Dark Chocolate Cheesecake for Christmas

I am more excited about this Christmas season than ever before!  And it’s mostly because I will be baking my way through the next 25 plus days and documenting every gloriously sweet moment on this blog!  Since there are so many awesome recipes I want to try right now, I’ll be posting a new one every Monday and Wednesday of the week from now until Christmas.  Most likely one will be something baked (cookie, cake, etc) and one will be unbaked (candy, party mix, etc).

I’ve decided to kick off all the festive baking with this amazing  Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Cappuccino Ganache.  This thing is decadent and rich and worth every single calorie you will have to burn on the treadmill the next day.  You really can’t go wrong bringing chocolate to a holiday gathering because seriously, who doesn’t love it??

The only problem (well, ok there were two) I encountered with this cheesecake is that the butter in the cookie crust started seeping out of my springform pan for some reason (I have NEVER had that happen before–weird!) so I had to put a cookie sheet beneath it to catch it all. And problem number two was that I didn’t realize how much volume adding two cups of melted chocolate chips would add to this recipe so my 9-inch springform pan got very full…TOO full!  I’d advise you to use at least a 10-inch round springform pan.  And don’t freak if the top gets kind of funky and cracked; your just going to cover it with ganache anyway.  I torted mine to give it a nice even surface before spreading the ganache over it and in the end it turned out perfect!

What are you most looking forward to baking this Christmas season??  I’d love to know!

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Cappuccino Ganache
 
Ingredients
Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
  • 2½ c. Oreos, crushed (I did mine in a food processor)
  • 1 Stick Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 4, 8 oz. Packages Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1½ c. Granulated Sugar
  • ¾ c. Whole Milk
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 c. Sour Cream
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla
  • ¼ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 c. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1 c. Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
  • ¼ c. Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
Cappuccino Ganache
  • 9 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 c. Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 T. Instant Coffee (or 1 T. Espresso Powder)
  • ¼ t. Cinnamon
Instructions
For the Cheesecake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 10-inch springform pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the crushed Oreos and melted butter and press evenly into the bottom of the springform pan, pressing the crust up onto the sides of the pan just a little.
  3. In a small bowl, melt the semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate chips in the microwave at 20-second intervals, stirring between each, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Set aside and let cool slightly.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Blend in the milk and then mix in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in sour cream, vanilla, flour and cocoa until smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate and spread evenly into the springform pan.
  5. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake cool in the oven with the door closed for at least 1 hour (I left mine in for 3 but if I'm pressed for time, I take it out at about 1 hour...it's supposed to help prevent cracking, if you care about that). Let cool completely and then chill in the refrigerator overnight.
For the Ganache
  1. Place the chopped chocolate and cinnamon in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the heavy whipping cream over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. In a separate bowl, dissolve the instant coffee in 3 tablespoons of the boiling heavy whipping cream and then add back to the rest of the heavy whipping cream in the saucepan. Pour the heavy whipping cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth. Let cool slightly to barely warm and almost room temperature. Pour over cheesecake by starting at the center of the cake and with a spoon, slowly smooth it out toward the edges and slightly over. Let cool completely and store in the refrigerator. Decorate with shaved white chocolate, if desired.
Notes
Serves 12-15.

 

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Leftover Thanksgiving Pie

If you were one of the crazies up at 3 a.m. (or you didn’t even got to bed!  CRAZY!) to get in line for Black Friday, and had all your shopping done by 7, you’re probably getting a little hungry and thinking about breakfast.  Lucky for you I managed to find a few recipes that put all those leftover pumpkin, pecan and apple pies to good use in some of our most beloved breakfast foods.  Pumpkin pie french toast?!  Umm, sign me up!  I know for some, however, it might be a bit early for Thanksgiving food round two, so I also have some yummy dessert recipes that incorporate leftover pie.

Hope you are having a great holiday weekend!

Pie Stuffed Cinnamon Rolls

Pumpkin Pie Crepes

Pumpkin Pie Stuffed French Toast

Pumpkin Pie Brulee

Pumpkin Pie Shake

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pecan Pie Trifle

Ok, I’ve got one more last, LAST minute Thanksgiving day dessert!  It’s a Pecan Pie Trifle–layers of chunked pecan pie, whipping cream/cream cheese mixture, fudge, caramel and toasted pecans.  Doesn’t that sound like pure evil?!  Well, it is!  Very rich, delicious evil.

