orange-cranberry king cake

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via

I’m sharing my spin on King Cake. My version is delicious and fluffy, made with one of my favorite items to bake with: orange zest. Cranberry glaze is folded into the dough, taking this tradition over the top!

If you’d like to order one that we’ll be hand made and offered at MiaBella, please pre-order via our website: or via this link:

My kids and I have loved making this traditional sweet bread together for the last few years. This time, I’m sharing my recipe and a couple different ways to prepare this delightful treat, including the use of a Bundt pan, which is now my favorite method.

Families all over the world enjoy King Cake to either celebrate the Epiphany, (when the three kings visited baby Jesus, on January 6) or the day before Lent begins. (Lent is the 40 days of sacrifice before Easter Sunday.) Either way, there should be a toy baby (symbolizing baby Jesus) found inside the cake. All of this fun started in 12th century France. Today you’ll find the cakes typically decorated with sprinklings of yellow, purple and green. This year, I went GOLD for our pre-Lent celebration.

This is a super easy recipe. You just need to have some time on your hands. Set aside 4 hours for rising and bake time. Trust me. Like most wonderful things in your life, it’s worth the extra love and time. I hope you’ll try to make this once. You’ll love it so much that I’m sure you’ll want to make it every year from now on! Let’s do this. . .

Mili’s Sweets Orange-Cranberry King Cake Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need for the dough:

In a large bowl: 2 cups all purpose flour

in a small bowl: 2 cups all purpose flour with 1 teaspoon iodized salt

1 packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup fat free milk

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

3 extra large eggs (at room temperature – you can run them under warm water)

2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

zest of one large orange

1 egg white (for the wash before baking)

Here’s what you’ll need for the cranberry glaze, to fold inside the dough:

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from the orange zested for the dough)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup powdered sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

extra tools: plastic pastry scraper, metal pastry cutter, Bundt pan, saucepan, cookie sheet, offset spatula

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via

Here’s what you’ll do:

Start by scalding the milk. Put the 1/2 cup of fat free milk and 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream in a saucepan and heat until you see small bubbles forming on the edge. Remove from heat.

While the milk cools, prepare to activate the dry yeast. In a cup, warm 1/4 cup of water in the microwave for 10 seconds. Add the contents of the packet and and stir to dissolve. Allow to active. In 10 minutes, both the yeast and the milk will be ready, so that you can begin preparing the dough.

Next, in a standing mixer, with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until it covers the bottom of the bowl. Add the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and then the eggs, one at a time. Beat it for about 20 seconds. The end result will look like super-fluffy scrambled eggs.

Now you’re ready to put the pieces of the dough together. In the large bowl you’ve prepared with the 2 cups of flour, make a well in the center. Add the mixture of activated yeast, then the warm milk. Mix together with your hands or a plastic pastry scraper. Once incorporated, add the butter-sugar-egg mixture and completely combine.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a cold oven for an hour and a half.

Here’s what the process looks like:

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via

The next step is to add the 2 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of salt that you have already set aside in a small bowl. Mix this in with the use of your pastry scraper. Then add the zest of one large orange.

Once the orange zest is incorporated, cover the bowl with a cloth. Return it to your cold oven and allow it to rise for an additional hour.

While your dough is enjoying it’s second-rise, prepare the cranberry glaze that will be folded in before it’s baked.


Here’s how to make the cranberry glaze:

Squeeze out all of the juice from the large orange you used to flavor the dough. It should give you about 1/2 cup. If you don’t have 1/2 cup of juice, make up the difference with either more orange juice or water.

In a saucepan, over medium heat, stir juice, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Once smooth, with the sugars dissolved, add the 1/2 cup dried cranberries and pure vanilla extract. Stir and remove from heat.

The glaze will be cooled and ready to use, once your dough is ready.

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via

This recipe will make two King Cakes. (One to share and one to keep. Or two to share. xox) When the dough is ready, use a pastry cutter to divide it.

I’m sharing two different ways to prepare to bake the dough. There’s the typical way, with a cookie sheet and then there’s a method I tried for the first time, using a Bundt pan. (Made sense to me!) Turns out using the Bundt is my favorite way to prepare this cake.

For the Bundt pan method: Spray and flour the pan so that it is prepared for the dough.

For the typical method: Place parchment paper or a silpat mat over the cookie sheet/pan.

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via milissweets.comPlace 1/2 of the dough on a clean, flat surface, dusted with a liberal amount of flour.

