Monday, December 19, 2011

Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate Fudge Icing

Wow, can you believe it's less than a week until Christmas? I'm sure you all are busy shopping, cooking, baking and doing all of those last minute errands that always build up the last week before Christmas.  I know I am!  I'm definitely drinking a little extra coffee these days. :)

I had to share another of my Grandmother's famous recipes for this holiday season.  If you've been following my blog at all, you know my Grandmother is a fantastic baker and makes some of the best pies and cakes I've ever had.  Being from Georgia, she specializes in pound cakes and always makes this chocolate pound cake with chocolate fudge icing every Christmas.  I have loved this cake for years and hightail it over to the dessert table to get a piece (or several) when I see it brought out.  The chocolate fudge icing is what makes this cake so great.  It's cooked and poured hot over the pound cake, it cools and puddles over the cake and really tastes like chocolate fudge.  Its so, so, SO good.  If you want to be really "Georgia" about it, you can also mix in a cup of crushed pecans, which is how my Grandmother usually makes it and gives the cake a nice crunch.   The smell of this cake baking just says Christmas to me.

The pound cake is very easy to make and is a large cake.  You definitely want to use a large bundt pan for this recipe. The icing is very easy to make but you have to move swiftly as the ingredients will turn from icing to fudge in a period of seconds (not that that's a bad thing, it just won't be able to be spread on your cake).  I recommend assembling all of the ingredients before you begin making the icing.  Also, wait until the cake is completely cooled and you are ready to frost the cake before you make the icing as you must use the icing immediately after you cook it.

Chocolate Pound Cake with Chocolate Fudge Icing

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
6 tbs. cocoa powder
1 cup milk
1 tbs. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a large bundt pan (I use my 12-cup bundt pan for this as it's a large cake). Mix sugar and butter and beat very well.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.  Add dry ingredients, alternating with milk to butter mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Add vanilla extract.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan and distribute batter evenly.  Bake 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes.  Turn cake out of pan onto wire rack and continue to cool. Cool completely before icing.

Chocolate Fudge Icing

*Note- This icing cooks so incredibly fast, so assemble all of the ingredients before starting. Do not prepare the icing until you are ready to ice the cake as it must be poured onto the cake immediately. *
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup cocoa, scant (this means not quite a full 1/2 cup)
6 tbs. evaporated milk
1 box (3 3/4 cup) powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
optional: 1 cup chopped pecans


In a large saucepan, bring the butter, milk, and cocoa to a boil.

When the mixture has boiled, add the powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and continue to simmer for about 30 seconds, stirring continuously.  Mixture will be clumpy at first but will become thick and shiny.  Do not cook longer than about 45 seconds or this mixture will start to become fudge and will become too thick to be used as icing.  Pour immediately over the cake and spread as desired.  The icing will immediately harden so you have to work fast.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Peppermint Cheesecake with Oreo Crust

I'm a big chocolate mint fan, especially at Christmastime.  Lately I've found myself dog-earring and pinning chocolate mint recipes like crazy (if you follow me on Pinterest you can see my mint addiction-- it may be second only to my pumpkin addiction).  When I saw this recipe for Peppermint Cheesecake with Oreo Crust, I knew I had to try it. Not to sound like a York Peppermint Patty ad, but this cheesecake sounded so refreshing (taste the sensation!) and I loved the idea of using peppermint extract to flavor the cream cheese filling.  I thought it would be such a good compliment with the Oreo crust.

I was really happy with how this recipe turned out.  The cheesecake was creamy and delicious and had just the right amount of mint.  I liked the Oreo crust but may make this with just plain chocolate wafers the next time I make this-- just to see how that would compare.  I think either way, having a chocolate crust, is delicious with this cheesecake.  I decided to add a layer of whipped cream to my version of this recipe-- I thought it added a little extra sweetness to this dessert which is not overly sweet on its own and it also adds a nice touch with the crushed peppermint on top.  Plus, if you are like me and your cheesecakes always crack, having a nice cover layer of whipped cream will just take care of that little worry, especially if you are making this on Christmas Day.  Just cover it with whipped cream and go on your way. Life's too short to worry about cracking cheesecakes!

12 ounces creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, broken into pieces
3 tbs. butter, melted
1 1/2 pounds (3 8-oz. packages), at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
4 eggs
2 tbs. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup coarsely crushed peppermint candy

For whipped cream topping:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbs.- 1/4 cup powdered sugar (to taste)


1.  Place cookies in a zip-lock bag and crush with a rolling pin.  Pour into a bowl and mix with melted butter until combined.  Pour into a buttered 9-inch round springform pan and then press evenly over bottom and about 1/2 inch up sides of the pan.  Bake in a 300 degree oven until crust is slightly darker and looks a bit dry, about 10 minutes (leave oven on and at 300 degrees).

