Banana & Chocolate Cupcakes

Normally when I have a few over-ripe bananas I tend to make Banana Nut Bread, but, recently when I had a few bananas that were past their prime for eating in my opinion I decided to make some cupcakes with them instead. Following the recipe Gina’s Banana Cupcakes from the Food Network’s website I made some really moist and delicious cupcakes that weren’t overpowering with the flavor of banana.

I started off by mashing two very ripe bananas.

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I then combined my dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) and set it aside.

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To begin making the batter I creamed together butter and sugar.

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I then added in sour cream and vanilla.

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And then two eggs, which I added in one at a time.

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At this point I added in the dry ingredients to the wet mixture.

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After mixing it well it was time to finally add in the bananas.

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Once the entire banana was incorporated into the mixture I used an ice cream scoop to fill my prepared cupcake pan.

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The batter was the perfect amount for twelve cupcakes!

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After baking for 18 minutes in a 350 degrees preheated oven they were done and smelled incredible.

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I let them cool for a bit before frosting and since I was running a bit short on time I decided to take a short cut and use store bought chocolate frosting.

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Once they were cooled I frosted them using a piping bag attached with Wilton’s 1M tip to create the 1M Swirl.

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Overall… the cupcakes were absolutely delish!

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Gina’s Banana Cupcakes*

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick (4 ounces) butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the butter and granulated sugar. Beat with a handheld mixer until combined. Add the sour cream and vanilla. Slowly beat in the eggs, one a time. Incorporate the dry mixture and wet mixture together until thoroughly combined. Add the bananas, being careful not to over mix.

Using an ice cream scoop, fill each cupcake liner three-quarters of the way full. Bake in the oven until the tops turn golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the oven to a wire rack and let cool before frosting.

*The original recipe included 3/4 cup walnuts from the batter which I omitted and was paired with a molasses frosting which I opted to replace with a chocolate frosting.

Shortcut Cupcakes

There’s nothing like baked treats made from scratch, but taking a shortcut can create something just as delicious – as was the case when I recently made Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes and Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes. The shortcut for these cupcakes came in the form of using packaged cupcake mix. I came across these Betty Crocker Cupcake mixes that are perfectly proportioned for 12 cupcakes.

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I got the idea for the Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes from a fellow bloggers website – Eat My Shortbread – and while she made hers from scratch I mixed in about 1/2 cup of sour cream to the batter of the yellow cupcake mix. Once I had my batter divided up among my twelve-cup muffin tin I swirled in a mixture of  cinnamon, brown sugar and melted butter. After baking for 15 minutes this was the final product.

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For the frosting, I made a Cream Cheese frosting and piped in on to each of the cupcakes and then sprinkled them with cinnamon.

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I usually make Strawberry Shortcake as a whole cake but decided to try out my method of making the cake on a smaller scale… i.e. cupcakes. To start I followed the directions to make the cupcakes on the white cupcake package. I then used a cupcake corer to make a hole in each of the cupcakes to fill them.

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For the filling I made fresh whipped cream and folded in chopped strawberries.

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I then filled each of the cupcakes. I actually made too much of the filling but it definitely didn’t go to waste… It was a nice afternoon snack.

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For the frosting I whipped up another batch of whipped cream and piped it on to each of the cupcakes.

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Overall the cupcakes were a hit, especially the Cinnamon Roll ones.

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Cream Cheese Frosting

2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1 stick unsealed butter

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar.

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream, cold

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Chill a large bowl (stainless steel or glass) and a whisk or mixer beaters for 30 minutes. Combine the heavy cream and sugar in the bowl and whisk or beat at medium speed until cream holds soft peaks. Yields approximately 2 cups.

Marbled Nutella Banana Bread

A few months ago I came across a recipe for a Marbled Nutella Banana Bread on a fellow bloggers’, My Ninja Naan, blog  and I have wanted to make it ever since. I was all set to make it last weekend but then my dad ate one of my perfectly ripened bananas. It was probably for the best though, the bananas were practically over-ripened in my book so I am sure the taste of the bread would have been overpowered by the banana taste and the Nutella flavor would have gotten lost in it. While I am a fan of bananas I prefer to eat mine when they are pale yellow without any spots – when most people would say they are not ready to be eaten – so they won’t have the overpowering banana taste I am not fond of. So, I bought three bananas that were on the verge of turning a darker shade of yellow and let them sit for a week to ripen up a bit to make the bread.