Assemble the piece of dough together and lay flat.

Spoon the cranberry glaze over the dough. Then, fold it over once. Gently twist and lengthen the dough so that you can form a circle.

* Please note that the dough should be handled as little as possible and there is no need to kneed.

Place the twisted dough in either the Bundt pan or at the center of the prepared cookie sheet.

Sprinkle it with a light dusting of flour at the top and sides. Believe it or not, it’s going to rise again!

Cover with a cloth, and return it to your cold oven for one additional, and final hour.

Here’s a peek at  the process when using a Bundt pan:

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via

When the dough is in the “after rise” stage, you can finally turn your oven on!

(This is one of the reasons why patience is a virtue.)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

This is the time I put the in the baby! When I make the cake for my family, there are at least 3 babies, but typically you’ll place just one plastic toy in the cake.  I like to do my teeth a favor, and I place the baby at the very bottom of my baking-pan, so that I can spot the bottom when I eat my slice. This is best, since digging around in your cake doesn’t seem like the proper thing to do.

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via

Prepare an egg wash, by whisking an egg white. Brush it onto the top of the dough.

Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Here’s the process when using the cookie sheet method:

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via

You can see from the examples, that you’ll have a bigger cake with the cookie sheet method. It will both rise and spread. I prefer it to rise rather than spread, to have a more controlled size. (Yes. I have issues.) However, moving the cake from the cookie sheet is a lot easier. You’ll have to allow the cake to completely cool, and use an offset spatula to loosen all of the edges, to remove the cake from the Bundt pan. Then, place a plate under it, hold the two together and turn it upside down to remove.

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via

Once the cake is cooled, you’ll want to ice it. You can make royal icing or do what I do, by making a batch of vanilla butter cream frosting and melting it a bit in the microwave. I use a plastic sandwich bag as my piping bag, cut a corner for my “tip,” and coat the top in a back and forth motion. This is the moment you’ll want to have your sprinkles on-hand.

orange-cranberry King Cake - recipe and how-to via

This is such a special treat and I’m glad it’s part of our family’s pre-Lent tradition.



sweet abundance

sweet abundance - wedding desserts set and catered by Mili - www.milissweets.comTina was a bride after my own heart! For her wedding reception, she asked me to cater “abudanza.” It Italian, it means abundance – when guests have a wonderful and overwhelming amount to choose from and enjoy. It’s a cultural way of showing love for your guests, since so much time and care goes in to preparing each treat. I loved her excitement, to provide something beyond a slice of wedding cake.

Set at the gorgeous Humphrey’s Estate in Temecula, California, I made everything her and her groom’s hearts desired, on their beautiful wedding day, last June.

artisan truffles - wedding desserts set and catered by Mili -

First on Tina’s list were artisan truffles. I made both Salted Caramel and Mexican Hot Cocoa.

Then there were individual servings of Creme Brulee, topped with a fresh raspberry. She also ordered both cream puffs and eclairs.

cream puffs - wedding desserts set and catered by Mili -

What’s the difference? The difference between cream puffs and eclairs is pretty simple. Both are made with from-scratch Choux Pastry. (It took me quite a while to master making these. My husband actually taught me!) I choose to fill cream puffs with rich whipped cream and top them with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. I fill eclairs with my version of Italian custard and drizzle them with ganache.

She wanted a “pop” or sweets on a stick. Since I don’t make cake pops, she went with my alternative, cookie pops, in both Snickerdoodle and Coconut Dream.

cookie pops and artisan eclairs - wedding desserts set and catered by Mili -

She topped off her order with an assortment of mini cupcakes in Very Strawberry, S’mores and Lemonade. Believe it or not, she had a wedding cake as well! It was on a separate table, made by another vendor.

I was happy to set the desserts indoors, to save them from the outside elements on a hot, June afternoon. The setting was beautiful. With vintage wallpaper and a antique cabinet as my backdrop, all the table needed was her lovely birdcage as a centerpiece and clean/basic plating, graced with the assortment.

sweet abundance - wedding desserts set and catered by Mili -

One of the sweetest parts about working with Tina is that we met by total chance.

I had an appointment to meet a potential client at a Starbucks for a tasting and consultation and she never showed. After waiting long enough and realizing I was stood-up*, with cupcakes in hand, I offered them to a sweet couple at a table nearby, caring for a young boy. I explained my situation and asked if they would like to have the cupcakes, thinking nothing at all of it and glad that someone would enjoy them.

