Cinnamon Toast Crunch Brunch Cake

Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal-infused cake with crunchy praline buttercream for a Christmas brunch!

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cake Recipe

I had the honour of chatting with our British nanny the other day about traditional English Christmas desserts. She asked if I'd ever made Fruit Cake before, and I nearly laughed. I'm not sure when fruit cake turned into bricks of the most undesirable treat at the dessert table or why they have such a bad reputation, but traditional English Fruit Cake is likely very different than the inedible stuff I saw stacked up at the grocery store last week.

Emily, our lovely nanny straight from London, explained to me how she used to start a batch of fruit cake months before Christmas day. Every few days you poke holes in the top of a dried fruit-filled loaf, feed it sherry, and then flip it over until the sherry completely soaks into the cake. This cycle repeats itself for a month or two until it's ready to become a dense doorstop, I mean, dessert.  Just kidding guys!  I am sure it's lovely.  I wouldn't really know, but I am definitely intrigued and think maybe I should give it a shot next October...

And then there's Christmas pudding, which seems pretty far from any custard that I've ever had. Much unlike any sort of pudding that comes from a box, this is a steamed cake loaded (again) with dried fruit and tons of booze. Emily told me how she would make pudding with her grandmother, each one of the grandkids getting a chance to stir the batter and make a wish. A coin was then hidden in the in the batter to bring luck to whomever found it about three months later.  Yes, 3 months!!  Again with the booze and the soaking, Emily told me her grandmother would store her Christmas puddings in the cupboard months in advance. 

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cake Recipe
Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cake Recipe
Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cake Recipe

Cake for breakfast, anyone?  This cake is basically the opposite of those traditional English desserts that Emily described. It takes minutes, in comparison, to bake and comes together even faster with the use of one of my favorite store-bough cereals: Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Oh yes, you read that correctly. I've turned a tasty breakfast cereal into a brunch-time treat! The cake is baked with Cinnamon Toast Crunch infused milk that makes it taste just like the cereal. For the frosting, I wanted more than just added cinnamon and cereal topping, so I create a Cinnamon Toast Crunch praline buttercream. Mind-blowing, I tell you.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cake Recipe

Using a standard praline base of sugar, water, and cream of tartar, I cooked it all up until golden before quickly stirring in the cereal and spreading it to cool. On its own, the Cinnamon Toast Crunch praline is pretty delicious and could be used as a garnish on your cake.  But to turn it into a buttercream, the praline needs to be ground down in a food processor until it is nearly a powder. The caramelized sugar can be quite hard, so you will need to make sure to grind, grind, grind to keep your guests' teeth from chipping. Who knew a boxed cereal could be transformed into something to really celebrate with?!?

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cake Recipe

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cake Recipe
Makes one, four-layer 8-inch round cake; Serves 12 to 16

For the cinnamon cake:
1 3/4  cups milk
1 heaping cup Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal

3 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cup cereal milk

In a large pitcher of bowl, combine the milk and cereal. Carefully weight the cereal down by fitting a bowl or plate on the surface the milk. Let steep for 20 to 30 minutes. When done, strain out the infused milk using a mesh sieve. Gently press down on the cereal with a rubber spatula to release any excess milk. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of milk and set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two, 8-inch cake pans and set aside. 

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl using a hand mixer), mix the butter on medium until smooth.  Add in the sugar and continue to mix until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.  With the mixer on low, add in the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

With the mixer on low, carefully add in half of the dry ingredients. Stream in the milk and mix until combined. Carefully add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds after the last streaks of flour are combined.

Evenly distribute the batter between the two pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 3o to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

For the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Praline:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
pinch cream of tartar
2 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Like a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

Place the sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to cook, without stirring, until the mixture turns a medium amber color. Remove the saucepan from the heat and quickly stir in the cereal and cinnamon. Tip the mixture onto the prepared pan and quickly spread it into a thin layer with a greased spatula. Allow the praline to completely cool then break into pieces.

For the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Praline Buttercream:
1 1/2 cups finely crushed praline
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, or to taste
double batch Swiss meringue buttercream

Break the cooled praline in small enough pieces to fit in the bowl of a food processor. Grind the praline into a powder and set aside.

Mix the buttercream until silky smooth. Remove about 2 1/2 cups of buttercream and set aside. 

Stir 1 cup praline and cinnamon into the remaining buttercream.

Assemble the cake:
Once the cakes are cool, carefully cut them in half horizontally with a long, serrated knife to create four, even layers. Place one layer of cake on a cake board or serving dish. Spread on 1 cup of praline buttercream. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat. Crumb coat the cake with the buttercream and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, use a mesh sieve to sift any large bits out of the remaining praline. Stir the praline powder into the reserved buttercream. This buttercream will be smoother for frosting the outer layer of the cake. 

