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After the rush of the holidays has passed, and the gifts, ornaments and decorations have been stored away until next year, it's hard to avoid feeling let down—especially if, like me, you live in a cold climate. Months of gray, dreary days are not quite the antidote for post-holiday blues.
So I make a point of planning a few small, low-key get-togethers
with friends, to extend the festivities a bit, without the stress and effort of
a full-on holiday bash.
These mini cakes and "pinecones" are a lovely way to serve up a winter-themed dessert, without the fuss (or stress!) that holiday parties incur.
Just right for 2 to 4 guests, these cakes look super festive
but are ready in much less time. And if you live in fear of cake decorating,
you will love this "crumb coat" technique that looks clean and modern, like
a winter woodland. Rather than completely coating the sides with frosting, the cake is allowed to peek through - giving the effect of a snow-covered tree.
Add a few cinnamon
sticks, some rosemary sprigs and tiny, edible "pinecones" for décor, and kick those post-holiday blues to the curb!
Recipe: Chocolate Mini Cakes
Yields: (2) small cakes, serving 2-4
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 - 2 cups vanilla frosting (store bought or homemade)
Cinnamon sticks, rosemary sprigs, mini pinecones (recipe, below) for decoration
Pre-heat oven to 325. Line the bottoms of two 15-ounce cans with parchment paper. Grease the bottoms and sides and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
In a medium bowl whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla—whisk until smooth. Pour batter evenly between the two cans and place the cans on a baking sheet.
Bake cakes for 25–30 minutes, or until a toothpick tests clean. Transfer the cans to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes. Run a thin sharp knife around the sides of the cakes and carefully remove from the cans; cool completely.
Slice the "dome" of each cake off and then slice the cakes in half horizontally; freeze the layers on a baking sheet until firm (this will make it easier to frost).
Working with one cake at a time, place one layer on a clean work surface and place a dollop of frosting on top—spread evenly and top with the second layer. Cover the sides and tops with frosting and, using an angled spatula, smooth all around. Be sure to let some of the cake peek through in spots. Repeat with remaining cake. Just before serving adorn with cinnamon sticks, rosemary sprigs and pinecones.
Yields: 10 - 12 pine cones
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 -2 cups of chocolate square-shaped cereal
Beat the peanut butter and confectioners' sugar together until smooth. Scoop about a tablespoon of this mixture and shape around a pretzel stick, creating a slight cone shape.
Insert cereal, starting at the bottom and staggering as you go up, to create a pinecone shape. Snap off any exposed pretzel at the top and cover with smaller pieces of cereal. Keep chilled until ready to serve.