Oct 30, 2012

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

    A quick post just in time for fall, this frosting is incredibly easy to make and goes perfectly with most fall favorites like gingerbread, spice cake, pumpkin bars and all that fun stuff! Just make sure you get pure maple syrup, it costs a little more but it is well worth the taste!

2 eight oz packages cream cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup PURE maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1tsp almond extract
2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp allspice (optional)

Cream butter and cream cheese together, then beat in maple syrup, extracts, followed by the powdered sugar. Beat in the kosher salt and allspice if desired and you're good to go!

PS if you really feel like wowing 'em, sub the beans of 1 vanilla bean pod for both of the extracts!

Happy Baking;)

Oct 28, 2012

Oh My Gourd!

    It’s that time of year again… The time where you can’t order a coffee or a cake without being offered the seasonal “pumpkin spice” flavor, candy is sold in “value packs” to trick you into buying more, and slightly-too-tight pumpkin sweaters are sported by the community retirees. Old people put out scarecrows, everything smells like cinnamon and everyone starts to notice that the so-called “fun size” candy isn’t too fun... IT’S FALL YALL!
It seems like everyone is
getting in the fall spirit!
    The main role that fall plays in baked goods has to be the pumpkin, considering the start of fall is pretty much dependent on when Starbucks starts serving pumpkin spice lattes. You may be surprised to know that pumpkins can be used for so much more than carving:  you can eat the seeds, the “flesh” can be used in food, and they also tend to make decent paperweights.

    Most people buy canned pumpkin puree, but you can actually make pumpkin puree yourself, which can save you some money when the pumpkins are on sale. Be sure you get a “pie pumpkin” versus a “Jack-O-Lantern” pumpkin when you’re baking or cooking with pumpkin . Pie pumpkins are smaller than carving pumpkins and are available in most grocery stores during the fall season (look at the first picture).  

    To make the puree, just slice the pumpkin down the middle, scrape out the insides, and slice the sides into somewhat equally-sized wedges. Put them on a baking tray (one with ridges if you don’t feel like cleaning burnt pumpkin off your oven), add just enough water to cover the bottom,  and bake rind-side-up at 350F for about  1 hour, or until the “flesh” is fork-tender. Let the wedges cool until you are able to hold them and scrape the flesh from the rind. Next, put the scrapings into a food processer and pulse it until the mixture is lump-free and resembles a puree.

    Pureed pumpkin can be used in a number of things such as pie, custard, cake, bread and so much more. I once added pumpkin to a box of gingerbread mix,  threw in some ground cloves and cinnamon, baked it in a 13X9 pan like a cake and layered it in jars with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting and pumpkin caramel (homemade caramel with the puree mixed in while still warm). It was a big hit and perfect for a gift or parties! Pumpkin is also a great moistener for cakes and breads - play around with it in classic recipes like muffins, chocolate cake or even gingerbread!

Oct 22, 2012

Lucky For Leftovers: Cake Jar Follow-Up

(This is an extremely horrible picture of
 the Funfetti cake balls)

  Aside from their less than appealing name, cake balls are a great treat to have on hand (and are extremely easy to make, whether it’s from scratch or out of the box). It's a great method for cake leftovers or scraps and perfect to bring to a party. They're basically what you would get if you threw a layer cake in a blender.
  All you have to remember is 2 to 1, that is, two parts cake to one part frosting ( such as 1 box cake + 1/2 can of frosting, 1 cake recipe with 1/2 buttercream recipe, whatever floats your boat). They can be frozen, refrigerated, decorated or just eaten straight (my personal favorite). The best part is that the flavors are endless. Chocolate on chocolate works just as well as carrot cake and cream cheese frosting, or Funfetti like the previous recipe... If you can call it that. This post is a follow up to the cake jars because whatever is left in the jars, or fails to fit in them, can be made into some dang good balls.

  1. Mash up the cake in a bowl, still a little warm but nowhere near hot. Add the frosting and mash them together with your (CLEAN) hands.

