!

Happy Wednesday everyone! Today's post is a few more recipes to get your Halloween juices flowing. The Christmas commercials have already begun (oy vey) so I'm doing my best to keep it one month at a time! So here we go...

Halloween Whoopie Pies
Grace Parisi

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (see Note), sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • One 7.5 ounce jar Marshmallow Fluff
  • Orange nonpareils or sanding sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the brown sugar at medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients and buttermilk in 3 alternating additions; scrape down the side and bottom of the bowl as necessary.
  2. Using a 3-tablespoon ice cream scoop, scoop 12 level mounds onto each baking sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake the cakes in the lower and upper thirds of the oven for about 16 minutes, until risen and firm; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the sheets to racks and let the cakes cool completely.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the confectioners' sugar and vanilla seeds until fluffy. Beat in the Marshmallow Fluff. Scrape the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip.
  4. Pipe the filling onto the flat sides of 12 of the cakes and close the whoopee pies, pressing to evenly distribute the filling to the edges. Roll the edges in orange nonpareils and serve.
MAKE AHEAD The assembled whoopie pies can be refrigerated in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper for up to 3 days.
NOTES For ultra-dark, super chocolaty whoopie pies, substitute 2 tablespoons of black cocoa powder (available for 2 tablespoons of the regular unsweetened cocoa powder called for here.

Halloween Cookies

For the cookies:
  • 4 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
For the buttercream:
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups confectioners¿ sugar, sifted
  • 2 Tbs. milk, plus more, if needed
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Food colorings (optional)
  1. Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
  2. To make the cookies, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
  3. In a sifter, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Sift the flour mixture directly onto the butter mixture. Beat on low speed until well mixed.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball, then flatten the balls into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. Let the dough soften slightly at room temperature before continuing. 
  5. Place 1 dough disk between 2 sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper and roll out to 3/16-inch thickness. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
  6. Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 350°F. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Dip Halloween cookie cutters in flour. Cut out an equal number of each shape, pressing an imprint on only half of the cutouts. Using a large metal spatula, transfer the cookies to the prepared pans. Gather up and reroll the scraps, refrigerate until firm and cut out more cookies. Repeat with the remaining dough disks. Refrigerate the cookies for 15 minutes before baking. 
  8. Bake the cookies until they are golden on the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let the cookies cool completely on the pans.
  9. Meanwhile, make the buttercream: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed until light and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, add the confectioners' sugar, the 2 Tbs. milk, the vanilla and salt, and beat until smooth and combined, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  10. If the frosting is dry, add more milk, 1 tsp. at a time, until it is creamy but still holds peaks. Tint with food colorings as desired.
  11. For sandwich cookies: Spread 2 tsp. buttercream on top of the solid cookies. Top with an imprinted cookie and gently press together. Decorate the tops of the sandwich cookies as desired. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Makes about 24 sandwich cookies. 

Devil's Food Cake with Chocolate Spiderweb
Kemp Minifie

For chocolate web and spider:
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • For devil's food cake:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup boiling-hot water
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, warmed in very warm water 10 minutes
For coffee meringue frosting:
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder (optional; see cooks’ note, below)
Equipment: 3 (9- by 2-inch) round cake pans; a pastry bag with writing tip (slightly less than 1/8 inch); a handheld electric mixer

Make cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Butter cake pans, then line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Dust pans with flour, knocking out excess.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Whisk together boiling-hot water and cocoa in another bowl until smooth, then whisk in milk and vanilla.
  4. Beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.
  5. Divide batter among pans, smoothing tops. Bake, switching position of pans halfway through, until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, 20 to 25 minutes.
  6. Cool cakes in pans on racks 20 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely.
  7. Make decorations while cake layers cool: 
  8. Trace a 9-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper, then draw a spiderweb inside circle. Next to web, draw a 2-to 3-inch spider. Turn drawings over onto a baking sheet.
  9. Melt chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring. Cool slightly, then transfer to pastry bag. Pipe chocolate onto web, beginning with spokes, and onto spider on parchment, then freeze until firm, about 1 hour.
Make frosting:
  1. Put frosting ingredients in a heatproof large bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Beat with handheld mixer at low speed until mixture is warm and sugar has dissolved. Continue to beat at high speed until thick and fluffy, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and beat frosting until cooled slightly, 5 to 10 minutes more.
  2. Assemble cake:
  3. Place a cake layer on a serving plate. Spread top with some of frosting. Top with another cake layer and spread with some of frosting, then top with final cake layer. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.
  4. Cut off portion of parchment with spider and reserve. Invert web on parchment onto cake and carefully peel off paper. Peel off parchment from spider and put spider on web. Let cake stand at room temperature until chocolate decorations have softened.
Cooks' Notes:
  • Cake layers can be made 2 days ahead and kept, well wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature, or 1 week ahead and frozen.
  • Chocolate decorations can be made 1 day ahead and frozen.
  • You can substitute 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract for the espresso powder in the frosting. •The egg whites in the frosting may not be fully cooked.
  • Cake can be assembled and decorated 4 hours ahead and chilled. Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving.

