February 2016 archive

the best oscars snacks

The Academy Awards ceremony is tonight – the most glamorous red carpet night of the year. The best thing about the Oscars besides the red carpet?  The snacks.  I compiled snacks to match some of the Oscar-nominated movies so your viewing party snacks can be Oscar-worthy too.

Nominated for Best Animated Film: Inside Out – Roasted cauliflower broccoli stuffed potatoes with cheesy butternut sauce.


Inside Out is one of the Oscar nominated films I actually saw this year.  Does that make me a child?  If so, I have no problems with it.  In the Disney movie, personified emotions show how a young girl thinks and reacts to situations.  One of the emotions, Disgust, commonly groans at the sight of broccoli in any form.  While Disgust may hate broccoli, I don’t think even she could turn down this Roasted Broccoli Stuffed Potato with Cheesy Butternut Sauce from How Sweet Eats.

Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Directing, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Screenplay: Spotlight – Clam chowder and boozy Boston cream brownies

Boston-Cream-Brownies-broma bakery


Spotlight takes place in Boston, so naturally we have to throw in the classic Clam Chowder from Foodie Crush, or clam chowda, if you are from the area.  If you are looking to make this an appetizer for your viewing party, pour the soup into ramekins or large/double shot glasses.  Crumble some oyster crackers and crispy bacon on there and you have an instant hors d’oeuvre.  And we can’t have a party without dessert, and what better dessert to represent Boston than a twist on the classic Boston cream pie with Broma Bakery’s Boozy Boston Cream Brownies.

Nominated for 12 awards, including Best Picture, Best Leading Actor and Best Supporting Actor: The Revenant – Bear claws

hazelnut-praline-bear-claws-twigg studios

Will this be the year that poor Leo finally takes home a golden statue?  Just maybe?  With 12 nominations, I’m a bit upset that I never saw this one.  At least now I have an excuse to watch it later.  The film is set in the wilderness and during the movie, Leo’s character is mauled by a grizzly bear.  These versions of bear claws aren’t nearly as sharp, but are way tastier.  I really want to try Twigg Studio’s Hazelnut Praline Bear Claws and the classic version from Serious Eats.  If you are looking to simplify this recipe, just use store-bought puff pastry!  Delicious results, much less fuss.

Another multiple category nominee, with nominations in Best Picture and Best Actor, among others: The Martian – Sweet potato chips

Crisp and crunchy sweet potato and beet chips | Pass the Cookies

As you can tell by the title, this movie is about an astronaut living on Mars after being stranded by his shuttle.  The astronaut, played by Matt Damon, attempts to survive by growing potatoes.  To make our potatoes a bit better than Martian potatoes, whip out some Sweet Potato Chips from last week’s recipe.  So easy to make, and they are even a similar color to the planet Mars!

Nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Costume Design, and Best Production Design: Danish Girl – Danish pastry braid

Apple-Cream-Cheese-Danish-Braid-no spoon necessary 2

It only seems right to complement the film title, The Danish Girl with Danish pastries.  I was surprised to learn that Danishes are not just an American pastry named after the Danes, but actually came from Denmark, where they are a specialty.  We can have delicious Danish pastries without a trip to Denmark with this Blueberries and Cream Danish Braid and this Apple Cinnamon Pecan Streusel Danish Braid.  They look so delicious!  Again, if you are in a bind and want to cut some corners, use puff pastry dough instead of making your own. No judgement.  If you want to change up the flavor, switch out the fruit inside and you have a new pastry!  I think raspberry would be delicious.

Another Best Picture nominee, it also earned nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Adapted Screenplay: Brooklyn – Black and White Cookie


While this movie is about an Irish woman, and Irish man, and an Italian man, it takes place in the melting pot that is Brooklyn, so it is only fitting to have an iconic New York treat: the Black and White Cookie. These cake-like cookies are well known New York snacks and would be great for a party.  If you aren’t into the texture of black and whites, make circular sugar cookies and ice them half and half with chocolate and vanilla frosting.  You can’t go wrong!