2.  Meanwhile, in a bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until well blended.  Beat in sour cream.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating to blend after each addition.  Beat in flour, vanilla, peppermint extract, and salt until smooth.  Pour cream cheese mixture into pan over baked crust.

3.  Bake until edges are just golden and center jiggles slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour.  Run a knife around edge of pan rim. Place pan on a wire rack and cool cheesecake completely in pan.  Cover and chill until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 2 days.  Run a knife around rim again and then release rim.  If any liquid has pooled on surface of cheesecake, blot dry gently with a paper towel.

4.  Decorate top of cake with whipped cream and crushed peppermint candy

Adapted from Sunset Magazine

To make the whipped cream:
Pour heavy whipping cream in the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment (you can also use a handheld mixer for this). It's preferable that the bowl be chilled. Add powdered sugar to taste, depending on how sweet you want your whipped cream to be.  If you only want it to be slightly sweet, start by adding about 2 tablespoons.  I prefer to use about 1/4 cup for my whipped cream.

Beat the heavy whipping cream on high until soft peaks form (when you pull the beaters out of the bowl, it will form a peak that will droop slightly) and it is thick enough to spread on the cheesecake and hold its shape. In my stand mixer, it takes about 2 minutes to get to the soft peak stage.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bacon and Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

What appetizers do you make a beeline for when you're at a party? For me it's always the stuffed mushrooms.  They're my absolute favorite-- it doesn't matter what they're stuffed with-- cream cheese, crab, bread crumbs, cheese, (ok, I'm hungry now) just sign me up.  There's something about those little mushroom caps of goodness that draw me in.  I know I'm not alone either, because I find that whenever I serve stuffed mushrooms at a party, people seem to gravitate to them first and it's one of plates I usually have to keep refilling on the food table (and no, not just because I'm eating them all). :)

Thanks to blessed Pinterest, I've found some new stuffed mushroom recipes with some pretty great filling combinations. I made this recipe for Bacon and Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms that comes from the blog Mountain Mama Cooks (and was pleased to find another food blog full of some fantastic recipes in the process--just one of the many benefits of using Pinterest).  The filling is so good--that bacon, cream cheese, and sweet onion combination is pretty incredible. The cream cheese made the filling nice and creamy, while Parmesan, bacon, and onion added some flavor and tang.  I like that this recipe uses sweet onion which keeps the onions from being over-powering in the filling.  These are definitely a new favorite and I'm looking forward to making them a couple of times during the holidays.

Bacon and Cream Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms:

8 oz. Bacon
1/2 cup. finely minced sweet onion
1 clove garlic, minced
16 oz white button mushrooms
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Using scissors or a sharp knife, cut raw bacon into small pieces.  In a  large saute pan, over medium heat, cook bacon until nice and crispy.  While bacon is cooking, remove mushroom stems from caps and chop stems into small pieces.  When bacon is done, remove from pan and set aside; reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon grease and pour the rest from the pan.  Saute onion until soft, about 5 minutes, scraping up any brown bits on bottom of pan.  Add chopped mushrooms, stems, and garlic, and cook a few minutes longer.  Reduce heat to low.  Add cream cheese and Parmesan cheese and stir until cheeses are melted.  Add reserved chopped bacon and season to taste with salt and pepper. (Mixture can be made, cooled, and stored, covered, in the fridge for up to 2 days).  Remove mixture from heat and stuff mushroom caps generously.  Bake mushrooms at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until mushrooms are soft and filling is nice and hot.

Recipe from Mountain Mama Cooks

Monday, December 5, 2011

Eggnog Muffins with Cinnamon-Streusel Topping

Wow, I didn't mean for 2 weeks to go between my last post!  Between traveling to see family for Thanksgiving and then getting sick last week, my baking and blogging have gotten backed up.  That's unfortunate too because I have a stack a mile-high of recipes I am dying to try for the holidays!  Did everyone have a nice Thanksgiving?  Are you all as excited about Christmas baking as I am?