You can make the cream cheese mixture or go really simple and do just homemade (or even store bought…I suppose) whipped cream, which I think I might do next time to cut back on the richness of it.  And I also did a ganache and homemade salted caramel sauce which I highly suggest doing but when your short on time a store bought, high-quality hot fudge sauce and caramel sauce will work just fine!

Enjoy!

Pecan Pie Trifle
 
Ingredients
  • 3 c. Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 c. Powdered Sugar
  • 2 T. Pure Vanilla
  • 2, 8 oz. Packages Cream Cheese, softened
  • 2 c. Sugar
  • 1 T. Vanilla
  • 1, 2-lb. Frozen Pecan Pie, thawed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ½ c. Chocolate Fudge Sauce (or ganache)
  • ½ c. Caramel Sauce
  • ½ c. Chopped Pecans, toasted
Instructions
For the Whipped Cream:
  1. In a very cold mixing bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream at high speed until it becomes thick and stiff. Mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Set aside.
For the Cream Cheese Mixture
  1. Beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the vanilla. Fold in ¾ of the homemade whipped cream.
To Assemble:
  1. Place ⅓ of the pie cubes in the bottom of a large trifle dish or clear, tall glass bowl. Spread half the cream cheese mixture over the pie cubes, drizzle with ⅓ of both sauces and sprinkle with pecans. Repeat two more times, leaving a couple of tablespoons of both sauces and pecans to use for decoration. Spread the remaining whipped cream evenly over the top and drizzle with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle the remaining pecans on top.

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Edible Acorn Treats

If you’re still searching for something sweet and kid-friendly to bring to the family gathering tomorrow, look no further!  These little acorns have been popping up all over Pinterest lately and it’s not hard to see why–they are one of the easiest things to make!  All you need are a 3-4 ingredients:  regular semi-sweet chocolate chips, Hershey Kisses and miniature Nutter Butters.  Melt a few chocolate chips until smooth and use that to adhere the Hershey Kiss and regular chocolate chip to the cookie.  Or you could even use chocolate frosting as “glue”.  It’s been done a few ways so whatever you think will work for you is fine!  Have fun!

Photo courtesy of designsbymcm.blogspot.com
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Pecan Pralines

Mmmm, pralines.  There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the correct pronunciation of these yummy drops of sugar and nuts…praw-lines, pray-lines…how do you say it??  I suppose it depends on where you’re from but I’m sure we can all agree these things are delicious!  I will admit I had never even made them before until my baking buddy Betsy suggested we get together and try a couple different kinds.  She has the best ideas.

I’m not sure how many or exactly what kinds we did that night, but I know we used one recipe that was her grandmother’s and these are the real deal.  Honestly, they are hard to describe other than just yummy pecans and sugar…they almost have a maple taste to them.  Which I love.  They do use a candy thermometer but don’t be afraid!  The candy thermometer is your friend!  All you have to do is watch that little red line get to 236 degrees and bam!  You’re golden and on your way to praline heaven.

Enjoy!

Pecan Pralines
 
Ingredients
  • ½ Stick Unsalted Butter
  • ½ c. Light Corn Syrup
  • ½ c. Evaporated Milk
  • 2 c. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 t. Pure Vanilla
  • 3 c. Pecan Halves
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring butter, corn syrup, evaporated milk and sugar to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring occasionally so the mixture doesn't scorch, until a candy thermometer reaches 236 degrees (it will take 8-10 minutes). Once it reaches 236 degrees, remove from heat and stir in vanilla and pecans. Continue to stir until very thick and dark in color, about 4-5 minutes (it will become somewhat difficult to stir...my arm was tired!) and immediately and quickly begin spooning onto wax paper or foil. Let sit until cool and completely firm.
Notes
Makes about 20.

 

 

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Star Cakes: Cups of Cake

Jeremy and I recently had the chance to sample another new cupcake place in Springfield, MO called Star Cakes: Cups of Cakes that opened just this past September (one of MANY that we have now…although not quite as many as all the self-serve fro yo places…I’ll do a post on that another day).  Their store ran a special deal for buy a dozen cupcakes at half-price so we got to taste a good variety of their cupcakes the day we went.  They also had chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies so I went ahead and got a chocolate chip cookie to go with our DOZEN cupcakes.  It’s a hard job I tell ya.

