Thank you for looking at my blog! We've been working on making things available via video as well, so I apologize if the written word is more your thing and you have missed me being here in black and white!

I wanted to share some of my Christmas recipes with you, and it's a little easier to go into the detail on the blog rather than the email, so thanks for sticking around!

The idea behind this assortment of recipes comes from a special place: I love to give something to the people who I have grown close to – from teachers, to Greg, the same nice man that brings our packages everyday, to Mary, the lady that does my hair. I want to give something to the neighbors and so many more. It adds up when you have a big family on top of that, but still, you want to give because it makes you feel so good, and it can't be something meaningless or random. There is no better gift than a homemade box of Christmas treats. It speaks so much more loudly than a store bought tin of cookies. Don't get me wrong; that is thoughtful and much appreciated, but if you have the time and the motivation, then I share my time tested recipes with you and invite you to go in this direction this year.

Through an email last week I shared the recipe for my favorite cheesecake, from our good friend and former White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier. If you missed that recipe, I am posting this recipe in its entirety here. The premise of the whole dessert is to layer a beautiful cheesecake (made separately, without crust), with the perfect Red Velvet Cake (except I made it HOT PINK!) and glue the entire phenomenon together with a cream cheese buttercream. It isn't just ANY cream cheese buttercream. This one doesn't get sloppy and gooey. It's my own secret trick to having the best of both worlds - the creamy, smooth but sharp taste of cream cheese, with the stability and firmness of a quality decorator's buttercream.

This recipe is truly made with love. Though a little lengthy, it's well worth it, even if you're really just making it for yourself or for the challenge. The recipe comes in 3 parts. Cheesecake (no crust for easier cutting). We freeze the cheesecakes, because they are super easy to get out of the pans that way. Part 2, Red (or Pink) Velvet cakes. Unmold from pans, cool. You can take a break from the whole thing and freeze these if you would like to also. The day before you are ready to assemble (that will be the 12th or 13th), take them from the freezer and put them into the fridge. Part 3 is the cream cheese buttercream, and finally, putting it all together.

The reason this is lengthy is because I am sharing baking tips with you. If I don't make my point clear anywhere else, I'll say it here again (even if you use boxed mixes): HAVE ALL OF YOUR INGREDIENTS ROOM TEMP OR WARMER!!!!!!

PART 1: Cheesecake Recipe
Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare pans (use CAKE PANS, not springform pans. This is a very liquid batter, taken from Dessert University by Roland Mesnier. One of the best I've ever had!) by cutting a round parchment the size of the bottom of your pan (I am using 6" pans because it's just for two, knowing I'll have extra batter to make more cheesecakes later!). Run a little shortening around the sides to help it stay in place and to help the sides release later. Four 8oz Blocks Cream Cheese 1 ¼ Cups Sugar 1 tsp grated lemon zest 1/2 tsp grated orange zest 5 large eggs 2 large egg yolks ½ Tbsp Pure Vanilla 1 cup Heavy Cream Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temp before mixing!! Place cream cheese, sugar, lemon and orange zest into mixing bowl with paddle attachment. Mix until thoroughly combined and free of lumps. Add the eggs and then yolks, one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl each time. Add vanilla, then heavy cream a little at a time, again scraping sides of bowl. Batter should be very smooth. Place pans on baking sheet with sides and fill with batter to a little over half full. Place onto oven rack, then pour hot water into the baking pan (careful not to splash in to the cheesecake batter!!!) so as to surround the cheesecakes with a bath that helps with even baking and moistness. For a 10" pan, bake an hour. I am baking 6" pans, so I will set the timer for 40 minutes and then check it. Try not to open the oven (that, plus cold ingredients, or too hot of an oven is what causes those cracks in the middle!) The cake should still be a little "jiggly" in the center. Cool cake completely, then you can freeze it in the pan! Alternatively, if you need the pans, you can freeze the cake solid, then turn out of the pans, and then wrap them to go back in the freezer. You can leave the parchment circles on for now; I'll remind you to take them off when we assemble.

