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Pinterest is my latest obsession, and the inspiration behind this cake. That website has so many amazing and creative ideas!  Like this sweet garland I made yesterday:

 

So pretty, and so simple! I cut strips of paper about an inch wide, folded them in half, then curled each end around a knitting needle to form the heart shape. Then I used a needle to string some thread through the middle of the bottom of each heart, and double-sided tape to stick the tops together, pinching the thread in between. The bottom hearts are made by taking a heart-shaped hole punch to Behr paint chip. The paint chip was a free sample and the paper was leftover from making our wedding invitations, so this cute decoration cost me nothing! Sweet! And that’s why I love pinterest.

Anyway, I was hunting around Pinterest for party ideas when I came across an image of a pink bundt cake, and it linked to a recipe for a pink lemonade bundt cake. Yum yum! But when I went back later to check out the recipe in more detail, I realized it involved cake mix – something I prefer to avoid. Not only do I not dig the texture of box mix cakes, I can’t get past the chemically aftertaste that box mixes have. So I was disappointed that I didn’t have a recipe for a pink lemonade bundt after all.

But I could not get the idea of a pink bundt cake out of my head. It just seemed so cute and fun and girly.

I needed a pink bundt cake!

So I went to Martha, of course, looking for the perfect lemony pound cake to turn pink, and of course she didn’t let me down. This recipe comes from her Fresh Flavor Fast cookbook, although that recipe uses two loaf pans instead of a bundt. So I whipped it up, and added a healthy dose of pink gel food coloring (and maybe went a teensy bit overboard) – and I had me a pink lemon poundcake. And I’m calling it a pink lemonade poundcake, even though there isn’t actually any lemonade per se involved in making the cake, because hey. Pink lemonade is just lemons and sugar and pink food coloring anyway, and this cake has all that. Without any nasty chemicals!

This cake is deliciously fresh and very lemony and bright. It’s a great cake for winter – the flavor just perks you up and brings sunshine into your cold, grey day. And of course, the food dye is completely optional after all, it would be a yellow cake without it. But a pink bundt cake would be great for Valentine’s Day. And I think it would be the cutest for a bridal shower or a baby shower for a baby girl. A bundt cake like this has a kind of classy, old fashioned feel to it that could be really charming at an afternoon tea-style shower.

Why am I thinking about baby and bridal showers, anyway? BLAME PINTEREST. So many cute ideas. I can’t help it.

Pink Lemonade Pound Cake

Adapted from Everyday Food Fresh Flavor Fast

Prep: 30 minutes Total time: 3 hours (with cooling)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pans

3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for pan

3/4 cup buttermilk

Finely grated zest of two lemons

1 cup lemon juice (from 5 to 6 lemons)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups sugar

5 large eggs, room temperature

Pink food dye gel (I used Wilton icing colors in Rose)

Lemon glaze (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a flour a 10 cup bundt pan.

2. Combine buttermilk, lemon juice, and zest. In a bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

3. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Scrape down bowl as needed.

4. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with buttermilk and beginning and ending with flour. Add just a touch of food dye gel (a tiny bit goes a long way!) and beat until just combined.

5. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 – 60 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in pan, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

6. Transfer cake to a plate or cake stand and pour the glaze over the cake. Let set, about 30 minutes.

Lemon glaze

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Pink food dye gel

Mix together sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. Add more sugar or lemon juice as necessary to make glaze thick yet pourable. Stir in a tiny bit of food dye gel to get the desired shade of pink.

 

I was just scrolling through old photos and I realized that I never shared this recipe with you. *Gasp* 

What. The heck. Is wrong with me.

