Happy belated Thanksgiving and Happy Holiday Season! 🙂 We were so happy to be able to celebrate with extended family this year!
I love to post my Thanksgiving Menu to help me plan in the future. Hopefully some of my menu choices are helpful to others too. I will link the new menu items to posts as soon as I am able.
Highlights of our celebration this year included my son’s Chamber Orchestra Thanksgiving concert and the beautiful place cards that my daughter made for our table. My kids also helped cook! My son made the mashed potatoes (his favorite) and gravy. My daughter made the vegetables and dip, photo above, to bring to a Friendsgiving celebration. My 19-month old niece brought her fabulous artwork to contribute to the decor, photo below. 🙂
Our meal included many old favorites. I revisited an apple-pear pie which was absolutely wonderful. I also tried new stuffing, Brussels sprouts, and pumpkin pie recipes. Lovely!
My daughter’s 15th birthday celebration involved several sweet treats. All of her requests were granted! 🙂 We enjoyed crumb cake, salted brown butter blondies, number cookies, of course, and this cute cake. She asked for a frog cake after falling in love with others she had seen while perusing Pinterest.
The recipe for the yellow layer cake was adapted from The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated. We also enjoyed this cake on her 13th birthday. I used the vanilla cream cheese frosting with Oreo filling from her 12th birthday cake– it’s her favorite.
Yield: One 9-inch layer cake, generously frosted
For the Cake:
7 oz (1 3/4 cups) plain cake flour, sifted, plus more for dusting pans
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
10 1/2 oz (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
16 T (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 16 pieces
vanilla cream cheese frosting, recipe below
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
Generously grease two 9-inch round cake pans and cover the pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Grease the parchment rounds and dust the cake pans with flour, tapping out the excess. (I would consider using 8-inch pans next time to elevate the cake slightly.)
Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla with a fork in a 2-cup measuring cup with a spout. Measure out 1 cup of this mixture and set aside.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat at the lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds.
With the mixture still running at the lowest speed, add the butter, one piece at a time; mix until the butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, about 30 to 40 seconds after all the butter is added.
Add the reserved 1 cup egg mixture and mix at the lowest speed until incorporated, about 5 to 10 seconds.
Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
Add the remaining egg mixture (about 1/2 cup) in a slow, steady stream, taking about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
Beat at medium-high speed until thoroughly combined and the batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.
Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans. (about 1 lb plus 2.5 oz per pan) Spread to the sides of the pans and smooth with an offset or rubber spatula.
Bake until the cake tops are light gold and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 27 minutes. The cakes will mound slightly but will level when cooled.
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Run a knife around the pan perimeter to loosen. Invert one cake onto a large plate and reinvert onto another wire rack. Repeat for the other layer. Cool completely before frosting.
For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting and Oreo Filling (as well as Frogs & Mushrooms):
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
6 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 to 6 full-size Oreos or 15 mini-Oreos, crushed in a food processor
green gel food coloring, plus additional colors for mushroom caps, as desired
chocolate chips, for frog eyes
chocolate sprinkles, for frog mouths
sugar pearls, for mushroom caps
Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low-speed to combine.
If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.
Remove about 1 cup frosting and set aside for mushrooms and frog cheeks.
Remove 1 1/4 cup of frosting for the Oreo filling and place in separate bowl.
Incorporate the crushed Oreos in the reserved 1 1/4 cups of filling frosting. Spread on one of the layers.
Place the second layer on top.
Tint the remaining frosting pale green with food coloring, mixing well.
Cover cake with a crumb coat and chill briefly, if necessary before continuing.
Using an offset spatula, ice the sides of the cake with the pale green icing.
Tint the remaining frosting deeper “frog green.” Place the majority of the icing in a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, for the frog bodies. Place the remaining frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip, for the frog eyes, arms, and legs.
Pipe the frogs on the cake, as desired, using the large bag/tip. Add eyes, arms, and legs using the small bag/tip.
Divide the remaining frosting into 4 bowls. Keep one bowl of frosting white for the mushroom stems.
Tint one bowl red, for the frog cheeks and mushroom caps.
Tint the other 2 bowls of frosting, as desired, for mushroom caps.
Pipe mushroom stems around the sides of the cake. Using a variety of pastry bags and tips, pipe decorative multi-shaped mushroom caps on the stems. Decorate caps with sugar pearls.
Pipe rosy cheeks on each frog with the red frosting.
Place 1-2 tablespoons of chocolate chips in a sandwich sized ziplock bag. Microwave until melted. (I check the progress in 30 second increments.) Cut a small corner off of the ziplock bag; use the melted chocolate to pipe eyes onto the frogs.
