Art and Romance of Chocolate

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of helping my friend Robyn, of Red’s Cupcakes, hand out her amazing Chocolate Espresso cupcakes to hundreds of chocolate loving people at the Art and Romance of Chocolate event in downtown Springfield, MO.  The event proceeds went to the Friends of the Springfield Art Museum and there were judging in certain categories.  You can see the list of participants and who won what, here.

It was a fun event for a great cause and I was honored to be part of it.  I did manage to make it around to all the vendors before the event started and snap some pictures with my phone (sorry for the poor pic quality!) of their amazing creations.  I couldn’t even begin to tell you what everything was (except Red’s Cupcakes–first photo!) so just enjoy the pictures and give it your best guess! 😉

 

 

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Hummingbird Cake

My resolution to bake classic cakes has so far been a success, starting with this Coconut Cake and now the Hummingbird Cake.  If you’ve never heard of the Hummingbird Cake before, it goes all the way back to, well, it’s hard to tell where or when exactly it came on the scene.  The first published recipe for the cake showed up in the February 1978 issue of Southern Living magazine and was submitted by a woman named Mrs. L.H. Wiggins but it’s roots trace from the deep south aaaaaallll the way to Jamaica!  How crazy is that?  You can read more of the history and details here.

I used a recipe from myrecipes.com that was a little of a modernized version of the cake with the addition of white chocolate to the cake and the frosting and a touch of almond extract.  I was tempted at first to leave the white chocolate out of the cake but I’m so glad I didn’t–I LOVED getting little bits of white chocolate in every other bite.  This cake is very, VERY dense, almost like banana bread and the flavors of the almond extract, cinnamon and banana are incredibly delicious.  I can’t believe I waited so long to make this cake!

Hummingbird Cake
 
Ingredients
Cake
  • 3 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 t. Baking Soda
  • 1 t. Salt
  • 2 c. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 t. Ground Cinnamon
  • 3 Large Eggs, beaten
  • 1 c. Vegetable Oil
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 t. Almond Extract
  • 1, 8 oz. Can Crushed Pineapple, undrained
  • 1 c. Chopped, Toasted Pecans, divided
  • 2 c. Chopped Bananas (about 3 medium-large bananas)
  • 4 oz. White Chocolate, finely chopped
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1½ c. White Chocolate Chips, melted and cooled
  • 1½ (8 oz.) Packages Cream Cheese, softened
  • 6 T. Butter, softened
  • 4 c. Powdered Sugar
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla
  • ½ c. Chopped Toasted Pecans (for garnish)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3, 9-inch round pans and then line with parchment paper (optional).
For the Cake
  1. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened (do not overbeat). Stir in vanilla and almond extract, pineapple, pecans, bananas and white chocolate.
  2. Divide batter evenly among the three pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.
For the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. Combine cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until creamy. Add melted chocolate and vanilla, beating well. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended. Beat at medium speed until mixture reaches desired spreading consistency (do not overbeat).
To Assemble the Cake
  1. Spread cream cheese frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake; sprinkle ½ cup of chopped pecans on top. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Notes
Serves 16.

 

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Spicy Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

A friend and I had been chatting about how much we love to cook and, like myself, she is into very healthy and nutritious cooking (I said COOKING..not BAKING).  We’d often find ourselves at an event where we both brought homemade dishes and we’d be asking each other for the recipes at the end of the night, so we decided what better way to share our love of cooking and yummy recipes than start a gourmet cooking club??  So, our first official cooking club get together was this past January and it was SO fun!  The food was all delicious and it gave me the opportunity to try out a new healthy dessert recipe–Spicy Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies!

My inspiration for these cookies was based off of one of my FAVORITE “healthy” indulgences from Trader Joe’s…cayenne covered dried mango dipped in dark, bittersweet chocolate.  It is one of the best things to ever cross my lips and sadly, since we have no Trader Joe’s here in Springfield, MO, I’m not sure I’ll ever get it again!  But I loved the combination so much I thought I’d try it in these cookies.  Now the cookies themselves were absolutely WONDERFUL.  They were soooo soft and tender and the heat from the red pepper combined with the bittersweet chocolate was out of this world!  The only thing I didn’t like about this recipe was…the mango!  It was such a bummer, but it just didn’t work for this cookie, in my opinion.  So, I’d omit it for sure in the future and went ahead and wrote the recipe without it.  But I’m not too upset about it–I still discovered an amazing, nutritious cookie recipe!