I started off by sifting together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. While I do have a traditional sifter, I prefer to use a sieve to sift my dry ingredients as it’s much quicker and I find that it does the job just as well.

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I set the dry ingredients aside and I began to mix together the wet ingredients. First up, I mashed three ripe bananas.

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Next, I added in the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract and used my hand mixer to combine them all.

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I then mixed in two eggs.

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And finally I added in the flour mixture.

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Once the batter was well combined I divided it into two bowls and added the Nutella to one of them.

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To get the marbled effect I alternately spooned the banana and the Nutella-banana batters into my prepared 9-inch loaf pan (I just sprayed it with baking spray) and then swirled it with a knife.

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After baking for an hour in a 350 degrees F preheated oven the bread was done.

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I let it cool for a bit and then sliced a few slices to see the marble effect and of course to try it and it was delish!

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Marbled Nutella Banana Bread

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (3 bananas)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1/2 cup Nutella

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift the together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together banana, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy and well combined – about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs until well combined – about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture until just combined.

Divide 1/2 of the batter into a medium bowl; stir in Nutella until combined.

Alternate spoonfuls of batter into loaf pan until all of the batter is used up. Swirl batter gently with a knife (not too much!).

Bake 1 hour or until well risen, deep golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into bread comes out with moist crumbs attached.

Makes 1 loaf.

Cinco De Mayo Treats

Happy Cinco De Mayo! In honor of the day I decided to make a Sopapilla Cheesecake and Mexican Wedding Cookies. While it probably would have been more traditional to make Churros or a Tres Leches Cake… I attempted to make Churros in the past and the end result wasn’t all that great and while I have wanted to make a Tres Leches Cake for quite some time, I was already planning on making a Strawberry Shortcake for my dad’s birthday this weekend so I figured one cake per weekend is more than enough. When Sopapilla is made as a dessert it is essentially fried dough with something sweet drizzled on it – a fruit sauce, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar or honey. I tend to shy away from anything that needs to be fried due to past experiences (i.e. the Churros) so when I came across a cheesecake version I was excited to try it, especially since it sounded super easy and only required six simple ingredients. I actually remember eating something similar to Sopapillas when I was younger – Domplines – which I usually ate with beans. As for the Mexican Wedding Cookies, they are actually known by quite a few different names… Russian Tea Cakes, Italian Wedding Cookies, Butterballs or as they are commonly known as in Spanish Polvorones. Stemming from the Spanish word polvo – meaning powder or dust.

First up were the Mexican Wedding Cookies. I assembled all of my ingredients before I got started: butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, flour and pecans.

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I started by creaming the butter and sugar together and then adding in the vanilla extract.

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I then added in the flour so the dough for the cookies could really come together.

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Although I did buy chopped pecans I decided to chop them up a little more to make them a more appropriate size for these bite-sized cookies.

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To add in the pecans I folded them in as opposed to mixing them in with the mixer. Now it was time to form the cookies. While these cookies are usually crescent shaped I opted to just form them into small rounds and popped them in a 275 degree F oven for 40 minutes.

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Fresh out of the oven. I must say they didn’t look that much different cooked from when they were raw.

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After letting them cool for a few minutes it was time to cover them in confectioners’ sugar.

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Once I was done with the cookies it was time to start on the Sopapilla Cheesecake. This by far was one of the simplest things I have ever made. It definitely helped that I didn’t make the dough from scratch but used crescent rolls and the filling was simply made with sugar, cream cheese and vanilla extract.

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I started off by spraying a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray and pressing one of the two crescent rolls into it. It was quite comical trying to open the crescent rolls. I have never had a hard time unwrapping them but for some reason both of these packages didn’t want to pop open when I unwrapped them. With one of them I had to actually release the pressure in it by making punctures in it with a knife and then the second one just popped open as I was doing something else.

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To make the filling I mixed the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract until it was smooth.

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I then spread the filling over the bottom crescent roll and pressed the second crescent roll over it. Now it was time to add the topping.

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I brushed the top with melted butter and sprinkled the cinnamon sugar evenly over it. I must say that while the recipe called for 1/2 cup of sugar that was too much for my taste and probably only used about 1/4 cup.

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After baking for 30 minutes in a 350 degrees F oven it was time for it to come out of the oven and it looked and smelled DELISH!

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Final verdict… The cookies and cheesecake were declared to be “moreish” by my friends… Definitely a good thing to hear!

