Blackberry Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Today I am sharing the cake I made for Easter. I wanted to make something Spring-y this year and something that wasn’t the typical yellow or chocolate cake. Not that there is anything wrong with those. You can never go wrong with a classic! After searching around the internet for some ideas I settled on a Lemon cake with a Blackberry filling and Cream Cheese Frosting. I used to love lemon flavored desserts and then I went thru a phase where I just didn’t care for them. I must have eaten a lemon dessert that rubbed my taste buds the wrong way. Thankfully this lemon cake was just the right amount of lemon without being overpowering or sweet.

Now, this cake was almost a complete failure!  I made my blackberry filling a few days before and I followed a recipe I found online that seemed good but turned out to be overly sweet and was more syrup-like than a cake filling. I soon realized that the amount of sugar that the recipe called for was more so for a pie filling that also required a lot more blackberries than I was using. Now some people have that much of a sweet tooth but not me. Thankfully I bought two packages of blackberries in case of a mishap. The second time I added less sugar and I didn’t strain the blackberry mixture to remove the seeds. I did that the first time and I think that contributed to it being more of a syrup as well.  And once I refrigerated the mixture it was the perfect consistency to fill my cake.

And the first cake I made was a fail as well. I followed a recipe that called for altering a box cake mix and I have done this before with no issues. Well, this time my cake looked more like a pancake. Or an inflated pancake I should say. And even though I added in a good amount of lemon zest and fresh lemon juice my cake just tasted sweet with barely any lemon flavor. Granted the recipe I was following did call for a lemon box cake and I used a white box cake because I was concerned that the lemon would taste a bit artificial but that doesn’t explain why my cake had no height. As it was cooling on my kitchen counter, I was staring at it from my couch in my living room and I was trying to figure out how to get more height out of it. Ultimately, I decided to toss it and just bake a lemon cake from scratch.

After baking and cooking the cake, I wrapped the layers in plastic wrap and refrigerated it overnight. After whipping up a batch of cream cheese frosting it was time to assemble the cake. I spread a thin layer of frosting over one of the layers of the cake and then piped a dam around the cake and filled it with the blackberry filling.

Next, I topped it with the other lemon cake layer, crumb coated it and finally frosted and decorated the cake.

The components of this cake worked well together. If you are not a fan of blackberries you could use raspberries instead and if you want to up the lemon flavor you can add lemon extract to the frosting as well.

Blackberry Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

For the lemon cake:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 3/4 cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 1/2 cup sugar

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Zest from 1 lemon

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup whole milk

For the blackberry filling:

6oz. fresh blackberries

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

For the cream cheese frosting:

2 8oz. blocks of cream cheese, at room temperature

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions:

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with baking spray or coat with butter and lightly dust with flour. Set aside.

In a medium bowl stir together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.

Using a hand mixer or electric stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla extract, lemon zest and lemon juice. The batter may appear to break apart at this point. It will come together once the flour is added in. With the mixer on low, add the flour in three parts, alternating with the milk. Continue mixing until the ingredients are just incorporated.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then remove from the pan and let cool completely on wire racks.

For the blackberry Filling:

In a small bowl combine the water and cornstarch and set aside.

In a small saucepan combine the blackberries and sugar over medium heat. Stir until the blackberries begin to breakdown and the sugar has melted and it turns into a sauce and begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and add in the cornstarch mixture. Stir to combine.

Transfer to a small container, with a lid, and stir in the lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the cream cheese frosting:

Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter on medium speed. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until well incorporated. Add in the vanilla extract and beat for another 30 seconds.

To assemble the cake:

If necessary, torte the lemon cake layers. Spread a thin layer of the cream cheese frosting over one of the layers. Transfer about a cup of the frosting to a piping bag and snip off the end and pipe a ring of frosting around the outer edge of the layer with the frosting. Fill in with the blackberry filling. Top with the other cake and spread a thin layer of frosting on the cake (crumb coat). Refrigerate for 15 minutes and then finish frosting the cake as desired.

Recipe for the Lemon Cake from Food Network

Coconut Macaroon Brownies

If you love chocolate dipped coconut macaroons, Almond Joy candy bars or anything chocolate and coconut, today’s recipe is for you. It’s Coconut Macaroon Brownies!