Recipe adapted from injennieskitchen.com

Spicy Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 2 c. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • ½ t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Sea Salt
  • 1 t. Cayenne or Ground Red Pepper
  • ¼ c. (1/2 stick) Unsalted Butter, softened
  • ¼ c. Pure Pumpkin Puree
  • ¾ c. Sugar in the Raw
  • 1 T. Molasses
  • 2 Large Eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ½ c. Dark Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet)
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda salt and pepper. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, molasses and pumpkin on medium-high speed until light and fluffy about 5-7 minutes. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Wrap dough in a large piece of plastic wrap, place in an air-tight container and refrigerate overnight (I refrigerated mine for about 24 hours).
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. gently form dough into 1½-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake for 16 minutes, rotating pans once and switching racks halfway through. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
Notes
Makes about 25 cookies.

 

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Weekend Getaway B&B

The Bellevue Bed & Breakfast

Jeremy and I decided to take a last minute trip this past weekend and stay in a new (to us) B&B called The Bellevue.  He found this absolutely beautiful historic home in Cape Girardeau, right on the Mississippi River, in the heart of the downtown area.  We left Friday night, stayed in Poplar Bluff and got up early the next morning to hit the road so we could arrive to Cape Girardeau in time for all the shops to open.  We spend Saturday visiting antique shops, seeing historical sites, had an amazing dinner at a place called Bella Italia and relaxed the rest of the evening in our amazing bedroom.

Front door with beautiful stained glass transom above.
The men's parlor.
Beautiful windows and draperies in the women's parlor.
Love the chandelier and seating in the women's parlor.
Pretty mirror in our bedroom.
Cove bedroom upstairs.
Homemade pecan pie tassies and chocolate covered cherries in our bedroom.

The next morning we were treated to one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.  It was 3-courses and started with the cutest mini bundt shaped blueberry muffin.  It was an amazingly moist cake bursting with blueberries and a hint of cinnamon and had a homemade blueberry sauce spooned over it.  Second course was thinly sliced sweet strawberries, drenched in an amaretto infused Chantilly creme topped with homemade whipped cream–DIVINE.  Finally, we were treated to enormous omelettes stuffed with cheese and, to our surprise, vegetarian “ham”, all smothered in a rich hollandaise sauce!  I was super excited to find out the “meat” inside the omelette was actually a vegetable based, high-protein, low-carb substitute.  It was delicious!

Strawberries in Amaretto Chantilly Creme.
The spacious dining room.
The china--too pretty to eat off of!
We came through the back entrance and this was the first thing I saw--LOVE.
Fun sitting area in the dining room.

After stuffing ourselves at breakfast, we hit the road to head back home and stopped at a place called Big Spring and another place Jeremy and I had both been to as young children, Alley Spring.  It was so neat to go somewhere that we both vaguely remembered from our childhood and make our own memories together as adults.

Big Spring. Pictures can't even begin to show how amazingly clear and blue the water was.
Big Spring.
Alley Spring Mill.
Alley Spring.
Alley Spring...beautiful water.
Bridge over the water at Alley Spring.

Oh and how could I forget!  Much to my surprise and extreme delight, there was a BAKERY in Cape Girardeau.  Here’s a sneak peak picture–I’ll give my full review next week!

My Daddy's Cheesecake Bakery.

It was so much fun I really did NOT want to come home–a  fabulous weekend and great early Valentine’s Day getaway!

Me and Jeremy at Alley Spring.

 

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Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake Shake

I know the big thing around Valentine’s Day is chocolate dipped strawberries, which are great, but I’ve gotta admit I’m more of a chocolate covered cherry kinda girl.  And I know I can’t be the only one!  So my love of chocolate and cherries inspired me to create this super simply shake but not just any shake…a CAKE shake.  Yep, there is one big ‘ole slice of chocolate cake with vanilla frosting mixed right into this creamy concoction.  I picked my slice of cake up in the Wal-mart bakery case (don’t judge) but if I’d been thinking, I would have gotten one of the mega-huge chocolate cupcakes that Walgreens now sells.  But the shake still worked out alright. Actually, better than alright–it was, in fact, AWESOME.  I topped mine with homemade whipped cream, melted chocolate and festive sprinkles–so cute!

Share one of these with your sweetie tomorrow!  Or don’t share….it’s makes enough for two. 😉

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake Shake
 
Ingredients
  • One Big Slice of Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Frosting or Two Regular Cupcakes (or chocolate frosting/white cake/etc..whatever you prefer)
  • 20 Maraschino Cherries, chopped
  • 1 Pint or 4 BIG scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream
  • 14-1/2 c. Heavy Whipping Cream (depends on how thick you want it...I used ½ a cup)
  • ¼ t. Pure Vanilla
  • 1 T. Maraschino Cherry Juice
  • ½ c. Dark Chocolate Chips, melted
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in the blender (reserving a tablespoon or two of the melted chocolate for decoration) and blend until the shake has reached your desired consistency. Top with your choice of sprinkles, chocolate, whipped cream, etc.
Notes
Serves 2.