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Mexican Wedding Cookies

Courtesy Paula Deen

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for coating baked cookies

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting hands

1 cup pecans, chopped into very small pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at low speed until its smooth. Beat in the vanilla. At low speed gradually add the flour. Mix in the pecans with a spatula. With floured hands, take out about 1 tablespoon of dough and shape into a crescent. Continue to dust hands with flour as you make more cookies. Place onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in additional confectioners’ sugar. Cool on wire racks.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

Courtesy Allrecipes

Ingredients

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 (8 ounce) packaged refrigerated crescent rolls

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon ground sugar

Directions

1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Prepare a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray

2. Beat the cream cheese with 1 cup of sugar and the vanilla extract in a bowl until smooth; set aside

3. Unroll the cans of crescent roll dough, and use a rolling pin to shape each sheet into 9×13 rectangles. Press one sheet into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Evenly spread the cream cheese mixture into the baking dish, then cover with the remaining piece of crescent dough, and brush with melted butter. Stir together 1/2 cup of sugar with the cinnamon in a small bowl, and sprinkle evenly over the top of the cheesecake.

4. Bake in the preheated oven until the crescent dough has puffed and turned golden brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I bought a bag of sweetened shredded coconut a while back and kept changing my mind as to what I wanted to make with it. Initially I bought it to make Coconut Macaroons for Easter, but, after making a Carrot Cake I opted not to make them. I then came across a recipe for Coconut Almond Macaroons that sounded yummy, but, I soon changed my mind on making them. And then I saw a recipe for an Apricot Coconut Cake that sounded amazing, but, while flipping through my recipe binder I discovered a Coconut Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing recipe that I had ripped out from the September 2012 issue of Food Network Magazine and I immediately settled on what I wanted to use that bag of shredded coconut for.

To begin I assembled all of my ingredients for the cupcakes together: butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt & buttermilk.

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And you can’t have Coconut Cupcakes without the coconut…

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While the recipe calls for sifting the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt – together after creaming the sugar and butter together, I opted to do this first this way it didn’t interrupt the flow of making my batter.

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I then creamed together the butter and sugar until the mixture was light and fluffy – per the directions.

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While the butter and sugar were mixing I got my eggs ready. I used to just crack my eggs right into my batter, but, after having to fish out egg shells once or twice I decided cracking them into a separate bowl is a better idea and it also makes the process of adding them to the batter a lot quicker.

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After adding in the eggs and the vanilla & almond extracts the batter was now ready to come together with the addition of the flour mixture and the buttermilk. I added them by alternating between the two – beginning and ending with the addition of the flour mixture.

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And then it was time to fold in the coconut. The recipe only called for half of the 14 ounce bag which was approximately 1 cup.

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Then the fun part… Scooping the batter into the paper lined muffin tin. The recipe called for filling the liners to the top with the batter – this is the one thing I would do differently next time I make these. By filling them so much the tops of the cupcakes were enormous.

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After baking for about 30 minutes there were ready to come out of the oven. Ultimately I ended up with 23 cupcakes.

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Once they cooled it was time to make the frosting.

I started off by blending together butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract and almond extract.

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While the recipe called for 1 1/2 pounds of sifted confectioners’ sugar I decided to only use 1 pound this way it wouldn’t be too sweet. I tried to take a shortcut and sift the powder right into my mixing bowl – definitely won’t do that again. I ended up with sugar all over my counter.

After mixing for a few minutes the frosting was nice and smooth and ready to be spread onto the cupcakes.

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Once I frosted the cupcakes I sprinkled each of them with a little shredded coconut. These cupcakes were amazing! Definitely a recipe I will be making again. And since I still have about half a bag left of the shredded coconut I am sure I’ll be making one of those other recipes I mentioned earlier soon.

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Coconut Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting

Food Network Magazine September 2012

Makes 18 to 20 Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:

3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 1/2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer running on low, add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In three parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces coconut.

4. Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each cup to the top with batter. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

5. Make the cream cheese icing: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment blend together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.

