Category Archives: Dessert

Dessert recipes

Chocolate Cupcakes and Cream Cheese Frosting

For Christmas, I was going to make the kids in my life crayons out of the letters of their names.  I purchased what I thought was an oven-ready mold, but when it arrived it was a tiny, plastic, chocolate mold.  My mistake, but rather than resell it I thought I would utilize the chocolate mold by making alphabet suckers in primary colors for Tommy’s 1st birthday party.

 

After a series of unfortunate events, such as me forgetting to spray the mold before placing what turned out to be too soft of chocolate in, I pushed my hand through the plastic breaking the alphabet into an uneven half. (Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the bloody picture). But, I was still able to utilize the yellow melted chocolate on top of the cupcake frosting.

To make the cupcakes:

To make the frosting:

  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp. whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 fresh juice from lemon
  • Food coloring

To make the chocolate:

  • 1/4 bag white chocolate chips (a pricier brand, like Ghirardelli, will taste best)
  • 1 Tbsp. whole milk
  • Food coloring

Start by making the cake.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a mixing bowl, blend together cake mix, almond extract, oil, water, and eggs using an electric hand mixer.  Whirl around until smooth, approximately 2 minutes. Add in the chocolate chips and fold over with a spoon until they are well dispersed into the batter.

I chose to make mini cupcakes with mini, white paper cups.  If you are cooking these for yourself, you can eliminate the paper cups by spraying or Criscoing the muffin tin.  Fill each cup about 3/4 from the top. They will rise in the oven.

Place the pan in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. To check if they are ready, simply stick a wooden toothpick in the center of a cupcake. If it comes out clean, they are done. If it has batter on it, they need more time in the oven.

In the meantime, you can start the frosting. With a clean electric hand mixer and bowl, combine together the cream cheese, lemon juice, whole milk, vanilla, butter and 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar. 

 Blend on medium speed until smooth, approximately 3-5 minutes, slowly adding in more powdered sugar, section by section, until you’ve used 1 1/2 cups (more if you like it a little stiffer for accurate piping, less if you like your frosting on the soft side). 

Finally, add in your favorite food coloring color (or multiple to make such colors as purple or orange).  I chose blue, using maybe 20 drops for a deeper hue.

Now is a good time to make the chocolate letters.  To make a double boiler, simply add in an inch of water to a large pan. Bring the water to a boil and place a smaller pan filled with your chocolate ingredients on the inside. Again, pick your favorite color to dye the white chocolate chips. Stir constantly, until the chocolate is melted enough to spread.  This method is a fool-proof way of not burning the chocolate. 

On parchment paper, create your letters by hand using a toothpick or small spoon.  Stick the parchment paper into the freezer for 10-15 minutes.

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When your cupcakes are cool, frost them using a spoon, piping bag, or, like me, a cookie press that also serves as a frosting gun.

Pull the chocolate letters out and immediately peel them from the paper. If you take too long, stick them back in the freezer for 5 minutes and finish the remaining letters then stick them into your frosted cupcakes. 

Though my friend was excited for chocolate suckers, as someone else also brought cupcakes to the party, these minis were delicious and easy to pop in your mouth without feeling guilty after a high-fat, filling dinner of Portillo’s Beef Sandwiches.  I personally enjoy minis because they not only look cute; you feel you can eat more because of the size. This isn’t necessarily true, but comforting during the process.

The addition of lemon and vanilla into the cream cheese frosting was my personal favorite.  It was subtle, not overwhelming, but noticeably different in comparison to previous cream cheese frosting recipes.  The almond extract in the chocolate was almost invisible, so feel free to add in another teaspoon, but the chocolate chips definitely initiated a heavier cupcake.  They melted leaving little pockets of condensed, smooth chocolate.  Finally, the chocolate letters were a fun addition, clearly stating the purpose of the cupcakes (“Happy 1st Birthday Tommy”), that people could take off and eat.  Next time I will arrange to take more time on this part so each letter is consistent and easy to read.

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Spice Cake Drenched in Cream Cheese Frosting

I obtained this recipe, after suffering its wonderous, moist, frosted phenomenon, from old family friends.  They deserve credit for this amazing cake I continue to make at least once a year. It’s perfect for that rich, Christmas or Thanksgiving dessert you were assigned to bring to the party.

For the cake:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream (cream cheese substitution is okay)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 heaping tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 heaping tsp. cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 heaping tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 eggs

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 1 package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Start by preheating the oven to 300 degrees Farenheit.  Grease and flour either a 13″ x 9″, 2 round cake pans, or a bundt cake pan (these would also make excellent cupcakes). 

Beat all ingredients with a hand mixer on low for 30 seconds.image  Beat for a remaining 3 minutes on high.image

Pour batter into your pan.  imageBake for approximately 40-45 minutes for a rectangular pan or 30-35 minutes for the round pans or bundt cake.  When a toothpick comes out of the center clean, the cake is finished cooking.