Happy baking!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Layers of Cheesy Ratatouille

Happy Tuesday all! Sorry for the missed post yesterday. I'm working on something great for tomorrow...and look for the birthday dinner pics from my hubby's birthday (which is tonight)! In the meantime, here's an easy veggie recipe that will get your family chowing down on healthy eats. I like to consider it my Ratatouille Layers. Just preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and red onions about 1/2 in thick. Cook for 30-40 min until nice and roasted. Spray a casserole pan and lay the eggplant on bottom, overlapping as you go. Sprinkle some low fat mozzarella cheese on top. Layer the zucchini next, followed by more cheese. Top with tomatoes and onions, as well as some basil sliced chiffonade. Top with another sprinkle of mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake for another 15-20 min until golden. Dig in and enjoy!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gnudi, Gnudi!

Hello again! I've got post number 2 for today (lucky you!). Last night I made a very easy homemade pasta dish...but absolutely delicious and elegant! The last time I made this one was Valentine's Day 2013 and it was a winner! This time it was just your average Wednesday night (gotta have something good to eat while watching Nashville!) with a not-so-average dinner. Once again I used a jar of tomato sauce rather than making my own...I love a good spicy marinara...but the pomodoro sauce is very fast and worth a try as well. I also like to get fresh ricotta; if you can find it, it really makes a difference. But now, no more talking...grab a fork and let's dig in!

Ricotta Gnudi with Pomodoro Sauce
Bon Appetit, February 2013


  • 16 oz ricotta (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1 large egg yolk, beaten to blend
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano plus more
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt plus more
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour plus more
  • 3 cups Quick Pomodoro Sauce (see recipe)

  1. Mix ricotta, egg, egg yolk, pepper, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl until well combined. Add 1/2 cup flour; stir just until combined and mixture forms a ball (mixture will be soft and moist with some bits of ricotta remaining; add more flour by the tablespoonful if it feels wet).
  2. Dust a rimmed baking sheet generously with flour. Using 2 large soup spoons, shape heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into football shapes; place on baking sheet and dust with more flour (you should have 30).
  3. Cook gnudi in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and tender, 5-6 minutes (gnudi will quickly float to surface; continue cooking or gnudi will be gummy in the center).
  4. Using a slotted spoon, divide gnudi among bowls. Top with Quick Pomodoro Sauce and more Parmesan.
Quick Pomodoro Sauce

  • 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • kosher salt
Pulse tomatoes with juices in a blender to form a coarse purée. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add tomato purée and sugar and season with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently until sauce is slightly thickened, 10-15 minutes. DO AHEAD: Sauce can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Fall Flavors Wafting From Your Kitchen!

Hello all! I'm sending you two posts today, since I didn't get to post yesterday. This first one is about one of my favorite seasons - fall. There are certain smells that you associate with this time of year - pumpkins, apples, cinnamon - they always bring a smile to my face. So to help you bring a smile to the faces of all who come into your home, here are a few recipes you might want to try!

New England Cinnamon Sugar-Cider Donuts


  • 1¾ cups (7¾ oz.) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • ¼ cup (1⅛ oz.) whole wheat graham flour
  • 3½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup apple cider
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • Canola oil, for forming and frying

  1. Whisk flours, 2 tsp. cinnamon, baking powder, soda, and salt in a bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and ½ cup sugar until fluffy. Add yolks, vanilla, cider, and buttermilk; mix until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add dry ingredients and mix until a soft, sticky dough forms.
  2. Combine remaining cinnamon and sugar in a bowl; set aside. Heat 2" oil in a 6-qt. saucepan until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°. Using lightly oiled hands, roll about ¼ cup batter into a loose, sticky ball; pat gently into a disk. With your thumb, make a 1½" hole in the center of dough; carefully slide into oil and fry, flipping once, until golden, 3–4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a baking sheet with a wire rack; repeat with remaining dough. Let donuts cool completely; toss in cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Proofing, the "resting" period in which yeasted dough is left to rise, requires proper time and temperature. An overproofed dough will result in a deflated, greasy product, while an underproofed one will lack the desired airiness.