Add mouths onto the frogs with chocolate sprinkles.
Chill prior to serving and store any leftover cake in the refrigerator.
My daughter is a blondie girl. ❤ We enjoyed these amazing no-frills blondies as part of her 15th birthday celebration this year.
The original recipe is titled Caramel Canvas Blondies in Midwest Made: Big Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever, one of my favorite books. Sever comments that they are known by many other names such as Butterscotch Bars or Toffee Bars in Midwest community cookbooks.
The salted caramel-esque base could easily accommodate any add-in but my birthday girl requested this minimalist version. 🙂 Classic, crowd-pleasing deliciousness.
Yield: about 2 dozen bars
non-stick cooking spray, for pan
384g (3 cups, spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp flaky sea salt (I used Maldon)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
480g (2 cups plus 2 T, firmly packed) light brown sugar
3 large eggs, fridge cold
1 large (20g) egg yolk, fridge cold
1 T pure vanilla extract
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups or 339g) unsalted butter, browned and cooled
2 to 3 cups (about 300 to 450g) chocolate chips, nuts, candy bits, or other mix-ins, optional
Make the Brown Butter: Place the butter in a light-colored pan over medium heat. Cook until foaming, amber in color, and until the milk-solids brown and separate, about 5 to 7 minutes. Immediately remove from heat and transfer to a heat-proof bowl to cool.
Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 325 F (170 C), preferably on convection.
Spray a 9×13-inch (23×33 cm) metal baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on 2 opposite sides. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and flaky and fine salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla until lighter in color and texture, about 1 minute.
Whisk in the cooled browned butter.
Fold in the flour mixture just until no dry floury streaks remain.
Fold in mix-ins, if using. Stir until just combined.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and use and offset spatula to smooth the top.
Bake until the blondies are fragrant and golden, with a slightly glossy surface and a raised, wrinkled perimeter beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes in a convection oven or up to 40 minutes in a standard oven.
Let cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.
Using the parchment paper, lift the blondies out of the pan to transfer to a cutting board. Cut into bars of desired size.
Note: Store blondies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
One more baked doughnut treat to share. This version can (dangerously) be made very easily with one overripe banana. 😉 More fun than banana bread!
The recipe was adapted from chiselandfork.com. I incorporated whole wheat pastry flour and modified the method. The fabulous brown butter glaze was essential.
Yield: 8 mini-doughnuts
For the Doughnuts:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1/2 cup mashed banana (1 large banana)
1 large egg, beaten
2 T unsalted butter, melted
1 T milk (I used 1%)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
For the Brown Butter Glaze:
4 T (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
4 to 5 T confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of coarse salt
To Make the Doughnuts:
Preheat oven to 375°F, preferably on convection. Spray 8 wells of a mini-doughnut pan with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
Add mashed banana, egg, melted butter, milk and vanilla extract and stir until just combined.
Using a small cookie scoop, distribute the batter into the prepared 8 wells of the pan, about 3 scoops of batter per well. Using an offset spatula spread evenly. (Alternatively, place batter in ziploc bag and squeeze out air. Cut corner of bag. Pipe the batter evenly in the pan.)
Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes clean.
Remove from oven and let rest on a rack in the pan for 5 minutes. Then remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.
To Make the Brown Butter Glaze:
Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until it foams and has a nutty aroma, about 5-7 minutes. Immediately remove from heat and transfer to a heat-proof, shallow bowl to stop the cooking process.
Add the sifted confectioner’s sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition. Add enough sugar to reach desired consistency.
Whisk in a pinch of salt and vanilla extract.
Dip each doughnut in the glaze and place back on cooling rack.
Apple cider doughnuts are one of my favorite autumn treats. A tasty baked version reduces the guilt- a little bit. 😉 This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Erin Jeanne McDowell.
I made mini-doughnuts and madeleines. I must say that we were surprised by how much we enjoyed the apple cider madeleines which were absolutely amazing with crispy edges. The batter could also be baked in a muffin pan.
Yield: 12 mini-doughnuts and 8 madeleines (or 12 muffins)
For the Batter:
nonstick cooking spray
1 3/4 cup/225 grams all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
10 T (140 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup/165 grams light brown sugar
1/4 cup/50 grams granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup/120 milliliters apple cider
For the Topping:
1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 T unsalted butter
To Make the Doughnuts & Madeleines: (or Muffins)
Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
Lightly grease 2 (6-cavity) doughnut pans and 8 wells of a madeleine pan (or a 12-cup muffin tin) with nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg and whisk to combine. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream 10 tablespoons/140 grams butter, brown sugar and 1/4 cup/50 grams granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well incorporated after each addition, scraping the bowl as necessary.