Up for Best Original Score, Best Special Effects, and a handful of other film editing awards: Star Wars – Princess Leia Buns

speed-folding-nutella-buns lady and pupsMy perspective might be skewed from living with a huge Star Wars fan, but it seemed like Star Wars had the most hype out of all of the movies that came out this year.  Merchandise was everywhere and Star Wars was on everything from t-shirts to cereal bowls (we have both in our house).  There are some cute Star Wars snacks in a quick Google search, but I think these Easy Laminated Nutella Morning Buns from Lady and Pups are the most delicious, and bonus, they match Leia’s hair style and color :)  I have had this recipe bookmarked since she published it and haven’t had a chance to make it yet.  I’m thinking this is a good opportunity.  May the force be with you!

popcorn how sweet eats

And all movies at home or at the theater deserve some popcorn.  Whip up a batch of regular salted popcorn, and try a few of these sweet and savory twists on the classic. Sweet and spicy popcorn, brown sugar sriracha sesame popcorn, spiked maple bacon popcorn, Nutella puppy chow popcorn, caramel corn, funfetti birthday cake popcorn


All photos are from the websites with linked recipes.

link love

link love 2.27.16


Welcome to the weekend, friends!  I hope it is good to you.

This week, the internet reminded us that there are lots of reasons to feel happy when you are having a bad day.  Love love love so many of these.

With so many primaries coming up, here is a guide for you to feel informed during the democratic process.  Impress your friends and colleagues with your knowledge about the candidates, the questions and the schedule after a quick read.

The Oscars are tomorrow night – are you and your snacks ready?  Have you already filled out your ballot?  I was a very poor movie goer this year and still have only seen a few of the nominated films, but I’m excited to see all of the red carpet scenes and clips from movies I haven’t seen!

Unrelated, but isn’t this cereal bowl cake awesome?!  Look away, Will, I know what I’m making for a certain cereal-lover’s birthday this year.

Also, Adele is amazing.  Ellen is hilarious.  Put them together and it you get an amazingly hilarious clip of Ellen in Adele’s ear.  So good, so funny.

Enjoy some link love and have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

haircuts: a rocky relationship and inspiration

As you can see from the title of this post, I have a love-hate relationship with haircuts.  I love when my hair feels healthy and is beautifully styled after a fresh haircut, but for the past few years I have dreaded getting my hair cut.  I had a great hair stylist in high school, and even went back to that salon for my wedding hair, but I never found a hair salon I liked in college when I was away from home. This problem trickled into post-graduate life.  Whenever I needed a haircut in college I would wait until I was going home for the weekend or for a break and get my hair cut at my regular, beloved salon back home.  That was a fine solution, except that I didn’t get my hair cut nearly as often as I should, and it only prolonged and exacerbated the problem of not finding anyone local to cut my hair.

BR post 1

This photo was taken before my last haircut^

I wanted to get a haircut before Easter rolled around last year, and decided it was finally time to find someone more local.  As much as I loved my Raleigh hairstylist, I just didn’t have time to make the 45 minute to an hour trek in the middle of rush hour traffic to get a haircut before the salon closed, so I tried my luck at a new-to-me place nearby.  It was terrible.  The girl who was cutting my hair had only been at the salon for a few days and, while she seemed to know what she was doing, she was extremely slow at it.  I told her that I wanted a good amount cut off (I hadn’t had my hair cut in a while) and she questioned me the whole time.  She cut off less than I asked for, and when I asked her if she could cut it a bit shorter she said she really didn’t have time; she had another customer waiting and didn’t realize how long my all-one-length long-bob haircut would take, so she asked me to go home, see how I liked it, and come back if I wanted to have her cut off more.  I didn’t have time to make my haircut a two-night ordeal, and needless to say, I didn’t return.

Easter 5

This photo was taken after my last haircut^

Since then I have been so wary about trying a new salon, with the fear of having a bad experience again. But, after a while, hair grows to be too long, split ends form, and haircuts are necessary.  I scheduled a haircut for this week and realized that I wasn’t sure what kind of haircut I wanted, I just knew I wanted a change.  In the process of preparing for my haircut, I gathered some inspiration from celebrities.  I ended up loving my hair stylist and my new cut this time and am so glad to, after 6 years in this town, FINALLY have a local hairstylist again.  I gathered my inspiration photos and my final result below :)

Haircut inspiration

Haircut inspiration

Haircut inspiration

Haircut inspiration

Haircut inspiration
Haircut inspiration


Haircut inspirationvia

And the new haircut reveal with some windblown shameless selfies!:

New Haircut!