We love, love, loved this cake. It was the perfect size for the two of us. There was enough that we were able to enjoy it for a while, but not so much that it went stale. Or was  so big that we snarfed it more quickly than was reasonable in order to prevent it from going stale. Not that that ever happens around here. *Ahem*

Anyway, this is a great little cake, packing a lot of delicious, complex flavors from a generous amount of pumpkin pie spice. It’s a moist cake with a nice tight crumb that is really the perfect texture for a homemade cake – I’m not a fan of the spongy airy texture that you find in most cake mix cakes. My husband went really crazy for it and said it was one of the best cakes he’d ever had. The honey frosting is the perfect complement to the pumpkin-y flavor of the cake. These are flavors that you’d typically find in fall baking, but I don’t see why this cake should be relegated to only a few months of the year – the warm, comforting flavors of this cake would be perfect on a cold, snowy winter’s night.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Honey Frosting

Adapted slightly from Everyday Food, November 2005

For the cake

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice (or 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon each allspice and cloves)

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin puree*

For the frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft

1 bar (8 ounces) regular (or reduced-fat) cream cheese, very soft

1/4 cup honey

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan**. (Mine is 8×8 and worked just fine.)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin-pie spice. In a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, butter, and pumpkin puree until combined. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, and mix gently until smooth.
  3. Turn batter into prepared pan, and smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake 10 minutes in pan, then turn out of pan, and cool completely, right side up, on a rack.
  4. Make Honey Frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attached, beat butter, cream cheese and honey until smooth. Slowly mix in powdered sugar. Add milk to thin if necessary, so that the frosting has a nice spreadable consistency.
  5. Spread top of cooled cake with honey frosting. Cut cake into squares to serve.

*Be sure to use canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling. Using pureed fresh pumpkin is not recommended.

**You can also use a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan: Increase baking time by 25 to 30 minutes (tent loaf with foil if it browns too quickly).

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone’s having a wonderful holiday.  I just wanted to quickly post one last Christmas cookie recipe before the cookie-baking festivities come to a close.

These sugar cookies are very different from the old fashioned sugar cookies that I usually make. The old fashioned ones are chewy, with a crunchy sugary crust and a delicate lemony flavor. These bad boys are cakey and soft and slightly tangy from the sour cream.

James was really excited when I made these cookies – he loves frosted sugar cookies from the grocery store, which are usually pretty gross with their vegetable shortening and long, chemically ingredient lists. These cookies are buttery and delicious. The recipe makes a ton so I froze a couple dozen unfrosted ones to have later.

Frosted Sugar Cookies

From Brown Eyed Baker

Yield: 5 to 6 dozen cookies

Prep Time: 25 minutes | Bake Time: 7 minutes

For the Cookies:
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups sour cream

For the Buttercream Frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons milk

1. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the flat beater attached, cream the butter and granulated sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add the vanilla and sour cream and beat at low speed until combined.

3. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Dough will be a bit “sticky”. Divide dough into two sections. Flatten into rectangles about 1½ inches thick, then wrap with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator overnight or at least two hours until firm.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

5. Flour the countertop and the top of the dough. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to ¼-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 7 minutes, until pale golden. Immediately transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Cook cookies completely before frosting.

6. To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and vanilla. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar and the pinch of salt. Once smooth and creamy, add in heavy cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, then beat at medium-high speed for a minute or two until light and fluffy. If desired, add food coloring and beat until combined.

7. Once cookies have cooled completely, frost and add sprinkles. Allow frosting to set, then store in an air-tight container. Let cookies sit for several hours before serving to allow the flavors to develop.

I have some savory, healthy things to post about, but right now, all we’re thinking about lately is Christmas cookies, right? I am, it seems. I visited my parents a little bit ago and baked Christmas cookies with them, then when I got home my husband and I baked several different kinds to give to our neighbors. And I’m already looking forward to baking even more cookies while we’re visiting my in-laws in California for Christmas (old fashioned sugar cookies, I’m looking at you).

These cookies are called magic in the middles because, while they have a fairly unassuming exterior, they have a layer of peanut buttery deliciousness tucked inside that really takes them to the next level. They’re rich, chewy cookie perfection. There’s nothing fancy to getting the magic in the middle, either – you make a ball of the filling, then a ball of the chocolate dough, flatten out the chocolate bit and wrap it around the peanut butter filling. Easy peasy. Then you flatten the ball with a glass before baking. You definitely don’t want to skip that last step. Here’s why:

Yup. That’s what I get for not reading the recipe thoroughly before tossing the first cookie sheet in the oven. We ended up with twelve of those lumpy chocolate-peanut butter mountains before I saw the bit in the recipe about flattening the dough balls before baking. Oh well, they still taste great!