We are big fans of eggnog at our house.  It seems to me that folks either love eggnog or they hate it-- there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground on the subject. I think eggnog is great in many forms-- lattes, ice cream, cookies, and, of course, in its original form.  If you are in the camp that likes it, then you will love these muffins.  They are moist and sweet with a faint taste of eggnog and topped with a crunchy cinnamon streusel.  If you are a little worried at this point, the eggnog is not over-powering, mainly resulting in a sweet, creamy, lightly spiced muffin that is perfect for the season. So, even those eggnog haters out there may be pleasantly surprised by how much they like these muffins! Plus, it smells wonderful while it's baking!  These were a big hit and I hope to have an opportunity to make them a couple more times this season while the eggnog is still available!

Eggnog Muffins with Cinnamon-Streusel Topping

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup dairy eggnog
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. rum extract
1 recipe Cinnamon-Streusel Topping (see below)


1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line with paper baking cups.  In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.

2.  In another bowl combine eggs, eggnog, butter, vanilla, and rum extract.  Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture.  Stir until just moistened (batter should be lumpy), being careful to not overmix as that will make the muffins tough.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full.  Sprinkle Cinnamon-Streusel Topping over muffin batter in cups.

3. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes of until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Serve Warm.

1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon (you may substitute 1/4 tsp. nutmeg instead if you prefer)
2 tbs. butter

In a small bowl combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon.  Using your fingers, a pastry blender, or a fork, cut in 2 tbs. butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

To make ahead:  Prepare as directed, cool completely.  Place muffins in a single layer in a resealable plastic freezer bag.  Seal, label, and freeze for up to 2 months.  To serve, thaw at room temperature.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Recipes

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pecan Pie

I have been trying to compile some of my grandmothers', great-grandmothers', aunts', and great-aunts', recipes over the past few years so that we have as many family favorite recipes preserved as possible.  I feel blessed to have some incredible cooks in my family and really want to make sure that their special dishes are preserved to be enjoyed for many more generations.  Thankfully, the women in my family were generous in sharing recipes so it usually only takes a phone call or two to track down what you are looking for.

However, the one problem I've run into is a little trouble with translation.  This especially happens when recipes are written in someone's "shorthand", when the person was writing the recipe down by memory and leaves out a key ingredient-- like eggs, or where the recipe was written 50 or 60 years ago in vernacular that I am not familiar with now in 2011.  For instance, a lot of old Southern recipes seem to call for "sweet milk" when they really mean just regular milk, or they'll call for "3 sticks of oleo" which was a common term for margarine.  So, now I know, just swap these out for milk and butter and crisis averted.  It gets even harrier when, like the other day, I was reading one of my Grandmother's recipe cards, and the recipe for a cake filling called for "butter the size of an egg." Huh? This can, and has, made for some disastrous baking attempts as I try to wade through some of these old-time recipes.

My Grandmother makes the greatest pecan pie.  She is known for it.  There are many many ways to make pecan pie but hers is my favorite.  You can use light Karo syrup or dark Karo syrup.  You can cook the syrup and pour it over your pecans, like a caramel-- you get the picture.  My Grandmother's recipe is super easy and doesn't require a cooked syrup prior to baking which I love. Her version uses light Karo syrup, my particular favorite. I did have to make this 2 times to work out the kinks so the recipe I'm posting is with my edits.  My Grandmother's recipe calls for 1/4 tsp. of salt but she uses salted butter in her baking, and I use unsalted, so I increased the salt amount for my recipe.  I also found that while you must beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy it is important to NOT overbeat the eggs in the step where you mix them in with the vanilla and Karo.  You don't want to mix in a lot of froth and bubbles which can keep your filling from setting.

Finally, You can use the pie crust of your choice.  I've shared my favorite homemade pie crust before and linked to it below.  In the pictures, I used a refrigerated pie crust because I was running short on time.  This is a very easy pie to make and a good option for a Thanksgiving dessert.  There's nothing better than pecan pie and some whipped cream on Thanksgiving!

My Grandmother's Pecan Pie


1/2 cup butter, unsalted, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup light Karo syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cup chopped pecans
Pecan halves to garnish top of pie
Unbaked pie shell.  My favorite recipe for pie crust is here.
egg white, mixed with a little water to brush on pie crust.

Prepare a single pie crust in a 9 or 10-inch pie pan.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter in a mixing bowl.  Add sugar and cream together until light and fluffy.  Add Karo syrup, salt, vanilla and then eggs.  Mix  until just combined, but do not over-mix or allow to become frothy.  Add pecans.  Pour mixture in pie crust. Line the entire top of pie with pecan halves in a decorative pattern. Brush crust with egg wash.  Bake on lower shelf in the oven at 350 for 40-45 minutes

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Red Velvet Bundt Cake for National Bundt Day

Did you know today is National Bundt Day? Well Happy Bundt Day! I happen to be a big fan of The Food Librarian's 30 Days of Bundts where for the last few years, Mary makes a new and different bundt cake each and every day for the month leading up to November 15th.  This is the third year of her, "I Like Big Bundts" (Hee) series and I get ridiculously excited in anticipation of this event each year, being the fan of the bundt cake that I am.

