My Blog Turns 2! (A Birthday Cake Recipe)

In honor of my blog’s birthday, I made this delicious s’mores cake! I have to admit that cakes aren’t really my “thing.” When I make them, usually come out fine, but I don’t love how they can look perfect one minute and melty and awful the next. Does everyone else have that problem, or is it just me? While this one did end up looking super melty (and messy), it was a fairly simple recipe and easy to put together. Plus, it tasted great, which is all that really matters anyway, right?!

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S’mores Cake (recipe originally found in the Baking Bites cookbook, also available on their website here)

For the Cake: 
1/2 c butter, room temperature
1 c sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c graham cracker crumbs *Baking Bites tip: If you grind your own, use about 20 graham crackers
2 tsp baking powder
1 c milk
3 egg whites, room temperature

For the Filling and Frosting:
7 oz jar marshmallow creme (or a little less than 1 c marshmallow fluff) *I used Fluff
8 oz milk chocolate chips
1/4 c half & half *Can use cream instead
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp corn syrup

1. Preheat oven to 375º. Lightly grease 2 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light.
3. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla extract
4. In a small bowl, whisk together graham cracker crumbs and baking powder.
5. Working in 2 or 3 additions, alternate stirring the graham cracker mixture and the milk into the butter mixture.
6. Beat egg whites to soft peaks in a clean, medium sized bowl. Working in 2 or 3 additions, fold egg whites in graham cracker mixture, mixing until no streaks of white remain.
7. Divide evenly into prepared pans.
8. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched and it passes the toothpick test.
9. Let cakes cool in the pan for 3 minutes, then invert onto wire racks. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

For the frosting:
1. In a medium, microwave safe bowl, heat chocolate chips, half & half, butter and corn syrup until melted.
2. Stir with a fork (or small whisk) to ensure that everything comes together smoothly.

To Assemble:
1. Place 1 layer of cake on a cake stand or plate. Spread marshmallow fluff into an even layer.
2. Top marshmallow layer with second cake round.
3. Pour all but half a cup of the frosting onto the top of the cakes, spreading it into an even layer, and allowing it to drip slightly down the sides of the cake.
Note: Cake should be stored in the refrigerator if not being served shortly after assembly.

 

Looks a little messy, but cut clean and was so yummy! Definitely an easy cake for you beginners, and a crowd pleaser!

 

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Hot Chocolate Cheesecake Dip

I made my signature Christmas cookies and brought them into work (where they got rave reviews, of course), but I was looking for something a little different to make for holiday parties. This recipe was just what I was looking for. There’s no baking involved, and it only takes a few minutes to come together, which makes it a perfect last-minute dessert. It’s not Christmas themed, so feel free to make this all Winter long!

hot choc cheesecake dip

Hot Chocolate Cheesecake Dip (recipe originally from Inside BruCrew Life)

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 c plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup marshmallow fluff (or Kraft’s marshmallow creme)
1 c powdered Swiss Miss Dark Sensation hot chocolate mix *I’m sure any kind of powdered mix would work in this recipe
3/4 c Cool Whip
Optional for garnish: mini marshmallows, crushed candy canes, peppermints

1. Beat cream cheese until creamy.
2. Add the yogurt, fluff and hot chocolate mix and beat until light and fluffy.
3. Fold in 1/2 cup Cool Whip (gently) until completely mixed in.
4. Top with remaining Cool Whip and garnish as desired.
5. Keep refrigerated (and covered) until serving.

Serving suggestion: Serve with graham crackers, pretzels, cookies or “dunker” cookies from Trader Joe’s.

This might as well be called Hot Chocolate Crack Dip. It is SO good. You will be tempted to eat it with a spoon (no judgments). You have been warned.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Oreo Brownies

Talk about decadent! With 2 kinds of chocolate, these brownies are super rich, but worth every calorie!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Oreo Brownies (recipe originally from Picky Palate)

1 stick butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c packed light brown sugar (for step 5)
2 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 c chocolate chunks
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 c pumpkin puree
2 tbsp packed light brown sugar (for step 8)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
10 Oreo cookies

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line an 8×8 baking dish with foil and spray foil with cooking spray.
2. Place butter into a large bowl and microwave until melted and hot (about 45 seconds).
3. Pour in chocolate chips and stir until mostly melted (does not have to be perfectly smooth).
4. Add flour and sugars and mix a few times.
5. Add eggs, yolk and oil and mix until well combined.
6. Fold in the chocolate chunks.
7. Pour batter into prepared baking dish and spread evenly.
8. Put cream cheese, pumpkin, brown sugar and cinnamon into a large bowl and beat until smooth and creamy.
9. Place dollops over brownie batter, then swirl the pumpkin mixture through the brownie batter with a knife.
10. Gently press broken up Oreo cookie pieces onto the top of the pumpkin layer.
11. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until cooked through.
12. Let cool completely before cutting.

