Christmas

Christmas Tree Cupcakes

aka Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Almond Ganache Filling and Coconut Buttercream

Christmas Tree Cupcakes  |  Lemon & Mocha

I can’t even with these cupcakes! Just look at their adorableness! Now I haven’t discussed it much on the blog, but I am not a decorator. I love to bake and I love to cook, which is mostly because I really, really (did I say really?) love to eat. But I do not like trying to make my food look pretty. If it ends up looking nice in the end that’s just an added bonus. I do not have the patience for it, although one day I would like to learn how to decorate and style my baked goods and dishes better.

Christmas Tree Cupcakes  |  Lemon & Mocha

In the meantime, I’m just a regular home baker trying to make the best tasting things I can dream up. Where I’m going with all this is that if I can make these cupcakes look this ridiculously adorable that means you can, too. As long as you’re armed with the right ingredients and the right tools then you will be good to go.

Christmas Tree Cupcakes  |  Lemon & Mocha

Now, I’ve been so busy talking about the cute tree decorations that I haven’t even gotten to how amazing the cupcake tastes. I am obsessed with my Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes and my Chocolate Ganache so adding almonds and a coconut buttercream seemed like a fitting and delicious enhancement. The texture of the coconut buttercream is light and fluffy, while still being rich enough to stand up to the chocolate cupcake. You can adjust the intensity of the coconut flavoring based on your personal preference. That chocolate almond ganache is its usual swoon-worthy self amped up with chopped almonds to be the perfect molten surprise. Now have a bit of everything all together and yippee! Damn that’s good!

Christmas Tree Cupcakes  |  Lemon & Mocha

My favorite part about these cupcakes though are the reason I was inspired to make them: they remind me of my Babu. Everyone in my family has ceramic Christmas trees that my grandma painted. I know everyone in my family thinks about Babu everyday, but especially when they turn on their ceramic tree. They are decorated with little colored light “ornaments” and when they light up they remind me of everything that is wonderful and simple about Christmas. They make me think of family and tradition. I’m instantly transported to sitting with Babu at my parent’s house and putting in all the little lights while the smell of her cookies comes from the kitchen. Then suddenly we’re eating the cookies, making Christmas paper chains, putting ornaments on the tree, then snuggled in her bed reading our favorite Christmas stories. She even let me sing her Christmas carols and anyone who knows how, um, interesting, my singing voice is will know what a saint she was for that.

Christmas Tree Cupcakes  |  Lemon & Mocha

Although I loved, and very much miss, our crazy Christmas mornings with all my aunts, uncles and cousins, one of my favorite Christmas mornings with Babu was when I was older. We were at my parents’ house for Christmas morning and since it was just my brother and me, who were both in high school, everyone was sleeping in before present-opening. Babu and I are early risers so the two of us sat by the tree in the still, quiet house and opened a couple of our presents for each other having our very own private mini Christmas morning. It is a memory I will cherish forever. So happy holidays and merry Christmas to all my friends, family and fellow food lovers! Take a moment, or two, throughout all the craziness to enjoy the little things that will mean so much to you for years to come.

