How to Beat the Winter Blahs — with Sprinkles

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Photo by: Jackie Alpers ©Copyright 2012 Jackie Alpers - All rights reserved

Jackie Alpers, Copyright 2012 Jackie Alpers - All rights reserved

Brighten up even the grayest winter days and beat those winter blahs with these five fun ways to add more color into your life with sprinkles.

5. Sprinkles Cream Cheese

Fold 1/4 cup of rainbow jimmies or other brightly colored sprinkles into 4 ounces of cream cheese. Spread onto a toasted bagel (fruit-flavored bagels are a good choice) and top with a few more sprinkles for a crunchy, cheerful schmear with a touch of extra sweetness.

4. Ballpark Salty and Sweet Soft Pretzels

Brush warm pretzels with melted butter, then sprinkle with course ground salt and small sprinkles. I chose diamond-shaped quins and ball-shaped white nonpareils to remind myself that spring (baseball season!) is just around the corner. Use frozen premade soft pretzels, or bake your own with this recipe from Alton.

3. Super-Stellar Candy-Dipped Apples

Tiny Lady apples are available all winter in most specialty supermarkets, but regular-size apples work just as well. Zany, super-giant confetti sprinkles add a touch of intergalactic whimsy.

The secret to covering almost anything in sprinkles is stickiness. Because most sprinkles are fairly weightless, you don't usually need a whole lot of sticking power, but bigger sprinkles (also called quins) require some extra oomph. Melted chocolate or candy discs are excellent choices to get the job done.

Heat the discs in a small microwave-safe bowl or ramekin on high power for 60 seconds, stirring halfway through; add a teaspoon of shortening if the melted candy is too thick. Swirl the fruit in the melted candy, then dip in sprinkles. Choose candy melts in colors that enhance the color of the sprinkles so the sprinkles don't look muddy or muted.

2. Sprinkles Snickerdoodle Cookies

The unique look of sprinkles-infused snickerdoodles comes from their flat, cracked surface. Instead of following tradition and rolling the cookies in cinnamon and sugar before baking, add the cinnamon into the dough so the color of the sprinkles doesn't become diffused — you can even stir 1/4 cup of complementary-colored jimmies into the dough for an extra visual pop. Then, roll the balls of cookie dough in 1/4 cup of sparkling sugar mixed with 1/4 cup of sprinkles. Try the twist with this Snickerdoodle recipe from Food Network Kitchens.

1. Sprinkles-Covered Cake

For the ultimate winter pick-me-up, bake yourself a sprinkles-covered cake. Covering an entire cake in sprinkles is easier than you think, but it does require a little bit of practice.

The secret to covering a cake in sprinkles is that the frosted cake has to be cold. Bake and frost the cake the night before, and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, take out the cake, put it on a parchment-lined baking sheet (to catch all of the wayward sprinkles), then quickly press handfuls of sprinkles into the firm frosting. If the frosting starts to get too soft, stop, put the cake back in the fridge and let it firm up again. If you move quickly you can get the whole cake covered in about 10 minutes. Smaller sprinkles such as nonpareils give the best coverage. Trust me when I say that nobody will mind some trial and error here: An extra sprinkles-covered cake is a sure-fire way to make anyone very, very happy!

Update: Here's the recipe for the Rainbow Layer Cake.

Jackie Alpers is an award-winning food photographer and the author of Sprinkles!: Recipes and Ideas for Rainbowlicious Desserts (Quirk Books 2013).

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