Apple Cider Margarita

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
  • ice cubes
  • apple and/or lime slices, for garnish, optional

To Make the Rim:

  1. Combine the turbinado sugar and cinnamon on a small plate.
  2. Run a lime wedge around the rim of your glass and dip it in the sugar. Set aside.

To Make the Margarita:

  1. 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. 
  2. Pour into a margarita glass (or another glass of choice) over ice.
  3. Garnish with an apple and/or lime slice, if desired, and enjoy!

Yellow Cupcakes with Creamy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Happy Halloween! Halloween is my daughter’s favorite holiday. It’s just fun to dress up… and candy is involved. 🙂

She had two friends over for a Halloween themed “dinner party” a couple of weeks ago. I made these moist and delicious cupcakes for dessert. I was very pleased when she announced that they were the best cupcakes she’s ever had! ❤

This recipe was adapted from Bon AppĂ©tit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. It is part of a list named BA’s Best, a collection of essential recipes. I halved the cupcake recipe and doubled the frosting ratio.

We decorated them with candy eyes and sprinkles to make them festive for the occasion. They decorated caramel apples in the same fashion. Fun and tasty.

Yield: 12 frosted cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 1/2 T cake flour, sifted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2 T pieces
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 T vanilla extract
  1. Arrange rack in the center of the oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection. (If doubling the recipe, arrange the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.)
  2. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  4. Add butter, buttermilk, and oil and beat on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth.
  5. Whisk egg yolks, egg, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth.
  6. Add egg mixture to flour mixture in 2 additions, beating well between additions.
  7. Continue to beat on medium speed until mixture is homogenous and very thick, about 2 minutes.
  8. Using a scoop, divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling two-thirds full (a level â…“ cup batter per cupcake).
  9. Bake 5 minutes in the preheated 400° oven, then reduce oven temperature to 350°.
  10. Continue baking, rotating pans halfway through, until cupcakes have domed and spring back when touched in the center, 14 (on convection for 12 cupcakes) or up to 20-25 minutes in a standard oven.
  11. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Note: If doubling the cupcake recipe, use 7 egg yolks plus 1 large egg.

Do Ahead: Cupcakes can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature (unfrosted) or in the refrigerator (frosted).

For the Creamy Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  1. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat cream cheese, butter, and salt in a large bowl until smooth.
  2. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until incorporated, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Scrape down sides of bowl, then beat in vanilla.
  4. Pipe the frosting on cupcakes.
Note: The frosting recipe can be halved if it’s going to be spread instead of piped onto the cupcakes.

Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

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It can be so upsetting to bake for classrooms of kids…. I have learned my lesson the hard way. Laboring over homemade birthday cupcakes with cute decorations to bring in for preschool birthday celebrations, only to see kids lick off the frosting and throw them in the garbage… take one bite and throw them in the garbage…. You get the idea.

Both of my kids (now in 2nd & 4th grade) had a Halloween celebration at school this year where parents were asked to volunteer to help or bring in treats or supplies. I can’t help myself! I had to volunteer to bake. 🙂 Our first plan was to make bat sugar cookies. Then I imagined rolling, cutting, chilling, baking, and decorating 60 bats and watching kids throw them out. Nope. When I saw these festive bite-sized sugar cookies I knew that they were a much better choice. Cute and quick. My kids also helped make them by rolling the dough into balls, sprinkling the sanding sugar, and adding the candy corns. This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living Special Issues.

My son and daughter each brought 30 sugar and 30 chocolate-sugar cookies to school to celebrate. Perfect! I had a couple leftover to bring to Fiesta Friday #40 this week too! Happy Halloween! 🙂

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Yield: 64 bite-sized cookies

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 stick, very soft
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • orange sanding sugar
  • About 64 candy corns (I used Brach’s)

Note: To make the chocolate variation: Reduce the amount of all-purpose flour to 1 cup. Add 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder along with the flour in step 3.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (convection). Place butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  2. Beat in egg yolks, vanilla, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Add flour (and cocoa if making the chocolate version), and mix until a dough forms.
  4. Scoop out level teaspoons of dough (I used the teaspoon side of my melon baller & scooped it out with a tiny condiment spoon), and roll into balls. Chill dough balls for about 10 minutes prior to baking.
  5. Place balls on 3 parchment-lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with orange sanding sugar.
  6. Bake until edges are firm and cookies are dry to the touch (do not let cookies color), 9 to 10 minutes on convection, or up to 12 minutes in a standard oven.
  7. Remove from oven; gently press a candy corn into center of each cookie (surface of cookies may crack slightly). Cool on sheets 1 minute; transfer to a rack to cool completely.

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Pumpkin Pie Dump Cake

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I may have overdone it… I made Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bread for breakfast and Pumpkin Pie Dump Cake for dessert on the SAME DAY…. BUT, I have never made a “dump cake” (or heard of a “dump cake”) and I really wanted to try this one! 🙂 A “dump” cake is named for its simple preparation- dumping ingredients into a bowl, stirring, pouring into a pan and then coating with toppings prior to baking. The bottom layer of the cake is custardy and the top crunchy- great.

