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Forgotten Sweets

27 Feb

I’m sitting at home, sick, well sick-ish. Sick enough that my throat is not allowing me to swallow and I sound like a freak, so definitely too sick to go talk on the radio for two hours today. But not sick enough to sleep all day or just be content watching movies in bed. Also I have no TV in my room.

Getting back on track here. I am well enough to realize that I never did my Christmas post and I’m very behind in dessert writing. Does it matter? No, but I like sharing my desserts, especially during lent when I can’t eat any. So this will be a slew of forgotten sweets. Whoops.

Let’s start with what I referred to as “Fake Christmas.” We celebrated Christmas with my immediate family – all 13 of us – on Michael’s birthday this year because when Christmas is on a Tuesday, things get messy. We were all busy on different days and couldn’t find the right time to exchange gifts, so we had fake Christmas and Michael’s birthday together on the 15th. It worked fine, but hopefully in the future, when Christmas is not on a dumb Tuesday, we will get it together.

I was extremely excited to make this three layer red velvet cake covered in chocolate! I saw it on Pinterest, which is where most of my dessert inspiration comes from these days. It was pretty easy and my nephews were mesmerized by the deep red color, and of course the puddle of chocolate ganache that covered everything. You should absolutely put this on your 2013 holiday baking list.

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Since we were also celebrating my brother’s birthday, I threw together some minty brownies, his favorite flavor combination. I’m not 100% sure but I believe these are my famous Bailey’s brownies with added dark chocolate and mint chips.


And, to top off the day, I made some Christmas punch. I honestly don’t remember the entire recipe. I think it was raspberry sorbet, orange juice and sprite zero. I left it kid friendly, with the choice to add in some white wine for the rest of us. Madeline and Michael loved it, Michael forgot to put the wine in.



On to real Christmas! Sugar cookies are a staple for our family. Though my mom debates me on this, I always say that these cookies are the only holiday cookies I remember from my childhood. Whether I’m right or wrong, they are the most important cookie of the season, and the only cookie I can guarantee my mom will help me with, on our scheduled Sugar Cookie Day, of course. At this point, we are pros. We have a huge assortment of cookie cutters and know which ones make the best cookies, though we do attempt to make snowflakes each year despite the high percentage possibility that they will break.




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I slacked off a little this year. I think I only made about 12 different cookies, when I prefer making 18. I know that sounds crazy, but once I cover the handful of cookies that I feel like I have to make each year, I want to experiment with new ones. This December was a little crazy and flew by super fast, so 12 was all I could bake. We all survived.


I referred to these as pop tart cookies, though the recipe called them french toast cookies. These guys actually really frustrated me because I was trying to do too many things at once and forgot to add cinnamon to the batter, and then we accidentally thought they were sugar cookie dough rolls for a while, but in the end they turned out cute and different, which is always my goal. They were also pretty delicious – and my dad attempted to help me frost them. They were a little big, so I think people were less likely to grab them from the dessert buffet, but I was happy to have them as leftovers. Now I want a pop tart.


I apologize that I can’t figure out how to flip this mouth-watering coffee cake picture. Good thing you are probably reading this from a lap top or a phone, you can rotate your device. I made this for my mom’s Christmas brunch with her friends, it was also super yummy, pecan cinnamon coffee cake. I do recall this recipe being very strange. I think I ended up mixing more of the dry ingredients in with the wet ones, so be careful with these instructions.


My FAVORITE christmas dessert is a cranberry bliss bar. These are amazing and were developed to copy a Starbucks dessert. A delicious combination of dried cranberries, white chocolate and cream cheese. I find it so weird that I love these because I’m not a white chocolate fan and I do not like cream cheese. Weird, right? But these are a huge exception to those rules. I love them, so will you, that is all.


More Bailey’s Brownies. What can I say? They’re really good and everyone needs extra Bailey’s at Christmas.


Here begins a selection of drop cookies. Traditional Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Raisin, Mint Oreo Chocolate Cookies, (amazing even though I totally messed up the recipe) Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel Bark, and some sort of layer bar that I think I made from a few bags of leftover stuff. They were also really delicious and while I’m typing this I will try to find the recipes.


I try to Pin all of the things I make so that I can find them later, success for this one. The bark was not supposed to be giant chunks. This is again what happens to me when I accidentally try to do nine million things at once. But you know what? This was the best tasting thing ever in life, so it’s ok. More odd shaped scraps for me and my dad.


I adapted this recipe from the leftover things I had on hand: weird tasting chocolate marshmallows, super old coconut and chopped pecans. It was actually really really good. Kind of mushier than I think the crust was supposed to be, but another accidental taste of awesome.


