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Happy Anniversary!

Yesterday was our 6th wedding anniversary, so I’ve been wracking my brain for the past few weeks, trying to decide just what I should make as the baked portion of my anniversary gift.  I went for a fairly light and airy option for Valentine’s Day, so this time I decided to hit the opposite end of the spectrum with a Chocolate Brownie Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate Glaze!  Yeah, there’s NOTHING low-fat about this recipe, but it’s soooooo worth it…

Chocolate Brownie Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate Glaze

This is one of those recipes that was born from an ‘I wonder what would happen if I threw this into the mixer’ kind of day.  I had cream cheese in the house after buying too much for another recipe, so I was looking for a way to get rid of it!  I had some brownie mix on hand, and I’d seen plenty of recipes where cream cheese was used to make a separate element in a brownie, but never one that actually mixed it into the brownie itself.  Fully expecting a baking disaster, I threw everything into the bowl and was very pleasantly surprised!  The cream cheese adds a richness to the brownies that (in my opinion) takes the chocolate to the next level, and the texture is moister, like a very dense, rich cake.

The brownies bake up like a cake, rather than sinking a bit like regular brownies.

Once I’d decided that the brownies themselves were a keeper, I started to think of other flavors to pair with such a rich chocolate.  Peanut butter was the first thing on my list, and so I decided to bring a peanut butter frosting recipe I’d seen on The Barefoot Contessa into the mix.  Again, it was a perfect fit!.  Top it off with some of my favorite Shiny Chocolate Glaze, and you have…

Chocolate Brownie Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate Glaze

Delicious, but messy- in my hurry, I went a bit overboard with the glaze...

Brownie Layers

Please note that I specifically listed the Ghirardelli brand because a) they’re my favorite and b) I don’t have any others on hand, so I don’t know if the required ingredients are different.  If you want to break out the Duncan Hines, etc., it should work just fine- all you need to do is follow the ingredients called for on the box and add one package of cream cheese for each mix used I would like to try this with a recipe from scratch at some point, but let’s face it- when you’re in a pinch, a little bit of mix doctoring works just fine!

Ingredients

  • 2 Boxes of Ghirardelli Brownie Mix (I used the Dark Chocolate variety, but the Double Chocolate and Triple Chocolate flavors are also really good!)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 8oz. Packages of Cream Cheese, softened/at room temperature
  • 1/2 C Water
  • 1 C Vegetable Oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350*
  2. Lightly spray two 9″ springform pans with cooking spray
  3. Combine cream cheese and eggs in a mixer and beat until combined
  4. Add water and oil and beat until combined
  5. Add brownie mix and beat until combined
  6. Divide the batter between the two pans and spread evenly with a spatula, smoothing the tops
  7. Bake at 350* (325* convection) for 40-45 minutes
  8. Remove to a wire baking rack.  Cool for at least 30 minutes, and then release the lock on the springform to finish cooling.  (Don’t worry about removing them from the pan entirely- that can wait until later, when you’re ready to assemble!  This is a nice, dense cake, so it was very easy to move from pan to plate.)

Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Frosting

Credit for this recipe goes to Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.  I’m a total peanut butter nut (pun intended), so this is one of my favorites!  If you only intend to use the frosting between the brownie layers as I did above, one recipe will suffice.  If you plan to use it all over (see my note on aesthetics at the bottom), you’ll want to at least double it.  And if there happens to be some leftover to dip apples and pretzels, well, you can’t just let it go to waste, can you?…

Ingredients

  • 1 C Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 C Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 5 T Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 3/4 t Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 t Kosher Salt
  • 1/3 C Heavy Cream

Directions

  1. Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment
  2. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. (Side note- I have this fabulous SideSwipe spatula blade for my Kitchenaid, and it makes life so much easier at times like these!)
  3. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Shiny Chocolate Glaze

Adapted from the Shiny Chocolate Glaze recipe found in The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn.  While I usually go for a double recipe when I make glaze, a single recipe should do it for this particular cake.

Ingredients

  • 2 TBS Butter
  • 2 TBS Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 C Heavy (whipping) cream, plus additional as needed
  • 1 TSP Vanilla extract
  • 1 C Powdered sugar (the original recipe says to sift, but I rarely do)
  • 1 C Semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan
  2. Add the cocoa and cream, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Do not boil.
  3. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla until mixture is smooth
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips until melted, putting the pan over low heat again if needed, and adding a little more cream if the mixture seems too thick.
  5. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake as directed above.

