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It is (one of many) “birthday months” at our house.  My husband, who resisted the idea of the birthday month for years, finally sees the beauty.  Of course it is his birthday month, and a big one at that.  Celebrating for an entire month allows for a thorough celebration.  Why choose between a party, an outing, a nice dinner, a trip?  With a birthday month you can do it all!

Our festivities began with a few good friends, lots of (still eating the leftovers!) good food, a backyard fire, and of course a birthday cake!  My husband is a caramel guy, so after trying to tempt him with cake after cake that featured the power duo of chocolate and caramel, we finally settled on a cake that did away with the distractions and featured the caramel promptly.

Caramel Cake with Brown Butter Frosting is my adaptation of a cake from Maya Angelou’s cookbook, Hallelujah.  It is a basic butter cake infused with caramel.  So there was no mistaking the caramel, I added an extra layer between the cake layers and drizzled it over the top of the cake.The frosting is the kicker.  The standard American buttercream is blown into complete deliciousness, by browning the butter and then chilling it back to proper temperature before whipping it up with powdered sugar and cream.  Yes, this frosting is outstanding! All in all, they are a great match and the cake was very well received!

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Caramel Apple Tarts

December 20, 2010

Oh, it is a good thing to have a refrigerator full of caramel sauce. When I set out last week to make a pot full  of caramel sauce, I  truly  intended to pass it on to well deserving friends and family.  As the days wear on however, I can see the supply dwindling.  The problem is…  it is really good!  (If you don’t yet have a fridge full, check out my post on Edible Gifts! Chocolate and Caramel Sauces. ) First was the obvious, caramel over ice cream (which has possibly converted this chocolate faithful to the caramel side of the ice cream shop), then apples dipped in caramel (it’s OK to eat it as a snack then, right?), and then putting it all together for one holiday worthy dessert.   Tonight’s dessert was  part apple crisp, part caramel apple, entirely decadent and yet homey, the caramel apple tart.

This recipe has been sitting in my “someday I want to make” pile for over a year.  It was originally published in Bon Appetit magazine, May 2009 by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito and originates at the restaurant, Baked, in New York.  Here is the concept: individual tart crusts, baked off in advance, then layered with caramel sauce, sauteed apples, and crisp topping.  These tasty tarts are then baked again until the sugary syrup bubbles up and the topping browns.  The original recipe suggests pairing these with Cinnamon-Rum ice cream (and provides a delicious sounding recipe- you should check it out on Epicurious).  I couldn’t manage the extra prep, so I topped it with good ol’ vanilla and a drizzle of caramel sauce.  No complaints.

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This time of year, many of us face the very difficult task of choosing the right gift for everyone on our list.  If we are lucky, we know just the perfect thing for each special someone,  a gift that will not only excite and surprise them, but will also be of good use.  Many times it is more challenging though.

Perhaps we don’t know the person very well or maybe they already seem to have everything they need.  Too often,we pick out a gift just to check it off the list.  The gift ends up having little meaning to us or to the recipient.  That is why, when faced with that dilemma, I generally choose to give an edible gift!

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