Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Baking

I'm not exactly a huge fan of cooking, but I love baking. This year, as we were tight on money, I decided to bake for friends and family in lieu of gifts. Well, I suppose I gifted baked goods! I just thought I'd share what I did.

The main thing was a red velvet cake in the shape of a Christmas tree thanks to a tin foil tree-shaped pan I got from Safeway. Honestly, I can't even call what I did baking. It was just too easy.

Yup. I used a box mix. Not only is this mix amazing, but I really, really needed the time I saved not mixing my own.

It's always helpful if you have a little cutie to clean the beaters for you...

Once the cakes are done baking (about 30 minutes in small pans like this), you have to cool them completely. I kept them out on the counter for 15 minutes, then froze them. You can just let them come to room temperature, but not only does freezing them drastically reduce the cooling time, it makes it a lot easier to frost and decorate later on. You don't really need to freeze them solid. Just make sure they're cool and firm.

Time to decorate! I ended up only needing 1 can of frosting, but depending on how much you love your frosting, it's safer to have two cans handy! I used cream cheese frosting and Duncan Hines makes an amazing cream cheese frosting! No cuties were available to lick the spoon when I was done, so I was forced to take the job upon myself. It was awful, but someone had to do it.

I sprinkled the cakes with green sugar to give it some tree-like color. I considered just tinting the frosting green, but I decided that it just wouldn't be a proper red velvet cake if it had green frosting. I also threw on some red sugar for excitement. I used red sparkle gel for the garland and my expensive blue sugar balls that my husband knocked off the counter and into the garbage the day after I bought them. I'm not bitter, but I'm really disappointed I only got to decorate three cakes with them, considering they cost $5! It's ok though. It was my fault for letting him into the kitchen in the first place!

The next thing I made was Peanut Butter Chocolate Almond Bark. You can't really call this baking either because it's so easy! Pour anywhere from a half of a bag to a full bag of milk chocolate chips into a foil-lined pan and then about a half to three-quarters of a bag of peanut butter chips on top of that. Stick the pan into a pre-heated oven (about 350 is what I did) and let it melt for a few minutes. You'll know it's ready when the chips still hold their form, but are pretty shiny. Take the pan out of the oven and swirl a knife through the chips to get your pattern.

Sprinkle toasted almonds on top while the chocolate is still hot and melted and bang the pan on the counter a few times to get the almonds to settle into the chocolate. You can toast almonds really easily by laying them out on a pan and putting them in the oven for a few minutes. You'll know they're ready because they'll start to smell really good. Scientific, I know. Put the pan in the fridge for an hour or so to harden the chocolate, then break it all apart and package it. Try not to eat too much between the pan and the package, even though it's really really hard to resist. 

I just lined a really cute gift box with wax paper. This really needs to be refrigerated, or else the chocolate gets a little soft and you might end up with a mess. Incidentally, you'll want to refrigerate a red velvet cake as well, if you frosted it in cream cheese frosting. You can take it out of the fridge about an hour before serving to bring it up to room (aka, yummy) temperature. 

The last thing I did, which was not baking at all, was make candy sleighs. These are so easy to make (are you sensing a pattern here?) and I think they're just adorable.

I found an image for these on Pinterest but when I clicked through, it went to a blog called Just Say Sew and I couldn't find the candy sleighs anywhere on her site, so I don't know if credit belongs to her or who came up with these clever little sleighs. Either way, it was really easy to figure out how to make simply based on the picture. Glue dots are your best friend here. Don't listen to naysayers who say it's cheating (CHRIS). It's not. Use those little Hershey's Nuggets candy bag, 2 candy canes and a Kit Kat. 

Put glue dots on each of the bottom corners of the Kit Kat bar and attach the candy canes. 

Stack those bad boys in the shape of a pyramid, using glue dots to hold it all together, then wrap it in ribbon. Easy peasy!

Work in progress...

All done! Six candy sleighs all in a row. I really like these little things and I'll definitely be making them again next year. 

So that's what I made this year. I also cross stitched a little Santa Claus ornament for my tree, but never got a chance to finish it, so that will be hanging on my tree next year. I'm debating leaving my Christmas decorations up until after New Years, but honestly, I've had them up since the middle of November and I'm ready to get back to normal, so I guess it's off to tear down Christmas for me!

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