Now, to assemble…

As noted in the caption under the picture of the finished cake, I was kind of going for speed over beauty when I put everything together last night- we’d just gotten back from a very rare dinner without the kids, and I was rushing to get the dessert frosted and ready to eat while my husband put the kids to bed.  I made a single recipe of the peanut butter frosting and put all of it between the brownie layers.  I then poured the chocolate glaze over the top, going WAY overboard and using a lot more than I planned, so it kind of resembles that creature that lives in the Molasses Swamp in Candy Land.

Granted, it tastes great no matter how it looks.  However, if I did it again, I would definitely change my plan of attack for a prettier end result!  Next time I will do a better job of leveling the tops of my cake layers, and I plan to double (possibly triple) the peanut butter frosting recipe.  I’ll sandwich the layers together with some peanut butter frosting, and then I’ll strategically poke holes through the cake with the handle of a wooden spoon or a dowel to inject the glaze into the cake itself (I recently picked up a large plastic squeeze bottle that is perfect for times like this).  When the tunnels have been filled with glaze, I will then frost the entire cake with the peanut butter frosting, garnishing with some peanut butter cup candies and a drizzle of the chocolate glaze on top.  Additional glaze can be used to garnish the dessert plates when serving.  Much prettier in the end!

(Just to update, I made another one this week, following my plan above, and I was MUCH happier with how it turned out!  I did the triple batch of peanut butter frosting, and a double batch of glaze.  Like mentioned above, I sandwiched the layers with peanut butter frosting, infused the cake with the glaze, and then frosted all over with peanut butter frosting.  I let the cake and the remaining frosting chill in the fridge to firm up for a few minutes.  Once it was cool, I piped a scalloped edge of peanut butter frosting around the top and bottom of the cake, and then I flooded the top with the remaining chocolate glaze.  With some chocolate flakes on top, it looked infinitely better than the original cake pictured above, and I liked the additional peanut butter, too!  Sadly, I didn’t get a picture…)

Like I said, this isn’t the healthiest of desserts- it’s so rich that it’s one of those things you’ll probably only want once in a blue moon.  Still, it’s definitely one of my favorites!  Also, it’s REALLY good with sliced bananas on top, and bananas are fruit, so that should make it at least marginally healthy, right?…  (Please, work with me in my delusion- it’s the little things that get me through the day!  LOL)

Happy baking, and please share pictures if you give this a try- I’d love to see how you put the finished product together!

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6 Comments

Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Cakes

 

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Alles Gute zum Fasching!

Alles Gute zum Fasching!

Today we celebrated the final day of Fasching, which is the German equivalent of Carnival or Mardi Gras.  It’s a lot of fun- everyone dresses up, has parties, and eats delicious Berliners and Krapfen (both names for fabulous filled donuts)!  Each year, my oldest son’s school celebrates Fasching with a big parade around base, led by a local band and officiated by the Mayor and Assistant Mayor of Grafenwoehr.  The kids loved being able to wear their costumes almost as much as they loved having an excuse to get out of class and walk around in the sunshine that actually made an appearance today!  (According to our wonderful German Host Nation teacher, “when Angels travel, God makes the sun shine down,” but I have some doubts about how very angelic we were, my own child in particular…)

After the main event, all of the dignitaries gathered for some well-deserved refreshments.  Of course, when the call for American baked goods went out (our cakes and cookies are very different from their German counterparts, so they’re a bit of a rare treat around here), I started making a list of what to bring!  Once I’d finally whittled my wish list from twelve recipes down to three, I ended up making Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Shiny Chocolate Glaze, a fabulous Lemon Almond Poppyseed Cake that I found at Odense.com, and one of my all-time favorites, Kransekake Drops.  It was a great day, but let me tell you, I’m completely sugared-out!

Kransekake Drops

Kransekake Drops

Kransekake is a traditional Norwegian cookie that is usually baked in ring forms to make a series of graduated rings that are then stacked into a pyramid with a powdered sugar frosting ‘cement’ and decorated with flags and other trinkets (visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kransekake to find out more).   This is my variation for every-day Kransekake- it’s a lot quicker and more portable than the traditional tower!