6. Frost the cupcakes with the cream cheese icing and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

Keep The Bunnies Away Carrot Cake

I was never a big fan of Carrot cake. While I pretty much like any vegetable – including Brussels sprouts – the idea of a vegetable in a cake didn’t sound all that appealing when I was growing up. But then, at my first job after college whenever a coworkers birthday rolled around we would usually get a carrot cake from a place a few blocks away and my love of a vegetable in a cake was born. I soon found out though that not all carrot cake is the same. I have had my share of bad ones which usually entailed them being too dry or instead of being frosted with cream cheese frosting they are frosted with buttercream frosting. In my opinion, cream cheese frosting is the only way to go… The same goes for Red Velvet Cake. I’ve been making this Carrot Cake for a while now after finding the recipe on the Food Network website, it’s called Gigi’s Carrot Cake from Emeril Lagasse and I love it. It’s been a while since I’ve made one and being that it is Easter weekend I decided it was time to whip up another one.

To start I peeled and grated my carrots. The very first time I made this cake I didn’t have a food processor so I grated the carrots by hand and while it was a nice arm workout I am definitely spoiled now and won’t be going back to using a box grater anytime soon.

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I only needed 3 cups of grated carrots for the recipe, which is approximately 1 pound of carrots, but I mistakenly bought a 2 pound bag instead. I ended up grating all of carrots since I had a yummy recipe for grated carrots in my recipe binder.

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I started working on the batter by first combining the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt) and then set it aside.

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I creamed 3 sticks of butter and then added in 2 cups of granulated sugar.

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Once the butter and sugar were combined I added in the dry ingredients by alternating between the 4 eggs the recipe calls for.

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I then added in some vanilla extract.

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And it wouldn’t be carrot cake without the carrots.

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Finally, I added in the nuts. While the recipe calls for pecans I have always used walnuts. And I actually didn’t mix in the walnuts with the mixer but instead folded them in by hand with a spatula.

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And here’s what my batter ultimately looked like.

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I then divided the batter between my three prepared 9-inch pans.

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After baking for 25 minutes and cooling in the pans for 10 minutes I removed the cakes from the pans so they could cool completely.

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Once the cake was completely cooled it was time to frost it. To make the cream cheese frosting I creamed the cream cheese and butter together first and then mixed in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract. I actually made two batches of the frosting. With the first batch I frosted between each of the layers and did a crumb coating and with the second batch I fully frosted the outside of the cake.

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After decorating it with a few fondant/gum paste flowers I had made and writing on it this was the final product. I can’t wait to cut into it!

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Oh, and those left-over grated carrots I had I used them to make a Carrot Raisin Salad.

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Gigi’s Carrot Cake

Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2002

Ingredients
3 sticks, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped toasted pecans

Pecan Cream Cheese Icing:
8 ounces cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter
1 (1-pound) box confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped toasted pecans

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter 3 (9-inch) cake pans with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add the sugar, and beat. In a medium bowl or on a piece of parchment, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the eggs, beating well after the addition of each. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Add the carrots and beat on medium speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Fold in the nuts. Divide between the 3 cake pans and bake until set and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest in the cake pans for 10 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, remove from the pans, and let cool.

For the Frosting: In a large bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar gradually, beating constantly. Add the vanilla and pecans.

When the cake is cool, place 1 cake layer on a cake plate or stand. Spread the top with cream cheese frosting and top with a second and third cake layer, spreading the icing between each layer. Spread the icing around the sides of the cake and let harden slightly before serving. To serve, cut into wedges.

Carrot Raisin Salad

Ingredients
1 lb. carrots, peeled & grated
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons honey
Juice from 1 lemon

Directions
Pour boiling water over raisins for five minutes and then drain to plump them up. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix together and then chill for a few hours before serving.

Ricotta Cheesecake With Almonds

Cheesecakes are the one thing that I never seem to get right. Granted, I have never attempted to make a basic cheesecake I usually go with flavorful ones like pumpkin cheesecake, tiramisu cheesecake, and so forth. When I come to think of it though the pumpkin cheesecake I made wasn’t that bad it was just really dense. I decided to give it another go when I came across a cheesecake recipe in the March 2013 issue of Food Network Magazine – appropriately coined The Cheese Issue – called Ricotta Cheesecake with Almonds. I usually love anything made with almonds so I knew this would be a hit for me.

To begin, I toasted sliced almonds – 1/4 cup for the crust and another 1/3 cup for the topping – in a 350 degrees preheated oven for 5 minutes. I used to skip over toasting nuts whenever I saw it in a recipe but have to come to realize that toasting them definitely enhances their flavor.

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Once the almonds were cool I made the crust for the cheesecake. I combined the almonds, almond biscotti and granulated sugar in my food processor and pulsed the mixture until it was finely ground.

