Category Archives: Dessert

Holy Brown Sugar! (or Soft Brown Sugar Cookies)

I have to start this post by saying, don’t try this dough. If you do, you won’t want to make the cookies, but instead gobble up the entire bowl of deliciousness.

My second note is that my cookies look nothing like the ones in the picture on the blog where I found the recipe. I tried cooking them different times, different tray levels in the oven and different size dough balls and nothing worked. I’m just now wondering if it’s maybe stale baking soda? I’ll have to try. Don’t get me wrong, they are freaking delicious. Like, melt in your mouth, heaven on earth, richly decadent amazing. They just aren’t the prettiest cookies. No beauty awards here. I”m going to try it again though. If I get it right, I’ll let you know.

Soft Brown Sugar Cookies

from Gooseberry Patch Cookbook via Scraps of Life

Cookies:

2/3 c. butter, softened
1-1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
2-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sour cream

Frosting:

1/4 c. butter
1-1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 T. Milk

First, I started by mixing together the softened butter and the brown sugar.

Then, I added the eggs one at a time and beat in between each addition. I also added the vanilla and beat again.

In a separate bowl, I whisked together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Next, I added half the flour and mixed everything together with my hand mixer. I then added the sour cream and mixed again. Finally, I added the rest of the flour and mixed for the last time.

Using a tablespoon measurement, I scooped balls of dough onto parchment paper-covered trays. Clearly, I didn’t leave enough space. I found that you want just barely a tablespoon, any bigger and they expand way too much. Also, the cookies really stuck to the parchment paper once they were done so I’ll spray the paper next time. One final note, the original recipe said bake for 8 minutes. Mine definitely needed 10-11 and even then they were leaning towards the still-squishy side. Once the cookies had cooled for a few minutes, I removed them to wire racks.

For the frosting, I started by melting the butter. You then want to cook it until it just begins to turn brown. I was sort of nervous about this step, but it’s pretty obvious when it begins to brown. You start to see tiny little brown flecks, almost as though someone has sprinkled cinnamon in the butter. At this point, I turned off the heat.

I then added the powdered sugar and mixed until there weren’t any large clumps of butter.

Next, I poured about 4 teaspoons of milk, although I think my frosting could have used another 1/2 teaspoon or so, and stirred. You want it to be spreadable.

Finally, I experimented with the frosting. I tried some cookies with lots and some with little. I think a little dollop is best because the frosting is rich and isn’t shy about the butter. Next time, when the frosting is thinner, I’m going to try doing a super thin layer, rather than blobs. Can I just say, I really hate this picture. It looks like weird eyeballs, eggs, or at worst, breasts…..Ok, I apologize for that rant. Don’t mind my photography skills, try these cookies!

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Confetti Cake with Fudge Frosting

First, I want to apologize for my absence this week. I made a rice pudding which I wanted to write about, but frankly, it was so disappointing and looked so unappealing (there were definitely references to bathroom behavior by my bf. Yes it was that bad looking), that I didn’t even take any final pictures. Maybe, one day when I’m bored, I’ll bring out my half-done photos and discuss it. Plus, I had friends over last weekend and cooked up a storm, so I just wasn’t in the mood to cook this week. (I made my goat cheese and asparagus quiche, the lemonade layer cake, and a green bean recipe. I forgot to take pictures of the green beans though, so I’ll have to make it again and document). Alas, I had nothing to really write about until now.

When I get sad about going to California and leaving my bf (which is often), I do my best to console myself by thinking about the things I am looking forward to having around. First on the list, being close to my family again (no offense guys but being able to attend and watch Giants games on the television is a close second).  Part of my thinking-about-family time includes planning all of the nummies that I want to make for them. (If you haven’t heard of the word nummies, you need to hop on the bandwagon pronto).

