I hope everyone is doing well. Wanted to give you an update on what’s going on here. Casual Confections will be closed for orders until things improve.
Being a small business, I buy all of my ingredients from local stores. By pausing business, I don’t contribute to the difficulty people are already having getting access to eggs, flour, and sugar which have been flying off the shelves.
I’ll still be around and will keep posting videos from time to time and will post some experiments to the blog from this past year. Please comment on the blog, Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter and share what you’ve been cooking and baking. Let’s share our creativity and celebrate wins no matter how small.
Stay home, stay safe, and be kind to each other.
A plate of butterbeer fudge made it on to a local morning show today! Check out leader of the Charlotte Geeks, Joey Starnes, as she shows off goods from many of the vendors you can visit and purchase from at Muggles Market Too, next Saturday and Sunday, March 7th and 8th, at the University Hilton in Charlotte, NC. Click to watch the WBTV Muggles Market Too spot.
Be sure to swing by, say hi, and grab some tasty treats.
These are some of the goodies that will be available for purchase while supplies last. If you’d like to preorder, send an email to CasualConfections@gmail.com. You can pay via invoice or pay day-of in cash. Your order will be ready for you to pick up at the table.
- Assorted Cookies
- Brownie sugar cookies
- Chocolate hazelnut
- Chocolate chip raspberry
- Apple cider sugar cookies
- Chai sugar cookies
- Maple sugar cookies
- Dean’s I Want Pie bars
- Red raspberry
- Butterbeer fudge
Macarons are a tasty sandwich cookie that can be customized in many ways. It’s also a very finicky treat to make. There are many ways these cookies can go wrong, but that’s no reason to avoid trying to bake them. Whether you over mix, under mix, end up with hollows, or little nipples on top of your cookies, your oven may be too hot or cold, the non-slip mats may be better for your oven than parchment paper…you’ll still end up with a tasty cookie and a fancy new recipe under your belt!
There are several different methods to try, too, so if you don’t succeed at first, check out another method that might be easier for you. For my first and second go, I used King Arthur Flour’s recipe. This recipe gives you a nice plain macaron shell to work with. The base recipe is easy to add color and other details to (I added some cinnamon on top of some of mine the second go-round). This ended up being a great first recipe for me, though I do recommend checking out a video or two on YouTube to see someone go through the process. The first time I pipped macarons, I did a swirl instead of a flat pipe and ended up with plenty of air pockets resulting in a hollow cookie (still yummy).
Plain Macaron Shells (via King Arthur Flour)
1 1/2 cups almond flour (sprinkle lightly into a dry measuring cup and level with a straight edge)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
3 large egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 Tbsp + 1 tsp water
Process the almond flour and confectioner’s sugar in a food processor for about 20 seconds (I skip this step). Sift to remove any large pieces and to aerate the mixture (don’t skip this step).
Separate the eggs and put the whites in the bowl you will use to whip them (use whisk attachment). Don’t start whipping yet, but add a pinch of cream of tartar.
Combine the water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until dissolved, then bring to a rapid boil. Boil for about 2 minutes. The temperature should reach 235°F-240°F (I go by temp, not time for this step). Take the syrup off the heat. Immediately start whipping the egg whites using an electric mixer. When they hold a curved peak on the end of the beater, stop, grab the pan of the hot syrup, resume beating, and pour the syrup steadily into the whites as you beat them.
Continue beating until the meringue is smooth, glossy, and forms soft peaks. Remove from mixer.
Fold in the almond flour mixture until everything is evenly combined. Then, start stirring. This will thin the mixture. Stir until the batter runs in ribbons that disappear back into the mass in 10-20 seconds (the batter should be sort of thick, not too runny). Test frequently and stop when you reach this point.
Pipe onto parchment-lined baking sheets. The cookie should flatten out. If it doesn’t spread, stir the batter some more. Cookies can be positioned close together since they don’t spread while baking.
Allow the cookies to rest on the sheets in a dry place with good air circulation (counter top is fine) until you can touch the top and come away with a clean finger (roughly 2 hours).
Toward the end of the baking time, preheat oven to 275°F. Bake 25-30 mins, until firm on top. Remove and let cool completely on the sheet. Use a thin spatula to remove them from the parchment (I’ve been able to lift them easily with my hand). Spread half of the cookies with filling. Top with the remaining cookie.
Chocolate Peppermint Buttercream Filling
This I made up as I went along. I took about a stick of butter and beat it until soft. I added some unsweetened cocoa and mixed until combined. Then, added a splash of milk and mixed again. Then I went back and forth with adding powdered sugar, milk, and cocoa until I got a flavor and consistency I liked for the macarons (not too stiff, not too soft). Add a tiny splash of peppermint extract, mix again, and then you’re ready to go.