New Haircut!



All celebrity photos via Pinterest and Google Images

sweet potato and beet chips

Sweet potato and beet chips, sweet potato and beet chips – I can’t get enough!  Until a few years ago I had never tried beets.  We never had them at home and I saw them on salad bars but never branched out to try them.  The first encounter I had with the brightly colored vegetable was at the Whole Foods salad bar, where shredded beets are a staple item.

Crisp and crunchy sweet potato and beet chips | Pass the Cookies

My dad always built his salads with lots of toppings, “gravel” as he calls it, including beets. When I looked over and saw him spooning them onto his greens, I figured it was a better time than any to try them, since I could sit them to the side without offending anyone if I didn’t like them. Revelation! Beets are so good! They are soft and sweet and their color permeates everything. Even better than raw beets? Beet chips blanketed in salt and rosemary. To make our snack even more colorful we throw some sweet potatoes in the mix.  Is it weird to have a favorite root vegetable?  Mine is definitely the sweet potato, all the way (a fact backed up by Thanksgiving dinner).  They say eat colorfully ;)

Crisp and crunchy sweet potato and beet chips | Pass the Cookies

Crisp and crunchy sweet potato and beet chips | Pass the Cookies

These chips get super crisp and crunchy when the vegetables are cut as thin as possible.  And use sea salt.  You won’t regret it.  When I tested these I made the full recipe of beet chips and half of the sweet potato recipe and Will and I went through all of them within one hour of them coming out of the oven.  I love the crunchy, wavy edges, the concentric circles in the beet chips, and the way the colorful chips contrast in the bowl.  It is the perfect snack for a dreary, colorless winter day.

Crisp and crunchy sweet potato and beet chips | Pass the Cookies

I just want to reach into the screen now and grab a handful. These are delicious paired with warm goat cheese and herbs, or a Mediterranean flavored dip.  Got some hummus on hand?  Dig in!  We ate them so quickly we didn’t even get a chance to pull out any dips and they were still so flavorful.  And, with just veggies, spices and olive oil, they are healthy chips!  Chips you can feel good about when you eat all of them in an hour.  Hypothetically.  Just look at those edges. Healthy edges.

Crisp and crunchy sweet potato and beet chips | Pass the Cookies

Thank you Whole Foods, for my love of beets, and thank you North Carolina for your number one status in sweet potato consumption.  Let’s make some more!

Sweet Potato and Beet Chips

Beet Chips
3 beets, peeled
2-2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon rosemary
Sea salt, to taste

Sweet Potato Chips
2 large sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons rosemary
Sea salt, to taste
½ teaspoon paprika, optional
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a few baking sheets with aluminum foil, place a wire rack on each baking sheet, and spray the wire rack with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Using a mandolin or a sharp knife cut the beets and sweet potatoes into very thin slices. The slices should be smaller than 1/8-inch to create a crunchy chip. Put the slices into a large plastic bag or a large bowl and toss with the olive oil. You want all of the slices to be covered but not drenched; otherwise your chips are more likely to end up soft and not crisp. Mix in the rosemary and spices, if using, except salt. Toss the vegetables to coat evenly.

Place the beet and sweet potato slices on the prepared wire racks in one layer. Try not to overlap the slices – they won’t get crispy. You will probably have more vegetable slices than you have room for on the racks. Set them aside to rotate in after one pan is done. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the sheets, and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the edges are crisp and getting darker. Remove the baking sheets and sprinkle the chips with sea salt. Let them sit to cool completely. They will get crisp as they cool. Serve chips on their own or with dip.

Crisp and crunchy sweet potato and beet chips | Pass the Cookies

link love

We are back on track with the regular link love schedule! Last week I switched a recipe with link love in order to get you a chocolate fix before Valentine’s Day, which gives us two link loves in one week, but now we are back on schedule!

link love 2.19.2016

via Pinterest

 This week felt so strange.  We had a “snow day” on Monday (snow day is in quotes because it was more sleet and ice than anything else and mostly melted within 24 hours) and I worked from home, which was great, but I think it threw off my perception of the days for the rest of the week.  It was one of those weeks where Wednesday didn’t feel like a Wednesday, but it also didn’t feel like a Tuesday, and Thursday didn’t feel like a Thursday, but it didn’t feel like a Friday either.  Ambiguous days, we shall call them.  But today is actually Friday (I checked), which means it is almost the weekend, and the weekend could use some link love.