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Tart Cherry Frosting

I’m sure you’re wondering what the heck are cupcakes doing on the “healthy recipe day”, right??  Believe it or not I have found a recipe for healthy cupcakes!  Well, they are at least INFINITELY better for you than the regular ones.  After adding up some of the nutrition facts on these, I don’t even want to think about the amounts of sugar, fat and calories in regular cupcakes.  Gulp!  Not good, not good at all.  Which is why they are a TREAT and should be eaten in moderation.

But I digress….let’s back to these fabulous, nutrition-packed little cakes, shall we?

What if I told you that the flour in these was replaced with a black beans??  Say whaaaaat??  Yep, black beans…you know the things that go in your burritos, soup and make a mean chip dip?  Yes, those!  Now I’ve seen many recipes lately for brownies made with black beans, all with mixed reviews, so I was very intrigued by this cake and I have to admit that the pictures of it looked so good, I just had to try it.  As I mixed up the batter and was filling my muffin cups, my curiosity got the best of me and I tried a little taste…umm, it was good!!  Tasted just like regular cake batter.  Ok, I was hopeful at this point.  Things started looking even better as they baked..they smelled amazing and were actually rising, even though they never quite formed a “dome” like regular cupcakes.

Once I had them cooled off, I couldn’t resist trying one, despite what the original poster of the recipe said about letting them set overnight to lose any “black bean” taste.  To my delight the cake was super moist and had no bean taste at all!!  I loved them.  And I was totally shocked!  This is seriously revolutionary for me people..I see many experiments in the future!

As for the frosting, I really wasn’t sure how to make a “healthy” frosting, especially since I didn’t want to use powdered sugar.  I did some research online and found some recipes that used cream cheese with honey or butter and vegan shortening, but I really wanted something as healthy as possible.  I finally decided on Neufchatel cheese (which I’ve recently discovered and LOVE..way better than cream cheese and less fat!)  with some honey.  I threw in a little almond milk which I think I’d omit because it made the frosting less sturdy and more like a super thick yogurt.  For natural pink color and super delicious flavor, I threw some freeze-dried cherries in my food processor until they were a fine powder.  The cherries were actually quite expensive so feel free to buy a less costly berry…or you can omit the powder all-together but I’m not sure how the consistency will be if you do.  I was pleased with the end result (as in, I was eating it with a spoon…oooops), but will probably keep working on frostings and experimenting to get a thick, creamy more “normal” frosting.

Anywho, that’s the story of my first healthy cupcake.  In my mind it was a total success and I couldn’t be happier.  Guess I gotta stock up on black beans now!

Recipe adapted from healthyindulgences.net

Chocolate Cupcakes with Tart Cherry Frosting
 
Ingredients
Chocolate Cupcakes
  • 1, 15 oz. Can Unseasoned Black Beans, drained and rinsed (shake off ALL excess water)
  • 3 Large Eggs, 4 Egg Whites
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ½ t. Sea Salt
  • 4 T. Unsalted Butter
  • 2 T. Unsweetened Applesauce (or pumpkin...I was out, otherwise I would have used it)
  • ½ c. Honey
  • 6 T. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 t. Baking Powder
  • ½ t. Baking Soda
Tart Cherry Frosting
  • 12 oz. Organic, Neufchatel Cheese
  • ½ c. Honey
  • 2 T. Almond Milk (optional--don't recommend)
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ½ c. Ground, Freeze-Dried Tart Cherries
  • Dried, Naturally Sweet Tart Cherries (for topping)
Instructions
For the Chocolate Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two, regular-size muffin tins with cupcake liners (only need 16).
  2. Place beans, the 3 eggs, salt and vanilla in a blender and blend on high until beans are completely liquified. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, applesauce (or pumpkin) and honey on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (I beat for about 10 minutes..never really got "fluffy" but wasn't total liquid either). Add the egg whites one at a time. Pour in the bean mixture and mix thoroughly. Gradually add the cocoa powder mixture and beat on high for one minute, until smooth. Place three tablespoons of batter into each lined muffin tin. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes at clean. Cool completely.
For the Tart Cherry Frosting
  1. Cream the Neufchatel in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the honey. Beat in vanilla, almond milk (if using) and ground, freeze-dried cherries. Let sit in refrigerator for a couple of hours to stiffen up.
  2. Top each cupcake with a heaping spoonful of frosting and smooth with an off-set spatula. Top with a dried cherry.
  3. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until a few minutes before serving.
Notes
Makes 16 cupcakes.