Anyway, we gathered our bounty and headed home.  The chocolate chip cookie didn’t quite make it to the house…it was a really good, thick, chewy cookie and Jeremy and I both liked it alot!  As for the cupcakes, I chose nine different flavors:  Star Cake a La Mode, Fudge Star, Red Star Velvet, Chocolate PB Star, Strawberry, Hawaiian Star, Pumpkin, Carrot Cake and Milky Way.  You can check out the descriptions of each on their menu here.

Pumpkin
Milky Way
Fudge

Unfortunately, I didn’t really have a favorite out of the group and but you really can’t go wrong with pumpkin and that was probably the one I liked the most, moist and very fall-appropriate with a yummy cream cheese frosting.  The rest, to me at least, didn’t taste quite as from-scratch that I’m used to and it seemed like a lot of artificial flavors were used.  My least favorite was a toss-up between the Hawaiian Star and Strawberry…too much artificial going on for me.

Star Cakes a La Mode

Overall, I think it will be interesting to see who survives the cupcake wars going on in Springfield right now…and I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of new cupcake places to come to town!  Just more research I *have* to do!  😉

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Thanksgiving Themed Cupcakes

In case you’re feeling crafty and in the mood for cupcakes this Thanksgiving, why not give one of these so, so cute Thanksgiving themed cupcakes a try!  I think the acorn cupcakes look like something even I could handle!  I’d probably add some chocolate leaves just to give it a little more oomph!

Have fun and get busy baking! 😉

Acorn Cupcakes

Pilgrim Hat and Cornucopia Cupcakes

Turkey and Stuffing Cupcakes

Thanksgiving Pie Cupcakes

Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes

Turkey Cupcakes

 

 

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Sunny Oat-Date Bars

Last week I posted some healthy dessert recipes and I had my eye on a couple to try myself.  I decided to start with the Sunny Oat-Date Bars.  I just happened to have a HUGE bag of dates sitting on my counter that I had been meaning to make into a dessert but had never taken the time to find a recipe.  These bars were the perfect thing to use them in!

I made some minor adjustments to the recipe and overall the results were delicious.  They turned out a teensy bit crumbly so I’d recommend eating them with a fork.  And after I simmered the dates and orange juice, I had no liquid left over to add to the dry ingredients, it just turned into a very thick mixture.  So even though I didn’t have any of the orange/date liquid to add to the oats, it still worked fine. I absolutely LOVED this recipe and found I could hardly stay out of the bars.  The flavors of orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and dates was ah-mazing.  Pretty sure a healthy recipe becomes not so healthy when you eat 2-3 times more than you should!  Oh well.

Enjoy!

Sunny Oat-Date Bars
 
Ingredients
  • 2 c. Very Finely Chopped and Pitted Dates
  • 1 c. Fresh Orange Juice (I used fresh-squeezed)
  • 2 t. Grated Orange Rind
  • 2 c. Thick Rolled Oats
  • ½ c. White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 t. Baking Powder
  • ¼ t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1 t. Cinnamon
  • ⅛ t. Nutmeg
  • ¼ t. Cloves
  • ⅓ c., plus 1 T. Safflower Oil
  • ⅓ c. Honey
  • 3 T. Pure Grade A Maple Syrup
  • 1½ t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ c. Pecans, coarsely chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x9 pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the dates, orange juice and orange rind. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occassionally, until dates are very soft and the mixture has turned very thick (about 5-8 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Once cool, mash until smooth.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, honey, maple syrup and vanilla. Add oil mixture to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  4. Press ⅔ of the oat mixture into the pan and spread the date mixture over the crust. Stir pecans into remaining oat mixture and drop by spoonfulls onto the date mixture and spread evenly.
  5. Bake 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
Notes
Makes 18 bars.

 

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Sugar Rush 2011

Last year Drury partnered with some local businesses to bring the first every Sugar Rush event to Springfield, MO.  It’s basically a sampling a sweets made by local vendors and restaurants with all the profits going to Care to Learn, an organization dedicated to meeting the basic social and economic needs of kids in schools across the Ozarks.

I didn’t know about the event last year in time to go and I almost missed it this year but found out about it at the last minute and managed to score two for one tickets!  I asked my friend Robyn (of Red’s Cupcakes!) to go with me and together we ate our way through 25+ vendors and three plates of desserts.  Yes, THREE plates.  There were a LOT of mini cupcakes, some cookies, chocolates and truffles and even doughnuts and frozen yogurt samples.  I can’t say I was terribly impressed with anything but I definitely had my favorites.  I think Robyn and I agreed the front runners were Amycakes (awesome from scratch cupcakes and cookies), Elle’s Patisserie (loved her truffles and pastry), My Mary’s Jellies (truffles filled with wine-infused jelly–omg, so going to be making my own!) and one that I really liked, Granolove (super delicious homemade granola).  These places stood out above all the rest for quality and taste.