Mary has asked us all to join her in submitting a bundt for National Bundt Day so my choice is a Red Velvet Bundt with Cream Cheese Frosting.  I thought it was very festive for the time of year.  This recipe comes from one of my favorite go-to cookbooks, Delightfully Southern by Lucy M. Clark.  I especially turn to it at the holidays to find good easy, tried-and-true dishes that will appeal to people of all ages.  This cake is another winner from that book and produced a delicious tender ruby red cake with perfectly creamy cream cheese frosting.  It is easier to make this than a layered red velvet cake which makes this an attractive option for holiday baking when time is short!

Red Velvet Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting:


For the Cake:
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbs. cocoa
1 tbs. cider vinegar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan; set aside.  In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a tie, beating well after each addition.  Stir in the vanilla and food coloring.  In another large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and cocoa.  Dissolve the baking soda in the vinegar and add to the buttermilk.  Stir in the flour alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.  Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour and 20 minutes or until cake is done.  Cool in pan for about 10 minutes.  Remove cake from pan onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (1-pound) box powdered sugar, sifted
1 to 2 tbs. milk, if needed

Combine butter and cream cheese and blend until smooth.  Stir in vanilla.  Mix well.  Stir in powdered sugar.  Beat until creamy.  Add milk, if needed, to make frosting the spreading consistency you prefer.

Recipe from Delightfully Southern

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lightened Sweet Potato Casserole

In my family, especially on my Mother's side, sweet potato casserole is a given for Thanksgiving dinner-- you just cannot have Thanksgiving without it.  While the family recipe (from my Grandmother) is really scrumptious with a streusel pecan top, it is a calorie-laden bomb (one year it literally became a bomb when I dropped it in the dining room and it exploded all over my relatives, but that's another story for another time).  I do love sweet potato casserole though, and it's one of the things I look forward to most on the Thanksgiving table.  I wanted to find a recipe that was more conducive to making during the fall that wasn't so heavy, so that we could enjoy it more often than just once a year.

A couple of years ago, I turned to my favorite healthy recipe source, Cooking Light, and found this recipe for sweet potato casserole.  While it has a marshmallow topping instead of the streusel topping I'm used to, I love marshmallows so that was fine with me.  I decided to give this recipe a try when we were having guests for dinner (I know, always a risky idea, but they are the kind of good friends who would be up for ordering pizza if everything stunk, so I knew it would be ok).

This ended up being one of my favorite sweet potato casseroles ever and has become one that I make often during the fall and winter.  I even ended up making it for Thanksgiving and Easter last year instead of our family's usual recipe. Can you believe it? I almost feel guilty as I'm typing that! :) I promise I'm not just saying I like it because it's "light," I'd make it even if it weren't.  First, it's really easy to make, so if you are making this on Thanksgiving, it's one casserole you can put together in about 15 minutes.  Second, the sweet potato is so perfectly flavored-- a little brown sugar, vanilla, butter, and salt-- I just love that sweet/salty combo!  It really goes perfectly with the marshmallow pecan topping.

Sweet Potato Casserole

2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, divided
Cooking spray
2 cups miniature marshmallows


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the sweet potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until very tender.  Drain and cool slightly.

Place potatoes in a large bowl.  Add sugar and the next 3 ingredients (through vanilla). Mash sweet potatoes with a potato masher.  Fold in 1/4 cup of pecans.  Scrape potato mixture into an even layer into an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of pecans; top with marshmallows.  Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until golden.

This recipe makes 16 servings.  1 serving= 5 Weight Watcher's Points Plus (1.6g Protein, 33.1 Carbs, 5.5g. fat, 2.5g. fiber)

Recipe from Cooking Light

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and a Cup of Peet's Medium Roast Coffee

Wow, I can't believe how long it's been since my last post.  I have all of these good intentions, like-- I'm going to post every day (HA!) or, maybe every other week day, or--- I'm going to work really hard and write a bunch of posts in advance and have them all ready to go and distribute in a nice neat little blogger package.  *Sigh* hopefully one day!

Anyway, I am working on some scrumptious posts for Thanksgiving and Christmas for the coming weeks that I am really looking forward to sharing-- some old family favorite recipes and some new recipes that I have been drooling over in some of my dog-earred holiday magazines (and of course, some that I found on Pinterest)!