Ingredients

  • 1 LB Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 LB Blanched almonds OR 1 LB almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 TSP Almond extract
  • 3 Egg whites
  • Crisco
  • Farina (Cream of Wheat)

Cooking Directions

  1. Crush the almonds in a blender or food processor until they’re a fine powder (skip this step if you’re using almond flour)
  2. Combine the almonds with the confectioner’s sugar
  3. Whip the egg whites until a little frothy and add the almond extract
  4. Combine the almond/sugar mixture with the egg white mixture
  5. Put the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight, until hardened
  6. Pre-heat oven to 350*F
  7. Grease cookie sheets with Crisco and line with farina (I line the pans with parchment or aluminum foil first- it makes clean-up MUCH easier!)
  8. Drop balls of dough on the cookie sheet with a cookie scoop
  9. Bake at 350* until a light golden brown, approx. 15-20 minutes (watch the first batch closely, as ovens vary)
  10. Remove cookies from sheet to cool
  11. Drizzle or dip cookies with either melted chocolate chips or sugar glaze (take ½ LB of confectioner’s sugar and slowly add milk until it reaches a spreadable consistency).  I love these with a drizzle of dark chocolate- it balances out the sweetness beautifully!
  12. Store in a sealed container with a piece of white bread, changing the bread every day or so to keep the cookies soft and moist

Lemon Almond Poppyseed Cake from Odense.com

Lemon Almond Poppyseed Cake

Originally published at www.Odense.com, a fabulous source for recipes and inspiration!

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1-7 oz box Odense Almond Paste, grated (Sadly, I can’t get Odense Almond Paste over here without considerable planning, so I used an 8 ounce can of almond paste from another company that I can get around the holidays.  It worked just fine, but I really do prefer the Odense if I can get it!)
  • 2 lemons (Depending on size, you may want three lemons to get more lemon rind for your cake)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Scant 1/4 cup poppy seeds (I didn’t go scant, but I’m a poppy seed fan…)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Icing:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4-6 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • Optional: 1-2 drops yellow food coloring

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour fluted pan. (I used a baking spray with flour- MUCH easier with a pan that has a lot of detail!)
  2. Grate 1 tablespoon of lemon rind on smallest hole of grater, being careful not to get the pith (white part of rind). Set rind aside. Squeeze juice and reserve for icing.  (I felt that the cake needed a bit more lemon rind- I used closer to 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  3. In a mixing bowl beat grated Almond Paste, sugar and butter on high speed until well combined.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat on high three minutes, or until light colored and fluffy.
  5. Sift flour with baking powder and baking soda. Mix grated rind and poppy seeds into flour. Add flour mixture to batter alternately with sour cream. Beat on low until just combined and smooth. Do not over mix.
  6. Spoon batter into pan, and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until cake turns golden and a toothpick inserted near cake middle pulls out clean.
  7. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Invert cake on wire rack and cool completely. Drizzle with icing or dust with powdered sugar.
  8. Icing: In a small bowl mix the powdered sugar, 4-6 teaspoons of lemon juice and almond extract until smooth. Add a drop of yellow food color if desired. Drizzle icing around top of cake and let it run down the sides. (Again, I felt a need for a bit more lemon- I just kept adding more juice until the taste was strong enough, and then I added a bit more powdered sugar to get the texture where I wanted it to be.  I also doubled the icing recipe, because there can never be too much lemon glaze!)
  9. For an extra festive touch decorate with marzipan lemons or grated lemon peel. (As seen in the picture above, I went with the lemon peel this time- there wasn’t enough time for marzipan artwork…)
  10. To Store: After completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap. The cake will last three days at room temperature or one week if refrigerated.
  11. To Freeze: Wrap un-iced cake first in plastic and then with foil. Freeze for up to one month.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Shiny Chocolate Glaze

For the full Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe, visit my Muffins for the Masses post from last December!

It’s been a busy day of baking, celebration, and running backwards to keep ahead of the kids during the parade while taking many, many pictures, so I’m about ready to call it a night.  I hope that you have a great Fasching, Carnival, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or whatever else you may call it.  Enjoy, and happy baking!