It was so much fun and I absolutely cannot wait for next year!  Here are some pictures from the evening-enjoy!

The Cup Pumpkin Cake
The Hot Chocolate Cups
Tea Bar and Bites Pumpkin Cake

Love Bites Truffles
My Mary's Jellies Red Wine Truffles
Tea Bar and Bites Coconut Cream

Granolove Granola
Style by the Slice Vanilla Bean
Sisters in Thyme Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Elle's Patisserie Salted Caramel Truffle
Gigi's Cupcakes Strawberry, Chocolate, Vanilla
Bambino's Caramel Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake

Amycakes Red Velvet
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Healthy (yes, healthy!) Fall Inspired Desserts

Believe it or not, there are some people on diets this time of year.  Yes, DIETS, preparing/starving themselves for the two month long eat-o-rama that begins around mid-November and doesn’t stop until somewhere around the new year.  I myself believe in moderation and balance and try to get plenty of exercise and eat an overall healthy diet (I definitely do NOT believe in starvation and “diet” trends).  And I am most certainly planning on indulging during the holidays but in moderation.

So, for those more health-conscious readers out there like myself, I thought I would provide you with some healthy dessert options for you to bring to those family get-togethers.  Some are most definitely more healthy than others; there are low-fat, low-calorie, high-protein, low-sugar, etc.  Options!  That’s what I’m all about. 🙂  I’ll definitely be testing a couple (the Date Bars and Honey-Almond Cake are calling my name!) to see if they are worthy of the upcoming family festivities. I’ll post my results!

Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies

Chocolate Accordion Bread

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Bundt Cake with Orange Glaze

Pumpkin Rice Pudding (Scroll a just over half-way down the page to see the recipe.)

Chocolate Cupcakes

Sunny Oat-Date Bars

Apple Dumpling Cinnamon Rolls

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bars

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Coconut Cookies

Flourless Honey Almond Cake

Pumpkin Sesame Cookies

Chocolate Torte

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirled Brownies

If you’ve never tried the combination of pumpkin and chocolate, you are seriously missing out.  The first time I ever tried the unusual, but oh-so-delicious pairing was several years ago when I made these Chocolate Pumpkin Truffles.  I was in heaven.  You wouldn’t think that the two flavors would go together but they compliment each other wonderfully.  Throw in some cinnamon and it’s a party in your mouth!   Now, add a cheesecake factor and you have mind blowing AWESOMENESS.  And that is just what you get with these Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirled Brownies.

These are simple and delicious.  The brownie batter is super thick and doesn’t seem like alot when you pour it in the pan, but after it bakes up, it’s the perfect proportion of brownie to cheesecake.  The only problem I had was swirling the brownie batter into the cheesecake because it was so thick.  It was more just kind of gently mixing it all together with a knife.  But it worked!   And they turned out perfect.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirled Brownies
 
Ingredients
Brownie Batter
  • ¾ c. (1½ sticks) Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 1 c. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • ½ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ c. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • ½ t. Cinnamon
Pumpkin Cheesecake Batter
  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 Large Egg
  • ½ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 2 T. Flour
  • ¾ c. Pumpkin Puree
  • ¼ t. Pure Vanilla
  • ½ t. Cinnamon
  • ¼ t. Each Ground Ginger and Ground Cloves
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 baking pan.
For the Brownie Batter:
  1. Beat together the melted butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Whisk together dry ingredients in a small bowl and then gradually fold into the butter mixture by hand.
For the Pumpkin Cheesecake Batter:
  1. In another bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in remainder of ingredients until smooth.
  2. Spread about ⅔ of the brownie batter into prepared pan. Spread the pumpkin cheesecake batter over top, distributing evenly. Drop the remaining brownie batter over the cheesecake batter and swirl together with a butter knife.
  3. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely and chill before cutting and serving. (They are MUCH better chilled in the refrigerator overnight.)
Notes
Serves 12

 

 

 

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1st Birthday Rocket Cake!

