December 30, 2012

Peanut Butter Lover's Sandwich Cookies

... Soft, scrumptious, and absolutely overloaded with major peanut butter flavor. 

Every year, since I was able to hold a spoon, I've baked cookies at Christmastime with my grandmother. And ever since I could eat solid food  have been obsessed with peanut butter. So while my other cousins help grandma craft beautiful and traditional Christmas cookies for the hundreds of cookie plates she gives away to neighbors and friends, I have always baked some indulgent version of a peanut butter cookie that doesn't make it onto the plate... because we want to keep it to eat for ourselves. 

These may have been the most over the top. 

The cookie itself is amazing -- it's perfectly soft, chewy, and super nutty. Then, the creamy, salty, sweet peanut butter frosting is what takes this dessert to another level. If you love peanut butter as much as I do (and as much as my entire family does, as these did not last very long), don't wait to make these. They're fun to make and eat, and will bring smiles far into the New Year. 

Peanut Butter Lover's Sandwich Cookies: makes about 24 sandwich cookies
Cookie Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter (creamy Skippy preferred)
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
1.2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1 cup peanut butter chips

Cookie Directions:
Stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. With electric mixer set to medium speed, beat the butter, peanut butter, and white and brown sugars until very fluffy. Beat in each egg one at a time, then the vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture until just combined, then gently stir in the oats, peanuts, and peanut butter chips. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Refrigerate the dough 15 minutes, then roll 1" balls and place two inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake about 10 minutes or until barely browned around the edges. Cool on the cookie sheet 5 minutes, then carefully remove to cooling rack. Cool completely, and meanwhile make your frosting. 

Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter, preferably Skippy
3.5 cups confectioners’ sugar.
*Beat all ingredients together until well combined

Cookie Assembly: Using a piping bag, or a spoon, turn one cookie upside down and fill to about .5" to the edge of the cookie with frosting, then gently press another cookie on top. Repeat until all cookies are assembled into sandwiches. 

December 9, 2012

Lemon-Filled Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Don't you want my creamy, luscious layers? 

There are so many dimensions of flavor and texture in this cake. It's addicting. 

The plentiful filling of lemon curd is both sugary sweet and mouth-puckeringly-tart. 
It's slathered on top of dense layers of seriously rich, moist white cake (think pound-cake consistency)
then the whole cake is enveloped in thick, tangy cream-cheese frosting. 

I swear it's the perfect combination of cake, filling, and frosting. I'm a little obsessed now.
I baked this cake for my sister's baby shower and it was a real hit. 
Even non-lemon lovers admitted they got converted. 

The cakes were pretty huge, which was perfect to feed a crowd. 
I've been craving it ever since I finished off the last tall, huge leftover piece. 

The best part is that a lot of the cake can be made in advance. 
I made vats of lemon curd and froze it weeks earlier. 
The cake layers and cream cheese frosting were made and the whole cake assembled the day before. 
A seriously impressive cake got seriously simplified!

Now I'm just thinking of an occasion to make this for again soon...
Usually I'm a carrot cake or chocolate-fudge cake type of gal, but let's face it, 
right now I'm totally a sucker for lemon. 

Lemon Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting: makes one 4-layer cake
Lemon Curd: (recipe from Ina Garten)
3 lemons

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (from 3 to 4 lemons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Using a carrot peeler, peel off the yellow zest of each lemon. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter, then beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.
Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. It should be cooking at just below a simmer. Remove from heat and cool completely. It is easiest to work with the curd in the cake layers when it is chilled out of the refrigerator. 

White Cake: from Smitten Kitchen's 1-2-3-4 Cake. Failproof as far as cakes go!
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, room temperature

3 cups sifted self-rising flour*
1 cup milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 8"-9" cake pans, oiled and dusted with flour 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Drop each cake pan flat against the counter a few times to release any air bubbles.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove and cool in pan 10 minutes, then carefully invert onto a wire rack for complete cooling. 

* Self-rising flour has both salt and baking powder in it, but you can make your own at home with the following formula: 1 cup self-rising flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour, minus 2 teaspoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar (or more to taste)
2 teaspoons vanilla

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract

Cake Assembly:
Bring cream cheese frosting to room temperature, and assure that your cake layers are completely cooled.

Using a serrated knife, carefully slice each cake round in half horizontally to create four cake layers.

Spread a spoonful of cream cheese frosting on the center of a cake plate, then place the first cake layer down. Spread one cup of lemon curd in the middle of the layer, keeping 1 inch away from the sides (curd will begin to spread as the cake is layered, so do not spread it to the edges). Top with the next layer and repeat with 1 cup lemon curd, next layer of cake, last cup of curd, then fourth layer of the cake.

Refrigerate until curd is re-firmed, then use half your cream cheese frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake, catching the crumbs and setting the crumb layer. Refrigerate 1 hour or until set.

Frost with the remaining frosting and decorate as desired. Serve slightly chilled.


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