Halloween Sugar Cookies

Another holiday, another batch of sugar cookies, and one of my favorite holidays is Halloween.   There are so many possible cookie options for Halloween, making it hard to pick which shapes to make.  I had another big  baking project Halloween week (post coming) so I did not have a lot of free time for additional baking so I decided to keep it simple and only do two shapes: pumpkins and ghosts.  

Most of the pumpkins I made into jack-o-lanterns.  I put sanding sugar on the outside edges to make them pop.  I decided to leave a few without faces and add more sparkling sugar and I really love how these ones turned out.  They remind me of the pumpkin coach from Cinderella.  

For the ghosts I used the wet on wet technique for the eyes and mouth.   I love how the icing dries with the wet on wet icing.  Rather than having 3-D features, which is achieved by putting wet icing on already dried icing, wet on wet icing  makes the features smooth.  

I honestly can't believe it is already Halloween- almost time to start planning my Thanksgiving baking!  My next post will be about the big project I referred to.  Stay tunned, it will be coming shortly.   Happy Halloween!

Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes

These cupcakes are one of my favorite fall recipes.  I love how they are orange and black-perfect halloween colors, and the chocolate pumpkin cake, goes perfectly with the orange in the frosting.   The pumpkin keeps the cupcake very moist, so these cupcakes are good to make when you need to bake ahead, and you don't want to worry about your baked good going dry. The cake is also less fattening than other chocolate cake recipes that I use since there is no butter or oil. 

Mr. Apron likes me to leave some of these cupcakes without frosting so he can eat them in morning and can call them muffins!

I made this batch for a bake sale at my church, but I have a feeling I am going to need to make another batch to bring to work.

Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes

2 ½ cup(s) all-purpose flour

2 tablespoon(s) all-purpose flour

1 cup(s) good-quality cocoa

2 tablespoon(s) good-quality cocoa

1 tablespoon(s) baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon(s) baking soda

2 1/4 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon(s) fresh-grated nutmeg

3/4 cup(s) buttermilk

1 1/2 cup(s) pumpkin purée

1 1/2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract

2 1/4 stick(s) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cup(s) (firmly packed) dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cup(s) granulated sugar

5 large eggs

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Place cupcake liners in standard cupcake tins. Set aside.

Make the batter: Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl and set aside. Combine the buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla in a medium bowl and set aside. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl, with an electric mixer set on medium speed, until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until the mixture is smooth and light. Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, blending well after each addition. Fill each cup with 1/4 cup of batter. Bake for 22 minutes.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package(s) (8-ounce) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup(s) (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon(s) fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon(s) grated orange zest

1/2 teaspoon(s) pure vanilla extract

4 cup(s) confectioners' sugar

1/4 teaspoon(s) orange food coloring

Blend the cream cheese, butter, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla in a large bowl, using an electric mixer set at medium speed, until smooth. Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and creamy -- about 3 more minutes. Add the food coloring and gently stir until the color is uniform. Chill the frosting until ready to ice the cupcakes.

Adapted from Country Living

Birds and Nest Baby Shower Cake

Another baby shower cake, so many babies in the way.  I am definitely getting older.   I love this cake.   It is a white cake with strawberries and cream, and frosted with a swiss meringue buttercream.  Simple flavors, but sometimes simple make the best tasting cakes.   Nothing fancy just a classic,  cake.

The mother to be wanted the cake to look like the invitations, and asked that the egg in the nest be larger.   I am pretty happy with how the birds and next came out.  I used fondant for the body of the birds and egg and royal icing for the nest, legs and beeks. 

I used two 13x 9 pans for the cake, so the cake was VERY thick.   (I had to tape the top of the cake box up so that it would fit. ) The middle of the two layers were filled with strawberries and whipped cream.  I normally let the strawberries sit in grand marnier overnight, but since this was for a baby shower I skipped the alcohol and just coated the strawberries in sugar.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream 

12 oz egg whites (10 large egg whites or about 1 1/2 cups)
3 cups granulated sugar
3 lbs unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbsp lemon extract, almond extract, or pure vanilla extract

Lightly whisk egg whites and sugar together over simmering water until egg-white mixture is hot to touch or a candy thermometer reads 140°F (60°C).

Pour hot whites into a room-temperature bowl and whip with a wire whip until double in volume on MEDIUM-HIGH speed. When the mixer stops, the meringue should not move around in the bowl. Meanwhile cut up butter into 2-inch pieces. (The butter should be slightly moist on the outside but cold inside.)

On your mixer, remove the whip and attach the paddle. Add half the butter (1 1/2 lbs or 680 g) into the bowl immediately and pulsate the mixer several times until the meringue has covered the butter completely. To pulsate the mixer, turn it on and off in a jerky motion. This forces the butter on the top to the bottom of the bowl. Add the balance of the butter (1 1/2 lbs or 680 g) and pulsate mixer several times. Slowly increase the mixer's speed, starting with the lowest speed and increase the speed every 10 seconds until you reach a MEDIUM-HIGH speed.

Continue beating until the mixture begins to look light and fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl. Reduce speed to LOW. Add flavoring and continue to beat on LOW speed for 45 seconds. Then beat on MEDIUM-HIGH speed for an additional 45 to 60 seconds.

Leftover buttercream can be placed in plastic containers with lids and kept in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost completely (several hours) and rewhip before using.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies

I love using pumpkin for my fall baking.   Even though I was sad to see the temperatures fall, I got excited for the seasonal change to start using pumpkin again. I discovered this receipe last fall.   I love how the pumpkin and oatmeal combine.  

It is a very soft cookie, and they do not keep very long.  But trust me, the shelf life shouldn't be a problem since these cookies usualy don't last more than a day or two in my house.   Mr. Apron is a chocolate lover, so I added chocolate chips in half the batter.   And I have to say that after eating both the plain and the ones with chocolate chips, next time I might be adding chocolate chips to all of the batter. 

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Pure Pumpkin
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract; mix well. Add flour mixture; mix well. Stir in nuts and raisins. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned and set in centers. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Adapted from Libby's.