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Holiday Cakes

Our friends at Southern Living magazine share a few of their favorite holiday confections. For more treats, check out their newest book, Christmas, All Through The South.

Bourbon Eggnog Cake

Prepare Snowy White Layer Cake as directed, and prepare Eggnog Filling and Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Frosting. Spread Eggnog Filling between cake layers, and spread Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Frosting on top and sides of cake. Prepare Fondant Holly (see recipe below). Arrange leaves and fresh cranberries on cake, pressing gently to adhere.

Snowy White Layer Cake

Hands-on: 40 min. • Total: 2 hours

Parchment paper
1 cup milk
1½  teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 large egg whites

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 3 (8-inch) round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper, and grease and flour paper.
2. Stir together milk and vanilla.
3. Beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Sift together flour and baking powder; add to butter mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition.
4. Beat egg whites at medium speed until stiff peaks form; gently fold into batter. Pour batter into prepared pans.
5. Bake at 350° for 20 to 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks; discard parchment paper. Cool completely (about 40 minutes). Makes 10 - 12 servings.

Eggnog Filling

Hands-on: 15 min. • Total: 7 hour, 15 min.

1¾ cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar  
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup bourbon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Whisk together first 5 ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, 10 to 12 minutes or until mixture reaches a chilled pudding-like thickness. Remove from heat.
2. Stir in bourbon and vanilla. Cool to room temperature (about 1 hour). Place plastic wrap directly on mixture (to prevent a film from forming), and chill 6 to 24 hours. Makes 2 cups.

Bourbon-Vanilla Bean Frosting

1 cup butter, softened
1 (32-ounce) package powdered sugar
½ cup milk
5 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste
1/8 teaspoon table salt

1. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar alternately with milk and bourbon, beating at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla bean paste and salt. Makes 6 cups.

Fondant Holly

½ (24-ounce) package white fondant

1. Dust work surface with powdered sugar. Roll out fondant to 1⁄4-inch thickness. Cut fondant with a 1 3⁄4-inch holly leaf cutter. Draw veins on leaves with a small knife. Crumble 2 sheets of aluminum foil into ropes; arrange on a baking sheet. Drape leaves over foil to curl. Let dry at room temperature 12 hours. 

Chocolate-Toffee-Gingerbread Cake

The addition of hot water at the end of this recipe makes for an exceptionally moist cake.
Hands-on: 45 min. • Total: 3 hours, 5 min.

Ginger Whipped Cream (recipe below)
1½ cups semisweet chocolate morsels
1 (16-ounce) package light brown sugar
½ cup butter, softened
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
1 cup hot water
½ cup molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Silky Ganache (recipe below)
1 cup toffee bits
Garnishes: Spiced Sorghum Snowflakes (recipe on page 41), cranberries, fresh mint

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare Ginger Whipped Cream (see recipe below) as directed in step 1 of recipe (through chilling).
2. Microwave chocolate morsels in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 to 1½ minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals.
3. Beat brown sugar and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add melted chocolate, beating just until blended.
4. Sift together flour and next 5 ingredients. Gradually add to chocolate mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir together hot water and next 2 ingredients. (Mixture will foam.) Gradually stir molasses mixture and vanilla into chocolate mixture just until blended. Spoon batter into 3 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans.
5. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour).
6. Meanwhile, prepare Silky Ganache. Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread with half of ganache; sprinkle with ½ cup toffee bits. Top with second cake layer; spread with remaining ganache, and sprinkle with remaining  toffee bits. Top with remaining cake layer. Cover and chill 2 to 8 hours.
7. Finish preparing Ginger Whipped Cream as directed in step 2 of recipe. Spread top and sides of cake with whipped cream just before serving. Makes 10 - 12 servings.

Silky Ganache

For best results, use premium chocolate morsels.
Hands-on: 20 min. • Total: 1 hr., 10 min.

1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels
¼ tablespoon table salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream

1. Pour water to depth of 1 inch into bottom of a double boiler over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer; place chocolate and salt in top of double boiler over simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes or until melted. 
2. Add sweetened condensed milk; cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until blended and smooth. Remove from heat; add butter and vanilla, and stir 4 to 5 minutes or until smooth. 
3. Let cool to room temperature (about 45 minutes). Transfer to a bowl. Gradually add cream to chocolate mixture, and beat at high speed with an electric mixer 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth and the consistency of a thick buttercream frosting. Use immediately. Makes 2 3/4 cups.

Ginger Whipped Cream

Hands-on: 15 min. • Total: 4 hr., 15 min.

2 cups heavy cream
5 (1/8-inch-thick) slices peeled fresh ginger
6 tablespoons powdered sugar

1. Cook cream and ginger in a heavy nonaluminum saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often, 3 to 5 minutes or just until bubbles appear (do not boil); remove from heat, and let cool completely (about 20 minutes). Chill 4 to 12 hours. (Cream needs to be ice-cold before beating.)
2. Pour cream mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, discarding ginger. Beat at medium-high speed with an electric mixer 1 minute or until foamy; increase speed to high, and gradually add powdered sugar, beating 2 to 3 minutes or just until stiff peaks form. (Do not overbeat or cream will become grainy.) Use immediately. Makes 4 cups.

Spiced Sorghum Snowflakes

Hands-on: 3 hr, 25 min. • Total: 1 hr., 10 min.

½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons. orange zest
1 large egg
3 tablespoons hot water
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup sorghum syrup
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon table salt
Parchment paper
Royal Icing (recipe below)
White sparkling sugar, nonpareils, sugar pearls

1. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until fluffy. Add orange zest and egg, beating until smooth.
2. Stir together hot water and baking soda in a small bowl until baking soda is dissolved. Stir in sorghum syrup.
3. Stir together flour and next 5 ingredients; add to butter mixture alternately with sorghum syrup mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
4. Divide dough into 2 equal portions; flatten each into a disk. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or until firm.
5. Preheat oven to 325°. Place 1 portion of dough on a lightly floured surface, and roll to ¼-inch thickness. Cut with assorted sizes of snowflake-shaped cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Repeat procedure with remaining dough disk. (Once cookies are cut and placed on baking sheets, place in freezer. Freeze about 10 minutes to help better hold their shape during baking.)
6. Bake at 325° for 13 to 15 minutes or until cookies are puffed and slightly darker around the edges. Cool on pans 1 minute; transfer to wire racks, and cool completely (about 30 minutes).
7. Spoon Royal Icing into a zip-top plastic freezer bag. Snip 1 corner of bag to make a small hole. Pipe icing in decorative designs on each cookie. Sprinkle with white sparkling sugar, and decorate with nonpareils and sugar pearls. Let icing harden at least 1 hour. Makes about 7 dozen.

Royal Icing

Hands-on 5 min. • Total 5 min..

1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
½ cup warm water

1. Beat all ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer until blended. Beat at high speed 4 minutes or until glossy and stiff peaks form, adding a few drops of additional warm water for desired consistency. Makes 3 cups.

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