Christmas Tree Cupcakes  |  Lemon & Mocha

Christmas Tree Cupcakes
 
Yield: 24 cupcakes
Ingredients
for the cupcakes
for the chocolate almond ganache
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1- 12 ounce bag of bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup chopped almonds, more or less depending on preference
for the coconut buttercream
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, more or less depending on preference
  • Additional sweetened shredded coconut for decoration
for the tree decorations
  • 24 pretzel sticks
  • ½ bag green candy melts
  • Nonpareils
Directions
for the cupcakes
  1. Make the Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes according to the instructions then let cool.
for the chocolate almond ganache
  1. Heat the cream over medium heat until steaming, stirring constantly.
  2. Once steaming, remove the cream from the heat. Add the chocolate and stir then let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the butter to the chocolate mixture then stir until smooth. You might have to return to the lowest heat possible while stirring to get it completely smooth.
  4. Add the chopped almonds and stir to combine. Let cool until only slightly warm (I'm not sure if the cooling is completely necessary, but I thought the hot ganache would seep into the cupcake).
for the coconut buttercream
  1. Beat the butter for 3-5 minutes, or until smooth and fluffy, with an electric mixer.
  2. On low speed carefully add the sugar, milk and coconut extract and mix. If the frosting looks too thin slowly add some more powdered sugar, but I didn't need to for this recipe. Add the shredded coconut and stir well to combine.
  3. Spread or pipe a thin layer onto the top of the cupcake. You might find piping easier because of the open hole with the ganache. Top with some shredded coconut for a "snow" effect.
for the tree decorations
  1. Line two baking sheets with wax paper. Use a baking sheet with edges so the nonpareils don't go flying all over your kitchen. Place the pretzel sticks a few inches apart.
  2. Prep a pastry bag with a skinny round tip (I think I used a Wilton round tip #2). Heat the candy melts in a double boiler over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth. Be sure not to overheat so the chocolate doesn't seize up. Carefully transfer to the pastry bag.
  3. Pipe the chocolate over each pretzel stick in the shape of the a tree. I made single zig-zag lines then went over them two more times. Start up a bit from the base of the pretzel stick so there's room to press the decoration into the cupcake. Do a couple then top with nonpareils or have a sprinkle elf help and sprinkle after you pipe (thanks, Matt!). Let sit at room temperature until firm then carefully pop off the wax paper. To place in the cupcakes I found it easiest to hold and press from the little bit of pretzel at the top - the chocolate is fragile and will break if you press it.
Notes
You can typically find candy melts (sometimes called chocolate or candy wafers) at your local craft store, such as Michaels or A.C. Moore.
This recipe makes enough ganache and buttercream for about 35 cupcakes so you will have leftover unless you make a double batch of cupcakes or reduce the ganache and buttercream recipes.

Chocolate almond ganache adapted from The Curvy Carrot.
Coconut buttercream adapted from Martha Stewart.
Chocolate tree inspiration from Just a Taste.

Holiday Recipe Roundup

The holidays are officially upon us! I would normally say finally as there always seems to be so much build up, but this year flew by at record speed! I am really not sure how we have already arrived at Christmas week. If you are looking for some last minute Christmas recipes, or aren’t a crazy person like me that plans months in advance and is just decided your menu now, here are my favorite Lemon & Mocha recipes for the holidays. I hope it provides some inspiration or at least gives you something to drool over for a few minutes. Best wishes for happy holidays filled with love, health and happiness from the Lemon & Mocha family to your own!

Prosciutto & Gruyere Pinwheels  |  Lemon & Mocha

Prosciutto & Gruyere Pinwheels. These tasty bites will go fast, but you can make them ahead and keep them in the freezer so you will be all set to heat up another batch.

Baked Crab Dip  |  Lemon & Mocha

Baked Crab Dip. A family recipe and my favorite holiday appetizer. Cheesy and gooey are always qualities of a great crowd pleaser.

New England Harvest Salad  |  Lemon & Mocha

New England Harvest Salad. Filled with vibrant winter flavors and superfoods, this salad will definitely impress your guests.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Molasses & Vanilla Pecan Butter  |  Lemon & Mocha

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Molasses and Vanilla Pecan Butter. More than looking like an ideal Christmas dish with the red and green colors, this side dish will be the star on your table.

Lemon, Garlic & Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower  |  Lemon & Mocha

Lemon, Garlic & Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower. A simple vegetable dish for even the pickiest of eaters!

Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms  |  Lemon & Mocha

Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms. I could eat 3 bowls of these bad boys. Make these now.

Dry Rubbed Roast Pork Tenderloin with a Roasted Garlic & Balsamic Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Dry Rubbed Roast Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Garlic & Balsamic Sauce. Fool-proof Christmas dinner and tasty to boot.

Greek Yogurt Cornbread  |  Lemon & Mocha

Greek Yogurt Cornbread. All holiday meals require the perfect roll or bread to be lathered in butter. If you only bring one to your table make it this outrageously moist cornbread.