2. (This next part is crucial) Roll them into balls.

3. Place them on a tray lined with parchment paper to freeze for 30 minutes.

Yay! You made balls of cake.

   Another awesome thing about these bad boys is that they're easily decorated and can instantly become the glamorous and famed "Cake Pops" that people get so utterly excited about. Here's the secret: you put a stick in them.

   You can them dip them into melted chocolate or colored candy melts, or basically anything dippable, top with some crumbs, sprinkles, sea salt, whatever you have on your hand and they're instantly party-approved.

**Tip: easiest way to stick 'n dip them is to take them out of the freezer, dip a lollipop stick in melted chocolate (or whatever you choose) and stick the cake balls. Put them back in the freezer for another ten minutes, then take them out, dip the cake into your melted substances and let freeze on parchment paper for another ten minutes. If you're really picky, you can stand them up like a traditional lollipop by stabbing them into styrofoam, but if the cake is on the bottom and stick is in the air, it doesn't matter. Besides, it's easier to decorate, eat, and no one will care because at the end of the day, its food.

Birthday Cake Jars

  Most average Americans in this day and age are familiar with the renowned term, “Funfetti.”A well-known confection straight from the box, Funfetti cakes and cupcakes have fueled birthday parties of all ages. For the most part, it is a white cake with rainbow sprinkles, traditionally served with a vanilla frosting.

  For many bakers, cake from a box is a baking sin. Though it’s a simple enough concept, mastering the true Funfetti flavor is a challenge in itself. The perfect balance of moisture, flavor, and the ever-important sprinkles is necessary, not to mention the frosting so vividly known to accompany the cake. This recipe also features a cake soak to keep it moist and enhance flavor. With a lot of research, failed attempts, and minor tweaks, I’ve conjured up my own funfetti recipe that seems worthy enough of the title… Not to mention it’s in a jar, therefore perfect as a birthday gift!

  Just a forewarning, it is extremely important not to over mix this batter. Also, be sure that you use baking POWDER instead of baking soda. Last, I’m revealing my strange and secret cake ingredient for the moistest cakes on the block….. Mayonnaise.Don’t knock it till you try it!

Homemade “Funfetti” Cake in a Jar

*You will need 4-5 eight ounce glass mason jars

For the cake:


1 cup butter, softened

2 cups white sugar

4 whole eggs

3 cups cake flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2/3 cup rainbow sprinkles

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In a larger bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until thoroughly combined and fluffy. Add vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, mixing after each one. Beat just until combined.
  4. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Slowly add the milk while mixing at low speed, and then add the rest of the dry ingredients.
  5. Beat in the mayo partially with the beaters for about 30 seconds, and then fold it in until combined. Add the sprinkles, folding them in until they are throughout the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased 13x9 pan and bake for 30 minutes. When the time is up, check the cake by inserting a toothpick in the center. If the toothpick does not come out clean, put the cake in for five more minutes and check it again.

For the frosting:


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

4 tablespoons cream cheese

4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon whole milk

1/3 cup rainbow sprinkles

  1. Cream together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar in intervals, beating in the first interval before adding the next.
  3. After all the sugar is , add the salt and vanilla and beat for one minute before adding the milk.
  4. Continue to beat until the mixture is consistent throughout and it has a fluffy white appearance. Fold in the rainbow sprinkles and refrigerate if not using it soon.

For the Cake soak:


½ cup of (cold) milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 ½ tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix


1.       Whisk all ingredients until smooth and let sit for at least 3 minutes before using.

Building the Jar:
  1. Once the cake is COMPLETELY cool, use the bottom of one of the jars as a stencil to cut a circle out of the cake, starting near a corner to save surface area. Slice the cake circle lengthwise (like you would a hamburger bun or a bagel) and put one of the slices in the bottom of the jar. If the slice won’t fit through the mouth of the jar, cut it in half and fit the pieces together once in the jar. If there are any gaps, fill them in with scraps from the cake.
  2. Soak the cake with the milk soak using a pastry brush (like a paint brush for baking) and moisten the layer. Top with a dollop of buttercream, enough to cover the layer, but don’t spread the icing all the way to the edge. Top it with the other circle of cake and push down lightly to spread the icing beneath it to the edges and repeat this step. If you have any extra sprinkles, throw ‘em between some layers!
  3. Continue the last two steps until the jar is almost filled and screw the cap on, of just dig in (though, in my opinion, cake is always better the next day…. If you can wait that long)!

