Category Archives: Candy

Easy Peppermint Mocha Fudge

Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeOver the course of the next twenty days, there will come a moment where you’re glad to have this Easy Peppermint Mocha Fudge recipe in your back pocket.Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeBecause it really is easy. Like six ingredients easy.Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeNo boiling sugar, no candy thermometer easy.Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeMake it in 20 minutes in a double boiler or—even easier—the microwave…easy.Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeBut nobody will know that you made these little morsels of holiday magic without having to think too hard, or that the batch makes enough for multiple holiday gifts (just add cute bags or tins), so you didn’t have to overextend yourself.Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeAnd nobody is going to bite into this rich, dense, silky fudge and think “I bet he/she/they made this with sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips instead of the ‘traditional’ way.” Nope.Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeIn fact, I guarantee you that all anybody will be thinking is how to get another piece of this double-layer minty coffee confection into their faces as soon as possible.Easy Peppermint Mocha Fudge
Looking for more peppermint mocha? Check out these cookies!

Looking for more easy holiday candy? See here and here.

Easy Peppermint Mocha Fudge
makes one 9×13-inch pan

Mocha Layer:
18 ounces (3 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
5 teaspoons espresso granules (I use Medaglia d’Oro)
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (not mint extract)

Peppermint Layer:
18 ounces (3 cups) white chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (not mint extract)

Garnish:
4 candy canes or 10 starlight mints, crushed (I prefer starlight mints)

Lightly grease a 9×13-inch pan. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on the two long sides, and grease again. Set aside.

To make on the stove:

Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.

Make the mocha layer. Combine chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and espresso granules in the heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the simmering water. Use a silicone spatula and/or whisk to stir mixture until chips are melted and fudge is even in color. It will be thick. Remove from heat and stir in peppermint extract. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press into an even layer all the way to the corners. Freeze full pan while you make the peppermint layer.

Wash the heatproof bowl and dry well. Return pot to a simmer.

Combine white chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the simmering water. Use a silicone spatula and/or whisk to stir mixture until chips almost all are melted and fudge is even in color. It will be thinner than the mocha mixture. Remove from heat. Whisk in peppermint extract and continue until mixture is totally smooth.

Remove pan from the freezer. Spread peppermint mixture over the top of the mocha layer, smoothing it all the way to the edges. Garnish the top with crust candy canes or starlight mints.

To make in the microwave:

Make the mocha layer. Combine chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and espresso granules in a medium microwave safe mixing bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until chips are melted and fudge is thick and even in color. Stir in peppermint extract. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press into an even layer all the way to the corners. Freeze full pan while you make the peppermint layer.

Wash the microwave safe bowl and dry well.

Combine white chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in the bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring/whisking in between, until almost all chips are melted and fudge is even in color. Whisk in peppermint extract and continue until mixture is totally smooth. Mixture will be thinner than the mocha layer.

Remove pan from the freezer. Spread peppermint mixture over the top of the mocha layer, smoothing it all the way to the edges. Garnish the top with crust candy canes or starlight mints.

Both methods:

Refrigerate fudge for at least 1 hour. Run a thin, flexible knife around the edges of the pan. Use parchment overhang to lift fudge onto a cutting board.

Use a greased knife to slice fudge into 1-inch pieces. Wipe the knife clean between cuts.

Fudge is best kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, but may be kept at room temperature for up to 5 days. Candy cane/starlight mint garnish will melt over time.Easy Peppermint Mocha FudgeEasy Peppermint Mocha FudgeEasy Peppermint Mocha Fudge