Lemon Cheesecake with a Cranberry Raspberry Compote  |  Lemon & Mocha

Lemon Cheesecake with Cranberry Raspberry Compote. Beautiful and seconds-worthy.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies  |  Lemon & Mocha

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies. How can you resist these festive fudgy brownies?

World's Smoothest Chocolate Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

World’s Smoothest Chocolate Fudge. The original holiday favorite! Make my stepmom’s fudge recipe and you won’t even need to buy anyone presents. Yes, it is that good.

Chocolate Peppermint Fudge  |  Lemon & Mocha

Chocolate Peppermint Fudge. A delightfully rich, yet refreshing twist on the original.

Egg Nog Ice Cream  |  Lemon & Mocha

Egg Nog Ice Cream. This isn’t your grandma’s ice cream. Scoop responsibly.

Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup  |  Lemon & Mocha

Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup. If you’re planning on having a big Christmas morning breakfast, these pancakes are amazing, but the blueberry syrup? Out of this world.

Nutella Stuffed French Toast with Vanilla Pecan Butter  |  Lemon & Mocha

Nutella Stuffed French Toast with Vanilla Pecan Butter. It’s the holidays, go ahead and have dessert for breakfast.

10 Minute Mini Breakfast Tacos  |  Lemon & Mocha

10 Minute mini Breakfast Tacos. Perfect for those who want a quick and tasty breakfast before diving into the presents.

 

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies  |  Lemon & Mocha

Ever since I experimented with chocolate peppermint fudge last year, dark chocolate and peppermint has been added to my list of favorite dessert flavor combinations. Of course there is a list.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies  |  Lemon & Mocha

The decadent chocolate paired with the refreshing peppermint aftertaste is a nice break from all the rich desserts of the holiday season. Packing a triple peppermint punch, these fudgy brownies are for true peppermint lovers.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies  |  Lemon & Mocha

First, peppermint extract is baked into the brownies. Second, when the hot and gooey brownies come out of the oven, peppermint bark is layered on top to melt in a thin layer. Third, crushed candy canes are sprinkled on the top to add a nice crunch, to make them look festive and of course to add extra peppermint flavor.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies  |  Lemon & Mocha

Thankfully Matt is all pepperminted out this season so I have our batch of these all to myself, lucky me!

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies  |  Lemon & Mocha

The best part of these brownies, other than their deliciousness, is how fancy they look, but how simple they actually are to bake. So bake some up this holiday season, and remember to keep some for yourself!

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies  |  Lemon & Mocha

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies
 
Yield: 16 brownies
Ingredients
  • 1 batch brownie batter
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 6-8 squares peppermint bark, broken into chunks
  • 3 candy canes, crushed
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8x8” brownie pan and set aside. If you want thin brownies like mine then use a 9x13” pan instead with the same amount of brownie batter. This will give you 32 brownies instead of 16.
  2. Add the peppermint extract to the prepared brownie batter then pour into the prepared pan. Bake according to the package instructions, being sure not to overbake as brownies will continue to cook once you remove them from the oven. I usually pull mine out 3-5 minutes before the package’s minimum baking time.
  3. As soon as the brownies are out of the oven, run a knife around the edges then evenly top with the chunks of peppermint bark before covering the pan with tin foil so the chocolate can melt.
  4. After a few minutes, remove the tin foil then carefully spread the melty peppermint bark with a spatula in an even layer on top of the brownies. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes over the top then refrigerate until the chocolate has hardened. Cut and serve.
Notes
I highly recommend using 1 package of Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix to make these.

 

Lemon Cheesecake with Cranberry Raspberry Compote

Lemon Cheesecake with a Cranberry Raspberry Compote  |  Lemon & Mocha

The lemon cheesecake that serves as the base of this recipe is the first cheesecake I ever baked from scratch. Matt had gotten me my stand mixer for my birthday (lucky girl!) and I wanted to christen my new kitchen toy with an epic recipe. After days of sifting through cookbooks and blog posts to pick the perfect recipe we decided on a lemon cheesecake with lemon curd.