PART 2: Red Velvet Cake
This is the Red Velvet part of this recipe. I tried several others, and quite frankly, wasn't swept away by any. I worked this one up, and I kind of LOVE IT. Here you have: Little Mama Gentry's Hot Pink Velvet Cake Please take creative license with this recipe! As I have suggested here, colors besides red can absolutely be used! For St. Patrick's Day, someone had BETTER bring me a GREEN Velvet cupcake with an Irish Cream Filling. On Elvis' birthday or when the Titans play, let's see BLUE Velvet! Just remember that the cocoa will darken the shade a little bit. Here, the electric pink became a beautiful vibrant fuchsia, which I really loved. 2 cups sugar 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature 2 eggs (I warm eggs, in shell, in hot tap water before using in recipe) 3 tablespoons cocoa powder 1 teaspoon-ish Americolor Electric Pink food coloring (you KNOW I don't measure!) 1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil 2 cups cake flour ½ cup All Purpose Flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup buttermilk (warm in microwave for 45 seconds before using in recipe) 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 tablespoon vinegar

Kathy's Tip: WHENEVER YOU BAKE, please have all ingredients at room temp or warmer (did I say that already?)! Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour pans (I used three 6" round pans). Combine sugar and butter, mix on medium high in bowl of stand mixer until fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. In the meantime, in a separate bowl, sift flours and salt together. Add eggs to sugar mixture, one at a time, mixing in between additions. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix again for about 10-15 seconds. In a glass measuring cup, mix cocoa powder, food coloring, and oil. Add into sugar mixture and mix. Add flour mixture alternatively with warm buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla. Scrape down sides again and mix another 10-15 seconds. In a separate bowl, mix together baking soda and vinegar and quickly stir into cake mixture.
[img]{e_MEDIA_IMAGE}2012-02/pink_velvet_batter.jpg[/img] Immediately pour into cake pans and place in oven. Cakes will take approximately 25 minutes, but as every oven bakes differently, I always suggest the "check the middle with a toothpick" method. Remember also that you can always bake it longer, but you can't bake it less. That means if you think your oven bakes hotter or faster, set your timer for less and check it. Cool, turn out, but lay on the flat bottom to cool so there's no cracks or breaks. You can level the cake top before we put it together. Icing and assembly comes next!!!!!

Part 3: Cream Cheese Icing
4 oz Cream Cheese, softened 1/2 cup Hi Ratio shortening (you can substitute regular shortening, but make sure it does NOT have Trans Fats removed. The more durable shortening helps the stability of the icing, especially in humid conditions) 1 tsp lemon juice 2 pounds powdered sugar 3/4 tsp salt 1/4 cup milk 1 tsp vanilla 1/2 tsp Lorann Cheesecake Flavoring Place cream cheese and shortening in bowl of stand mixer. Add lemon juice, 1 cup powdered sugar, and salt. Mix with paddle attachment until combined. Scrape bowl and mix again. Add remaining sugar and milk, alternating between additions. Scrape bowl again and mix thoroughly. Add Vanilla and Cheesecake flavoring. Mix on medium high speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Makes 4 1/2 cups.

Torte all of your layers, including the cheesecakes. If you are not a "torter", you should be! It basically means to split your layers so you can have more layers of filling between cake. It really adds to the taste and appearance of the cake! If you would like to see the general method, please watch our youtube video on torting and filling cakes. 1. Since we baked in 6" pans, we'll get two cakes. AFTER YOU TORTE, you should have six 1" high layers of Red Velvet Cake, and at least four 1" layers of cheesecake.That's all we'll need. 2. Place a dab of icing on your cake board or plate, then adhere one layer of cake. Fill with a thin layer of cream cheese icing. Top with a layer of cheesecake (don't forget to take that parchment paper off!). Fill with a thin layer of cream cheese icing. Continue layering, alternating cake a cheesecake. At the very end, you should see three layers of cake and two layers of cheesecake. 3. Crumbcoat the cake with a thin layer of cream cheese icing, then place in refrigerator for at least an hour to firm up. 4. At this point, you can finish the cake however you like. Either a final coat of cream cheese icing, or a beautiful finish of red fondant will look great. I plan on finishing the cake in red fondant. The decor will be a chain around the cake, with a lock, and various keys made from white chocolate and brushed with bronze luster dust for a gorgeous effect. The message?

"You hold the key to my heart!"

And he does.

I will post the finished product on Valentine's Day!

Have fun with it!