 

Fabulous Pink Cake

This cake is my recent obsession.  I have two nieces who I’m particularly fond of and I will finally be around to celebrate their birthdays. Look at the cake below and tell me that doesn’t scream “little girl birthday cake”. I have visions of three little round tiers with pink frosting and edible white pearl accents. Way over the top? Most definitely. But if a little girl birthday isn’t the occasion for over-the-top-ness, I don’t know what is. So my mission: Find a way to create this cake and this frosting and then make it in three small tiers. Due date: December 16. I know I have started a really long time in advance, but I figure one I get the tiers right, it can be recreated for any holiday. Fourth of July with red and blue sprinkles and white frosting: awesome. Halloween cake with orange and black sprinkles: check. Christmas with red and green sprinkles, with white frosting and holly accents: most definitely. I am obsessed, I know.

Step one: make the cake with sprinkles. This was my task last night. I decided, since I have so much time between now and my due date, that I can afford to take it one step at a time and make sure I get them right. (Plus, I didn’t have any powdered sugar, so I couldn’t go with my usual frosting methods and had to try something new).

First, I made the vanilla cake (from a box, gasp! I know, how could I?). But seriously, those box mixes are mighty delicious. I sprinkled a bunch of sprinkles into the batter before I poured it into the pan. Not the best idea. They all sort of sunk to the bottom while the oven finished heating up (my oven has been wacky lately and takes forever to get hot). So next time, I’m going to try sprinkling them on top of the cake once it’s in the pan and then letting them sit for just a minute so they can sink into the batter, but not to the bottom.

These were the only multi-colored sprinkles I had in my pantry, so I used them. They taste good and expand nicely in the cake, but they are too big. So you end up with spots of color and then pieces with no color at all. Maybe, I didn’t use enough, but I don’t think so. Next time, I’m definitely going to try the multi-colored sugar sprinkles (you know, the ones that are nice and tiny). Also, this type of sprinkle has brown sprinkles in them, which is weird once you have brown frosting on the cake. It makes it look like there was some sort of frosting debacle. But, I consider this test run a success because I can make the cake better next time.

I baked the cake at 350 for about 30 minutes until I could insert a toothpick and it came out cleanly.

Next up? Frosting. Once the cake was cooled, I put the sugar, light cream and butter in a sauce pan and brought the mix to a boil was stirring constantly. Then, I turned down the heat to medium and cooked the mix for two minutes (while stirring).

Then, I added the chocolate chips, stirred until smooth, and turned off the heat. I poured the vanilla in, stirred again and let the frosting cool for about ten minutes. The frosting is REALLY rich. They aren’t kidding when they say fudge. I probably would use a little less chocolate chips next time, although the chocolate monster that is my bf would disagree, he loved the frosting.

Once the frosting had cooled a bit (it doesn’t have to be totally cool, just not hot or warm. More lukewarm), I poured it on the cake and let it sit. I was really worried because the frosting was rather runny, but once it cools and hardens, it was perfect.

As you can see from this photo, the sprinkles were all clumped at the bottom, but boy was it delicious!

 

 

Frosting Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup cream (or light cream)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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I Will Have My (Birthday) Cake and Eat It Too!

Today is my second favorite day of the year, a very close second behind Christmas. I am one of those obnoxious people who makes a huge deal out of their birthday. I guess because there are 4 birthdays in my family in one week (no that’s not a typo, there is one on the 21st, the 22nd, the 24th and the 28th) and my birthday has always fallen on Memorial Day weekend, it just kind of became one big weekend of combined celebration. While I can’t always celebrate with my family on my b-day, I still maintain the weekend approach. I apologize to everyone, I know that’s annoying. This year, I have a wonderful weekend planned, with theater, dinner out with my wonderful bf, brunch with friends and even a massage. But of course, no birthday is complete without a wonderful cake. While I really appreciated my bf’s offer to make the cake, I also wanted it to taste yummy, so I politely declined and insisted that I enjoyed the baking process as well as the eating (which isn’t a lie, I really do).

Here are some highlights of my day before I get to the main attraction. In addition to some wonderful presents, my parents sent me these gorgeous flowers. I also had delicious pancakes and bacon this morning. Probably my favorite breakfast ever.

