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KCTS 9 Cooks

Sweets for Santa

December 2, 2014

Holiday baking is a great tradition to share with your family. Join KCTS 9 Cooks for festive desserts everyone will enjoy preparing and eating!

A KCTS 9 cookbook makes the perfect gift for budding and experienced cooks. Browse our collection and share your love of public television deliciously!

Royal Viennese Walnut Torte

KCTS 9's Sara Elward made this gorgeous Maida Heatter 3-layer cake and brought it to the office. So picture-perfect and delicious, no one could believe it wasn't from a fancy bakery. Ground walnuts replace flour in this torte, and, according to Sara, the secret to this flourless chocolate cake is her Swedish nut grinder, an industrial model with a rotary drum that clamps to the kitchen counter. Walnuts in a food processor just don’t get the same results. Not easy, and not for beginners or the faint of heart. You'll need a large bowl, minimum 8 quarts, to fold the ingredients together.

serves 12 to 16



  • 1 pound (41/2 cups) walnuts
  • 11/2-2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder (preferable Dutch process)
  • 12 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • dry breadcrumbs, finely ground


Adjust 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds, and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of baking parchment. Butter the papers and the pan sides. Dust all over with fine, dry bread crumbs and set aside.

Grind walnuts. To use a food processor, place walnuts and 1/2 cup of the sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade. (You'll omit this sugar if you grind walnuts by hand.) Process for 15 seconds only; any longer and the nuts will become lumpy and oily. The sugar helps prevent the nuts from becoming pasty in the processor. Add cocoa and pulse a few times, or add to the hand-ground nuts and blend. Mix thoroughly, scraping down the sides to blend. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir with a fork to finish blending; set aside.

In the small bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks at high speed for about 3 minutes. Reduce speed and gradually add in 1 cup sugar. Increase speed to high again and continue to beat 5 minutes more until thick and pale. Remove from mixer and transfer to a large mixing bowl (8-quart plus); set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat egg white and salt until they hold a soft shape. On low speed, add 1/2 cup sugar and continue to beat on high speed until whites hold a firm point when beaters are raised, or are stiff but not dry. Do not overbeat. Remove from the mixer.

With a large rubber spatula, fold half the nut mixture into the yolks, and then, in the following order, fold in one-third of the whites, the remaining half of the nit mixture, half the remaining whites, and then the rest of the whites. Fold gently, not once more than necessary, and do not fold until completely blended until after the last addition, and then, just barely.

Divide batter among prepared pans. Spread the tops level with the bottom of a large spoon.

Bake 2 pans on one rack and 1 pan on the other, without placing one directly over another. Bake for 50 minutes, until the tops spring back when gently pressed with a fingertip and the layers come away slightly from the sides of the pans. (During baking the layers will rise and then sink a little.)

Remove pans from the oven. Cover each pan with a rack and invert, but do not remove from the pans until they are cool enough to handle. Cut around the edges to release, invert onto e rack, and remove pan. Do not remove the paper linings until you are ready to ice the cake. Invert onto another rack to cool right side up.

The cake has a distinct yet subtle walnut flavor. Frost with Coffee Buttercream or your favorite chocolate ganache.

Coffee Buttercream


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dry instant coffee
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum or cognac, plus extra (optional)) for sprinkling on the layers


Place yolks in the top of a small double boiler. Beat a little with a small wire whisk just to mix. Gradually stir in sugar. Dissolve coffee in boiling water, and gradually whisk it into the yolk mixture.

Place over warm water on low-medium heat. The water must not touch the top of the double boiler and it must not boil, or mixture will curdle. Cook, stirring and scraping the pot constantly with a rubber spatula for 10 to 15 minutes, until mixture thickens to a soft custard consistency, and reaches 170 to 175 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stop the cooking by quickly turning the mixture into a metal bowl; place bowl in a larger bowl of ice and water. Stir frequently until mixture is cool.

Beat the butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer to soften it a bit. Gradually add cooled custard mixture, the vanilla, and the rum or cognac. Beat well until very smooth and light in color. If necessary, refrigerate the mixture to firm it a bit and then beat it again.

Just before icing the cake, peel the paper from the layers.

Place 4 strips of baking parchment around the edges of a large, flat cake plate. Place the first cake layer on the plate right side up, checking to make sure it touches the papers all around. Optional additional rum or cognac may be sprinkled over each layer before frosting. Use a long, narrow metal spatula to spread a thin layer of filling. The filling must be spread thinly, or you won’t have enough to cover the top and sides of the cake. Continue stacking layers right side up, frosting the second layer as you stack.

