Sunday, January 28, 2018

Pineapple Belongs on Everything

I happen to be a lover of all things pineapple. I am not a pizza purist who has no time for a slice of Hawaiian pizza. In fact, it's one of my favorites, and I refuse to let anyone judge me for trying to put fruit on pizza (side note--dessert fruit pizzas are amazing, and I need to make one soon). Even though I adore the tangy sweetness of pineapple, before last weekend, I had never made a pineapple upside down cake. I don't even think I had eaten a slice of one in at least fifteen years. Back then, my taste buds cared less about pineapple and more about McDonald's and Coke Icee's. Well, they still do, but thankfully, they've also branched out and make me try daring things on occasion. Not that I'd consider pineapple daring, but you're talking to a woman who didn't eat avocados until two years ago. I'm maturing, y'all.
And it tastes way more delicious than I ever figured it would.
Best part about that ooey-gooey, pineapple-y goodness pictured above? I adapted it from a Truvia recipe--so eating it is a transcendentally guilt-free, delicious moment. At a mere 214 calories a slice (8 slices total), you can even add what some might call a "ridiculous" amount of Cool Whip Free on top just to take it that extra mile for few extra calories. I had it with or without, and while I preferred my slice with Cool Whip Free (I have an obsession), this was a damn good cake either way. Something magical happens when butter and brown sugar come together in an oven to form glazed goodness, and I love any recipe that tastes best fresh out of the oven with zero wait time from pan to plate to mouth.
Truvia should just sponsor my blog at this point.
I promise you that this is in no way difficult to make from scratch. I think this maybe took all of ten minutes to throw together, but last weekend was a blur of sadness thanks to my ever-waffling, normally soul-crushing Minnesota Vikings. I will say this cake and the support of my Eagle's-loving husband (seriously, he didn't gloat once) somehow managed to pull me out of the depressing abyss that comes with our annual playoff shortcomings. Crushed hopes and dreams aside, a day in sweats and a slice of pineapple upside down cake had me just right again (with my usual dash of sass and sarcasm). To make, gather:
  • 3 TBS butter
  • 1/3 cup Truvia Brown Sugar Blend
  • 7 fresh pineapple slices, drained
  • 7 maraschino cherries, drained, without stems
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (or you can use oil, but this will up the calorie content a lot)
  • 1/2 cup Truvia Baking Blend
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
    Optional: Cool Whip Free for topping
Start by preheating your oven to 350 and placing the 3 TBS butter into an 8" pan. Throw this into the oven so the butter gets nice and melty, like it's on a fresh stack of pancakes. Mmm, pancakes. I bet pancakes with pineapple would be amazing. Sorry, I'm easily distracted by the endless taste possibilities pineapple can provide.
Mmmm buttery brown sugar.
While your butter is melting, drain and set aside 7 slices of pineapple, 7 cherries without stems, and then dump the applesauce, Truvia Baking Blend, milk, vanilla, and egg into a stand mixer bowl. Give a blend on low for about 30 seconds, then dump in the flour, salt, and baking powder in and blend for 2 minutes on medium-high. While this is blending, pull your pan out of the oven and swirl the butter around so it evenly coats the bottom of the entire pan. Then take the Truvia Brown Sugar Blend and sprinkle on top of the butter. I used a rubber spatula to press the sugar down and ensure it mixed with the butter.
Who lives in a pineapple under a cake? Not Spongebob Squarepants, that's for sure.
Your pan will still be hot at this point, so carefully lay out the 7 slices of pineapple. There will be some overlap, but they shrink as they bake, so it'll look fine, I promise. Place a cherry on top (which is actually the bottom--mind, blown) of each pineapple slice's center.
Oh yes, look at that naughty butter, seeping all over the place and breaking the rules in the tastiest way possible.
Gently pour your cake batter on top of the pineapple and cherries, and bake on the middle rack of your oven at 350 for 35 minutes. A toothpick should come out cleanly from the cake when fully cooked.
