The autumn shift is happening all around us! Pumpkins and gourds are starting to show up at the markets, watermelon is now very bland and lacks any sort of sweetness, melons are slowly fading, and while LA has temperatures that are still kicking, there have been a few mornings that have felt brisk. Autumn is so close!
I wanted to kick this season off with these Chocolate Cardamom Morning Rolls with Artisan Collection by Nestlé® Toll House®. Their two luxurious options are: Extra Semi-Sweet and Extra Dark. Both are really delicious. I’ve used them in a few baked goods and the chocolate is rich and has amazing deep flavor. These baking chips are made from single-origin chocolate from Ghana and are available now! Ghana is fortunate in having wonderful rich soil, making it ideal for its top exporter: cocoa beans. The chocolate is really high-quality and pairs with all sorts of flavors like caramel, walnuts, cinnamon, honey and more!
Coquito is often described as a Puerto Rican eggnog but I’ve always felt like that comparison doesn’t do it justice. First of all, it’s MUCH better than eggnog. And secondly, it usually doesn’t have egg in it (some families’ recipes do use egg, but most don’t).
Coquito is a coconut-based drink that usually has sweetened condensed milk, regular milk, lots of rum and a hint of spices like cinnamon and cloves.
My family is not Puerto Rican so I didn’t have it until I was a teenager, living in South Florida. I remember someone handing it to me at a party and I was like, DANG WHAT IS THIS?!?!
It’s way better than eggnog in my opinion. The texture and weight is way lighter than eggnog (my usual issue with drinking it), which I love. The combination of rum and coconut is just the best, especially with the spices added in.
Now, Let’s Incorporate Coquito Flavors Into a Cake!
I took those flavors and implemented them into this cake! I thought of doing a tres leches but I’ve made a lot of tres leches cakes in the past so I was looking to do something a lil’ different.
This cake is kind of like a soaking cake because of the rum syrup that is brushed it on top. When we were developing this cake, we sort of asked ourselves, How do we put the rum into it? We thought about a lot of options but none of them sounded all that great. Soaking it in a rum syrup sounded like the absolute best way. The butter in the rum syrup, adds a nice gentle richness. It’s like a buttered rum…but not.
The sheet cake itself is a nice fluffy coconut cake that uses coconut cream (a must in coquito). I used the brand Goya. This can is usually sold at liquor stores (a lot of mixed drinks use cream of coconut) or you can check any grocery store in the Hispanic Section.
I also used coconut extract because it really packs that coconut flavor punch that we love so much. (I tested it without the coconut extract and the flavor didn’t come through enough; you really need that!)
Did you ever have a Barbie Dream House? I think I asked for one for my eighth birthday (if I remember correctly) and I imagined myself being a grown-up in it. I had dogs (of course), I had a husband (Ken) whose head I shaved because I thought his blonde hair was ugly (I dunno) and a few kids who were ok. But most importantly, I had a pool with a slide and a trampoline. I also had a siqqq car that was bright pink that I’d use to pick up my friends so we could go to the movies and Disneyland.
When I got the insane idea that I should built a gingerbread house, I started to think: What should it look like? What should it include?
I remembered my Barbie Dream House and decided maybe that should be my inspo? I decided to leave out people because I don’t think I can make realistic versions of gingerbread humans.
Let’s start from the beginning…
What You Need to Build a Gingerbread House!
The first step to making my gingerbread house was planning the dimensions like the architect that I AM NOT.
I started crunching numbers and ended up using old Amazon boxes that were in the recycling for my templates. And XACTO knife comes in real handy in this instance.
Erin McDowell’s recipe is by far the best. I thought about developing my own recipe but I was short on time. And honestly, hers works wonderfully, no surprise there.
I happened to have shortening in my pantry because of these biscuits and it ended up making life SO much easier. Her tips, btw, are absolutely brilliant. She over-bakes her gingerbread to make it sturdier. I did the same and I found that really helped, too.
I decided on an almond-shingled roof. I LOVE the results.
If you’re interested in a true zen experience, glue on a million perfectly slivered almonds for two hours. Truth be told, I actually enjoy these types of things. I mediate and zone out and think about my life. Sometimes I even cry—it’s fun!
Creating Stain-Glass Windows!
Last minute I felt like I needed to create some dimension and lure to the cozy gingerbread house so I cut out some windows on each side of the house and the front.
I baked the sides of the house FIRST and then filled a few of the windows on the side and in the front with crushed up Jolly Ranchers.
I baked them for maybe around 5 to 6 minutes and the Jolly Ranchers ended up melting in the oven and making the prettiest pink windows.
Making an Edible Pool!
The pool is made from gingerbread dough that I cut out into an oval. I filled it with a piece of foil and crushed blue Jolly Ranchers to replicate the look of frozen water. I added a diving board because that’s what I would want in my own backyard.
Building Amelia’s Dog House!
Amelia’s Dog House is obviously just for show because she wouldn’t think of ever sleeping outside. She prefers to sleep on beds and pillows. But it is cute. I used this gingerbread mini house cookie cutter.