Smoothly frost the chilled cake with the buttercream. Fill a piping bag fitted with a start tip with any remaining buttercream and pipe swirls around the top of the cake.

 

This post was sponsored by Life Made Delicious. Thoughts and words are all my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Style Sweet CA possible.


 

Overnight Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls with Orange-Vanilla Bean Glaze

Start these eggnog and nutmeg-spiced cinnamon rolls with toasted pecan filling the night before and add the orange-vanilla bean glaze just in time for Christmas brunch!

Over-night Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Vanilla Glaze

I was 9 months pregnant the first time I hosted Christmas morning.  Admittedly, I wasn't thinking too clearly or logically by that point, and I decided to make homemade bagels from scratch for the first time. I wasn't very comfortable with yeasted doughs at the time, but I insisted on teaching myself one last new skills before Everett was born.  I ended up stressing entirely way too much over those lumpy rings of dough that some-what a bagel and haven't made them since...

Over the last few years, I've become a much more well versed in yeast-risen baked goods.  After experimenting with recipes like Lemon Brioche Pull-Apart Bread and Date Bourbon Buns, I better understand the simplicity of working with yeast and just how amazing homemade breakfast pastries taste still warm out of the oven.  Bonus points if you get to eat them still in your matching Chirstmas pj's.

One thing in particular that I've truly embraced with these types of recipes is the timing.  Want warm, gooey, sticky Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls come Christmas morning without having to wake up at 3am?  Start the dough the night before and make time on you side instead of impatiently waiting between rises. By placing the dough in the refrigerator to rise, you are essentially hitting “pause” in the process.  The cool temps in the fridge dramatically slow down the yeast, so the dough continues to rise but at a much slower pace.  Instead of scheduling 1 to 2 hours between steps, you can pop the dough into the refrigerator for 8 hours (or overnight) and continue on with your day/night, whether that be Christmas Eve or any other time of the year.

Over-night Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Vanilla Glaze
Over-night Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Vanilla Glaze
Over-night Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Vanilla Glaze
Over-night Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Vanilla Glaze

These Overnight Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls bake up beautifully in a French oven or cast iron skillet.  I find that they distribute heat very evenly and efficiently, creating perfectly risen buns with toasted edges and gooey centers. The puffy, pillowy dough is similar to a brioche dough and is loaded with lots of butter.  I've used eggnog as my liquid here, but you may use any type of milk in its place.  The eggnog flavors are quite subtle, so I like to add a pinch of nutmeg into the dough as well.  For a bit of crunch and texture, toasted pecans have been chopped and added to the cinnamon roll filling.

This cream cheese glaze has been my go-to accessory lately (you'll see it again on a couple more cake recipes coming up soon), so I decided to change it up by adding fresh orange juice, zest, and vanilla bean.  The bright yet subtle citrus notes pair perfectly with the nutmeg and cinnamon and nearly everything is better with a little vanilla bean.  Perfect along side a warm cup coffee and lots of Christmas cheer.

Over-night Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Vanilla Glaze

Overnight Eggnog Cinnamon Rolls

1/2 cup eggnog or milk of choice
1 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
2 3/4 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
heavy pinch nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft

Pecan Cinnamon Roll Filling 

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3/4 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
 

The night before: Warm the eggnog to between 100 to 110°F.  It should be warm to the touch.  Stir in the yeast and set aside for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, sugar, salt, and nutmeg into a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.

Whisk together the eggs and egg yolk, then stir them into the eggnog mixture. Pour the eggnog mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Knead the dough by hand or with a mixer fitted with a dough hook on low speed for about 4 to 5 minutes. Once the dough begins to come together, add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, while the dough is being kneaded. Try to add as little flour as possible. When done, the dough should be soft but not sticky.

Place the dough in an oiled mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to rise overnight.
 

In the morning:Remove the dough from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature (I place it near a heater for about 20 minutes). Remove the butter for the filling and allow to soften.

Once the dough is soft enough to roll, lightly dust your work surface with a little bit of flour and roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 16 X 12-inches.

Spread the softened butter of the filling all over the surface of the dough, leaving about a half-inch boarder around the edges. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar and pat it into the butter. Repeat with the chopped pecans, if using.

Starting at the long edge of the rectangle, carefully roll up the dough into a long log. Slide a piece of dental floss under the log until about halfway up, pull up on the strings, cross them, and pull to cut the dough in half. Continue to cut the log into 8 to 10 even pieces. If the dental floss is tricky, use a serrated knife.

Generously butter the inside of a French oven, iron skillet, or baking dish and line the bottom with parchment paper. Place the cut cinnamon rolls, cut-side up, in the bottom – leaving about a half-inch space in-between rolls. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to double in size – about 3o to 45 minutes in a warm room.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Remove the kitchen towel and bake the cinnamon rolls for about 25 to 35 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes as you prepare the glaze (recipe to follow). Frost and serve the cinnamon rolls while they are still warm.