I knew that this “pumpkin-overload” in my menu planning was okay when my son called this cake “heaven on a plate.” My husband said that it was the best pumpkin dessert he had ever had! What rave reviews!! 🙂 This recipe was adapted from AllRecipes, via Nancy Creative. It is a wonderful autumn dessert and would be a great part of a Thanksgiving menu as well. We ate it with a dollop of whipped cream.

Yield: Makes one 9 x 13-inch cake

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  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (16.5 oz.) package yellow cake mix (or use spice cake mix) (I used Dunkin Hines Classic Yellow Cake Mix)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup toffee bits
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
  • whipped cream, for serving, optional
  • salted caramel sauce, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (on convection). Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch pan.
  2. In large bowl, mix pumpkin, light brown sugar, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and salt, blending well. Stir in the evaporated milk, then beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well. Pour pumpkin mixture into prepared pan.
  3. Sprinkle all of the dry yellow cake mix evenly over the pumpkin mixture, then sprinkle the chopped pecans and then the toffee bits evenly over top of cake mix. Drizzle melted butter evenly over everything.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes (on convection) or up to 60 minutes in a standard oven, until edges are lightly browned (it may be a little soft in the center, but will set as it cools; also, the cake may sink slightly as it cools). Cool for 30 minutes before cutting and serving. You can serve just as it is or with a dollop of whipped cream. (maybe even a drizzle of salted caramel sauce on top if you really want to make it decadent!) Refrigerate any leftovers.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Skinny Whole Wheat Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bread

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Dave of Dave Bakes may not know this, but he convinced me that I needed a 13-inch Pullman loaf pan. 🙂 I couldn’t wait to ask for it for Christmas, so I bought one on Amazon. Yay! It is FABULOUS. I love it!! What a presentation (& shorter baking time!!). This “skinny” bread was its initiation into my kitchen! Nothing better than a surprise special weekday breakfast for the family (& excuse to use my new pan!).

This recipe was adapted from Chez Catey Lou. It was a moist, low-fat, and special autumn treat -especially with the chocolate chips.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

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  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (convection). Grease an 8×5-inch loaf pan. (or a 13x4x4-inch Pullman loaf pan)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugars, oil, and eggs until very well combined. Add pumpkin and yogurt and mix well.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour the batter evenly into the loaf pan. Bake for 39 minutes (I started checking the loaf at 35 minutes) in the Pullman pan, on convection, or up to 45 – 55 minutes in a standard pan and/or oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

If you call these muffins, it’s okay to eat them for breakfast, right? 🙂 These moist and cakey muffins are transformed into doughnut-like treats when coated with cinnamon-sugar. They are perfect for a cool, autumn morning or for a special Halloween or Thanksgiving breakfast.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. I made them in a muffin pan this time, but next time may try a mini-bundt pan. I adapted the recipe to make them slightly healthier by incorporating white whole wheat flour and by serving them with sliced fresh pears. 🙂 They were worth every bit of indulgence!

Yield: Makes 12 standard muffins or about 10 mini bundt cakes

For the Batter:

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin puree (from a 15-ounce can)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs

For the Cinnamon-Sugar Coating:

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Butter and flour 12 standard muffin cups. (Alternatively, use a mini bundt pan or a combination.)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and allspice.
  3. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together buttermilk and pumpkin puree.
  4. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed.
  6. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions pumpkin mixture, and beat to combine.
  7. Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes for the muffins (on convection), 17 to 20 minutes for mini bundt cakes (on convection), or up to 30 minutes in a standard oven.
  8. Meanwhile, make the coating. In a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon.
  9. Let muffins cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack.
  10. Melt the butter. (I melt it in the microwave.)
  11. Working with one at a time, remove muffins from pan, brush all over with butter, then toss to coat in sugar mixture.
  12. Let muffins cool completely on a wire rack.

November 2020 Update: These muffins were beautiful and even more fabulous baked in a mini bundt pan. I made 6 mini bundt cakes and 6 standard muffins with one batch of batter.

One Year Ago:

Shortbread Candy Bars

Halloween Candy Shortbread Bars
This is a belated Halloween post.  It was a great way to use up leftover chocolate candy from the kids’ Halloween haul.  This may have been one of the sweetest and most decadent desserts I have ever made.  The secret was to make each serving SMALL- otherwise, it truly was too much of a good thing.  This recipe is from Everyday Food.
Yield: Makes 16 bars
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups assorted chocolate candies or roughly chopped candy bars (12 ounces)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, and salt on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. With mixer on low, add flour in three additions and beat until combined (dough will be crumbly). Press dough evenly into an 8-inch square baking dish. Bake until golden brown and firm, 30 to 35 minutes.
  2. Scatter chocolate chips on top of shortbread. Bake until soft, 1 minute. With the back of a spoon, spread chocolate evenly over shortbread. Scatter candies over top. Let cool on a wire rack 30 minutes. Refrigerate briefly to set chocolate, then cut into 16 bars.

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