Almond Snowflake Cake

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Let it snow, let it snow, let it SNOW! This snowflake cake is a perfect representation of our Ann Arbor weather today. It’s like a winter wonderland outside with delicate snowflakes tumbling from the sky. I’ll be the first to admit that although I love a fresh snowfall, I really dislike driving in the snow. I often try to plan my weekly errands so that I don’t get stuck on snowy roads. The perfect place to be when the weather is bad is tucked inside watching the snow fall outside the window. Even better yet, I love to spend a snowy afternoon in the kitchen baking.

I am actually more excited about the bundt pan I used for this cake than the recipe itself. I acquired this bundt pan at the Nordic Ware outlet when Matthew and I were back in Minnesota around Christmas. Nordic Ware is a Minneapolis-based company that makes AH-mazing kitchenware products. I love their products and have several of their baking trays and pans in my kitchen. I felt like a kid in a candy store during our trip to the outlet. This beautiful snowflake pan was one of several purchases that we made for our kitchen.

I’ve always been a fan of fun-shaped bundt pans because it’s an easy way to make a basic recipe look really special. The recipe for this almond cake couldn’t be easier and all the ingredients are combined in a single bowl. The design of the pan is what really puts this cake over the top. Just adding a little powdered sugar on the top adds the final touch to the presentation. The same snowflake pan can be found on Amazon for $20.

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Almond Snowflake Cake 
Original recipe from Nordic Ware 

Ingredients
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup ground almonds
3/4 cup milk
powdered sugar for dusting

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour pan and set aside. In a large bowl beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time; stir in almond and vanilla extracts.

In a small bowl, stir together, flour, baking powder, salt and ground almonds. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 40 – 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then invert cake onto a wire rack. Cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. Enjoy!

Heather’s Helpful Hints 
Perhaps the most challenging part of baking any bundt cake is the delicate process of removing your cake from the pan. Nordic Ware pans often have intricate designs which make this process even more challenging. The following video offers some great tips for preparing your pans for easy cake removal.

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Valentine’s Day Chocolates

Valentine’s Day is almost here. It’s the holiday of love when couples across the country celebrate with chocolate hearts, cute stuffed animals, dozens of roses, and candlelit dinners. I don’t know about you, but I’m not the biggest fan of this overly commercialized holiday.

For single people, Valentine’s Day is a reminder that they don’t have that “special someone” in their life. Not fun at all—trust me, I’ve been there. Perhaps though, the holiday is even worse for people in a relationship. Single people can ignore Valentine’s Day. The last thing you want to do in a relationship is completely ignore the day. Trust me—I’ve been there too.

Matthew and I never do anything overly extravagant for the day. This year we’re going to grab lunch together on Sunday and then see a movie together afterwards. That is exactly the type of low-key celebration of love that I can appreciate. But regardless of your feelings about the holiday, Valentine’s Day is always a good reason to have some fun in the kitchen.

Candy melts are a product that I like to use for easy candy making or a pop of color when decorating baked goods. They come in several different colors and have a flavor similar to white chocolate. An important thing to note is that candy melts are NOT actually chocolate. They are made with sugar and vegetable fats—not cocoa butter. I love candy melts because they are so easy to use. Since they aren’t chocolate, they don’t need to be tempered.

Valentine’s Day Chocolates Recipe
Makes approximately 10 dozen candies

Ingredients
4 packages Wilton candy melts, assorted colors
1 heart shaped silicone mold pan

Instructions
Heat candy melts in the microwave using instructions on the package. Place melted candy in your mold using a spoon, melting bottle or disposable decorating bag. When mold is filled, lightly tap it several times on a counter to eliminate air bubbles in the candy.

Place the filled mold in the refrigerator or freezer until candy has set. When the underside of the candy mold appears to be frosted, you’re ready to unmold the candy. If there are any dark areas on the underside of the mold, it means some of the coating is still soft. In this case, chill the mold for a few more minutes, until the entire mold has a frosted appearance.

Turn over the mold about an inch above a flat surface covered with parchment or waxed paper. Gently flex or tap the mold and out come the candies!

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Make sure your silicone mold are completely dry before adding your candy and chocolate. Any moisture will complicate the process of making your candies.

Miniature Pecan Tarts

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Super Bowl 50 is right around the corner! Regardless of whether you’re a Panthers or Broncos fan, there’s a good chance you’ll be watching the big game. Although I love football and am a diehard Vikings fan, I usually feel pretty “meh” about the Super Bowl. To be honest, I get more excited about the food, commercials, and halftime show then the actual game. After I heard Beyonce was returning to the halftime show this year, it honestly didn’t matter who was playing in the actual game. Matthew was equally excited that Bruno Mars would be returning as well.

Halftime shenanigans aside, navigating the snacks at your Super Bowl party can feel like somewhat of a minefield for those of us with healthy eating New Year’s resolutions. In an attempt to lighten up one of my favorite desserts, I decided to miniaturize a pecan pie recipe. I stumbled upon some pre-shaped miniature phyllo shells at the grocery store and used this as a base for my pecan pie filling. The hardest part is stopping at just one of these little delicacies. If you’re looking for a healthier option for munching on Super Bowl Sunday, be sure to give these a try!

Miniature Pecan Tarts
Adapted from Athens Foods

Servings: 15 • Serving Size: 1 mini tart • Calories: 68 • Fat: 4.5 g • Carb: 6.5 g • Fiber: 0.3 g • Protein: 1 g • Sugar: 4 g • Sodium: 23 mg

Ingredients
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 large egg
4 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans chopped
15 Mini Phyllo Shells

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F and place rack in center of the oven.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except pecans. Mix well. Stir in chopped pecans. Arrange mini shells on a baking sheet. Fill mini shells with one rounded teaspoon of pecan mixture.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let them cool before serving.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
These miniature tarts are so easy to make, you might find yourself with some extra time on your hands in the kitchen. Homemade whipped cream is the perfect topping for this dessert. While the tarts are cooling, whip up a batch and add a dollop to the top before serving!