Since the New York Fashion Week finale was yesterday, this seems like an interesting and relevant post on the intersection of PR, influencers, and fashion.

In addition to potential presidential candidates, the political update for the week is the death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia and his replacement on the court.  As usual, there is some conflict amidst the situation.

The Oscars are coming up in a few week and, in case you haven’t heard, there isn’t much diversity in the nominations.  Zero diversity.  The issue has been buzzing around the internet since the nominations were released, and there was an interesting conversation about it on the Diane Rehm show yesterday.

Speaking of racial issues, Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime show was not just about soul food, she was talking about culture, her Southern black identity, Jim Crow and the treatment of African Americans in the past and today.  She’s got that and hot sauce, what do you have in your bag?

Speaking of food, if you have ever traveled overseas, you may have noticed that the fruits and vegetables often taste better.  Maybe you thought they were more flavorful and less watery.  You were right.  We could have our fruits and veggies taste that good, but, in general, Americans value longevity over flavor.  Makes you want to take a trip to the farmers’ market, doesn’t it? 

I stumbled upon this article this week that was intriguing and captivating.  In it, the author details how she created new (major) habits throughout the year that allowed her to become a morning person, read more books, and learn basic French. Just accomplishing one of those sounds good to me. 

And last, but not least, I will leave you with this quote from the creator of Style Me Pretty:

“Breathe, my friend. You are not old, you are young. You are not a mess, you are normal. Extraordinary, perhaps. In the blink of an eye your life will change. And it will continue to change for decades to come. Enjoy it, embrace it…be grateful for the ride. You are not old, you are young. And faith will get you everywhere. Just you wait.” – Abby Larson, founder of Style Me Pretty

It’s almost the weekend, friends.  Let’s soak it in.

<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/14317519/?claim=gfdt3976a64″>Follow along with Bloglovin</a>

love over rivalry: unc vs duke

Happy rivalry day! (or UNC vs. Duke basketball game day!)

With a Duke grad and a UNC grad under one roof, Will and I very much have a house divided.  Until last year, our first spring of marriage, we had never watched a Duke-UNC basketball game together.  Neither of us likes losing to the rival team (who does?), and we definitely have to make a conscious effort to be calm and nice to the other team throughout the game, but that doesn’t necessarily come easy.  Two days a year we sit together, in our respective university colors, cheering on opposite teams, and today is one of those days. May love win over rivalry in this Woodhouse divided ;)


Will and I both grew up watching ACC basketball, and both regularly watched and attended games throughout college (though Will was a bit more passionate and rowdy than I).  Last year around this time we were featured in an article about Duke-UNC couples and the rivalry we endure together.  Since then we have experienced 4 rivalry football games, 2 rivalry basketball games and a Duke basketball national championship and lived to tell the tale.  I choose not to tell the tale of either of those 2015 basketball games.

To say Will was a very involved Cameron Crazy would be the understatement of the year.  If I am his first love, Duke basketball is his second.  He camped out for months to get into the UNC game, painted up, and wore a Duke blue suit to most games.  He was always shown on ESPN during Duke games, appeared in a few newspapers and even in a spread in Sports Illustrated.  Passionate? Yes.  Crazy? Yes.  But, they don’t call them Cameron Crazies for nothing.  Below are some of the photos from Will’s time in Cameron, can you spot him? (Hint: left corner; behind the player with face paint; center; left corner)

Will bball 7

Will bball 4

Will bball 1And a true depiction of love over rivalry – I made a Duke needlepoint belt for Will for his birthday while we were in college.  The belt spells out the Duke fight song and his initials in the classic gothic Duke lettering.  It was certainly a labor of love.  I worked on a little bit each night and a lot on car trips.  The only time I didn’t work on it in front of the TV?  During the Duke-UNC basketball game. ;)

Will bball 6My basketball experience at UNC wasn’t quite as crazy and full as Will’s experience at Duke.  At a bigger school, it could sometimes be hard to get into games, but my friends and I went to the games we could and cheered on the team from our dorm when we couldn’t.  While I was not nearly as TV famous as Will, I still made a point to paint up, stand in the bleachers and rush Franklin Street after a UNC victory over Duke.  Basketball games were such fun moments in both of our college careers and we will always tune in for this rivalry game above all others.  All we can do now is cheer and remember that love is stronger than rivalry.  Right?  We hope so.  Go Heels! :)

Rushing Franklin Street after a win over Duke!

