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the urban baker

the urban baker: October 2009

the urban baker

The Urban Baker is deliciously photographed blog about nourishing your family's soul through life in the kitchen. The recipes for fabulous savories and sweets are easily replicated and will inspire you.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Black & Orange - Happy Halloween!!!

We love Halloween! Every year we do our annual neighborhood "thing" and this year I hosted. Some years it's lasagna, other years it has been chili, but this year we went with a baked ziti, Caesar salad, garlic bread pizza and veggies. It's fun to have everyone over. It is fun to get out the decorations and it is fun to see all the kids in costume.

The vibe was definitely different this year. All of the adults were sitting at one table and the kids were all sitting at another table. I was amazed and surprised at how "calm" all the kids were behaving. In the past, it was a sea of children - all shapes and sizes - screaming and running, acting all crazy and out of control. This year, they were sitting there, eating their food and actually having conversations, laughing and listening to one another. It was quite remarkable. Sadly, they are growing up. Regardless of their age, they still got into the spirit of the holiday.

I had been wanting to make black and white cookies, again, after my disastrous attempt in late June. I had found some recipes on the Internet that looked decent and was already to try them when I stumbled upon a recipe in Desserts by the Yard (Sherry Yard). After reading the recipe, I was sold. After tasting the end result I felt complete. This is the PERFECT cookie recipe with the PERFECT (alas!) glaze. When I was frosting the cookies I knew these were the one. It was love at first sight (and bite) and for me, there is no turning back.

I made this ultimate classic recipe "black & orange" in the spirit of Halloween.



1 cup cake flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
6 oz. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temp
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk

vanilla/chocolate icing

2 1/2 cups plus 1 tsp confectioner's sugar
1 Tbls. light corn syrup
2 Tbls. hot water
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 Tbls. unsweetened cocoa powder


1. Preheat oven to 350*. Line baking sheets with parchment

2. Sift together flour, cake flour, & baking powder

3. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar at med speed until fluffy. Scrape sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and mix.

4. In 2-3 additions, beating on low speed, add flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. Incorporate.

5. I made small cookies and used a small ice cream scooper. Leave a few inches between each cookies.

6. Bake for 8 minutes, rotate pan and bake for another 4-6 minutes until the edges are slightly brown. Cool cookies and then transfer to a wire rack.

7. When cool, ice cookies. Mix conf. sugar, corn syrup, water and vanilla until smooth. I used a little more of each ingredient to get the right consistency. In a separate bowl, melt chocolate over a pan of simmering water. When melted add half of the white frosting to the chocolate and mix.

These would also be cute at the holidays. Blue and white or green and red. These are super yummy!


Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Cookies

It's tradition that we bake lots and lots of cookies for Halloween. I used my favorite butter cookie recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Christmas Cookie Book. I also made a double batch of Sherry Yard's Master Sugar Cookie recipe from The Secrets of Baking. Rose's recipe is still my favorite.

We made cookies for the bake sale at our annual Halloween Hoot, Levi's Halloween party at school, Hebrew school's weekly dinner, our neighbors and some just for fun.

Ghost cookies
4 dozen

Silhouette images
6 dozen

Spider webs
4 dozen

2 dozen

Kids enjoying the holiday

Rose Levy Beranbaum's Traditional Sugar Cookies:


2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
12 Tbls. unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 Tbls. lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla


1. In a mixing bowl mix room temp. butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, lemon zest and vanilla. When mixed, add flour.

2. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and put in fridge for one hour.

3. Roll dough into 1/8" thickness. Press desired shapes. Bake 350* for 10 minutes. Rotate cookie sheets after 5 minutes. Edges of the cookies should be slightly brown.

These last for a few days. They are delicious and easy and great project to do with the kids.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mini Pumpkin Pies with the Kids

Mrs. V doesn't really like the word "party". So....Linda (another mom and I ) changed the verbiage and asked if we could do a project that would be representative of Halloween instead of having a "party". She was open to the idea. Actually, Mrs. V - at one point said, "I am kind of liking this party idea". Maybe we are on to a new era in room 22!

I suggested we make mini pumpkin pies (as I have done it in the past) and it always seems like a fun project for the kids. Plus we could incorporate math (doubling a recipe), science (baking is, after all, a science), and social studies (we talked briefly about the fall harvest and what kind of vegetable a pumpkin is), etc, etc.