Up first I made the brownie layer. While the recipe directions called for melting the dark chocolate and unsalted butter in a double boiler, I opted to do in the microwave. I placed the chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwaved it in 30 second intervals, stirring between each, until it was completely melted and smooth. I set that aside and in a large bowl whisked together, by hand, eggs, sugar, light brown sugar, cocoa powder, espresso granules, vanilla extract and salt until it was smooth. Next, I folded in coconut flour. The coconut flour helped to make the brownies extra fudgy and dense and also keeps this recipe gluten-free. And finally, I folded in milk chocolate chips. I spread this into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan that I lined with parchment paper, making sure to leave an overhang on all sides to make clean up easy and more importantly removing from the brownies hassle-free. I then place the pan in the refrigerator for an hour.

Next up, the macaroon layer. Using my stand mixer with the whisk attachment, I beat egg whites until they were frothy and then slowly added in sugar, vanilla extract and salt until stiff peaks formed. Finally, I added in shredded coconut and my macaroon layer was ready.

Using a small offset spatula, I spread the coconut mixture over the brownie base.

I baked it in a 375 F preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until the brownies were set and the macaroon layer had a golden-brown color. I let the brownies cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 2 hours.

I then removed them easily thanks to parchment paper and let them cool for about another 30 minutes before slicing.

And even though I did clean my knife between each slice my brownies didn’t slice perfectly clean. Nevertheless, it didn’t take away from how delicious these brownies are. The chocolate layer is the perfect amount of chocolate without being overly sweet. That’s primarily due to using a dark chocolate as the base and also adding those espresso granules. Coffee really enhances the flavor of chocolate. As for the coconut layer, by using unsweetened shredded coconut as opposed to the traditional sweetened version in typical macaroons, the coconut layer isn’t crazy sweet either. You really do get to taste the coconut flavor.

Coconut Macaroon Brownies

Ingredients:

Brownie Layer:

8 oz. dark chocolate (70% cacao), coarsely chopped*

2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks

4 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 teaspoon instant espresso granules

1 cup coconut flour

1 cup milk chocolate chips

Macaroon Layer:

4 large eggs whites

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

4 cups unsweetened finely shredded coconut

*I used Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate Bars found in the candy aisle

Directions:

Make the brownie layer: Line a 9 x 13 – inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving an overhand on all sides. In a microwave safe bowl add the chopped chocolate and butter. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval until the chocolate and butter are smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, both sugars, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, salt and espresso granules until smooth. Add in the chocolate/butter mixture and continue whisking until smooth. Fold in the coconut flour and then then the milk chocolate chips. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Make the macaroon layer: Preheat the oven to 375 F. Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Slowly add in the sugar, vanilla extract and salt and gradually increase the speed to high. Beat until stiff peaks form. Reduce the speed to low and add in the shredded coconut and beat until just combined. Spread the coconut mixture over the brownie layer.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden. Allow to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cut into 24 brownies.

Recipe from Food & Wine

Passion Fruit & Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Can you believe that Easter is just a little over a week away? Where is the time going? Today’s cake would be perfect for your Easter dessert. Coconut is a great Spring flavor and passion fruit is a flavor that’s not too common but pairs well with coconut. If passion fruit isn’t your thing you could try a key lime curd instead. Coconut and lime pairs together deliciously.

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To begin, I made the passion fruit curd. I wanted to make sure that it would thicken enough so I made it two days before assembling the cake. I have never seen passion fruit at any of the supermarkets I go to, so I opted to buy frozen passion fruit pulp  and let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight. If you are thinking of using passion fruit juice, I would just advise on using one that is 100% passion fruit juice, not a blend of other fruits. I began by combining egg yolks, passion fruit juice, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stirred it until the sugar dissolved and the mixture was thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Since it can sometimes be a little difficult to determine this with the spoon I am stirring with I normally take a small spoon and run the back of it in the mixture to make sure it is thick enough. Once it was, I removed the saucepan from the heat and added in unsalted butter that I cut into chunks, stirring between each addition to make sure the butter was completely melted. I then strained the curd through a fine mesh sieve two times before placing a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of it and refrigerating it until I was ready to use. A quick tip, the second time I strained the curd I did so into the container I was planning on refrigerating the curd in.