Sloppy Brownies


Back in the great sunshine state, we had a certain dessert known for its promiscuous name…. and even more promiscuous taste! I felt obliged to introduce the sloppy brownie to Farragut High and see what they thought. Traditionally, a Sloppy Brownie contains Oreos, brownie batter, and chocolate chip cookie dough baked off to a perfect crisp and preferably with a tall glass of cold milk.

 Because that just didn’t seem worthy enough to satisfy the FHS newspaper staff, I had to give it a little more edge. The new and improved sloppy brownies consist of: Oreo, brownie, cookie dough, a sprinkling of marshmallows, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and caramels, and finished with a little more cookie dough.

 Not only are these bad boys fun to eat, but they’re also fun to make and can be made the easy way or the hard way. If you like to cheat, the easy way just involves store-bought brownie mix and cookie dough versus homemade. If you’re inclined to make the brownies and cookies from scratch, I’ll give you those recipes, just in case.

Without further adieu, I give you Sloppy Brownies:

The before...
Sloppy Brownies
1 recipe Brownie batter
1 recipe chocolate chip cookie dough
1 box of regular Oreos
2 cups mini marshmallows
8 regular-size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
(About) 15 soft caramel candies, unwrapped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. 
  2. Prepare the brownie batter as recipe (or box, if using store-bought) instructs. Do the same with the cookie dough and keep both separate batters nearby.
  3. Grease the bottom of a 13x9 rectangular cake pan and line the bottom with whole Oreo cookies There should be about 3-4 cookies left so feel free to crumble them over the gaps in the pan, or just eat them (to get them out of the way, of course).
  4. Pour the brownie batter over the Oreos and spread it evenly, making sure to cover most of the bottom of the pan.
  5. Take pieces of cookie dough (about the size of a quarter, more or less) and drop it over the brownie batter, using about half of the dough. Pull the caramel candies so they’re stretched out into about four parts per candy. Sprinkle the marshmallows, caramel pieces, and crumbles of Reese’s cups over the dough and cover with remaining dough, trying to cover most of the brownie batter. Some of the toppings will show, it doesn’t matter, this recipe really cant be messed up.
  6. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. After 30 minutes, poke it with a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, it is ready, but if there is brownie batter on the toothpick, put it back in for 5 minutes and check again.
Note: If you don’t like cookies that are too brown and crispy on top, cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil for part or all of the baking time.
These are the recipes I stole from Allrecipes.com to use in my slops. If you have another brownie batter/cookie dough recipe that you prefer, use it!
Now go get nice and sloppy;)

Banana Dulce Chocolate Tart

 When making this recipe, I used the leftover crumbs from last week’s cookie duds as a chocolate crust and filled it with a creamy dulce de leche, a caramelized version of sweetened condensed milk. Then I topped it off with fresh banana slices. The top was caramelized to create a banana crème-brulee-like crust. Together, it has a taste reminiscent of Banana’s Foster, without the ice cream.
   For the crust, I used a simple chocolate cookie recipe. After the prepared cookies cooled, I ground them into crumbs in a food processer and made a crust using the “graham cracker crust” method of mixing crumbs with melted butter seen in many recipes, such as crumbles, pies, and cheesecake. After pouring the crumb mixture in my tart pan (any nine-inch round pan can be used) and pressing it into the sides, I baked it off and created the crust.