I literally have the perfect plates for upside down cake.
The moment you remove your cake from the oven, place a large plate on top of your cake pan. Carefully (definitely wear oven mitts or pay the price) invert plate and pan so plate is on the bottom and pan is on the top. Let the cake set in the pan as the buttery glaze distributes itself evenly over the top of the cake. Thankfully, this is a short period of time, perhaps 5 minutes in total.
Worth it. Look at that distribution, baby.
You should be able to slowly but very easily remove the pan from the cake without fear of ruining your cake. Butter is a magical thing, people. Pineapple upside down cake is amazing straight from the oven, and you can definitely slice into this and serve it while warm--in fact, I recommend it.
But don't forget the Cool Whip Free.
In my haste/football shame spiral, I didn't serve our first round of pineapple upside down cake with any, but it was still definitely yummy enough to give me a reason to go on and keep living despite the game results. Behold, the power of cake.
But you better believe I didn't forget it any other time.
I kept this cake in a cake safe in the fridge, reheating our slices for about 30 seconds a pop before topping with Cool Whip. It is a nice and dense cake layer bottom with the perfect amount of sweetness; not too overwhelming since the pineapples and cherries do a nice job of providing plenty of sweetness on their own. The additional sweetness from the Cool Whip Free was the perfect finishing touch. Speaking of finishes, we inhaled this cake, and I miss it terribly. I can relate to a cake that isn't right side up because when you're as clumsy as I am, upside down is a natural resting state. It's nice to know when you've got two left feet and raging seasonal football depression that pineapple has the power to make everything seem right in the world. Now tell me again why people don't like it on pizza? Because unless you're a Patriots fan, I can guarantee on any given Sunday, you're gonna need something to cheer you up. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
I mean, I might have to make another one of these just to survive watching the Super Bowl take place in our home stadium without us. The commercials this year better be frickin' hilarious.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Boozy Baking Supernova

Baking with booze is not for the faint of heart. Luckily, my heart is tiny and afraid of very few things (looking at you, spiders and wrinkles), so it is something I do with frequency. I've got my go-to's: the Guinness chocolate anything, Baileys buttercream frosting, margarita cupcakes, etc., but recently, my motto has been Disaronno or bust when it comes to baking (and drinking). When I volunteered my services as the boozy baker for a big event at work, I knew I had to try a recipe that was lingering in the back of my mind. It was either going to be out-of-this-world amazing or quite possibly the worst thing ever to happen to cupcakes in the history of time and space. I live my life based on the extremes, and if you haven't picked up on it, themed desserts. I work for a science museum, so I figured it was only appropriate to have a galaxy/space decorating motif with these cupcakes. Sometimes it's better to think inside the box than out of it, I suppose. Safe theme, daring flavor: the galaxy swirl cupcakes in Baileys chocolate flavor, and, drum roll please: Disaronno yellow flavor.
Literally the greatest flavor in the cosmos.

In space, no one can hear you scream. Or eat. While there still may be calories in space, I'm pretty sure that zero gravity business and relaxed-fit space suit would help hide a cupcake addiction. That being said, let's get to the bad news: these are in no way shape or form low cal. But dear sweet baby space Jesus are they delicious. Each recipe makes 24 cupcakes. The Baileys chocolate cupcake (no frosting) is 165 calories. About two tablespoons of Baileys buttercream is 150 calories. This totals 315 calories per cupcake (yet you won't care when you're eating it, I can promise that). The Disaronno yellow cupcake is 145 calories sans frosting. About two tablespoons of Disaronno buttercream is 140 calories. Together, this totals 285 calories per cake. Not only are they even better tasting than the Baileys cupcakes, they're much kinder in the calorie department. I know a chocolate buttercream with amaretto is fantastic, but just a plain amaretto buttercream is positively divine--and the cupcake itself is my new favorite thing in the entire solar system (sorry, Pluto, you've been ousted once more). Added bonus? You can make them from a box mix...
