This year, I had the opportunity to participate the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. Not only is it a great way to get to know other bloggers, but it helps Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Since I’ve had chocolate on the brain, I decided to make a chocolate cookie with chocolate chips. Oh, and I threw in a little Nutella, too, because who doesn’t like Nutella?
Whew, It’s been a whirlwind few weeks! We’ve had quite the terrible weather here in Texas, make my commutes to Amarillo less than ideal. I know this is common in some parts of the country (including where I grew up in Indiana), but people here just aren’t equipped to deal with it, which means the ice just sits on the ground until it temperatures get above freezing. On top of that, I’ve been without a functioning computer for a while, which has made blogging rather difficult, but I’m finally back up and running. Thank goodness for Apple Care!
Anyway, during my last trip, I was trying to come up with ideas for seasonal desserts, but I couldn’t get chocolate out of my head. I was craving a super chocolaty cake with even more chocolaty frosting, and I just couldn’t think of anything else. It may surprise you, but I rarely crave cake. I love making it, I love decorating it, but when it comes to eating it, I’m perfectly satisfied with a small slice. That all changed when I made this cake a few weeks ago. I used the same chocolate cake recipe (which has now become my go to chocolate cake), but I paired it down to make a 3 layer 6-inch cake. I love that it’s a one bowl recipe that doesn’t even require a mixer!
Up until recently, I had never experimented much with cocoa powders. I just used Hershey’s since it was cheap and easy to find. Plus, I’ve read numerous reviews that it was just as good as some of the fancier European brands. I didn’t really want to spend a lot of money on a bog box of fancy cocoa only to be disappointed. However, on my last trip to Central Market here in Dallas, I noticed some different types of cocoa powder in the bulk section, so I bought a few dollars worth of Valrhona and decided to give it a try.
I wish I could tell you that it didn’t make a difference, but it did. Let’s just say that I was not satisfied with only one slice of this cake. It was like chocolate heaven. I’m not telling you this to push a product, but I thought the information might be useful, since it’s something I’ve been curious about for a long time. If you’re baking a chocolate cake for a special occasion, splurge on the good cocoa. Next on my list to try are Guittard and Cacao Berry. If you’ve had good experiences with other kinds of cocoa, I’d love to hear about it.
If you don’t like malt flavor, don’t worry. This frosting doesn’t taste like malt. In fact, no one knew there was any malt powder in this, but it does give the frosting an unusual sweetness and depth of flavor. I know I claim that a lot of things are my favorite, but this frosting is my favorite so far. Even my fiancé, who is rarely excited by cake, loved this and begged me not to share too much of it. So what are you waiting for? If you like chocolate (or even if you don’t), go make this cake!
I can’t believe I’ve been away from blogging for almost 2 weeks! This is my favorite time of year to bake, but commuting back and forth from Dallas to Amarillo for work has kept me away from my oven. Not that I’m complaining at all. As a musician, any work is always welcome, and I’ve had so much fun playing with the Amarillo Symphony this week. I just wish this hotel room had an oven, because I’m dying to make a cake right now.
I did, however, manage to sneak in some baking before I left for my trip. And yes, it’s another pumpkin recipe. Another pumpkin cake recipe to boot. That’s what happens when you’re a procrastinator like me and you save all of your fall recipes until the last minute.
While I have been lucky enough to spend the last few Thanksgivings with my fiancé and his family, this recipe was inspired by the many Thanksgivings I have celebrated on a much smaller scale. Some of my favorite Thanksgivings have been those that were spent with a roommate or a close friend or two, and these mini pumpkin cakes fit just that kind of an occasion.
This recipe makes a small batch- just 2 tiny cakes! I suppose I could have just made cupcakes, but layer cakes just have a better cake to frosting ratio. Plus, they’re cuter.
You may remember this recipe that I posted over at Best Friends for Frosting last year. These mini cakes are also baked in cans. I found some cans of organic pumpkin in BPA free liners, so I used those, but if you don’t want to bake these in cans, you can use a 4-inch cake pan. You may need to adjust the baking time if you do that.