This past Saturday I got to help my friend Betsy make a first birthday cake.  I think it turned out SUPER cute and for the most part it was a very easy cake to make.  You only need one, 9×13 cake and then a smaller circular cake if you choose to make a “moon”, like we did.  It was so much fun!

Check out this link for more detailed insturctions.

(p.s. sorry about the pic quality…forgot my camera, ugh!)

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My Favorite Season

I know everyone is getting really excited about the colder temps and winter-like weather that is happening right now, but we have PLENTY of fall left and I’m going to savor every last minute of it.  Here are a few things I love at this time of the year (and some ah-mazing pumpkin recipes).

Fall Leaves.  Can’t get enough of the beautiful colors.  And it’s even better this year since this is the first fall in our new house and we have two gorgeous trees in our front yard. (and no, these are not our trees!  I wish!)

Photo courtesy of pixdaus.com

Pumpkin Monkey Bread.  I do believe I could eat this EVERY SINGLE morning for breakfast.  I won’t!  But I could.

Fall-Scented Candles.   According to this blog, Bath and Body Works has a Bakeshop candle collection.  Sad to say I haven’t been to the mall in so long, I have no idea if this is true or not!  Shopping trip!

Andy’s Frozen Custard Pumpkin Pie Concrete.  I think this is my favorite concrete concoction from Andy’s (besides my husband’s brilliant combination of cherry juice, Oreos and brownie mmmmm).  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a good photo which I suppose means one thing:  I’ll have to go get a Pumpkin Pie Concrete and take my own photo.  The things I do…

Lovely Fall Dessert Tables.  I so wish I had been invited to this party.

Grown-Up Pumpkin Pie Milkshake.  Bourbon. Pumpkin Pie. Milkshake. ‘Nuff said.

Comfy Cupcake Sweatshirts.  This is going on my Christmas list.

Pumpkin S’mores.  Oh my.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!  Think I might spend my Saturday raking up all those beautiful fall leaves!  😉

 

 

 

 

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Leftover Halloween Candy Recipes

So the initial sugar-high has worn off and your  kids STILL have enough candy left to get them bouncing off the walls for several days.  You need to get rid of that candy FAST.  Try some of these delicious, Halloween candy-packed desserts!

SweetTarts Milkshake

Deep Fried Candy Bars

Leftover Halloween Candy Pie

Reese’s Pieces Brownies

Snickers Cheesecake

Butterfinger Pie

Candy Corn Fudge

Chocolate and Malt Pudding

More Halloween Candy Ideas!

 

 

 

 

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German Apple Cake

I’ve been blessed lately with an overabundance of apples, as I’m sure many of you have.  One of my favorite things to do with lots of apples, specifically Golden Delicious apples, is make my mom’s German Apple Cake.

She has been making this cake every since I can remember.   As a kid, when the air got cool and the leaves started changing color, we knew that apple cake and apple crisp were in the very near future.  Of course mine and my sister’s favorite part was each getting a beater to lick after my mom had whipped up the cream cheese frosting.  I’m sure I tried more than once to either steal or somehow trick my sister into giving me her beater…I was obnoxious like that.

I love making this cake as an adult because not only of the memories, but I can appreciate the simple goodness of it even more now.  The flavor of cinnamon and chunks of soft apples along with the smooth cream cheese frosting are downright yummy.  And I love that it forms kind a kind of sugary “crust” along the edges.  So, so, SO good.  If you have apples coming out your ears, try this cake.  You’ll love it.

German Apple Cake
 
Ingredients
Cake
  • 2 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 c. Granulated Sugar
  • 2 t. Cinnamon
  • 1 t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1 c. Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 4 c. Peeled, Sliced/Chunked Apples (About 4-5 apples. I prefer golden delicious.)
  • ½-3/4 c. Black Walnuts
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • ½ c. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese, cold
  • 5 c. Powdered Sugar, sifted
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
Instructions
For the Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray (which is what I did) or grease and flour.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in oil, eggs and vanilla. Add the apples and walnuts, mix in thoroughly and let set for 5 minutes or so, allowing the juices to soak into the batter. Spread into your baking pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes (mine took 40) until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely and then frost with cream cheese frosting.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. Cream the butter and cream cheese on high until smooth. Gradually add in the powdered sugar and mix thoroughly on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until smooth. Add vanilla and salt and thoroughly incorporate.
Notes
Serves 18

 

 

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Cancun Eats

Just one week ago I was digging my toes into soft, white sand, reading non-stop on my Kindle under a palm tree and eating waaaaayyyyyy too much food.  It was a good five days in Cancun.