Corner Cutting Champion of 2018.
I wanted to make this easy on myself had been a long time since I'd baked in mass quantity, so to make the chocolate Baileys flavor:
  • 1 box of chocolate cake mix
  • The amount of eggs the box mix called for PLUS an additional egg for richer flavor (4 total)
  • Nixed the oil and instead used melted butter, with the amount of butter doubled for a silkier batter (it called for 1/2 cup of oil, so I used 1 cup of melted butter).
  • Nixed the 1 cup of water it called for and instead used:
    • 1/2 cup of Baileys
    • 1/2 cup of milk
  • Dump all ingredients together and blend on medium-high for two minutes. Line your cupcake tins with liners and bake according to package directions.
  • After letting your cupcakes cool in the tin for 5 minutes, remove to a cooling rack to COMPLETELY cool before frosting.
For the Disaronno flavor:
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • Followed my cake jacking method and added an extra egg, subbed melted butter for oil and doubled the amount, and nixed the water, instead using half milk and half Disaronno to total the amount of water the box mix required (I think it was like 1 1/4 cup. I can't remember specifically, so I can't give you an exact amount. Just use half booze and half milk for whatever your box mix requires as a water replacement to really make the flavor shine).
  • Dump all ingredients together and blend on high for two minutes. Line your cupcake tins with liners and bake according to package directions.
  • After letting your cupcakes cool in the tin for 5 minutes, remove to a cooling rack to COMPLETELY cool before frosting.
Cake jacking a box mix is super easy, and it does result in an insanely rich, flavorful cupcake. Using alcohol to bake with also brings out some great flavor, so you really can't tell these are from a box, and that is all that matters when you're insane and want to bake almost fifty cupcakes in one day while also writing a grant because you're Type A or bust. I think we all just figured out why I eat my feelings. Stress goes great with sugar. And butter.
So. much. butter.
I used my old Baileys buttercream frosting recipe, but I wish I would've used all butter instead of half butter and half Crisco. I find Crisco can sometimes leave a weird after taste when mixed with gel dyes. So instead of linking to my old recipe, here's the full buttercream version of my Baileys buttercream (live and learn and eat the frosting):
  • 1 1/2 cups of butter at room temp
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 5 cups of powdered sugar
  • 5 tablespoons of Baileys
Now, Future Kate will thank me the next time she wants to use this recipe. I used full butter in the Disaronno frosting and it was leaps and bounds better in taste and a bajillion times easier to pipe with. By the time I finished piping the Baileys cupcakes, I may have acquired early onset arthritis. I may never be able to play video games again. The horror. Before I go into mixing and piping, let's get to that amaretto buttercream. I still have some leftover in my freezer in the event of an emergency. My definition of emergency ranges from, "House is on fire to remembered something awkward I did 15 years ago," so I'm banking on busting into that bag sometime within the next 72 hours because my backlog of embarrassing moments is rather impressive. For the best frosting you'll ever eat in your life, get:
  • 1 1/2 cups of butter at room temp
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 5 cups of powdered sugar
  • 5 tablespoons of Disaronno
For either frosting, start by creaming the butter for 2 minutes until fluffy. Then add in the vanilla extract, two cups of powdered sugar, and two tablespoons of booze. Blend on low until the mixture is sticky, then blend on medium-high until things mostly come together. Turn off the mixer, add in the remaining three cups of powdered sugar and three tablespoons of booze. Blend on low, then turn to high and fully incorporate everything.
Fun with frosting!
 Ever since I baked Derek's galaxy swirl mirror birthday cake  last June, I have not been able to get over how gorgeous all those colors looked together, and I've been dying for a reason to visit space (theme) again. hot right now. Zoolander references aside, galaxy swirl is still all the rage, so I'm happy to add my two cents on getting the style to your liking. I'm also available to provide my two cents on why 90s music is still the best, what things ketchup should and should not go on, and the merits of using your blinker. Book me for your next speaking engagement!