This recipe is derived from a plethora of different pumpkin pie recipes. This is what I came up and what works best with the kids. All the ingredients are at our finger tips and most of us have these things in our pantry (aside from the pumpkin puree).

3 whole eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg

1 recipe of Pate Brisee or your favorite pie crust recipe or a graham cracker crust.


1. Chill pie crust or mini tarts until firm, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375*.
2. Line shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake until edges are just beginning to turn golden about 15 minutes. Remove parchment and weights. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. Cool completely.
3. Reduce oven temp to 350*. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients Pour mixture into pie shell or tart shells. Bake until the filling is set around edges, but still slightly soft in the center, around 40-45 minutes.
(check crust periodically; if it gets too dark, cover the edges with foil). The filling will be slightly loose in the center, but will firm up as it cools. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Pie can rest at room temperature, loosely covered with foil for up to 2 days.

For the mini pies (we bought the pre-made mini pie doughs for the kids). If using minis, bake for about 18-22 minutes, however start checking after 16 minutes. The filling makes approximately 15 mini pies.

Mind you, I have never (in the past 5 years) tasted one of these pies, but according to the kids and some of the teachers, this is a winning recipe!

This is a really fun project. The kids loved being involved, they all took turns mixing and pouring and they worked really well as a team.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkin Spice Cake w/Buttermilk Icing

I committed, once again, to baking for an upcoming meeting. It always seems like such a good idea to "volunteer" at the time that I am asked. Then the day before the commitment arrives and I have to add yet one more thing to my overflowing "to do list". I wish I could simply learn to say "no". Anyone out there teach a course in "just saying NO"? If so, let me know, I will sign myself up along with about 10 of my friends whom also over commit themselves. Don't get me wrong, I love to do it, however sometimes I should just keep my mouth shut.

I mainly choose this recipe for Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake because of today's date. With today being October 28th, with the weather finally feeling like "fall" in sunny, southern Cal, and with Halloween creeping up on us, this felt like the obvious choice.

I have two cans of pumpkin puree in my pantry due to me, once again, volunteering to make mini pumpkin pies in Isaac's classroom tomorrow. I really didn't want to make another trip to the super market (to buy more puree), but what the is, after all, pumpkin season.

This cake is delicious! I cut off a piece for each of my kids and they loved it. It is so good that I am going to make another one tomorrow (ended up making two more - one for a friend). The frosting needs a little more buttermilk than what it calls for. I wasn't entirely happy with the consistency, need to work on that! For the next one, I may opt to add a little maple syrup to the glaze. Will let you know.

I am not even going to this "volunteer meeting", but this cake is! Hope everyone enjoys it!

A little "before bedtime" snack!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Marble Cakes

A friend of ours is not doing well and when my mother in law asked me if I was going to bake him something, it dawned on me that I probably should.

Our family really likes this cake. I found it years ago on the Martha Stewart Website. You can find the recipe here. It is easy enough to make and is still good on day three. I had enough buttermilk to make a double batch which gave me 3 loaves ( approx. 8 x 4").

I replaced the dark chocolate with white chocolate for the glaze. This is what gives the cake the delicious factor!



Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

I had pulled this recipe from Gourmet Magazine a while ago and have been looking for a reason to make them. The recipe says it makes 12 cupcakes. I opted to make minis as I need way more than 12. I followed the recipe, however the batter was more like a tough cookie dough batter rather than a cake batter. I threw the first batch of batter out. It just didn't look right. I made the second batch of batter and let it beat a little bit longer in the mixer. This worked and looked better but it was still a little stiff. I proceed, regardless.

The kids have somewhere to go this afternoon and I felt as though I needed to bring a little treat for everyone. I am not quite sure if the kids are going to like the zucchini taste(they got rave reviews), but I had one in the veg drawer that had I waited a few more days, it would end up in my garbage can. Felt better about using it rather than wasting it. Although I am guilty of it, I hate throwing away groceries. It really annoys me and I only have myself to blame for the waste. I am really trying to play "use it up" and thus far have been quite successful.

I may have baked these a bit too long. Next time, I would bake the minis for 16 minutes rather than 18.