This picture does a better job of showcasing the incredible lilies. Seriously, these things are gigantic and make the entire apartment smell beyond fantastic. Anyway, I will get to the point…This cake is definitely one of my favorites. It’s an amazing combination of sweet and tart. Even bf who doesn’t like lemon loves it, and I mean loves it. I am the first to admit it’s not the prettiest thing. It won’t be gracing any magazine covers or anything, but when it comes to taste, this little guy hits a home run.

Lemonade Layer Cake

from Cooking Light 

Cake:

  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 3 tablespoons thawed lemonade concentrate
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups fat-free buttermilk
  • Cooking spray

Frosting:

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons thawed lemonade concentrate
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

I started by putting the softened butter, lemonade concentrate, lemon peel, sugar and vanilla in a big bowl. Using my hand mixer (while day dreaming about a standing mixer), I combined these ingredients.

Then I added the two whole eggs and the additional two egg whites and mixed together again. A quick tip about separating eggs: you can buy a little do-hickey thing to do it for you, but I find that it doesn’t work very well. Nothing compares to the old tried and true method of pouring the egg into your palm, letting the whites run through your fingers, and GENTLY tossing the yolk back and forth between your hands until all of the whites have fallen into the bowl below.

Next, I put the dry ingredients (baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour) in a separate bowl and whisked together. The whisking is an important step in this cake for two reasons. 1) It makes sure the baking powder and soda are dispersed evenly and thus the cake rises evenly. 2) It brings air into the dry ingredients resulting in a fluffier, lighter cake.

Then, I added 1/3 of the dry mixture to the big bowl and mixed it together. After it was mixed in, I added 1/2 of the buttermilk and mixed again. I added another 1/3 of the flour, mixed, then the rest of the buttermilk, mixed, and finally the last 1/2 of the flour and mixed again. The resulting batter is on the left. It’s incredibly light and fluffy, which is exactly as it should be!

I poured half of the batter into each greased 9 inch pan. Another tip: after spraying the pan, gift it a sharp smack against the counter. This step will reduce the bubbles in the spray.

I baked both cakes at 350 for 20 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick and remove it cleanly. Then, I let the cakes cool in the pan on wire racks for 10 minutes.

After ten minutes, I cut around the sides of the pan with a knife and laid a piece of parchment paper over the top of the pan. Then, I put the rack over the parchment paper (upside down) and flipped all three pieces together so that the pan is upside down on the parchment paper and the rack. With a few taps to the back of the pan with a knife or your palm, the cake should come right out. The parchment paper is helpful when you go to plate the cake. The top is always a little sticky because the cake is so light, so the parchment paper keeps the cake from sticking or sinking into the rack.

The frosting has to be in the fridge for an hour before you spread it on the cake, so I always start while the cakes are baking. First, I combine the cream cheese, lemon peel, vanilla and butter until it is smooth.

Then I added the powdered sugar slowly (about a cup at a time), mix and then add more. This way you don’t end up with powdered sugar all over the kitchen and your clothes. Once the frosting is done, cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for an hour.

After the frosting is cooled, place one of the cakes on whatever plate you want. (Keep in mind the cake should stay in the fridge when you are done serving so you want a plate or dish that will fit). Then cover the top of the first layer with frosting. I know it seems like there isn’t enough frosting, but I swear you’ll have extra, so don’t be stingy with this layer.

Then place the second cake on top.

Next, frost the sides of both and the top of the second layer.

Finally, cut in and enjoy!

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Chocolate Mug Cake

This past weekend I was going out of town and so I was avoiding going to the grocery store at all costs. I really didn’t want to go buy food, only for it to go bad. This logic is flawless, but my sweet tooth wasn’t having any of it. I had heard about mug cakes before and decided the time was right to give them a shot. I found this recipe by searching online. It was good, certainly an easy, last minute option. But I can’t help but thinking it could be better. Sure some fresh whipped cream or ice cream would have helped a lot, but I think if I had cooked it for about 30 seconds less, or even put a little less flour in the cakes, they’d be better. But in a pinch, this is a great option.