I was very excited a few weeks back when I was notified that I was going to be receiving a box of coffee goodies from Peet's Coffee.  Some of you may have picked up on my coffee addiction, so as you can imagine I was super excited to be receiving some of their new blends to sample.  Well a few days later, this showed up at my door:

Peet's sent me a bag of each of their new medium roast blend coffees to try- Cafe Domingo and Cafe Solano (Not to mention a killer travel mug-- and I am a travel mug connoisseur--no drips, spills, or leaks to speak of which means a great mug indeed). Since the first thing I do in the morning is switch on my coffee pot, it is not a problem for me to sample coffee, but my directive was to pair one of these blends with a dessert or breakfast item.  I had been craving bread pudding lately-- it just seems like such a nice fallish dessert-- and I had this recipe for Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce in my "to-make" pile.  So I thought, Aha, perfect, I'll make this and a nice big pot of coffee.

Please go out and make this bread pudding immediately!  :) If you are having house guests for Thanksgiving, this is such an easy dessert that takes minutes to throw together, but with that caramel sauce no one would ever know that in a million years.  It's so good.  The sweet caramel poured on top of the lightly spiced pudding is completely irresistible.  In fact, the next time I make this, instead of serving the sauce on the side, I'm just going to go ahead and pour it on top of the pudding and let the caramel really absorb into the bread as it really makes the entire dish.

This was a fun project for me as I enjoy lingering over coffee and dessert after a nice dinner with friends or family-- it's always the best part of the meal.  We also recently had company and I made the Cafe Domingo in the mornings for our guests. The medium roast coffee was smooth but flavorful and a nice choice for company, where you don't always know what people's coffee preferences will be.  We went through multiple pots and the consensus was that the Cafe Domingo was a hit!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

*Makes 6 Servings


Bread Pudding
2 cups half and half
1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin
1 cup (packed) plus 2 tbs. dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
10 cups 1/2-inch cubes egg bread, such as challah (about 10-ounces)
optional: 1/2 cup golden raisins

Caramel Sauce:
1 1/4 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
pinch of salt

Powdered sugar

For Bread Pudding;
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk half and half, pumpkin, dark brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and vanilla in large bowl to blend.  Fold in bread cubes.  Stir in raisins. Transfer mixture to 11x7-inch glass.  Let stand 15 minutes.  Bake pumpkin bread pudding until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the caramel sauce:
Whisk brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts.  Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.

Sift powdered sugar over bread pudding.  Serve warm with caramel sauce.

Recipe from Epicurious

*Disclaimer:  As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received coffee products from Peet's Coffee to sample.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Have you ever seen the movie Meet Me in St. Louis with Judy Garland? It's one of my all-time favorite movies.  I just love the beautiful depictions of turn-of-the-century life in St. Louis around the time of the World's Fair.  I have been watching the movie since I was a kid and always sing along with it and wish we still wore those beautiful dresses.  I love the scene at Halloween when the younger children come in from trick-or-treating and the family gathers in the dining room to eat this massive and elaborate cake that Katie the housekeeper has prepared for Halloween.  I always drool over that cake every time I watch the movie and wonder what it is and wish I had the recipe. :)

I decided to make my own massive Halloween cake although its not quite as elaborate as Katie's.  It is, however, both chocolaty and spicy with a touch of sweet creamy orange frosting and VERY delicious.  If you  want to make a treat for your family to gather around after the Halloween festivities are over like in Meet Me in St. Louis, I'm offering up this delightful cake.

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Note:  You can also make this recipe into cupcakes if you prefer.  Line 2-12 cup muffin pans with cupcake liners instead of using cake pans.

2 1/2 cups + 2 tbs. all-purpose flour
1 cup + 2 tbs. good-quality cocoa
1 tbs. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/4 ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg (or 1/2 tsp. nutmeg)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (firmly packed) dark brown sugar (I used light brown and it worked fine)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs

1.  Prepare cake pans:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 3 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with a circle of parchment paper.  Lightly grease the parchment paper.  Note: It is VERY important to use the parchment paper for this cake.  It is very moist and dense and the first time I made this cake I only used grease and flour for my pans and the cake stuck! When I used the parchment paper, the cake came out perfectly.

2.  Make the batter:  Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl and set aside.  Combine the buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla in a medium bowl and set aside.  Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer set on medium speed, until fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until the mixture is smooth and light.  Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, blending well after each addition.