 

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Romantic Valentine’s Day Dessert

Despite the title of this post, I’m not really sure desserts can be classified as sexy, romantic, etc.  I mean, what defines that exactly??  Is chocolate inherently sexy??  Is it the shape of the dessert?!?  Is it the way the candlelight bounces off the glistening, sugary crust of your crème brûlée into the deep and yearning eyes of your one and only true love??!?!

These are the important questions people!!

Ah well, regardless of what you think of the umm, sex appeal (?) of sugar, these desserts are touted as perfect for a romantic evening and sure to get you…uhh….in the mood…for…dessert??  Yeah, let’s go with that!

Cupid Cakes (plus many more from Woman’s Day)

Chocolate Souffle

Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding with Raspberries

Individual Brownie Sundaes

Crème Brûlée

Almond Praline Cakes (see more desserts for two from Taste of Home)

Lemon and White Chocolate Mousse Parfaits with Strawberries

Cherry-Ricotta Doughnut Holes with Chocolate Sauce

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Red Velvet Crepes

Chocolate Fondue

Strawberry Zabaglione

Mocha Pots de Crème

 

 

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Valentine’s Day Cupcakes

As you know I can’t let a holiday pass without showing all the best that the internet has to offer in themed cupcakes. And Valentine’s Day is no exception!  Check out these absolutely adorable cupcake ideas!

Box of Chocolates Cupcakes

 

Heart in the Middle Cupcake

 

Cupcakes for Two in Under 10 Minutes

 

Fondant Rose Cupcakes  (These pretty fondant roses have been a favorite of mine for a looong time!)

 

Swirled Two-Toned Frosting Cupcakes

 

Buttercream Frosting Rose Cupcakes

 

Sugared Heart Cupcake

 

Double Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

 

X and O Cereal Cupcakes

 

Conversation Heart Cupcakes

 

Red Velvet Heart Cupcakes

 

X and O Candy Cupcakes

 

Cherry Coke Float Cupcakes

 

Flying Hearts Cupcakes (L.O.V.E. these!)

 

Candy Kiss Cupcakes  (Could these be any cuter?!  Seriously.)

Sweetheart Cupcakes

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Strawberry Fruit Dip

Sometimes “mistakes” in the kitchen really work out.  For instance, Strawberry Fruit Dip.  It started with me wanting to do some kind of simple, homemade strawberry candy or truffle for Valentine’s Day.  But as I mixed up this pretty pink concoction, I slowly realized the consistency was, ummm, not quite…firm.  This is normally when I go into panic mode.  But I decided to shove it in the fridge overnight and see what would happen.  I literally laid in bed trying to think what I could do with the mixture.  It tasted WAY too good to throw out.  What to do?!!?

So, the next morning I was again racking my brain with what to do as I ran a few miles on the treadmill (how wrong is that??).  And then it hit me–fruit dip!  Perfect.  I wouldn’t have to throw it out!  Phew.  And what a yummy fruit dip it is…packed with strawberry flavor and so creamy and delicious.  I served it at a party with graham crackers, fudge brownies, pretzel chips, strawberries, bananas and apples.  My favorite thing to dip in it was the pretzel chips.  It reminded me a really amazing white chocolate dipped pretzel but with strawberry flavor thrown in.  And the best thing was I didn’t have to spend hours in my kitchen rolling little balls of strawberry truffles and dipping them in chocolate.

Yay for “mistakes”!

Strawberry Fruit Dip
 
Ingredients
  • 1, 8 oz. Package Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 c. White Chocolate Morsels, melted and cooled
  • 1 c. Vanilla Wafer Crumbs
  • ½ c. Strawberry Preserves
  • ½ t. Pure Vanilla
  • ¼ t. Strawberry Oil (optional)
  • 1 c. Powder Sugar
  • Pink Dye (for color--optional)
Instructions
  1. Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until cream. Beat in melted chocolate until smooth. Stir in vanilla wafer crumbs, strawberry preserves, vanilla and strawberry oil. Beat in powdered sugar. Serve with fruit, cookies, marshmallows, pretzels, etc.

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Strawberry Almond Butter Soup

In case you haven’t noticed by now, Fridays have become the designated “healthy recipe” day.  And today I have a recipe for a sweet dessert soup to share with you!  I’ll never forget the first time I had a fruit “soup” was on the one and only cruise I took to the Bahamas after I graduated high school.  They served it with dinner one night and I fell in LOVE.  It was sweet and creamy and so refreshing!  Just like this delicious recipe!  Jeremy seemed really confused by the name and I asked a couple of times why it was called soup…but I honestly don’t know!  It’s blended in a blender but it doesn’t have ice so it’s not really a smoothie..so what else would you call it?!  Other than amazingly delicious!  We enjoyed this for dessert a couple of nights in a row and it is sooo much healthier for you than your typical after dinner fare.  It’s got fruit, protein and calcium..almost a meal in itself!