Well, the woman whom I offered them to worked with Tina. She told her the story after tasting my cupcakes and referred me. It always surprises and amazes me, what a simple act of kindness, and reaching out to a perfect stranger can do. There’s never a loss when things don’t work out the way you first plan. It’s better to be completely open to what’s ahead since there’s always something even better waiting for you to enjoy.

This wedding is on my list as one of my favorites of my dessert catering career. I’m so glad that I was able to be a small part of this special day.

* Oh, and by the way, that was the only time I was ever stood-up when it came to cupcakes!




love first

I’m reflecting on a special day this coming week, when 15 years ago, (December 29, 2000), my husband asked me to marry him.

Here we were, just moments before he popped the big question in Florence, Italy. There was absolutely no hesitation at all. I was so excited to say yes, and from that moment on, to know that we would be our future for the rest of our lives, was like a dream come true. It still is.

This coming year, I’ll celebrate literally spending half of my life with this guy – my other half, the love of my life and my best friend. It’s crazy to think that we will have been together for 20 years! It’s even more awesome to imagine the next 20, 30 and 40. When God put us together He answered many prayers. My mom, my Nonna and I, are thankful.

So, what do I have to show for all of this invested time?

Love has been the true umbrella for our day-to-day life, but so much is involved with real love.

Laughter. We have a ton of laugh-lines. We both grew up with something in common: we use laughter as a remedy for dealing with hardship. We have thrived because we are full of joy. Our home is typically full of laughter too. Since the day I met this guy, I was laughing with him. He was my friend since day one and he will be my friend forever.

Here we were, laughing as usual, when our friend took photos of us for our 10th wedding anniversary. For more on this session from Love, Jen Photography and to take a peek at our wedding cake, please see my past story: My First Wedding Cake, 10 Years Later.


Forgiveness. We have never mad at one another for longer than a few hours. We let it out and then we move on. We don’t argue often and we always keep it real. We love one another, trust one another, and depend on one another way too much to allow anything to stand in the way of our bond.

Trust. We are very flexible and accommodating. We go out of our way to support one another for what we individually need to do or simply want to do. There’s no resentment or nagging. It takes maturity and love and it’s easy since we are both devoted to the team.

Determination. We are two extremely determined and hard working individuals. We are giving of ourselves and care a lot. It’s hard for us to hang around those who are not like us in this way because determination takes a lot of precious, personal time.

Life is very demanding and exhausting. It’s amazing to know that we can come home (to our own sanctuary) where we lay our heads down in peace, together. I’m so thankful that we have each another to hold everything down.

I put my faith and my role and mom and wife at the center of all that I do. Despite the hustle and bustle of life and work, my husband and I prioritize to be an example. We do small but important thing like sit down together to have dinner every night. We pray before each meal (even if we’re in public) and we do everything it takes to raise our children to be the incredible people they already are.


Here are our sweethearts on Christmas Day, 2015 (yesterday). My stepdaughter will graduate from UCLA in the Spring. We have a daughter in middle school and little-man is in elementary. How could we not love them and be proud of them when they are our life’s work? Never have I been given a better and more rewarding job than to love them and to be their mom. After all of these years, I still can’t even believe that we have such gifts!

At the end of the day, truly living life is about loving life, even when it’s difficult.

Here’s to another year of putting love first.

Best wishes to you and yours in 2016.

xox, Mili

Do you want to build a snowman-pop?

build a snowman craft/treat for kids - via

If there is ever a moment during a kid’s winter break, when they need a little something to do and enjoy, I have an idea. I came up with a super-cute and super easy craft that kids love – to build and eat their own edible snowman-pop. It’s a craft and a snack and you can guarantee a “nailed it” every time.

I have taught art class for a number of years, as a docent for my children’s school. I absolutely love being with the kids and seeing what they accomplish through art. Sometimes I give them a challenging project or a more challenging medium, so that they can discover how awesome they are at something new. Love and encouragement to set the tone, can really help to build a child’s confidence. If they are already confident, they will find this fun and memorable.

This school year, I didn’t sign up to be an art docent, but I did sign up to be a room parent. For our Christmas party before school let out, I tried this craft. The 7-8 year old second graders absolutely loved this! The bigger kids in my world loved this one too. Let’s give it a whirl!