To be honest, frosting these tiny cakes proved to be a bit cumbersome, so I left one without frosting on the outside just to show that they can look cute either way. I used 3 1/2 inch cake boards underneath, but if you don’t frost the outside, they really aren’t necessary. The frosting recipe makes enough to crumb coat and frost each cake with some left over for piping, but if you don’t plan to frost the outside, you can cut frosting the recipe in half.
Happy fall! I know fall started weeks ago, but now that I’m visiting my parents in Indiana, it actually fells like it. I haven’t lived in a cold climate for almost 10 years now, and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen fall colors. This year, I caught more of the tail end yellows and browns than the bright reds and oranges, but it was still nice to see. This pumpkin layer cake is the perfect fall dessert, and would make a great addition to your Thanksgiving spread.
You may be wondering why you should care yet about another pumpkin cake recipe on the internet. Here’s why:
1. It’s small (only 6 inches) but really tall.
2. Swiss meringue buttercream can be made with cream cheese! (keep reading for details)
3. It looks good naked.
Let’s start with the naked part. I’ve been wanting to try frosting a cake this way forever, but I just can’t let go, and I keep frosting until I have smooth sides and a straight top. Seriously, it’s like a disease. Who knew there was such a thing as frosting OCD. Anyway, I thought fall might be a good time to experiment with a more rustic look, and luckily this time (partially because I was short on time), I didn’t overwork it.
This doesn’t mean that the cake is short on frosting by any means. There are piles of Swiss meringue buttercream in between each layer. While we’re on the subject of frosting, let’s talk about this cream cheesy Swiss meringue buttercream. I was planning to make a regular SMBC with brown sugar instead of white, but when I found this cream cheese variation on Bravetart’s website, I was sold. This has to be the world’s most perfect frosting. If you think American buttercream is too sweet, you will love the subtle sweetness and caramel notes of this brown sugar frosting. And if you think SMBC is too buttery (a common complaint) the addition of the cream cheese tames the butteriness. I also added a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon, which was enough to give a good kick, but not enough to obliterate the flavor of the brown sugar. It’s truly a crowd pleaser.
I’m a fan of really tall cakes, but if you want to make this and transport it somewhere, I would recommend using 7-inch pans. The 6-inch version was just a little too tall to fit in my cake caddy, and a 7-inch version would still have the tall, show stopping quality while being a little easier to transport. If you do use 7-inch pans, I would start checking the cake at around 30 minutes, as it won’t take quite as long to bake.
If you’re new to or wary of Swiss meringue buttercream, here are a few links that will make your life easier.
Don’t forget to wipe down all of your tools with vinegar before you start, as greasy utensils make for a weepy meringue. Also, some of these tutorials switch over to the paddle attachment at some point, but I use the whisk attachment the whole time.
Happy day after Halloween! I made you some whole wheat vegan baked goods to celebrate. You’re welcome.
We had one trick-or-treater last night, and enough candy for at least 100. This is the first Halloween in a really long time that I’ve been in a house and not an apartment, and I was sure we’d get trick-or-treaters, so I wanted to be prepared. Now we have about 10 pounds of leftover candy, some of which I may or may not have already indulged in. I think my tolerance for sugar has gone down significantly since I was of trick-or-treating age, and I definitely feel a bit of a Halloween hangover. It’s time for some detox.
This version of pumpkin bread is actually pretty healthy. I replaced the vegetable oil in the original recipe with coconut oil, and replaced the all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour. Whole wheat pastry flour is a great way to sneak in whole grains in cakes and breads, since the texture is more delicate than regular whole wheat flour. You could also try a half and half combo of the whole wheat and all-purpose flours.
I’ve made a few batches of this, and decided that I could do without the white sugar completely. It didn’t affect the texture negatively when I left it out, and it was plenty sweet. I did, however, add a sprinkling of crystal cinnamon sugar to the top, which is my new favorite thing. You can find the recipe for that here.
Oh, and the best part about this recipe? It’s easy, only requires one bowl, and no mixer is needed. A dump and stir recipe is pretty much all I can handle while I’m still recovering from sugar coma anyway. Serve this with a pat of vegan butter and a side of coffee. Or a green smoothie. Happy detox!