Leftovers will keep covered in plastic wrap at room temperature overnight.


Orange-Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Glaze

4 ounce cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
zest of 1/2 an orange
pinch cinnamon

In a mixing bowl, stir together the cream cheese and butter until well smooth.

Gradually stir in the confectioner’s sugar and mix until incorporated.

Add in the orange juice, zest, vanilla bean paste, and cinnamon.  Stir until smooth.  Glaze should be rather thick yet spreadable.

 

Thank you to Le Creuset Canada for their participation in this post. Words and opinions are my own. 

Chocolate Brownie Rosemary Cake

With a texture that is similar to a brownie, this decadent chocolate cake is layered with rosemary buttercream and smothered in dramatic cinnamon-spiced caramel sauce.  Rustic elegance at its finest!

Chocolate Brownie Rosemary Cake with cinnamon caramel sauce.
Chocolate Brownie Rosemary Cake with cinnamon caramel sauce.

One day, I dream of hosting a romantic dinner party for the holidays.  A night set under twinkly lights, full of appetizers and good conversation, a homemade feast to feed a crowd, and after-dinner games and laughs.  At the end of the night, I would present this rustic yet elegant semi-naked cake composed of decadent, sophisticated flavors and dramatic floral elements. 

Rewind to Sunday brunch where we hosted a toddler cookie decorating party, and it appears that we might be a few years away from such a lavish event.  We finally have a proper dining table for hosting and even new friends to fill the seats (after moving to a city nearly FOUR years ago!), but said dining table and the glittery centerpiece I created sat untouched.  Instead, the parents took comfort around the living room sitting on large pillows, windowsills, and anywhere else they could fit to watch four toddling boys under the age of 2 toss balloons, decorate gingerbread cookies, and run wild for a couple of hours.  

And even while another mommy and I poked and prodded my breakfast strata trying to figure out if it was done cooking and a couple of the dads helped with a mid-party cookie clean-up, this current reality is pure perfection.  So while I have visions of hosting fancy affairs one day, I’ll gladly take sprinkles ground into the fibres of my carpet and sugar-fuelled toddlers for a few more years first.

Chocolate Brownie Rosemary Cake with cinnamon caramel sauce.
Chocolate Brownie Rosemary Cake with cinnamon caramel sauce.

In the meantime, I will settle for a slice of this decadent, nearly sinful cake.  The chocolate cake boarders on brownie territory.  It is rich and fudgy in all of the right ways.  It could probably be served on its own or with a scoop of coffee ice cream, but I’ve layered in with a subtle rosemary buttercream.  The rosemary is familiar but unexpected.  It gets infused into the butter before being whipped up into a silky Swiss meringue buttercream.  Only a semi-naked finish is necessary since the cake is rather rich (you will want to slice this one pretty thin!).  To finish it all off and to round out the flavors, I spiked my regular salted caramel sauce with ground cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Chocolate Brownie Rosemary Cake with cinnamon caramel sauce.

Find the complete recipe on the West Elm Blog.

Cinnamon Peach Pie with Braid Crust

Summer peaches with a touch of cinnamon.  The all-butter crust is perfectly  flakey and playful with a braided top.  The quintessential peach pie while stone fruit is at its peak!

Cinnamon Peach Pie with an all-butter braid pie crust.
Cinnamon Peach Pie with an all-butter braid pie crust.
Cinnamon Peach Pie with an all-butter braid pie crust.

I start my cookbook by saying that I have zero recollection of baking with my grandmother as a child, like most of my peers do.  This isn’t because I have a poor memory, it is because I never had any desire to be in the kitchen until I was an adult. I come from a family of outstanding cooks, but it wasn’t until I lived on my own that I began tinkering around with different dishes and flavor pairings.  Instead of my grandma or my mom, it was the early days of Food Network that got me interested in food and cooking.

An unconventional schedule packed with college classes and late-night dance team practices introduced me to the world of day-time television.  It was late afternoons when I was able to find some downtime, and it was Food Network that helped me unwind in between activities.  I’d watch the likes of Giada and Rachel Ray while I brushed up on homework and would find myself engulfed in whatever they were cooking up that day.  I literally found myself thinking, “I think I can do that!”  I was probably 20 years old when I bought myself a little paring knife, a couple sauce pans, and got to work.  My first cake pan was actually a 5-inch, nearly useless spring-form pan, since I had no idea what I was shopping for…

Fast forward over a decade later, and my love for cooking and food has only grown stronger and stronger.  Clearly.  I ended up making it my career!  Currently, I run this blog, am a cookbook author, and freelance by developing recipes and photographing articles for various brands and publications.  That being said, when I opened my inbox to find an inquiry from Food Network, it is probably no surprise that I nearly fell off my desk chair from excitement!