3. Bake the cake:  Divide the batter among the pans and bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean-- about 35 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 20 minutes.  Remove cakes and cool (For cupcakes: Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Place cupcake liners in standard cupcake tins and fill each with 1/4 cup of batter.  Bake for 22 minutes.)

4. Assemble the cake: Trim each of the layers so that they are smooth.  Place one layer on a cake plate and top with one third of the frosting.  Repeat with the second and third layers.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tbs. fresh orange juice
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
orange food coloring (I used Americolor gel coloring)

Blend the cream cheese, butter, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla in a large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, until smooth.

Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and creamy-- about 3 more minutes.  Add the food coloring and gently stir until the color is uniform.

Chill the frosting until ready to ice the cupcakes or cake.

Recipe from Country Living

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Candy Corn M&M Peanut Cookies

Are you enjoying this time of year as much as I am? While I am not a huge Halloween fan, there are parts of the holiday that my husband and I enjoy and look forward to.  We always watch It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown every year, and I love putting out candy for all of the cute trick-or-treaters, and decorating my front stoop with pumpkins and mums.  I also couldn't resist buying our cat a little bat costume so she would be Bella the Bat Cat-- I know, I know, I'm weird. :)  And, finally, of course, I love the food-- candy corn, candy apples, spiced hot apple cider, pumpkin donuts, yum!  

I had heard people on other blogs talking about M&M's new white chocolate candy corn variety.  I was really happy to see some at Wal-Mart and so I snagged a couple of bags.  I started thinking how I could incorporate them in some fun fall baking and came up with these cookies.  Have you ever mixed a bag of candy corn with a bag of salted roasted peanuts? Its pure bliss-- the sweet and salty combo is killer!  It kind of tastes like a Baby Ruth candy bar but better. :)

I used one of my favorite sugar cookie recipes that I found last Christmas on Smells Like Home's blog.  Tate's Bake Shop makes these soft frosted sugar cookies that are just the perfect sugar cookie.  I thought they'd be a great cookie to combine with the candy corn M&M's and peanuts.  I usually make the sugar cookies with the frosting included in the recipe but since the candy corn adds so much sweetness to the cookies, I omitted the frosting for these particular cookies.

I really loved how these turned out.  Soft, pillowy, sugar cookies were great with the crunch and sweetness from the candy corn and the salted peanuts added a nice contrast to all of the sweet.  I will definitely be making these again!  If you can't find the candy corn M&M's, you could substitute them with Reese's Pieces or fall M&M's.

Candy Corn M&M Peanut Cookies

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup salted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup sour cream
1 bag M&M's white chocolate candy corn
1 cup chopped roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or line with a Silpat.

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

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and egg.  Mix and scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.  Add the sour cream and mix until combined.   Add the flour mixture and mix until combined.  Stir in the M&M's and crushed peanuts.

Drop the cookies onto the prepared cookie sheets 3 inches apart as cookies will spread.  Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until they are light brown.  Cool them on cookie sheets for 5 minutes, and remove them to wire racks to cool completely.

Adapted from Smells Like Home via Tate's Bake Shop

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Iced Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon and White Chocolate Chips

Yes, I am addicted to pumpkin.  Yes, I will freely admit that.  I really feel this picture sums up my feelings on the matter:

Pinned Image

I made these soft iced pumpkin cookies and I have to say they are one of my all-time favorite cookies now.  While the original recipe called for semi-sweet chocolate chips, I decided to switch it up a bit and instead added cinnamon chips and white chocolate chips.  I was thrilled with the results and think this really is the perfect fall cookie.  The pumpkin cookie is soft and cakey, with the cinnamon and white chocolate adding bursts of flavor that blend so well with the pumpkin.  Finally, the vanilla glaze drizzled over the top adds just a touch more sweetness without making these cookies too sweet-- I'm all about iced cookies, aren't you? Cookies should always have icing if at all possible! :)

You can always substitute the cinnamon and white chocolate chips with 2 cups of semi-sweet chips instead, as pumpkin and chocolate really go wonderfully together.  If you missed my pumpkin and chocolate chip cupcakes, you can see one of my favorite recipes with this combo here.

Finally, the original recipe calls for pumpkin pie spice which is a pre-made blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. I prefer to mix my own, instead of using a pre-blended spice and I usually swap the allspice with cloves, but you can use either one.  This way, I can control the measurements and make the blend to my liking (e.g. more cinnamon, less nutmeg).  I've included my substitute for pumpkin pie spice in the recipe in case you want to do the same, or if you don't have pumpkin pie spice on hand.