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I then added melted butter and pulsed for a few more seconds so the mixture could come together. Once it did I pressed it into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan and baked it in the oven for a little over 10 minutes so it could set.

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While the crust was in the oven I did some prep work for the filing. I separated three eggs and used a Microplane to zest an orange. After I removed the crust from the oven I let it cool on a wire rack and lowered the oven temperature to 300 degrees in preparation for baking the cheesecake.

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To make the filling I started by beating the eggs yolks and sugar on high speed for about two minutes until the mixture was a pale yellow.

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I then added in ricotta cheese and beat this for another two minutes until it was smooth.

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And finally I added in almond & vanilla extract, amaretto liqueur and the orange zest.

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I put that part of the filling aside and beat the egg whites with sugar until soft peaks formed.

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To combine the two mixtures I began by folding in 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the ricotta mixture. I then folded in the rest until the two were just combined.

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After all the pulsing, mixing and baking I finally had my crust and filling ready.

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I poured the filling into the crust and baked it for 1 hour 10 minutes. I opted to reduce the baking time by 10 minutes from the directions since the cheesecake looked done according to them – slightly puffed and lightly golden on top.

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I let the cheesecake cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack and then removed the springform ring after running a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it. Once the cheesecake was completely cooled I added the topping. I sprinkled cinnamon and confectioners’ sugar over the cheesecake, then spread out the 1/3 cup of almonds on top of it and then sprinkled more cinnamon and confectioners’ sugar over the almonds.

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This was a cheesecake success! I will say though that while the recipe name made it seem like almonds would be the dominant flavor that was only the case with the crust, the cheesecake itself really took on the flavor of the orange zest even though there was amaretto and almond extract in it. Either was it was delicious!

Ricotta Cheesecake with Almonds

Courtesy Food Network Magazine

Prep Time: 40 Minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Servings: 8

Ingredients

For the crust:

1/4 cup sliced almonds

5 ounces almond biscotti*

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling and topping:

3 large eggs, at room temperature, separated

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 pound fresh ricotta (about 2 cups)

1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Grated zest of 1 orange

1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup sliced almonds, for topping

Directions

Make the crust: Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds for both the crust and topping (1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup) on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

Crumble the biscotti into a food processor; add 1/4 cup toasted almonds and the granulated sugar and pulse until finely ground. Add the butter and pulse to combine. Press the mixture into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan. Bake until set, about 12 minutes, then transfer to a rack and let cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Beat the egg yolks and 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on high speed until pale, about 2 minutes. Add the ricotta and beat until smooth, about 2 more minutes. Beat in the amaretto, vanilla and almond extracts, and orange zest.

Put the egg whites and the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in a separate bowl and beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form (do not overbeat). Using a rubber spatula, fold about one-third of the beaten egg whites into the ricotta mixture, then gently fold in the rest until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared crust. Bake until slightly puffed and lightly golden on top, about 1 hour, 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool, 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, then remove the springform ring and let cool completely.

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon in a fine-mesh sieve and dust over the cheesecake. Scatter the remaining 1/3 cup toasted almonds on top and dust again. Serve at room temperature.

*5 ounces of biscotti is equivalent to about 8 pieces. I actually used Stella D’oro Almond Biscotti which conveniently came in a 5.5 ounce package.

Sour Cream – Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

This past week I went to dinner at a friend’s house and offered to bring dessert. I decided to bring a pound cake of some sort and remembered that I had a cookbook with different variations of the traditional pound cake. I tend to get cookbooks, mark off a few recipes that I like but then seem to never make them. Cookbooks are not my first go-to when I want to make something new and different. I got this recipe from Elizabeth Alston’s Best Baking cookbook which offers numerous recipes for pound cakes, angel food cakes, chiffon cakes, coffee cakes and tea breads.