Gianduia and Caramel Tart
Canal House Cooks Every Day

For the crust:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening
For the filling:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 1 cup Gianduia (see below)
For the Gianduia (makes about two cups):
  • 1 generous cup (5 ounces) skinned hazelnuts
  • Large pinch of sugar
  • 8 oz. semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 Tbsp. salted butter, cut into pieces

For the crust:
  1. Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Work the butter and shortening into the flour suing a pastry blender or 2 knives until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Gradually sprinkle in 3 tablespoons ice water while stirring with a fork. Press the dough together until it forms a rough ball. Don’t over-handle it; there should be streaks of butter visible throughout. Shape it into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 7 x 16-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Roll the dough loosely around the rolling pin, then unfurl it into a 4 x 13-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim off any excess dough. Prick the crust all over with a fork. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the crust with a sheet of foil that hangs over the edges by at least 2 inches, then fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust until the edges are pale golden, about 20 minutes. Lift the foil and weights off the crust and continue baking until the crust is golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Let the crust cool completely on a wire rack.

For the filling:
  1. Put the sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a heavy medium saucepan. Boil over medium-high heat, swirling the pan over the heat frequently, until the syrup turns a dark amber caramel, about 15 minutes. Carefully whisk in the butter, cream, and sour cream (the caramel will hiss and bubble up, so stand back). Remove the pan from the heat and whisk until smooth. Pour the hot caramel into the prepared crust and let it cool for about 1 hour. It will thicken and set.

For the Gianduia:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the hazelnuts out on a small baking sheet or in an ovenproof skillet and toast them in the oven until they are a deep toasty brown, about 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool completely. Grind the hazelnuts with the sugar in batches in a food processor to a fairly smooth, buttery paste.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof medium bowl set over a pot of simmering water over medium-low heat, stirring often. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the cream and butte.r Stir in the ground hazelnuts. The Gianduia will thicken and become soft and peanut butter-like as it cools. It will keep at room temperature in a covered container for up to two weeks.
  3. Melt the Gianduia in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water over low heat.
  4. Assembly:
  5. Pour the Gianduia evenly over the set caramel filling, smoothing out the top with a metal spatula. Let the tart set for a least 4 hours before serving.

Bourbon Chai Cocktail

  • 8 bags black tea, paper and string removed
  • 8 green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 8 whole allspice berries, crushed
  • 8 whole black peppercorns, crushed
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • ½ whole nutmeg, chopped
  • 2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, seeds and pod reserved
  • 6 cups hot water
  • 6 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • ⅓ cup honey or agave
  • 1 cup spice-forward bourbon, like Maker's Mark

  1. Make the chai: In a 4-quart saucepan, combine tea, spices, ginger, and vanilla bean seeds and pod with 6 cups hot water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and add almond milk and honey or agave, whisking to combine. Return to a simmer, remove from heat, and allow to steep 10-15 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth-lined strainer, pressing down on solids to extract flavors.
  2. Transfer the chai to a heat-proof serving vessel (like an earthenware pitcher) and stir in bourbon. Alternately, ladle chai into 8 individual mugs and portion 1 oz. bourbon into each.

Happy baking!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pasta So Good You Won't Miss the Pasta!

Happy Tuesday all! Last night's dinner was an easy, healthy dish, filling for both the meat eater and the veggie lover. I chose to use a delicious jarred tomato sauce from Whole Foods...they have really great local sauces for reasonable prices, but you can try this recipe or find your own! It doesn't change the main part of the recipe. I paired this with sauteed brussels sprouts, lightly drizzled with maple syrup and pecans. Yuuuuummy!

Eggplant Cannelloni
Kristine Subido, Wave in Chicago

I like to sprinkle the finished product with parmesan!