If you’re a fan of the chocolate-peanut butter combination, these cookies will be pretty irresistible to you. I know they are for me! (Do you know how hard it was to break that one cookie in half for the photo shoot and not snarf down one – or both – halves when I was done?!)

Magic in the Middles

Adapted slightly from Recipe Girl

DOUGH:
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus extra for rolling)
1/2 cup packed  brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature

FILLING:
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

2. Prepare dough: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In another medium bowl, beat together sugars, butter, and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg, beating to combine, then stir in dry ingredients, blending well. Dough will be thick and slightly crumbly.

3. Prepare filling: In a small bowl, stir together peanut butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Roll the filling into one-inch balls.

4. Shape cookies: Scoop out 1 tablespoon of dough and flatten it into a disk. Wrap the dough around one of the balls of filling, then roll between your palms to make smooth. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

5. Roll each cookie in granulated sugar and place on prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Use the bottom of a drinking glass to flatten each ball to about 1/2-inch thick.

6. Bake cookies for 7 to 9 minutes, until they’re set. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack.

 

These brownies are pretty darn awesome. These are luscious, chocolatey, rich brownies with peanut butter swirled in the top for added goodness. But that’s not all.

They’re sent completely over the top by the pile of chopped up candy bars mixed into the batter. The original recipe calls for Snickers, but we didn’t have any. We had a whole mess of other candy leftover from Halloween, so I used a combination of Milky Way, Reese’s cups, Rolos, and Heath bars.

Most everything except for the Reese’s kind of melted and disappeared into the brownies, just making them more decadent. Some of the candy sank to the bottom and turned into nuggets of concentrated chocolatey awesomeness… I don’t really know how to describe it, but I can tell you that they’re James’ favorite part.



These brownies would be great without the candy, too. They’re fudgy and rich and fantastic.

 

 

 

 

Candy Bar Brownies

Slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Yield: 24 brownies   Cook Time: 35-40 minutes

1 cup butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped candy bars, such as Milky Way, Rolo, Reese’s Cups, Heath Bars, and/or Snickers
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13 pan and set aside.

2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with spoon after each addition. Add cocoa; stir until well blended. Add flour, baking powder and salt; stir until combined. Stir in candy bar chunks. Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Drop dollops of peanut butter over the batter. Using a knife, swirl peanut butter into brownies. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool brownies completely in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, cut into squares and serve.

 

I first heard about the ice cream genius that is David Lebovitz from  Michelle of the Brown Eyed Baker, who posted about this recipe for chocolate ice cream almost two years ago. When she said that this was the best chocolate ice cream that she’d ever had, I knew I had to make it. Unfortunately I had to wait a while because I couldn’t find Dutch process cocoa powder in my grocery store, and while it is available on Amazon, I was hesitant to double the price of the cocoa with the cost of shipping. Luckily, my local Whole Foods carries it, and when I discovered that, I bought a box and hustled home to make this ice cream.

It has since become my go-to ice cream recipe. I now own David Lebovitz’s book, The Perfect Scoop, which is a beautiful book full of glorious recipes for all sorts of decadent ice creams and sorbets but also mix-ins and vessels to serve ice cream upon, like brownies and cookies and other delights. But before I get to any of those (and believe me, I will!) I had to make chocolate again. I’ve made it a few times before, and I’m always amazed at how rich and chocolatey and dreamy it is. This time, I decided to spice things up with the addition of peanut butter patties, a recipe from the mix-ins section of the book, which couldn’t be simpler: peanut butter + confectioner’s sugar, drop lumps of it on a plate and freeze, then fold into the ice cream before freezing it. It was a stellar addition!! But, you can always leave it out if wish.

And Michelle is right: this is, without a doubt, the very best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever had.