When layers are in place, brush sides of cake to remove any loose crumbs. Cover sides and finally the top with buttercream, spreading it smooth. Refrigerate and serve cake cold. Before serving, remove the paper strips by pulling each one out by a narrow end. You may decorate the top of the cake with cocoa powder dusted through a doily or cake decorating stencil.

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Judith Lidgus, Mill Creek - KCTS 9 Cooks for the Holidays

A light and smooth Thanksgiving treat that may be prepared 2 days ahead. Evaporated milk may be used equally as well as whipping cream with fewer calories.

Makes eight 6-ounce servings (may be halved for 4 servings)

Ingredients for Creme Brulee

  • 3 cups whipping cream (or evaporated milk)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin (no spices)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Ingredients for Topping

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar


One day before beginning the recipe, spread the brown sugar on a parchment-lined tray to dry out.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil water for baking the custards.  In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat cream over medium heat until steaming. You’ll see tiny bubbles around the edge of the pan.

In a glass pitcher or large measuring cup, whisk together egg yolks, pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in cream. Whisk in vanilla. Skim off foam, if any.

Divide mixture among eight 6-ounce ramekins or custard cups. Place the custard cups in 2 large shallow pans and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the custard cups/ramekins. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until edges are set and center is still jiggly. A knife inserted in the center should come out creamy. Remove custard cups from water and let cool on racks to room temperature. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, about 6 hours or overnight.

An hour before serving, place custards on a large pan surrounded by ice (this prevents the custards from melting when broiling the topping). Pat tops dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over tops and broil 6 inches from heat until sugar bubbles and darkens. Watch carefully, as they burn. Or use a blowtorch to quickly and evenly caramelize tops, holding the flame 2 to 3 inches from the surface. For an extra crunchy top, repeat the process.

Pecan Pie Bars

Paula Nemzek - KCTS 9 Cooks

Pecan pie is a fixture at many holiday dinners, and now you can get the same taste in an easy bar version. Pecan Pie Bars are a delicious indulgence and a perfect baked gift for friends and neighbors this season.

Serves 12 to 16

Ingredients for Topping

  • 2-1/2 cups pecans
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark rum or rum extract

Ingredients for Base

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into bits


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish.

Toast whole pecans for 7 to 8 minutes until fragrant. Break into pieces when cool.

Prepare the base first. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Cut in chilled butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Press mixture evenly into pan. Use a piece of plastic wrap to help press the dough down evenly. Bake at for 17 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned.

Combine brown sugar, corn syrup and butter in a saucepan. Bring just to a boil over medium heat, stirring gently. Remove from heat and whisk one-fourth of hot mixture into beaten eggs to temper; add to remaining hot mixture. Stir in pecan pieces, vanilla and rum, coating pecans completely. Pour filling over crust. Bake for 34 to 35 minutes or until set. Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Paula Nemzek - KCTS 9 Cooks

These delicious cupcakes don’t need frosting, because they have a cheesecake-chocolate chip filling. Vinegar and baking soda make them rise, just like a science project volcano!

Makes about 24 cupcakes

Ingredients for Filling

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 6-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips (1 cup)

Ingredients for Muffins

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


Line cupcake tins with foil or paper liners. Place cream cheese, egg, sugar and salt in a bowl. Beat well and stir in chocolate chips. (It’s fine if a few lumps remain.) Set aside. Mix flour, sugar, soda, cocoa and salt in a large bowl. Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla and beat all ingredients until blended. Fill cupcake liners one-third full with cake mixture. Top each with a heaping teaspoon of cream cheese mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

No-Bake Peanut Butter Bars

Paula Nemzek - KCTS 9 Cooks

Serves 12 to 24

Main Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened just to the point of melting
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter


  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons creamy peanut butter


In a large bowl, mix together the butter, graham cracker crumbs, confectioners' sugar, and 1 cup peanut butter. Press mixture evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9 x 13-inch pan. Chill for 15 to 20 minutes before spreading the topping over the base. In the microwave, or in a metal bowl over simmering water, melt the chocolate chips with the peanut butter. Stir occasionally until smooth. If it's molten, let it cool off a few minutes. Spread topping over the prepared crust. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, cut into squares (this way the topping won’t crack), and continue to refrigerate for at least another 40 minutes before serving.


Featured Image: condesign,, creative commons


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Our family has a recipe very similar to Sara's cake with the addition of jam along with the chocolate frosting in between the layers of cake.