Here are some photos of the most important part of our trip…dessert!  (Forgive the photo quality..taken with a phone…bad lighting..etc etc etc)

These are some of the gorgeous dessert buffets.  I honestly can’t tell you what 1/4 of the stuff is and there wasn’t much that I liked, believe it or not.  Oh, but I tried it ALL.  Most of the choices were either way too sugary sweet coconut candy type things or bland.  And the “cake”-like options were very dry.  I did find a chocolate cheesecake wrapped in a chocolate purse-type shell (in first pic below, bottom right) that was good and another plain vanilla cheesecake thing (at least I THINK that’s what it was..hard to tell because the top half was green and it was shaped like an oval) that I liked also.  I did find these little chocolate cube-like things that I LOVED and I actually found them in the shop at the resort.  Turns out they were made of toasted amaranth and chocolate.  Yep, totally going to try making them.

There were two little gems that I found on our shopping day.  One is an amazing chocolate shop called Ah Cacao.  They sold all kinds of chocolate, coffee, every form of vanilla, cookies and some of THE BEST brownies I have ever had.  Oh and their chocolate covered espresso beans…AH-MAZING.  They were dipped in dark chocolate and then had a crunchy outer shell, like an M&M.  I wish I had bought more than one package.

This was a lovely little gelato place called Aldo’s.  There’s actually alot of gelato places in Cancun, which surprised me.  They pretty much started shoveling gelato samples into our mouthes the minute we walked up to the counter.  But I’m not complaining!  It was delicious!  I ended up getting a waffle cone with Almond gelato–heaven!

And this is us on our last day of living like beach bums, soaking up the sun.  Let me tell you, it was SWEET.

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Fashion Show

While I don’t typically like to be in front of the camera, I had to show off some of my latest finds to you all (and Jeremy agreed to not get my face in the shots so it was all good).

First up, a cupcake necklace from the Fair Grove craft fair. Love it!

Second, a delicious cupcake shirt from Forever 21.

I also found these cupcake socks while I was waiting in line at Forever 21 to buy my cupcake shirt. I couldn’t resist.

Obviously not fashion, but I couldn’t resist sharing this Hello Kitty that my friend Nicole got me for my birthday. Yes, I know how old I am…but I don’t care, it’s adorable!

That’s all for now. I won’t be posting next Monday or Wednesday due to a vacation in a very tropical location…but I’ll have a little recap of our trip the following Friday. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

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Maple-Walnut Fudge

So, you want to make fudge but are terrified of candy thermometers and have no idea what the heck soft-ball stage means?! Not to worry, I have a fabulous, EASY recipe for Maple-Walnut Fudge from the Brown Eyed Baker. In mere minutes, you will have creamy, delicious fudge without standing over a stove for hours or having to think about the atomic structure of sugar crystals. I have to admit, there are times when I’m making homemade candy that it feels like I’m doing some weird science experiment in a lab rather than just cooking in my kitchen. Thankfully, this was NOT one of those times.

This recipe was in fact super easy and, I believe, fail-proof. The texture was very smooth and the maple flavor was perfect. The only thing I did different was use two teaspoons of Pure Grade A Maple Syrup instead of the extract because that was all I had. If you’ve never made homemade fudge before, don’t be afraid…start with this recipe…you will be a fudge-making fool before you know it!

Enjoy!

Maple-Walnut Fudge
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 5 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon maple flavoring
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Instructions
  1. Butter an 8×8-inch or 9×9-inch square pan. Line with parchment paper or foil, and butter that; set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, evaporated milk and butter. Bring to a full boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat slightly (no lower than medium-low) and boil for an additional 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and maple flavoring. Transfer the mixture to a standing mixer (or use a hand mixer) and beat the fudge on medium speed until thick and glossy – about 3 minutes. Fold in the walnuts and pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
  4. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. Slice the fudge into 1-inch squares and serve. (Fudge can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container.)
Notes
Makes 50 pieces.

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Halloween Dessert Ideas

Holiday parties are getting into full-swing!  The first round of festivities are gorgeous fall parties and spooky halloween bashes.  Celebrate with one of these deliciously fun, fall themed desserts!  My favorite are the black cats!  What’s yours?

Spider Cupcakes

Black Cat Cookies

Ghost Cake Pops

Mummy Cupcakes

Spider Web Cookies

Pumpkin Pie Bites

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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