The Annual Nutcracker Sweets Dessert Party

We held our annual 'Nutcracker Sweets' Dessert Party this weekend to celebrate the end of the holiday season in style (and with a sugar coma!).  Twenty-three nutcrackers collected over the years and arranged on and around a gold and cream paper mâché drum stood watch over a table laden ... and I mean that in the best possible way ... with 15 desserts representing at least 12 pounds of butter, 16 pounds of sugar, 8 pounds of confectioners sugar and untold amounts of cream, chocolate, and eggs ... a cardiologists nightmare, but what a way to go!  Above is one tower of sweets including the BEST raspberry crumble bars (recipe from the FLOUR bakery cookbook), incredibly addictive Lemon Ricotta cookies which, miraculously, I was able to hide from my son long enough to get on the table, and these sinfully rich Sea Salt Caramel Brownies.

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2016-01-02 19.22.39
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2016-01-02 19.21.52
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Mini toffee cheesecakes - a perennial favorite topped with homemade caramel, whipped cream and a sprinkling of crunchy toffee bits

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2016-01-02 19.23.15

Almond scented white cake with raspberry filling and topping, finished with almond flavored cream cheese frosting, another favorite that has become a permanent fixture on the party menu

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2016-01-02 19.23.06

A new offering this year inspired by one of my favorite cookie flavors - Snickerdoodle Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream frosting.  While I have never met a buttercream frosting I didn't like (I am personally lobbying for frosting to be included as one of the four major food groups), this one containing vanilla and cinnamon alongside 4 1/2 sticks of butter and 9 cups of sugar (?!) is incredible!  I think this may make a return visit in the form of mini cupcakes next year...preserving the spectacular flavors in a less daunting package!

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2016-01-02 19.22.59

Adorable AND delicious gingerbread containing pieces of crystallized ginger and baked in mini gingerbread house molds.  A sprinkling of non-melting powdered sugar (available from King Arthur Baking Co.) gives them a snow dusted look that doesn't absorb and disappear into the moist cakes as the evening wears on.  

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2016-01-02 19.22.53

Another favorite recipe; lemon cake - not as dramatic as some of the showy cakes, but refreshing in its lemony moist deliciousness as the cake is infused with lemon-sugar syrup hot out of the oven

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2016-01-02 19.22.48

For the casual chocoholic, we always offer our favorite chocolate mousse recipe in some manner - this year it appeared both in demitasse cups and in these Belgian chocolate shells topped with fresh whipped cream and chocolate filigree decorations ... the shells and filigree are available seasonally online  through Gourmet Finales Dessert Emporium.

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2016-01-02 19.22.32

The table would not be complete without this Chocolate Coconut Almond Tart which tastes exactly like a very grown up Almond Joy bar

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2016-01-02 19.22.23

A relative newcomer (the last 4 or 5 years), Creme Caramel is now another favorite that we would be remiss to leave out.  The smooth and creamy texture is a perfect contrast to the cakes and cookies...and, serendipitously, it is a great gluten-free option

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2016-01-02 19.22.18

A brand new recipe this year - A Tiramisu recipe from Mary Berry, one of the judges on the British reality TV show, The Great British Bake-off which we binge-watched during the baking week of party prep!  Sadly, I broke the chocolate decoration trying to stand it on the cake, so alas it is flat instead...maybe next year we'll get the decoration right, but the taste was delicious

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2016-01-02 19.22.11

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese frosting is an absolute must.  My kids have requested this cake for birthdays for as long as I can remember and I have baked it many, many times over the years as cake, and as mini-cupcakes for a variety of occasions!  The basketweave frosting application only appears once a year for this party, though!

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2016-01-02 19.22.05

This Espresso White Chocolate Macadamia Bark candy pulled double duty this year in gift baskets as well as on the party table.  It is such an unbeatable combination of salty and sweet

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2016-01-02 19.21.57

German Chocolate Cake is another recent addition to the line-up and I keep trying out different frosting options ... this year a classic chocolate buttercream.  Personally, I think a mocha buttercream would be the perfect combination, but I don't dare to mess with tradition yet where German Chocolate cake is concerned ... maybe next year I will be braver

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2016-01-02 19.24.29

Beverages arranged on the sideboard included Asti Spumanti, Sparkling Cider, and Ice Water...along with Tea and Decaf Coffee. My teacup collection works out beautifully for parties as everyone has a unique cup so there is no confusion as to who's beverage is who's. These 5 tier teacup stands are both pretty and practical both in the china cabinet and in use!

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2016-01-02 19.24.34

Chocolate dipped stirring spoons for those who need a bit of chocolate with their coffee ... easy to make and a festive addition displayed in a blue willow teapot

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2016-01-02 19.23.43

For a respite from the sugar, we always offer a cheese and savory snack table.  This included hot artichoke dip, mozzarella/tomato/basil Caprese skewers with a drizzle of balsamic creme, and a wonderful savory roasted red pepper cheesecake topped with apricot jam glaze and served with pita chips.  We also discovered the wonders of Great Hill Blue Cheese (a hunk of locally made creamy deliciousness) served with a drizzle of honey from the hives of a friend in a neighboring town on table water crackers ...just yuuumm!

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2016-01-02 20.31.47
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2016-01-02 20.32.07

Feeding friends and family is a wonderful and rewarding way to start the new year

A look at a few behind-the-scenes moments ...

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2015-12-26 12.46.05

The newest addition to the kitchen appliance line-up ... Xmas this year upgraded me from my 24 year old 4.5 qt Kitchen Aid to this 7qt pro model affectionately nicknamed "the beast"; suffice it to say it got a great workout in it's first week home!

German chocolate filling ready for duty and sea salt caramel brownies getting their sprinkling of sea salt flakes on the warm caramel drizzle

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2016-01-01 17.02.09
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2016-01-01 16.45.55

Gingerbread cooling and a ring of frosting keeps the raspberry topping going on top of the cake while it is setting ... rosettes of frosting and fresh raspberries will be added as a finishing touch

The deliciousness that is espresso white chocolate macadamia bark.  Messy but deceptively simple to make

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2015-12-21 16.58.41
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2015-12-23 11.56.36

Half sheet trays of raspberry bars cooling ... cutting them with a pizza wheel turned out to be a stroke of genius ... the cook's family gets to taste test the edges...just to make sure, you know, that they are good!

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2015-12-19 16.47.27
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2015-12-19 16.45.11

Half sheets of lemon ricotta cookies all frosted and waiting to be packed in tins.  There were quite a few that didn't make it to said tins as they are addictive and ... the cooks family ...'nuf said.

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2016-01-01 16.59.56

I posted this on facebook with the caption "I think I need a bigger fridge".  There were a number of offers from friends who claimed to have plenty of fridge space ... hmmmm.

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Final touches ... lighting the votive candles just before the crowd descends!

Happy New Year!  

Wishing you a Beautiful and Bountiful 2016!