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Stained Glass Cookies

Stained Glass CookiesHello there! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving break. I had a wonderful time in Massachusetts and Rhode Island with 2/3 of my immediate family, but am happy to be home for a few weeks to work on all sorts of holiday goodness! I’ve got loads of great posts headed your way before December 25th, but this first cookie recipe of the season, which benefits Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, might be my most important post of the whole year.Stained Glass CookiesIf that organization sounds familiar, it’s because I supported them last year too as a participant in The Sweetest Season. Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that encourages people to raise funds for pediatric cancer research by making cookies and sharing them with friends and family. The goal is to raise funds to facilitate innovative treatments, one cookie at a time. Many supporters (AKA “Good Cookies”) choose to have bake sales or cookie swaps, but I’m participating with a group of bloggers by posting new cookies recipes and donating directly. I made my donation on Giving Tuesday, but if you’d like to learn more and/or make a charitable donation to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, click here.Stained Glass CookiesThere’s no easy way to transition from writing about pediatric cancer to writing about anything else, so please excuse this clunky attempt. Now that I’ve made my donation to this wonderful organization, it’s time to talk about holiday cookies, namely these stunning Stained Glass Cookies!Stained Glass CookiesThese were one of the first Christmas cookies I ever made. My mother didn’t (and doesn’t) bake, but once when we were little, she dropped my sister and me at a kids’ cooking school for a day of holiday treats. While I don’t remember any other cookies we made that day, I do remember crushing hard candies and watching them transform in the oven into beautiful “stained glass.”
Stained Glass CookiesStained Glass CookiesStained Glass CookiesBut I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’ve never heard of Stained Glass Cookies, they’re nothing more than roll-out sugar cookies (in this case, my Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies) with the centers cut out and filled with crushed hard candy. As they bake, the candy melts into a thin, transparent sheet, similar to a stained glass window. Neat, huh?Stained Glass CookiesStained Glass CookiesAnd freaking beautiful, am I right?!Stained Glass Cookies

These cookies are simple to make. The recipe is straightforward enough that there’s no need for a tutorial, but I’ve got a few notes for you anyway. Because of course I do.

  • You can use any cookie cutters you like, permitting that they are in graduated sizes.
  • I used crushed Jolly Ranchers candy here. I chose to only use one flavor of candy per cookie, but feel free to mix and match to your holiday heart’s content.
  • These are a great cookie to make with kids, permitting you don’t mind them getting a little sugared up (in which case you probably shouldn’t be making cookies anyway and you may be on the wrong website 🙂 ). Just make the dough ahead and let them help cut and fill. I made these frequently in my nanny days and they were always a big hit.

Stained Glass CookiesAll that said, I hope you’re as excited for holiday baking as I am! Here’s to a season of sweets, treats, and doing kind things for our fellows…you know, like putting a few dollars toward a good cause ❤ Or making a batch of Stained Glass Cookies for people you love.Stained Glass Cookies

Stained Glass Cookies
makes about 5 dozen medium cookies

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 oz (1/2 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 12 ounce bag Jolly Ranchers or other hard candy, crushed
sparkling sugar, optional

Special Equipment:
rolling pin
graduated cookie cutters

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Cream in granulated and light brown sugars, followed by the egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Add dry ingredients in 3 installments, combining completely after each. Divide dough into quarters and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.

Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin. Take one quarter of chilled dough at a time, roll it to 1/4-inch thickness, and cut with cookie cutters. Place cut cookies at least 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Use smaller cookie cutters to cut out centers of cut cookies. Remove center dough and fill Cookie centers with a few pieces of crushed candy. Sprinkle exposed cookie dough with sparkling sugar, if desired.

Bake cookies 7-8 minutes, rotating top-to-bottom and front-to-back at the halfway point. Cookies are done when dough is no longer wet-looking and centers are bubbly. Let cookies cool on the pans for ten minutes before carefully peeling cookies away parchment and removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling, cutting, filling, and baking with any remaining dough.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days. Separate layers of cookies with wax paper.
Stained Glass CookiesStained Glass CookiesStained Glass Cookies