Caramelized Banana Dulce de Leche Tart


1 recipe Chocolate cookie Crust (below)

1 recipe dulce de leche (below)

3-4 bananas

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/8 cup white sugar

  1. Adjust top oven rack so it is just below the top (with enough space for the pan to sit about one inch from the top hot coils) and set oven to broil on high.
  2. Pour the (cooled) dulce de leche into the crusted pan.
  3. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon.
  4. Slice the bananas in thin, quarter-inch slices and cover as much as the surface of the dulce de leche with bananas (arrange the bananas so that almost no spaces are visible if you want a really intact crust, but it’s not necessary). Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the banana slices so most of the surface is covered in a thin layer of sugar.
  5. Cut out a circle with a circumference slightly (about ½ inch)smaller than the pan’s out of a piece of aluminum foil and lay it over the tart pan (to avoid burning the crust).
  6. Put the tart in the oven, just under the broiler for around 3 minutes while watching carefully for the sugar to bubble. Take it out when the “bubbles” start to brown/burn. Let the tart cool completely (this may take awhile) and be careful not to move it to keep the crust intact. Refrigerate/freeze the tart according to how firm you want the slices.**

**slices” is a relative term, as this is a pretty runny tart. Honestly, this is best eaten with a group of friends (or alone with a big spoon) straight out of the pan.

Chocolate Cookie Crust

1 ¾ cups chocolate cookie crumbs (see below)

6 tablespoons melted butter

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Mix cookie crumbs and melted butter until well blended. Press mixture into an 8 or 9 inch pie plate or tart pan. Bake at 375 degrees F for 7 minutes. Cool completely before using.

Here’s the cookie recipe I used to make the crumbs, but any chocolate cookie can be used (for instance, Oreos, chocolate graham crackers, chocolate wafers, etc.).

Ingredients1 cup butter, softened1 1/2 cups white sugar2 eggs2 teaspoons vanilla extract2 cups all-purpose flour2/3 cup cocoa powder3/4 teaspoon baking soda1/4 teaspoon salt. Directions:
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.In large bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

3.Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until slightly overcooked- cookies should be somewhat hard. Cool slightly on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. 4.After cooled, put cookies in a food processor and grind until coarse crumbs are created (this recipe will yield far more crumbs than necessary for one crust, leftovers can be stored in a sealed container).

5.For a more solid tart, freeze it after it has cooled completely (this is how we had it and it turned out great!) The filling is dulce-de-leche, a golden-brown caramel-like liquid made from sweetened condensed milk.

To make Dulce-de-Leche, all you need is 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk. Then:

1.  Empty the contents of two cans of sweetened condensed milk into an oven-proof dish; sprinkle with a dash of kosher salt and tightly cover it with foil.

2.  Place the covered dish in a larger roasting or casserole pan and fill it up with water until the water reaches three quarters up the smaller covered dish to create a water bath. Bake at 425 degrees F for 60-90 minutes checking every 30 minutes on the water level and adding more as needed.

Dulce de leche is ready when it takes on a brown and caramel-like appearance. Remove from the oven and whisk to smoothness. Let cool before storing.

Mint Chocolate Creamwich

  The best thing about sandwich cookies is getting more out of one dessert, instead being forced to take the walk of shame for seconds.

  With such confections as the creamwich, the flavor combinations are endless. I went with one of America’s favorite dynamic duos: mint and chocolate.

  I attempted to combine the recipes of a chewy chocolate brownie with that of my favorite chocolate chip cookie. The first batch turned out less-than-satisfying, especially for those who don’t like to crack their teeth with chomping cookies. When something like that happens, you can do one of two things: toss the losses and try again, or use the product in any other way you can.

  Selecting the latter, I ground up the chocolate hockey pucks in my food processer and I plan to use the crumbs in a pie crust (a mixture of crumbs and melted butter).

  Batch number two turned out better. After cooling them, I filled the cookies with my mint-chocolate chip frosting (a modified cream-cheese frosting). Topping them off with extra crumbs and a little sea salt, they became a pretty tasty treat that I was proud to share.