Chocolate Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Patties

Makes about 1 quart

2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt (Lebovitz recommends kosher or coarse sea salt, table salt will work however)
5 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 recipe peanut butter patties, if desired (recipe follows)

  1. In a medium sauce pan, heat 1 cup of the cream and the cocoa powder, whisking thoroughly. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer at a very low boil for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until smooth, then stir in the remaining 1 cup cream. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan as thoroughly as possible, and set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl. This is a good time to set up an ice bath in a vessel that is large enough to hold  the bowl of chocolate. Set it aside – you’ll need that later.
  2. Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in the same saucepan. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. (The idea here is to bring the eggs up to temperature slowly so they don’t curdle.) Scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
  3. Stir the mixture constantly over the medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (170°F on an instant-read thermometer). Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the chocolate mixture until smooth, then stir in the vanilla. Move the bowl into the ice bath and stir until cool.
  4. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (If the cold mixture is too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out.) Stir in the peanut butter patties.

Peanut butter patties 

Makes 40 1/2 inch patties

Lebovitz recommends not using a natural peanut butter here, but I used Skippy Natural without a problem. But then, I’m not sure how “natural” Skippy Natural actually is – an truly natural peanut butter that has to be stirred would be too runny here.

6 tablespoons peanut butter

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Stir together peanut butter and sugar in a small bowl. Line a dinner plate with plastic wrap (I neglected to do this and it was fine.) Scoop out half teaspoons of the peanut butter mixture and drop them onto the dinner plate. Once you’ve used all of the mixture, freeze the patties.

From The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My lovely mother-in-law and brother-in-law were here for a week-long visit last week. I made an awesome chicken dinner for them on the night of their arrival – a recipe I’ll have to post despite the fact that I didn’t manage to get a single picture of it, because it’s that good. And for dessert, I made this cake. I had never made this recipe before but since it comes from Nicole at Baking Bites, I knew it would be great.

And it was! It was everything a pound cake should be – dense, but not heavy. Substantial, I guess. The ideal texture for a cake in my opinion. And simple, but not boring. The ideal foil for slices of fresh strawberries. And the bright lemony flavor was perfect for spring, and played beautifully against the strawberries. The glaze added the perfect zing of extra lemon flavor. It was perfect, and everyone loved it.I’ll definitely be making this one again – hopefully soon!

Note: I didn’t let my cake cool all the way before applying the glaze, which is why a lot of it slid off. Don’t be like me! Be patient and let the cake cool completely (not that having the cake standing in a glaze puddle is a bad thing, actually).

Lemon Buttermilk Pound Cake
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 tbsp lemon zest
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in lemon zest, then beat in the eggs one at a time until well-combined.
  4. In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine vanilla, buttermilk and vegetable oil. Working in two or three additions, alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture to the butter mixture, ending with a final addition of dry ingredients. Stir only until no streaks of flour remain. Pour into prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a wire rack before topping with lemon glaze (recipe below).

Serves 16

Lemon Glaze
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Today is the second annual gathering of cupcake lovers and bakers known as Cupcake Camp Boston. I went last year and it was amazing – the venue seemed to be overflowing with cupcakes of every size and description. Professional bakeries brought boxes and boxes of their fancy, elegant cupcakes and amateur bakers like myself brought their homemade creations and everyone shares. It was so much fun and James and I got to taste so many delicious cakes! So I was very excited when I heard that Cupcake Camp was happening again.

This year, I decided to make chocolate salted caramel cupcakes. I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s box of sea salt caramels that comes out at Christmastime. Those candies are incredibly addicting, the way the salt accents the sweetness of the caramel while exploding the flavor. I knew that those candies in cupcake form would knock my socks off.

But making homemade caramel was a bit intimidating – I never made any sort of homemade candy before. I was afraid of ruining the caramel, and on the first couple of tries, I did. First, I made a Martha Stewart salted caramel recipe from her Cupcakes book and it turned out grainy. It was the texture of the insides of Sugar Babies, if you remember those. And I even though I followed the recipe exactly, the caramel was very pale and didn’t have much of a caramel flavor – I under-cooked it.  Martha’s recipe took three cups of sugar, and I was pretty discouraged to try that recipe again because that is an awful lot of sugar to waste!