Cinnamon Peach Pie with an all-butter braid pie crust.

I started writing for Food Network Canada earlier this Spring.  At first, I contributed some tips and tricks for making buttercream cakes for a slideshow that they were putting together.  Flash-forward a few months, and I have four articles up on www.foodnetwork.ca and a few more in the cue.  Literally a dream come true!

My latest article that went up early this week was all about pie.  If you remember me talking about pie earlier this year, then you might recall that pie hasn’t always my thing.  Confession: I am officially obsessed!  I originally gravitated towards cake decorating as a creative outlet.  But guess what guys?  Not only is pie-making somewhat therapeutic (when the dough is co-operating), it has given me even a new way to express my artistic side.  Braids, lattice, and a combination of the two - the options for top crusts are endless!  Buttercream may always be my favorite medium to work with, but my new found love for pastry crust (not to mention all of the delicious fillings!!) seems to be taking on a life of it’s own.  Good thing too, because when Food Network asked me to put together a step-by-step article for three different ways to decorate a pie, I was quick to oblige. 

Cinnamon Peach Pie with an all-butter braid pie crust.
Cinnamon Peach Pie with an all-butter braid pie crust.

This Cinnamon Peach Pie uses my favorite braided top with a classic fluted edge.  To be honest, this is the first peach pie I have ever made, but I couldn’t be happier with the results.  Peaches are in their prime right now, and while you don’t want to use the ripest fruit you can find (save those just for eating fresh!), the ones I picked up from my local market were bursting with flavor.  Paired with a touch of cinnamon spice to compliment the natural sweetness of the fruit, this just might be the best peach pie I ever tasted. Everything about it, from preparing the fruit to making the pastry by hand next to the open window in my kitchen, embodies summer.  

Stay tuned for even more pies as we head into fall and be sure to check out all the techniques over on Food Network.

Cinnamon Peach Pie with an all-butter braid pie crust.
Cinnamon Peach Pie with an all-butter braid pie crust.
Cinnamon Peach Pie with an all-butter braid pie crust.

Cinnamon Peach Pie

All-Butter Crust
adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds

2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup + 2 tablespoons very cold butter, diced
½ cup cold water
¼ cup ice
1 tablespoon apple cider or white vinegar
1 egg
splash milk
turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

1.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and sugar.  Place the ice in the water and set aside.

2.  Cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter or by hand, rubbing the pieces of butter between your thumb, index, and middle fingers.  Once the pieces are no longer lager than about a peanut, begin to flatten the pieces of butter in sheets between your palms.  Be careful not to over-work the butter or let it get too warm.

3.  Working with only a couple tablespoons at a time, add in about 6 to 8 tablespoons of the water along with the vinegar.  Stir together using a wooden spoon or even just a clean hand in the bowl.  The dough should appear fairly shaggy and not sticky.  Once you can squeeze a few pieces together and they hold, the dough is done being mixed.  Do not over-mix.

4.  Divide the dough into half and shape each piece into a disk.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours, or overnight (preferably).

5. Once ready, bring one disc out of the refrigerator and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.  Liberally flour the work surface and begin to roll out the dough, working from the center out – rotating the dough after each roll.  Roll the dough until about ¼ inch thick and about 12 to 13 inches in diameter. 

6.  Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin and transfer to a 8 or 9 inch pie tin.  Fit the dough into the bottom of the tin and up the sides, allowing for about an inch of overhang.  Trim with kitchen sheers and place back in the refrigerator.

7.  For the braided top, repeat step 5.  Using a ruler and a paring knife, cut 21 strips, about a 1/2-inch wide.  Braid in groups of three and place on a baking sheet or cutting board and place in the refrigerator, along with any leftover dough.

8.  Meanwhile, make the filling (recipe to follow).

9.  Fill the chilled pie crust with the peaches by layering them in tightly, but leaving the juices behind.  Remove the braids from the refrigerator and place on top of the filling. Allow for some excess dough on the end of each strip, then trim.

10.  Fold all of the excess dough around the edges under itself and crimp using your thumb and index finger.

12.  Return the pie back to refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

13.  Just before heading into the over, create an egg wash by whisking together a whole egg and a splash of milk.  Brush the egg wash over the entire top of the crust and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

14.  Place pie on a baking sheet and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown.  If the top begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil.

15.  Allow the baked pie to completely cool before slicing and serving.

Cinnamon Peach Filling
2 1/2 pounds fresh peaches
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

1.  Pit and slice the peaches into 1/3 to 1/2 inch wedges.  Toss in the lemon juice and set aside.

2.  In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients.

3.  Combine the peaches with the dry ingredients until evenly coated, taking care not to smash the fruit.