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 large shallots, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 jars (12 oz each) roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (juice of 1 orange)
  • 2 medium eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 4 kalamata olives, pitted and minced
  • 1 teaspoon capers, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
For sauce
  1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook shallots and garlic until soft, about 1 minute. Reduce heat. Cook until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add peppers and juice; bring to a boil. Lower heat; simmer until peppers are soft, about 5 minutes. Cool. Puree in a blender. Pour into a 9" x 13" baking dish.
For eggplant
  1. Coat eggplants with cooking spray and broil on a baking sheet until golden on both sides, about 15 minutes. Heat oven to 400˚.
For filling
  1. Mash cheese, olives, capers and 1 tbsp of the parsley in a bowl. Place 1 tbsp of filling at the end of each eggplant slice; roll up. Lay seam side down in dish. Bake 10 to 15 minutes. Top with remaining 1 tbsp parsley.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Halloween Party Treats

Happy Monday all! I'm ready to talk Halloween...I know all the stores are already talking about Christmas and Hannukah, but I prefer to go month by month. Halloween will be here before you know it and I've got a few fun recipes to make for your big soiree. Enjoy!

Snickers Ice Cream Milk
Christina Tosi

  • 2 1/2 ounces Snickers bars, chopped
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream
In a blender, combine the Snickers with the milk and puree until smooth. Add the ice cream, blend until smooth and serve.

Halloween Popcorn Treats
Giada De Lauretiis

  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup popcorn kernels
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 cups (12-ounces) mini marshmallows
  • 6 fun-size caramel peanut chocolate bars (such as Snickers), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 3 (3-inch) chocolate chip cookies, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup chopped salted almonds,
  • 1/2 cup orange and black chocolate candies (such as M and Ms)
  1. Spray the inside of a large mixing bowl with vegetable cooking spray, and lightly spray a baking sheet. Set aside.
  2. In a 3 quart or larger, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil and popcorn over medium-high heat. Cover the pan and shake gently. Cook until all the kernels have popped, about 3 minutes. Place the popcorn in the prepared bowl.
  3. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over low heat. Add the vanilla extract and marshmallows. Stir constantly until the marshmallows have melted and the mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes. Pour the melted marshmallow mixture over the popcorn. Using a spatula, sprayed with cooking spray, stir until the popcorn is coated. Spread the mixture over the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with the chocolate bar pieces, cookies, almonds and chocolate candies. Using a spatula, gently press the toppings into the popcorn. Allow the mixture to dry for 1 hour.
  4. Break into 2-inch pieces and store airtight in a plastic container.
Serving Suggestion: Place in small plastic bags and seal with colored ribbon.

Caramel-Dipped Apples
Bon Appetit Oct 1999

  • 1 1-pound box dark brown sugar
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon robust-flavored (dark) molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 chopsticks
  • 12 medium Granny Smith apples
  • Assorted decorations (such as chopped nuts, dried apricots and dried cranberries, toffee bits, mini M&M's and candy sprinkles)
  • Melted dark, milk and/or white chocolates
  • Whipping cream (if necessary)
  1. Combine first 8 ingredients in heavy 2 1/2-quart saucepan (about 3 inches deep). Stir with wooden spatula or spoon over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves (no crystals are felt when caramel is rubbed between fingers), occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush, about 15 minutes.
  2. Attach clip-on candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook caramel at rolling boil until thermometer registers 236°F, stirring constantly but slowly with clean wooden spatula and occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush, about 12 minutes. Pour caramel into metal bowl (do not scrape pan). Submerge thermometer bulb in caramel; cool, without stirring, to 200°F, about 20 minutes.
  3. While caramel cools, line 2 baking sheets with foil; butter foil. Push 1 chopstick into stem end of each apple. Set up decorations and melted chocolates.
  4. Holding chopstick, dip 1 apple into 200°F caramel, submerging all but very top of apple. Lift apple out, allowing excess caramel to drip back into bowl. Turn apple caramel side up and hold for several seconds to help set caramel around apple. Place coated apple on prepared foil. Repeat with remaining apples and caramel, spacing apples apart (caramel will pool on foil). If caramel becomes too thick to dip into, add 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream and briefly whisk caramel in bowl over low heat to thin.
  5. Chill apples on sheets until caramel is partially set, about 15 minutes. Lift 1 apple from foil. Using hand, press pooled caramel around apple; return to foil. Repeat with remaining apples.
  6. Firmly press decorations into caramel; return each apple to foil. Or dip caramel-coated apples into melted chocolate, allowing excess to drip off, then roll in nuts or candy. Or drizzle melted chocolate over caramel-coated apples and sprinkle with decorations. Chill until decorations are set, about 1 hour. Cover; chill up to 1 week.

Happy baking!