Iced Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon and White Chocolate Chips

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or use 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp. cloves)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup cinnamon chips
1 cup white chocolate chips

For the Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 1 1/2 tbs. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease baking sheets.

Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.  Beat butter and sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy.  Beat in pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in cinnamon and white chocolate chips.  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto greased cookie sheets.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.  Drizzle with Vanilla Glaze.

For the Vanilla Glaze:
Combine 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons milk, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract in small bowl; mix well.  Drizzle on cookies after they've cooled.

Adapted from

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Creamy Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

Right now I am craving good hearty soups.  I know a lot of you are too as the weather cools off.  There is nothing like a steaming bowl of soup for cozy dinners in the fall and winter.  I was in search of some good recipes that were hearty yet healthy to make for dinner (with leftovers for lunches) so I turned to my back issues of Cooking Light to find some good ideas.  I saw this recipe for Creamy Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup and the ingredients and the gorgeous golden orange color immediately caught my attention.  I liked that it contained both sweet potatoes and carrots.  Not only is it full of beta-carotene but sweet potatoes and carrots are inexpensive and readily available in the fall/winter.  Good, healthy, cheap= major win-- am I right?? :)

 I made a batch of this soup last weekend and both my husband and I loved it. This soup is creamy with just a hint of spice and a little sweet from the sweet potatoes, carrots, and Vidalia onions.  While you can use regular onions, I thought the mild Vidalias worked really well in this soup.  The recipe calls for a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of parsley for a garnish which added a nice tang and was a good contrast with the sweetness from the soup.  I think creme fraiche would also be great option. Instead of using parsley (because I didn't have any fresh at home) I added an additional sprinkle of cinnamon-- I think I actually preferred it to the parsley so I'll probably just use that instead for the future.

This soup was so easy to make, especially if you have an immersion blender so that everything can be mixed in one pot.  It makes 8 1-cup servings so it made enough for several meals for my husband and me.  It's also low in fat and calories and high in fiber which makes it a great Weight Watcher's option.  I included the points value below.

Creamy Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

3 tbs. butter, divided
1 cup chopped onion (I used Vidalia onions)
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 3/4 cups cubed peeled sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 1/2 cups water
3 cups fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
3 cups chopped carrot (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Melt 1 tbs. butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Move onion mixture to side of pan; add remaining 2 tbs. butter to open space in pan.  Increase heat to medium-high; cook 1 minute or until butter begins to brown.  Add sweet potatoes, carrots, 3 1/2 cups water, and broth; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer 35-50 minutes or until vegetables are tender ( I found I needed to simmer mine about 50 minutes in order for the carrots to soften).

2. Use an immersion blender to blend soup until completely smooth.  Or if you don't have an immersion blender, place half of soup mixture in a regular blender.  Remove center piece of blender lid to allow steam to escape.  Secure blender lid.  Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid to prevent splatters.  Blend until smooth.  Pour into a large bowl.  Repeat procedure with remaining soup mixture.

3.  Stir in 1/2 and 1/2, salt, and pepper and serve.

*Note:  You can make this soup several days in advance and reheat over medium-low heat.

Serving size= 1 cup.

Weight Watcher's Points Plus:  1 cup= 4 points (3.6 grams Protein, 25.7 grams Carbs, 6.7 grams Fat, 5 grams Fiber)

Recipe from Cooking Light

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

October means its pumpkin time!  I've stockpiled my cans of pumpkin to gear up for the next few months of intense pumpkin baking.  I absolutely love all things pumpkin and hope to share many more of my favorite pumpkin recipes with you all in the coming weeks.  Have you all had a hard time finding pumpkin recently? I guess the canned pumpkin industry is still rebounding from the shortage of 2009 and 2010 but according to this article they are in good shape and pumpkin should be hitting the shelves in full force soon! Woohoo! While pumpkin has been a little hard to come by, I did find an ample supply at Trader Joes and Wal-Mart.  Between the two, I think I have enough to get me through until after Christmas. :)  If you have not been able to find pumpkin in your stores, check the organic section, as many stores carry organic canned pumpkin on that aisle and you may have luck there even if the cans of Libby are sold out.