But beware, I have the mouth of a well-educated sailor.
For my galaxy swirl cupcakes, I used Americolor's electric blue and royal blue, and Wilton's violet dye. I put equal amounts of frosting into three separate bowls, and then used the following combination in one bowl: 6 drops of electric blue plus 2-3 drops of royal blue and mixed well to achieve a bright blue hue. In another bowl, I mixed 6 drops of royal blue and 2-3 drops of violet to achieve a deep navy (photos don't do it justice) and mixed well. Finally, I used 6 drops of violet and 2-3 drops of royal blue for what I call "Vikings purple" (but don't worry, it won't choke when you need it to work most). I got out three piping bags, and I added half of the electric blue to one bag, half of the navy blue to another bag, and half of the purple to a final bag. I snipped the tip off of each of these three bags and then fit a HUGE (see that trash bag on the right above) piping bag with a 1M tip and gently loaded each bag of frosting inside as evenly as I could:
My veins are bulging because this weighed more than a small dog.
You'll want to pipe out a bit of frosting until all three colors are coming out at once. Then, design however you'd like. I did a traditional swirl on half and a star mound on the other half (these are easy, start in the middle of the cupcake and just pipe a mound of frosting until it's nice and poofy). To swirl, start on the outside edge of the cupcake and pipe in a circular motion, slowly working your way to the inside of the cupcake, overlapping as needed, until you get to the middle. Pipe a small start in the center and pull away the tip:
Space! A tasty frontier!
Oh yes, don't forget the sprinkles (or it really will be a tragedy because space is sparkly whether you like it or not):
Its like Wilton knows...
Wilton has adorable gold or silver stars and edible flakes in a million colors, so find colors that compliment whatever dyes you chose for your galaxy swirl. I pipe about 4 cupcakes, stop, and add sprinkles while the frosting is still "wet" and not set.
My kitchen was so colorful!
These really were so, so pretty. I did the same style for the Disaronno cupcakes as well, mounds on half, swirls on the other:
The mounds were super adorable, but the swirls did a better job of mixing the colors together to form a gorgeous space-themed treat. While I definitely had one of each, I'm still drooling over how good those Disaronno yellow cupcakes were, and this event was last Thursday. The amaretto and yellow cake flavors together are absolute bliss. Not to knock the Baileys chocolate cupcakes, a traditional flavor pairing, but these Disaronno cupcakes had a bold, sweet flavor, and it will definitely be a repeat recipe for years to come in my boozy baking adventures. You still can't go wrong with how rich Baileys makes any chocolate recipe, so if you're ever in the market to make a borderline ridiculous amount of cupcakes, try both! People will happily sample one of each, especially if you've done the galaxy swirl frosting--just tell them its for market research and space exploration. I've searched the universe for some of the best desserts, and these will not disappoint. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
You'll fall into a black hole of flavor. Okay, I more space puns. This isn't Space Balls: the Blog. Yet.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Brownies Are Not Made for Resolutions...

I made it to 31! Another year closer to getting to yell at kids to get off my lawn without anyone thinking anything out of the ordinary (I get terrible looks when I do it now, so come on late sixties!). Since 31 isn't really anything spectacular and my week was insanely busy, I didn't make a big fuss about my birthday cake this year like I usually do. I just made a simple chocolate cake with my Salted Bailey's buttercream frosting and tested out some Russian piping tips I got for Christmas (photo at end of blog, but really, nothing special). So why are we here, you ask? Because the week prior, I made sure all of my friends got in as many calories as possible before New Year's resolutions began. I made a giant pan of Buckeye brownies to bring to a friend's house. She's from Ohio, so she's definitely "in the know" when it comes to all things Buckeye--football, trees, candy, you name it. So she and her peanut butter and chocolate loving husband were big fans. As someone who spent a lot of time visiting and living in Michigan, it was a little painful to have to admit something to do with Buckeyes was positively amazing. With chocolate, anything is possible.