Chocolate Mug Cake

from Food.com

I started by whisking together the dry ingredients for one cake. One bummer about this cake is that you really need to make one cake at a time. Although, I really shouldn’t complain, it takes about 5 minutes max.

I then added the egg and mixed the ingredients together until it was nice and gooey, like this.

I then added the other liquid ingredients and mixed together until the batter was smooth. Then I poured it into a large mug and microved for 2-3 minutes.

I cooked mine for just under three minutes. I always err on the side of caution when it comes to cooking or baking. I never want to make anyone sick, so when I am cooking something for the first time, I’d rather it be dry than undercooked. I sprinkled a little powdered sugar on top of my cakes, but I think less cooking time and some ice cream would make this treat perfect!

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Chai Cream Pie….and future developments

I love my blog. I love cooking and writing about it and it gives me so much enjoyment to share my finds with other people. But my troubles with the formatting and everything are making me avoid my blog. As a perfectionist, it pains my heart to write a post knowing that it won’t look right. How do I get past that? It’s so frustrating.

No matter what we do (and when I say we, it means that both me and my tech savvy bf have spent hours working on it), it’s not getting better. I refuse to continue writing like this indefinitely and I don’t want to stop blogging. So this process has gotten me thinking about where to go from here. I have decided that I am probably going to move to a different blog host.

In addition, as I contemplate my new life with school, in a new location, and without living with my boyfriend, I know that a different blog host will be one in a long line of life changes. As such, I think that my focus of the blog will have to shift a little. Cooking will still be a huge component. But, I think if I only had one interest I would be a very boring person. After all, I will have a new apartment to decorate and will be reading pretty much constantly.

These changes won’t come for a while because when I finally make the switch, I want it to be done right. I want to find a host that won’t screw up with my writing and I want to develop a background and theme that I really love and won’t feel the need to change constantly. So anyway, just wanted to give you guys an update and let you know I hadn’t given up on my awesome readers, so please don’t give up on me!

Chai Cream Pie

from Cooking Light 

  • 1/2 (14.1-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 8 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick, broken
  • 1 (1/2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, crushed
  • 1 black tea bag
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed or make it fresh!
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
I started by fitting the pie shell to the dish. I then pricked the bottom with a fork, but since it was the first time I’ve done this in a while, I didn’t prick hard enough, so when I baked it according to the instructions on the package, it bubbled up in the center.
While the pie shell was baking, I put the milk, ground cinnamon (because I didn’t have any sticks), the cloves, cardamom pods and ginger in a pot. I then gently added heat until bubbles began to form around the outside. A note about cardamom  pods: I found that the back of the a wooden spoon works the best for cracking the pods. I gave the spoon a bit of a smack and the pods crack nicely.
Once the bubbles formed, I took the pot off the heat, added the tea bag and covered the pot for 15 minutes.
About this time, the pie crust was done. It tasted amazing, both with the pie and the quiche that I made a few days later, but both times the sides of the crust collapsed into the pie dish. It worked out ok, but it certainly didn’t look pretty, as you can see.
While the liquid was seeping, I whisked together the eggs, cornstarch, salt and sugar.
Once the tea was done seeping, I strained the liquid through a strainer and a cheese cloth. The instructions said strain it through a sieve, but I didn’t have one, so I sort of made my own. Then I re-heated the milk mixture until it was forming bubbles again.
Next, I slowly added the milk mixture to the egg and sugar mix and whisked it together.
Once the milk and egg mixes are whisked together, I put the mix back into the pan and heat up again while whisking. The filling rapidly quickened. Once it was all thick and smooth, I removed the pot and stirred in the butter. Then I put the pot in a bowl of ice water and let it cool completely.
Once the filling is cool, I poured it into the crust and covered the entire pan. I then cooled the pie for 3 hours.
When the pie was properly chilled, I whipped some cream until it was thick and then added some sugar, salt and cinnamon and mixed again.
Finally, I served a slice of pie with the cream and it was amazing. This pie is awesome and definitely one I will make again. It would be perfect for the holidays or even just a special event!