While the cake is cooling, whip up the frosting.image In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, milk and vanilla together on low-speed with a hand mixer until smooth. image In doses of about one cup, add in the powdered sugar. image Cream together until frosting is smooth and spreadable. image

Spread cream cheese frosting over cake. Enjoy.image

I doubted the fridge’s holding of unexpired sour cream, and used cream cheese in the cake instead only to find out the next day we had not one, but TWO fresh cartons of sour cream. Whoops. The only difference I noticed was the dense cake was less moist than its sour cream compromised counter-part.  It was still enticing, then again, what, covered in cream cheese frosting, wouldn’t be?

I made a mini sampler size for taste testing, just in case the cake didn’t turn out using cream cheese inside the cake. Andrew refused to touch it, so I gave it to my mom and Dave first. They all agreed it was well-prepared and delectable, despite my impatience for both the trip to the store to buy sour cream and to allow the oven to fully heat up to 300 degrees Farenheit.

The spices remind me of sipping on a gingerbread latte from Starbucks, or slurping up some Pumpkin Black Bean Soup (minus the cayenne), not to mention it makes the whole house smell like a lit Yankee Candle.  Each bite is dribbled in luscious cream-colored gobs of icing.

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Paula Deen’s Buttery Lemon Bars

Gotta love those Paula Deen goodies. This one only requires two sticks of butter and a little extra to grease the pan.  I made these once before for Rosette’s family and they have been dying for us to make them again. So, we had a cooking and crafting Sunday night with the Bears on in the background (yes, they lost).

To make the crust:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks of butter, and more for greasing

For the lemony center:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. flour
  • 6 Tbsp. lemon juice (fresh lemons are best)
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit and greasing a 13″ x 9″ baking dish (preferably glass, the dark metal pan overcooked the crust the first time). 

Next whip together the crust flour and sugar ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  With a fork, take the room temperature butter and mash it into the flour/sugar combo until it becomes light and crumbly. 

Press the crust compound into the pre-greased baking pan, pressing up the sides about an inch or so.  Bake for 15-20 minutes (but watch it. It tends to overcook).

In another bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, flour and lemon juice. 

Pull the pan out of the oven and pour in the yellow hodgepodge of ingredients.

 Place back into the oven for a remaining 25 minutes. (I took  mine out early, so check it at 15 min. and again at 20 min.). 

Let cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into squares.

 

These gel-like lemon bars have a few textures. Initially, you sink your teeth into a soft, sticky gelatin that brings a rush of sweet tang .  Next your bottom pearly whites help the top ones to crunch into a semi-soft crust cradling the citrus insides in a sweet, flaky melt-in-your-mouth carbohydrate.

Rosette’s mom bugged us until we finally went upstairs to cook she was so excited to have these. They are that heavenly. Bring them to your holiday gatherings this year for dessert.

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Flora’s Chocolate Drizzled French Crêpes with Ricotta

One of our exchange students, Flora, left us with this delicious authentic French recipe.  It is to die for.  Not as good as the little one-man stand we visited outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, with its snow-cone shaped, oozing Nutella and banana, side-street treat, but it’s close.

You’ll need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 10g or 1 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 100g or 3/4 cup flour
  • 250ml or 1 cup whole milk
  • 2-3 tsp. water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. beer

In a bowl, whisk together eggs. 

 

Sift together flour and salt then add in eggs.  Pour in the milk with 2-3 tsp. water.  Mix in the melted butter and beer, cover and refrigerate for 2-24 hours.

The best scenario is to make the batter at night, refrigerate it and when you wake up for breakfast, the batter is ready for use. 

Pour the batter into a shallow dish or plate. 

With your crêpe maker (easiest way to make crêpes with a light sensor to tell you when they are complete), dip the pre-heated surface into the batter. 

 Wait for the orange light to turn off, flip the crêpe onto a plate.  Continue until you have  used all of the batter.

Take your thin, pancake-like crêpe and place Nutella, and ricotta cheese in the center.

Fold each side over into a cigar shape and drizzle with chocolate. Bon Appétit!

The crêpes themselves crisp on the side that sits directly on the crêpe maker.  The inside stays sort of puffed and soft.  They are sturdy, but thin, so if you order these at a restaurant and they come out as thick as a pancake, you know it’s not the real thing.  The ricotta is a light and fluffy cheese that doesn’t add much flavor, but gives the crêpe a distinct texture.  It works with both sweet and savory meals.  Erica went sans the cheese and just stuffed her crêpe with melted chocolate. 

You can really experiment with fillings. One idea is to look up a crêperie and attempt one of their creations. Ham & Cheese, Broccoli Cheese, Powdered Sugar & Strawberries, Whip Cream & Blueberries, Spinach Artichoke & Parmigiano Reggiano, Nutella & Bananas…  The possibilities are endless. 

If you wanted, you could have a whole day of crêpes. Breakfast: Eggs,  Bacon & Cheese. Lunch: Broccoli, Ham & Cheese. Dinner: Portabello, Spinach & Feta.  Dessert: Chocolate, Crushed Graham Crackers & Marshmallows.

 

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Peanut Butter Cup Spooky Spiders

Having a Halloween party? Why not make these tasty spiders for your guests?