Hope bball 5 Hope bball 4 Hope bball 3

All of these photos are from social media – thanks to all of the photographers!


link love

Since I posted a recipe on Friday instead of Sunday, to make sure you had enough time to make some chocolatey goodness for your Valentine, we missed out on last week’s link love.  Not to worry, here is some good ‘ol link love to brighten the beginning of your week.

link love 2.15.2016


Since it is President’s Day, let’s start off with a presidential cheese board.  You know, the usual.   These bloggers did a bit of research on favorite foods of past presidents and came up with a cheese board to represent the history lesson.  As an American history and food lover, I can’t get enough of this post.

While we are on the topic of President’s Day, pop over to this article on gifts presented to the president by foreign dignitaries.  A bit of the history lover comes out in me with this article too.  I’ll take the Resolute desk over 300 pounds of raw lamb, thank you.

Millennials spend more on going out to eat than any generation has in the past, and because of social media and high expectations, restaurants have adapted.  From food trucks to Edison bulbs, the emphasis on delicious dinners in today’s foodie culture has changed how and where restaurants cook and present their foods.

I visited this blog post expecting a few photos from a foreign trip and not much more to the post.  I was wrong.  Each of the many photos is amazing and the whole post lights a fire in my wanderlusting heart.  Iceland seems a bit cold right now, but maybe someday?

Have you seen the new emojis that are slated to come out later this year?  Some of them look a bit strange, some of them are hilarious and some of them are a long time coming (looking at you, avocado).  I think my favorites in the new group are facepalm, selfie, pancakes and cartwheel girl.  Mainly, I’m just excited to have more opportunities to unnecessarily use emojis ;)

On that note, I learned from this article that I am definitely not as good at Snapchat as I thought I was.  I honestly didn’t think I was great, but didn’t know how terrible I was at it.  It is entertaining and makes it easier to keep up with people, but I would never want to waste as much time on it as these teens.  I did alway wonder about how people included longer text,   and did you know you can make your own filter?!  The things we learn from teens.

dense chocolate loaf cake

What would happen if a brownie and a loaf cake married? This perfectly fudgy, dark, dense chocolate loaf cake would happen.

With a fudgy center, this delicious dense chocolate loaf cake is the perfect dessert for Valentine's Day.

This loaf is no-nonsense and perfect for Valentine’s Day with a significant other, with friends, or by your onsie (no judgment zone here). Valentine’s Day is so much more controversial than I think it should be. I love the little tokens of love my parents gave me growing up, the Valentine’s sugar cookie and tea parties we attended, the care packages my mom sent in college, the cards my friends and I send, and the flowers and chocolate desserts that come with the day, but I could care less about a fancy restaurant or gifts.

With a fudgy center, this delicious dense chocolate loaf cake is the perfect dessert for Valentine's Day.

With a fudgy center, this delicious dense chocolate loaf cake is the perfect dessert for Valentine's Day.

Last year Will and I had an indoor lunch picnic, a coffee date and cooked a nice dinner together, which was perfect. We didn’t have to deal with making reservations anywhere or stressing over gifts for each other, but we still had a great time. No matter your feelings on Valentine’s Day, can we all agree that it is a great excuse to eat chocolate? Or maybe bake this chocolate loaf cake? I think so.

With a fudgy center, this delicious dense chocolate loaf cake is the perfect dessert for Valentine's Day.

With a fudgy center, this delicious dense chocolate loaf cake is the perfect dessert for Valentine's Day.

This dense chocolate loaf cake is filled with flavor and depth from the chocolate, coffee and dark brown sugar. The brown sugar balances out the bittersweet chocolate, giving it the perfect sweetness without being cloyingly sweet. The center of the cake sinks – and it should. The sinking center creates a gooey, fudgy topping reminiscent of slightly cooked brownie batter. The cake that surrounds the center is soft and dense but delicate at the same time.

With a fudgy center, this delicious dense chocolate loaf cake is the perfect dessert for Valentine's Day.

