Tag Archives: Christmas

Take the Cake

Christmas is quickly approaching!  And you know what that means!?  Party time!  Christmas parties and potlucks are some of my favorite get-togethers of the whole year, but there’s always the question of what to bring.  No one wants to be the person whose dish doesn’t get eaten. So how do you know what will be popular?  My advice, bring a classic.  Stick to the normal crowd pleasers and then dress them up in their Christmas best!  I know time is always an issue, so here are some of my favorite simple treats for potlucks that I’ve found on Pinterest. Whether you’re hosting or just attending, these are guaranteed to get gone.

However, if you’re looking for something a little fancier, keep reading.

My mom’s birthday was right before Thanksgiving, and I made her a classic chocolate cake with whipped ganache.  I found the inspiration on, you guessed it, Pinterest, and was able to easily recreate it!  The design looks elaborate but is really very simple. It would make a stunning dessert for Christmas dinner.  Here is the Pinterest picture I found.So here’s what I did.  I’ll be willing to bet most of you already have a killer chocolate cake recipe, so I won’t bore you with mine, but I would recommend jazzing it up with espresso or your favorite liquor (I used Bailey’s Irish Cream).  I filled and iced the layers with a traditional whipped ganache (also flavored with Bailey’s), and then covered it with a soft ganache. After that, I simply piped rosettes and topped them with my favorite Lindor chocolate truffles.

The tricky part was the basket in the middle.  This cake would still be spectacular without it, but it does add a very dazzling showpiece. I had never made a basket like this before and was able to get it on the first try.  It really isn’t as complicated as It looks.  I know you can do it if you have time!

You make the baskets by drizzling melted almond bark (or tempered chocolate if you’re brave) over some air-filled water balloons (I happened to have those on hand because I’m a child) and set them up in some cups.  Put those babies in the freezer to chill, then just pop the balloons.  Tips! Make sure you POP the ballon instead of letting the air slowly seep out.  I did that at first and it made the chocolate break because it was too slow.  You just gotta rip it out like a band-aid.  Also, make more than one.  Even I, being the culinary genius that I am, make lots of mistakes. 😉 I think at least two of the four that I made broke.

After you finish decorating, cut the cake with a HOT knife to get those beautiful, picture-perfect slices.

Well, there it is!  I hope you can wow your friends with this fabulous cake! Merry Christmas!

Abby Hughes

Soft Ganache
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This ganache is very versatile. Great for icing cakes or making into truffles. This recipe will ice one 8-inch cake.
Cuisine: Dessert
Serves: 16 oz.
  • 8 oz. Chopped Dark Chocolate (or chips)
  • 8 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Flavoring
  1. Heat heavy cream to simmer in a saucepan. Be careful not to scorch.
  2. Remove from heat and add chocolate.
  3. Let sit for 3-4 minutes before stirring.
  4. Add vanilla and stir until smooth.
  5. Pour over cake while warm. If making truffles, refrigerate till firm and roll into balls. Cover with chocolate or cocoa powder.

Whipped Ganache
Prep time
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Use as an icing or filling.
Recipe type: icing
Cuisine: dessert
Serves: 24 oz.
  • 16 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 8 oz. Chopped Dark Chocolate or Chocolate Chips
  • Vanilla Flavoring
  1. Put cream in a heavy saucepan. Heat to simmer. Be careful not to scorch.
  2. Remove from heat and add chocolate.
  3. Let sit for 3-4 minutes before stirring.
  4. Add vanilla and stir until smooth. Refrigerate until completely cooled.
  5. Whip till stiff peaks.
  6. Use to ice cakes or as a sweet filling.

Slow Cooker Peanut Clusters

Peanut clusters plated
I was tired. I had just finished eating my way through New York City.  Sitting with my computer on my lap I announced to my sous-chef dish-washing mom and Chief Culinary Consultant “I’m not making a bunch of sweet treats this year for Christmas.  We just don’t need the sugar or the calories.”

Sixty seconds later I read The Brown Eyed Baker’s blog post for Slow cooker Peanut Clusters.  By then mom was making sounds that sounded like … “but what about peanut clusters?”  My sous chef dish-washing mom is the peanut cluster maker in this family.  She has always used this recipe before. I can’t stand to see a grown woman cry so when I was grocery shopping I surprised her with  — unsalted peanuts, salted cocktail peanuts, semisweet chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and white almond bark!  And the recipe from The Brown Eyed Baker!

Alice Peanut Clusters
All is well at our house.  Christmas music is playing.  The tree is decorated.  Mom is happy.  The Chief is really happy.

Crockpot Peanut Clusters
And the entire house is filled with the fragrance of chocolate.

peanut cluster panfullNow, about the slow cooker aka CrockPot peanut clusters.  Ours is a 5 quart CrockPot and the ingredients filled it just below the brim.  The peanuts and chocolate are layered in the order listed.  The cooker is set on low for 2 hours. This is a “set it and forget it” recipe.  At the end of 2 hours, stir all together and spoon on to parchment paper covered baking sheet.  Once they cool, they set and are ready to devour.

Peanut clusters plated
These peanut clusters really couldn’t be easier.  But the taste won’t give away the ease of the recipe.  The peanut butter chips add a layer of richness that is quite lovely.

Sm Plate peanut clusters
This is homemade, decadent candy at it’s finest!  Fast, easy, and wonderful. Let the Christmas baking begin!

Blessings and Happy Baking!

Slow Cooker Peanut Clusters
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Total time
Homemade candy is one of the best gifts to give or receive. Slow cooker peanut clusters are one of the easiest to do!
Serves: 80 clusters
  • 16 ounces unsalted dry roasted peanuts
  • 16 ounces salted cocktail peanuts
  • 1 (12-ounce bag) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips
  • 2 (10-ounce bags) peanut butter chips
  • 32 ounces white almond bark or vanilla candy melts
  1. Layer all of the ingredients in order in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours.
  2. Remove the lid and stir to combine. If not all of the chocolate is melted, cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes on low.
  3. Using a spoon or cookie scoop, scoop mounds of the clusters onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Allow to sit at room temperature until completely set, 1 to 2 hours. The clusters can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.




Are You Ready?

nativity tree lights
Every where I go these days I hear people say, “Are you ready for the holidays?” “Are you ready for Christmas?” “Do you have your shopping done?” From there the conversations seem to be the same. “No! I can’t believe it is less than 2 weeks to Christmas!” “No! I have sooo much left to do.”  “There isn’t enough time in the day I need more hours and more energy.”

Does any of that same familiar?  The first two weeks of December I was running from pillar to post.  Cooking, cleaning, shopping, cleaning, cooking.  Early one morning as I was sleepily trying to spend time in devotion I had this overwhelming feeling that God was asking me for a gift this Christmas – the gift of time. My time.  Time spent alone with Him.  The more I thought about it I began searching scriptures about praying and spending time with God.  Here is just a snippet of what I found:

Mark 1:35  And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

 1 Chronicles 16:11 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Romans 10:17  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

My list went on and on and the more I searched the more scriptures I found directing me to spend time alone with the Lord.  The most beautiful thing has happened to me.  The more hustle and bustle in my day, the more energized I have become to seek out quiet time, alone time with God.  Time for just He and I.  Time to pray, reflect, and listen.

My prayer is for you to find that quiet time during the noise of this season.  As we prepare to celebrate the first coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, are we ready?  Are we ready for the second coming of our Savior?

Praying you will make space for time alone with God this Christmas season.