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Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take pictures while making the cake layers. I intended to take pictures of them once they were cooled and I was ready to use them, but I was running short on time. The weekend I made this week I decided was also a good weekend to finally paint my hallway. I had been intending to do it ever since I finished my living room remodel, but the paint cans just sat on the floor with me walking by them everyday and the task on my to-do list every week. Well, the paint cans just started to annoy me, and I didn’t have anything to do so I went ahead and started to paint. Initially I was going to prime beforehand, but I had a lot less primer than I thought and since the paint I was using was paint and primer combined I decided to just use that. Well, I ended up needing a another can of paint. And painting the second coat took a lot longer than I was anticipating so my cake suffered. I shouldn’t say suffered, but it didn’t get the full attention that I was planning on giving it! But back to the cake… I used a recipe that I have used in the past for coconut cupcakes and just baked the batter in two 8-inch cake rounds.

After making a batch of cream cheese frosting it was time to assemble the cake. I sliced the small dome that each of the cakes had to flatten them and then piped a cream cheese border around one of the cakes to create a dam for the curd. I then filled the cake with the curd and placed the other round on top. I crumb coated the cake and after refrigerating for about 20 minutes I finished frosting the cake. I love cream cheese frosting, but I always find that it’s not the easiest to work with when it comes to piping. The cream cheese really makes the frosting soft, so I popped it in the refrigerator for a few minutes before filling a piping bag fitted with a large tip to pipe the rope border around the cake. It didn’t come out as neat as I liked but it was all good. I then sprinkled the top and sides of the cake with coconut and it was good to go. Note to self, don’t ever plan on painting and making a cake on the same day!

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So, the flavors of the cake – passion fruit, coconut, and cream cheese frosting – worked well together. If you want to up the coconut flavor in the cake, you can substitute coconut milk for the buttermilk. For this recipe you could use a cup of coconut milk with a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to get the same consistency as the buttermilk. And you could swap out the almond extract and use coconut extract instead. One more suggestion, I would slice this cake while it’s on the colder side. Once it gets too warm the passion fruit curd makes it difficult to get clean slices of the cake. You could always slice while the cake it’s cold and then let the slices come to room temperature before enjoying.

Passion Fruit & Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

For the Passion Fruit Curd:

1/2 cup passion fruit juice*

7 large egg yolks

1 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks

For the Coconut Cake:

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

6 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract**

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk***

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, plus more for decorating cake

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 8oz. blocks cream cheese, at room temperature

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

*I used frozen passion fruit pulp that I refrigerated overnight to defrost

**If you are not a fan of almond flavor you can reduce the amount or substitute with coconut extract

***To make my own buttermilk I combine 1 cup whole milk with 5 teaspoons of vinegar in a measuring cup and let it sit for 15 minutes until it thickens. You could also use a cup of unsweetened coconut milk with a tablespoon of vinegar.

Directions:

For the curd (make a day or two in advance to assembling the cake): In a medium saucepan combine the passion fruit juice, egg yolks and sugar. Over medium heat stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and add it the pinch of salt and the chunks of butter, one at a time. Stirring between addition to ensure the butter has melted before adding an addition piece. Strain through a fine mesh sieve 2 times. Place in a bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the curd and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 325 F. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with baking spray, or grease and lightly dust with flour. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (you could also use a hand mixer) using the paddle attachment cream together the sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and add in the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add in the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In three parts, add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, alternating between each. Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the shredded coconut and divide the batter between the two prepared pans.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for 15 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

For the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer (you could use a hand mixer) using the paddle attachment cream together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract on medium speed. With the mixer on low, gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.

To assemble the cake: If necessary, torte the cakes. Transfer some of the frosting to a piping bag with the end snipped off and pipe around the perimeter of the cake to create a dam. Fill the cake with the passion fruit curd and top with the other cake. Frost the cake with a crumb coat and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Use remaining frosting to finish frosting the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Passion Fruit Curd Recipe from Garlic and Zest

Coconut Cake Recipe from Food Network

Savory Focaccia Bread Pudding

As promised a second bread pudding recipe this week. This time a savory bread pudding made with focaccia bread. Once again, I had this focaccia left over after ordering Italian food. It was too much and I didn’t want it to go to waste and bread pudding is always a great way to use up left-over bread, but a typical bread pudding that is normally sweet wouldn’t work for this focaccia so I thought I could possibly make a savory version and I was right.

