"Hello you long-shots, you dark horse runners, Hair brush singers, dash-board drummers, Hello you wild magnolias, just waiting to bloom. There's a little bit of all that inside of me and you,
Thank God even crazy dreams come true." ~Carrie Underwood, "Crazy Dreams"
Chocolate. What a wonderful way to start the morning. Baking. What an even more wonderful way to begin.
The past two weeks have been filled with Christmas baking in both my house and my grandparent's (who have an in-law with us). Between the two houses, there has been lots of delicious treats to share and sample. My grandma's glazed pecans and walnuts have always been a favorite of mine. She was kind enough to give me my own personal stash this year, but I ate it all in one sitting while up late doing homework. In fact, I think it was all the sweets that kept me going last week, what with all the end-of-semester project work. I had chocolate saltine bark and homemade granola and chocolate pretzel M&M wreaths and lots of dark chocolate M&Ms. Friday at school everyone was in a particularly cheerful mood. Many people carried tins of fudge and homemade cookies and other goodies that they were eager to share with their friends or whoever they saw in the hallway. What's the fun of food if you can't share it? Soo I have two Christmas recipes to share with you today!
The first is super easy:
Chocolate Cherry Mice
These things are almost too cute to eat! But then you eat one...and they're too good not to eat.
Hershey kisses (for the head)
Maraschino cherries with stems
Slivered almonds (for the ears)
Food coloring (for eyes)
Chocolate chips OR more Hershey kisses
1. Place the maraschino cherries on a paper towel and dry them with another paper towel. This will make the chocolate stick easier. *If some of the cherries don't have stems, DON'T THROW THEM AWAY. There is a way to make them work! All it takes is a little surgery :) *
2. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil to avoid sticking.
3. Melt the chocolate chips or Hershey kisses in the microwave. My grandma and I melted Hershey kisses, and we melted them for 30 seconds, stirred them, and then put them back in the microwave for another 30 seconds.
4. Dip the cherry in the melted chocolate. Dip the base of another Hershey kiss in the melted chocolate, and attach two slivered almonds for the ears. Stick the head to the chocolate-dipped cherry. There's your mouse!
5. If you have a tailless mouse, have no fear! Take a toothpick or anything sharp and just poke a little hole in its bum (sorry, Mousie!). Dip the tip of the cherry stem in chocolate, and just stick it in there! Nothing a little rectum surgery can't fix.
6. Let the mice harden in the fridge. Later, use food coloring to give them eyes. (All we had was green, black and red food coloring, and the red kind of freaked me out, so I used green. Looking back, red would've been really cute for the nose.)
Here's a close-up!
Oh, and the white blocks the mice are surrounding in the first picture are hunks of white chocolate. Don't they look like cheese???
Alrighty, now moving on to Recipe #2. This one is a bit more involved, but it's well worth it: Coconut Key Lime Cake.
Last weekend, my family and I went to DC, and we had this amazing coconut key lime cake. Now I'm picky when it comes to cake, but this cake was GOOD. So, I decided to try and replicate it for my family for Christmas! The only problem was, I didn't want to let them know I was making it. Luckily, Grandma's kitchen is always open.
Coconut Key-Lime Cake A key-lime cake frosted with coconut whipped cream
Because I was trying to replicate the recipe at the restaurant, I didn't follow much of a recipe for this cake. But here are the basic steps I followed.
For the cake, I just used a Pillsbury white cake mix, but any brand will do. If you're feeling ambitious, you can make it from scratch, but I'm still somewhat of an amateur at baking, so I figured I would start slow. For the key-lime tang, I used an entire 4 1/2 fluid oz container of lime juice, and two grated limes. I grated each lime entirely, skin and all (my hands were tired!). When it comes to how much to use, the best thing you can do is go by taste. Next time, I think I might do less limes, because the cake was really dense and the lime was a bit overpowering. It's all trial and error!
I made this cake in two layers, so after mixing the batter, I separated it into two 8x8 circular cake tins (to avoid sticking, make sure you oil the cake tins well before pouring in the batter), and baked them for approximately 30 minutes at 350ºF. You'll know they're done when you stick a fork in and it comes out clean.
Coconut Whipped Cream:
Before I even knew I wanted to make this cake, I had bought a Coconut Cream Pie dessert mix from a craft fair, which I mixed with 16 fluid oz of homemade whipped cream. (For the whipped cream, all you need is whipping cream and an electric mixer, with vanilla and sugar to taste. Beat the cream until it peaks.) But I'm sure you can just use a recipe for coconut cream pie for the frosting.
Allow the cakes to cool for a minimum of 30 minutes after you take them out of the oven. While it's cooling, cut thin slices of fruit to layer in the middle. I used strawberries and kiwis.
Once cool, take one cake and flip it onto whatever you will be presenting the cake on. (I used a glass plate.) Frost it with a layer of the coconut whipped cream.
Arrange your fruit.
Apply another layer of coconut whipped cream and fruit, and top it off with a third layer of the whipped cream. Sandwich the filling with the other cake.
Use the rest of the whipped cream to frost the cake. Then go to town with the decorating! I sprinkled coconut flakes around the cake, and used the leftover strawberries and kiwi to add some color. Then, I had a little photo shoot :)
Do you have any special holiday recipes? There's no reason why I couldn't make the glazed pecans or the mice or any of the other recipes year-round, but then they wouldn't be as special. It's nice to have something to look forward to.
Here's wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season!