Make time for creative baking

Published 9:07 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2012

By Janet Tharpe

The baking bonanza has begun. We’re heating things up in the test kitchen at and are nearing full-on bakery status. Cakes, pies, cookies — you name it.

In fact, we’re so consumed by the power of flour this time of year that we’ve gathered up a few of our favorite tips and recipes to help inspire you this holiday season.

Tres Leches Pumpkin Squares

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Perfect pie anyone? Light and flaky crusts can be as elusive as the Great Pumpkin himself, but home cook Vanessa Milare is helping bakers achieve pie perfection with her Just A Pinch discussion group devoted solely to pie baking hints and tips. The “Pies, Pies and More Pies” group is packed with crafty bakers who are happy to share wisdom from their years of experience.

In fact, one of the tips we now use on a regular basis came out of a discussion started by group member Karla Everett: For super flaky crusts, use the largest holes on a cheese grater to grate cold butter into your dough. You get even distribution and uniform pieces.

If you’re more in the mood for mini munching than for a whole pie, why not mix things up and celebrate the season with cupcakes? Andrea Runnells of Orlando, Fla., is fast becoming our cupcake queen, and her Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Mousse Frosting are the latest jewel in her crown.

“I put pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg in anything and everything in the fall,” Andrea says. “Fall, with all of the flavors and aromas that go with it, is my favorite season of the year. I invented these [cupcakes] in the kitchen the other day, and they were a big hit with everyone who ate them, from elementary school kids to grandparents.”

Sweet, delicate and super moist, these cupcakes have a perfectly subtle pumpkin flavor that is wonderfully offset by the light and airy icing. Yum!

Feeling a little square? We’ve been there. And there’s nothing more perfect when craving corners than the delicious taste of Wendy Rusch’s Tres Leches Pumpkin Squares. Wendy’s recipes have never let us down, and this dandy is sure no exception.

“I love pumpkin pie, and I wanted to make the best of the best this year,” explains Wendy. “So [I] started playing with the ingredients and trying things out on my friends and family. This is the winner!”

With a brown sugar pecan crust and a filling of sweetened condensed milk, pumpkin, heavy cream and eggs, these little darlings are Thanksgiving decadence personified.

“This makes a lot — a jellyroll pan full,” says Wendy. “So make this for a crowd or put into smaller pans and freeze. I hope you enjoy it as much as my loved ones do! It is super easy.”

Find more bake-tacular recipes and holiday dessert ideas in the special holiday baking section of Holiday cheer never tasted so good.