The New Year is upon us. Reflecting on the past year, I am thankful for so much. At the top of the list are friends of all kinds. There are work friends, yogi friends, cat lady friends, animal friends, cooking friends, classmate friends, teacher friends, far-away friends, and forever friends. I am thankful for family, good health, legs to run with, eyes to see and admire through, hands to caress and care for animals with, to draw, paint and cook with and a heart to love all sentient beings.
The mind is a gift, too. It is where the compassion resides and grows. It is a work in progress. If we train the mind, more compassion will flow through and the New Year will become beautiful, pure and white, like a snow-filled wonderland.
My wish for all humansk is that you be curious, explore and discover what makes your heart glow. When you find the way, be assured the path will lead to light and love. Happy New Year!
This Winter Wonderland Snowman Cake takes two days to prepare because the decorations (snowmen and trees) have to be made one day in advance of baking and icing the cake.
Meringue Cookies (Snowmen)
1/4 cup Meringue Powder
2 teaspoons Imitation Clear Vanilla Extract – 8 oz.
1/2 cup water
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 250°F. Prepare cookie pans with parchment paper.
In large bowl, whip Meringue Powder and water with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, gradually add sugar. Whip until stiff peaks. Add vanilla and icing color and whip until well combined, scraping down bottom and sides of bowl as necessary.
Prepare 16 in. decorating bag with tip 2A and meringue batter.
Prepare cookie pan with parchment paper. Use straight side of “B”, “C”, “D” and “E” cut-outs (see Wilton online) to trace circles on back of parchment paper (trace two to three of each size). Additionally, draw two to three circles measuring 1½ in. in size (slightly smaller than “D” cut-out).
Pipe balls following outlines on parchment paper. Bake and cool following recipe instructions.
Bake 45-50 minutes or until outsides of meringues feel firm and crisp. Cool completely on pan. Peel cooled meringues off the parchment paper.
Prepare parchment bag with reserved royal icing.
Using royal icing, assemble snowmen pieces. For large snowman, combine “B” circle for body with “D” circle for head. For medium snowman, combine “C” circle for body with 1½ in. circle for head. For small snowman, combine “D” circle for body with “E” circle for head. You’ll have extra meringues to chose from, so select the best ones!
Using Black icing color, tint ¼ cup royal icing black.
Prepare parchment bag with tip 2 and black icing. Pipe eyes and buttons on snowmen. Using reserved white royal icing, attach jumbo orange nonpareils for noses.
Using decorating brush and Deep Pink Color Dust, brush on cheeks.
Royal Icing (Trees)
3 tablespoons 4 oz. Meringue Powder
4 cups (about 1 lb.) confectioners’ sugar
5 tablespoons warm water
Beat all ingredients together until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer).
- Keep all utensils completely grease-free for proper icing consistency.
- For stiff icing: Use 1 tablespoon less water.
- When using large countertop mixer or for stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
- For thin icing: To thin for pouring, add 1 teaspoon water per cup of royal icing. Use grease-free spoon or spatula to stir slowly. Add 1/2 teaspoon water at a time until you reach proper consistency.
- Meringue Powder is a must for this recipe. Do not substitute with raw egg whites (which can be a food safety issue) or dried egg whites; neither will produce the same results as Meringue Powder.
- To store: Store royal icing in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks. Before reusing, re-whip using a paddle attachment on low speed until it’s back to the correct consistency.Using serrated knife, cut four sugar cones ranging in height from 2½ in. to 4 in. high (leave remaining cone untrimmed).
Helpful Hint: Using a food-safe marker, mark cone at cut line. Dip bottom of cone to mark in hot water. Using a serrated knife, cut off bottom of cone.
Using tapered spatula, ice cones with royal icing. Use spatula to pull out icing from cone, making branches. Immediately sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar (use a sifter or tea strainer to dust trees); set aside to dry overnight. Reserve remaining royal icing.
Prepare cake batter following recipe instructions. I used a Dulce de Leche Layer Cake recipe for this cake, as it is white, fluffy and yummy. You can use a chocolate cake recipe, too. Bake and cool two cake layers. Level, fill and stack cake layers. Using spatula, ice cake, leaving spatula marks on top and on sides of cake. Top cake with trees and snowmen. Sprinkle with remaining confectioners’ sugar.
Dulce de Leche Layer Cake
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons nut-flavored liqueur, such as Frangelico or biscotti liqueur. I used Disaronno. Italian, of course.
2 1/2 cups cake flour 1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups plus 6 tablespoons sugar
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons Frangelico or biscotti liqueur
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Submerge the unopened can of condensed milk in a large, deep pot of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat for 2 hours, adding water as needed to keep the can completely submerged. Carefully remove the can and let cool slightly. Carefully open the can with tongs and transfer the dulce de leche to a bowl: It should resemble creamy caramel. Whisk until smooth, then gradually whisk in the nut liqueur. Let cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 350° and butter two 9-inch cake pans. Line with parchment paper and butter and flour the pans. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the 1 1/2 cups of sugar at medium speed until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat until smooth. Beat in the dry ingredients and the milk in 3 alternating batches, scraping down the side of the bowl occasionally.
In a clean bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar and beat until glossy. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pans. Bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until the cakes are golden and a toothpick in the centers comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack to cool slightly. Run the tip of a knife around the edges and invert the cakes onto the rack to cool completely. Using a serrated knife, split each layer horizontally in half.
In a clean bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil over high heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved and a candy thermometer in the syrup registers 235° for soft-ball stage. Remove from the heat and add the liqueur. With the mixer at medium speed, carefully drizzle the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites. Beat in the lime juice, then beat at high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy and slightly warm to the touch.
Place a cake layer on a large cake plate and top with one-third of the dulce de leche filling. Repeat with the remaining layers and filling, ending with a layer of cake. Spread the frosting all over the cake, swirling decoratively. Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.