1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 pound zucchini, coarsely grated (1 cup)
1 (6-ounces) package semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Whisk together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Beat together sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer until thick and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips. Divide among lined muffin cups and bake until tops spring back when lightly pressed, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then turn out to cool completely.

our anniversary is today, these are for us!

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Blueberry Muffins

For months, Isaac has been bugging me to make blueberry muffins. Every time I get into the kitchen, he comes sauntering in, asking "is it blueberry muffin
day?" Today was blueberry muffin day.

I made the recipe for Blueberry Crumb Muffins out of Nick's The Modern Baker. I liked this recipe because it didn't require ingredients that I had to run out and get (sour cream, yogurt). The wet ingredients were easy enough; eggs and milk.

The kids ate their typical Sunday morning breakfast of bagels and lox. However, left tons of room in their belly's for a huge muffin.

Along with whipping up a batch of these muffins, I also started preparing doughs for Halloween. I made two sugar cookie doughs from Sherry Yard and my favorite sugar cookie dough from Rose Levy Beranbaum. I also made a batch of doughnuts that are flash freezing in my freezer as I write this.

My kitchen is clean and I am done for the day. Now I am off to relax!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Doughnuts-All Kinds!

This was a fun day! And these doughnuts are yum-o-licious!
I have been wanting to make doughnuts for forever, but was a little hesitant. I committed myself to making doughnuts for my friend, Jillian's birthday in two weeks. Jillian is turning 11 and wants me to help her with a cooking party. As the theme is going to be "Mexican", she had mentioned wanting a churro for dessert. We came up with the next best thing, doughnuts. I wanted to do a trial run. I couldn't walk into that party not knowing whether these were going to be good enough.

Whenever one is using yeast, one has to remember that it is a lot easier than it appears. One just has to be able to play the waiting game. That is exactly why I picked a cloudy, fall-like day.

I trust Sherry Yard, and that is exactly why I chose to make her doughnuts from Desserts by the Yard. I may have overcooked a few of them, but with that said, they were really good. Fried dough...can't really go wrong! The recipe says to eat within two hours of making them. I wasn't going to make my family eat 18 doughnuts (however, if they had their way, they would have gladly done so). Instead we packed them up and went door to door. We put a few smiles on our neighbors faces!

The winner of the doughnut challenge was...the glaze! Eli wants to make these again, however make them all glazed. I kind of don't blame him.


1/2 oz fresh yeast or 2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 cup milk, heated to lukewarm (80*)
4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk
1tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1tsp grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 oz unsalted butter, softened
vegetable oil for frying


In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk the yeast and 1/2 cup of the milk until the yeast has dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes, then stir in 1 tbls. of the sugar and 1/2 cup of the flour, forming a thin batter. Cover this sponge with plastic wrap and let rest at room temp for 20-30 minutes, until bubbles form.

Reheat the remaining 1/2 cup milk to lukewarm. Stir the warm milk, buttermilk, nutmeg, lemon zest and teh remaining 1/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar into the sponge. Place the remaining 3 1/2 cups flour and the salt on the top of the sponge. Put the bowl on the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes or until the dough comes together. Scrape down the bowl and the paddle and change to the dough hook. Increase the speed to medium and knead the dough for 5 minutes.

Turn the speed down and add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Mix for 5 minutes or until the dough comes together and is smooth. Scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set it aside to rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Line two 12 x 17 inch half sheet pans with parchment and lightly dust with flour. When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a flat surface, dusted with flour and roll it out to a 10" square with a thickness of 1/2". Wrap the dough in plastic and put in freezer for 20-30 minutes. Using a 2 1/2" doughnut cutter, cut out the doughnuts and the holes. Dip the cutter in flour each time. Place doughnuts and holes on the sheet pans. Cover with lightly sprayed plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes.

In a deep heavy skillet (I used my Le Creuset), heat 3" of oil over medium heat to 350*. Carefully slide 4 doughnuts at a time into the hot oil. Brown on one side, then the other, using a slotted spoon to flip. Drain them on paper towels.


1. Cinnamon sugar - 1 cup sugar mixed with 1 1/2 Tbls. cinnamon. Coat these right away when doughnuts are still a little wet.