Here’s a look at the leftover focaccia. I let it sit for a day, so it became quite hard but that was perfect. It meant I wouldn’t have to toast it before using it.

I cut it up into cubes and added it to a large bowl.

In a large skillet I cooked mushrooms, onions, green pepper and celery that I seasoned with minced garlic, chopped thyme, salt and pepper until the vegetables were soft and most of the juices in the pan had evaporated.

While the vegetables were cooking, I made the custard by whisking together heavy whipping cream and eggs that I seasoned with salt and pepper.

Once the vegetable where ready I added them to the bowl with the focaccia cubes along with fresh parsley and gave everything a few good stirs.

I let the vegetables cool for about 10 minutes before adding in the custard mixture to the focaccia cube mixture. I then transferred it to a 9×13-inch baking dish that I sprayed with cooking spray and then topped it with shredded parmesan cheese. I let it sit for about 15 minutes so the focaccia cubes could soak in the custard.

I then baked it in a 350 F preheated oven for about an hour. After letting it sit for a few minutes it was time to slice. This was delicious. Definitely something I will make again. An added bonus, it tasted even better the next day as the flavors really had time to marry. And if you are trying to adopt a Meatless Monday diet this is ideal with a side salad and you will have leftovers for a few days. If you don’t have focaccia or want to use another type of bread, like an Italian or French loaf, I would suggest toasting the cubes before using them or letting the bread sit for a day or two so it can become stale and withstand the custard without becoming too soggy.

Savory Focaccia Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

10 cups cubed focaccia*

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 8oz. packages sliced baby portabella mushrooms

1 large onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

4 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

3 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

8 large eggs

1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Salt

Pepper

 

*Can use a different type of bread. Just make sure it’s stale or if using fresh bread, cube and then toast in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350 F.

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9×13–inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Place cubed focaccia in a large bowl.

In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat-high heat. Add the mushrooms, chopped onions, chopped green pepper and sliced celery along with the chopped thyme and minced garlic to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are soft and most of the juices have evaporated, about 15 minutes.

Add the cooked vegetables and chopped parsley to the cubed focaccia. Give it a few good stirs and then let the vegetables cool for about 10 minutes.

While the vegetables cool make the custard. In a large bowl whisk together the heavy cream and the eggs. Season with salt and pepper.

Once the vegetables have cooled, add the custard to the bowl with the cubed focaccia and vegetables. Give it a few good stirs and then transfer to the prepared baking dish. Top with the shredded parmesan cheese.

Let the bread pudding sit for 15 minutes and then bake in the preheated oven uncovered for 50-60 minutes, until set and the top is golden. Let sit for 20 minutes before slicing.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Modified from Epicurious

Small Batch Bread Pudding

This week I am bringing you two different types of bread puddings. A traditional sweet small batch today and a savory one later this week. Both of these came about due to leftover bread after ordering Italian food.

Truthfully, I made this small batch bread pudding twice. The first batch with half of a rustic loaf and then to tweak the recipe I used regular sliced white bread.

First, I sliced the bread into cubes. Now, bread pudding is best made with thick crusty bread to absorb the custard, when I used the rustic bread that was the perfect consistency. With the sliced white bread, it was a few days past its expiration date, and I had it in the refrigerator, so it was kind of stale already. It wouldn’t have hurt to toast it in the oven for a few minutes before using it though.

Next I divided the bread among three ramekins that I lightly greased with butter and placed on a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl I whisked together the contents for the custard – eggs, milk, heavy whipping cream, sugar, light brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla extract – and then transferred it to a large measuring cup to make it easy to pour and divide among the ramekins. I let them sit for about 10 minutes so the bread could soak in the custard.

I then baked them in a 350 F preheated oven for about 45 minutes. I knew they were ready when they had puffed up, were golden brown on top and most importantly a cake tester inserted in the middle came out clean. And while the custard did overflow a bit and they were a bit humongous on top they did “deflate” as they cooled. Most importantly though they were delicious.