Worth every calorie.
Honestly, these are terrible for you. HOWEVER, they are also extremely rich and decadent, so you could get away with slicing these even smaller than I did. I made a 9x13 pan and cut them into 36 brownies for 320 calories a brownie. I ended up cutting a piece in half when I ate it because they were so rich and positively the perfect amalgamation of peanut butter and chocolate (so naturally, I had seconds). You could easily cut these into 48 squares to get them under 250 calories a serving. While they may not be New Year's resolution friendly, if you ever have a terrible week and need to eat your feelings, might I recommend this recipe. I'd let someone punch me in the face if it meant I could have one of these right after--they're really that good and great at lifting one's spirit. Behold, the magic of PB&C. Those crazy Ohioans are really onto something with Buckeyes (but only in the realm of food. Not football. Never.).
While they may be loaded with all of the calories, it is so insanely easy to make these brownies. I actually found the recipe on a Tasty video, and for once, it gave enough detail that even a novice baker would be able to handle this recipe swiftly and easily. Gather up:
  • A 9x13 size box brownie mix (plus the ingredients required on the box)
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups of Jif (there is no better peanut butter)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 10 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 TBS heavy cream
  • Optional (but not to me): sprinkles
You could try to make these healthier by replacing the oil in the brownie mix with unsweetened applesauce, and reduce the amount of peanut butter and powdered sugar (I'd say 1 cup PB and 2 cups sugar). The PB layer is super thick, so reducing these amounts would just provide a thinner layer.
Fact: a perfect way to begin any dessert is with a brownie base.
 Make your brownies according to box directions--definitely do not forget to grease the pan before pouring in the brownie mix though! When your brownies are almost done in the oven, mix together the melted  butter, Jif, vanilla, and powdered sugar in your stand mixer for a few minutes until completely smooth.
Try not to take a fork to this and begin shoveling into your mouth with reckless abandon.
Now, the moment those brownies come out of the oven, take your peanut butter mixture and spread it on top of the warm brownie layer using an angled spatula. I heated my spatula up under warm water, dried it off, and then spread out the PB layer. Worked like a smooth, delicious dream. Set this aside and get ready to ganache, baby.
Getting a Homer Simpson level of drool going here.
To make your ganache, dump the chocolate chips and heavy cream into a microwave safe bowl. Nuke in the microwave for one minute, and then stir together until totally smooth. Pour the warm ganache on top of the peanut butter layer and use your angled spatula to smooth things out.
The finishing touches!
I took some gold glitter sprinkles and added a light dusting to the ganache before it set. It was New Year's Eve, after all, so I wanted to get super festive and sparkly. I'm always super festive and sparkly when it comes to dessert decor. Now, cover your pan and pop these bad boys in the fridge. I let mine set overnight before cutting into squares, but you'd probably be safe after refrigerating for 3-4 hours or freezing for 2.
This was a very heavy plate.
These brownies weigh about a ton thanks to all that layered goodness, but they're simple to cut and serve. I did notice that some of my peanut butter layers wanted to separate from the brownie, but since peanut butter is so nice and malleable, I just squished those pieces back together. Remember--alcohol is served at parties, so no one will notice a few smooshed in pieces thanks to this, and to the fact that they'll get inhaled before anyone can look at them for longer than a second or two.
The plate was gone very, very quickly. I mean, just look at that layer action.
These were positively a hit, and I'm really glad there weren't any leftovers for me to take home and end up eating all at once. Small miracles. No matter how you feel about Buckeyes and Ohio, I can promise you if you even remotely like chocolate and peanut butter together, these brownies will blow your mind. Now, on to that boring birthday cake...
Just florals and boozy frosting, NBD.
