Holiday baking: meringues, divinity, Buche de Noel and gingerbread cupcakes

I have inherited Christmas decorations. Honestly, I'm not sure where some of them came from. I've got lots of gaudy plastic garlands, plenty of lights, red velvet bows, a gazillion ornaments and countless other things. Our front closet is filled with multiple boxes of decorations. I have to admit, I tend to be a fan of flashy Christmas decorations. When else do you get to light up a tree? I didn't put up all my decorations this year, though. Big Christmas tree in the living room, little one in my bedroom, garland and lights over the front window, stockings and a few knickknacks. I'm good with that for now.

I talked before about how we used to get a giant tree when I was younger. See how big that tree was? When you have 14-foot-tall ceilings (at the peak), as a child, you want the tallest tree you can fit in the space. We got a real tree every year, then had to use the ladder to decorate it. And just look at those AND silver. I'm glad I didn't inherit those.

I had another baking marathon with Aunt Betty last weekend. After many-a-day-in-a-row working, I had a number of days off, which I promptly filled with things to do. It's kind of unintentional, but I always enjoy seeing all the people I can when I'm off. Anyway, for once, we didn't use a ridiculous amount of butter. Only three sticks! Which is nothing, considering we made a bunch of different things. These were some meringues that I saw in my latest issue of Food Network Magazine. They are so light and airy, and I liked having them piped this way. They received mixed reviews from friends, but I think it was more the strange texture of a meringue than the taste.

Next on the list was divinity. I'm pretty sure not many people my age know what this is. I remember a woman in my mom's church choir made it every year, and I could never quite decide if I liked it. So we made it, and I definitely like it. I ran across this recipe at BakedBree that was pretty specific, thank goodness. We had to be really careful to cook it to the right temperature so it's firm but still chewy, and when the mixer started struggling (like the recipe said it would), it was perfect. I can't really describe the flavor on this, but it's basically really sugary with pecans.

Don't know if you remember, but one of my baking goals from a few months ago was a Buche de Noel, a French holiday cake. Basically it's a giant Swiss roll cake that you then decorate like a log. We made it from a cookbook Aunt Betty had, then used three (!) batches of frosting for the inside and the outside. It was soooo good though. And it does look like a log, I'd say!

Last but not least, my latest cupcake. I found these absolutely adorable gingerbread man sprinkles from Bake it Pretty. So I bought them, and then decided what to put them on. Enter the Martha Stewart Cupcake book. I hear these were pretty good, but I wouldn't know, because I never tasted them. I'm not big on spiced foods. But they sure looked nice!

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