Enjoy!

Strawberry Almond Butter Soup
 
Ingredients
  • 1.5 lbs Strawberries (4 cups sliced)
  • ¼ c. Plain, Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 2 T. Natural Almond Butter
  • ½ t. Almond Extract
  • 2 T. Agave, or to taste depending on the sweetness of your strawberries
  • Chopped strawberries and almonds, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Remove green stems off strawberries, rinse well, pat dry and slice.
  2. In a blender, add the almond milk, strawberries, almond extract and almond butter. Starting on lowest speed, blend until it comes together. Turn up the speed gradually and blend until completely smooth.
  3. Taste test and add your desired sweetener. Blend again to combine. If your blender does not puree the seeds, you can pour the soup through a fine strainer. (or just leave the seeds, which is what I did--I don't mind them)
  4. With blender cover on, place blender in the fridge and chill until very cold, a few hours or overnight. Alternatively, you could chill in a container in the freezer to speed things up. Keeps for a few days in the refrigerator.
Notes
Makes about 3 cups.

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Kid-Friendly Valentine’s Day Treats

Most people think of romance when they think of Valentine’s Day but it’s also a great day to express your love to your kiddos!  And let them do the same to others!  I thought I’d share some easy, kid-friendly treats I found around the web.  Even as an adult with zero kids, I’m tempted to make some of these–they are just that cute!

Red Velvet Rice Krispie Treats Hearts

Valentine Jelly Pops

Valentine’s Day Marshmallow Pops

Chocolate-Raspberry Hearts

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Sweethearts Bark

Valentine’s Day Candy Cane Hearts

Easy Valentine’s Day Brownies

Oreo Cakester Hearts

Valentine’s Heart Cookie Pops

Valentine S’mores

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Bakery Review – Stacey’s Sweets in Ozark

 

This past weekend Jeremy and I went on a cupcake tasting roadtrip to some new bakeries in Ozark and Nixa.  I had been following Stacey’s Sweets on Facebook and every picture she would post looked sooo good and I was so excited to finally get a chance to taste everything!  Her shop is located in the corner of an older building on the square in Ozark and even though it was tiny, it was packed with cuteness.  She even had a couple of small tables and chairs to eat at, which we took full advantage of.

I went ahead and ordered one of each cupcake she had in the case (eight total!) because at $1.75 apiece they were VERY affordable (if not somewhat underpriced!) and also got a brownie because they looked delicious.  I passed on the cake pops, but they were covered in sparkly red, pink and purple sanding sugar and totally adorable…very tempting.  We started tasting with the brownie and wow, it was SO good.  Very fudgy, loaded with chocolate chips and had that nice thin crackle “crust” on the top.  We had a hard time not eating the whole thing.

Cake Pops
Fudge Brownie

Next up, cupcake tasting!  The flavors were Red Velvet, Wedding Cake, Cookie Dough, Pretty Princess Strawberry, Double Chocolate, Peanut Butter Cup, Honeybee and Cherry Bomb (see photo captions for descriptions).  I can honestly say that these cupcakes not only looked pretty but were so yummy!  Her cakes were light and fluffy and the frosting was not overly sweet but somewhat airy and not heavy or greasy, which was nice.  It’s one of the better cupcake tasting experiences I’ve had in a loooong time!  I could definitely see myself making a special trip to Ozark just for these cupcakes (or the brownie!) and would strongly advise you to do the same–you will NOT be disappointed!

Red Velvet--Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting topped with a Heart Gummy Candy
Pretty Princess Strawberry--Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Buttercream
Peanut Butter Cup--Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Mini Peanut Butter Cup
Honeybee--Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting, Honey Drizzle, Chopped Peanuts and Banana Chip
Double Chocolate--Dark Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream and Mini Chocolate Chips
Cookie Dough--Chocolate Chip Cake filled with Cookie Dough, topped with Brown Sugar Buttercream and Mini Chocolate Chips
Cherry Bomb--Cherry Cake with Cherry Filling, Cherry Buttercream, dipped in Ganache and topped with a Cherry
Wedding Cake--White Cake, Vanilla Buttercream, Candy Pearls
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Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies (aka homemade Oreos)

I am not the craftiest.  I have admitted this before but I just thought I’d state it again.  So when I spied these dark chocolate sugar cookies online, I knew I would make them but needed to come up with a way to make them cute that didn’t involve royal icing and piping and such.