Wacky cake is a term I’ve heard for a while now in baking blogs and baking groups. I knew it was a Depression era recipe and that it is a go-to for people with certain dietary restrictions. One of my last bakes in 2019 was my first go at a wacky cake. I had bookmarked a recipe by Kathy P. a while back and dug it up to give it a go. The recipe is originally egg free and dairy free plus she has plenty of recommendations on how to customize the recipe to meet other dietary needs.
For my go, where the recipe calls for oil, I used coconut oil. This added the soy free element to the cake. Note that coconut is sometimes part of a nut allergy and sometimes not. If you need to avoid nuts and soy, go with palm oil instead.
I highly recommend giving this cake a go, even if you aren’t baking for a specific diet. It’s very easy to make, doesn’t require eggs or milk, and, as Kathy P. points out, you can make it in the same pan you bake it in, so there’s very little mess to clean up (see her recipe for the single pan instructions)! And it’s fully of chocolate goodness.
Kathy P.’s Wacky Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp vinegar
5 Tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup water
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Combine the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda) in a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Mix wet ingredients (vinegar, oil, vanilla, water) in a separate bowl and stir to combine. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until you get a smooth batter. Do not beat.
Pour into a greased and floured pan (8″ square, 9″ round, 12 cupcakes)
Note: some wacky cake recipes say that no greasing is required. I placed parchment circles at the bottom of my pans (2 6″ rounds) without greasing or flouring and they came out of the pans fine.
Bake in the oven until it tests as done, about 35 mins for cake, 20 for cupcakes.
The ooey gooey topping of a sticky bun along with the crunch of the pecans is a combination of flavors and textures that is difficult to beat. I decided to try my hand at making my own version this holiday season. As baking goes when you have family around, distractions happen which lead to mistakes, which lead to lessons learned.
This go-round, my misstep was not separating out the butter I needed for the different steps of the buns. Instead, I had all of the butter sitting out to reach room temperature and didn’t section the amounts off as I typically do. Can you see where this is going? When everything was ready, I excitedly started making the dough. When it came time to knead, it was a silky texture but seemed a bit wetter than expected. I was still excited thinking about the soft flaky texture of the rolls. The moment I put the dough into the oven for its first rise, it hit me. I had added all of the butter – the butter for the filling and for the topping as well as that for the dough. Nothing left to do at that point other than see what happens, right?
Since the dough was so buttery, some separation occurred during the rise but folded back in fine during the kneading. Adding more butter for the filling onto the already over-buttered dough had my laughing pretty hard. I love butter, especially on white breads, but this seemed excessive. After rolling and cutting the rolls, I noticed they didn’t fill out the pan as nicely as I’ve seen in photos. Maybe it will change when they go in for their second rise… They kind of did, but there was still room for the topping to rise up instead of it being trapped beneath the dough. That meant that while baking the rolls, much of the topping boiled over the sides and onto the oven. This resulted in quite the mix of amazing smells and burnt smells in the kitchen. In hindsight, I should have tried to bake the rolls longer since they were so moist. I also waited too long to turn the rolls out as the topping mostly stuck to the pan and not the rolls. Nothing some scooping out and plopping on top couldn’t fix.
All said and done, the rolls turned out ok, a bit dense but ok. Now my first attempt at them is done and I learned a lot of what to do and what not to do for next time. These rolls are actually super easy to make (when you pay attention) and I’m really excited to add these to my repertoire.
Maple Pecan Sticky Buns via Sally’s Baking Addiction
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into 4 pieces
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more to flour work surface
Heat milk to about 95ºF. Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a mixer with the dough hook attached. Whisk in the sugar and yeast. Cover with a towel and let rest for 5-10 minutes, until foamy.
On low speed, beat in the softened butter until it is slightly broken up. Then add the eggs one at a time. The butter won’t really mix into the mixtures, so don’t be alarmed.
On low, gradually add the flour. Once it’s all added, beat the mixture on medium high until dough is soft and supple, about 6 mins.
Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead with hands for 1 min. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the dough loosely and let sit in a warm place* for 1-2 hrs, or until doubled in size. (*can heat oven to 200ºF, turn oven off, then place bowl into warm oven)
2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
Grease the bottom and sides of a 9″x13″ baking dish. Spread pecans in an even layer in the pan. Set aside. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the butter has melted, then bring to a boil for 3 mins. Remove from heat and pour on top of the pecans. Set aside.
(back to dough) Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly flour surface and roll it out into a 12″x18″ rectangle. Make sure dough is smooth and even.