 
8 Comments

Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Cakes, Cookies

 

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Sweets for my sweeties…

My oldest, back when he had Michelin Man rolls and had no idea that these pictures could come back to haunt him later in life...

So, has your Valentine’s Day sugar rush worn off yet? If you were to sneak a peek at the list of chocolate industry-supporting holidays, Valentine’s Day would probably be right up there near the head of the pack. For weeks (since before Christmas in some stores) we’ve been inundated with chocolate hearts in every size, flavor, shape, and color, to the point that they all started to look the same and kind of lost their appeal!  (Don’t get me wrong- I like a good piece of chocolate as much as the next girl, but given a choice, I generally prefer my sweets in the form of baked goods.)  As the holiday rapidly approached and our household pestilence slowly receded, I realized that it was WAY past time to plan for my holiday baking.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!

First on the list was my oldest son’s class Valentine’s Day party. Cupcakes, fruit, and all of the other party basics were already covered by the other fabulous room moms, but we have a few kids with allergies to consider, so I usually plan to make something egg/nut/corn syrup-free so that everyone can share the sugar high. My first plan was to bake up some of these Chocolate-Dipped Brownies from Sweetapolita, using egg replacement powder instead of real eggs.  I baked up a test batch on Monday morning (I’m still leery of the whole fake egg thing), and they were great!  After a day of cutting out PTA Valentine’s hearts, I raced home and threw together a triple batch.  That’s when something went tragically and inexplicably wrong, resulting in three trays of very pretty brownies that were hard as bricks on the bottom. (My best guess would be that baking, doing mental math, and negotiating preschool peace treaties at the same time is just a BAD idea and should never be attempted.)  By the time that I discovered the problem after an evening of prepping Valentines and cutting out red paper hearts, it was about 3am, so I called it a night and decided to try again in the morning.

Down to the wire and suffering from a severe case of sleep deprivation, I decided to skip the brownies and move on to my (untried and untested) back-up recipe, these fabulous Meltaway Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting that I discovered via Pinterest over at Landee See, Landee Do.  Thankfully, the baking gods were smiling that morning, so the cookies were fabulous!  (Please note that there are only two cookies on that plate- that was all that was left for a picture out of a double batch by the time my camera battery charged.  Yes folks, they were that good.)

Meltaway Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 C Butter
  • ¾ C Cornstarch
  • ¾ C Powdered Sugar
  • 1 C Flour
  • 1 Recipe Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)
  1. In a medium bowl, cream butter until fluffy.
  2. Add cornstarch & sugar and blend well.
  3. Beat in flour until thoroughly mixed.
  4. Drop by small teaspoons (a cookie scoop worked well) onto a parchment-covered baking sheet & flatten out with the bottom of a glass. (You’ll need to dip the glass in powdered sugar to prevent sticking.  If you’re making these for yourself, smooshing them down by hand works well, too!)
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
  6. Cool on wire rack & frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.  For the classroom cookies, I simply frosted each cookie and added a dash of red sugar.  Once that quota was filled, I started to play around with the remaining cookies and decided that I liked them even better sandwiched together with a dollop of frosting in the middle as well as the bit on top!

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 (3oz.) Package Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 C Powdered Sugar
  • ½ t Vanilla Extract
  1. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Color with food coloring if desired.

After an afternoon packed with baking, class parties, and WAY more sugar than I should ever consume in a 24 hour period, it was time to grab the kids and run for home so that I could prep our Valentine’s Day dinner.  I’d been pondering dessert for a week or so, because I try to do something special each year, and it was a really tough choice!  Normally I go for something that’s high on the chocolate level, like a flourless chocolate cake or a chocolate cheesecake, but this year I decided that I wanted something a bit lighter to follow what is inevitably a big meal eaten later in the evening.

After careful consideration, I settled on a Chocolate Angel Food Cake recipe that I found in the November/December of Cooking with Paula Deen(Side note- I JUST received the November/December issue last Friday.  GO APO MAIL!)  It was a nice, easy recipe to put together, and definitely a departure from our norm.  The chocolate taste was subtle, almost overwhelmed by the cinnamon (I’d probably cut the cinnamon in half next time around), but what struck me as odd was the faint taste of coffee when there’s no coffee in the mix!  I served it up with a drizzle of chocolate and caramel syrups, a puree of strawberries and raspberries, fresh berries, and both plain and chocolate whipped cream (to make the chocolate cream, just add a dash of Ghirardelli sweetened cocoa powder to the whipped cream near the end).  It would probably also be very good with ice cream and hot fudge, or in a trifle with chocolate mousse and berries!