2. Chocolate - melt 4 oz. of bittersweet chocolate with 4 oz. unsalted butter in a bowl over simmering water.

2. Glaze - 2 cups of powdered sugar mixed with 1/4 cup milk and 1 tsp. vanilla.

Eat these right away!

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Macadamia Chocolate Meltaways

We were going to friends for dinner the other night, but got cancelled on early in the day due to them getting Dodger playoff tickets. Salzman's vs. Dodgers, hmmm...I think they made a wise decision!

I had already made the batter for these cookies (The All American Cookie Book )the night before and couldn't let them go to waste. What I liked about this recipe is that the dough was easily made and had to be frozen overnight. This is the perfect dessert for those of you who want to pull off the homemade treat, but can't always achieve that.

I just baked these off to take to Eli's football game and the house smells really good. These are so light, crispy, yet soft. The combination of macadamia nuts, the chocolate and the use of powdered sugar as opposed to cane sugar is a winning trio!


1 3/4 lb. (8 oz.) macadamia nuts -divided
2 1/2 tbls. sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into chunks
2 1/2 tbls flavorless oil
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt (omit if using salted nuts)
1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken up into pieces


1. In a food processor, chop 1 1/2 cups macadamia nuts and the sugar until ground to smooth paste. Add the butter, 2 tbls. oil, egg yolk and vanilla and pulse just until blended. Scrape the side of the bowl. Add remaining 1/4 cup macadamia nuts, the flour, powdered sugar, salt and pulse until the macadamia nuts are chopped fine.

2. Melt 1/2 tbls. oil and the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water until just melted. Let stand to cool.

3. Line a 4 1/2 x 8" loaf pan with two long sheets of plastic wrap, laid crosswise and let them overlap with an overhang.

4. Divide the dough in half. Spoon half the dough into the pan. Lay a sheet of wax paper over the top and press down and smooth to even the surface. Using a pastry brush, spread the chocolate thinly over the dough. Freeze until chocolate completely sets (I forgot to do this and my chocolate oozed all over!). Place second layer of dough over chocolate and repeat with wax paper to smooth. Cover the loaf with the overhang of the plastic wrap. Freeze 3-4 hours or overnight.

5. Preheat oven to 325 and line baking sheets with silpat pads. Or spray with nonstick spray.

6. Peel the plastic from the dough. Using a large, sharp knife, Cut the dough lengthwise in half and then cut each half in half again (you will have 4 equal size logs). Cut each log into 1/4" slices, wiping knife after each cut. Place on cookie sheets, 2" apart.

7. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for 11-15 minutes, until slightly browned. Rotate the sheets half way during baking.
Transfer sheets to a wire rack and let firm 3-4 minutes. Transfer cookies to another wire rack until completely cool.

Store in an airtight container for 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month. Be careful cuz cookies are fragile.

These are delicious. I highly recommend you make them!

p.s. Eli just walked in the room, eating one and said, "soft, yet crunchy and delectable!"

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jelly Cookies

My sister in law, Tammy, gave me this recipe for these yummy jelly cookies. The recipe was given to her by her friend whose aunt is Swedish. Tammy calls them "Ikea" cookies. I call them light & buttery, creamy and not too sweet.

I would love to share the recipe however, I am not comfortable publishing it until I get permission to do so. In the meantime, enjoy the photos!

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Cheese Bread

I made a big pot of chicken stock this weekend (we are finally feeling the beginnings of Fall). My kids have requested matzoh ball soup for dinner tonight. I am going to add a ton of veggies to the broth, but I wanted something else to go with it.

I am also going to make enchiladas with the the chicken from the soup and as I was searching for my recipe I came across a recipe for Cheese Bread. Sounds kind of yummy!

I generally cook 5 or so nights a week, but the last few weeks I have been a struggle. I am going to make an effort this week to cook and have us all sit down as a family for dinner. I do love dinner time. It gives us all a chance to catch up, find out how our day was and sets the tone for the later part of the evening.

This bread is addictive and good. The Parmesan makes it so salty and savory, the cheese makes it creamy, it is kind of perfect!!!!


3ounces Parmesan cheese , shredded on large holes of box grater (about 1 cup)
3cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces)
1tablespoon baking powder
1/4teaspoon cayenne pepper
1teaspoon table salt
1/8teaspoon ground black pepper
4ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese , cut into ½-inch cubes, or mild Asiago, crumbled into ¼- to ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1 1/4cups whole milk
3tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
1large egg beaten lightly
3/4cup sour cream


  1. 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 5 by 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, then sprinkle 1/2 cup Parmesan evenly in bottom of pan.

