Cakes and Cupcakes · Chocolate · Dessert · Main Dish · Pasta · Recipes

a ghoulish halloween feast

I’ve been under the weather lately.  When I plan a party, I usually PLAN at party.  This time I just didn’t feel up to the task.  So…Sunshine and I went to breakfast on the day of our party, armed with cookbooks for ideas and came up with a plan.  After breakfast I went shopping for everything I needed.  I got home just after 1:00pm, which didn’t leave me much time.  I was like that crazy guy that got kicked off of Top Chef Just Desserts,  racing around the kitchen and running through the house. I got everything done in time for the party.
I just screwed up the frosting for the cupcakes, so sorry Jon, Nicci, Sunshine, Veronica, Joey, Michael, Thom, Laura, Mackenzie and Steven.  I fixed them today, if anyone wants to give them a try.  Sunshine ate an improved cupcake and said “that’s more like it”.  Nicci made a delicious pumpkin trifle, and Veronica and Michael made their famous caramel popcorn, so we did not go without dessert!

Nicci and Jon came as us!  So hilarious.

Steven was scary!  He did an amazing job painting our faces too.

Nerd alert!  Mackenzie and Laura…

Thom, the rat catcher.  Day late and a dollar short, Thom.  You look fabulous though!  Why are you hiding behind Sunshine?  No wait, that’s Jon!

Veronica the pirate, and Joey as Mario!  All I can say is OMG.

Michael and his strap on banana suit.  Don’t ask.  Hey look!  There’s Santa!

I stuffed peppadew peppers as part of our antipasto.  I mixed goat cheese with a little cream to thin the cheese to a spreadable consistency, basil chiffonade, salt and pepper.

Laura had a good time making the balsamic “caviar”.  What a nerd.  Well, she dressed up as one anyway.  Thom said she looked more like a Natzi Helga.  Whatever.  She will always be a little caviar nerd to me.

Thom had a good time prepping the tomatoes and flinging the cheese onto the plate.

Here’s the final plate, tomatoes, basil oil, and burrata adorned with balsamic “caviar”.

I made a marinara sauce and meatballs to serve over rigatoni for dinner.  Here are the recipes:

Marinara Sauce

  • 6-28 ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, crush by hand or quick pulse in a blender
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, crushed by hand
  • 1 teaspoon dried pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil to a large stock pot, add the pancetta and cook until browned and crisp.  Add the onion, and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat, then add the garlic and spices and cook for 1 minute more.  Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for a couple of hours.  Add fresh basil and blend with an emersion blender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • olive oil for frying

Combine ground meat, parmesan, bread crumbs, eggs, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and water.  Shape into balls.  Heat oil in a 12″ skillet.  Add meatballs, be careful not to overcrowd the pan.  Cook thoroughly on each side, until deep golden brown.  Drain on paper bags lined with paper towels.

Candy Bar Cupcakes

These recipes are from Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts cookbook.  This recipe makes 12 cupcakes.  I will make these again, and the next time I’ll follow the recipe!

Brown Sugar Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup whole milk

Caramel Sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup (5 ounces) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter

Garnish

  • 1/2 cup salted roasted peanuts
  • Fleur de sel

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

To make cupcakes: sift dry ingredients.  In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape sides of bowl as needed.  Add vanilla.  On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, and the milk in 2 additions, alternating.  Combine for 15 seconds after each addition, or until just combined.  Divide evenly in among the paper lined muffin pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and insert comes out clean.  Let cool for 10 minutes.  Remove from muffin pan and cool completely.

To make the caramel sauce:  Combine water, lemon juice, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan.  Place over high heat and cover.  Cook for 2 minutes, or until mixture comes to a boil.  Remove lid and continue to cook until the color changes to a dark amber, about 7-1o minutes.  Remove pan from heat.  Whisk in butter until incorporated.  Slowly whisk in cream.  Add salt and vanilla.  Once cool, fill a squeeze bottle with pointed tip.

Inject the cupcakes once cooled with caramel sauce by puncturing the center of the cakes with squeeze bottle tip.

To make the frosting: Add chocolate to a bowl.  Heat cream until bubbles form, pour over chocolate.    Stir until smooth.  Add peanut butter, stir until well incorporated.  Let mixture cool.  In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter for 1 minute, until light and fluffy.  Add powdered sugar, salt, whole milk, vanilla and lemon juice, and continue to beat on high speed for 5 minutes.  Add chocolate and peanut butter mixture to the buttercream frosting.  Place in a piping bag fitted with a large star tip, pipe onto cupcakes.  Sprinkle with peanuts and fleur de sel.

Crazy fire show.

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Cakes and Cupcakes · Dessert · Recipes

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

These little cheesecakes are so easy to make.  I especially love the fact that they are so small, which makes them almost guilt free.  Well…they are small….

I found this recipe at Food & Wine, I’ve made a few adjustments according to my oven and stove top, but the ingredients remain the same.   Here it goes..

Salted Caramel Cheesecake

Cheesecake

  • 1/2 pound cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Caramel

  • 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup plus tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 heavy cream
  • Fleur de sel

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until smooth.  Beat in one egg at a time, adding the next egg only after the previous egg has been fully incorporated.  Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally to remove any ingredients that are stuck to bowl.  Pour the batter into six 5-ounce ramekins.

Set the ramekins in a pan, adding enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake in the center of the oven for 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave cheesecakes in the oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and set ramekins on a rack, cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the caramel: In a medium saucepan, cook corn syrup and sugar over moderate heat, undisturbed, until a deep amber caramel begins to form, about 6-7 minutes.  Keep an eye on your caramel, it can burn quickly.  Remove from heat, and whisk in the butter.  Once the butter is incorporated, add cream slowly, whisking vigorously.

Transfer to a pitcher, add a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

Pour caramel over cheesecake, swirl to coat.

Refrigerate cheesecakes for 3 hours or up to 2 days.

Sunshine is a jungle gym.

Cakes and Cupcakes · Dessert · Recipes

Carrot Cake

I’ve been making this cake for at least 20 years. Everyone says baking is an exact science. I disagree, at least when it comes to this recipe.  The measurements don’t need to be that precise.

It’s Peter’s birthday!  You’re almost as old as me:)

Carrot Cake

  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cup corn oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican vanilla
  • 1 pound carrots, cooked, purée
  • 1-8 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 3 ounces shredded coconut

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1-8 ounce block of cream cheese
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter
  • Juice of half of a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla
  • 1 pound confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine dry ingredients. Add oil, eggs and vanilla, mix to combine. Add carrot purée, pineapple and coconut.
Place in 2-10″ round cake pans lined with parchment. Do not Butter and flour the pan. You actually want the cake to cling to the sides of the pan to ensure straight sides to the cake. I like to use baking strips . The top of the cake stays flat, and the sides do not overcook. Bake for 35 minutes. I tap the cake in the oven, if it jiggles, it needs to continue baking. Cool on a wire rack, then wrap the pan in foil until ready to frost. That usually means the next day for me.

To make the cream cheese frosting:
Cream butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle until smooth. Add lemon juice and vanilla. Slowly incorporate the powdered sugar.
Frost the cake, refrigerate overnight.