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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13 thoughts on “Classic Shortbread, and a Holiday Cake with Eggnog Buttercream

  1. Wow – impressed with your holiday baking! I too, am wanting (wishing) a chocolate dipped version. But enjoyed them with salt only. Didn’t get a chance to make the cake, but it looks incredible (that flour-based frosting take a time or two to master). I let it get thick like “cream of wheat” consistency, then it’s ready – and you can just beat the heck out of it until it comes out of its “curdled” stage.

  2. I agree with Mike…you were only half way into the beating time…it will come out of the curdled stage and be great…unless it’s Summer in Phoenix, AZ, and then don’t make this frosting until next Winter. Anyway, great baking. Glad you enjoyed the shortbread which looks lovely. Happy New Year!

  3. That is a whole lot of baking! Glad you were able to make both the spice cake and the shortbread though! I loved the shortbread(me of the not a huge fan of shortbread). And I love the cake. I actually froze the whole thing once I made and frosted it. I just cut off slices as we want some and let the slices thaw for 15 minutes and it is lovely. (and so much easier to cut when frozen!) It really was a delicate cake. (which I loved about it)
    Looking forward to baking in the New Year.

  4. I think I would like the combination of sugar & salt to top the shortbread, too.

    Sorry about your frosting! This is the first time I’ve gotten it completely right – it’s tricky.

    Looking forward to a *Baked* New Year!

  5. Liz…your cookies are perfect! And so is that beautiful eggnog cake. (I didn’t get a chance to bake that one…funny how there seemed to be no time to bake for the holidays for me this year!) I love that you combined both sea salt and sugar on the tops of your cookies. A perfect sweet and salty bite! Hope you have a wonderful New Year! : )

  6. Great job on the shortbread and the spice cake! The fleur de sel was a nice touch, but I am sure you got the taste from good ‘old Mortons. I did not make the holiday spice cake, but have tried their ‘cooked’ frosting before and have also had problems with it and hated the waste of unusable frosting. I do love the old buttercream stand by and it sounds so delicious with a little egg nog mixed in. Happy New Year!

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