“Do You Want To Build A Snowman-Pop”

Here’s what you’ll need:

a straw – plastic or paper

1 large marshmallow

1 small/standard size marshmallow

2 pretzel sticks

plastic sandwich bag

chocolate ganache, prepared

other tools: scissors, teaspoon, rubber band

Here’s what you’ll do:

First, you’ll want to have the ganache prepared. I had some in the fridge/on hand, so all I had to do was microwave scoops of it for 10 seconds at a time, until I achieved a flow-consistency. If you are making a chocolate ganache recipe from scratch, then you’ll want to allow it to cool to warm or room temperature.

Next, it’s time to prepare the world’s smallest piping bag. It needs to be small, in case you have a hungry or ultra messy child on your hands. A little goes a long way and the only way that they can turn their snack into art, is by allowing for a very small amount of the chocolate to come through at the corner of the bag. I’ll show you how.

build a snowman craft/treat for kids - via

I had the craft all set in production-mode for the cute bunch of 2nd graders.

First, cut plastic sandwich bags in half, so that there are two corner bags. Next, place one corner bag into a small glass jar (a cup would be handy too) to hold the bag. Then spoon in about one teaspoon of chocolate ganache into each bag. Then, use a rubber band to close each bag. Small scissors are used to cut a tiny hole at the corner, but only when your crafter is ready to play.

Next, ask your little crafter to start assembling their snowman!

build a snowman craft/treat for kids - via

I told you this was easy and fun!

After this is done, you can slide the two pretzel sticks into the bigger, bottom marshmallow. Now it’s time to get really creative. Cut a tiny hole at the corner of the chocolate pipping bag and tell the kids to go for it.

The children were not shy and LOVED sharing their creations with me. I was really proud of them and super impressed with their creativity and piping skills! I’m glad I took a photo of some of them, since the kids made their creations disappear only moments after they were made. They were so precious!

build a snowman craft/treat for kids - via


cranberry-orange scones for Christmas morning

Cranberry-Orange Scones for Christmas morning - recipe and how-to via

Cranberry-Orange is my favorite flavor combination for Christmas-time desserts. There’s something extra wonderful about fresh scones, sweet breads and biscuits this time of year. For some reason, I always seem to crave them more in the month of December.

Scones are one of my favorite treats, especially if there is a cup of coffee involved. There’s a little person at my house who confessed that she loves scones more than cupcakes. Well there you have it. We know exactly what we are having on Christmas morning!

If you’re thinking the same, well you came to the right place! I’m sharing my recipe and how-to to make them super special.

Cranberry-Orange Scones for Christmas morning - recipe and how-to via

I have come to find that it takes a little bit of experience with working with dough, to know when it is just-right, based on the feel of it. The recipe itself is super-simple but the handling is what matters. You don’t want to over-work it and you don’t want to over-flour it. If you haven’t made scones before, then it’s worth a little practice to get it right. You will know if you have succeeded if your dough has come together enough for you to cut it and bake it. If that’s not the case, try again and you’ll get there. I’ll be cheering you on!

Cranberry-Orange Scones, recipe by Mili’s Sweets 

Here’s what you’ll need:

3 cups all purpose flour, plus a 1/2 cup reserved flour for dusting

1/4 cup granulated sugar

5 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/2 sticks of cold salted butter (12 tablespoons), cut into pats

zest of two oranges (about 2 tablespoons)

3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice (about half of an orange)

1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 cup cranberry sauce, strained for only the whole, cooked berries, or 1 cup dried cranberries

Cranberry-Orange Scones for Christmas morning - recipe and how-to via

Here’s what you’ll do:

First, let’s talk cranberries. They should be highlighted nicely.  No matter what, you’ll want to prepare them properly so that they are ready for the recipe. I prefer to strain the whole cranberries from my Cranberry Sauce. If you’d like to make my 10 minute recipe, I recommend omitting the apples and substituting orange juice for the water. For best results, the sauce should be chilled before you use it for scones. If you want, you can use a canned, whole berry cranberry sauce, but it won’t taste the same (of course not). If you prefer to use dried cranberries, I recommend soaking them in a bowl with water for about 20 minutes, to plump them up a bit. Either way, you’ll strain them to separate them from the liquid.

