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So, if you’re counting (and maybe you’re not, but I am), I only did nine of my twelve treats. That’s because my family showed up, and not only did I not get around to posting about the treat, I didn’t even get around to making them.

I was going to make frosted sugar cookies to welcome them to Texas. Didn’t happen.

I was going to make red velvet cupcakes for Christmas Day dinner. Didn’t happen.

We were going to make peanut butter balls as a family, as we’ve done for years. Didn’t happen.

It was a combination of family getting together, holiday excitement, and the sudden onset of a cold. All in all, not the best baking conditions. Not the best cooking ones either. I did make them a fantastic beef daube and an awesome turkey (my first turkey ever!), so I’m glad for that.

As for when those three treats will be made . . . well, I dunno. I’d still like to do the cupcakes. Honestly, I’d like to do all three, because they are yummy and I love them. And peanut butter balls last forever in the freezer (except they don’t really, because I can’t resist eating them for that long). So maybe there’s hope for them yet.

For now, I’ve got a little cold to worry about, and kittens to keep an eye on. They sleep a lot and take pretty good care of themselves, but they’re also on the curious side, especially when I’m in the kitchen messing around with stuff on the counters and they can’t see what it is. Also, Yuzu really really likes to know what we’re eating. And the leftover turkey we had last night received plenty of attention.

So maybe I’ll get around to the three remaining treats. Maybe not. We’ll see. All I know is, I’m ready for 2013. I’m ready for January to be here, and we can get back to regular schedules and stuff.

And considering that we’ve been hearing (and sometimes seeing) fireworks nightly since the weekend before Christmas, I’m willing to bet that I’m going to wish we could just fast-forward to the 2nd and be done with it. I love Christmas, but I am not a great fan of New Year’s.

Except for the champagne. I do like champagne.

What is Christmas without eggnog? It started appearing on store shelves before Thanksgiving, and Geordie started talking about it as soon as that holiday had passed. Once November had faded away, the recipes started piling up: eggnog cookies, cakes, drinks, pies, pancakes – anything and everything baked and flavored with eggnog.

Here’s a little confession: I hate store-bought eggnog. I can drink buttermilk more easily than I can drink eggnog. (A statement that is sure to make my husband grimace.) For years, I just never bothered with the stuff. If I wanted to drink it, I had to cut it with reduced-fat milk. I baked with it, because that tamed it some, but eggnog treats are not typically my favorites.

Until I decided to try making my own eggnog.

It was my first Christmas in Japan, and eggnog was nowhere to be found (no surprise, I lived in a very small town several hours away from Tokyo, where eggnog probably could be found if one looks hard enough). I wanted to make some to share with some of my students who had never had it before and with my co-workers, both of whom had lived in North America for a time and were nostalgic about eggnog. So I looked it up and was pleased to find that it’s quite, quite easy to make.

Let’s be clear, though: eggnog is not healthy. Sure, it’s got a relatively small amount of sugar, but it gets its richness somewhere, and that somewhere is milk (full-fat usually being what’s called for) and heavy cream. Next to that, the raw eggs look pretty innocent. But I’m sure most people know that it’s best to drink eggnog in moderation. I’m just saying that there’s good reason for that.

homemadeeggnog

All frothy and creamy and eggnoggy.

I made it again in 2010, the first Christmas Geordie and I spent together.  We drank it snuggled up on the futon and watching “Conan the Barbarian.”  That’s a good memory.

And I’ve made it again this year, because Geordie wanted eggnog, and no way was I going to buy any. Also, I wanted to make eggnog cupcakes.

Eggnog cupcake with eggnog-vanilla buttercream. Eggnog!

Eggnog cupcake with eggnog-vanilla buttercream frosting. Eggnog!

I used Alton Brown’s eggnog recipe, because when it comes to the basics, he’s the man I turn to. He can get a little complicated with things at times, but eggnog isn’t as fussy as one might imagine it to be. Eggs get separated, yolks get beaten with some sugar, the liquids are added, the whites are beaten, and then they get whisked in. A little effort, but completely worth it for beautiful, creamy eggnog that’s made and flavored naturally.

I added rum instead of bourbon, because I have a plethora of rum leftover from the rum cake. And I don’t like bourbon. I think eggnog needs rum. Just a little bit. Less than what Alton Brown calls for, but still enough.

I got the cupcake recipe from Heather, though it’s pretty simple, a quick and easy white cake recipe where the liquid (buttermilk in this case) is replaced with the eggnog. Then I frosted it with a typical vanilla buttercream where the milk is replaced with eggnog.

Simple. And yummy. I’m not certain how eggnoggy it is, though. I mean, it’s a very good cupcake. The cake has both cinnamon and nutmeg in it, and the spices come out really well and just make the whole experience a very pleasant one, and perfect for the holiday season. But I don’t get an overall eggnog effect. Fortunately, the cupcake is so good that it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s not the best, but it’s a decent cupcake, and I think I can make it better with a little tweaking.

Plus, we have eggnog left in the fridge, and it’s very nice for sipping while sitting and looking at the Christmas tree. Even if the cupcake didn’t fulfill all it’s eggnog destiny, the drink itself is just what I want it to be. Not overly sweet or rich, with just enough of a rum kick. And none of that chemical aftertaste that seems to come with store-bought eggnog. Definitely a keeper for Christmas traditions.

I can't help but love that beautiful yellow of the eggnog. So pretty.

I can’t help but love that beautiful yellow of the eggnog. So pretty.

Only four days to go! And still plenty of baking to go. Next week, I’m making all of our traditional family favorites. Are there any treats you absolutely can’t live without during the holiday season? Because all three remaining treats are absolute must-haves for me!

Happy baking!

Let me begin by saying that I hate this cake.

I hate, hate, hate it.