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To start off here are the ingredients: sugar, cinnamon, unsalted butter, vanilla extract, eggs, sour cream, baking powder, baking soda, salt, flour and semi-sweet chocolate-chips.
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I began by preheating my oven to 325 degrees and prepping my loaf pan by spraying it with baking spray, lining it with aluminum foil so that it would hang over the sides for easy removal of the cake and then spraying the foil with more baking spray. I also made the topping of the cake by mixing 2 tbsp. of the sugar with 1/4 tsp. of the cinnamon. I set these two things aside then and got to making the cake.
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I started making the batter by mixing together the butter, which should be at room temperature but I took a short-cut on this and warmed it up in the microwave for about 15 – 20 seconds, and the sugar. Unfortunately I wasn’t at home while making this cake so I didn’t have the advantage of using my stand mixer but my hand mixer works just as well with double, or maybe triple, the time. I mixed the butter and sugar until the mixture was pale and fluffy, per the directions.
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Next I beat in the four eggs one at a time.
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Following that I added in the sour cream, baking powder, baking soda, salt and the remaining cinnamon.
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And then I added in the flour. Up to this point the batter was pretty smooth and thinned out but once I added in the flour it became quite thick and heavy.
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Once the flour was incorporated I stirred in the chocolate chips.
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I then spread the batter out evenly in my prepared pan and sprinkled the cinnamon sugar mixture on top and put in the oven.
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My baking time was off in comparison to the directions. According to the directions it should take about 70 minutes, but, after 70 minutes my cake was still not fully cooked in the middle so I lowered the temperature to 300 and baked it for an additional 15 fifteen minutes which did the trick. After letting it cool in the pan for thirty minutes I removed it from the pan and let it cool for another hour or two on the wire rack. I was thinking that the cinnamon-sugar mixture was actually going to be bake into the cake but it just seemed to sit on top which I wasn’t too happy about. After it was fully cooled I wrapped it airtight and let it sit at room temperature for optimal flavor, per the directions. This actually helped the cinnamon sugar topping sink into the cake a little which was good.
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I would make this again but I would lower the oven temperature so that it could bake longer without sacrificing the moisture of the cake. While the cake was good I found it to be a bit dry and I am sure that had to do with the extra baking time.
Sour Cream – Chocolate Chip Pound Cake
From Best Baking by Elizabeth Alston
1 cup plus 4 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tsps. ground cinnamon
14 Tbsps. (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 Tsps. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
1 Tsp. baking powder
1/4 Tsp. baking soda
1/4 Tsp. salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
9 x 5 x 3 – Inch Loaf Pan
Heat the oven to 325F. Grease the pan and line with foil; letting it hang over the sides. Grease the foil.
Mix 2 tablespoons of the sugar with 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and set aside to use for the topping.
Beat the butter, the remaining 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, and the vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed, until pale and fluffy.
Reduce the speed to medium. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each.
Beat in the sour cream, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon. Scrape the sides of the bowl often.
With the mixer on low, stir in the flour until nearly incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and stir until the batter is well mixed.
Spread the batter (6 1/2 cups) in the pan (the pan will be very full). Sprinkle the reserved cinnamon sugar over the top. (It will look like too much topping, but it isn’t.)
Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes. Life the cake from the pan by the foil. Let cool completely on the wire rack. Remove the foil. For best flavor, wrap airtight, being careful not to disturb the sugar topping more than necessary, and store 1 day at room temperature before serving or freezing.

Snowed-In Fudgy Walnut Brownies

So this past weekend I was held-up indoors after Nemo dropped 20 plus inches of snow in my area. While I was able to shovel the walkway & driveway and clean off my car – which was a painstaking task as I drive an SUV and cleaning the snow off the top of it is no fun (it’s one of the few times I wish I was an inch or two taller) – I couldn’t leave my block as the plows did clean the main roads in my area but didn’t get to the side streets. One of which I live on. So, what is a girl to do, well, this one decided to bake some brownies. I figured I deserved something sweet after all the hard work I did.

I remembered that I had a mini-recipe pullout from a Food Network Magazine with fifty different brownie recipes. I decided to keep it simple since I was sure I would have the ingredients for traditional brownies but not for anything too “wild.” There is a recipe for Cherry Almond Brownies that I am sure would be delicious, but, those will have to wait for another day. Hence, my Snowed-In Fudgy Walnut Brownies.

The ingredients were quite basic: Semi-sweet chocolate chips, butter, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, flour and salt. And since I like some texture to my brownies I added in walnuts. The last time I made brownies I actually used cocoa powder so I was taken aback by using chocolate chips instead. Luckily I buy them whenever they’re on sale and store them in my refrigerator because you never know what may come up… like a snowstorm!

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I started off by melting the chocolate chips and butter in a saucepan over low heat.

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Once the chocolate chips and butter were melted I removed it from the heat and whisked in both of the sugars. As you can see the mixture got quite thick.

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After letting it cool for a few minutes I whisked in four eggs one at a time and then the vanilla extract. I was actually going to do this by hand but immediately changed my mind and whipped out my hand mixer instead. My arm already had a good workout from clearing the snow.

