and a little guide to fixing holiday dessert fails!
have we ever had a real honest discussion about bundt cakes and how i've never made a successful one and how it was even once a dark joke with yossy and sarah and me? and how all i ever wanted for my wedding was a gaggle of mini bundts on my dessert table and even though that is a gross exaggeration, i tried so hard to have red velvet mini bundts and failed miserably and had to reroute those suckers at the very last minute before saying my vows? the bundt struggle is real, as is the struggle with so many other holiday desserts and i've been doing some thinking: it's time we did some good old fashioned mental preparation for the holidays.
sure, dessert fails aren't totally specific to the holidays, but any time you're making a dessert for a special occasion, you have the added pressure of *time*, and the challenge gets worse. like, just last month, i got an email about a failed batch of halloween cookies and by the time i could sit down and write a reply, i realized that halloween was half over and knew my advice probably wouldn't do much good at that point. so because the holidays are upon us and because i'm expecting all of you to do a bunch of baking this season, i've put together a little list of tricks that will help you save and repurpose any desserts that have gone south. it's my little way of keeping it together during the holidays, or as the good folks at hallmark say, #keepsakeit together.
if your bundt cake or any other cake breaks while it's coming out of the pan: crumble it all up, distribute the crumbles into individual jars and top them with a dollop of frosting and sprinkles (this is what i did with my wedding bundts!) or you can make cake truffles.
if your gingerbread walls fall apart: you can do what i did during the great gingerbread house catastrophe of 1997, in which we accidentally bought the fluffy flimsy frosting instead of the holds-like-glue frosting: use cardboard for the walls and glue them together with a hot glue gun. decorate with candy as if nothing happened... not even a monstrous tantrum...
if your cheesecake cracks down the middle: happens to me all the time. ugh! do what eva does and dump a bunch of berries on it! or cover the top in frosting or caramel. yum.
if your pie fails in any of the million ways that pies do: chop it up and fold it into some ice cream for a pie sundae or a pie milkshake. you were planning on serving it with ice cream anyway, right?
if your meringues deflate in the oven: break all of them up to make an eton mess!
if your cookies break or burn or you spend your afternoon building sugar cookie mini cakes and then a storm (or cat?) blows through and they all fall down: ok, i made you this sugar cookie mini cake recipe so that i could demonstrate what to do! these little guys are inspired by this cute ornament (seriously with all of the mini cakes that i've made why have i not made cookie mini cakes?? thank you, cookie ornament, for inspiring me to do this!) and for the record, no, a kitty did not come and tip all of these over. we're just talking theoretically here... see below for the recipe and my solution for fixing cookies gone wrong:
sugar cookie mini cakes
3 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 c unsalted butter, softened
1 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 large egg
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
1 c unsalted butter, softened
2 c confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
A pinch of kosher salt
Sprinkles, for decorating
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium high until pale and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the extracts and egg and mix to combine. Reduce the speed to low and then gradually add the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Pour the dough out onto a clean work surface and give it a few kneads to bring it all together. Divide it in half, wrap half of it plastic wrap, and refrigerate it while you roll out the first half. (Alternatively, you can make the dough in advance, wrap all of it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight.)
Dust your work surface and a rolling pin with confectioners’ sugar and roll out the dough to 1/4” thickness. Cut out five increasing sizes of circles, 1 1/2"-3" (i use these biscuit cutters) and use a small offset spatula to transfer them to a baking sheet, 1" apart. Re-roll scraps and repeat with the remaining half of the dough. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly browned. Let the cookies cool on the pans for 5 minutes and then transfer them a wire rack to cool completely.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until soft and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and mix to combine. Mix in the extracts and salt. Add food coloring, if desired.
Transfer the frosting to a piping bag. Stack up the circles, largest on bottom, with a thin layer of frosting between them and decorate with sprinkles.
...ok so now you're la-dee-da going about your day after you spent hours building these and this happens:
never fear, make a good old northern midwest cookie salad! crunch up your cookies, fold them into whipped cream, add some fruit if you'd like, top with sprinkles (important!) and make some obscure fargo reference while you serve it in cute trifle cups. and hint: if your cookies failed by way of over baking, let your salad sit in the fridge for a good few hours (or overnight) before serving to allow the cookies to soften in the whipped cream. boom! cookie failure has been reversed.
congratulations, you are now a holiday dessert resuscitator! now go forth and bake and enjoy your holiday season.