Lemon Cheesecake with a Cranberry Raspberry Compote  |  Lemon & Mocha

My, oh my, was it outrageous. I have since made the lemon curd many times over for all sorts of recipes and occasions, but had yet to revisit the fluffy and tart lemon cheesecake. Four years later I decided it was finally time to make it again. I told you it takes me a long time to remake recipes! I thought the lemon would pair perfectly with cranberry for the holiday season because of the flavors and beautiful color.

Lemon Cheesecake with a Cranberry Raspberry Compote  |  Lemon & Mocha

This cranberry raspberry compote is simply made with cranberries, raspberries, orange juice and sugar. It is sweet, tart, fruity and a great cheesecake topping.

Lemon Cheesecake with a Cranberry Raspberry Compote  |  Lemon & Mocha

If you have never made a cheesecake before I urge you to give it a shot. You will feel so impressed with yourself when you’re done and your tastebuds will thank you. Although it may seem intimidating, homemade cheesecake is rather simple.

Lemon Cheesecake with a Cranberry Raspberry Compote  |  Lemon & Mocha

The key to an extra light and fluffy texture is to keep beating the cream cheese past when you normally think you should stop. If the cream cheese is extra airy before you pour it into the crust you will have an unbelievable texture once it is baked.

Lemon Cheesecake with a Cranberry Raspberry Compote  |  Lemon & Mocha

Lemon Cheesecake with Cranberry Raspberry Compote
 
Yield: 12 servings
Ingredients
for the crust
  • 16 graham cracker squares
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
for the filling
  • 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
for the compote
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 6 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
Directions
for the crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9" springform pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor to create crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse until the graham cracker crumbs are coated. Evenly press into the bottom and ½" up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.
for the filling
  1. Beat the cream cheese until very fluffy. It should almost have a satiny quality to it. Add the sugar then beat until smooth. Add 1 egg then beat for 30 seconds. Repeat with the remaining 2 eggs. Stir in the lemon juice and zest.
  2. Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is set, except for the center which should look almost just set and glossy. Let cool to room temperature on a cooling rack then cover the pan and chill in the fridge overnight.
for the compote
  1. Combine the orange juice and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, add the cranberries and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  2. Once the mixture comes to a boil and most of the cranberries have started to burst, add the raspberries then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Let cool in the fridge. Pour over the top of the cheesecake.

Cheesecake slightly adapted from Sketches and Scribbles.
Compote from Allrecipes.

Sautéed Snow Peas with Cranberries & Walnuts

Sautéed Snow Peas with Cranberries & Walnuts  |  Lemon & Mocha

I love discovering new ways to cook up my favorite vegetables instead of my usual steaming or roasting methods. When I came across these snow peas with toasted walnuts and dried cranberries I knew I had to make them. The flavor profile screams fall and nicely complements the dry rubbed roast pork tenderloin I posted last week.

Sautéed Snow Peas with Cranberries & Walnuts  |  Lemon & Mocha

I like to cook the snow peas until they are just tender, but still have plenty of crunch so the little peas pop out of the pods when you bite into them. It’s the little things, folks. This side dish can be made in less than 10 minutes making it a huge keeper in my book.

Sautéed Snow Peas with Cranberries & Walnuts  |  Lemon & Mocha

The tartness of the dried cranberries and lemon juice pairs well with the nutty earthiness of the toasted walnuts.

Sautéed Snow Peas with Cranberries & Walnuts  |  Lemon & Mocha

I used the same dried orange cranberries I bought from Trader Joe’s that I used in my fall trail mix and that hint of orange seemed to make the dish even more flavorful. If you aren’t able to find orange cranberries you could try substituting half the lemon juice for orange juice or adding just the faintest amount of orange zest to the finished peas.

Sautéed Snow Peas with Cranberries & Walnuts  |  Lemon & Mocha

 
Yield: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces snow peas
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ⅓ cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the snow peas and sauté until bright green, but not floppy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Recipe from Vegetarian for a New Generation:  Seasonal Vegetable Dishes for Vegetarians, Vegans, and the Rest of Us.