So behold, the chocolate sugar cookie sandwich!  Also known as cutely shaped, cut-out homemade Oreos.  Really freakin’ amazingly good, never-buy-store-bought-again, homemade Oreos.  Yes, they are THAT GOOD.  I just cut out about 14, 4-inch cookies and then cut smaller shapes out of the middle of half of them.  If you don’t bake the small shapes like I did, you could reuse the dough and get about 16, 4-inch cookies.  Which is what I’d do next time because the tiny ones didn’t turn out terribly cute. But tasty!  And that’s what really matters, right??

Recipe courtesy of Sprinklesbakes.com

Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies (aka homemade Oreos)
 
Ingredients
Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies (aka Homemade Oreos)
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1 c. plus 2 T. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 t. Pure Vanilla
  • 2 c. plus 1 T. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 c. Dark Cocoa Powder
  • ⅛ t. Salt
Buttercream Frosting
  • ⅓ c. (5 T.) Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 2 c. Powdered Sugar
  • 3 T. Heavy Whipping Cream (or milk)
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla
  • ½ t. Almond Extract (optional)
Instructions
For the Cookies
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until just incorporated. Do not over-mix at this stage or the cookies may spread while baking. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix on low speed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl intermittently as needed.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Add to the butter and egg mixture. Mix on low speed until a dough is formed and there are no longer any streaks of butter in the mixing bowl. The dough will clump around the paddle attachment but that's ok, it's normal and a good sign your dough is the right consistency. With your hands, form the dough into a ball.
  4. On a clean counter-top, roll out your dough to ¼-inch thickness. Cut out desired shapes from the cookie dough and carefully transfer to your baking sheets. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, rotating pans and switching racks halfway through to endure even baking. Let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Frost with frosting and decorate with sanding sugar, sprinkles, etc.
For the Buttercream Frosting
  1. Beat butter, sugar and milk about 5 minutes. Beat in extracts.
Notes
Makes 16, 4-inch Sandwich Cookies. Tip: These cookies are best eaten within 24 hours or the same day they are made. They are still very good but not be quite as crisp the next day.

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Gluten-Free Brownies

I have to confess something:  I am REALLY loving the weekly addition of healthy dessert recipes to my blog.  It’s so fun rediscovering my passion for healthy baking and there is a lot less guilt when I treat myself.  Like, a LOT.  And believe me, these brownies are a TREAT!  I have never in my life made anything gluten-free but I’m more than aware that it’s such a huge issue with many, many people.  So, I was very excited about this recipe…if not just a teensy bit skeptical.  I mean after all it has ZERO flour and ZERO butter so, umm, how does that work?!  Yes, I was doubtful.  But as the brownies baked in the oven, they began to look and smell like regular, delicious, bad-for-you brownies.  And much to my surprise, they tasted AMAZING.  Very chewy and chocolaty and good.  I was shocked.  And so happy.  I love that these contain lots of protein and very little sugar and are not only healthy but gluten-free.  Try them–promise, you’ll love them!

Recipe adapted from Elanaspantry.com

4.0 from 1 reviews
Gluten-Free Brownies
 
Ingredients
  • 1, 16 oz. (2 cups) Jar Creamy Roasted Almond Butter (I used Maranatha)
  • 1 Egg, plus 2 Egg Whites
  • ¾ c. Honey
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla
  • ½ c. Cocoa Powder
  • ½ t. Sea Salt
  • 1 t. Baking Soda
  • ½ c. Dark Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirardelli Bittersweet), divided
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend almond butter until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then honey and vanilla. Beat in cocoa, salt and baking soda then fold in ¼ c. of the chocolate chips. Spread batter into the baking pan. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ c. of chocolate chips over the batter and press lightly into the batter.
  3. Bake for 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Notes
Makes 24 brownies.

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Football Themed Sweets

If you want to add that sporty touch to your Superbowl 2012 dessert offerings, try out one or two of these cute football goodies!  I think my favorite is the double chocolate cupcake with the piped frosting that looks like a football–creative and simple?!  Touchdown!  (sorry, cheesy, I know!!)

Football Brownies

Double Chocolate Football Cupcakes

Football Game Cookies

Football Whoopie Pies

Cocoa Rice Krispie Treats Footballs

Frosted Peanut Butter Football Cookies

Bakerella Football Cupcakes

Sugar Cookie Footballs

 

 

 

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Homemade Coconut Cake

Believe it or not, I have never made a homemade coconut cake and honestly, I have no idea why!  I love coconut in anything so I’m not sure what took me so long to get around to it.  Thankfully, I made some baking resolutions this year and classic recipes was one of my goals for the year.  This cake was the first step to meeting that goal and what a delicious resolution it turned out to be!  I wasn’t sure what recipe to use so I simply googled “coconut cake” and the first thing to pop up was a Paula Deen recipe that had LOTS of good reviews so I thought, why not?  I’ve not made alot of her recipes but I know her Ooey Gooey Butter Cake is one of my favorites so I thought I’d give the coconut cake a shot.