Stained Glass Cookies

Monster Blondies

Monster BlondiesRemember that huge, ridiculous M&Ms Surprise Cake I posted last week? It’s long gone.Monster Blondies You know what’s still taking up space in my kitchen? This comically large container of M&Ms. It’s made it through two of those cakes, a batch of cookies and lots of late night snacks, and it’s still kickin’.Monster Blondies Also taking up space in my kitchen? Three different jars of peanut butter. THREE. And they’re all different brands. Just…what? I really need an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all my baking supplies so I’m not compelled to pick up peanut butter every time I see it on sale.Monster Blondies So, what does one do with all that peanut butter and that huge container of M&Ms? Add some oats and make Monster Blondies, of course!Monster Blondies What makes these blondies so…monstrous? Well, they’re a riff on Monster Cookies, a sort of “everything but the kitchen sink” cookie that, at its most basic, contains peanut butter, oats, M&Ms and chocolate chips.Monster BlondiesMonster BlondiesMonster BlondiesMonster BlondiesMonster BlondiesThe original cookies are terrific, but skipping the cookie dough and tossing all those ingredients into blondie batter is absolutely the way to go! The resulting blondies have all the flavors and textures from their namesake recipe, but with an extra thick and chewy peanut butter base.Monster BlondiesMonster BlondiesMonster BlondiesNot only that, but blondies are way easier to make than cookies—this recipe comes together with just one bowl and a silicone spatula! And, of course, they don’t require baking in batches. Monster Blondies are ready to come out of the oven just 40 minutes after you start making the batter!Monster BlondiesOnce the blondies have cooled slice them up and dig in! You’ll love the soft & chewy blondie base, the slight saltiness from the peanut butter, the texture from the oats and crackly candy coating, and tons of chocolate. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the very best kind of mid-week pick-me-up ❤ Monster BlondiesMonster Blondies
makes 16 blondies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup creamy-style peanut butter (not natural-style)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup M&Ms candy

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving some overhang on two sides. Grease with butter. Set aside.

Place butter and peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Melt together in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Transfer to a medium large mixing bowl. Stir in light brown sugar, followed by egg and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt. Fold in oats, followed by chocolate chips and M&Ms.

Spread the blondie batter in prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes (mine took 28 minutes), or until turning golden at the edges. Let blondies cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Use foil to lift blondies out of pan. Peel off foil and transfer blondies to a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Serve.

Leftover blondies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.Monster Blondies

M&Ms Surprise Cake

M&Ms Surprise CakeI posted pictures of a big M&Ms-stuffed chocolate cake on my social media last week and y’all went crazy for it!M&Ms Surprise CakeI get it—chocolate cake + buttercream + M&Ms inside + more M&Ms on top = MAGIC.M&Ms Surprise CakeThat original cake was for a friend and not intended for the blog, but given the response, I thought you might like to know how to make your own!M&Ms Surprise CakeFirst things first. You’re going to need four 9-inch round layers of chocolate cake. This one is a super easy no-mixer recipe that makes four soft, moist, perfect layers. You may recognize this recipe from my my Chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Buttercream—it’s exactly the same except that I scaled it up by 50%.M&Ms Surprise CakePlace one of the layers on a serving plate or your favorite of all your cakestands. Spread a little frosting on top.M&Ms Surprise CakeTake two of the layers and punch out holes in the centers. I use a 6-inch ring for this, but you can use a wide-mouthed glass or even just a paring knife and a circle of parchment. Layer those on top of that bottom round, frosting between and on top.M&Ms Surprise CakeAt this point, you’ll have a three layer cake with a hole in it. That’s where the surprise M&Ms are going to go ❤Spread a thin layer of buttercream on the “walls.” This will help keep the moist cake from melting the color off the M&Ms too quickly. And speaking of M&Ms…M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise Cake…pour in almost 2 cups of them ❤ ❤ ❤M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakePlace your last intact layer of cake on top, effectively hiding all that surprise candy. Frost the cake. For a sort-of photo tutorial on that, see last week’s Cinnamon Buttercream post.M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakeI decorated the top with even more M&Ms and used the last of the frosting to pipe a border. The dollops are all different sizes and I love it!M&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise CakeM&Ms Surprise Cake

Gather all your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers—really, anyone will do. Get them all around the table so they can see this amazing thing you’ve made in all it’s rainbow candy avalanche glory. This cake is delicious—with that much chocolate and butter, it has to be—but the magic is in the presentation.M&Ms Surprise CakeThen again, I was alone when I sliced this sucker open and it was still pretty damn magical. But I also took 200+ photos of it for you, so I suppose you were practically there.M&Ms Surprise Cake

M&Ms Surprise Cake
makes 1 large 9-inch round cake

Cake:
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup + 2 Tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups strong, hot coffee

Chocolate Buttercream:
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
5 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/4 cups natural unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2-2/3 cup heavy cream

For Assembly:
1 3/4 cups M&Ms candy, plus more for decoration

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease 4 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl to sift together flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and eggs, followed by vanilla, buttermilk, and coffee. Whisk in dry ingredients in three installments, just until combined. Divide batter evenly among the pans. Tap full pans on the counter five times to release any air bubbles. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in pans for ten minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edges. Invert cakes onto cooling racks and allow to cool to room temperature.