Mint Chocolate Chip Filling


2 (8 oz) packages of plain cream cheese (softened)

½ cup (1 stick) of butter (softened)

½ tablespoon vanilla extract

4 drops green food coloring

1 tablespoon peppermint extract

3 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup mini chocolate chips


1.   In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Once incorporated, beat in the vanilla, then the peppermint extract. Add the food coloring (amount can be adjusted to suit desired color).

2.   Gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar and salt until blended and fluffy.3.Last, add the chocolate chips, mixing with a wooden spoon so you don’t break the chips. Store in the refrigerator after use.

Double Chocolate Cookies


1 ½ cup All Purpose flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup melted butter

1 cup white sugar

r1 ½ cup packed light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips

Sea salt (for garnish)


1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

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

3.   In a large bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough in tablespoon-sized chunks one at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 2 inches apart. 4. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven or until the edges are lightly toasted and the cookies are cooked throughout but still soft.Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

After the cookies have COMPLETELY cooled, take one cookie and dollop a scoop (about 1-2 tablespoons) on the cookie, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt (optional) and top with another cookie close in size. If any extra/ bad cookies are left over, crumble them and use as a garnish on the sandwiches (see picture).



Oct 19, 2012

Pipe Like the Pros

    It’s hard not to stop in those big, gleaming bakery windows and marvel at the beautiful pipework on the mile-high cakes, we all do it. It just seems as though something that pretty could only be produced by a high-ranked baking mastermind….want to know a secret? You can do it too, and right at home!

    In case you were wondering, “piping” is the term used for the icing on the border of a cake, anywhere from writing “Happy 60th Aunt Edith” to the tedious crown molding of a teetering wedding cake.

    Supplies for a first class piping operation include things like a coupler, a tip, pastry bags, pastry strings, and a lot of other (in my opinion) 100% unnecessary accessories. To let you in on a little secret, Ziploc Gallon bags work just the same. All you have to do is:

  · First cut from one of the top corners diagonally to almost the opposite bottom corner to create your very own piping bag.

  · You then fold the opening of the bag over your hand (so your hand is covered and the bag is open), fill the bag with your frosting or chocolate (or whatever you wish to pipe) pushing it towards the bottom point, then close the opening by twisting it tight like you would a bag of bread.
  · Use scissors to cut a very small opening at the bottom point and squeeze out the filling until there are no pockets of air and the “flow” is smooth. **When you’re cutting the opening, cut smaller than you think you need, because it always ends up too big.

     Now you’ve filled a piping bag. That’s right... you’re official. This is a good method for dots, words, outlines, basically anything that doesn’t have texture because that’s when the tips come in. Make sure you practice on a plate or a towel before so you know what you’re doing. Remember not to go too slow, keep it steady, and don’t be upset if you mess up! After all, it’s a cake… they’re still going to eat it. Pinky swear.


Oct 16, 2012

Ten Baking Tips That May Be New to You

-Replacing baking powder with cornstarch and all purpose flour with cake flour makes softer, fluffier cookies.

 -Butter can be replaced with mashed bananas, avocado, or unsweetened applesauce to make it healthier

- Reducing the heat during baking can create fluffier and better-risen cupcakes (such as reducing the heat from 350 F to 325 F around 3/4 the way through baking cupcakes).

-If a recipe doesnt say how large to make the cookie dough, a standard cookie recipe bakes dough the size of one tablespoon.

-In a pinch, buttermilk can be subbed with 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar/ lemon juice.

-To keep a pot from boiling over, you can place a wooden spoon across the top of the pot.

-A glass bowl on top of a pot of water (but not touching the water) can replace a double boiler.

-Adding 1/2 a cup of real mayonaise can make cakes more moist.

-Overmixing batter after the dry ingredients have been added can create a dense and undesireably-textured result.

-You can see If an egg is expired by putting in a bowl of water. If it floats, it's perfect. Half-submerged means its still good, but if it sinks to the bottom it's time to toss it.