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I did swap out the mixer for a rubber spatula though when I added in the flour and salt. I didn’t want to make too much of a mess since I wasn’t working with a deep bowl.

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And finally I folded in the walnuts.

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In prepping my baking dish I decided to go with the easy removal method and sprayed my dish with baking spray, lined it with aluminum foil ensuring that it was a large enough piece to overhang at the ends and then sprayed the aluminum foil with the baking spray. Once the batter was ready I spread into the prepared dish.

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After baking for 45 minutes in a 325 degree oven my brownies were done.

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I let them cool for about two hours before I sliced them into twelve almost perfect squares.

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They were quite yummy and surprisingly not as sweet as I thought they would be considering they were made with chocolate chips and a cup and a half of sugar. They were also the perfect complement to my chai tea as I watched the Grammy’s on Sunday night!

Fudgy Walnut Brownies

Ingredients

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 stick unsalted butter

3/4 cup light-brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Coat a 9×13 pan with cooking spray. For easy removal, line the pan with foil leaving an overhang, then coat with more cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate chips and butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring. Off the heat, whisk in each of the sugars; cool slightly. Whisk in the eggs one at a time and the vanilla extract. Stir in the flour and the salt. Fold in the walnuts. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes.

Cool on a rack, then cut into squares.

Minnie Mouse Cake

I started my blog about a year ago with an  Elmo Cake for a friend’s daughter’s birthday, well, here we are a year later and it’s time for another character cake. After mentioning a castle cake, a Cinderella cake, a Minnie Mouse cake and then back to Cinderella the birthday girl finally settled on a Minnie Mouse cake. Luckily I was able to find a place near me that actually rents out the cake pans so I won’t be collecting them. Needless to say, Elmo has been a one-time use pan thus far.

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After testing out a vanilla cake recipe last week that didn’t come out that great I opted to just use a yellow cake box mix for the cake. I actually had to bake the cake two times. The first time I used one box of mix and the cake was on the flat side and it was really difficult to distinguish the mold pattern on it. The second time I used a box and a half of mix and the results were much better. The cake was much taller and while I wish the mold pattern was more distinguishable on Minnie Mouse’s face, it was 100% better than my first attempt.

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I also cheated when it came to making the frosting. I am usually one who loves making things from scratch, but, since I knew I was going to need quite a bit of frosting for this cake I opted to just go with store bought vanilla frosting to ensure that it would all be the same consistency and taste. I prepped all of my decorating bags with couplers and decorating tips the night before so I could save time while decorating. While the cake cooled I got to mixing all of the colors I would need. I kept the colors I wasn’t working with in the refrigerator so they wouldn’t soften up. Working with frosting that’s too soft can become a mess very quickly. It won’t hold shape or anything and it’s very frustrating… I speak from experience. While the frosting may seem to stiff when you take it out of the refrigerator once you give it a few stirs with a spatula and start working with it in the decorating bag it becomes the perfect consistency.

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After transferring the cake to a decorative cake board it was time to get to work. I started by frosting the background and sides of the cake with yellow. Admittedly, I was concerned immediately that the cake wasn’t going to look good, but, I forged ahead.

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Next up, I outlined Minnie Mouse with black frosting using a size 3 decorating tip. Once she started to look like herself I felt more at ease. If you look closely at the picture you can see that I actually messed up once or twice with the outlining, but, since I was filling in the cake with individual stars as opposed to spreading the frosting all of those mishaps would be covered up and no one would be the wiser.

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Now it was time for Minnie’s face to come to life. To create the stars I used a size 16 decorating tip and to smooth out the frosting in her eyes, nose and mouth I used a decorator brush dampened with water.

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Bringing more of her face to life I next filled in her ears with black stars as well as her legs. At this point I was very happy with how it was coming together.

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Some pink stars on Minnie’s bow and dress really added some much needed color.

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I then added white stars on Minnie’s gloves and trim on her dress and violet stars on her dress sash and shoes.

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And finally, I cleaned up the cake board and added yellow rosettes using a size 21 decorator tip along the border to complete the cake. I was really happy with the final outcome, so was the birthday girl, that’s what really matters.

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I also made some cupcakes to go along with the cake. Unfortunately you can’t see it in the picture, but, the cupcake liners were Minnie Mouse themed.

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The cake was a hit at the party, which also happened to be a Superbowl party as well. So, we all got an extra fill of cake during that thirty-four minute delay!