  2. 2. In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper to combine. Using rubber spatula, mix in cheddar or Asiago, breaking up clumps, until cheese is coated with flour. In medium bowl, whisk together milk, melted butter, egg, and sour cream. Using rubber spatula, gently fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined (batter will be heavy and thick). Do not overmix. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan; spread to sides of pan and level surface with rubber spatula. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan evenly over surface.

  3. 3. Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick or skewer inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack 5 minutes; invert loaf from pan and continue to cool until warm, about 45 minutes. Cut into slices and serve.

  4. Freezing Instructions: Although the recipe title Quick Cheese Bread is no misnomer (the batter is in the pan in 15 minutes), when you add time for baking and cooling, the recipe does require a total of two hours. Luckily, like many of our other bread recipes, a baked loaf of cheese bread freezes beautifully, meaning a warm loaf need be only minutes away.

    To freeze the bread, wrap the cooled loaf tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil and place in the freezer; it will keep for up to three months. When you’re ready to serve the bread, place the frozen, wrapped loaf on the middle rack of a preheated 375-degree oven and heat for eight to 10 minutes, until the loaf yields under gentle pressure. Remove the foil and return the unwrapped bread to the oven for five minutes to crisp the exterior. Take the bread out of the oven and let cool on a rack for 15 minutes to make slicing easier. Enjoy.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Chocolate-Mascarpone Cheesecake

We are going to friends house tomorrow night and the menu is "Italian" for 33 people. Along with my famous Caesar salad and my marinara sauce (totally perfected and I am threatening to bottle and sell it) I wanted to make a dessert that would tie in with the theme.

Originally I wanted to make a "Nonna's cake" but after reading a few of my cookbooks, cheesecake became the winner. After going to the market and measuring out all the ingredients in preparation for the assembly, I receive an email from the hostess asking what my plans were for dessert. After answering her, she replied by asking me to freeze it for a rainy day(she was hoping for finger desserts). I will admit, I was sad.

After I got over my sadness, the light bulb went off and I decided to make mini chocolate mascarpone cheesecakes. I know my friend will be relieved and I am almost positive everyone will be happy with a bite size treat.

I found this recipe in Baking with Julia. The recipe doesn't really call for a crust, but I felt the minis needed it. I had some left over homemade graham crackers that I crushed up and made for the crust. Next time I would use a shortbread or an animal cracker type cookie for the crust. I think the contrast in color would have made these a little prettier.

With that said, these are FANTASTIC!!! I took three and a half dozen and all were gone within minutes (one of the guys ate 10 of them).


1 1/2 lbs cream cheese, room temp.
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 lb mascarpone, room temp
3 eggs, room temp
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted-keep very warm

cookie crumbs
butter, melted


1 preheat oven to 350*. If using spring form pan, butter all over and line outside with foil. If using mini muffin cups, spray with cooking spray

2. Cream cream cheese until perfectly smooth, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and beat for another 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add flour, vanilla and mascarpone beat until incorporated

3. Add eggs one at a time. Scrape down side of bowl after each egg. Add the sour cream until incorporated.

4. Remove one cup of mixture and stir into the warm melted chocolate. Mix until you no longer see white streaks. Pour batter either into small mini cups or your prepared 8" spring form pan.


If using spring form pan, set the pan in a roasting pan and place in the center of the oven. Pour hot water into the roasting pan until it comes halfway up the sides. Bake 50-60 minutes. Bake until you send a quivering wave across the cake when shaking the pan. Remove pan from oven and place cake only on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

If using mini cups. Place 1 teaspoon of crumb mixture in each muffin tin. Press down to make a crust. Fill muffin tins to the top. Bake for 12-16 minutes, rotating pans back to front, top to bottom. Let cool to room temp.

For both, place in fridge for at least 3 hours or over night. Unmold large cake before putting in fridge. Flip cake over on a cake and sprinkle bottom of cake with crumbs. Press crumbs into cake. Once set, re flip cake so crumbs are ultimately on the bottom.

If you have left over minis freeze your left overs for a rainy day!