Beat in the vanilla extract.
Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated.
With the mixer running, add the apple cider in a slow, steady stream and mix to combine.
Scrape the bowl well to make sure the batter is homogeneous.
Spoon the batter into prepared doughnut pans, filling them about 2/3 of the way. (I use a small cookie scoop and fill each well with 3 scoops. You can also do this using a disposable piping bag or a resealable plastic bag with a 1/2-inch opening cut from one corner.) Spread evenly with an offset spatula.
Bake until evenly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the thickest portion comes out clean, about 7 to 9 minutes on convection. Rotate the pans halfway through baking. (If you are making muffins, divide batter evenly between the prepared cups and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through.)
Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees, preferably on convection, if making madeleines. (I reduced the oven temperature because my pan has a dark finish.)
Using a small cookie scoop, fill each well with 3 scoops, or until 2/3 full. Spread evenly with an offset spatula.
Bake until evenly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 9 minutes on convection.
To Make the Topping:
While the doughnuts bake, whisk 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon together in a small bowl to combine.
In a separate small bowl, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in the microwave.
Let the doughnuts cool for 5 minutes after baking, then unmold them from the pans.
Brush with the melted butter and dredge them in the cinnamon sugar while they are still warm.
Serve immediately, or let cool to room temperature.
I have seen several versions of this seasonal cocktail but I’m not sure if I need to try another one. This one is festive and fabulous. I first tried it on Halloween and now plan to incorporate it into my Thanksgiving weekend menu. Perfect! 🙂
The recipe was adapted from thehealthfulideas.com, contributed by Veronika. I used gold tequila and added maple syrup.
For the Cinnamon-Sugar Rim:
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
A lime wedge
For the Margarita:
1.5 oz tequila
0.5 oz Cointreau
0.5 oz freshly squeezed lime juice, or more, to taste
2 oz apple cider
0.5 oz (1 T) pure maple syrup
small dash cinnamon, optional
1-2 dashes orange bitters
apple and/or lime slices, for garnish, optional
To Make the Rim:
Combine the turbinado sugar and cinnamon on a small plate.
Run a lime wedge around the rim of your glass and dip it in the sugar. Set aside.
To Make the Margarita:
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add a handful of ice, and shake for 10-15 seconds until it’s very cold to touch.
Pour into a margarita glass (or another glass of choice) over ice.
Garnish with an apple and/or lime slice, if desired, and enjoy!
These simple shortbread-style cookies were minimally sweet with a perfectly crumbly texture. We enjoyed them plain and sandwiched with jam.
This recipe is from Apollonia Poilâne via The New York Times, contributed by Dorie Greenspan. They are included in the book “Poilâne, The Secrets of the World-Famous Bread Bakery,” by Apollonia Poilâne, who heads the legendary Parisian boulangerie. According to the article, the desserts made in the shop are bread-bakers pastries, described as as “less sweet, less fussy and less fussed over.” I chilled the dough in logs rather than rolling and cutting as a shortcut.
Yield: about 60 cookies
125 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 T) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
250 grams unsalted butter (2 1/4 sticks, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cut into cubes, softened until creamy
240 grams (2 cups) corn flour
240 grams (1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
jam, for sandwiching the cookies, optional (I used Bonne Maman Four Fruits Preserves)
In a large bowl, working with a mixer on medium speed, beat the sugar, egg and egg yolk until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
Add the butter, and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes.
Add the corn flour and all-purpose flour to a medium bowl, and whisk until combined.
Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.
Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Divide the dough in half, and using parchment paper, shape into 2 logs, about 1 1/4-inches in diameter.
Wrap the logs tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. I place the logs in wrapping paper cardboard to maintain the shape. (I refrigerated the dough overnight- and even longer for a second batch.)(The dough can be frozen for up to 3 months.)
To bake, line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
Working with 1 log of dough at a time, slice the dough into 1/4-inch thick rounds, rotating the log between slices to make more even slices.
Place the rounds 1/2-inch apart on the baking sheets. (I placed 12 cookies per sheet.)
Bake the cookies until the centers are set and the edges are very lightly browned, 12 minutes on convection. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time.
Immediately transfer the cookies to a wire rack, and let cool completely.
Serve plain or sandwiched with jam. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
I shared these cookies with a friend and she shared this beautiful photo of them with me. ❤