I know, I know. Why all the hostility? How is it possible to hate it so much?

You think that only because you didn’t make it. Allow me to amend my statement: eating this cake is not terrible. Making it was the hugest pain in the ass I’ve experienced in the kitchen since . . . I’m not sure when. At least since moving to Texas.

I don’t mind a little hard work in the kitchen. I’ve made some pretty fussy things recently. But this cake? This cake really got under my skin. Maybe it was exacerbated by stress build-up over the weekend. I was quite possibly already on the brink of an emotional breakdown. Even after all these months, I find myself standing on the edge. All it takes is something seemingly small – like a simple cake – to push me right over. And now, by association, I hate the cake.

rumcake

One side sagged a bit when I unmolded it. Under the weight of all the rum syrup, it’s on the point of collapse.

No, actually, I think I just hate this cake.

I got the recipe from Brown-Eyed Baker, whom I admire a great deal, because – well, look at some of her food, and you’ll understand. I should have been making Finnish pulla for Tuesdays with Dorie, but I was afraid that a whole loaf of bread like that would go to waste with just the two of us. Also, it involved braiding a loaf of bread into a wreath, and I’m just not into that kind of thing. Nor do I have that kind of room in my kitchen. I’m sure it’s a lovely bread, but I just didn’t think it was what I wanted to make this week.

Shows how wrong I was. I’m starting to think the Finnish pulla would have been less of a hassle than this rum cake, even with all its kneading and resting time. Seriously, check out the TwD links. Yes, I would have had a huge wreath of bread that looks big enough to feed Geordie and me for a week, but it looks fantastic, reportedly smells delicious, and apparently was easier to make than all those ingredients and instructions would make it seem. Sure, the rum cake took less time overall (except not really), but it certainly appears to be a less stressful endeavor.

From start to finish, the rum cake took me about three hours to make. An hour to get everything prepped and mixed, an hour to bake, and an hour to get all that damned rum syrup into the cake.

Really, it would be most accurate to say that I hate that bleeding rum syrup.

But, from the beginning. As I’ve said, I adore the Brown-Eyed Baker and her recipes, and she makes this one sound so simple and easy and relatively quick. I found this to be untrue. Granted, I tend to get side-tracked, and I am terribly, terribly slow when it comes to prep work and mixing. But I don’t think I’m to blame (entirely) here. So much energy goes into making this cake.  I was not adequately equipped for it – my poor little hand-mixer just about wore itself out trying to get all of the flour incorporated in the butter-sugar mixture. It also required a number of bowls, mixing utensils, and measuring cups. My sink was mostly empty when I started this cake; it was overflowing by the end of it.

Finally, it went into the oven to bake for an hour. I should have cleaned up some, but instead, I went upstairs to shower (which I’m glad I did, because if I hadn’t done it then, I never would’ve had one). When I came back down, it was time to start the rum syrup. The recipe suggests that this takes about 10 minutes to do. I’m sure this is true for some people. For me, it took 20. I should’ve guessed from the start that this rum syrup would cause me trouble. Until this point, the cake was only mild annoying, and I was willing to take some of the blame because I had waited until 7pm to start it. But I believed the recipe when it said it would take less than 30 minutes to get the syrup completely poured over the cake.

It took me closer to an hour. I pulled the cake out of the oven, immediately ladled a goodly portion of the rum syrup over it (that took about 5 minutes to do, which should have given me warning enough), and let it set a few minutes. I did not have a bundt pan to bake this in, but I had bought a springform tube pan at IKEA over the weekend for this very cake. So all I had to do was flip it over and unlock it and let it slide off the tube insert.

And then I realized I didn’t have a platter to put it on, and my dinner plates were not big enough. I flipped it over with the cake dead center in the plate, but it didn’t come out that way. It had slid over to one side, so the cake was not evenly on the plate, which was not flat to begin with. It was at this point that I really began to dislike this cake. The rum syrup just cinched it.

I forged ahead, poking holes all over the cake and beginning the long, slow pour. I did as suggested, going very slowly so the syrup would be able to seep in without just pooling over and creating a rummy pond at the bottom of the cake.

Forty minutes later, the syrup was finally gone, and I had a rummy pond at the bottom of the cake. I do not see how it is possible to do this in 15 minutes. I poked the hell out of that cake, and still, each time I ladled more syrup over it, I had to poke more holes. Even if the cake hadn’t been a little uneven (therefore allowing the syrup to run right off one side), the syrup overflowed before it had a chance to soak into the cake, despite that I was going at a snail’s pace.

By this time, it was after 10pm, I was tired and frustrated, and I wanted nothing more to do with the cake. I covered it in plastic wrap and vowed never to make another rum cake. Ever.

Definitely moist and buttery, the way a rum cake should be.

Definitely moist and buttery, the way a rum cake should be. The syrup on top also crusted over nicely, so you get that crackly, glazed donut sensation.

I had this piece for breakfast this morning.

Correction: I had a third of this piece for breakfast this morning. I think this is everything a rum cake should be: sweet and buttery and incredibly rummy. But frankly, it’s almost too much. It’s so sweet, so buttery, so very rummy. It’s not something I’m looking forward to eating again any time soon. It’s also got quite a kick from the rum, which isn’t necessarily a terrible thing but certainly not something I want an over-abundance of. It’s just not a cake that I enjoy – in either the making or the eating. If moist, decadent rum cakes coated with a layer of rum glaze are your thing, then this is a recipe for you.

But I stand by my initial decision. I am never making another rum cake. Next time, I’ll go with the Finnish holiday bread instead.

Sara

I am a daughter and a sister, a wife and a friend. I am a reader and a writer, a dreamer and a realist, a teacher and a learner. I am the mother of a baby born sleeping. I am on a journey of healing, walking a path paved with tears and grief and hope.

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