Here’s a pic of the one’s I made with the rustic bread deflated and cooled.

Later this week, a savory bread pudding made with focaccia. YUM!

 

Small Batch Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

3 cups cubed bread

2 eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon group nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter three 8oz. ramekins and place on a baking sheet.

Divide the bread among the buttered ramekins.

Whisk the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Transfer to a measuring cup and divide the mixture among the ramekins. Let sit for 10-15 minutes so the bread can soak in the liquid.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let the bread pudding cool on the baking sheet. While cooling the bread pudding will deflate after rising considerably during baking.

Enjoy once cool or refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Mousse Pie

It’s Pi Day! A day not only to celebrate the irrational number pi – 3.14 – but also a great excuse to enjoy a slice of pie or a slice from a pizza pie! Truthfully, it’s never crossed my mind to make pizza to celebrate the day. Maybe I should do that next year. For this year though I am bringing you a pie that is probably among the top 5 pies I have ever made. If you didn’t know, I am not a big pie eater. I love dessert, but I am not partial to desserts that are overly sweet or over the top (like those crazy milk shakes that were all the rage a few years ago) and unfortunately, I find a lot of pies to be extremely sweet. But this one I am bringing you today is just the right amount of sweetness and pairs two things that always go well together… peanut butter and chocolate. It’s a Peanut Butter & Chocolate Mousse Pie.

To begin I made the crust for the pie. In my food processor I pulsed 12 graham crackers into crumbs and then added in sugar and melted butter and pulsed everything together a few more times. I then transferred the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and pressed it into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. I used the bottom of a glass to get the crumbs spread out evenly and the sides of the glass to press them evenly along the sides. I placed the pan on a baking sheet and then baked the crust in a 350 F preheated oven for 10 minutes. I then let it cool on a wire rack while I worked on the chocolate mousse.

To make the chocolate mousse I combined semi-sweet & bittersweet chocolate chips along with vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and instant espresso coffee in a small bowl. I boiled heavy whipping cream in a small saucepan and then poured it over the chocolate chip mixture and stirred everything together to melt the chocolate chips. I continued stirring until the mixture was smooth and then let it cool to room temperature stirring it occasionally, about 10 to 15 minutes. In a medium bowl I whipped additional heavy whipping cream along with confectioners’ sugar until it was stiff.

I then gently folded the cooled melted chocolate into the heavy whipped cream. I continued folding the two together until they were well incorporated and no streaks of either the whipped cream or melted chocolate remained. I made sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl as I folded.

I then spread the chocolate mousse into the cooled graham cracker crust and refrigerated it while I made the peanut butter mousse.

To make the peanut butter mousse I beat heavy whipping cream in a medium bowl until stiff peaks formed and I set it aside. In another medium bowl I beat together cream cheese, creamy peanut butter, vanilla extract, confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth.

Then, I folded the two together just as I did the chocolate mousse, until no streaks of the peanut butter mixture or whipped cream remained, and once again I made sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl as I folded.

I then spread the peanut butter mousse over the chocolate mousse…

And placed the pie in the refrigerator overnight so both mousses could set.

Now, you could enjoy the pie as is, but I decided to spruce it up a little. I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips and creamy peanut butter in the microwave and put each in a piping bag, snipped off the end and drizzled each on top of the pie. I then made whipped cream and piped dollops of it around the pie using a Wilton 1M tip and finally I quartered 3 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and placed them on top of the whipped cream. By the way, I had no clue that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups had gotten so small. The packaging is still the same size, but I am sure the candy itself has shrunk a little since I was a kid.

I kept the pie refrigerated until about 15 minutes before slicing and stored the leftovers in the refrigerator. This pie is delicious. It’s the perfect amount of each the peanut butter mousse and the chocolate mousse. Both complement each other very well, as peanut butter and chocolate always do, and neither mousse overpowers the other.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Mousse Pie

Ingredients:

For the Graham Cracker Crust:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

 

For the Chocolate Mousse:

3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon instant espresso coffee*

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

 

For the Peanut Butter Mousse:

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 of an 8oz. block)

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon milk

 

To Decorate:

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

 

*It’s not necessary to use the instant espresso. I had it on hand and coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate.