Dark Chocolate Mint Oreo Cookies. Growing up I never understood why Michael and my friend Stevie liked mint chocolate things so much. I hated them for about 16 years. Finally, I’ve come to my senses and realized the intense satisfaction that comes from mixing them together. Plus this recipe has crushed Oreos in it.


Oatmeal cinnamon chip (an ingredient you must buy) raisin drop cookies can from the recipe on the cinnamon chip bag. Sometimes that is just the way to go.


I used the “Mrs. Field’s” Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe I found for Septemberfest for these guys. I think they were better as a giant bar, but still pretty good.


I made these because I really like Pretzel M&Ms. I didn’t like them as much as my drop cookie recipe, but you live, you eat and you learn.


Fudge. This is actually another recipe my mom made every year for christmas and I make at least 5… ok 10 times a year. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably had it and you love it too.


Is it a holiday without Oatberries? These were leftover from my unsuccessful attempt to be on the new CBS baking show. That was frustrating because the “taster” ate about 1/16 of one of these. At least I went to round two, that is my goal with most things in life.




I was planning on adding my February desserts to this list but I’m too hungry now, plus it’s lent and I don’t know if I have the willpower to look at brownies any more. I still have 32 days left!

Hopefully you did not give up dessert for lent and since there is more snow on the ground than I’ve seen in two years, you can pretend it’s Christmas. Play some deck the halls and make one of these recipes – let me know how it goes!



Cupcake Wars

22 Jul

After the adorable cupcakes I made for Elizabeth’s shower, my dad put his request in for his birthday. “Can I have cupcakes?” Sure dad, as long as I can be creative.

What’s the best way to be creative with cupcakes? Multiple flavors and frosting.


My dad’s first request was a classic birthday cupcake – yellow cake and chocolate frosting. I’m still searching for a great classic yellow cake recipe, but this one is definitely a contender. I found this Glorious Treats recipe after searching the phrase “perfect vanilla cupcakes.” Verdict – delicious, I love anything with buttermilk in the recipe, but I think there may be something more perfect out there. Also, the batter was runny, they baked fine, but it was hard to portion out evenly.

For the frosting, I thought I’d venture from the recipe I always make and search “best chocolate buttercream for cupcakes” I know I was real creative with my search phrases this week. Verdict: it wasn’t anything special, but I mean, who doesn’t love chocolate buttercream.

I topped these little birthday cakes with assorted sprinkles, because that’s what a classic birthday calls for!

Next up  – chocolate cupcakes.

I’m not a huge chocolate cake fan, I mean I LOVE chocolate frostings and fillings, but sometimes chocolate cake ia just too dry. My dad asked for a chocolate cuppie to be included and I decided this is where I’d get most adventurous with Better Homes & Gardens’ Salted Caramel-Chocolate-Bourbon Cupcakes. Sounds intense, and they were – and SO delicious!

One negative on these guys, they didn’t stay circular after I took them out of the pan, they started un-peeling from the liners, but I got creative and just double liner-ed them. The cake part of these were amazing. Absolutely the best tasting chocolate cupcake out there. I used Crown Royal as the liquor, but I really couldn’t taste it. The cake didn’t even need frosting, that’s how yummy is it! I didn’t make the exact frosting that the recipe called for here, first of all I forgot to buy sour cream, second of all I was running out of powdered sugar, and most importantly, I had a bunch of the previous chocolate frosting leftover and hate wasting it, so I mixed the leftover first frosting with extra melted dark chocolate, about 3 1/2 ounces of honey flavored Chobani Greek yogurt and additional powdered sugar. Would I write that down to repeat? No, but it was still chocolate frosting. No complaints. I made the salted caramel as the directions said to, subbing half and half for the whipping cream, which may have made it lighter in color. I’ve made salted caramel before without the easy use of wrapped caramels. It tasted fine and was quick so that’s good, but it wasn’t authentic.

The final cupcakes for my wars were snickerdoodle flavored. I think I got this recipe from Pinterest. The actual recipe  is for a 3 layer cake, but I just halved it and cupcaked it. This cake is very dense, but it was pretty yummy. A great third cupcake and just as delicious for breakfast this morning.

Now for the buttercream frosting. The flavor was great, I added a few drops of cinnamon extract to heighten the flavor – plus I have cinnamon extract and never use it so I thought this was a good place to sneak it in. My problem was my frosting was grainy. Is it possible that I wasn’t very careful on my seventh recipe of the night? Absolutely. But the other culprit is my mixer. Even though I have a KitchenAid, I have the lowest version of it and sometimes it takes a few extra scrapes of the bowl to cream the sugars. Since this recipe had brown sugar in, I’m thinking I didn’t get all of it mixed in well before I continued to add ingredients. I will probably try this recipe again so I’ll be sure to check that next time.