 I was super frustrated by these Russian piping tips. "It's so easy--anyone can use them." In comes the baker with several years of piping and decorating experience under her belt, and no, anyone cannot use them. I wanted to do two-toned flowers in whites, blues, and purples, and followed directions on several Russian piping tip tutorial videos to do so and used a technique I had never done before and had zero luck with. I will stick to painting the inside of my piping bags with gel dye like I knew I should have because this actually works. I was also told to use extremely stiff frosting, but then only half my decorations were coming out of the piping tips at a time. It's a miracle I got any of them to work at all, so lesson learned--just use regular consistency buttercream. At least my leaf game is on point:
Yeah, you go Wilton leaf tips. Making life easy.
The concept is cool, so I'll definitely revisit these Russian piping tips. My biggest complaint is that the tips aren't numbered, so I have to use the guide that came with them and the tiny little pictures on it in order to figure out what each one does. I'd even have taken Russian symbols or something. I mean, really. First world problems indeed, but I'll be back soon after I've had more practice showing these tips who's the boss. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Gingerbread: the Pumpkin Spice of Christmas

Hell has finally frozen over--at 4:30 a.m. last Saturday morning, it snowed for like thirty seconds in Northwest Florida. That day I believe I went through about four wardrobe changes so I could cycle through all my favorite boots because I literally had no idea if the opportunity would present itself again, and after spending a week in the sweaty nightmare that is Orlando, I nearly wept at the sight of frosty lawns while walking the dogs. It was so cold I couldn't feel my face, and it was fantastic. It finally feels like Christmastime, so it was only appropriate that I commenced with all of the Christmas baking this past weekend. My family traditions are stacked high with Spritz cookies, caramel bars, lemon squares, fudge, literally everything under the sun except gingerbread. I decided I needed to change that this year and baked this super cute naked gingerbread cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting and edible chocolate trees (because there should be chocolate in every dessert):
Squee! So wintery!
I had so much fun decorating this cake. It was a pleasant, spirit-lifting experience after watching my Vikings winning streak get snapped. It took everything in me not to sit down and eat the entire pan of caramel bars I just baked to get over it. But sadness coupled with stomach ache was not how I wanted to spend my Sunday, and my sports-related depression was stopped dead in its tracks the second I took a bite of this cake. Why did I wait almost 31 years to bake a gingerbread cake? This stuff packs a punch. It's like the pumpkin spice of Christmas!! That jolt of ginger and cloves followed by the smooth sweetness of the cinnamon cream cheese frosting transported me to snowy, cold lands (you know, like Minnesota or inexplicably the entire South last weekend). What I'm trying to say is, I'm super late to the gingerbread party, but I'm trying to live my best basic white girl life, so I'm putting this into regular holiday rotation, stat. I adapted a recipe that was almost 550 calories for one slice of cake and Kated it up (I'm using my name as a verb now, deal with it) to cut the calorie content down to a much more respectable 330 calories a slice. You know, so you can have your cake, cookies, and fudge and eat it, too.
Praise be to Truvia, for making holiday binge eating possible.
Legitimately the hardest part of making this cake was tracking down a bottle of molasses. Apparently gingerbread is super popular during the month of December (Who knew? What? Everyone but me? That checks). It took us a few store runs, but eventually we found molasses and that moment will be what I consider "Katy's Christmas Miracle 2017." This recipe makes three thin 6-inch rounds, and you'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups All Purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves (or use 1/4 for less of a "jolt")
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce*
  • 1/4 cup Truvia Baking Blend
  • 2 TBS plus 2 tsp Truvia Brown Sugar Blend
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup molasses 
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
*Subbing applesauce in place of butter will make a super dense, bread-like cake. If you'd rather have it light and fluffy, use 1/2 cup of butter at room temp. The next time I make this, I am going to use 1/4 cup of applesauce and 1/4 cup of butter to even things out.