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

For the graham cracker crust: Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a medium bowl and then press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack until ready to use.

For the chocolate mousse: Combine the semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate chips, vanilla extract, salt and instant espresso in a heatproof bowl. Stir together and set aside. In a small saucepan boil 1/2 cup of the heavy whipping cream. Pour over the chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate chips have melted and the mixture is smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Beat remaining 1 cup of heavy whipping cream along with the confectioners’ sugar until stiff and then fold into chocolate. Spread the chocolate mousse into the bottom of the graham cracker crust and refrigerate while making the peanut butter mousse.

For the peanut butter mousse: In a medium bowl beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside. In another medium bowl beat the cream cheese, peanut butter and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar and then the milk, beating until the mixture is smooth and everything is combined. Fold in the whipped cream. Spread the peanut butter mousse over the chilled chocolate mousse in the crust.

Refrigerate the pie at least 6 hours or overnight before decorating or serving.

To decorate the pie: In a microwave safe bowl melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave in 20-second intervals, stirring between each interval. Once melted transfer to a piping bag and snip the end (or a resealable bag and snip off a corner) and drizzle over the pie.

In another microwave safe bowl melt the peanut butter in the microwave 20-second intervals, stirring between each, until the peanut butter is a pourable consistency. Transfer to a piping bag and snip the end (or a resealable bag and snip off a corner) and drizzle over the pie.

In a medium bowl beat the heavy whipping cream and confectioners’ sugar together until it’s stiff. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large star or round piping tip and pipe dollops of whipped cream around the pie.

Slice and enjoy!

Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Mousse modified from Epicurious

Peanut Butter Mousse modified from Wishes and Dishes

Vanilla Chai Baked Donuts

Donuts are one of those treats that are perfect anytime of the day. They are go-to for many as a quick breakfast, but they are just as good as a midday snack or an after-dinner dessert. Now, I am not a coffee drinker at all. The closest I come is a Frappucino from Starbucks, but let’s face it, that’s more sugar than coffee. LOL! I am a tea drinker though, and one of my favorite teas is Chai tea. So, when I saw this recipe for Vanilla Chai Baked Donuts, I knew I had to try it and I wasn’t disappointed.

What is great about this recipe is that it doesn’t require you to use a hand mixer or stand mixer. You mix the wet ingredients together in one bowl and the dry in another and then combine the two. Next, you transfer the batter to a piping bag (or resealable bag) and fill your donut pan.

After baking them for about 10 minutes, let them cool in the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  And once they are cool enough to handle, brush melted butter on both sides and then dredge them in a chai sugar topping.

Final result… A donut that had a nice vanilla flavor with a coating of warm spices that made it extra delicious.

 

Vanilla Chai Baked Donuts

Ingredients:

For the Donuts:

1/2 cup milk*

2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

 

For the Chai Sugar Topping:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon allspice

Pinch of black pepper

 

*I used whole milk

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a donut pan with baking spray and set aside. *

In a medium bowl whisk together the milk, butter, sugar, egg, sour cream and vanilla extract until well combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk together until just combined.

To make filling the donut pan easy, transfer the batter to either a piping bag or a large Ziplock bag and fill the cavities of the donut pan halfway.

Bake for 9 – 10 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. To test for doneness, when you poke the donut it should bounce back. Cool the donuts for 2 minutes in the pan and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool. If you don’t have a second donut pan, wipe the pan out and re-spray and fill with the remaining batter.

In a medium bowl combine the ingredients for the sugar coating, except the melted butter. Place the wire rack the donuts are on over a large baking sheet or a piece of wax paper. While the donuts are still warm, but, cool enough to handle, brush both sides with the melted butter and then toss in the chai-spice sugar.

*If you have 2 donut pans, prepare both of them.

Recipe from Mike Bakes NYC

Hot Cocoa Bombs

Hot Cocoa Bombs became all the rage this winter. They were the perfect homemade gift to give anyone on your Christmas list. And while the holidays may be long over that doesn’t mean that drinking a nice mug of hot chocolate is. And truthfully since the rage has died down a bit it might be easier to get the molds needed to make these. I tried ordering them in early December and it was as if the internet was laughing at me because they weren’t in stock anywhere I checked. I was finally able to order them in early January. These are the ones I ended up getting.