Then I tried this caramel recipe from Kate at Grin and Bake It, which uses only a quarter cup of sugar per batch and is therefore much better suited for trial and error, and my first batch of that burned. Making caramel involves a lot of standing around and watching sugar and water boil, and it’s only at the very end that the color goes from clear to pale yellow to darker and darker amber. I let it go to far – once it starts turning amber, it goes very quickly – and it burned. Blech. But then I made it again, and – success! Perfect, flavorful, rich caramel. And now I’ve made several batches without failures. I think it’s like riding a bike – tricky at first, but once you figure it out, you’ve got it.

Here’s how I do it:

First, I stir together sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. I stir it for maybe 20-30 seconds, until all of the sugar is dissolved and the solution is pretty clear – but it will still appear cloudy. Then, set the time and let it boil away without stirring.

As it boils, the bubbles will go from big and loose to smaller and more densely packed as the solution gets thick and syrupy. It will still be all white/clear.

Finally, as you’re approaching the end of your cooking time, it will almost imperceptibly start turning yellow at the edges. Watch carefully now, because once this starts, it’ll go from pale yellow to dark reddish-brown-burnt in under a minute.

Almost there…

Once the sugar is dark amber, even slightly reddish right at the edges, it’s done. (But I think once it gets very red, it’s burned.) It may smoke a bit and that’s okay. Take it off the heat and slowly stir in the cream.

Start with just a splash of the cream. It will foam up like crazy but just keep stirring, and slowly pour in the rest of the cream. I found that if I dumped the cream in too quickly, if formed a crazy lump of caramel in the middle of the liquid. But I frantically kept stirring and eventually it resolved into a smooth sauce again.

It will keep boiling up until you finish adding all of the cream, just keep stirring and eventually it’ll calm down.

And then you’ll have caramel! At this point, I add some sea salt, but if you wanted plain caramel, you can just leave it as-is.

Now, back to the cupcakes! These babies are amazing. The chocolate cake is dense and rich and tender. The addition of hot coffee in the batter really deepens the chocolate flavor. The frosting is deliciously caramel-y without being overwhelming. The bit of pure salted caramel in the middle is gooey and luscious and packs a big caramel flavor punch. These may be the most delicious cupcakes I’ve ever made!

Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

From Grin and Bake It

Makes approx. 2 dozen cupcake

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

3/4 cups cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk, shaken (I use powdered)

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup freshly brewed caramel-flavored hot coffee

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in tin. Combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in mixer and mix until combined .
  2. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda together. Whisk in the salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the wet.
  3. Add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Batter will be very runny. Pour the batter into cupcake liners, fill a little less than 2/3 full.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.

Salted Caramel

Adapted from Grin and Bake It

1/4 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons water

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (or more or less, to your taste)

Briefly stir together sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Set timer for 5 minutes. Allow mixture to boil without stirring until it turns dark amber in color. It may take up to 6 or 7 minutes to get to the right color, but I had a batch burn because I was waiting for 6 minutes exactly. Don’t wait for the timer – pull it off the heat when it is dark yellow and the edges are just started to look reddish.

Slowly add the cream, starting with just a splash, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. Stir in the fleur de sel and set aside until cool.

This recipe easily doubles. Make one double batch for the buttercream, and one single batch for filling the cupcakes.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

Adapted from Grin and Bake It

The original recipe from Grin and Bake It calls for salted butter and does not use fleur de sel in the caramel. I’m sure that’s good too, but I wanted to be able to adjust the saltiness to my liking, and have salted caramel for filling the cupcakes. That’s why I used fleur de sel in the caramel and then use unsalted butter in the frosting.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 cups powdered sugar

2 batches of the salted caramel

Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed and add powdered sugar. Mix until well combined. Turn off the mixer, and slowly add caramel. Beat frosting on low to combine, and then increase to mediium-high and beat until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes.

Refrigerate if not using immediately. If you refrigerate the frosting, be sure to whip it up with your mixer before spreading. To frost cupcakes with the swirl (Wilton 1M tip), double the recipe.