Make the chocolate buttercream. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Beat in confectioner’s sugar, followed by cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until very fluffy. Add up to 2 more tablespoons of heavy cream, until desired consistency is reached.

Assemble cake. Place one round on a serving plate and top with a layer of frosting. Set aside.

Use a 4-6 inch cutter (or a wide-mouthed cup or jar) to cut the centers out of two layers. Set centers aside for another use. Place one cut-out layer on the bottom layer and top with a layer of frosting. Place the other cut-out layer on top and frost. Coat the inside of the hole with a thin layer of frosting.

Fill the hole in the cake layers with M&Ms. Top with the last (fully-intact) layer of cake. Frost cake as desired. Decorate with more M&Ms, as desired.

Layer cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week. M&Ms may lose their color over long periods of time.M&Ms Surprise Cake

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsI don’t want to write about baking today—I want to write about how much I love the Olympics. I’ve watched the coverage every night and had it on in the background while I’ve baked during the day. This isn’t a recent habit—I grew up in a family that gathered to watch the games (summer or winter) every night they were on, and I even once had a wall of my teenage bedroom dedicated to the decorated short track speedskater Apolo Ohno.

Yeah…when it comes to the Olympics, I’m a real big nerd. I’m also a baseball nerd and an Oscars nerd, so…well, maybe I just watch too much TV. That’s probably it.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAnyway, this isn’t an Olympics blog. It’s a baking blog. So, let’s talk about baked goods, specifically Almond Joy Shortbread Bars.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsIf you’re going to try to improve on the practically perfect combination of chocolate, almonds, and sweet coconut filling, layering it all onto a buttery chocolate shortbread crust is a pretty good way to start.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAll the layers in these bars make them look like they take hours to prepare, but in reality, they take about 90 minutes from start to finish and are nearly no-bake. That easy chocolate shortbread crust is the only layer that has to spend time in the oven.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsIt’s topped with a thick layer of coconut filling and dotted with whole roasted almonds…Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAlmond Joy Shortbread Bars

…and a layer of milk chocolate. You can use dark chocolate if you like, but apparently Almond Joys are made with milk chocolate. I’ve been wrong for two years. Oh well.

Almond Joy Shortbread BarsAlmond Joy Shortbread BarsBut back to the bars. Slice ‘em up and admire your handiwork. #thoselayerstho

The flavor is everything you love about sweet, chewy, crunchy Almond Joys, but better because they’re homemade. Oh, and because they have a crispy layer of chocolate shortbread offsetting all their sweetness. After sinking your teeth into one of these, you’ll never be able to go back to the mass-produced candy bar.

Y’all, these are seriously good. I know I say that about everything on this blog, but I really mean it today. These are a gold medal recipe for sure.Almond Joy Shortbread Bars

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars
makes one 9-inch square pan, about 16 bars

Chocolate Shortbread Crust:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or Dutch process)
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes

Coconut Filling:
1/2 cup whole raw almonds
5 fluid ounces (10 tablespoons) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups sweetened flaked coconut

Chocolate Topping:
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil and grease well with butter. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, light brown sugar, and salt. Use your fingertips to rub butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Bake 14-15 minutes, until no longer wet-looking. Let shortbread crust cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Make the filling. Place almonds on a dry baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in coconut. Mixture will be very thick. Drop filling in spoonfuls over the cooled crust and spread across the entire surface. Arrange almonds in lines (or as desired) over the top of the coconut and press down to adhere. Freeze full pan for 15 minutes.

Make the chocolate topping. Combine chopped milk chocolate and butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, just until melted. Drop chocolate over filling one spoonful at a time. Use a small offset icing knife (or a silicone spatula) to carefully spread it over a section of the filling. Continue dropping and spreading chocolate until it’s all used and the almonds are covered. Freeze until chocolate has hardened, about 15 minutes.

Use foil overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Carefully peel foil down the sides. Use a lightly-greased sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Lift bars from foil with a thin spatula. Serve.

Bars may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. Layer them with wax paper if they are to be stacked.

Almond Joy Shortbread Bars