After 4 hours of cupcaking, cleaning and decorating, I ended up with my trio of baby birthday cakes for my dad, exactly what he asked for, and perfect for party favors to take home. Happy Birthday, Dad!


8 Jul

I’ve always meant to try making cupcakes in ice cream cones. I can’t say that any longer, and I also can’t say it was successful. But from my pictures you’d never be able to tell. Photography is the best!

My mom is an avid quilter and decided to hold a quilt show in her garden last week. Technically it’s the second year for her garden showcase, but the only guest last year was Sonny, so I’m gonna go ahead and call this her inaugural Quilt Show in the Garden.

She can tell you the highs and lows of the show, and I can tell you the highs and lows of the dessert. No surprise here, I found these cupcakes on Pinterest and made note to make them for her show. They looked like the perfect addition to an outdoor garden party.

As I mentioned above, I was interested in making ice cream cone cakes, but had only really seen them in cake cones, I think we should all stick with that, making cupcakes in sugar cones was a huge mess and almost a disaster. I’m pretty sure 98% of the cones fell over in the oven and lost some insides. Thankfully I mad a boxed mix carrot cake for these, so it wasn’t a whole lot of time, money or good ingredients wasted, but we were still not happy.

We recovered the cones mid way and kind of let them bake sideways. Good thing frosting makes most things much, much better. My fave buttercream did the honors of topping (or filling up) the sugar cones and then I popped them in the freezer for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile it was time to melt orange candy melts. Melting the chocolate was fine, but finding a container to use so that the cone would be covered was trial and error, and error and a little more error, then finally just sucked it up and used a spoon.

Thankfully the sprinkle part was easy and fun, I think that if you covered everything in life with sprinkles (or glitter) you’d never notice the flaws. Life lesson.

Anyway, despite the earlier issues, the carrots actually looked like they were supposed to, and tasted fine. It was like a game to find a cupcake with more cake that frosting inside! We set the carrots atop crushed cookies that were attached to the plate with peanut butter, so the carrots were sitting in ground and dirt.

Would I do this again? Probably not, but then again they were so cute!

Swirly Shower

6 Jul

One of my bestest friends, Elizabeth, is getting married in September and showered her with showers in June. Her sister and Maid of Honor, asked me to make the cake for her Illinois shower and I, of course, said yes. I love anytime I get a chance to really decorate something, and wedding showers are a GREAT opportunity!

Elizabeth is not a fan of traditional wedding cake, so we decided to maker her number one choice of dessert – FunFetti cake. Yes, most of the time I like to make cake from scratch, but I was happy to please the bride and it was actually pretty delicious. I realized that it’s more canned frosting that I dislike than cake mixes, though I still prefer scratch baking.

I decided to make a smaller cake and a batch of cupcakes for the shower because it’s easier to transport and then guests actually taking leftovers with them is much more of a possibility. I topped the Funfettis with my favorite buttercream frosting, mixed with cocoa powder and melted chocolate – to match the wedding colors, brown and pink!

My grandma actually suggested decorating the cake with fake flowers, which ended up being the perfect addition to the creamy frosting. I took some more Pinterest inspiration from this cake, with a wedding cake my sister-in-law to be loves.

I took the fake flowers and swirled them around the cake and topped the cupcakes. Probably the quickest decorated cake ever and absolutely fit the occasion!

Surprise, Erin!!

8 Jun


My sister-in-law-to-be turned 30 this week and we celebrated last weekend when my brother threw her a fun (almost too much fun) surprise party.

I volunteered the cake, of course, and I think it was one of my best concoctions recently.

Michael asked for a basic vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, so I took it up a notch with a not so basic filling.

I googled yellow cake recipes and found this one. I loved the idea that the writer wanted to perfect the cake recipe while pregnant, so I gave it a whirl. It was definitely moist and delicious. I will comment that the recipe made more than 1 9×13, so I ended up with a bit taller layers than I would’ve liked, but it still was great.

The frosting was my go-to, with added cocoa powder and melted milk chocolate chips. I used about half the bag trying to get a deeper color but I supposed had I used dark chocolate I would’ve had a color close to what I wanted, but again, flavor trumped the mis-step.

I filled these super layers with chocolate pudding and mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, they look cute in their chocolate sandwich.