This cake is easy, delicious, comforting and looks fancy when paired with whipped cream and raspberries; it is the perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day. Bake your feelings in chocolate loaf cake form and serve a slice of love!

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake
1 cup butter, softened
1 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 ounces bittersweet or dark chocolate
1 1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly brewed hot coffee
½ cup boiling water

Heat the oven to 375°F. Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on both sides.

In a double boiler over medium-high heat, melt the bittersweet chocolate, and then set aside until slightly cooled.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl, and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until combined, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating them in well. Add the slightly cooled chocolate, mixing well, but being careful not to overmix.

Add the flour, alternately spoon by spoon, with the boiling water and coffee until you have a smooth and liquidy batter. I added the water first, then the coffee to make sure it had the right amount of coffee flavor. If you want less of a coffee flavor, just replace coffee with the same amount of boiling water.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, place a sheet pan in the oven under the loaf pan (in case the bread overflows – mine didn’t, but it’s always good to be safe) and bake the bread for 30 minutes. Lower the oven to 325 degrees and continue to bake for another 12-15 minutes. The cake will still be very moist inside, so an inserted cake tester won’t come out clean.

Move the loaf pan to a wire rack, and let cool before taking it out of the pan and the parchment. The cake will sink in the middle – that is just the way of the cake. You can serve it once the loaf has cooled, or wait a day and let the flavor develop a bit, and then serve.


Adapted from Nigella Lawson.

oriental rug roundup

Recently I have been on an interior decor Pinterest kick.  After living in our small space for a year and a half, without much room for redecorating, I love finding images of beautiful homes filled with ideas to use in the future.  I can’t wait until we can implement some of these ideas in our own place, but for now, gathered pictures on the internet will do.

beautiful oriental rugs always make a room better

As I was looking through my decor pins recently, I noticed a trend that carried throughout different rooms: the oriental rug.  Persian, Turkish, woven, Kilim, I love them all!  I have gathered a few of my favorite rug pins here for a little inspiration.  I love how well they pair with whites, woods, golds and pops of color (like the teal wall toward the bottom).  Growing up, we always had an oriental rug in the kitchen and now my mom has a few throughout the house.  The rugs are fairly similar, but they give a different feeling to each room.  Will and I now have a beautiful oriental rug in one corner of our apartment that was a flea market find by my mom.  It is fairly hidden by the desk and bookshelf in our small space- I can’t wait to showcase it in a more open area in our next home.


king cake cinnamon buns

It was a sad ending to the weekend and the Super Bowl with a Panthers loss. Fortunately, we have Mardi Gras and these individual king cake cinnamon buns to look forward to on Tuesday!

Celebrate Mardi Gras with delicious king cake cinnamon buns!

Celebrate Mardi Gras with delicious king cake cinnamon buns!

I have never been to New Orleans, but it is on my list of places to visit, and hopefully sometime soon.  All through middle school, high school and one semester of college I took French.  In addition to the language and grammar, my teachers always did a good job of teaching us about the culture of France, French colonies, and French cultures around the world.  We learned about the French rule of New Orleans and the French culture that still remains a huge part of the city, and each spring our high school French club would plan a Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” party, complete with king cake.  I don’t know where the king cake came from but one of the class moms would contribute one to our celebration.

Celebrate Mardi Gras with delicious king cake cinnamon buns!

The cakes of my French club days were always dry and only had a tiny bit of flavor between the thick layers of arid bread.  The colored sugar was fun, but could get messy quickly with lots of high schoolers reaching for their slice.  While the traditional king cake incorporates more lemon, I decided to recreate king cake as I imagine it should be, with doughy brioche-like sweet bread, layers of cinnamon and almond paste, a creamy glaze and a festive marzipan braid to top it all off!

Celebrate Mardi Gras with delicious king cake cinnamon buns!

Celebrate Mardi Gras with delicious king cake cinnamon buns!

Now here I am telling you I have never been to New Orleans but you should make these baby king cake cinnamon buns, what kind of hypocrisy is that?  I know, I know, but I did retain a bit of my French club knowledge about the holiday, so maybe I can use that to up my king cake cred?  King cakes are said to represent the Epiphany, the day the three kings (or Magi) visited baby Jesus.  A small plastic baby figure is commonly hidden in the king cake to represent baby Jesus during this celebration, and now symbolizes luck to the person who finds the figurine in their slice.