Ah, ginger. Color of my hair. Soother of my stomach. You know, Ginger was my favorite Spice Girl, too.
 Start by preheating your oven to 350 and line your pans with Parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Dump the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in a medium bowl and whisk together. In your stand mixing bowl, blend the applesauce/butter and both Truvias until mixed. Things will be sloshy if you're using all applesauce, so blend on low (if using any butter, mix this with the sugars first until fluffy before adding applesauce). Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Then add in that mythical, elusive molasses and the vanilla extract. Blend well. Now, take turns adding in a third of the dry mix, blend well, then add in half of the buttermilk. Repeat until you've used all of your dry mix (you'll end with this) and the other half of the buttermilk.
I still only have 2 6-inch pans...
Dump your batter evenly into your prepared pans. Tap on your kitchen counter to release any air bubbles and even out your batter. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Your house will smell like Santa's dreams.
Let these rest in the pan on top of a cooling rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and allowing them to finish cooling on the rack. Now, for a naked cake, it is super helpful to freeze your cake rounds to ensure they don't get crumbly while you scrape down frosting (but don't forget to level your cakes so they're all even before you freeze them. You know, like I did. More on that later.). I wrapped all three of my rounds into individual cling wrap pouches and froze overnight. I also made my chocolate Christmas trees the night before to allow them time to set in the fridge. Because is it really Christmas baking if it doesn't take up your entire weekend? Exactly.
You should also hate yourself a little for eating way too many baking scraps.
 To make my Christmas trees, I used green chocolate melts, green and white sanding sprinkles, and white pearl sprinkles. I really like this brand of chocolate melts (found at A.C. Moore) because I wasn't too keen on the shade of green after I melted them, but I was able to add green gel dye to it to achieve the color I wanted without it seizing up which is practically unheard of in chocolate decorating. Small miracles. While I was melting my chocolate according to package directions, I sketched out some trees on a sheet of Parchment paper to act as a guide:
Don't forget to flip this over before you pipe chocolate or it'll taste like Sharpie...some lessons are hard learned from the past and never forgotten.
 I fitted two piping bags with a #16 Wilton tip (star tip) and another with a #5 Wilton tip (round open tip). I tried piping a tree with the #5 tip, but it looked really boring. The star tip definitely wins out here because it gives a nice texture. I piped over the outlines I had drawn by first piping one line the height of the tree to act as the backbone and then piped waves back and forth to create my trees (very slowly to ensure they didn't have large gaps in them).

It's quick and easy, promise. You can eat any you don't like. Win-win.
I piped two at a time and then decorated with various sprinkles while the chocolate was still soft.
I went a little overboard on the number of trees I decorated.
...but since our current house has no place for our Christmas tree, I knew this would be my one shot at tree decorating this Christmas, so I made my own tiny Christmas tree farm. And then I ate several of them because I cannot be trusted around chocolate. I let these sit out on the counter for about an hour before carefully and gently placing them in a Tupperware: one layer topped with Parchment paper followed by another layer. I closed the lid and hid them from myself in the fridge overnight. Just because they are tiny green trees does not mean they have the nutritional content of broccoli.
Don't ever read the nutritional content of powdered sugar, either.
The next day, I made my frosting. I knew I wanted a cinnamon cream cheese frosting, but if you want that "Whiter than a Canadian after a long winter" look about your frosting, you'll want to skip the cinnamon as it does add color to the frosting. And by color I mean "Tan as a Canadian after a brief summer." My color comparisons are distinctly channeling my heritage...Gingerbread men are tanner than I am. To make the frosting you'll need:
  • 8 ounces of 1/3 less fat cream cheese at room temp
  • 1/2 cup of butter at room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3- 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar (I used 3 1/2 but had a decent amount leftover, so 3 is safe for a naked cake)
Blend the cream cheese and butter in your stand mixer until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Then add in the vanilla, cinnamon, and powdered sugar. Blend on low until the sugar has been well incorporated, then blend on high until everything is smooth.