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Spread softened butter all over the dough (since the dough is still generating heat, the butter will further soften once placed on the dough, so bits that are harder to spread will spread more easily if they’re let to sit for a minute). Top evenly with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Tightly roll up the dough to form an 18″-long log. Cut the log into 12 even rolls. Arrange them in baking pan. Cover tightly with foil and let rise in a warm environment (could be the same oven) for 30-40 mins.
(remove rising dough from oven but leave it covered) Preheat oven to 375°F. Place uncovered rolls in oven and bake for 25 mins or until golden brown. If some parts are browning more quickly than others, cover the rolls loosely with foil to slow down the browning.
Matcha, also known as green tea, is a hit or miss flavor for many. Some simply do not enjoy it at all. Some may find it too grassy, a common complaint of strong matcha. Others find it quite pleasant. I enjoy weaker matcha flavor, typically when blended with dairy.
Back in late 2017, I began venturing away from American buttercream frosting and trying both Swiss and Italian meringue buttercreams. I came across a recipe for a honey-sweetened SMBC and had some matcha waiting to be baked with. I had to try a matcha roll cake.
Not only did both recipes turn out well, they worked together perfectly. The buttery flavor and smooth texture of the SMBC was a match with the rich matcha. Not only that, but I managed a pretty nice swirl with the cake. This is still one of my personal favorite bakes.
Matcha Swiss Roll (from the Little Epicurean)
1 cup (112 g) cake flour
2 Tbsp (14 g) matcha powder
1 tsp baking powder
5 large eggs separated
3/4 cup (156g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
Preheat oven to 400°F. Like jelly roll pan with parchment. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together cake flour, matcha powder, and baking powder and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, and milk until pale in color.
In another clean bowl, whip egg whites to medium-stiff peaks.
Add dry flour mixture to yolk mixture. Fold to combine. Add whipped egg whites in three additions. Gently fold to incorporate egg whites.
Pour batter into prepared baking sheet. Use offset spatula to spread batter into an even layer. Bake for 8-10 mins until cake springs back to touch. Remove from oven and run a mini offset spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake.
Invert the cake onto a clean kitchen towel. Slowly and gently remove the parchment from the cake. Use the towel to roll the cake into a log. Let the cake rest on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
Once the cake is cooled, unroll the cake. Add generous amounts of filling. Use an offset spatula to spread filling to an even layer.
Use your hands and the towel to gently roll the cake back into a log. Place the seam at the bottom of the cake to prevent it from unraveling. Cover log with plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins to allow the filling to set up. Slice a bit off of each end for a smooth presentation.
Honey Swiss Meringue Buttercream (from Wife Mama Foodie)
Makes 4 cups of SMBC
4 egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cups honey or maple syrup (or half of each)
1 3/4 cups butter, softened
3 tsp vanilla extract (I only needed 1 tsp for flavor)
Notes: Make sure your bowls are very clean. Do not get yolks in the egg whites.
Combine sweeteners (honey/syrup) and egg whites together in a heat-safe bowl (top part of a double-boiler). Place it over a pot of boiling water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Heat for 4-5 mins or until the thermometer reads 150-160°F, stirring often. If your mixture ends up lumpy, strain it before beating.
Use whisk attachment on a stand mixer and begin beating the egg mixture on high speed until it is thoroughly cooled, fluffy, and holds its shape well (beat to stiff peaks, can take 8-15 mins, mine took less time).
Switch to the paddles attachment and begin adding butter little by little (I sliced my butter and added 1 Tbsp at a time). The mixture can become curdled (it did), but it will come back together after you beat it for several minutes (it did). Turn the mixer to high speed and beat for several minutes to incorporate lots of air and make the buttercream fluffy. When it is nice and fluffy, mix in the vanilla. If your buttercream is warm, stick it in the fridge for 30-60 mins and then beat again for a few minutes. Use right away or store in an airtight container in the fridge.
*see original posted recipe for instructions on using arrowroot or cornstarch to lighten the SMBC
If you follow Casual Confections on social media, you’ve seen a lot of chatter leading up to the Muggles Market and Geek Gala which both took place last Saturday. Both events were a huge success!
Want to try your hand at making any of the goodies Casual Confections sold or donated to the events? Go for it! These are the recipes I started with and tweaked to end up with the current versions on my menu:
- Cookie Cat Cookies
- Butterbeer fudge (gluten free)
- Dean’s I-Want-Pie Bars (gluten free, vegan)
- Zuul Slime Cake
- Strawberry Shortcake-ish Cake
- Cake – yellow box cake mix
- Topping – same fluff recipe as above, just add ground freeze dried strawberries, strawberry flavor oil, or strawberry Jell-O mix in place of the vanilla extract. Start with a small amount and add more to taste. Sprinkle with ground freeze dried strawberries.