Celebrate Mardi Gras with delicious king cake cinnamon buns!

The king cake was a piece of French culture brought to the Gulf Coast by French colonists and the traditional tri-colored sugar topping represents the three kings, each color with a different meaning.  We use purple to represent justice, green for faith, and gold for power.  I braided colored marzipan to top the king cakes, as a twist on the typical sanding sugar and I love how it pairs with the sweet and tangy almond glaze and the almond paste hidden inside the buns.  And instead of cutting into one circular cake, each person gets their own circle of cake with king cake cinnamon buns.

Celebrate Mardi Gras with delicious king cake cinnamon buns!

I hope your Mardi Gras is filled with food, fun, celebration and these king cake cinnamon buns.  Laissez les bon temps roulez!

King Cake Cinnamon Buns

Cinnamon Bun Dough
¾ cup whole milk, heated to 110 degrees F
2 ¼ teaspoons (1 packet) instant or rapid-rise yeast
3 eggs, room temperature
4 ¼ – 4 ½ cups flour
½ cup cornstarch
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons butter, softened and cut into 12 pieces

Cinnamon Almond Filling
1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, softened
7 ounces almond paste

3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 to 6 tablespoons milk

To top
14 ounces marzipan
Purple, yellow and green food colorings

To make the dough:
Line two 8 or 9 inch cake pans with aluminum foil. Push the foil into the bottom edges and up the sides of the pan. Make sure the foil is flush with the pan and fold excess foil over the edges of the pan. Spray foil-lined pans with non-stick cooking spray.

Move one oven rack to the middle of the oven and one to the bottom and place a loaf pan on the bottom rack.

In a small bowl, whisk milk and yeast together until the yeast dissolves. Whisk in eggs.

In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt on low speed until combined. Add the warm milk mixture in a steady stream and mix until the dough comes together, about 1 minute. Increase the mixer speed to medium and add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated. Continue to mix the dough until it is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl (about 10 minutes). If the dough is still wet and sticky, add up to ¼ cup of flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it releases from the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead a bit to form a smooth, round ball of dough. Spray a medium bowl with nonstick cooking spray and transfer the dough to the greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and transfer to the middle rack of the oven. Pour 3 cups of boiling water into the loaf pan at the bottom of the oven, close the oven door, and let dough rise until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours.

To make the filling:
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon and salt.

Remove dough from the oven and move it to a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into an 18×18 inch square and spread the butter over the dough, leaving ½ inch border around the edges. Sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the dough and lightly press it into the dough. Break the almond paste into small bits and sprinkle them evenly across the dough.  Beginning with the edge closest to you, roll the dough over itself into a tight cylinder. When you get to the end of the dough, pinch lightly to seal the seam. Cut the dough into 10 equal pieces and transfer 5 pieces to each prepared pan, cut sides up. Cover the pans with plastic wrap and let them rise in the oven until doubled in size again, about 1 hour.

To make the glaze:
While the king cake cinnamon buns are baking, make the glaze. In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, melted butter, lemon juice and almond extract. Stir in 2 tablespoons of milk. Continue to add milk 1 teaspoon at a time until the mixture becomes a spreadable consistency.

Remove the buns from the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap and bake buns until they are just golden and the filling is melted, about 30-40 minutes. Place the pans on a wire rack, top buns with glaze and let cool for 30 minutes. Lift the foil from the pans to remove the buns and top each with remaining glaze.

To assemble:
If you are topping the buns with marzipan braids, divide your marzipan into 3 even pieces. In separate bowls, work yellow food coloring into one piece, green food coloring into another piece, and purple food coloring into the third piece until the marzipan is fully colored. Continue to add food coloring until the pieces reach your desired colors. I found this was easiest to do with my hands, but you can do it with a wooden spoon as well. Be aware of splattering food color as you mix.

Roll each colored piece into a thin cylindrical strip. You may have to make multiple strips, as the marzipan sometimes breaks if you roll too long of a piece. Carefully braid the three colors together, circle the braid on top of a cinnamon bun, break off the marzipan at the end of the circle, and pinch the ends of the braids together.

If you would rather skip the marzipan, sprinkle yellow, green and purple sanding sugar on top of each for an easier, more traditional miniature king cake look.

Dough recipe slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book

1 2