Archive for December, 2012

Pipe Dream #161: To Solve Problems That Aren’t Problems – Eggnog Cake with Pecan Butter Rum Sauce

rum cake 1

I know I said I was taking a couple weeks off, but I figured it would be a major blogging faux pas to post an eggnog cake after it stops being sold in stores. Have some left over in your fridge from the holidays? Looking for a New Year’s dessert for the ball drop? Do you feel unloved and underappreciated? This cake solves all of those problems that are not really problems.

eggnog cake 1

First of all, eggnog cake. I felt good about this cake. It was really simple to whip together, and the result was a really tender, light crumb, perfect for soaking up all the rum butter goodness with which I doused it.

rum cake 4

With which. I doused it. The only thing I can really compare this cake to is sticky toffee pudding. It’s a date-filled British cake, served warm with this brown sugar  glaze sauce soaked through. To die for. To mimic the dying effect, I poked holes all over the cake before adding the sauce so that the sauce would soak in.

Were you obsessed with those packs of Christmas LifeSavers as a kid? It was the only time of year I ate them, and the butter rum ones were so good. This sauce is kind of like those, except more rummy and less crunchy, so I added in pecans for some textural flair.

rum cake 3

And as if that weren’t enough, I busted out the “You are special today” plate. Typically reserved for birthdays and bad hair days, the “You are special today” plate is the best combination of affirming language and Tolkien-esque font. In combination with this cake,  it is sure to bring you up from the depths of despair.

rum cake 2

You are special today, dear Reader! Happy New Year,


Eggnog Cake with Pecan Butter Rum Sauce
For the cake:
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup prepared eggnog
1/2 pecans, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans, set aside. I actually used one 9-inch pan and then two 6-inch pans. I froze the 6-inch layers double wrapped in plastic wrap for another use.
Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.
In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk well to combine.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with the eggnog in three additions (flour-eggnog-flour-eggnog-flour), mixing each addition until just incorporated.
Pour batter into the two (or three) round baking pans.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans, and then run a sharp knife around the edge of the cakes in the pans. Turn the cakes out onto wire racks to cool completely.
For the butter rum sauce:
1/2 cup light-brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dark rum
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped
In a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir brown sugar and heavy cream until sugar is melted. Pour in rum, and simmer, stirring until the sauce is smooth, thickened, and reduced. This will take a while. I let mine simmer for a half hour, but I definitely could have gone longer. Stir in butter until melted.

The sauce can be prepared ahead, cooled, covered, and set aside at room temperature for several hours or refrigerated overnight.

To assemble the cake:

Place cake on a serving platter with edges. Choose one that won’t let the sauce run off. Smart cookie. Poke a bunch of holes in the cake with a skewer. Sprinkle with pecans, then pour the buttered rum sauce over the cake. Serve.

Merry Christmas!

merry christmas

Favorite Shots: Christmas Upon Us

thanks table 4

thanks table 3

thanks table 1

Warning: The following verse is so good. Better than that steaming turkey from Thanksgiving (or Christmas, if you buck trends. You trend-bucker, you). CHRISTMAS IS UPON US.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:14

Goodbye ’til next year. I’m taking a couple weeks off. Be well!


Cookie Exchange: Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies

choc sugar cookie 1

Why do I decorate sugar cookies?

I almost loathe it because it requires perfection, a trait of which I am in short supply. It also requires back-bending concentration for hours on end. And it requires whipping eggs whites.

dark choc sugar cookie 7

I think I do it because I feel like it is the “thing” at Christmas-time. Like, everyone’s family decorates those thin sugar cookies together. It’s weird that I think this because my family never did it. We do our Christmas cookies more like this.

dark choc sugar cookie 5

Perhaps I do it because they end up usually pretty much as cuteness.

There are several different ways you can frost these. I tried out a bunch of ways this year based on my mood/event:

dark choc sugar cookies a

dark choc sugar cookie 3

Way #1: Straight Up Royal Icing

No flooding on these babies, just classy piped royal icing and dragees.

dark choc sugar cookie 4

Way #2: Royal Icing + Flood Icing

This is probably the most finnicky way. Plan out a whole day, so that you don’t stress out about being at fun things on time and then get impatient about your piping.

dark choc sugar cookie 8

Way #3: Milk & Powdered Sugar

This is the quick ‘n dirty way of frosting cookies. For this batch, I made the glaze thick enough that I could spread it with the back of a spoon, which was the perfect method for the cookie-decorating party I was going to. However, if you are doing a seriously large batch, like the 500 cookies I made at school in England last year, you can go so far as to dunk the entire cookie in a thinned out glaze. Beware, your counters might look a bit like this when you’re through.

You could also try just dusting them with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. I love the contrast of the dark cookie with white frosting.

dark choc sugar cookie 2

dark choc sugar cookies b

The cookie recipe made over 100 cookies for me, providing ample supply for approximately 1 church event, 1 work event, 1 card club hosting and our family’s various cookie exchanges. They freeze well, so I just made a big batch of cookies one night, and then took them out in small batches to decorate and serve.