Cranberry-Reduction Glaze Recipe: You can have a nice little addition to your scone by reserving the strained liquid from the cranberry sauce (my recipe, not the canned version). Place it pan at medium heat. Once it starts to bubble at the edges, place a timer on for 10 minutes. Stir while it reduces. Once 10 minutes are up, remove from heat and allow to cool.  I used the glaze to pipe onto the top of the royal icing on the finished scone.

Cranberry-Orange Scones with (cranberry-reduction glaze) for Christmas morning - recipe and how-to via milissweets.comNow that we’re all set with the cranberries of your choice, you’ll want to prepare the orange zest and juice and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with either a silpat mat or a piece of parchment paper.

Place all of the dry ingredients, including flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, in a large bowl.

Next, add the pats of butter. Use a pastry-blender to cut the cold butter into small pieces, into the dry ingredients.

Make a small well and pour in the orange juice and buttermilk.

Use one hand to rotate the bowl around in a circle while you work. Use your other hand (I’m a lefty) to sweep your hand in from the outside edge, gently bringing the flour into the buttermilk. It will soon be incorporated. Add the orange zest and cranberries.

Cranberry-Orange Scones for Christmas morning - recipe and how-to via

Dust a flat, clean surface with a small handful of flour, from your 1/2 cup of reserve.

Once your dough has mostly come together in the bowl, you’ll want to handle it (gently)  to bring it together and shape it for cutting into scone pieces.

Cranberry-Orange Scones for Christmas morning - recipe and how-to via

Dust the top with a small handful of flour, from your 1/2 cup reserve. Bring the dough together by handling it so that all of the pieces have formed a ball. This will not take a lot of time. You just don’t want to see crumbling or coming apart. If the dough is crumbling, it needs a little more moisture. If that is the case, bring your dough back into the bowl and add a tablespoon more of juice or buttermilk to work in.

The dough should not be too wet with the ratio in this recipe, but if you see see many pockets of  wetness from the buttermilk, then first work the dough just a little more. If that still doesn’t help, give the dough another liberal dusting of flour from  your reserve.

Cranberry-Orange Scones for Christmas morning - recipe and how-to via

Once it’s just right, you’ll be able to stretch and bend it and pat it down into the shape you want. For scones, I make it into a narrow rectangle. Create a shape that is a little less wide than the size of scones you want. Sometimes I like to offer little scones. This time, I went big. Either way, you will want to the dough to be between one and one and a half inches in height.

Cranberry-Orange Scones for Christmas morning - recipe and how-to via

Use a large knife to cut through the dough to make pieces to bake. I make a pattern that creates several triangles, where the back, imperfect dough will be the back side of the scone.

Cranberry-Orange Scones for Christmas morning - recipe and how-to via

On the prepared cookie sheet, place the cut dough with plenty of space in a criss-cross pattern.They will expand while baking and it’s best that they do not touch. On a typical cookie sheet, I was able to bake 8 at one time.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown and cooked-through. A good test to see if they are ready is to look at the bottom (kind of like a cookie). Take a spatula that has peek-holes. Lift the scone from the cookie sheet and peek under it. If it is consistently golden brown, your sones have finished baking.

Cranberry-Orange Scones for Christmas morning - recipe and how-to via

Allow to cool completely. Maybe you like them just like this. If that’s the case, you case done!

If you need a little more sweetness and beauty, then I have some ideas for finishing them off.

I love adding sweetness onto the scone, since the pastry itself is not very sweet. I love a good drizzling of royal icing to start. To see my same classic recipe paired with Gingerbread Cookies or iced Shortbread Cookies, please go to my recipe links.

Cranberry-Orange Scones for Christmas morning - recipe and how-to via

I drizzled on royal icing so that most of the top of the scone was completely coated.

I took a small piping bag and used the Cranberry Reduction Glaze (that had already cooled at room temperature) and made a little flower pattern at the top. At the center, is a whole cranberry, taken from the strained cranberry sauce. I used white, coarse sprinkle-sugar to completely coat the berry and place it on top. I also sprinkled a little more of the lovely sugar at the top, before the royal icing set.

Cranberry-Orange Scones for Christmas morning - recipe and how-to via milissweets.comThe inside of the scone is tender, buttery and flavorful. The outside has a nice bite, with the perfect amount of sweetness and the added flavor of cranberry with the glaze and yummy sugar-coated fruit.

I love this treat and can’t wait to make Cranberry-Orange Scones at least a few times before saying goodbye to the Christmas season.

Hope you can make these! If you do, please let me know how it goes!




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