I made another batch of frosting and dyed it a perfect lime green (per Michael’s request), and topped the cake with a champagne bottle made of rice krispie treats!

For the bottle I did a lot of research on shaping treats. I found that using oil instead of butter would help the shape keep their shape, which makes sense because you kind of want less gooeyness than usual. I would never use oil in treats for dessert, they were not nearly as good as the normal ones, but the bottle held its shape really well – yes!

I decorated with the number “30” and Erin’s initial “E” and birth year “1982.”

The cake was a huge success, Erin even thought her mom ordered it. Everyone gobbled it up! Happy 30th Birthday, Erin! (and happy one year til your wedding!)

Delicious Resourcefulness

21 Feb

I love decorating cakes.

Of course I’m a huge fan of inventing cookies, covering stuff in chocolate and eating brownie batter from the bowl, but when I started dabbling in desserts in was to quench my creative thirst, and I did that with cake.

I can’t draw for my life, I can’t paint my own toe nails, even stick figures are difficult for me to get on paper, but I’m a really creative person. I’ve always loved artsy things as long as it involves being messy – enter cake flavor combining and designing/decorating. I used to spend hours in class drawing birthday cakes and picking the perfect combinations for my friends and family, and I got to revisit that love this weekend with my surprise visit home to celebrate my mom’s birthday.

I lied and told her I wasn’t coming, but that I was planning to order her a cake from a fancy bakery so she wouldn’t miss any deliciousness. She requested graham cracker cake, which was perfect because it was already what I was planning to bake.

My graham cracker recipe is one of my favorites, it pairs so well with chocolate, whipped cream or fruit filings and really any frosting. I’ve of course made a s’mores cake with it and quadrupled it for my college graduation party cake. Since I’m dessert free til Easter starting tomorrow, I was happy to make my favorite cake for her.

I wanted to mix it up a little so I researched how to make salted caramel filling and soaked my cakes in them. My mom said it was the best flavor addition she’d ever had – and she and my dad dipped marshmallows in the extra filling, which is the best compliment I could get.

You can watch my make the filling here – and it’s only 1 minute 45 seconds! It’s really simple and versatile.

Next I whipped up a frosting recipe I found on Pinterest – I think the first time I actually made something from there. It was amazing, but also amazingly way too much. (and I feel terrible because I didn’t pin or bookmark the recipe – oops!) I had to freeze half the batch because I couldn’t imagine throwing away so much chocolatey buttery goodness. Yes, buttery. There were 5 sticks of butter in the recipe. Which I guess should have clued me in on the amount, oh well, someday someone will come across that container in the freezer and be in chocoholic heaven.

Then came the resourcefulness. I said before I love drawing and planning cakes. Well this time I had some other things to plan, like getting on a flight with only sleeping for 4 hours or more importantly, not telling my mom I was coming home, so the cake sketches didn’t happen. Instead I ran upstairs to room #2, aka The Oz Room, and stole some stuff from my mom’s shelves.

And the cake looked ridiculously awesome. In fact the fluffiness of the frosting worked really well with the decor I chose. And, of course, the cake was really yummy and devoured and I was so so so so so happy to be there for her to make the cake and to surprise her for her birthday – which is actually tomorrow. I also covered some more kiwi in chocolate – I think I’m addicted to the sweet and sour combo.

And we had chocolate mint martini’s in honor of her love for wicked…

Happy Birthday, Mom – Love you!

(P.S. no matter what Dad says, your birthday doesn’t trump Ash Wednesday, have a drink and dessert tonight – there’s frosting in the freezer 🙂


Baby Feet

2 Feb

There is one little baking feat leftover from my time at home this winter that I forgot to mention – Nicki’s baby feet.

Nicki is one of my best friend’s (Elizabeth) sister, and a very happy, excited, glowing mother-to-be. She lives is Mississippi, but most of her friends and family are still in the Chicago-land area. When she was home for Christmas, Elizabeth and Nicki’s best friend threw her a surprise baby shower.

I, of course, asked if I could do anything to help, but secretly just wanted to bring a dessert. We decided on baby feet sugar cookies. I made these for Marilee’s shower (yikes almost 5 years ago!) before Madeline was born, so I have the perfect little cookie cutters. Plus, my mom and I were already planning sugar cookie day, so we just doubled the recipe (holy moly over 150 cookies) and added the baby feet to the bunch.

Sugar cookies really always work well at a party, they’re great as a decoration, party favor or just a plate of colorful cookies for dessert. Nicki is due in April (when all awesome babies are born), and I wish her best of luck with the little girl’s arrival!


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