Speculoos cookie butter. Also known as Biscoff spread. Also known as the greatest creation on earth. I’m not sure why it took me so long to jump on the Biscoff bandwagon. Maybe because it’s because I’m not a bandwagon jumper by nature, and I tend to resist fads. This fad, however, is totally not a fad. It’s here to stay, and it’s going to make me fat because I can stop eating it right out of the jar.
I first tried this stuff just a few months ago in the form of a candy. If you’re a Trader Joe’s fan, you may know what I’m talking about. They make these dark chocolate bars that are filled with cookie butter, and to make matters worse, they put them right by the checkout. This means that every time I go to Trader Joe’s, I have to pass right by them, which is just too much for my willpower to handle. And if you don’t think that cookie butter and dark chocolate go well together, I dare you to try this candy and not love it. It was this little bar that inspired me to make this cake.
I made several versions of this cake, but the one I’m sharing with you today actually did justice to the candy bar. I’m so excited about this recipe, that I want to tell you all about the process of making it, but if you don’t care to know, just skip down to the recipe. Ok, let’s start with the cake. I’ve shared a few recipes for dark chocolate cake on this blog, but I needed something really fudgy and truffle like. I ultimately chose a sour cream chocolate cake from one of my favorite cake books, Sky High. Not only is it super moist (I know, I hate that word too), but it’s an easy one bowl recipe that doesn’t even require a mixer! It’s also 3 layers, and I totally have a thing for 3 layer cakes. It’s my favorite cake profile. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I’m a cake nerd.
Next, the filling. My first cake attempt began with a quick and easy American buttercream, but the cookie butter itself is sweet, so by the time I added enough powdered sugar for it to hold up, it was sickeningly sweet. I ended up settling on a Swiss meringue buttercream. If you’ve never made SMB before, please don’t be intimidated. It’s a little bit more work than American buttercream, but totally worth it. I’m pretty lazy when it comes to frosting, so I tend to fall back on American buttercream, but whenever I make the Swiss variety, I’m glad I went the extra mile. I adapted a recipe that I found on BraveTart, and if this is your first time making SMB, I recommend reading her original post as well as this post.
The filling recipe makes enough for 2 thick layers in between each layer of cake. One of the reasons I love Swiss buttercream is that you can get away with having a thick layer of frosting without it being too sweet. If you don’t want a thick layer, the leftovers can be frozen. Or, you can grab a spoon and eat the leftovers directly out of the mixing bowl (not that I did that, or anything).
For the frosting, I tried both a sour cream chocolate frosting and a chocolate ganache before settling on this one from Sweetapolita. It’s intensely chocolaty, but not so rich that you can’t eat a whole slice of cake. There’s a pound of chocolate in this frosting, so use the best quality you can find (I used Callebaut). I live in a warm climate and the frosting was a bit too runny just after a I made it, so I put it in the fridge for about 10 minutes until it reached the right consistency (just don’t let it sit for too long or you won’t be able to spread it).
Let me start out by saying that I had no intention of sharing this recipe with you. It’s not that I was hoarding it, I just didn’t think it was blog worthy. You see, when I plan recipes for the blog, I try to think of desserts that are creative and original, but that also look pretty. These chocolate covered peanut butter rice krispie treats meet none of these criteria.
Since I make so many desserts for the blog, I rarely ever make sweets based on my own cravings anymore, but this was an exception. I really wanted peanut butter rice krispie treats the other day, so I whipped up and devoured them before I even thought about photographing them, but when I made a second batch to send to a friend in a care package, and managed to get a few quick photos. They may not be fancy or original, but sometimes the simplest recipes are the best.
This easy no-bake recipe is originally from here. The only change I made was to make a slightly smaller batch (for the sake of my lack of willpower) with a thicker layer of chocolate on top, because more chocolate is always better.
I was deprived of Oreos as a child. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I feel it manifesting itself on my blog in the form of cupcakes like these and these. And now I’ve added Birthday Cake Oreo Cupcakes to the mix. You see, my mom was convinced that certain foods were the devil when I was growing up, and one of those foods was Oreos. She took one look at the list of ingredients, and decided that they would not be allowed in her house. Oreos, along with soda, Kool-Aid, Twinkies, and other sugar-laden and highly processed foods had no place in the Merchant household.