To assemble:

Carefully cut a small cone out of the middle of each cupcake. Fill with about a half teaspoon of the salted caramel. Sprinkle with a bit of fleur de sel before replacing the cap. (You may have to remove the bottom of the cone to get the cap to fit.)

Frost with the salted caramel buttercream. Sprinkle with a bit more fleur de sel, if desired, or chocolate jimmies, or drizzle with a bit of extra salted caramel.

Enjoy!!

Snickerdoodles are one of those types of cookies that are very simple, but very very difficult to get right. Maybe I’m just too particular about them, but seems that there are a lot of mediocre snickerdoodles out there – crumbly, dry, hard little nuggets of bland cookie redeemed only slightly by their cinnamon-sugar coating. Just because a cookie is simple doesn’t mean it has to be boring or forgettable.

Snickerdoodles, if done properly, can be divine. I’ve tried different recipes to find my perfect snickerdoodle, and this is it. Tender, soft and chewy with crisp edges and a buttery, sweet-and-spicy flavor. I found this recipe in Martha Stewart’s Cookies book and to that I say: of course. Leave it to Martha to figure out snickerdoodle nirvana.

I donated these cookies, along with a batch of sugar cookies, to the Boston Bakesale for Japan, which was raising money for the relief effort following last month’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. Here they are, all packaged up and ready to go to the bake sale:

I just got an email today saying that the bake sale raised over $1,600 for Japan. It feels really great to have been a part of that. Congratulations to everyone who participated, and a huge thank you to Tara for organizing the event!

Snickerdoodles

From Martha Stewart’s Cookies

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 coarse salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Put butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.
  2. Stir together cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a  small bowl. Shape dough into twenty 1 3/4-inch balls*; roll in cinnamon sugar. Space 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a Silpat.
  3. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through**, until edges are golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets for a minute or two, and then remove to wire racks to finish cooling. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature put to 3 days.

* I used a Martha Stewart 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop and they cooked to perfection in 12 minutes.

**I neglected to do this and they turned out fine.

Don’t let the name fool you, gang. These cookies are awesome. They are probably in the top three best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made. They are chewy and tender and delicious. They have a slightly caramel flavor to them – they’re like florentines and chocolate chip cookies got together and had the most delicious love child ever.

I stumbled upon this recipe a week or so ago, starred and long forgotten in my Google Reader, languishing for over a year in the chaotic wasteland of the hundreds and hundreds of recipes that I want to try someday. FOR A YEAR. I’m glad I rediscovered these babies, because they’re fabulous – and since they’re made with whole wheat and rolled oats, they’re actually GOOD FOR YOU.

Sort of.

If you don’t think about all the butter and sugar – they’re practically health food.  Amazing, delicious, chewy, chocolatey health food.

…Or maybe just the best dang oatmeal chocolate chip cookies ever.

Like Maria of Two Peas and Their Pod, who originally posted this recipe, I decided to see if my husband could guess that whole wheat flour was the secret ingredient. And like Maria’s husband, James couldn’t do it. First he guessed walnuts, and then he guessed toffee before giving up. Also like Maria’s husband, James was totally surprised when I told him they were made with 100% whole wheat flour – not a speck of all purpose in the whole batch. They don’t taste dense or dry or “wholesome” like you’d expect whole wheat cookies to taste – they’re so good, I don’t think anyone would guess that they’re whole wheat.

So please, don’t be like me and wait a year to bring this amazingness into your life. Make them. Make them now. What are you waiting for? Go!

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

From Two Peas and Their Pod

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 egg, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon milk (I used 1%)

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Using a mixer, cream the sugars with the softened butter for about two minutes. Add in the egg, vanilla, and milk. Mix until smooth.
  3. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, with the mixer on low. Mix just until flour disappears. Don’t over mix. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips by hand.
  4. Form rounded cookie dough balls, using about 1 T of dough. Place dough balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Bake cookies for 11-12 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges. Let cookies sit on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes to set up. Then move to a cooking rack. Makes around 2 dozen cookies.