Go crazy, friends! You know, if you want to literally go crazy trying to decorate that many cookies. Might wanna halve this one, as it is only, oh, 5 days before Christmas.


Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies

You can find Sweetapolita’s recipe here.

You can find a royal icing recipe on my blog here.

If you want to go the milk/p sugar route, just mix 1/4 cup powdered sugar with milk or water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until you reach desired consistency.

Pipe Dream #160: To Fake Out Backdrops

I posted one of my dad’s headshots a few weeks ago in the hope that it would keep you coming back to my blog…
:] …and here you are.

Anyway, little known fact: he is actually standing in front of my garage door. I was feeling uninspired, and I figured this was a neutral enough background for a business-y shot. It’s not like I have a studio in my house I deal in natural light, people. But enough excuses.

How often do you do this with photos? Angle strategically to find the perfect background that doesn’t include an off-color or bad lighting or an unattractive advertisement (my particular pet peeve). I feel like I do it all the time, and I can’t decide if it makes me an inauthentic photographer. Oh, art.

If you can, indeed, call these art.

Authentically yours,


Pipe Dream #159: To Plan Extravagance – Tangerine, Fresh Cranberry & Dark Chocolate Scones



cran scones 2

Having “company” really brings out my productive side. First off, it is a chance to treat someone to some delicious hospitality.  I love seeing people’s faces in response to delicious hospitality. It is a massive delight to my heart. Secondly, it is a chance to treat me to some delicious hospitality. So I guess I am really getting the better end of the deal, two treats in one, but no matter.

cran scones 1

The problem with any hospitable host (*ahem, Martha), is that he or she is often unable to partake in the general festivities because they are pulling souffles out of the oven, perfecting the flaming strawberries and wiping the unnoticeable dust off the sideboards. I strive not to be this person, kind of like I strive not to be the chick with the camera, so I try and do advance planning as much as possible. Enter, these scones. Extravagantly delectable, and perfectly easy to whip up. Freezer to table in 30 minutes, people. Does it get any better than this?

cran scones 4

The answer, dear Reader, is no. Especially as there is chocolate involved, and my best friend ever coming for a visit.

cran scones 6

Now, to business. Please be proud of me. I chose to forego the high fructose dried berries route in favor of fresh cranberries. This is an essentially good choice. Please make it. The combination of citrus and dark chocolate (never a bad thing) is further complexified by the cranberries.

cran scones 3

And the beautiful part is that the fun parts are housed by the lightest scone dough ever. It was soft and crispy on the outside and not too dense on the inside, unlike some of those day-old scones you can find in coffee shops. These are best fresh.

cran scones 5

I also whipped together a mock Devonshire cream, which is very similar to the trifle filling I used here. So much good. Not that these chock-full lovelies need anything more than a pat of butter.

cran scones 7

Oh, and a cup of tea, obv. That’s easy too.

I rhyme,


Meyer Lemon Fresh Cranberry Scones
Adapted from Gourmet, Inspired by smittenkitchen

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated tangerine zest (from about two tangerines)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

4 ounces quality dark chocolate (or chips, whatever)
1 1/4 cups fresh cranberries, chopped in half
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400°F. and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Zest two tangerines for all they’re worth. I found the scones were a little light on that flavor, which wasn’t an awful thing, but more zest might be great.

In a food processor pulse flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, butter and zest until mixture resembles coarse meal and transfer to a large bowl.

In a small bowl toss together fresh cranberries and 2 tablespoons sugar and stir into flour mixture.

In another small bowl lightly beat egg and yolk and stir in cream. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until just combined.

On a well-floured surface, pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round (about 8 inches in diameter) and with a 2-inch round cutter or rim of a glass dipped in flour cut out as many rounds as possible, re-patting the scraps to get more rounds out of it. Try not to handle the dough too much, though. Arrange rounds about 1 inch apart on baking sheet and bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until pale golden.

Let cool until almost completely cool, then serve scones warm with mock Devonshire cream (recipe follows). If you have any left over the next day, pop them in the micro for 7 seconds or so before serving. Makes around 12 scones.

Note: I froze half of this batch, and saved them for another weekend. After the scones are cut out, lay them out on a tray and stick them in the freezer for 10 minutes. Remove the par-frozen scones to a freezer bag, and stick ’em in the freezer until you need ’em. And no need to defrost either! Just add a few minutes onto the baking time if you are making them straight from frozen, maybe five.

Mock Devonshire Cream, Scone Accompaniment
Adapted from Sweet Jeanette

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Beat the cream cheese until fluffy, then beat in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.  Add the whipping cream and beat on medium speed until combined, then beat on high until peaks form. Try to beat it until the peaks are just under the “stiff” label. Refrigerate until serving.

Favorite Shots: It’s Probably a Compliment

Nighttime? Waterside? Flash? Lace tights with boots? Film grain?

Probably should start shooting for UO, I guess.



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