Initially, I had some reservations about this recipe.  First, the cake recipe itself called for self-rising flour which I thought was odd since self-rising flour is typically used for biscuits and such.  Second, the filling was a sour cream and sugar mixture which in my mind wouldn’t be nearly as good as the fluffy, whipped cream like filling that seems to be in all coconut cakes.  And third, the 7-Minute Frosting recipe was new to me and sounded somewhat complicated so I was tempted to just do a typical buttercream or cream cheese frosting.

But I decided NO. I would try my hardest not to make any changes…and that is HARD for me to do.  But I have to say I am SO glad I didn’t change things…this cake was delicious!  Not the coconut cake I had in my mind necessarily but still soooo yummy and good.  The cake itself was tender and soft, although it was a little crumbly but overall I liked it and it was kind of a cross between a white and yellow cake.  I have to admit that I LOVED the filling.  I mean, I could have just eaten it with a spoon.  It seeped down into the cake an made it very moist.  I would only change the amount of coconut in it, maybe increase it to one cup because I would have liked more coconut between the layers.  And finally the frosting turned out to not be complicated to make AT ALL and I loved that it was similar to marshmallow creme but infinitely better!  What I really loved about the frosting was how easily it went on the cake–I was a little scared because it was so gooey and sticky.  But surprisingly not hard to work with at all.

All in all, this was a great first-ever homemade coconut cake.  My in-laws loved it which made me VERY happy and my mother-in-law said it reminded her of her mom’s coconut cake and I thought that was awesome!  Can’t wait for my next classic cake recipe!

Enjoy!

First Homemade Coconut Cake
 
Ingredients
Cake
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, room temperature
  • 2 c. Granulated Sugar
  • 4 Eggs
  • 3 c. Self-Rising Flour
  • 1 c. Milk (she suggested coconut milk but I had whole milk so I used that)
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla
  • 2 t. Coconut Extract
Coconut Filling
  • ¾ c. Sugar
  • 1 c. Sour Cream
  • 4 T. Milk
  • 1 t. Pure Vanilla
  • ½ c. Flaked, Sweetened Coconut
7-Minute Frosting
  • 1½ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 T. White Corn Syrup
  • ⅛ t. Salt
  • ⅓ c. Cold Water
  • 2 Egg Whites
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla
  • 3 c. Flaked, Sweetened Coconut
Instructions
For the Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3, 9-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium-high speed for 6-8 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (mine took about 27) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 to 10 minutes and then invert cakes onto cooling rack and let cool completely (I actually cooled mine completely in the pans...inside my refrigerator. 🙂 I was in a hurry.).
For the Coconut Filling
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, sour cream, milk and vanilla until sugar is completely dissolved. Add coconut and stir to combine.
To Assemble the Cake
  1. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or large plate. (I like to torte the top of my cakes to get them even but this is not a must if you prefer not to do it) Poke holes in cake approximately 1-inch apart with the end of a wooden spoon or chopsticks (which is what I used) until entire cake has been poked. Spread with ⅓ of the filling mixture. Top with second layer, repeat process. Top with last layer and repeat process again. Place in refrigerator while you make the frosting.
For the 7-Minute Frosting
  1. In a stainless steel bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water (fill saucepan about halfway, you don't want the water to touch the bottom of the bowl), place the egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, salt and cold water. With a handheld electric mixer beat the mixture for 4 minutes on low speed. Increase the speed to high and continue to beat for another 6-7 minutes or until the icing is shiny and satiny with soft peaks. Remove from heat, add the vanilla extract and continue to beat on high speed for another 3-4 minutes or until the frosting is thick.
  2. Frost cake immediately. It is easiest to start by frosting the top of the cake first and then working the frosting down the sides. Press the 3 cups of coconut onto the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Notes
Serves 20.

 

 

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Dark Chocolate Nutella Raspberry Cupcakes

Nutella is everywhere right now.  People are putting it in cookies, cakes, brownies, cheesecakes, rice krispie treats, eating it straight out of the jar with a spoon (Who would do that?! Seriously…I don’t even know…).  It’s Nutella madness!  But there’s a reason.  The stuff is GOOD.  I mean really, really good.  So I decided I must bake with it.  Somehow.  What to dooooo???

