Classic Shortbread, and a Holiday Cake with Eggnog Buttercream

ShortbreadsThis was a great shortbread recipe. I love shortbread, but it is something that I rarely eat. Since it usually lacks a chocolate component, it is way down on my list of preferred desserts. However this is definitely a recipe that I would make again (maybe with a ganache drizzle on top). I think the first time that I made shortbread was for the Coconut bar recipe that we made several weeks back. I was impressed then at how easy it was to throw together, and this recipe is no different. Rice flour was a bit of a mystery ingredient, but I managed to track it down at a local grocery store this morning. I also didn’t have fleur de sel. After a quick google search I discovered that places like William Sonoma sell it for $14.95 for 8.8 oz., and while the loving descpription of “Fleur de sel, literally “flower of salt,” has been gathered on the island of Ré, off France’s Atlantic coast, since the seventh century,” was enticing, I just couldn’t bear the price when I had the same day purchased 26oz of Morton’s for 87 cents. I did, however, have Trader Joe’s sea salt. That, and a dash of some sugar crystals I had in the cabinet, made a deliciously savory and crunchy topping. I’m glad I cut this recipe in half, since my husband and I are steadily inhaling them. I think we would be comotose if I had made the full batch.ShortbreadI actually made the Holiday Cake a couple of weeks ago for my husband’s work party. I thought that I would have time to finish its post over the Christmas break, but in the midst of various holiday parties, traveling to Ohio to visit friends and family, and making a million fun recipes with mom (Bourbon balls, beer cheese bread, coconut cream pie, pecan pie, sweet potato souffle and many other delicious holiday foods,) I just ran out of time! On the bright side, the cake was delicious and fun to make. I would like to make it a yearly tradition. I love the description in the cookbook, especially the line about it being a cake for “a festive party drenched in champagne.” I’ve never whipped eggs by hand before, and thought that the note of “2-3 minutes” for soft peak was hysterically optimistic, but did resolve into the correct consistency eventually. I appreciated the little pep talk assuring us bakers that we could do it. The blend of spices and molasses smelled heavenly. I think that the cake, without adding the spice mixture, would make an excellent all purpose vanilla cake. It could even be the base for a lot of delicious flavor combinations.HolidayCake1

The frosting, however, was a disaster. I let the cream mixture cook for the recommended period on the stove.  It seemed to thicken some, but I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to thicken a little, or to solidify quite a bit. I wish the instructions had been clearer. I also wasn’t sure what the purpose was to whip milk/cream for an extended period of time  to let the mixture cool. Why not just put it in the fridge for ten minutes? I let it mix with ice packs against the mixing bowl, until to felt cool to me, and then added the butter, rum and the rest of the ingredients. My frosting looked right for approximately 20 seconds before it started to look curdled.HolidayCake4 I was left with a soupy, oily looking mess. Only saving grace was that it was actually delicious. However, also completely unusable. I had a nice pout on the couch for a few minutes over wasted ingredients (so much butter!) before deciding to scrap the frosting recipe.  I just went with the old stand by of mixing soft butter, powdered sugar, and a some liquid (in this instance, rum and egg nog). Hasn’t failed me yet. Added in spices, and it was delicious.HolidayCake5

After re-making the frosting I thought the cake was great. I would consider trying the original butter cream recipe again sometime, but I’ll need some time to get over the great buttercream disaster.

HolidayCakeI hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday break, and have a wonderful New Year!

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Peanut Butter Brownies

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These brownies came out wonderfully! I am a huge fan of brownies, so easy to throw together, and so delicious. They have a surprisingly strong peanut butter flavor, which melds really well with the dense chocolate. I would definitely make these again.

I’m going to have to cut this post short since I have a bad cold. I’m hoping these brownies will be a lot more effective than chicken noodle soup.