 

Using one 12oz bag of Sweet Tooth Fairy Meltables  I was able to make 6 cocoa bombs.  I melted the chocolate in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring between each until the chocolate was melted and smooth.

Once the chocolate was melted, I scooped some of it into each crevice of the molds and using the back of a small spoon I spread the chocolate around as evenly as possible. This probably would have been easier with a brush, but I made it work. Once the crevices were coated well I placed the molds in the freezer for about 5 minutes so the chocolate could set. I then added more melted chocolate and spread it around again to ensure that the shells would be strong. After freezing them for an additional 5 minutes it was time to unmold and start filling them.

To make filling them easy I placed half of the shells into cupcake liners. This helped to keep the shells from rocking and also was an easier way to handle the cocoa bombs once assembled. Now, you could make your own hot chocolate mix, but I decided to go the easy route and used Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate mix. I filled each half shell with a tablespoon of the mix and a tablespoon of mini marshmallows. For two of them I also added in crushed peppermint candy and for two other ones I added in a soft caramel I cut in half along with salt. I used Werther’s Original Soft Carmel. I placed it in the refrigerator for a few minutes before cutting in half. As for the salt, I used a salt grinder and added in a few grinds of it. I would say it was about 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

When it came time to top the bottom shell with the top shell, I tried two different ways to adhere them. The first way, I heated a frying pan over low heat and placed the empty shell on the pan for a second or two to melt the chocolate and then placed it on the filled bottom shell. This method did not work for me at all. The two shells did not stick together. Instead, using some of the leftover melted chocolate I had I dipped the empty shell in it and then placed it on the filled bottom shell and it stuck together perfectly.

Once the cocoa bombs were assembled it was time to decorate the outside. I transferred the leftover melted chocolate to a piping bag and snipped off a small piece of the end. I drizzled the chocolate over the assembled cocoa bombs and for the hot chocolate ones I placed marshmallows on top, for the peppermint hot chocolate ones I arranged marshmallows and crushed peppermint candies and finally for the salted caramel hot chocolate ones I placed a few pieces of caramel and marshmallows along with salt. I topped each of them with a little more chocolate drizzle after placing the toppings to hold it all in place.

And then it was time to try one. I placed one in a mug…

Heated milk until it was steaming and then poured it over the cocoa bomb.

In no time the chocolate shell melted, and the mini marshmallows rose to the top. I gave it a few good stirs to make sure the chocolate and caramel candy had melted. And it was delish! While you may be tempted to add more hot chocolate mix to each of the cocoa bombs a tablespoon is more than enough. Remember, that chocolate shell will melt and will add to the chocolatey flavor of your drink.

 

Hot Cocoa Bombs

Ingredients:

12oz. Chocolate Melts

6 Tablespoons Hot Chocolate Mix

3/4 cup mini marshmallows

 

For Peppermint Hot Chocolate:

Crushed peppermint starlight mints

 

For Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

Soft Caramels

Sea Salt

 

Directions:

Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Using a brush or small spoon spread a few tablespoons of the melted chocolate in the crevices of the silicone mold. Freeze the molds for 5 minutes so the chocolate can set. Once set, add more melted chocolate and spread evenly again and freeze again for an additional 5 minutes.

Once the chocolate shells are set unmold them and place half of them in cupcake liners.

Fill the shells in the liners with a tablespoon each of the hot chocolate mix and mini marshmallows.

If making flavored ones: For the peppermint hot chocolate, add in a crushed peppermint starlight mint along with the hot chocolate mix and marshmallows. For the salted caramel, add in a soft caramel cut in half and a 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt along with the hot chocolate mix and marshmallows.

Dip the other half of the shells in the leftover melted chocolate and place on top of the filled shells.

Transfer the leftover melted chocolate to a piping bag and cut a small piece of the end off and drizzle the top of the cocoa bombs with the chocolate and place a few marshmallows on top. For the peppermint hot chocolate also add some crushed peppermint candy and for the salted caramel, a caramel candy cut in half and salt. And top it all with more drizzled chocolate.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.