While I could only handle about a bite of one, everyone in my office loved them! The recipe is fairly simple and very easy to follow, and they came out looking great. I would definitely recommend these to any chocolate and pumpkin lovers out there!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Milkshake

I’ve had a few pumpkin spice lattes thus far this season and they all lived up to the hype, so I decided to try my hand at one! In milkshake form. Yes, I said milkshake.

psl_shake

Pumpkin Spice Latte Milkshake (recipe originally from Elle’s New England Kitchen)

1 1/2 c cold black coffee
1 1/4 c pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c coffee ice cream
1 c ice cube
honey or another sweetener of your choice

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend to desired thickness. Add honey to taste. Garnish with cinnamon or whipped cream!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I was super busy last week, but refused to miss my chance to use the Halloween sprinkles that I bought at Target! I made these cupcakes to bring into work on Halloween and they were a huge hit. This is a simple recipe, but you can do a lot with it if you have some food dye and fun cupcake decorations!

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe originally from The Gold Lining Girl)

1 c milk
2 tsp white vinegar
3/4 c butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c flour
1/4 c cocoa
3/4 tsp baking soda

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 3/4 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Fill muffin cups with liners.
2. In a small bowl, combine milk and vinegar. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add eggs. Beat until well combined. Mix in vanilla.
5. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa and baking soda.
6. Add dry ingredients to wet, alternately with the milk mixture.
7. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.
8. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a few cupcakes comes out clean.
9. Cool completely.

For the frosting:
1. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and powdered sugar. Beat until fluffy.
2. Mix in vanilla.
3. When cupcakes are cooled, frost and decorate as desired.

These came out great!  The cupcakes were moist and the cream cheese frosting was a good compliment to the sweetness of the cake. They were the perfect Halloween treat!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake Bars

Pumpkin baking- round 2!

I wanted something relatively easy to throw together last Sunday night and, since I still only have the one small baking sheet, this was the perfect recipe. And the batter was so good that I couldn’t resist licking the spoon!

Not the prettiest bar (or picture), but so delicious!

Not the prettiest bar (or picture), but so delicious!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake Bars (recipe originally from Two Peas & Their Pod)

2 c flour
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
1 c butter, room temperature
1 1/4 c sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c pumpkin puree
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Grease a 9×13″ baking pan and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice and baking soda. Set aside.
3. Cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth.
4. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined.
5. Add pumpkin puree. Mixture will look curdled. (That’s normal!)
6. On low speed, mix in dry ingredients until just combined.
7. Fold in chocolate chips.
8. Spread batter in prepared pan. (Try to make it as even as you can.)
9. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until edges pull away from sides of pan and it passes the toothpick test.
10. When cooled completely, cut into squares and serve.

These were so yummy! They’re moist, which was not quite what I expected (something about calling them “bars” makes me think they’ll be more like a cookie), and the reason I added “cake” to the name. They’re perfectly pumpkin-y, and just sweet enough with the chocolate chips being a perfect compliment to the pumpkin flavor. Ok, I’m a little pumpkin crazy right now, I know… But please don’t let that stop you from making these bars!

Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Soft Pretzels with Cream Cheese Icing

It took me a little longer than I would have liked to get started with the pumpkin baking, but it has finally arrived in full force. I’ve seen a ton of soft pretzel recipes on food blogs over the years, but I’ve never attempted to make any. Until I saw this recipe for pumpkin soft pretzels, that is. It might have been my pumpkin addiction, but I could not resist making this recipe!

Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Soft Pretzels with Cream Cheese Icing (recipe originally from creme de la crumb)

pretzels

the pretzels
1 1/3 c warm water
1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp honey
4 c flour
1/2 c pumpkin puree
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

the boil
water
1/3 c baking soda

the coating
1/4 c butter, melted
1/4 c sugar + 1 tbsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400º. Grease baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Whisk together warm water, honey and yeast in a large bowl. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.
3. Add flour, pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin puree to yeast mixture and mix until dough comes together.
4. Transfer dough to well-floured surface and knead a few times. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
5. Roll dough into long log and divide into 12 equal pieces.
6. Roll each piece into a long log (about 16-18 inches).
7. Twist each log into a pretzel shape. (See an example here.)
8. Fill the pot with about 2-3 inches of water. Once it comes to a boil, slowly sprinkle baking soda into water. (Careful- it will bubble and foam!)
9. Drop a pretzel in the water and boil for 30 seconds. Remove from the water (with a large slotted spoon or spatula) and transfer to a paper towel. Repeat with remaining pretzels. I started out using a small slotted spoon, but found that a slotted spatula worked better.
10. Place pretzels on a greased baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until pretzels are lightly browned.

to coat
1. Whisk cinnamon and sugar together and spread it in an even layer on plate.
2. Melt butter.
3. Brush baked pretzel with melted butter and then dip in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining pretzels.

the icing (optional)
3 c powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp cream cheese, softened
2-3 tbsp milk

1. Mix powdered sugar, vanilla and cream cheese until smooth.
2. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time. 2 tbsp for thicker icing (best for dipping), 3 tbsp for thinner icing (best for drizzling).
3. Serve icing on the side, or drizzle on the top of the pretzels.

The recipe was pretty involved, but the steps were easy enough, even for a pretzel novice like me. The dough was a little sticky and hard to work with (especially for the second log-rolling step), but I was able to make it work. I ended up with only 10 pretzels because I didn’t roll my initial log long enough. I also somehow ended up with one very tiny pretzel, and I wish I had made them all that size, because smaller was definitely easier to work with.

The pumpkin flavor was very subtle, but it worked well with the cinnamon sugar coating. And the icing, although sweeter than it was tangy (due to the small amount of cream cheese), complimented the flavor nicely.

I have to admit, I wasn’t super in love with these. I’m not a huge soft pretzel fan as it is (don’t tell anyone, my fellow Philadelphians might disown me!), and the pumpkin aspect wasn’t enough to change my mind. They did look pretty impressive, however, and everyone at my office said they were very tasty. A very timely recipe, what with it being national pretzel month and all, but not one I would make again.

If you love soft pretzels, though, these ones will not disappoint!

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Banana Oatmeal Butterscotch Chip Cookies

I feel like it’s been forever since I made anything, but I’m making a big push to get back into the swing of things sooner rather than later so I don’t miss out on pumpkin baking season! Even though I have pumpkin puree in my cabinet, I made a banana-centric recipe because I had a few over-ripe bananas that I didn’t want to go to waste.

My first baking experience in my new oven was a great one! The range and oven are new, so cooking on them, even though they’re electric, has been relatively painless, and baking was no different. I made sure to check the cookies periodically since I don’t quite know the strength of my oven yet, and I’m happy to say that the cookies came out perfect! (I forgot, however, that I don’t have any more large cookie sheet, so I was stuck using one super small sheet for the entire batch… Add those to my Target list!)

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Banana Oatmeal Butterscotch Chip Cookies (recipe originally from The Taylor House)

2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 c butter, room temperature
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 over-ripe bananas
1 c oats *I used Quaker Instant Oats
2 c butterscotch chips *original recipe calls for chocolate chips, I substituted based on what I had on hand

1. Preheat oven to 375º and grease (or spray) the bottom of your cookie sheet(s).
2. Mix the flour and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Mix the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.
4. Add the egg and vanilla to the butter mixture and mix well.
5. Add the banana to the sugar and egg mixture. Beat until smooth.
6. Mix in the flour mixture until just combined.
7. Stir in the oats and chips until well mixed.
8. Using a small cookie scoop or spoon, drop the dough onto your baking sheet. Leave about 1-2 inches in between cookies.
9. Bake for 10 minutes, or until they are golden brown around the edges and “set.”
10. Let stand 1 minute on the cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. (Or eat them warm when the chips will be all melty and delicious!)