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Easter Weekend

Christmas is my favorite time of year, without a doubt. I love my Christmas cookies and everything else that goes along with it. But homemade goodies aside, is there really a better holiday or time of year for sweets than Easter? I am going to raise my hand for the class and offer an answer: no!

Honestly, look at these yummies. So delicious!

These cakes were my contribution to our big Easter celebration. Mr. and Mrs. Bunny took quite a bit of fussing. My aunt started by making two round carrot cakes. Once they cooled, I cut them in half. I then frosted together the two halves so that they stood up on the flat sides. Next, I cut out a small triangle a little below the 1/3 mark on the cake. I then used half of that triangle and put it in the back as the tail. I know these descriptions are confusing and I’m sorry I didn’t get more pictures of the steps. I really intended to document my process, but these were the circumstances I was battling: my grandmother has a beautiful and charming home, but the kitchen is tiny! Also, there were ridiculous numbers of people around me, coming in and out, including my cousin’s new baby! Needless to say, I got a bit distracted.

Anyway, after putting the cake together, I then frosted the entire thing. This was no easy task. The cakes really should have been refrigerated, but they weren’t. So they were really crumbly. I had to use a ton of frosting and a combination of a knife and my fingers to cover the cake. Then, I cupped coconut shavings in my hands and gently pressed them against the cake, starting at the top. Next, I pushed two black jelly beans into the cake for eyes and a larger pink jelly bean for the nose. My aunt also helped me by cutting out the ears, which I stuck into the top of the head piece. For extra decoration, I sprinkled coconut and green sprinkles around the bunnies for grass and then some extra jelly beans.

One final amazing moment of my weekend came on Sunday night. A family friend had been visiting Tanzania and brought back huge backs of spices. Aren’t they gorgeous? They also smell glorious.

What did you do for Easter? What were your favorite things?

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The Chocolate Fiasco of 2011

As you all know, I recently received a new cookbook “500 Chocolate Delights”. It has been wonderful, but it seriously let me down this time. I had another work event and I was hoping to make Devil’s Food Cake Bars. Basically it’s a Devil’s Food cake, sliced in half, filled and topped with a soft meringue frosting, then sliced into bars. The result was far from it. In fact, I was so angry last night, my kitchen was filled with swearing and the occasional thrown oven mitt.

This is what happened. I followed the recipe exactly. Like, read it five times just to be sure I didn’t make any mistakes, exactly. I used an 8×8 pan. The exact same ingredients. Everything. Even now, I have not the slightest idea what went wrong. The only thing I can guess is that there somehow was a typo or a mistake. I think the cake would have worked alright in a 9 x 13 pan. But here is where I get confused. The recipe said it would produce 10 bars. A 9 x 13 pan would produce far more than 10 bars. So that would require two major typos- hardly the work of a professional editor.

My other guess, is that the measurement of 4 cups self-rising flour was a typo. In theory, this option makes far more sense. 4 cups of flour seemed like a lot to my inexperienced eyes. And the batter certainly seemed like it made an awful lot. Yet, again I run into confusion. As you will see below, the top layer of the cake was baked. I tried it and it was amazing. Wouldn’t the cake taste all wrong if there was too much flour?

Even now as I talk through it, I am no closer to solving the riddle of the Devil’s Food Cake Bars. Does anyone have any ideas? I would be eternally grateful. So grateful in fact, that I will send you a batch of the finished product once I get it right, or any dessert of choice. Because this whole mess is driving me insane!

So for your amusement, I thought I would include a few pictures of the exploding, overflowing chocolate blob. You can see the bits of cake on the bottom of the oven that first gave me an indication that something was wrong (they started to fill the apartment with smoke).

 

Here is a close up to show you just how much the cake was actually overflowing.

 

So please give me ideas as to what might have gone wrong!

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