Even though I wasn’t a fan these rules growing up, for the most part, they’ve stuck with me. I rarely drink soda, and I can’t remember the last time I ate a Twinkie. It’s not that I don’t eat sugar now, but I just cancel it out with things like greek yogurt and coconut oil (that’s how it works, right?). Anyway, I really really like Oreos, so I know I just can’t buy them. When I do, they must immediately be turned into cupcakes and shared with friends, or they don’t stand a chance around me.
So what are Birthday Cake Oreos, you ask? They’re Oreos, but better, if that’s even possible. After one bite, I knew that cupcakes had to happen sooner rather than later, since my willpower would be no match for them.
I wanted to use a vanilla cupcake base for these cupcakes, and since I tend to get stressed out about vanilla cake (I know, my life is hard), I decided not to over think it this time. I wanted to try a new recipe, so I googled vanilla cupcakes and picked the easiest recipe I could find. I fully expected them to be a fail and thought I would have to spend the evening searching yet again for the perfect vanilla cupcake, but these were really good. Despite the mixed reviews, I thought they were the perfect base for a funfetti cupcake- light and fluffy, but still sturdy enough not to fall apart, and they are really easy to make! Just keep a close eye on them at the end so as not to overbake. I plan to use this recipe a lot in the future, and I hope you like it as much as I do.
You know how sometimes I make something, and then I tell you about how it’s my favorite recipe? Ok, I do that a lot, but this time, it’s true! These brown sugar and cinnamon shortbread cookies have bumped these double chocolate cookies from the #1 spot, and are officially my favorite cookies on the blog (at least for this week).
There are several reasons why these are currently my favorite cookies.
1. I love shortbread. Examples: here, here, and here
2. They are super easy to make
3. They go really well with a cup of tea and Downton Abbey
4. It’s fall, and for me, fall=cinnamon (not pumpkin)
I’m not going to pretend like I’m not as obsessed with pumpkin as every other food blogger out there, but pumpkin is a flavor I crave year round. Cinnamon really brings back memories of fall for me, and the smell of it in my kitchen can trick my senses into forgetting that it’s 90 degrees out today and incredibly muggy. These cookies not only have cinnamon in the dough, but they’re topped with crystals of cinnamon sugar that I found at a local spice store. If you can’t find the cinnamon sugar crystals, you can make your own, which I’ve included in the recipe section.
Some shortbread cookie recipes use cornstarch in addition to the flour in order to give a lighter texture, but I didn’t feel like these needed any. If you’re gentle during the mixing process and don’t over bake these, the texture will be delicate.
I don’t post a lot of mini cupcakes on here, which is a shame, because I make them quite often. Whenever I bake for an event, people almost always request the mini variety, but I’m usually in such a rush to get them out the door, I don’t get a chance to take pictures before I have to pack them up and take them to an event. This time, I made sure to set aside a few moments to take pictures of what has to be one of my very favorite mini cupcake recipes.
It’s a good idea to know to turn any cupcakes recipe into mini cupcakes. Generally, any regular cupcake recipe will yield approximately 3 times as many mini cupcakes. The original vegan chocolate cupcake recipe, which is from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, makes 12 standard cupcakes, and I usually get between 36-40 of the mini version. I find that this cookie scoop makes it easy to divide the right amount of batter for mini cupcakes into the pans. Also, the baking time for mini cupcakes is usually around 9-11 minutes, but it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on them near the end of the baking time, since it can be a minute between being done and overbaked.
The swirly frosting was really easy to make. I filled one 16-inch decorating bag with vanilla frosting, and another one with chocolate frosting, making sure that neither was much more than half full. Snip off about an inch off the end of each bag, and place them both side by side in another 16-inch decorating bag that has been fitted with a piping tip (I used Wilton 4B). Close off the top of the bag with a rubber band or twisty tie, and pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes as usual. It’s a good idea to pipe some icing onto a piece of waxed or parchment paper to test it out the swirly effect before piping directly onto the cupcakes.