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I’m not a huge banana baked good person, but I’m really glad I had those over-ripe bananas that needed to be used! I was a little nervous the butterscotch chips would make them too sweet, but they didn’t at all, and instead gave them a really nice, full flavor. Everyone at my office loved them, and I would definitely make these again!

Homemade S’mores (Winter Edition)

I have had the worst dessert cravings lately! So when a craving hit me last night, I scoured the apartment for something that would satisfy it and ended up getting pretty creative!

My roommate and I completely overbought s’mores ingredients last Summer. So much so that we still have a couple bags of marshmallows and about a box and a half of graham crackers. While s’mores are traditionally a Summer campfire dessert, I decided to make a couple for Tall Guy and I last night and they turned out so great! S’mores are a perfect portion controlled dessert, for those of you who, like me, are trying to eat less junk. Why have I never tried to do this before?

Winter S’mores

1 graham cracker, split in half1 jumbo marshmallow (or 2 small ones)
chocolate chips, chunks or a piece of a Hershey’s bar *I used chocolate chips because they were all I had

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1. Turn your oven broiler on.
2. Put graham crackers on a small cookie sheet, brownie pan or oven safe plate. I used a brownie pan.
3. Top one of the graham cracker halves with chocolate and then marshmallow.
4. Place under broiler for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Keep an eye on it as the marshmallows and untouched graham cracker half will burn quickly.
5. Remove from broiler and cover immediately (using tin foil, pan cover, etc.). Let sit for 5 minutes, or until chocolate melts.
6. Put the untouched graham cracker half on top of the marshmallow, smush and enjoy!

smores 2

I’m sure there are a lot of different ways to melt the chocolate and soften the marshmallow. You could try microwaving the marshmallow for about 10 seconds before constructing the s’more or maybe throwing everything in the oven for a minute or two before you stick it under the broiler. Whatever you do, make sure you put the marshmallow under the broiler at some point, because that gives it the scorched, campfire taste and feel. No campfire necessary!

Patriotic Sugar Cookies

I couldn’t resist making a patriotic dessert in honor of the Olympics! GO USA!

Confession: I’ve never made cut-out sugar cookies before! I have a huge bag full of cookie cutters, but didn’t have a rolling pin until this past Christmas (thanks, Mom!), and since you can’t really make cut-out cookies without a rolling pin, well, I’ve just never made them before. I have a lot of fancy cookie recipes on my “to try” list, but I just stuck with the basics this time around!

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies (recipe originally from allrecipes.com)
Note: The original recipe says it makes 5 dozen cookies, which is entirely too many for my taste, so I cut the recipe in half. The values shown are for the halved recipe.

3/4 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder

1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth.
2. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
3. Stir in the flour and baking powder.
4. Cover and chill dough for at least one hour. Can leave it in the fridge overnight.
5. Preheat oven to 400º.
6. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. Cut into desired shapes. I cut mine into stars (patriotic theme, remember?). I also threw in some hearts and hearts with arrows since it’s so close to Valentine’s Day.
7. Place cookies 1″ apart on cookie sheet. The original recipe says to use an ungreased cookie sheet. I sprayed PAM for baking on my cookie sheet, just in case.
8. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in a preheated oven. Cool completely before frosting.

sugar cookies

Sugar Cookie Frosting (recipe originally from allrecipes.com)
Makes 3 cups

4 c confectioners sugar
1/2 c shortening
5 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
optional: food coloring

1. In a large bowl, cream together confectioners sugar and shortening until smooth.
2. Gradually mix in the milk and vanilla extract with an electric mixer until smooth and stiff. (About 5 minutes)
3. Color with food coloring, if desired. I kept mine white for the stars, but then dyed it pink for the hearts!

The cookies were great! Fairly soft and chewy, they were super easy to make and came out looking pretty awesome. The recipe made a lot of cookies, so I’m glad I decided to cut it in half! The frosting isn’t my absolute favorite. On it’s own, it was a little too sweet for my taste, but it went well with the cookies. And I really liked that once the frosting set, I could stack the cookies without ruining the decoration. That’s a big win in my book, since I usually take them into work!

Next time, I’m going to use these cool sugar skull cookie cutters/stamps that I got for Christmas! (Another awesome baking-themed gift from my mom!)