Hi cakes I forgot to torte...
 Before I froze my cakes, I completely forgot to level them. This is why baking and Benadryl don't mix. I would probably have a better chance of remembering to level my cakes while just straight up sleep walking than I would when Benadryl is introduced to my system and that sweet, sweet numbness overtakes my sinuses. Since this wasn't for anyone's birthday or consumption other than mine and my husband's, I didn't have too much of a meltdown (I did all my melting in Orlando...86 degrees in December, really?!). But I highly recommend leveling your cakes before freezing them so you can assemble layers without things getting wonky. Unwrap all your cake layers and load up a piping bag with a large round tip (Wilton 1A is my go-to) and a plop a heaping dollop of frosting inside it.
The circle of life.
 With naked cakes, remember to flip them upside down so the bottom of the cake is now facing up. This allows an even surface for you to stack your layers! I place my cake on a cake round and pipe a large circle of frosting around the edge of my cake first.
You're getting very sleeeeepppyyy....
 Then I spiral in a decent amount of frosting in the middle.
And I finish up by smoothing with an angled spatula.
 Repeat this process until you have used all of your layers. Smooth the top layer of frosting out nicely. There will be some overhang, which is good:
Especially if you forgot to level your cake and need to cleverly disguise that fact.
 I took my leftover frosting and angled spatula and filled in any areas where it was obvious that my cakes weren't totally level (then I ate a few spoonfuls of frosting because I'm excellent at coping with problems). Then I went around the cake a few times with my bench scraper to pull any excess frosting off the cake. I didn't have to do this much, as I didn't use a ton of frosting between layers. I wanted this to be a mostly naked cake, so less is more here.
I'm going to be obsessed with naked cakes forever because they are pretty and easy. This is like the no-makeup look but for a cake.
 Once I finished my frosting, I transferred my cake onto a large plate. Then I gathered up my not-broccoli trees.
I piped a gob of frosting down where I wanted to anchor any trees in place.
 Then, with a touch more gentle than I knew I possessed, I gingerly (ha!) placed each tree into the frosting glob until it had sunk into the actual cake. I am happy to report not a single tree broke during this process. I made like ten trees for emergency breakage and only used six because chocolate always crumbles on me (Kate Hulk Smash). More leftover eating trees for me!
So much Christmas in a tiny, adorable, yummy package!
 As you can see, I finished up by adding a large sprinkling of white sugar crystals to give it that wintery feel. I know with the cinnamon cream cheese frosting it looks more like the beach than snow, but I live in Florida, so this totally works here. Let me have this moment, people.
I just needed to see some snow, okay?
 This cake really helped boost my Christmas spirit. I mean, I still avoid stores I know for certain are playing Christmas music, but I'm less angry when I walk by the inflatable beach snowman down the street (for reference, this guy. I can't stand his smugness or his sunglasses.). It might stay "coldish" around here, and I am super grateful for that because I have one hell of a boot collection and not enough reasons to change outfits more times in one day than Beyonce. After finally getting to experience the magic of Disney World at Christmastime (minus the heat, which I am told Mickey can do nothing about), I'm ready for hall-decking and whatnot. A slice of this cake just puts me over the top. Of course, my "over the top" Christmas spirit simply means I might smile for 30 seconds longer a day. Baby steps. But when this gingerbread cake hits my tongue, I believe in Christmas miracles! Cinnamon cream cheese frosting is probably the best thing ever--the right amounts of sweet and tang meet with that unmistakable spiced, gingerbread goodness for literally the perfect balance. And since it is gingerbread with cream cheese icing on top, you can feel completely guilt-free about having a slice for breakfast. It's like a really fancy bagel with enough sugar to power you through even the earliest of Christmas mornings. Happy Holidays! 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
Pictured: my Christmas joy.