While at the store, purchase:

  • 1 bag of Reese’s pumpkin-shaped or plain Peanut Butter Cups
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. milk
  • 1/8 cup cream cheese
  • 1 bag circle-shaped or twisty pretzels
  • 1 bag of Heath bits

To start, make the cream cheese frosting. This will be your adhesive for the legs and whites of the eye balls.  In a bowl whip together the cream cheese, powdered sugar and milk, adding more milk or powdered sugar for desired consistency.  Since this is going to be more of an adhesive than decoration, you want the frosting to be thick to the point where when you pull your fork out, peaks form. image

On a flat serving dish, place the unwrapped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Dab on two white dots in the center of each cup.  I found this was easiest with a toothpick.  It allowed for an even distribution and even eyeballs.  Next take the Heath bits and place one piece in the middle of each eye white.

Next, take the pretzels and either break in half if using the circle pretzels or break off the half-heart shape of the twisted pretzels.  I went ahead and used the twisty pretzels and the curve hung nicely off of the peanut butter cup’s edge.  Take the curved part and dip it into the cream cheese frosting, getting just enough on the pretzel to hold the legs on.  Place three legs on each side and place in the fridge for an hour to solidify the legs and eyeballs.  image

Serve with other spooky treats like vampire’s blood punch and dirt (gummy worms peeking out of Oreo cookie crumbs).  Anyone who loves Reese’s will be pleasantly surprised at your handiwork and craftiness.

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Halloween Chocolate Covered Pretzel Sticks

It’s that season of sweets, and what better way to treat your guests, surprise your neighbors or just charm your family.

For dipping, you’ll need:

  • 12 oz. cooking chocolate, white chocolate and chocolate
  • 1 bag of pretzel rods
  • Sprinkles (get creative)

Start by arranging a place to put the pretzels once they have been dipped. Lay out parchment paper on a flat surface, such as a cookie sheet.

To melt the chocolate, put a small amount of water in a large pan, not even an inch up the side.  Heat until boiling, then turn the fire down to medium.  Place another smaller pan inside the large pan.  Place your chocolate pieces inside the smaller pan and melt.  Continuously stirring until the chocolate is completely melted, then turn the heat down to low.  The double-broiler method seems to be fool-proof in not burning the chocolate.

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Next, take a pretzel rod and using your spoon, thoroughly cover the entire stick.  Leave a small chocolate-free tip at the end to hold on to.  When completely covered, place on your preset parchment paper.

Now comes the fun part! Cover the warm chocolate in your favorite colored Halloween sprinkles. image Mix and match. Add chopped nuts if you’d like.  You can use them sparingly or coat the whole thing like a peanut Taffy Apple.  If you have kids, let them help out and get their creative juices flowing.image

Repeat until all the white chocolate is gone.  You can even dye the white chocolate orange with red and yellow food coloring to have orange and dark brown (close enough to black for baked goods) for Halloween. Repeat with the regular chocolate.  We bought Almond Bark baking chocolate, the cheap version, and you can really taste the difference between the more expensive real dipping chocolate.  It’s overly sweet and has a slight plastic, fake taste to it.  So, spend the extra couple of dollars to buy Ghirardelli or even the Kraft brand Baker’s chocolate has a higher quality taste.

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Another trick to try when the chocolate on the pretzel dries is to drizzle the white chocolate atop the chocolate and vice versa.  It adds a fancy swirly look you might find in a bakery.  Don’t forget to share with others!  I’d suggest individually wrapping these and passing them out at Halloween, but these days, you can never be sure where the chocolate came from. So you can do this for, say, a Halloween work party where you know the other people or a family gathering.

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Fruit Preserves Granola Bars

Fresh. Nutritious. Rich, but not overly sweet.

This recipe is a perfect way to sneak in a serving of fresh fruit and grains to your family, and the best part is it’s a piece of cake to make.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box Jiffy Oatmeal Cookie Mix
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Fruit Preserve
  • 1/4 cup granola

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

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In a bowl, blend together the room temperature butter and the Jiffy Oatmeal Cookie mix. In an ungreased 8 x 8 baking pan, press a little over half of the mixture into the bottom of the glass pan. Make sure to cover all open spaces with a thin layer.

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Next add 1/4-1/2 cup of your favorite fruit preserve. I used Bumbleberry, a jar of Blackberries, Rhubard, Apples, Red Raspberries and sugar that my boss brought back for us all from a U-Pick fruit farm in Michigan.
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Going back to your remaining half of the oatmeal and butter combination, stir in 1/4 cup of plain granola.  Sprinkle the chunks on top of the fruit preserves.  There will be open spaces, but scatter the topping as even as possible.image

Cook in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes or until the top is an inviting golden brown color.  Let cool and cut into squares.

Much the same as coffee cake topping, the crunchy granola-oatmeal globs cook to an excellent, candied, grainy embellishment.  Oozing out of the crevices of the granola topping is the fresh fruit preserve.  It’s a healthier, tastier version of jelly with whole fruit pieces blended with sugar and pectin to make a jelly.  The chunks of fruit characterize the texture of the bars with a slightly mushy, chewy chomp.  At the very bottom, the oatmeal and butter create a solid base holding the whole dish together.  Delicious, nutritious, and will have your family calling you ambitious.

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