I found this recipe for Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting on Gimme Some Oven a couple of years ago and it has since become my go-to recipe for pumpkin cupcakes.  I especially like it with a 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips thrown in.  Pumpkin with a hint of chocolate is such a great combo-- the spicy flavor of the cupcake and the rich bits of chocolate go great together.  If, however, you want to omit them, these cupcakes are still wonderful.  You can also add in your other favorite ingredients-- nuts, craisins, white chocolate, etc.  would all be excellent as well.  Also, I have to say, the frosting in this recipe just makes these cupcakes-- cinnamon cream cheese frosting? Um, yes!  It is the perfect ending to these already great cupcakes.  Try them and you'll see why I look forward to these every fall!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

For the Cupcakes:
2 cups canned pumpkin (its slightly more than a 15 oz. can)
2/3 cup oil
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. each- ground cloves, nutmeg, and ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

For the Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 tbs. butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon


For the Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 2 muffin pans with 24 cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, stir together pumpkin, oil, sugar, milk, and vanilla.  Sift in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.  Gently whisk by hand until just combined, being careful not to overmix as the texture will become gummy. Stir in mini chocolate chips by hand.

Fill liners with 1/4 cup batter (cups should be about 2/3 full).  Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting:
In a bowl mix together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla.  Gradually add powdered sugar and cinnamon, mixing until it's all incorporated.  Use immediately or refrigerate.  The frosting will harden in the refrigerator so plan to bring back to room temperature if you need to refrigerate the icing before frosting the cupcakes.

Adapted from Gimme Some Oven via Love and Olive Oil

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Scarecrow Crunch

I have come across so many great fall ideas on Pinterest.  Its really hard to not go crazy pinning all of the cute ideas and yummy recipes I've seen! I'm trying to make as many as I can, but I know I won't make a dent in all of the recipes I've pinned. When I came across this recipe for Scarecrow Crunch, I just knew I had to try it out-- recipes like this are so much fun and such an easy snack to make for a party or for gifts.  Its a great blend of salty and sweet, chewy and crunchy which means a perfect snack in my book. Basically, you just combine all of the ingredients in a huge bowl and then TRY to not eat endless handfuls of this goodness.  When I say you need a big bowl, I mean a big bowl.  This started to overflow the biggest bowl I had so I ended up having to mix this in my large stock pot.

If you are having a fall or Halloween party, just mix this up and serve it in a festive bowl.  I also like the idea of making these for gifts so I bought some cellophane treat bags at Michael's and found some cute Halloween ribbon on sale!  I put about 2 cups of the mix in each bag and tied it with the ribbon.  Easy peasy!

Scarecrow Crunch
*Makes about 15 cups

4 cups crunchy oatmeal cereal squares (such as Life cereal)
4 cups tiny twist pretzels
1 (24 oz.) bag autumn mix candy corn
2 cups Reese's Pieces
2 (6 oz.) boxes caramel popcorn with nuts
1 7 oz. bag chocolate graham snacks (I used Pepperidge Farms chocolate goldfish)

Mix all ingredients together in a very large bowl. Serve as desired.

*Note:  For those concerned with peanut allergies, I would use regular caramel corn without the peanuts and swap out the Reese's Pieces for regular M&M's.  The fall color M&M's they have out now would look really cute in this mix.

Recipe from

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Vidalia Onion Dip- With Only 3 Ingredients!

So, like I mentioned recently, I can't get enough of dips and appetizer recipes right now.  This one, for Hot Vidalia Onion Dip, is a good old standby recipe that you see in many Southern cookbooks and is SO easy.  Its creamy and cheesy and has just a tinge of sweetness from the Vidalia onions.  After writing this post and editing my pictures, I really wish I had some more right now-- I really can't be trusted with this dip and some crusty bread.  Its a good thing I almost always have the ingredients on hand!  I mean, really, 3 ingredients?? This kind of recipe is right up my alley, and a good one to have in your back pocket if you find you need to whip up an appetizer for unexpected guests, or when hungry people descend on your house. :)

You definitely want to use a mild sweet onion for this recipe as I think regular onions would overpower.  Its very easy to get Vidalia onions here and I try to keep a bag on hand for most of my cooking.  I grew up on these babies and just love to cook with them. If you can't find Vidalias, I think Maui or Walla Walla onions would also be fine, although I have not used them in this dip.  I do, however, buy Maui onions when I can't find Vidalias at the store and they have a similar mild sweet taste so I think they would do fine.

This dip is great served with crackers, apple slices, pita chips, or french bread.  Enjoy!

Hot Vidalia Onion Dip

1 cup Vidalia onions, or other type of sweet onion, finely chopped
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
optional: Paprika to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix all of the ingredients together and pour into a small casserole dish.  Sprinkle the top with Paprika.  Bake until bubbly.  (I forgot to write down how long this takes to cook and the recipe doesn't give an exact time but I think it was about 20 minutes).

Adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Delightfully Southern

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