To make, place the cocoa bomb in a mug and top with hot milk. Stir a few times and enjoy!

Baked Feta Pasta

Thanks to TikTok there are so many viral food trends / hacks / challenges that have gone viral. While I may not have the app myself that doesn’t mean I am immune to them. There are some I am willing to try and others that are a quick no.  I did try Dalgona Chocolate and while it was good, I have not made in since. As I mentioned in that blog post, I don’t see it worth the extra time. And while I may like pickles, I will pass on Pickle Juice Salad Dressing. I did recently make my own Hot Cocoa Bombs and those were a delicious success that I will definitely be making again. A post will be coming soon. Another success, one of the latest trends, Baked Feta Pasta.

This is probably one of the simplest things I have ever made. After preheating my oven to 400 F. I combined two pints of grape tomatoes, a quartered shallot and olive oil in a 9×13-inch baking dish. I seasoned everything with salt and red pepper flakes and then tossed it all together. I placed an 8oz block of feta cheese in the center and then drizzled the top of the feta with olive oil and placed a few sprigs of thyme over the tomatoes. I baked this in the oven for about 40 minutes. While the feta was in the oven, I cooked a box of pasta per the box directions, reserving a 1/2 cup of the water. I would avoid using spaghetti or angel hair pasta. I opted to use Rotini.

Once the feta began to melt and the tomatoes were bursting, I knew it was ready.

I removed it from the oven and added my cooked pasta along with the reserved pasta water and used tongs to toss everything together. And that was it! Dinner was ready in less than an hour and didn’t require much effort on my part. And yes, in case you are wondering, this did reheat well.

While I kept mine simple, you can add in spinach, garlic, basil and so forth to add in some extra flavor. One thing I will do different next time, add in more shallots. They have a nice sweetness when baked in the oven.

 

Baked Feta Pasta

Ingredients:

2 pints grape tomatoes

1 shallot, quartered

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

Kosher salt

Crushed red pepper flakes

1 8oz. block feta cheese

3 sprigs thyme

10z. pasta

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. In 9×13-inch baking dish combine the grape tomatoes, shallot and most of the olive oil (reserve 3 tablespoons to drizzle over the feta). Season with salt and red pepper flakes and toss to combine.

Place the feta in the center of the tomato mixture and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Place the thyme sprigs over the tomatoes and bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the tomatoes are bursting and the feta cheese is golden on top.

While the feta is in the oven, bring a large pot of water to boil, season with salt and cook pasta per the box directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining.

Add the cooked pasta and reserved pasta water to the dish with the tomatoes and feta and toss to combine.

Recipe from Delish

Chocolate Comfort Cake

Similar to the Rum Cake I posted last month, this Chocolate Comfort Cake was made by doctoring a box cake mix. While some frown upon using a box cake mix there are some advantages to doing so, especially when you are doctoring them. They can save you time and by having all of the dry ingredients pre-measured and combined it can ensure a foolproof cake.

So, how can you doctor a cake mix? Add an extra egg for a cake that is richer. Swap out the water with milk or buttermilk, or with coffee for a chocolate cake. Add in cream of coconut or orange zest to a white cake, or a flavored extract. All of these will alter the flavor and texture of the cake to make it more homemade.

Using a dark chocolate cake mix I added in sour cream, freshly brewed coffee and a package of chocolate pudding mix to spruce it up.

Once the batter was prepped I poured it into a Bundt pan I sprayed with baking spray.

And after baking for about 55 minutes it was ready. I was concerned that the batter would overflow while baking but thankfully it didn’t.

After letting it cool in the pan for a few minutes I inverted it onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled it was time to enjoy a slice and this is definitely a comfort cake. Thanks to the add-ins it didn’t taste like a box cake at all.

 

Chocolate Comfort Cake

Ingredients:

1 package Dark Chocolate cake mix

1 small package of chocolate pudding mix

4 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

3/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup brewed coffee

1/2 cup sugar

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a Bundt pan with baking spray (or grease with butter and lightly coat with cocoa powder) and set aside.

In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients and beat with a hand mixer on low speed for 30 seconds and then on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack completely.

Recipe from Taste of Home