I was on the hunt for a tasty chocolate sugar cookie that didn’t spread when baked, didn’t need to be chilled for 2 hours, and could be handled well as a cutout. After looking over several recipes, one from Smitten Kitchen was recommended. After reading the blog post description of the cookies, how to work with the dough, and comments from others who have experimented with it, I decided to give it a go. This recipe is amazing! Some people have used it for hamantaschen and ice cream sandwiches. The chocolate flavor is so rich that it would make for a great s’more cookie or any sandwich cookie (raspberry filling anyone?)! I’m using this recipe to make Cookie Cat sandwich cookies which will include strawberry and vanilla marshmallow creme in the middle. Yum! The Cookie Cat cookies will be available for purchase at the Muggles Market in Charlotte, North Carolina, on November 2nd! I’ll have a post up about how to make the cookies later that month.
The dough is soft, which is why there is a recommended time for chilling it, but it is totally workable whether at room temp or having been chilled. So use it right away or make the dough and store it away to bake later.
Brownie Roll-out Cookies via Smitten Kitchen
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup lightly salted butter, softened (use 1 stick salted, 1 stick unsalted to achieve lightly salted) *as usual, I used unsalted butter since I bake without salt by choice
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Whisk dry flour and baking powder in a bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cocoa in a mixer (can do it all at once, just start the mixer on low speed until the wet and dry ingredients are mixed a bit so they don’t fly out. Then raise the speed to medium). Gradually add flour mixture and mix until smooth. Cover the bowl in plastic and chill for at least an hour (some bakers do 15 mins while they clean everything else up, I’ve done as few as 10 mins and as much as an hour).
Roll out chilled dough on floured counter (use flour or cocoa powder). Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra flour off (can do with a dry or slightly wet finger). Bake on a parchment-lined sheet for 8-11 mins (former for 1/8″ cookies, latter for 1/4″ cookies) until edges are firm and centers are slightly soft and puffed. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Carrot cake fans rejoice! Now you can satisfy your craving for that moist, chewy goodness without needing to invest in an entire cake! The cookies can be made as drop cookies or by using a whoopie pie baking sheet (my favorite method for stackable cookies). This recipe includes an easy cream cheese filling. You can also add cream cheese to your favorite buttercream (for this experiment, I used the Italian meringue buttercream recipe from the carrot cake bake and added a portion of cream cheese to it). This recipe does require some refrigeration but comes together very quickly and easily.
Carrot Cake Cookies via Celebrating Sweets
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened slightly
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
2/3 cup finely grated (using the small holes on the grater) carrots (not carrots that are packed in water) – this is the equivalent of half a large carrot or 2-3 medium to small carrots. To measure, place grated carrots loosely into the measuring cup.
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or grease two whoopie pie sheets). Placing cookies on an unlined sheet will result in them spreading too much.
Beat butter and sugars for 1-2 minutes until light and creamy. Add egg and vanilla and best to combine, scraping the bowl if necessary.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low until just combined. Add the oats, coconut, carrots, and walnuts. Mix until just combined.
Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Remove the dough from the fridge and scoop the dough evenly into 2 tsp-sized mounds and place a couple of inches apart on the cookie sheets (make sure they are mounded and not flat). For the whoopie pie sheets method, place enough dough in each well to provide a not too thick but not too thin layer on the bottom. Press to flatten/smooth out slightly, but do not press completely flat. You want the cookies to be similar in size since you are sandwiching them. They do not need to be perfect matches, but you don’t want a tiny cookie and a cookie double its size as a match.
Make for 9-11 minutes, until golden brown and still slightly soft in the center. Rotate your cookie sheets halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Cool the cookies completely on the baking sheet. If you try to move them too soon, they’ll fall apart. Once cool, place the cookies in the refrigerator to firm up a little while you prepare the frosting (this step is optional). If using whoopie pie sheets, gently and slowly twist the cooled cookies so that they loosen in one piece before gently lifting them out of the well.
Cream Cheese frosting:
4 oz cream cheese, softend
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus more if needed
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Beat cream cheese and butter for several minutes, until combined. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Beat for a couple more minutes until smooth and creamy. If the frosting appears too thin, add a little more powdered sugar or place it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to slightly firm up.
Spread frosting on the underside half of the cookies and top with another cookie (if I use the whoopie pie tin, I put the icing on the top of the cookie so that you hold on to the flat sides). These cookies are best within 1-2 days of making them. Store them in the refrigerator and eat them from the fridge or bring them to room temperature before serving.
Package of carrot cake sandwich cookies
Carrot cake cookies are everything you love about the dessert, down to the cream cheese filling, but in a snack portion!
Two boxes (update: Only one left!) of six carrot cake cookies are available for purchase today! $15/box + tax.
Local pick up only (Charlotte/Matthews, NC).