Paula Deen’s Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Mocha Sauce

Makes 10-12 Servings

  • 12 Egg Whites at room temperature
  • 1 t Cream of Tartar
  • 1/4 t Salt
  • 3/4 C Granulated Sugar
  • 1 1/2 C Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 C Cake Flour
  • 1/4 C Cocoa Powder (Paula says Dutch process, but we had Hershey’s- you know how that goes…)
  • 1/4 t Cinnamon (I might cut this to 1/8 t next time)
  • Mocha Sauce (I didn’t use this since my husband isn’t a huge coffee fan, but I’ll include it for you all, just in case- it probably compliments the mysterious coffee flavor in the cake quite nicely!)
  1. Preheat oven to 375* F
  2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy.
  3. Add cream of tartar and salt, and beat until soft peaks form.
  4. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.
  5. In a small bowl, combine confectioner’s sugar, flour, cocoa, and cinnamon.  Sift.  (I’m bad, I hate sifting with a passion, so I didn’t do this- I just fork fluffed…)
  6. Gently fold cocoa mixture into egg white mixture until combined.
  7. Spoon batter into an ungreased 10″ removable-bottom tube pan.
  8. Bake for 32-35 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.  Remove from oven.
  9. Immediately turn the pan upside down, and place on the neck of a funnel or wine bottle to cool completely.  (This keeps the cake from sinking.  I didn’t quite believe it until I saw it, but the cake actually stays in the pan quite nicely while balancing upside down on a wine bottle!)
  10. Gently run a knife around the outer edge of the pan to release the sides.  Remove the cake from the pan by pushing up on the removable base, and then run a knife along the inner edge and bottom as needed to release the cake from the base.
  11. Serve with warm Mocha Sauce (or berries, ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream…), if desired.

Warm Mocha Sauce

Makes 1 Cup

  • 1 C Chocolate Sauce (Paula recommends Hershey’s)
  • 1 T Instant Espresso Powder
  1. In a small saucepan, heat chocolate sauce over low heat.
  2. Add espresso powder, stirring until dissolved.

And there you have it, our official 2012 Valentine’s Day sugar rush!  Aside from the brownie catastrophe, everything turned out just the way I wanted it, so I’d call the holiday a success.  The only real problem that I ran into was that I was so tired by the time that I’d cooked and eaten dinner, given everyone their Valentines, and gotten the kids settled, that I fell asleep on the couch while my husband took a work call- BEFORE DESSERT!  Luckily, the cake stayed safely balanced overnight on that wine bottle, and it’s just as good the second day…

One final note- if you created something special for Valentine’s Day, head on over to Sew BitterSweet Designs for the Valentine’s Day Showcase link party!  Melissa has thrown the floor open to her readers, and three lucky winners will win some fabulous prizes for linking up to their Valentine’s Day creations.  Definitely too good to miss!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Cakes, Cookies, Other Baked Delights..., Recipes

 

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Let them eat (pretend) cake!

Still no real baking in sight (sick kids kind of beat the cooking instincts into submission around here), but I do have something that’s at least baking-related: felt cake slices!

I recently participated in a play food swap (everyone in the group makes a bunch of one item, sends them to a central location, and gets back one of each), and I made these yummy-looking little cakes from this fabulous tutorial by Bugga Bugs that I found at YouCanMakeThis.com. (Warning- that site is dangerous…)

It was a bit of a stretch on my comfort zone (yeah, hand sewing is NOT my niche), but once I played with them a bit and worked a bit outside of the instructional box, I was really happy with how they turned out!

This is the first time I've ever spent this much time on cake that couldn't be eaten!

P.S.- Don’t forget, my Valentine’s Owl Stuffie will be featured in the Valentine’s Day Showcase at Sew BitterSweet Designs today! I’d love to see pictures if you give it a try, so please share! 😀

 
9 Comments

Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Random Acts of Craftivity

 

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