And then I had an idea…another really, really good thing is raspberry beer.  Specifically, Framboise Lambic raspberry beer.  This stuff is beyond yummy, like drinking the ripest, juiciest, sweetest raspberries.  I’ve wanted to incorporate it into my baking FOREVER.  Hmmm, Nutella AND raspberry??  YES.  Chocolate cupcake with Nutella ganache and raspberry beer buttercream???  DOUBLE YES.

Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but this is one of the best cupcakes I’ve made to date.  I simply love this one-bowl dark chocolate cake recipe from Sweetapolita.  It is super moist and reminiscent of a wacky cake just like my mom used to make and reminds me of birthdays past.  The Nutella ganache is decadent and gooey and the light, airy raspberry buttercream is just the perfect frosting for the whole thing.  Oh and dare I suggest TOTALLY perfect for Valentine’s day with the faint pinkness of the buttercream and the cute dark chocolate heart topper??  (You can find the mold for the chocolate heart here.)

Is this the perfect cupcake? Perhaps.  The best use of Nutella EVER, in all baking history??  Maybe.   A really, really super delicious crazy good cupcake?!?  Definitely!

Dark Chocolate Nutella Raspberry Cupcakes
 
Ingredients
One-Bowl Dark Chocolate Cake
  • 1½ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1⅓ c. Granulated Sugar
  • ½ c. Dark Cocoa Powder
  • 1¼ t. Baking Soda
  • 1¼ t. Baking Powder
  • 1 t. Salt
  • ¼ c., plus 1 T. Vegetable Oil
  • ⅔ c. Buttermilk (I only had whole milk so that is what I used and it seemed to work fine.)
  • ½ c., plus 1 T. Espresso or Strong Hot Brewed Coffee (I used the coffee)
  • 2 Eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla
Nutella Ganache
  • ¾ c. Nutella Hazelnut Spread
  • ½ c. Heavy Whipping Cream
Raspberry Buttercream
  • 1 Stick Unsalted Butter, softened
  • ½ c. Shortening
  • 4 c. Powdered Sugar
  • ½ c. Raspberry Beer (suggested: Lamboise Frambic)
Instructions
For the Dark Chocolate Cupcake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 20 regular cupcake pans with cupcake wrappers.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, sift or whisk all of the dry ingredients together. Add all remaining ingedients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and beat or 2 minutes on medium speed. Spoon 3 tablespoons of cake batter into each cupcake tin. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan and cool completely.
For the Nutella Ganache
  1. Place the Nutella in a medium size bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil and pour over the Nutella. Whisk or stir until smooth. Let cool completely.
Raspberry Buttercream
  1. Cream the butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually beat in 2 cups of the powdered sugar and then ¼ cup of the raspberry beer. Beat in the other 2 cups of powdered sugar and the remaining ¼ cup of the raspberry beer. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
To Assemble Cupcakes
  1. Using a serrated knife or apple corer, cut out a small piece from the middle of each cupcake. Fill with 2 teaspoons of Nutella ganache. Pipe with raspberry buttercream.
Notes
Makes 16 cupcakes.

 

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Java Mocha Protein Balls

I spied these dark chocolatey little bites of protein on Pinterest (where else?) the other day and knew right away I’d like them.  (See original recipe here.)  These are full of good fats and protein from the almonds, wheat germ, flax seed and protein powder and are lightly sweetened with dates and agave.  Oh and how could I forget the ground coffee.  Yes, it gets mixed right in with everything else for one powerhouse of a snack!  Forget the Snickers when you are feeling that afternoon slump…eat a couple of these for some REAL energy and nutrition.

Enjoy!

P.S.  This recipe makes ALOT  and my food processor wasn’t quite big enough so I had to split it into two batches.  Just FYI.

Java Mocha Protein Balls
 
Ingredients
  • ⅓ c. Ground Coffee
  • 4-5 T. Cocoa Powder
  • 2 c. Raw Almonds
  • ¼ c. Ground Flax Seed
  • ¼ c. Wheat Germ
  • 3 Scoops Plant-Based Chocolate Protein Powder (I prefer Garden of Life Chocolate Protein and Greens)
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla
  • 1 c. Dates, finely chopped
  • ¼ c. Agave
  • ½-3/4 c. Warm Water
  • Chopped Bittersweet Chocolate (Prefer Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Chunks), Cocoa Powder or Coffee Beans (for rolling/decor)
Instructions
  1. Place all the ingredients excluding the agave and water into your food processor. Blend until smooth.
  2. Add the agave and then slowly add the water, pulsing as the consistency thickens like dough. Form dough into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Place in an air-tight container and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight. Remove from fridge, form into 1-inch balls and roll in chopped bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder or garnish with a coffee bean.
Notes
Makes 50.

 

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