Iced with Cream Cheese Frosting, bite-size Chocolate-Red Velvet Cupcakes are sure to delight children of all ages. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar, crushed peppermints, or decorative candies, and then package the treats in miniature muffin pans. Tie on a ribbon and some candy canes, and slip the pan inside a cellophane gift bag so all the goodies shine through.
We had great fun testing our Christmas cake batters in different sizes and shapes. Here are some of our favorite pans. They're available in kitchen shops (such as Williams-Sonoma, 1-800-541-2233 or www.williams-sonoma.com), in discount department stores (such as Target), through mail-order catalogs, and on Web sites (such as amazon.com and cooking.com). You'll find baking instructions included on the packaging with most pans.
- Fluted brioche molds, traditionally used to bake the rich and buttery French yeast bread known as brioche, are also perfect for baking fanciful cakes such as the Fluted Chocolate-Red Velvet Cakes on our cover. Sold in a variety of sizes, we chose the 8-inch brioche molds for our cakes. Because we used nonstick molds with a dark outer surface, we covered them with aluminum foil. The shiny side of the foil reflects the heat away from the sides of the mold for a lighter, bright red crust.
- NordicWare makes this multi-mini Bundt cake pan that has two each of three different shapes. Dust the finished cakes with powdered sugar to accent the molded designs.
- The Bundt brownie pan is also the perfect size for cupcakes. We garnished ours with a dollop of whipped cream, raspberry candies, and fresh mint sprigs.
DRESSED FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Disposable foil pans, available at the supermarket, come in a variety of sizes and patterns that are perfect for baking and delivering homemade treats. We used a glue gun to attach colorful strips of holiday ribbon to loaf pans of Cranberry-Pecan Cake. For a festive glow, drizzle cooled cakes with Vanilla Glaze, and garnish with additional chopped sweetened dried cranberries, toasted pecans, and sugared orange rind. (To make sugared citrus rind, toss together equal amounts of grated citrus rind and granulated sugar.)
- To easily release cakes from shaped pans, be sure to grease all the flutes and crevices. Use a pastry brush to generously coat the bottom and sides of the pan with a solid vegetable shortening such as Crisco. Lightly sprinkle with flour, tilting and tapping the pans so the flour completely covers the greased surfaces; invert the pans, and gently tap out any excess flour.
- Before removing the cakes from the pan after baking, cool according to recipe directions. Invert the pan over a wire rack, gently shaking to release the cakes. If needed, use a small icing spatula to loosen the sides of the cakes from the pan.
- With smaller muffin pans and molds, such as the brioche mold, we found it easier to use a vegetable cooking spray with flour, such as PAM For Baking, Crisco Flour No-Stick Spray, or Baker's Joy Original No-Stick Baking Spray With Flour.
"Dressed for the Holidays" is from the December 2005 issue of Southern Living.